Change of e-mail adress

A special kind of blindness made me ignore the impending death of the optushome.com.au domain over the past five years. The plug has finally been pulled on it (and I've just found out about it); those of you who have been mailing me @ optushome.com.au, please change immediately to optusnet.com.au

[EDIT: it's been a stressful time. That's optusnet.com.au]


Old Man Hare: Etymology

I didn't get to hit the books on Old Man Hare, but I've had enough feedback from readers and blegs that I can tell somewhat more of a story than last time. Let's start with what we know.
  1. We know of four mediaeval instances of the word.
  2. In Suda, 10th century, λαγώγηρως is used to gloss μύξος. I glibly said "all we know about μύξος is that it's a λαγώγηρως", which is good wisecracking, and poor insight. As LSJ has pointed out (h/t Nikos Sarantakos), μύξος is just a mangling of μυωξός "dormouse".
  3. There are two instances in a collection of manuscript miscellanea, published by Delatte ( Anecdota Atheniensia et al. ) in 1927. I haven't sighted the volume; one instance is λεβηρίς λαγόγερω "Old Man Hare pelt", and one is λαγόγερος.
  4. There is one instance in a scholion on Lucian, used to gloss μυγαλῆ "field-mouse". This scholion was cited in Stephanus' 16th century dictionary , and in Bast's 1805 Critical Letter, but is not included in the standard edition of Lucian scholia.
  5. I don't know when the texts are dated from, but most scholia come from between 1000 and 1500. The text of the Suda could have been tampered with and embellished by scribes at any time up to the copy we have; but my default assumption is, this word was included as a gloss in the tenth century.
  6. The mediaeval instances all correspond, in orthography and spelling, to "hare" + "old-man". The γήρως [ɣiros] spelling of "old man" is archaic; the modern form is γέρος [ɣeros]. -ως is an archaic second declension, which is likely scribal rather than vernacular.

Modern Greek
  1. There is a modern word, which I've seen as λαγόγερος, λαγόγυρος, and λαγογύρι, which denote the European ground squirrel aka European souslik.
  2. The minority form λαγόγερος also means "hare" + "old-man". The majority form means "hare" + "round". λαγογύρι is just a neuter variant of λαγόγυρος.
  3. λαγόγυρος and λαγώγηρως are both pronounced identically, [laɣoˈɣiros].
  4. The word is certainly attested, according to blog sightings, in Edessa (λαγόγερος) and near Corinth (λαγογύρι).
  5. γέρος in Modern Greek is both the adjective "old" and the noun "old man".
  6. Greek does not allow noun+adjective compounds: λαγόγερος does not make any sense as "an old hare". The only way it makes sense is as a noun-noun compound, "hare" + "old man".

To interpret these:
  • There is certainly no guarantee that λαγώγηρως meant the selfsame animal that λαγόγυρος does now (h/t Ηλεφούφουτος). It is certainly possible that the word meant a dormouse/fieldmouse back a millenium ago, and a squirrel now.
  • OTOH, the scholiasts did not necessarily have a clear idea of what the ancient μυωξός and μυγαλῆ were. So they could have meant the same animal.
  • λαγόγυρος "hare roundabout" is etymologically opaque.
  • λαγώγηρως could well have been folk-etymologised as λαγόγυρος in modern times, given that Modern Greek no longer has [ɣiros] for "old man". In fact since the two are pronounced identically, the spelling could be the fault of a modern scholar, who did not know about the mediaeval antecedents of the word (or the variant λαγόγερος).
  • λαγόγερος is problematic as a compound: it cannot mean "an old hare", the only way it can make sense is as an anthropomorphism, "a hare-like old man".
  • To this urbanite, sousliks look anthropomorphic. They stand on their hind legs:

    That's weak evidence for λαγώγηρως meaning "squirrel" from the start.

