He responds initially with indignation at being asked such a question: "Do you think I am some idle talkative Greekling (Graeculo otioso et loquaci), who is also perhaps full of learning and erudition (docto atque erudito), that you propound me a petty question on which to talk as I will?
8) If, for Cicero, the orator is the embodiment of the active life, a "doer of deeds," then his opposite is the idle (otiosus) Greekling.
This contrast between the decorous, heroic Roman orator and the idle, chattering Greekling can be further amplified if one translates "Graeculus" not as "Greekling" or "little Greek," but as "Greek boy," for boys, except insofar as they are preparing to become men, are not well regarded in the De oratore.
Just as Cicero juxtaposes his heroic Roman orator to the idle, chattering, erudite, homosexual Greekling, the Renaissance writers on rhetoric Thomas Wilson, George Puttenham, and Antoine Furetiere also structure their thinking about decorum through a series of oppositions.
If Cicero uses the figure of the Greekling to stand for everything he means by indecorousness, Wilson, Puttenham, and Furetiere have a symbolic figure who serves much the same purpose for them: the learned clerk or pedant.
Cicero's Greekling does have, to be sure, a social dimension, just as clerks and pedants have a cultural one.
In fact, simply by using words rather than wielding the sword of the Roman soldier, he behaves, whether as orator or theoretician, like the very thing he scorns--and fears--a Greekling.
The chattering Greeklings resemble another disparaged group in Cicero's work: clowns, parasites, and mimes, all of whom made their living in ancient Rome by engaging in comical banter and performing farcical tricks.
In the key passage I began with, Crassus mocked Greeklings not only as "talkative," but as "learned.