13

I found the exclamation bombax! in Plautus' Pseudolus (Pl. Ps. 1.3.131), where note 19 specifies it is a Greek loanword (βομβάξ in fact) used as an interjection of contempt. This agrees with what is stated in this 18th century edition.

However, here bombax is said to mean "Splendid!", "Marvelous!", while Lewis and Short states it is an exclamation of real or affected surprise.

Finally, according to the Italian Olivetti Latin Dictionary it can be translated as accidenti!, which in fact has both nuances of meaning.

So what is it, and would 200 AD Romans still use this exclamation?

9

From the Scholia Graeca in Comoedias Aristophanis, we find the following definition of βομβάξ:

βομβάξ - παρεμβολοειδής ἐστι τοῦτο ἐπίρρημα καὶ σημαίνει διασυρμόν. βομβάζειν γὰρ δηλοῖ διασύρειν. βομβάζειν γὰρ δηλοῖ διασύρειν, τωθάζειν, σκώπτειν, καὶ χλευάζειν, λοιδορεῖν τε.

Translation:

βομβάξ - an interjection said in response to something, signifying disparagement or ridicule. For βομβάζειν is to disparage openly, mock, jeer, scoff at or revile.

Here's some of the definitions of the words used:

  • διασύρειν - to disparage, ridicule (literally, to tear into pieces)
  • τωθάζειν - to mock, jeer at, flout
  • σκώπτειν - to mock, jeer, scoff at
  • χλευάζειν - to jest, scoff
  • λοιδορεῖν - to abuse, revile

Furthermore, other dictionaries have recognized that bombax may be used to express contempt. The Lexicon of Forcellini, for example, has the following:

BOMBAX! Interjectio est hominis laete, vel cum admiratione approbantis vel etiam negeligentis et contemnentis.

Ainsworth's Dictionary:

Bombax - interj contemnentis vel negligentis Pooh! Pooh! Plaut.

A New and Copious Lexicon of the Latin Language:

Bombax! - an interjection of contempt, poh! pish! Plaut.

4

The passage in Plautus seems to be the one and only attestation for "bombax" in Latin. The dictionary definition "an exclamation of real or affected surprise" fits it very well.

  • 2
    Though it does not include the contempt bit, I think it would be strange if it were wrongly present in that 18th century edition. – Vincenzo Oliva Nov 11 '18 at 13:34

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