At the end of a highly technical 1966 article in the Journal of Hellenic Studies, JH Quincey contrasts Greek expressions of thanks to modern English expressions: “The Greeks’ habit in accepting an offer, service, etc. was to confer praise and not thanks. The difference between their usage and ours is not just a verbal one but reflects a fundamental difference in outlook. The Englishman with his ‘Thank you!’ is content to express his feelings, the Greeks, although no less sensible of the force of charis, saw an obligation created by a favour received and sought, in their practical, direct way, to discharge it. And since praise was a commodity of which all men had an infinite supply and which all men valued, the obligation could always be discharged immediately. A service rendered in the ordinary world of business might need to be recorded . . . .; the debt created by a service between friends could be settled on the spot.”
Quincey cites the Republic where Socrates objects to payment for lessons by hinting “that payment between friends for services of this sort is unseemly.” Yet Socrates doesn’t reject the notion to compensation for favors as such, and he does think that “‘feeling gratitude’ is an adequate return.” Instead, Socrates “accepts the propriety of some kind of repayment, charin ektinein; only, he asserts, it should be a repayment of ‘praise.’” The import is “first, that a favour calls for immediate recompense” and “second, that the normal recompense between friends is ‘praise.’”
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 10:43 am
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