The Chatterbox by Theophrastus


Have you ever been stuck next to an incessant Chatterbox, on a bus, train or plane trip perhaps? They cripple you with their endless stream of random topics: no breaks, no relief, no escape. Well, you are definitely not alone in the experience. It seems that the Chatterbox has been pestering humanity for some time.

Theophrastus, a scientist and philosopher from the fourth century B.C. writes the following funny character sketch of the Chatterbox:

“The Chatterbox is the sort of person who sits next to a complete stranger and first sings his own wife’s praises, then recounts the dream he had last night, then describes in every detail what he had for dinner. Then, as things are going well, he continues to talk like this: people nowadays are far less well-behaved than in the old days; wheat is selling in the market at a bargain price; the city is full of foreigners; the festival of Dionysus heralds the start of the sailing season; more rain would be good for the crops; what land he will cultivate next year; life is hard; Damippus set up a very large torch at the mysteries; how many pillars there are in the Odeion; ‘I threw up yesterday’; what day of the month it is; the Mysteries are in September, the Apatouria in October, the Rural Dionysia in December. If you let him go on he will never stop.”(1)

What more can I say?

  1. Theophrastus, Characters (ed. and transl. by J. Diggle), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2004, p. 73.
  2. Image from: W. Anderson, Theophrastus: The Character Sketches, The Kent State University, 1970, p. 14 (reproduced from Francis Howell, The Characters of Theophrastus, London, 1824).

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