  1. There are various Slavic names for the European ground squirrel. Northern Slavic has variants of */sus/ (h/t Epea Pteroenta).
  2. Slovenian and Serbian have /tekunitsa/. The Bulgarian reflex of the */sus/ root meant "rat", which suggests it used to mean "squirrel" and was displaced. But it's just as possible that it changed meaning to "rat" without external prompting.
  3. The standard Bulgarian word for the European ground squirrel is /laluɡer/.
  4. The dialectal variants for the European ground squirrel (h/t Julia Krivorucko) are /laɡuder/ in Southern and Eastern Bulgaria; /laɡuntʃi/, /ləɡuntʃi/, /ladʒunjak/, /lədʒunjak/.
  5. These point to an original /laɡjuT/ or /laɡuT/, with T any coronal: /l, n, d/.
  6. The standard /laluɡer/ seems to be derived from */laɡuler/, and ηλε-Φούφουτος thinks its an assimilating metathesis, with /laluɡer/ easier to pronounce; the word for "chatterbox" is /laladʒija/
  7. The Bulgarian etymological dictionary does not speculate on the etymology of /laluɡer/, which suggests it is etymologically opaque in Bulgarian.
  8. The Greek Balkanist Christos Tzitzilis (h/t ηλε-Φούφουτος) has suggested /laluɡer/ < λαγώγηρος without further discussion, as an illustration of Greek /o/ > Bulgarian /u/; the other example was /protuspor/ < /protospori/ "first seed". Northern Greek already has unstressed /o/ > /u/, but this seems to be a general process in Bulgarian loans.
  9. The Bulgarian linguist Slavova has recently cited Tzitzilis' derivation in passing, without disputing it.

Back to Greek:
  1. Modern λαγός "hare" has an allomorph λαγουδ- /laɣuð/ (from the Mediaeval diminutive λαγῴδιον), used in compounding: Modern diminutive λαγουδάκι, surname Λαγουδάκης, λαγουδοφωλιά "hare warren". That would explain Bulgarian /laɡud/
  2. The accepted etymology of λαγωνικό "hunting dog" is from λακωνικό "Laconian dog", with contamination from λαγός—so "hare dog". That would explain Bulgarian /laɡun/.
  3. Modern Greek has the word λαγουδέρα /laɣuðera/, "rudder"; its etymology is unknown, but it looks like "hare".

What does this tell us?
  • The sideways step of */sus/ in Bulgarian from squirrel to rat confirms the flexibility of animal names across time, and that a λαγώγηρως was not necessarily a squirrel. Still...
  • The Greek form appears three or four centuries after the arrival of the Slavs in the Balkans. So it could be originally Greek or originally Slavic.
  • The form is attested in Greek Macedonia (which makes a Slavic loan quite possible) and the Peloponnese (which makes it not impossible). If I had attestation from the islands, a Slavic loan would look more doubtful.
  • If the form is indeed opaque in Bulgarian, and especially if the form is absent in Proto-Slavic, then a Greek origin is likelier.
  • The form attested in the Middle Ages in Greek (and reasonably early at that) is only /laɣoɣVr/, not a form based on /laɣuð/ or /laɣun/. If the form was derived as some sort of Greek adjective from "hare", it has only left traces in Bulgarian: there are no traces of a λαγουδ- based form in Byzantine or Modern Greek. That's not impossible, but it's not my default assumption.
  • George Baloglou wondered whether there might have been calquing of a Slavonic form into a Greek "Old Man Hare" within Bulgarian, before the form moved south, which would explain the grammatical awkwardness. If we accept the anthropomorphic "a hare-like old man", the formation is slightly less awkward; and while such cross-linguistic calques do happen (e.g. German Handy for "mobile phone"), they are rare and learnèd. Again, not my default assumption.
  • The palatalised variants of /laɡuntʃi/ and /ladʒunjak/ in Bulgarian are not obviously motivated within Greek; I don't see a clear reason why Greek would offer *λαγιουδάκι or *λαγωινικός as models. For now, I'm happy to make that Bulgarian's problem.
  • The conservative take is to assume the Greek word was always λαγώγηρως; that it was borrowed into Bulgarian as */laɡuɡer/; and that the awkward l-g-g was dealt with in dialect by assimilation to l-l-g (/laluɡer/), as ηλε-Φούφουτος suggested, or by dissimilation to l-g-d (/laɡuder/). The latter dissimilation may have been modelled after the Greek diminutive λαγούδιν, without that implying that the beastie was ever called a "little hare" or variant thereof.
  • I don't know what's happened with /laɡuntʃi/ and /ladʒunjak/, and it's a bit much to go straight from /laɡuɡer/ to /ladʒunjak/. But unlike /laɡuder/, I don't see a straightforward way for Greek to explain that level of variation.

