“This is my Ph.D. summer. I’m off the grid. Tell everyone I’m studying.”
I would love to put a Do Not Disturb sign on the door, except nothing would keep out the cats. They like to lounge on top of dictionaries and chew corners of my folders. And Mr. Nemo keeps popping in and wondering if I wouldn’t like to take a bike ride on the T-Bone trail. The T-Bone takes you to a small town with a statue of a cow, in case you’re wondering. I refuse to ride the T-Bone, but I do limit my “study” to an occasional hour or two.
The Ph.D. summer involves no actual Ph.D.: I am simply catching up on my reading. I have a master’s in classics, and have been reading Latin prose and poetry for decades – so many decades – and I love it. I have, however, had less time for Greek: something had to give so I would have time to live.
But when I read that Cambridge University Press published a new Greek-English Lexicon, I started rereading one of my favorite Greek plays. I cannot wait for the mail carrier to lug the new dictionary out of the truck.
Why am I so excited about an ancient Greek dictionary? Well, not much changes in ancient Greek – there are few discoveries, except an occasional fragment of Sappho – and so we all still use the Greek-English Lexicon compiled in the nineteenth century by the scholars Liddell and Scott.
I have two Liddell and Scott dictionaries. The abridged edition is portable and popular, and has what I need most of the time. Sometimes it is necessary to consult the complete 1,7774-page Greek-English Liddell and Scott monster. I scored a crumbling copy, published in 1883, at a used bookstore . And it is disintegrating, as you see I should have anticipated.
You’ve got to love it, though. It is not only scholarly but amusing. Circumlocutions are adopted by Liddell and Scott to describe what I shall call “rude” words. And they love a quixotic phrase: the definition of the word kobalos is “an impudent rogue” or “an arrant knave.” Isn’t that charming?
Please, God, let the new Cambridge dictionary arrive on my doorstep soon! I will never give up my Liddell and Scott, but I need a modern take. I am still amused by the old quaintness, but look forward to seeing what Cambridge does.