Friday, January 25, 2013

Top Ten: Things Which Annoy Classicists

Classicists are a curious bunch. We come in all shapes and sizes and with all manner of creeds, but generally it's a smart and elitist crowd. We're also rather. . . picky.

Most of us find the following vexing. Utter these at the risk of being denounced on an epic scale. I tried to keep the list focused on the discipline and not academia.

10. "I know Italian/Modern Greek. . .

. . . can't I just pronounce/read it like that?" It's not the ignorance of the cradle of Western Civilization here that galls so much as the unwillingness to invest in learning about it.

9. Fouling up quotations

Quote foreign languages at your own risk. "Arma virumque cana" is an epic fail.

8. Duckworth, Balchazy-Carducci, and Cambridge

Aside from the varying quality of the commentaries, the first two fall apart about an hour into reading and there is no force in the universe which can keep a new Cambridge propped open.

7. Random Translations

It's admirable that you added the $4.99 bargain edition of The Odyssey at checkout, but the Derpy McDerperson translation is not helping anyone or anything. Ask for assistance.

6. Lack of an Apparatus Criticus

You mean we don't have perfect original manuscripts? What?!

5. "I'm a __________, but I don't know a classical language"

It's hard to broach this topic with non-Classicists, but if you're in the humanities and you don't have some knowledge of Latin and Greek. . . well I'm not going to be the one to tell you.

4. "So was it really like. . ."

Yes, everything was exactly like Gladiator, HBO's Rome, Spartacus, and Clash of the Titans. Now go  away, far away.

3. "It's just like ancient. . ."

Indeed there is much to learn from the ancient world, however the phrase "just like" is seldom appropriate. There is nothing "just like" the Peloponnesian War or the decline of Rome. There are no philosophers "just like" Socrates, and your favorite politician isn't Cicero reborn.

Similarly, there's no good way to finish a sentence beginning, "They were all. . ."

Lastly, please don't tell me what the ancient world or ancient peoples "really" were like.

2. "It'll improve my SAT score."

This statement invariably elicits from us this feeling: [YouTube]

1. "Genitive: Subject"

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