Today’s Word: Batrachomyomachy

Several of you have asked about that word I mentioned during my appearance the other day on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation.”

The word is batrachomyomachy (BAT-truh-koh-my-AHM-uh-kee), and it means “battle between frogs and mice.” Now, why, you may ask, should there be a need for such a word?

It’s a reference to Batrachomyomachia, an ancient Greek parody of The Iliad. The mock-heroic poem is a silly satire that points up the absurdity of war — this one involving such characters as “Crumb-snatcher, son of Bread-nibbler,” an “Pot Visitor, son of the Great Cheese-Carver.” It’s been eons since I read it in Greek, but as I recall, it was pretty funny. There’s a great illustrated English translation here.

Was also interested just now to learn just now that the German equivalent of batrachomyomachy, which has come to mean “a silly altercation,” is another nice mouthful: Froschm√§usekrieg.

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