More tentative than I'd like, but it looks originally Greek, and there's circumstantial evidence (the standing on two legs) to suggest it was a squirrel back then too. That's my take at any rate.
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War of Troy

For far, far too long, scholars have treated Early Modern Greek literature as linguistic quarry, and have neglected these texts as literature in their own terms. Over the past couple of decade, this injustice has finally started to be redressed, as the Romances in particular have gained much deserved attention.

This post, on the other hand, continues in the bad old tradition.

As the TLG expands its coverage into Early Modern Greek, I have gone through the word recognition of the War of Troy. The War of Troy is an interesting text, and I am going to say some very superficial things about it.

The War is a retelling of the events of the Iliad. It's not a first hand retelling. Around the end of the Roman empire, two people calling themselves Dictys the Cretan and Dares the Phrygian—and eyewitnesses to what went down in Ilium—wrote popular Latin retellings of the story. The Middle Ages being a gullible time, Dictys' and Dares' narrative ended up taken more seriously than Homer's. After all, Dictys was there!

A few centuries later, Benoît de Sainte-Maure based his Roman de Troie on Dictys' and Dares' Latin. Some time after that, an anonymous Greek produced a Greek translation. (Outside Crete, anyone writing in the vernacular was anonymous: it wasn't the kind of writing you took credit for.)

So we have a three generations down retelling of the Homeric original. Greeked by a writer who knows the names of Achilles and Helen in Greek, but not much else: there's no evidence the translator knew any Homer. (And why would he need to? After all, Dictys was there!)

So you can imagine what's happened to the names in this. That was a fun couple of nights to work through. The translator would take a look at the Old French, breath in, and guess. From what I can see, Benoît had done the same. Telemachus (Τηλέμαχος "Fights-Far-Away") becomes Θελέμαχος "Wanna-Fight". Assyria becomes Ζύρη. Boeotia Βοιωτία becomes Βοέκη (via Boëce). The King of the Scythians Rex Scytharum became Citare and thence Κιτάριος. A king from Syme, ex Syme, became Essimieïs and thence king of Ἐξιμιόνη. Somehow, Zeleia Ζέλεια ended up as Σιτζήλια, and Sicily Σικελία as Ζήλικος. We even have a Ἱουπιτής and a Νέπτιπος in the cast. That's Jupiter and Neptune to you. And the only way I can explain Iphinoös Ἰφίνοος becoming Ἰσίδιος is via f looking like ſ (long s). (Did they have long s in 1400?)

All very fish in a barrel, that, so we'll move on. The War of Troy was first published very very late. In fact, 1996. Each romance has its own vocabulary: the romances liked coining compounds, the War in particular has a lot of partly digested Old French, and there are some words that look to be one-offs anyway. But there are three reasons why we're going to have serious gaps in documentation of the War's vocabulary for a long time.
  • Most Early Modern texts had some sort of edition, however crappy, available by the time Kriaras started writing his dictionary. The War didn't. So the volumes of Kriaras written before 1996 won't know anything about its vocabulary.
  • The volumes of Kriaras up to 1997 each had addenda about new words that had turned up since the last volume. A horrid chore if you're looking up a word, but editing Early Modern Greek is still a boom industry. (Or it was 10 years ago, when I was able to follow it.) So that kind of update does need to happen. After its decade hiatus, the new volumes don't have addenda. So unless there's a change of policy (or they become a real electronic dictionary, with dynamic update), Kriaras is not going to cover the War at all.
  • That's *real* electronic dictionary. The online abridgement was supposed to keep updating with each volume of the post-hiatus full dictionary. Nothing's happened in the past three years.
  • The editors of the War said they would publish a Volume II with a glossary. (Mercifully, they did put in a few pages of the more common undocumented words in Vol. I.) It's been 13 years, and Google tells me naught; I have no particular reason to hold my breath that I will see a Vol. II.

