Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Words Do Have Meanings!

I received a message from one of the (too many) email groups I am on publicizing an event entitled "Dancing with Dionysus." After describing the camping getaway, a note at the end clarified that it was a "drug and alcohol free event."

Named after Dionysus?

I realise that learning Greek and Roman culture, history and literature has become a thing of the past, but surely people look up names before they use them? Or is there some kind of irony at work?

Our campus has a local chapter of BACCHUS, an organization which says it is "an international association of college and university based peer education programs focusing on alcohol abuse prevention and other related student health and safety issues." Nothing wrong with that -- but why call it Bacchus? Yes, it stands for "Boost Alcohol Consciousness Concerning the Health of University Students," but is there an intentional irony? Or an attempt at an elaborate bait-and-switch? Maybe they hope that students in search of a bacchanalia will stay for a sobriety talk -- yeah, that's likely.


Crispinus said...

Dammit, Laity, you know I can't resist this jelly.

Yes, wine was readily associated with Dionysus/Bacchus in antiquity. But it wasn't the only means of experiencing the god, who could in theory possess his worshippers at his discretion. (Euripides' Bacchae ought to be sufficient enough proof of this -- those maenads aren't drunk in the literal sense, despite what Pentheus believes.)

Thus, a "drug and alcohol free" event about Dionysus isn't entirely off the mark. Maybe they mean that drugs and alcohol are served free at this event, in which case they're erring on the side of the big D. being only about stimulants.

In the case of BACCHUS, I think there is some intentional irony. Let's not forget, it's largely a Greek organization, meaning that it's geared toward making fraternity and sorority life more sober. Hence its somewhat odd counterpart, GAMMA (Greeks Advocating the Mature Management of Alcohol), which to me sounds like a bid legitimacy (or attention) among the alphabet-obsessed crowd. Scenario: "What's your house?" "Bacchus-Gamma." "Cool. I'm in Phi-Psi."

K. A. Laity said...

Yeah, yeah, yeah -- but!

The point is ecstasy, ne c'est pas? Whether through liquor or divine possession, the aim of the Bachannal is to achieve ekstasis. Whereas the aim of capital letter BACCHUS is to achieve...moderation.

I suspect that it is *not* an indication that the substances are served for free, heh, heh.

As for the whole greek letter thingee -- well, I've always been a GDI.