Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2004.02.46

Holford-Strevens on Ruden on Clayton on Ruden.   Response to 2004.01.23

Response by Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Oxford University Press (

Since BMCR responses are not private fights, let me comment:

1. People who dislike obscenity should leave Aristophanes alone.

2. Although not all Aristophanes is in current colloquial Greek, those parts that are should be rendered, in any version intended to stand on its own feet, into current colloquial English, which sometimes uses obscenities where Greek does not ('fucking' as an intensive), or different ones where it does ('fuck off' for οὐχὶ λαικάσει, 'won't you suck off?').

3. Sometimes we do not get the joke, but realize there is one, or no longer find it funny (how many of us, wherever we stand politically, have laughed at Aristophanes' jibes against the men of the moment?). In that case a scholarly translation will reproduce the Greek and add a note, but a translation intended to be read for its own sake will substitute a joke of its own; Ruden's 'my dog will fuck you up' is an excellent instance, since 'He's waiting at the back' suggests that we have no mere Larkinesque colloquialism but a hint at anal intercourse ('up' in English though 'down' in Greek).

4. "But a flat, unattractive translation presented to beginning students and the lay public as literature, as the work of a great mind, is the most catastrophic kind of unfaithfulness." Exactly: a translation that makes the original not seem worth reading has no place even on the facing page of a critical edition.

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