This week, we’re learning some ancient Greek.
Ancient Greek was spoken from the 9th century to the 4th century B.C.E (by the ancient Grecians, of course). That is so long ago. That is almost three thousand years ago (maybe—math is hard). And they were better at complimenting butts than we are now in the 21st century.
That’s actually not that surprising when you think about how awesome Greek theatre was. I mean, theatre is pretty awesome now, too. But we had Greek theatre to learn from. What did they learn from? Gilgamesh, maybe?
I’ve started off this Wednesday Word in a pretty boring way considering this is such a good, good word. Though I don’t know how to pronounce it, or even what these letters are, here is “the state of having a great butt” in ancient Greek: “καλλίπυγος” (kallípugos). Try throwing that one on a Valentine’s card.
The etymology is pretty easy and remarkably uncontested on this one. Kalli means “beautiful,” and pugḗ means “butt.” It also comes from a magnificent statue of the goddess of love and beauty Venus, called Aphrodite Kallipygos or Callipygian Venus, who obviously had a good butt.
The statue is depicting Venus in a state of anasyrma, yet another amazing word that refers to the gesture of lifting a skirt or kilt to expose the genitals. Venus, also often called Aphrodite, is lifting her peplos, a typical dress for Grecian women in the Classical period, to reveal her callipygian assets, while simultaneously looking over her shoulder, probably enjoying the view herself.
Though the statue, and therefore the word, dates to the late 1st century B.C.E., the sentiment is certainly not outdated. I genuinely hope to soon hear this word in every rap and pop hit on the radio, to see it in every silly magazine. Maybe I’ll even start a petition on Change.org that every offensive compliment has to be replaced with callipygian. Until then, I recommend everyone go out and tell all of their loved ones exactly how good their butt is. You never know when you’ll get another chance to say how you really feel.