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In Plato’s Gorgias Socrates accuses Polus of trying to frighten him: “You are trying to make my flesh creep,” he says (473d), all of which is expressed in Greek by the single word mormoluttēi (μορμολύττῃ), a form of the curious verb mormoluttomai (μορμολύττομαι).[1] Its first element is from Mormō (or Mormōn, Μορμώ(ν)), a female hobgoblin invoked by nurses and mothers to scare children—a practice condemned in the Republic, where Socrates says that mothers should not “terrify their children with harmful tales,” such at least as speak evil of the gods (381e, trans. Shorey). The second element of the verb suggests, and possibly derives from, the root lutt– or luss-, which means rage or madness.

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