Desultory reading may have solved a months-old problem. Remember all the abuse Bush got for referring to Greeks as 'Grecians'? Here is what the London Times had to say about it at the time (August 20, 2000), as quoted by Eugene Volokh this past January:
Bush has a propensity to mispronounce simple words and has invented others, such as "Grecians" for Greeks.
Volokh quite properly objects: although the usage is archaic and unidiomatic, "saying that the usage is simply incorrect is itself simply incorrect".
The following day, in a post pretentiously titled "Puzzle Solved", Mark A. R. Kleiman objected that the term can only be used of ancient Greeks, "as for example Keats's 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' or Dryden's translation of Plutarch's 'Lives of the Eminent Grecians and Romans'". Alluding to the rumors that Bush dyes his hair, Kleiman ended with smug mockery:
But that left a puzzle: Where did Bush find the word? It didn't seem likely that he'd been reading Keats or old translations of Plutarch. But now . . . we know where he saw it:
The label of his bottle of Grecian Formula.
Considering how much grief Bush gets for his Christian beliefs (not from any of the Volokhs, I hasten to add), it's odd that Kleiman did not mention a much likelier source, the Authorized or 'King James' Version of the Bible:
I don't suppose modern Greeks are too eager to be identified with these 'Grecians', who are slave-dealers (1), whiners (2), and very poor losers in public debate (3). (At least the fourth passage is fairly positive.) The 'Grecians' in the second passage appear to be Hellenized Jews rather than ethnic Greeks, and the same may be true of the third and fourth -- I don't have any commentary to hand --, but the Grecians in the first passage must surely be seafaring Greek traders. To sum up, in the most-admired version of the Bible, still read by millions of Christians, Grecians is a perfectly proper name for Greeks. It seems the likeliest source for Bush's odd locution.
By the way, I would not have noticed the Biblical usage myself if I had not sat down last week and read Joel, the most entomologically interesting book of the Bible: much of it is vivid description of a plague of locusts, cankerworms, palmerworms (whatever they are), and caterpillars.Posted by Dr. Weevil at May 12, 2003 09:50 PM