It's a shame, because the glossary they do include has some words that I'm scratching my head about.
  • I'm convinced I've seen καιρογεύω "to hire" somewhere before, but I have no idea where. Neither does Kriaras or Trapp.
  • A γορζέρα is a visor on a helmet, translating French ventaille. (Yes, of course the War of Troy has visors and jousting and mediaeval stuff.) But ventaille is not [ɡorzera], and there's no way that's a Greek word. Where did it come from?
  • καλανίζω means "to spatter". Where did *that* come from?
  • Ditto τόρτσα [tortsa] for chandelier, and χωρίγιν [xoriɣin] for "cement".

I suspect some of this is Italian or Venetian, but some of it clearly isn't.

There's a reason the War took so long to publish. It's huge by the standards of the time: 14000 verses. It was quite popular (six surviving manuscripts), so there's a lot of manuscript collation to do. We have the French original, which you also have to take into account when doing the collation. What that leaves you is a lot more donkey work than usual for editing a text: normally you'd be lucky to have a couple of manuscript witnesses.

It also means the temptation there is emend the text, to match the French original more closely. The degree of emendation in the War is more than most scholars these days are comfortable with; and because the emendation did not prioritise linguistic plausibility, you have to look in the margin (the source readings) if you're going to do any linguistics with the text. There are anachronisms in there.

Emendation in mediaeval texts is inevitable, just as it is inevitable in Classical texts: texts got miscopied, mistransmitted, misconstrued. But vernacular texts don't work like Classical texts in transmission: the scribes feel a lot freer to tinker with the text, because ten centuries of Ancient Authority aren't going to gainsay them. And the results of a scribe tinkering with a vernacular text are not as noticeable as with a Classical text—so you have less of a gut instinct to go with, for which of two variants is the original.

Gut instinct is a risky thing to rely on anyway, and Early Modern Greek texts have suffered a lot from Modern Greek scholars coming along, and assuming they know the language and metre and poetics of the texts better than the scribes did. The scribes were often enough blockheads, that's true. That doesn't mean modern editors aren't fallible.

The world owes Stylianos Alexiou, for instance, gratitude for making the Escorial Digenes legible, and reviving Cretan Renaissance theatre. The world does not owe Stylianos Alexiou gratitude for:
  • Assuming 14th century iambic heptameter was the same as 20th century iambic heptameter, and emending it when it wasn't
  • Assuming the 16th century dialect of Rethymnon was the same as the 20th century dialect of Rethymnon, and emending it when it wasn't

It's not that they are not usually the same; but they are decidedly not always the same, and you'd better have an explicit argument for when you do tamper with the text.

And I'm sorry, but in the same vein, if you're editing a 14th century text like the War of Troy, and you're looking to emend a verse with a single-syllable future particle, because the French original is in the future tense—you do NOT use a particle that first appeared in Greek in 1700! What on earth use is that? Would you put "gonna" into your Chaucer? "Kthxbye" into your Dickens?

"tl;dr", that you can put into Dickens...

The particle in question is θα, which in 1400 was only starting to be emerge as the uncontracted θέλω να. The monosyllabic particle they were actually looking for was να, the subjunctive marker: the future was "I may go" in 1200 before it started becoming "I will go" in 1400, and by 1700 "I'll go"—if I can use English analogy here.

"θα exists in this text only by emendation (1816, 8796, 8972)" p. lxxvii—it shouldn't be there at all. Verse 1816:

Ἐτοῦτοι ὁποῦ εἰς τὰ κάτεργα θὰ εῖναι διωρθωμένοι
"Those who in the galleys shall be set right"
1816 θὰ Pap[athompoulos], cf. 4669 E cil qui remandront as nes : ἂς ABVX.

