Textkit Logo

Curses in Greek?

Here's where you can discuss all things Ancient Greek. Use this board to ask questions about grammar, discuss learning strategies, get translation help and more!

Curses in Greek?

Postby MorieTris » Thu Aug 01, 2013 6:13 pm

Hello everyone!
I have a very silly problem...
I only have a very basic understanding of Latin (however I'd like to change this fact in the future), and unfortunately even less of Greek.
What am I doing on this forum, then? Well...
I started writing a novel that's based mostly on Greek mythology, but is set in what became the place we now as Scotland today (it's a long story...)
The story itself is written in Hungarian, and later I'd like to translate it to English, but I find it very important to try to make it authentic. As most of the dialogue would in real life be in Celtic (because of the setting), I could say Celtic=Hungarian in this case. However, one of my main characters is of Greek origin, and sometimes tends to speak in Greek, for example if he's upset or angry. So I should write that in Greek, to differentiate it from the language spoken by the other characters.
...And my problem came into view when I realized that it's virtually impossible to find a source of swearwords/curses online - and be honest, you would swear in your mother tongue if you found yourself kidnapped overnight by an angry-looking Pict, for example...

Do you know any genuine Greek curses? I don't mean anything very explicit, sexual phrases are actually right out for a variety of reasons, but sending the poor guy to Hell or threatening him with getting his head smashed in would communicate his feelings pretty well... :twisted:

Thank you for your ideas! :oops:
User avatar
MorieTris
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:48 pm
Location: Hungary

Re: Curses in Greek?

Postby daivid » Fri Aug 02, 2013 4:51 pm

You could try

"βάλλ' εἰς κόρακας"

literally "throw yourself to the crows"
λονδον
User avatar
daivid
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 854
Joined: Sat Jul 16, 2011 1:51 pm
Location: ὁ τοῦ βασιλέως λίθος, London, Europe

Re: Curses in Greek?

Postby Paul Derouda » Sat Aug 03, 2013 7:14 pm

That's the first one that came to my mind too. You can also say more shortly εἰς κόρακας. I think it's the Greek equivalent of "To Hell with you!". The point is that for Greeks, burying a dead person's corpse was very important. With this curse, you're hoping that the person's unburied corpse should be eaten by crows.

Generally, Aristophanes is a good source of Greek curses, especially the really obscene ones.

The Greeks tended to swear by their gods. E.g. μὰ τὸν Δία "By Zeus!" (I think this is mostly used in a negative sentence, in an affirmative one I guess you'd say ναὶ (μὰ) τὸν Δία). In the Apology of Socrates, Plato uses a very mild expletitive μὰ τὸν κύνα, "By the dog!", to avoid naming an actual deity. I think this is very mild like "Gosh!" or something.

I think the god by which you swore depended on who you were. In different places different deities were more important than others and were more likely to sworn by. Also, I think women were more likely than men to swear by female deities. I guess also your profession and age had an effect. I'd hazard also that the situation that made you swear had an effect on the god you swore by. (I guess you didn't swear by Demeter if a storm broke out in the sea, and you didn't swear by Poseidon when you discovered that all your figs had been eaten by ants).

Greek cursing is actually a subject I'd like to know more about myself. I haven't really read any good treatment on the subject, just a bit here and there, especially while reading Aristophanes. Perhaps there's someone on the forum who can teach us something?
Paul Derouda
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 700
Joined: Fri Nov 05, 2010 9:39 pm

Re: Curses in Greek?

Postby IreneY » Sun Aug 04, 2013 4:39 am

I do love the "go to the crows" since we're still using it (Άι στον κόρακα in modern Greek)
I found a list of ancient Greek bad words in a Greek site. The translation's mine and, therefore, so are any mistakes.

ΑΝΑΣΕΙΣΙΦΑΛΛΟΣ a promiscuous woman; one that dangles a penis [ ανασεισίφαλλος = ανασείω + φαλλός]
ΒΔΕΩ fart [βδέω = βρωμάω]
ΓΛΩΤΤΟΔΕΨΕΩ using the tongue
ΓΥΝΑΙΚΟΠΙΠΗΣ peeping Tom[ γυναικοπίπης = γυναίκα + οπιπτεύω]
ΔΡΟΜΑΣ prostitute that walks the street [δρομάς = δρόμος]
ΕΣΧΑΡΑ a woman's genitalia [εσχάρα = από το ρήμα ίσχω (εμποδίζω)]
ΕΥΠΥΓΟΣ a woman with a nice behind [εύπυγος = ευ + πυγή ]
ΚΑΣΣΩΡΙΣ whore [κασσωρίς = από το κάσις (αδελφός, εταίρος)]
ΜΥΖΟΥΡΙΣ a woman that sucks a penis[μύζουρις = μυζάω + ουρά (πέος)]
ΠΗΘΙΚΑΛΩΠΗΞ a cunning man (slimy cunning) [πιθηκαλώπηξ = πίθηκος = αλώπηξ]
ΡΩΠΟΠΕΡΠΕΡΗΘΡΑΣ a man who keeps on spewing nonsense
ΗΔΟΝΟΘΗΚΗη: a woman's genitalia
ΚΥΝΤΕΡΟΣ: someone without shame, a good for nothing person[> κύων]
ΛΕΧΡΙΟΣ slimy [ > λέχριος (λεχρίτης)]
ΛΥΔΙΑ whore (Roman times, apparently because many high end prostitutes where from that region).
ΛΟΧΜΗ: bushy woman's genitalia [> λόχμη (θάμνος)]
ΣΠΟΔΗΡΙΛΑΥΡΑ: **** eater[σποδή (καταβροχθίζω) + λαύρα (απόπατος)]
ΧΑΛΚΙΔΙΤΙΣ: a very cheap whore, one that will do it for a copper
User avatar
IreneY
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 800
Joined: Thu Feb 16, 2006 8:27 am
Location: U.S.A (not American though)

