For the name of these gods there is both a serious and a humorous explanation; the serious explanation is not to be had from me, but there is no hindrance to my offering the humorous one, for the gods too are fond of a joke.
[ἀλλὰ ἔστι γὰρ καὶ σπουδαίως εἰρημένος ὁ τρόπος τῶν ὀνομάτων τούτοις τοῖς θεοῖς καὶ παιδικῶς. τὸν μὲν οὖν σπουδαῖον ἄλλους τινὰς ἐρώτα, τὸν δὲ παιδικὸν οὐδὲν κωλύει διελθεῖν: φιλοπαίσμονες γὰρ καὶ οἱ θεοί.]
In Plato, Cratylus [Κρατύλος], ch. 23 / 406c [tr. Hyers (1969)]
The final phrase, "The gods, too, are fond of a joke," is broadly misattributed to Aristotle, without any citation. It is also sometimes misattributed to Edward Albee.
Cratylus is dialogue about the nature of names. Socrates, here, has been asked about the origins of the names of the gods, Dionysus and Aphrodite. Burges (below) notes that Plato had been "partly initiated into the mysteries of Demeter and Dionysus," part of which dealt seriously with the meanings of those deities' names; his avoiding the "serious explanation" is not betray his oath of secrecy to the cult.
(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:
But the mode of nomination, belonging to these divinities, is both serious and jocose. Ask therefore others about the serious mode; but nothing hinders us from relating the jocose; for these deities are lovers of jesting and sport.
[tr. Taylor (1804)]
But the manner of the appellations given to these divinities, has been said to be both serious and jocose. Ask therefore others about the serious manner; but nothing hinders us from relating the jocose; for these deities are lovers of jesting and sport.
[tr. Burges (1850)]
There is a serious and also a facetious explanation of both these names; the serious explanation is not to be had from me, but there is no objection to your hearing the facetious one; for the Gods too love a joke.
[tr. Jowett (1892)]
You see there is both a serious and a facetious account of the form of the name of these deities. You will have to ask others for the serious one; but there is nothing to hinder my giving you the facetious account, for the gods also have a sense of humor.
[tr. Fowler (1926)]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 4-May-22
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