The ἂς reading is grammatically awkward, and somewhat odd ("those who in the galleys may they be set right"); but it's in all the manuscripts, and is not outright wrong. If you want to claim that the translator must have rendered the future remandront with a future, then for pity's sake use the historically plausible future: Ἐτοῦτοι ὁποῦ εἰς τὰ κάτεργα νὰ εῖναι διωρθωμένοι

Let that be a lesson to... well, to someone.
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On nominalisations ending in -εία

A post on Greek spelling. You've been warned.

The spelling of the noun ending -εία vs. -ία had come up a few months ago on the Magnificent Nikos Sarantakos' blog, as an orthographic bedevilment. Modern Greek writers feel ἀμηχανία (awkwardness) about how to spell the ending, and they'll be reassured to know the Byzantines felt the same ἀμηχανεία.

The story goes like this:
  • Ancient Greek has an ending -ία, used to form abstract nouns from verbs and adjectives. It corresponds to -ness, and when it is borrowed into English, it shows up as -y. So:
    ἄμνηστος /ámnɛːst-os/ "unremembering, forgetful", ἀμνηστία /amnɛːst-ía/ "forgetfulness, amnesty" (because I'm forgetting your crime).
    ἁρμόζω /harmó-zdɔː/ "I fit", ἁρμονία /harmon-ía/ "joint, suture, harmony" (because the parts fit together).
  • When -ία is attached to a verb ending in -ευ- /ew/ in Proto-Greek, the result is spelled -ε-ία /ewía/ > /e.ía/ > /éːa/. That is to say, it's the same /-ía/ suffix, attached to /ew/. But because /w/ did not stick around in Greek, /ewia/ ended up pronounced /éːa/, and was distinct from the normal /ía/ ending.
  • So: δυνάστης /dynást-ɛːs/ "master", δυναστεύω /dynasté-wɔː/ "be lord over", δυναστεία */dynast-ewía/ > /dynást-éːa/ "lordship, dynasty".
    εἴρων /éːrɔːn/ "dissembler", εἰρωνεύομαι /eːrɔːné-womai/ "play dumb, use understatement, make fun of", εἰρωνεία */eːrɔːn-ewía/ > /eːrɔːn-éːa/ "dissembling, understatement, mockery, irony".
  • So there was a rule on how to form these nouns. If a verb ending in -ευ- was involved, it ended in -εία. Otherwise, it ended in -ία. So ὀνοματοποιέω /onomatopoi-éɔː/ "make up a name", ὀνοματοποιία /onomatopoi-ía/ "onomatopoeia". It isn't ὀνοματοποιεύω, so it's not ὀνοματοποιεία. Which is just as well: onomatopoeia has enough vowels in it already.
  • Problem number #1 with spelling these nouns was, by the time of Christ, ει and ι were pronounced identically. So the subtle etymological differentiation was begging to be undone.
  • Problem number #2 was, -ία was not only applied to verbs and adjectives. It could also be applied by analogy from other abstract nouns, even though there was no underlying verb to derive it from. So μαντεύω "to tell the future" gives μαντεία "telling the future". People starting making up nouns of different ways of telling the future: ἡλιομαντia "by the sun", ἡμερομαντia "by the date", κυνομαντia "by dogs", λυχνομαντia "by lamps".
  • How do you spell these? Do you spell them like the simple noun μαντεία? Or do you say that there is no such verb as ἡλιομαντεύω or λυχνομαντεύω, so you should use the simple -ία spelling? LSJ chooses the analogy: -μαντεία.
  • Similarly, λάτρις "hired servant" > λατρεύω "adore" > λατρεία "adoration". When people made up a word for "adoration of idols, idolatry", /eːdɔːlolatría/, they did not go through a verb εἰδωλολατρεύω. So how were they supposed to spell it? Like λατρεία "adoration"? Or should they instead derive it from εἰδωλολάτρης "adorer of idols", which would make it -λατρία? This time, conventional spelling did not go with the analogy, and decided to spell it εἰδωλολατρία, deriving it straight from εἰδωλολάτρης. Which is more plausible etymologically.
  • But that brings you to the unfortunate situation that, whenever you spell a word in -ía, you need to know the derivational history of Greek—whether a corresponding verb in -ευ- has ever turned up or not. This is of course ludicrous, and people were thoroughly confused. LSJ chose analogy for λυχνομαντεία, but notes that the papyrus the word turns up in spells it λυχνομαντία. LSJ has εἰδωλολατρία, but a verb εἰδωλολατρεύω does show up, in Eusebius, Athanasius, and John Chrysostom; and the TLG has 342 instances of the εἰδωλολατρεία spelling versus 1038 of the εἰδωλολατρία spelling.
  • To complete the confusion, Problem #3. Byzantines couldn't see why verbs ending in -εύω produced nouns ending in -εία, but verbs ending in -έω didn't also keep the epsilon. I mean, they both had epsilons in them; and Byzantines didn't know or care about the prehistory of */w/ in Greek. So they started spelling with -εία words the ancients had never spelled with -εία. Remember "amnesty"? There isn't just an adjective ἄμνηστος "forgetful"; there's also a derived verb ἀμνηστέω "to be forgetful". And if ἀμνηστέω exists, that's reason enough to start spelling "amnesty" with an epsilon, as ἀμνηστεία.

