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Abderian

5 Jul 2017

The term Abderian laughter popped up on HH on Monday, defined as:

 

 

 

The adjective Abderian, or Abderitan, literally refers to anything or anyone from the Ancient Greek city of Abdera in Thrace, in the far northeast corner of modern Greece. And among the most noted citizens of Abdera was a fifth-century BC philosopher and mathematician named Democritus. 

 

Unfortunately, nothing but the odd fragment of text remains of Democritus’ life’s work (and given that he’s believed to have lived well into his 90s, if not past 100, we can presume he had quite the legacy to leave behind). Nevertheless, what we do know is that Democritus’ philosophical writings often focused on his championing of cheerfulness—while through anecdotes recalled by his contemporaries, we can presume that he had a habit of keeping himself cheerful by laughing at everyday human foibles and other people’s foolishness. 

 

For that reason, Democritus became known as the “Laughing Philosopher”, and it was that nickname that presumably gave all his fellow Abderians a reputation for laughing incessantly, without provocation, or despite current circumstances; gave artists throughout the centuries a popular subject for their portraits; and—2,500 years later—gave us a word for empty or mocking laughter. 

 

Rembrandt as Democritus (1628): Loved a laugh. Haircuts less so.

(Image credit: Public domain/Wikipedia

 

 

 

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