Re: Curses in Greek?

Postby IreneY » Sun Aug 04, 2013 5:00 am

Also found:
διαρραγείης "split you" (may you split)
ὄλοιο, ὄλοισθε, may'st thou, may ye perish ! a form of cursing very common in Trag.,
κνώδαλον brute

I should add my mom's favorite (I'm pretty partial to it too; what a way to call someone completely useless!): 'Αχθος αρούρης (burden to earth)
User avatar
IreneY
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 800
Joined: Thu Feb 16, 2006 8:27 am
Location: U.S.A (not American though)

Re: Curses in Greek?

Postby MorieTris » Tue Aug 06, 2013 1:00 pm

Oh yes.

Thank you for your replies, all of you! You were very helpful :D Now I can have an authentic swearing Greek guy! ...mer-guy... half-fish guy... whatever. Also it would be very fitting for him to swear by Poseidon, as he's spent most of his life in the sea and haven't had much to do with any of the other gods so far... I wouldn't have thought of that in a thousand years.

Don't you think it's very interesting that the basic idea of swearing haven't changed much throughout the centuriues? Our "naughty" words still consist of names for genitalia and sexual acts, mostly... But that's human nature for you :D
User avatar
MorieTris
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:48 pm
Location: Hungary

Re: Curses in Greek?

Postby Scribo » Tue Aug 06, 2013 1:39 pm

Ireny can I ask the source of this? I ask because there is a lot of pseudo-antique stuff out there in modern Greek blogs and books without any evidence or testimony in general concerning the ancient word and some on this list look odd.

ΧΑΛΚΙΔΙΤΙΣ for example makes no sense because "copper" was not used colloquially for the lowest denomination, likewise dromas...would make sense if the cheapest prostitutes wandered the streets They didn't. Eypygos turns up in descriptions of statuary, hardly always peioritive. Bdew would be less funny than perdw etc.

Moreover, the well attested swear words are missing. Blakas (whence modern Vlaka, idiot) was common, how can the list not have mhtrokoitos (motherfucker) or any of the words for **** like bhnw?

Its a very suspect list along with the stuff like the oath of the agia opla you find printed in so many books, I'd be more happy were I to see actual citation.

Meanwhile, actual swearwords can be found everywhere in Greek literature. You don't have to go to the papyri, stuff like Aristophanes is full of them.
User avatar
Scribo
Textkit Enthusiast
 
Posts: 660
Joined: Fri Feb 22, 2008 2:28 pm
Location: Between Ilias and Odysseia.

Re: Curses in Greek?

Postby daivid » Tue Aug 06, 2013 2:12 pm

Scribo wrote:or any of the words for **** like bhnw?

I tried looking up bhnw at http://www.perseus.tufts.edu and got "Sorry, no information was found for βηνω".
I did find "βινέω" though. Any pointers as to where I might find such a word?
λονδον
User avatar
daivid
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 854
Joined: Sat Jul 16, 2011 1:51 pm
Location: ὁ τοῦ βασιλέως λίθος, London, Europe

Re: Curses in Greek?

Postby Scribo » Tue Aug 06, 2013 2:16 pm

daivid wrote:
Scribo wrote:or any of the words for **** like bhnw?

I tried looking up bhnw at http://www.perseus.tufts.edu and got "Sorry, no information was found for βηνω".
I did find "βινέω" though. Any pointers as to where I might find such a word?


That's the one! sorry mixed up by my tendency to pronounce η as /i/ unless in full on ancient Greek mode. Odd, I was struggling by trying to decide between bhnw or bhnaw/bhnew (which would make no sense!) but my mind never thought I might have been anachronistic with my phonology.

EDIT: That does beg the question though, I think I'll spend part of today recombing through my good friend Aristophanes and picking some stuff out.
User avatar
Scribo
Textkit Enthusiast
 
Posts: 660
Joined: Fri Feb 22, 2008 2:28 pm
Location: Between Ilias and Odysseia.

Re: Curses in Greek?

