Munson, Rosaria Vignolo. 2005. Black Doves Speak: Herodotus and the Languages of Barbarians. Hellenic Studies Series 9. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_MunsonR.Black_Doves_Speak.2005.
3. Herodotos hermēneus
Questioning Greek knowledge
In the first case the Greek name reveals insufficiently detailed ethnographic knowledge, since the half-Greek Geloni live in the territory of the Budini but are entirely dissimilar from them in origin, appearance, language, and customs.  The second gloss implies that the Greek name, however people came up with it, does not legitimately replace the Lydian consensus about one of their kings.  Naming historical figures, places, and peoples—and doing so with the utmost accuracy—is a fundamental aspect of Herodotus’ task. 
Pyretos, ‘the Fiery One’, applied to a river in Scythia, seems to show that the Greeks find any meaning preferable to no meaning at all.  On the other hand, Makistios, ‘Tall Man’, is analogous to many Greek renditions of foreign names that Herodotus normally uses as authentic;  it refers to physical characteristics and suggests magnificence, as Persian names normally do (1.139); and it coincides with Herodotus’ description of this particular Persian general as an imposing figure.  But also the form Makistios, like Pyretos, is attributed to the Greeks so that it is not clear from the point of view of the text that either one represents an accurate translation rather than a Greek distortion of the original name.
Names as logoi and muthoi
The translation of the name and the elements of which it is composed here remains unverifiable. One must trust the word and linguistic expertise of the narrator, who has been at the site, talked to the natives, and learned the local names (4.81.2–6; cf. 4.52.1). 
The Egyptian name, ounoma, is called an epos, that is to say, an “utterance” or logos which tells a more complicated story than “deserters” or any other single word can express in Greek.  It also appears to reflect the point of view of these soldiers, whose discontent for their second-class position in Egypt caused them to resettle in Ethiopian lands.  Similarly, the Scythian name for the Amazons, once translated by components, describes the warrior character of this culture in a more direct and perhaps more truthful way than their name in Greek:
Libya is supposed to have been a woman native of the land she named, and Asia is named after the wife of Prometheus—unless “Asia” is a Lydian name, derived from that of Asies, the son of Cotys. As for Europe, no one knows whether it is surrounded by water—that is to say, it is not clear that it is a separate land mass, worthy of its own name in the first place. Moreover, if this region is called after the Tyrian princess abducted to Crete, the eponymic model again makes no sense.
The episode ironically characterizes Spartan religiosity, their standoffishness with strangers, and their dislike for long speeches.  But Herodotus’ narrative suggests the fortuitous nature of Leotychides’ question (κατὰ συντυχίην θεοῦ ποιεῦντος) and creates another omen with the pun involving his name: συντυχίην/Λεοτυχίδης.  The ominous meaning of the names of the men who will lead the Greeks to Mycale is later confirmed by the other divine signs predicting the victory. 
Giving the “right” word
Ξέρξης δ’ ἀπώλεσεν, τοτοῖ
Ξέρξης δὲ πάντα ἐπέσπε δυσφρόνως
By describing and naming the Egyptian boat, Herodotus, once again, corrects the Greeks and refines their approximate and ethnocentric knowledge of foreign things, which comes out in a misuse of language.
Orientalism and anti-orientalism
A gloss of comparison makes the foreign phenomenon both familiar and endearing by assimilating it to a Greek religious and athletic context:
Finally, by a metanarrative counter-move, the institution is returned to its owners and dignified with its proper term: “The Persians call this course of horse-post angarēion” (8.98.2).
Language and relativity