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Headword: *)/onon o)/rnin
Adler number: omicron,378
Translated headword: [you call] a donkey a bird
Vetting Status: high
The story goes something like this: when a fortune-teller was being consulted about a sick man he saw a donkey getting up from a fall. He also heard another person saying, "How, if he's a donkey, did he get up?"[1] And he said "the ailing man will get up," and he got up. And again: "consider[2] everything that makes a distinction in prophecy a 'bird'." For they used to call them all 'fowls', even the things that were not avians. "[You call] a servant a bird": since they were accustomed to call certain ones of their servants[3] 'woodenfeet'[4] and 'good-fowled'.
Greek Original:
*)/onon o)/rnin: le/getai/ ti toiou=ton, w(s sumboliko\s e)rwtw/menos peri\ a)rrw/stou ei)=den o)/non e)k ptw/matos a)nasta/nta. a)kh/koe de\ kai\ e(te/rou le/gontos, pw=s o)/nos w)\n a)ne/sth; o( de\ e)/fh: o( nosw=n a)nasth/setai. kai\ a)ne/sth. kai\ au)=qis: o)/rnin no/mize pa/nq' o(/sa peri\ mantei/as diakri/nei. pa/nta ga\r oi)wnou\s e)ka/loun, kai\ ta\ mh\ o)/rnea. qera/pont' o)/rnin. e)pei/ tinas ei)w/qasi tw=n qerapo/ntwn kalo/podas le/gein kai\ kaloiwni/stous.
The headword phrase, along with the other quoted phrases, are excerpts from Aristophanes, Birds 719-721, with comments from the scholia. Some of the same material appears in omicroniota 167.
Bird-watching was one form of divination used by the ancients; terms for birds were generalized to the point that they could refer to omens of any sort.
[1] In the scholia, the other person exclaims "Look how he, being a donkey, got up." "Being a donkey" (o)/nos w)\n) sounds very like "the sick man" (o( nosw=n): thus the donkey getting up could be taken as an omen that the sick man would get up.
[2] This is a singular imperative verb in the Suda, whereas Aristophanes has a plural that is probably indicative ("you (pl.) consider..."), though the form is ambiguous.
[3] '[P]resumably the first servant one saw after waking up' (Dunbar).
[4] Apparently the scholiast is interpreting the word kalo/pous as being derived from kalo/s ('good') and pou/s ('foot'). This is possible (cf. kappa 249), but all attestations of the word seem to derive the first element from ka=lon ('wood'), and refer to the shoemaker's last (wooden foot-model).
Keywords: comedy; daily life; definition; dialects, grammar, and etymology; imagery; medicine; poetry; religion; science and technology; trade and manufacture; zoology
Translated by: William Hutton on 10 January 2010@12:06:26.
Vetted by:
Catharine Roth (cosmetics, status) on 11 January 2010@00:49:55.
David Whitehead (another note; cosmetics) on 11 January 2010@03:25:41.
David Whitehead (cosmetics) on 4 July 2013@04:15:13.
Catharine Roth (expanded note) on 21 January 2021@01:19:03.
Catharine Roth on 21 January 2021@01:21:14.


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