The thread over at Sarantakos' included the host's melancholy observation that this conundrum itself was reason enough to long for a phonetic spelling reform. It probably won't come to that, but it *is* enough for Greeks to turn to their linguists, and plead with them "give us a rule we can follow!"

(The thread also triggered Sapere Aude's immortal snark "άβυσσος το spelling αυτού του weird lingo".)

The guesswork of "whether a corresponding verb in -ευ- has ever turned up or not" is not such a rule. (Has there ever been a verb ἀγγελολατρεύω "to venerate angels"? No peeking!) Universally spelling such nominalisations with just -ία is also a non-starter: λατρία does look like wholesale spelling reform. The sensible compromise is, the simpler alternative when in doubt. (Which applies to a lot of contemporary Greek spelling.) That means compound nouns like εἰδωλολατρία always get spelled with an iota, no matter what verbs Eusebius came up with.

Not that I'm going to bother initiating correspondence with whoever's running Greek spelling these days. (It sure ain't the Academy of Athens. Education Ministry, I guess.)
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Old Man Hare

[EDIT: followup post]

As I already mentioned in the past, the occasional Early Modern Greek word ends up in LSJ, because it has been used in a scholion to explain an Ancient word, and LSJ figured they'll take all the help they can get.

Such a word is λαγόγηρως. Literally, it's "Old Man Hare". Actually, literally, it's "Hare Old Man", but that just wouldn't work in English. As recorded in LSJ, it's used in the scholia to Lucian Dream 24 to gloss μυγαλῆ "field-mouse". You won't find it in the 1906 Rabe edition of the Scholia to Lucian, which the TLG has: it's "ap Bast. Ep. Crit. p. 169". This is an instance of Classicists' infuriating habit of using abbreviations without explaining them anywhere (and I checked). After some googling, I worked out it means that the gloss is mentioned in Friedrich Bast's 1805 Lettre critique de F.-J. Bast à M. J.-F. Boissonade, sur Antoninus Liberalis, Parthenius et Aristénète. (So Rabe's edition does not contain every single piece of Byzantine commentary ever authored on Lucian? Grrr.)

The word λαγόγηρως is also used in Suda, the mixmatched 10th century encyclopaedia, to gloss μύξος—although that doesn't help us much, because the only thing we know about a μύξος is that Suda says it's a λαγόγηρως.

