Skip to main content


Showing posts from September 28, 2014

the unwanted word

Frank Kermode begins The Genesis of Secrecy with an invocation of Hermes, the god of Hermeneuts, and thieves, and crossroads, and puns, to name just a few of the worthy causes he patronized. In enumerating his qualities, Kermode writes: “He also has to do with oracles, including the dubious sort known as klēdōn, which at the moment of its announcement may seem trivial or irrelevant, the secret sense declaring itself only after long delay, and in circumstances not originally foreseeable.” Oh the Greeks, with their eternally fascination terms of art! I couldn’t quite figure out, from Kermode’s elegant but ambiguous gloss, what a klēdōn was. Was  it the kind of insignificant minutia that the murder leaves behind him and is spotted by the sharp eyed police inspector? Was it a clue, such as the track left behind by a hunted animal? To find out, I looked up the word in William Halliday’s 1913 Greek Divination, a study of its method and principles. Halliday evidently was of the Golden Bough