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  • Clear Sighted Cuts

    Posted by Shannon Love on February 4th, 2011 (All posts by )

    Instapundit asks:

    BUDGET CUTS THAT BARELY SCRATCH THE SURFACE are not “Draconian.” Did Draco even cut budgets? I think his interest lay elsewhere. And do the people calling these cuts “Draconian” have any idea who he was?

    Etymology is a hobby of mine but I realized I didn’t know the derivation of “Draconian.” That hole in my knowledge was easily corrected by the Online Etymology Dictionary which says that “Draconian” derives from:

    1876 (earlier Draconic, implied from 1640s), from Draco, Greek statesman who laid down a code of laws for Athens 621 B.C.E. that mandated death as punishment for minor crimes. His name seems to mean lit. “sharp-sighted” (see dragon)

    … and “dragon” itself derives from:

    early 13c., from O.Fr. dragon, from L. draconem (nom. draco) “huge serpent, dragon,” from Gk. drakon (gen. drakontos) “serpent, giant seafish,” apparently from drak-, strong aorist stem of derkesthai “to see clearly,” from PIE *derk- “to see.” Perhaps the lit. sense is “the one with the (deadly) glance.” The young are dragonets (14c.). Obsolete drake “dragon” is an older borrowing of the same word. Used in the Bible to translate Heb. tannin “a great sea-monster,” and tan, a desert mammal now believed to be the jackal.

    … so, “draconian” spending cuts are “clear sighted” cuts.

    Sounds good to me. Who would have guessed the Democrats thought so highly of the wisdom of cutting government spending? I guess the Democrats’ ever-so-superior intellects led them to use a classical allusion that confused us lesser mortals.

     

    4 Responses to “Clear Sighted Cuts”

    1. LoboSolo Says:

      The term comes refers to Draco’s actions (harsh and severe) … not to the origin of his name.

    2. Dexter Trask Says:

      Ah, LoboSolo, I believe that the good Shannon was having a bit of fun at Democrats’ expense and is fully congnizant of this.

    3. Shannon Love Says:

      LoboSolo,

      It’s just a joke. I know the derivation of a eponym’s name doesn’t actually reflect the meaning of eponym itself. Like I said, etymology is something of an intellectual interest of mine.

      I just thought it humorous in context that draconian literally translated to clear sighted.

    4. Anonymous Says:

      Under Draco’s laws, burglars could be executed, though mostly they were not. This sounds about right to me, not exceptionally harsh. I don’t think any lesser crime than burglary got the death penalty. Debtors could be enslaved for some kinds of debts, but not others.

      This was harsher than the laws that came before, in that although previously the death penalty could be applied to burglars, he broadened the scope of the death penalty, and harsher than the laws that came after, but the difference was not all that great.