[B-Greek] Body Humor and Voice

Randall Buth randallbuth at gmail.com
Fri Mar 10 06:54:23 EST 2006

I thought something light and possibly humorous for the weekend might
be appreciated. Hopefully, this can be discussed in a dignified
manner. While language learning entails becoming a child, there are
times for adult reserve as well, smiles permitted. This is a serious
part of language learning, though it borders on the 'colorful'.

The ancient Greeks, like cultures most everywhere, sometimes made fun
of bodily functions. In my work on internalizing the old Greek, I
need/run-across words for most everything. Fortunately, ancient Greek
has a much richer attested vocabulary than biblical Hebrew. It turns
out, though, that ancient Greek is so rich that it poses problems
where biblical Hebrew has a blank.

Take a simple, commonplace event like breaking-wind/passing-gas. There
would have been words that every little first century Greek kid would
But was it PERDESQAI or BDEIN? How does one distinguish?

In Greece last month the issue came up and the Greek guide did not
know BDEIN but laughed at PERDESQAI, it is still a known entity though
not the common modern word. So did PERDESQAI continue in the language
because it was the cleaner word, or perhaps because it was the more
colorful word? I've seen BDEIN in more colorful first century texts,
so I would vote for PERDESQAI being the clean word.

PERDESQAI raises another issue that Carl has often clarified elegantly
here on the list.
PERDESQAI is one of those words that is attested as middle/MESH FWNH
in the present/ENESTWS, but then in the simple past one says EPARDON
(PARDEIN). I would chalk this up to accident and the vagaries of
language. This kind of inconsistency happens in languages in general.
For language learning, I think that one can simply use the forms as

However, in Greek it may reflect some older processes.
ERXESQAI//ELQEIN shows the same shift between
AORISTOS+ENERGETIKOS(active). Is there a principle here that can
elucidate these?

ERRWSQE 'be well'
Randall Buth

Randall Buth, PhD
ybitan at mscc.huji.ac.il
randallbuth at gmail.com

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