So it's likely a Modern Greek word, and given the scholion to Lucian, it's likely a field-mouse, or some other rodent of that ilk. Old Man Hare shows up in other dictionaries too, but it does not show up in the big contemporary dictionaries of Greek; so other lexicographers are on their own. Trapp shrugs and says it's just "an animal". (He does at least record the more modern-looking variant λαγόγερος.) Kriaras can afford to go further, particularly given where it has been compiled (I'll explain in a sec): it reports that a λαγόγερος is "a kind of rat, a μυγαλῆ", and the passage it cites in response is an Early Modern falconry manual, in which the Old Man Hares are seized by birds of prey.

So those aren't Human Old Men being seized, and while they could be hares, there's no reason to think the Lucian scholion is wrong: it's some sort of rodent.

It's also a μύξος, whatever on earth that is, and as I was perusing recent additions to Suda On Line, I noted the newly translated entry on μύξος, expressing some puzzlement about glossing an unknown word with another unknown word.

At this stage, I had not checked LSJ, and I had not checked Trapp (which would have told me nothing anyway), and I certainly had not checked Kriaras. Instead I noticed that the two unknown words were not the same flavour of unknown. Suda didn't just say a μύξος is an Old Man Hare: it said a μύξος is an Old Man Hare παρ’ ἡμῖν. That παρ’ ἡμῖν means "with us"; and in Suda's way of structuring definitions, it means "in our language". As in, our vernacular, not Ancient Greek.

So without looking at Kriaras, I realised this word was at least Early Modern Greek, and quite likely Modern Modern Greek. I popped across to the online Triantafyllidis dictionary, and didn't find Old Man Hare there: so it's not a word that's made it to the Contemporary Standard. But figuring that there are always surprises to be had on the Interwebs, I googled λαγόγερος just in case.

I found Old Man Hare in a Greek digital photography forum. Like me, the photographer was an urbanite who wouldn't know a field-mouse from a dormouse (which was the Suda translator's first surmise). I mean... I don't know: *are* they the same thing? But the chap took the pic, recorded the place where and when the photo was taken—midday, near Edessa, in Greek Macedonia; and added what the locals call the beastie. Ladies and Gentlemen, courtesy of poster "Junior", meet Old Man Hare:

He exists, and he certainly looks like what Lucian's scholiast had in mind—and what the falconry writer established was an appropriate afternoon snack for an eagle.

And of course, some Greek dialectologist somewhere has recorded the fact that in Edessa (and probably elsewhere) this beastie is called an Old Man Hare. Because the Modern Greek dialect dictionary is still stuck at delta, it's not straightforward to find out who—although at least a draft of the remaining letters is now prepared. But Kriaras' dictionary staff have a fair collection of dialect glossaries on site, so they would have had the wherewithal to figure it out. And even if they didn't, Edessa is just a 94 km drive away from downtown Salonica. You'll probably run into Old Man Hare before you get to the waterfalls. (That's why the Other Language's name for Edessa is Vodena, "waters".)

Three other hits of note for Old Man Hare online. One was the Suda On Line entry, cached when it wasn't yet translated. One was from another Greek forum, this time ecological, recording Old Man Hare as one of the animals you might be surprised to find in the vicinity of Thessalonica. The Byzantine pronunciation /laɣoɣiros/ seems to survive for our rodent friend, because one posting later, courtesy of poster Kostas Karpadakis, Old Man Hare shows up again, this time spelled as λαγόγυρος, "Hare Roundabout":

I still can't tell you whether it's dormouse or field-mouse. Or hamsteroid. I showed the three links to Nikos Sarantakos (he whose Magnificent Blog I keep extolling), and he said that even before he got to the forum mention, he'd worked out this must have been a χαμστεροειδές. That kind of nonce macaronic coinage—American stem, archaic suffix—is pretty damned funny if you're steeped in the angst of Greek language history.

*I* can't tell you, but Karpadakis did not take the photo himself: he linked to zoology site in Novi Sad Uni, and the photo is labelled s-citellus02.jpg. A citellus is none of the above: as the site itself says, this is a Spermophilus citellus, which in English is the European ground squirrel, aka European Souslik.