Postby Paul Derouda » Tue Aug 06, 2013 5:26 pm

Aristophanes' Frogs 739-740 comes to mind:
πῶς γὰρ οὐχὶ γεννάδας,
ὅστις γε πίνειν οἶδε καὶ βινεῖν μόνον;
"Of course he's a gentleman, since fucking and drinking are the only thing he knows"
(Somebody must have translated this better than this though...)

"By Poseidon" would be μὰ τὸν Ποσειδῶ. But if you want to be really anal (I wonder why this term came to my mind...;) ) about this, you should know that the name is slightly different in different dialects. This form is Attic.
Paul Derouda
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 700
Joined: Fri Nov 05, 2010 9:39 pm

Re: Curses in Greek?

Postby Scribo » Tue Aug 06, 2013 6:02 pm

Right so I started going through Aristophanes, with commentaries in hand in order to chase up references and what not and started whittling together a list. First off, its hard in itself due to the massively different mentality. Furthermore its difficult to know what to include some insults are just blunt whereas others just count as metaphor. Also how many words for anal penetration does anyone need? Then I checked the OP and realised in terms of curses he means actual curses, not swearwords.

I think it says a lot about us that we automatically went to obscenities. :lol:

Yes as for actual curses "go to the crows" "damn your eyes" "you sack of wine!" were common with oaths by X deity, or ("by the two gods" if you're Spartan) are all you need.

EDIT: Paul have you seen Thesmophoriazusae? The first...I think 90 lines or so is good for that, I was going to start pasting examples in but I feel (understandably?) uncomfortable. Honestly Aristophane's is often one of the cleaner dramatists, I remember some of the fragments being quite bad too.
User avatar
Scribo
Textkit Enthusiast
 
Posts: 660
Joined: Fri Feb 22, 2008 2:28 pm
Location: Between Ilias and Odysseia.

Re: Curses in Greek?

Postby Paul Derouda » Tue Aug 06, 2013 6:25 pm

I guess swearing everywhere has always involved references to sex and defecation. I think the biggest difference between our world and antiquity was that the worst thing you could say to a man was that he submits to another. In ancient Greece, you didn't call another man homosexual, the whole concept didn't exist. Only the "passive" part was degrading for a man. A man might insult another by saying something like "I'm gonna rape you". (In French the extremely vulgar "Je t'encule" might still be used liked this).

What most intrigues me is swearing by the gods. This is related to the fact that it's difficult for us to understand how seriously the Greeks took their Gods, since they were polytheists and at present religion in Western countries is essentially monotheist. I mean I guess Zeus, Apollo, Athena and Poseidon were taken pretty seriously, especially in those places where they had local cults - but how about Aphrodite? How about Herakles, how serious business was swearing by Herakles? When did you swear by Herakles, instead of say Zeus? I'm puzzled by this sort of thing.
Paul Derouda
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 700
Joined: Fri Nov 05, 2010 9:39 pm

Re: Curses in Greek?

Postby Paul Derouda » Tue Aug 06, 2013 6:40 pm

Scribo wrote:"by the two gods" if you're Spartan

What are those gods? The Dioskouroi?

EDIT: Paul have you seen Thesmophoriazusae? The first...I think 90 lines or so is good for that, I was going to start pasting examples in but I feel (understandably?) uncomfortable. Honestly Aristophane's is often one of the cleaner dramatists, I remember some of the fragments being quite bad too.

I haven't read that one yet. But I think it's for a reason that Loeb Classical Library chose an excerpt from that particular play to demonstrate their new, uncensored approach to translation.

EDIT: Why all this disconfort...? I mean aren't we approaching the subject with the greatest scientific rigour, distancing ourselves from any emotional responses it might arouse?
Paul Derouda
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 700
Joined: Fri Nov 05, 2010 9:39 pm

Re: Curses in Greek?

Postby Scribo » Tue Aug 06, 2013 7:01 pm

Yes the two gods - ναί τώι σιώ - (Ι only have modern Greek keys on this one, stress is down, d, up so you get the intonation. Doric construction) - were indeed Kastor and Polydeukes who enjoyed a kind of cult status at Sparta they didn't elsewhere, along with a solar goddess often taken to be Helene.

As for the gods, it's hard to tell if there are situational subtleties, At best we're aware of a difference between casual interjections like this as opposed to actually calling upon the gods in prayer, supplication or curse tablets (katadesmoi) but...yeah unfortunately the evidence is too dead for most things. :(
User avatar
Scribo
Textkit Enthusiast
 
Posts: 660
Joined: Fri Feb 22, 2008 2:28 pm
Location: Between Ilias and Odysseia.

Re: Curses in Greek?

Postby IreneY » Thu Aug 08, 2013 2:25 am

Sctibo,

The first bunch is from a book whose author I'm afraid I don't know. However you can check them on LSJ if you want. For instance, below is the entry for ΧΑΛΚΙΔΙΤΙΣ.

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/tex ... kidi%3Dtis
User avatar
IreneY
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 800
Joined: Thu Feb 16, 2006 8:27 am
Location: U.S.A (not American though)


Return to Learning Greek

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google Adsense [Bot], jeidsath, MSNbot Media and 39 guests