Diphthong: Best Word Evah!

Tip o’ the pileus to June Samaras on the Classics list for alerting us to this accolade … here’s the incipit of how the Atlantic spun the tale:

Ted McCagg is a creative director in advertising in Portland, Oregon. In his spare time, for the past five years or so, McCagg has been keeping a blog,”Questionable Skills” — the content of which consists almost entirely of drawings, some of them the bracket-style rankings that are a familiar feature of March Madness.

A few months ago, McCagg began using his blog and his bracket system to answer a question: What is the best word ever? Not the funniest word or the most erudite word or the most whimsical word … but The Best Word, full stop. What if, you know, the scallawag could eke out a thingamajig that would help him select the least milquetoast morsel from our linguistic smorgasbord?

Today, McCagg has answered his question. The best word ever — according to deep lexicographical research, science, taste, and common sense — is this: diphthong.


Read the rest: Here It Is: The Best Word Ever (Atlantic)

… it’s a Greek word, of course

Site of Caesar’s Assassination Found?

A zillion versions of this one bouncing around the interwebs right now … the clearest seems to be AFP via France 24:

Archaeologists said Wednesday they believe they have found the exact spot in Rome where Julius Caesar was stabbed to death on March 15, 44 BC.

The stabbing of the dictator by Roman senators was recorded by ancient historians and dramatised by William Shakespeare who gave Caesar the last words: “Et tu Brute? Then fall, Caesar.”

Now, a team from the Spanish National Research Council say they have unearthed evidence that, they believe, reveals precisely where the attack took place.

They say they have found a concrete structure, three metres (10 feet) wide and two metres (nearly seven feet) high, that was erected by his adoptive son and successor, Augustus.

After taking power himself, Augustus ordered the structure be placed exactly over the place where the attack took place so as to condemn the slaying of his father, the scientists said.

“This finding confirms that the general was stabbed right at the bottom of the Curia of Pompey while he was presiding, sitting on a chair, over a meeting of the Senate,” the Spanish research council said in a statement.

The Curia of Pompey was a closed space used sometimes for senate meetings at the time. The building’s remains are in the Torre Argentina archaeological site in the centre of Rome.

What the archaelogists found was not the spot where Caesar died but the point where he must have been stabbed and fell, Spanish council researcher Antonio Monterroso told AFP.

“We know this because there is a structure that seals the place where Caesar must have been seated presiding over the senate session where he was stabbed,” he said.

“There is a structure from the later period of his successor, the period of Augustus, placed where Caesar must have sat, and that is how we know.”

A comparison of the archaeological remains and the ancient texts led the researchers to their conclusion, said Monterroso, a member of the Institute of History of the Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences.

It was impossible to know if Caesar died in the same place, however, the researcher said.

“From there the body was taken to the Roman Forum for his veneration and then it was cremated,” Monterroso said.

“We don’t know if he died in that instant or if he died hours later.”

He agreed that the finding was open to dispute.

“It is not indisputable. All archaeological science is open to dispute, it should be open to dispute, it should be open to argument, it should be open to debate and open to criticism, of course.”

The three-year archaeological project, which began last year, is supported by the Rome City Council, Spanish government financing and the Spanish research council’s Spanish School of History and Archaeology in Rome.

The discovery in the centre of Rome was impressive, Monterroso said. “Thousands of people today take the bus and the tram right next to the place where Julius Caesar was stabbed 2,056 years ago.”

The original press release (which almost all the other sources print verbatim) is here.

… I always find it odd when they call archaeologists “scientists”, but I won’t argue. What I’m not clear about, however, is the source for this “structure” they’re referring to … anyone know?

Another Classical Athlete: Khaled Holmes

Excerpts from the LA Times, which really plays up the Classics angle:

Khaled Holmes earned a degree in classics, so USC’s senior center is well versed in the tragedy and heroism found in ancient Greek and Roman literature.

Ask him which character he most identifies with and the bearded, bespectacled Holmes pauses.

“Most of them are pretty tragic,” he says, laughing. “So I don’t know if I identify with any of them.”

When pressed, Holmes ponders Odysseus. He considers Achilles. Finally, he chooses Hercules.

“With everything thrown at him,” he says, “he found a way to just conquer it somehow.”


But like Hercules, who maneuvered through 12 labors in one of Holmes’ favorite childhood stories, the team captain overcame his early trials, neutralized Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei — a top NFL prospect — and helped lead then-No. 13 USC to victory.


When Holmes is not identifying defenses and calling out blocking assignments at the line of scrimmage, he’s designing a mobile application for his master’s degree program in communications management. Last December, he vibrantly played the role of King Theseus in a group reading in the classics department.


The Holmes siblings — Alex, 31, sister Theodora, 29 and Khaled, 22 — were exposed to classical literature by their mother, Katina, a classicist who when it came to bedtime stories had no time for Dr. Seuss. Instead, it was Plato, Aeschylus and Homer.

Classical Words of the Day