And when I google his "historically wrong" spelling λαγόγυρος, I get not three or four hits, but 321. Confirming it as the Spermophilus citellus or Citellus citellus. Some more links: citellus #1, citellus #2, citellus #3. And a table of beastie names at Nature Names for Tourists: Local names for distinctive European mountain wildlife:
European ground squirrel or sousliksuseł moręgowany syseľ pasienkovýtekunicapopândăulлалугер λαγόγυρος; σπερμόφιλος Spermophilus citellus; also Citellus citellus

So the Bulgarians got their word for the beastie from the Greeks.

In fact, that /laluɡer/ in the Bulgarian may suggest the modern spelling λαγόγυρος, which in Byzantine Greek would have been /laˈɣoɣyros/, is more accurate, and the Old Man bit was a written correction... Nah, the /u/ is in the wrong spot. Some Bulgarian phonological process, I guess: the Greek Macedonian pronunciation would be /laˈɣoɣirus/, which doesn't explain лалугер. So I'll stick with the assumption for now that this was originally Old Man Hare reanalysed as Hare Roundabout, until I hear something to the contrary. And that the accepted modern spelling is λαγόγυρος, although that form isn't in Triantafyllidis' dictionary either.

The third link for λαγόγερος, Sarantakos dismissed as "an incredible concoction", and I'm not disagreeing. The article was by an Italian classicist, and it was dealing with the Suda entry on μύξος as a whole, which goes into bizarre beliefs about donkey urine. The identity of Old Man Hare comes up just before the conclusion.

I've never studied Italian, but what with Esperanto, Latin, French, and a fair exposure to Classical Music in my youth, I can sort of read it. It's helped working in a French & Italian department, and not being as embarrassed about speaking in Super Mario Bros. Italian as I am about speaking in Pepe Le Pew French. I could even make the minimal effort of dealing with the mojibake of the page, such as by, I dunno, switching my browser encoding to Latin-1.

But once I'd worked out the article's claim, I had no motivation to proceed further. A dictionary I had not checked was Sophocles', and the author accepted and elaborated on Sophocles' surmise that an Old Man Hare was a kind of fish. Because λαγώς was also a word for sea-hare.

Wee tim'rous beastie, you're not a sea-slug of the Aplysiomorpha clade perchance, are you?

No, I didn't think so.

That is ungracious and horrid of me. I had the benefit of late Aughties Interwebs, this guy... well, this guy was writing in 2006, so he did as well. Hm. I had access to Modern Greek (even if it was in digital photography forums, detouring via Novi Sad Uni's Zoology department), this guy likely didn't. Still, the guy was not writing after the compilation of LSJ, and even if Suda is obscure about Old Man Hare, the scholiast to Lucian is not. Sophocles at least offered a definition for λαγόγηρως, but Sophocles *is* dated, and you can do better than that in general. The falconry manual may well have been inaccessible; but Suda has a whopping big "in our vernacular" in there, he could at least have asked some Greek contacts.

The blunder here is violating the Common Sense precept of etymology: If you're looking for Latin etymologies, you start your search on the Tiber. I tracked down the origins of that saying in my personal blog just before—taking a break from obsessing about constructions of Franco-Canadian identity; and it sounds a hell of a lot better in the original German. I'm always a little miffed when Classicists get as far as Byzantine Greek, and don't notice the live language spoken on the other side. (Witness LSJ's definition of στοίχημα: it's "wager", not "deposit", and they got "deposit" by a casual reading of Eustathius' scholion.)

But now at least, we have photographic refutation. In Edessa, you search for etymologies on the river Voda.

A sentence I smirk at, I confess, given where you search for the etymology of the river Voda. Now unsurprisingly renamed Edesseos.
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Thanasis Costakis RIP

Thanasis Costakis, doyen of Tsakonian Linguistics, has died, and the next Tsakonian Studies conference at Lenidi will be held in his memory.

I have not heard of his passing anywhere else, and cannot find an obituary online, so I assume it has been this past year.

I was lucky enough to talk to him in Athens in '95. A kindly old man, and resigned to the death of his language.

Θανάσης Κωστάκης, 1906-2009. Αιωνία του η μνήμη.