Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I literally died of boredom.

Just finished writing a review of a very tedious (but very scholarly and well written) book on an excruciatingly small corner of ancient Greek political history.* Good grief! main text only about 200 pages, but 100 pages of footnotes!! The headache is slowly dissipating...a couple more glasses of beer may do it.

* I won't name it because s/he may come beat me up when the review comes out...

The odd thing, though, is the following line: "So-and-so's work was literally gilded over..." Now, obviously, the author didn't mean literally, he meant figuratively...but so many people use the word literally in place of its opposite that one reads of unfortunate souls "literally busting a gut laughing," or "literally laughing their heads off"...I'm sure you've come across the same thing. During his discussion of the Corcyrean stasis, Thucydides (3.82.4-5) talks about how in times of stasis (civil war) words lose their regular meanings:

[4] Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence, became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defence. [5] The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected. To succeed in a plot was to have a shrewd head, to divine a plot a still shrewder; but to try to provide against having to do either was to break up your party and to be afraid of your adversaries.

It literally breaks my heart.

1 comment:

MadPriest said...

Don't get depressed. The great thing about history is that one day it will all be in the past.