Classic Quandary

by James S. Robbins

Some readers have written that Socrates would not have said “the Hoi Polloi” because “hoi” means “the” and thus is redundant. But knowing the ways of NRO readers I checked this before publishing, and most guides on usage state that it is an English word of Greek origin, not just a Greek term. Thus “the Hoi Polloi” is perfectly acceptable, in the same way as “the alcohol content” is. See for example The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition (2000) . Also note that in my dialogue Socrates was speaking English. If you want to translate it to Greek, the superflouous “hoi” should be removed. I’d be intrigued to know an accurate, contextual — as opposed to literal — Greek translation of “precision strike weapon.”

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