previous next

To use words that are too antiquated and worn out, or those which are unusual and of a harsh and unpleasant novelty, seems to be equally faulty. But for my own part I think it more offensive and censurable to use words that are new, unknown and unheard of, than those that are trite and mean. Furthermore, I maintain that those words also seem new which are out of use and obsolete, even though they are of ancient date. 1 In fact, it is a common fault of lately acquired learning, or ὀψιμαθία as the Greeks call it, to make a great point anywhere and everywhere, and in connection with any subject whatever, to talk about what you have never learned and of which you were long ignorant, when at last you have begun to know something about it. For instance, at Rome in my presence a man of experience and celebrated as a pleader, who had acquired a sudden and, so to speak, haphazard kind of education, was speaking before the prefect of the city and wished to say that a certain man lived upon poor and wretched food, ate bread made from bran, [p. 317] and drank flat and spoiled wine: “This Roman knight,” said he, “eats apluda and drinks flocces.” All who were present looked at one another, at first somewhat seriously, with a disturbed and inquiring aspect, wondering what in the world the two words meant; then presently they all burst into a laugh, as if he had said something in Etruscan or Gallic. Now that man had read that the farmers of ancient days called the chaff of grain apluda, and that the word was used by Plautus in the comedy entitled Astraba, 2 if that play be the work of Plautus. He had also heard that flocces in the early language meant the lees of wine pressed from the skins of grapes, corresponding to the dregs of oil from olives. This he had read in the Polumeni 3 of Caecilius, 4 and he had saved up those two words as ornaments for his speeches.

Another Einfaltspinsel also, after some little reading of that kind, when his opponent requested that a case be postponed, said: “I pray you, praetor, help me, aid me! How long, pray, shall this bovinator delay me?” And he bawled it out three or four times in a loud voice: “He is a bovinator.” A murmur began to arise from many of those who were present, as if in wonder at this monster of a word. But he, waving his arms and gesticulating, cried: “What, haven't you read Lucilius, who calls a shuffler bovinator?” And, in fact, this verse occurs in Lucilius' eleventh book: 5

If trifling shuffler (bovinator) with abusive tongue.

[p. 319]

1 Cf. Hor. Ars. Poet. 46 ff.

2 14, Götz; 16, Linds.

3 The πωλούμενοι, or “Men offered for sale.”

4 190, Ribbeck3.

5 417, Marx.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Introduction (John C. Rolfe, 1927)
load focus Latin (John C. Rolfe, 1927)
hide References (6 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: