Cretic Critique I: Game of Thrones


This was the Greek YouTube sensation of 2015: Κρητική Κριτική. Two guys recounting current US TV series in Cretan dialect. The conceit is that a Cretan villager is summarising TV shows he watches for his nephew on the phone—but he doesn’t quite get all the subtleties of what’s going on.

The Cretic Critique guys went on to do House of Cards, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead. Each with a backing track featuring a Cretan folk music rendering of the theme music.

This is my translation of their Game Of Thrones two-parter. Am keeping close to the original, so lots and lots and lots of parataxis.

What’s fascinating as much as anything, is how, when mangled by a fictional Greek peasant, the GoT plots really do sound a lot more like fairy tales than mediaeval history.

Feel free to watch the video alongside the translation.

Hey uncle, tell me what’s going on? What are youse watching on TV?

George my boy, we’re watching the TV series, the show. The whole village gathers at the café, but free to air TV doesn’t show it. MEGA TV, ANT-1 won’t show it. Star TV won’t either. We watch it at the café ’cause they’ve got Nova cable, so we watch the download.

So uncle, what kind of show is it?

Well, it’s an historical show, it is. It shows the princess [Daenyris Targaryen], who was an orphan. And she married the Gypsy king [Khal Drogo]. A fine young man, seven foot tall. And he was struck down by cancer. And she was widowed, the blondie was. But she was strong! And nothing bad happens to her! And she had a mighty heart. And when disaster fell on her again, she survived. And her whole house burned down, her barn burned down, and nothing happened to her!

She saved the eggs that her mother had given her. She was to look after the eggs until her mother came back. And her mother died. So she was left with the eggs. And she went out with them. And the eggs had cracked, and the wee dragons had come out. And the princess kept the wee dragons, like they were her own children. They were so small. She brought them up and nursed them. And they thought of her as their mother.

And they became huge dragons. And they breathed fire! And she set off down the road, to free the world! Because they were slaves! And she says, “Uh uh! I’m freeing them, I am!” And she set off, and she had two counsellors with her. They were very nice people, and they loved her both. They… they were enemies. But both of them loved the princess.

[Stoner laughter]

One of them, the Australian [Jorah Mormont: all Commonwealth accents sound the same], he was a tax-dodger, a smuggler. And he owed the tax office. And they told him back then, in the olden times—because he used to be the king’s adviser. So the king liked him, and he told him: “Never mind the debt”, he says. “You’ve made a fool of me. But I don’t have the heart to kill you. And since you haven’t got the money to pay off the debt, get up and get out of here. Be gone!” So he went off and ran after the princess.

And the other guy [Barristan Selmy] was the king’s guard, but they offed the king [Robert Baratheon]. So he went off and found the princess as well.

In the meantime, we see GI Jonny [Jon Snow]. He was orphaned too. He was a bastard, and they sent him off to the army, far away, to wash off the shame. Far from Crete, way north, even further north than the Turkish border! To go guard the Wall. But he went AWOL, he got drunk one day and he disappeared. Far on the other side of the Wall, far away.

And he fell in love with an Albanian chick [Ygritte]. But the Albanians didn’t like him. So he took her, and they hid one morning in a cave, and he did the deed with her. And they swore oaths to each other. But as he was leaving, her kin found him. And they started firing arrows at him. And she goes, “If I’m going to save him, I’ll shoot him first.” So she plants an arrow right in his leg.

But him, he was a hound! He was a crow! He wouldn’t die no matter what! A crow! So he gets up, and goes back to his unit. [Laughter] And they wouldn’t take him back in, because he’d gone AWOL.

But the war came. And Jonny went up front, first in line.  And he set an example, so they kept Jonny. And there were some giants dragging chains! And this one giant got through the gate! And six lads died, but they managed to kill that arsehole giant.

And his brothers (because the bastard had two brothers), he took them along, and now we’re following their life, what’s happening to his wee brothers. Because the family [Starks] broke up. They’d gone to a wedding, and there was a fight at the wedding, and they killed them all! His parents, his mother; and they orphaned the kids right in the middle of the party.

And they took the pup (they had some puppies, one pup for each kid, to look after them). Because the pup has the spell within. And one kid, the little one [Bran Stark], was crippled.  The king’s brother [Jamie Lannister] shoved him in the chest, and he fell off the fence! Broke his back, broke his legs; and he was crippled. But when he prays, he gets inside the pup’s head. And he walks within the pup.

And he takes the pup and the village idiot [Hodor].  There was this village idiot; and he carries him on the road, because the kid can’t walk. So the village idiot carries him and walks. And they’re looking for his siblings.  ‘Cause there’s… four of them. Four siblings. One, the little crippled one.  Two, Jonny the Crow.

Three, Stella [Sansa Stark].  [Laughter] She’d gotten engaged to the king. The young king, the second one [Joffrey Baratheon]. He used to beat her up. And then the merchant took her, and they went away, the effeminate merchant did [Petyr Baelish]. He was effeminate you see. And they went to this island. Where he had a fiancee [Lysa Arryn]. But he was in love with Stella. And he killed his fiancee, and he was left with Stella, and his fiancee’s kid, the nutjob [Robin Arryn]. The kid was a nutjob, you see.

And his other sibling. But I don’t know if it was a boy or a girl [Arya Stark]. The burned guy took her [the Hound]. The beast. He was a beast of a man. His brother [the Mountain] burned his face off when they were kids, looking after their sheep. The brothers argued, and he burned his face off. So they’ve gone off now so he can help her, with her little sword (she had a little sword, you see), help her find out who killed her mum [Caitlyn Stark].

[Credits: Joe (Σήφης) the Croc—a crocodile someone let loose in a Cretan river. Was quite the tourist attraction at the time. Has since died: Cretan winters were a bit too cold.]

And now, we see the best guy in the entire world! That lovely boy! The wee dwarf [Tyrion Lannister]!   He was born with an illness, a problem, so his little bones wouldn’t grow. But he grew up. He talks so nice! And what he says is so wise! And all the girls love him, because he’s a wee blondie! And he drives the girls crazy!

But the only girl that doesn’t like him is his sister [Cersei Lannister]. His sister, and his father [Tywin Lannister]! The usurer. Just because he was born a dwarf. But he’s a totally normal guy; he’s just short.

And he got himself an education, and he made a truckload of money too. And then he’d go to the taverns hither and thither and threw his money around. And his sister forgot that they were brother and sister, and she accused him of poisoning her son. Because her son [Joffrey Baratheon], who had become the king, was poisoned. Because he was an evil person! And I know it’s a sin, but I was happy he died. I wouldn’t mind if he died twice. He tormented people, did Jeffrey. The lout.

And they poisoned him, and then his sister claimed that the wee dwarf did it! As if there was noone else in the world willing to do it, just the wee dwarf!

And the usurer [Tywin Lannister] was looking for an excuse. So he put him on trial. And the jurors say, “No! We’re not putting the wee dwarf on trial! We’ll arrange a fighting match,” they say, “we’ll find a champion. And we’ll have them resolve the feud.” [Greek: Vendetta]

And the queen pays this Mountain of a man [the Mountain].  He was seven foot tall! A killer. His idea of a day job was killing people just so he could earn a crust. And the wee dwarf gathered up whatever cash he had left, and he hired a brave lad as his champion [Oberyn Martell]. A fine lad, a Cretan! He know how to enjoy life, and party, but he was a great swordsman, right? The best swordsman in Crete!

So they set them down, and they fought hard, and the Cretan won! But he was careless, and he tripped. And the Mountain grabbed him, and he squashed his head like a watermelon.

And just as they were going to hang the wee dwarf, his other brother comes along, a nice looking lad [Jamie Lannister], with his hand cut off. He loved the wee dwarf. He loved his sister.

[Cut to black]

What’s that? What are you saying? Oh cut the crap! I won’t hear such nonsense! “Screwing his sister”, indeed! Whatever.

And he’d come back—he was a captive, you see. And they’d chopped off his hand. And this German chick freed him [Brienne of Tarth], this lady, seven foot tall


What?! What do you mean, “lesbian”? What the hell are you talking about?!

But all we care about is the wee dwarf, what will happen to the wee dwarf. And all the farmers’ collectives’ got together in the villages, and we signed a petition, and we all went down to Chania, and we said: “Whoever touches the wee dwarf, we’re going to come over and fu—”


And the minute his brother freed him, he went to find his father, the usurer. The whole world is terrified of the usurer. Because the Usurer Does Not Forget. And the wee dwarf says to him, he says, “Is that how you are, is it? Is that how you want people to pay their debts?” So he grabs a bow, and he shoots him once, and he shoots him twice,  while he was sitting on the privy. And that was the end of the usurer. Good riddance to the usurer and his nastiness. Let’s see what use his money is to him now! The hell with him.

And now they’ve set up a boy as the king [Tommyn Baratheon]. He hasn’t even finished primary school. He’s a nice kid. They’ve given him two teachers too. And a priest.

A priest! [Maester Pycelle] A fine priest he is! A liar, who pretends he can’t walk, that his leg hurts, and he walks leaning on his cane. And when he’s in his room all alone, he does callisthenics, and he dances. And he pretends, just so he can get the invalid priest pension! And he ladles out falsehoods to everybody.

But there’s another king [Stannis Baratheon], there isn’t just the little boy. I haven’t quite worked out what’s going on. He’s struggling down there to become the king, he has no money; but no man has become king just because he said so [Greek: stanio]. He keeps going to the bank, but he can’t get a loan; he’s wasting away with sorrow and worry. He’s fallen in love with a hippy chick [Melisandre] who’s wasted all his money. She’s a pretty girl, but she’s gross. She does magic, she wanders around with her boobs out. I haven’t quite worked out how this all hangs together; but overall, I’m kind of bored of this kingdom.

And then there’s that other poor bastard, oh dearie me. What that lad has gone through. Ricky [Reek, né Theon Greyjoy]. Oh dear. They captured him, they hanged him, they cut his balls off, they beat him to a pulp, and he died. Then he came back to life, Ricky did. And he was a different man. He doesn’t even know what his name is.

So now, we’re waiting to see what will happen to the crippled kid, who’s hanging out with another two or three kids [Osha, Jojen Reed, Meera Reed], and they’ve gone off to see if they can find his other siblings. They’ve told them about this priest, this monk who can see the future, up in Mount Athos. They’ve gone to a wee monastery [Greek: Monastiraki], and they’ve climbed up a tree, and they’re waiting to see what the nice old man will tell them, who’s set up a monastery up in the tree.

Why is profanity often based on bodily functions or God?

The point of profanity is to break social taboos to demonstrate intensity of emotion. Social taboos are real, so profanity has the desired effect of shock by messing with those taboos.

Most societies have strong taboos around religion. Most societies have taboos about excretion, and a lot of societies have taboos about sex.

The West doesn’t have these taboos anywhere nearly as strongly, and has replaced them with taboos around racism and sexism. So Westerners need some imagination, to imagine how forceful an impact profanity used to have.

Or, they need to substitute sexist and racist invective in their heads—although oddly enough, that’s not the same: prejudice singles out members of a community, rather than toying with the underpinnings of a community. On second thought, maybe that’s not so different after all.

In fact, there’s been profanity inflation, which is why Deadwood (TV series) had to use as obscene a language as they did. Cowboys swore plenty back in the day; but what they swore about broke taboos that just aren’t around anymore; so they’d sound silly today.

There was a time when not bloody likely scandalised a nation (Pygmalion (play)). And that time was way after the time of the Wild West.

(Btw, bloody is about God, not bodily functions. God’s blood.)

It’s federal election time. How do we get more true independents into Australian government?

People of Australia!

I don’t care if Ricky Muir is a bogan gun nut, and I don’t care if David Leyonhjelm is a Libertarian wackadoodle, and I don’t care if… is a single issue redneck. These are voices we have not had in our polity, and I want us to keep having these voices in our polity. I want to see randoms off the street grappling with serious issues, without some focus group telling them what to think. There is nothing that the LibNats and Labor have said that we haven’t already heard, and they don’t bring anything new to the debate.

If Malcolm has thrown a Double Dissolution to rid the Senate of anyone interesting, then throw that right back at both Kang and Kodos. Vote 1: Other.

If only there was just one Other to vote for in the Senate, of course, we wouldn’t be in this situation to begin with.

That’s the problem, and the way to address it, now that ‘Preference whispering’  is being blocked, would be for the independents to band together and have a single candidate per state. Which would make them no longer independents, of course, so won’t happen.

And to pick a figurehead who isn’t a failed impersonation of Donald Trump.

How does it feel for a Greek born outside of Greece visiting Greece in the big cities, in the villages or in the islands of Greece in 2015/2016?

Hey, I qualify for that answer. January 2015, on my honeymoon. Was last in Greece 2008.

Kinda sullen.  My home town (Sitia, Eastern Crete): visibly a lot of shuttered shops. Noone in my extended family gave a crap about politics any more. Still a healthy nightlife and buzz in Salonica; in fact I had a much better impression of Salonica than the previous time, when I decided it was no longer “the Queen of Cities”. I saw more of Athens than usual, including much more of Plaka; also found that enjoyable to my surprise. The bookstores had clearly shrunk in both Athens and Salonica—hard for me to imagine a world without Eleftheroudakis Bookstore. Noone cared about the smoking ban.

So much for the socioeconomics. The personal perspective:  it’s no longer home, which is always painful to realise; I felt especially dislocated in Sitia. I found what I thought was a deep lack of curiosity about the outside world (including Australia and my wife)—which I found dispiriting.

Does the Greek word for obey in Ephesians 6:1 and Colossians 3:20 mean obey without question or is there room for discussion?

Ephesians 6:1:   Τὰ τέκνα, ὑπακούετε τοῖς γονεῦσιν ὑμῶν ἐν κυρίῳ, τοῦτο γάρ ἐστιν δίκαιον

Colossians 3:20:   Τὰ τέκνα, ὑπακούετε τοῖς γονεῦσιν κατὰ πάντα, τοῦτο γὰρ εὐάρεστόν ἐστιν ἐν κυρίῳ

Naive answer: certainly in Modern Greek, υπακούω is straight out “obey”.

Etymologically it means “under-listen”; and the first gloss given in Liddell–Scott is “hearken, give ear”: that’s the sense it has in Homer. That sense definitely has wiggle room: it just means “consider what is said”.

The meaning shift from “hearken” to “answer, respond” to “heed, comply” to “submit”  to “obey” happened during Classical times: LSJ says “submit” is already in Herodotus, and “obey” in Thucydides and Xenophon.

Did the original, Homeric meaning stick around in the Koine?  Probably not. The BDAG dictionary (of New Testament Greek) gives the definitions “to follow instructions; to obey, follow, be subject; to grant one’s request; to answer a knock at the door”. That doesn’t sound like wiggle room to me.

Could a Bosnian Muslim have the surname Novakovic?

Thanks to all. The back story of Ms Novakovic (from what I saw in the paper today), in case people were interested:

  • Serbian (“Greek Orthodox”) father died.
  • Indonesian mother; but outside of Aceh, most Indonesians are not strict Muslims
  • However, her maternal uncle encouraged her to embrace Islam as a teenager
  • She changed her name from Nancy to Aisha
  • She started wearing niqab—which her mother objected to
  • She was radicalised and used to have a poster of Osama in her bedroom
  • She has turned against radicalism since

How was Biblical Greek pronounced?

What they all said. In the modern-day context it doesn’t matter all that much; in terms of historical reconstruction, you’re trying to pin down jelly, since the pronunciation was in flux during the period, though it seems to have been closer to Modern than Attic (though far from identical).

The reconstructions in Greek: A History of the Language and its Speakers, 2nd Edition, I think, allowed that there were different pronunciations depending on social stratum.

One thing a friend pointed out to me (hi Fiona, following us via Facebook): Anglo Christians  pronouncing Koine seem to forget it’s a human language, and put lots of awkward stops between syllables (exaggerated hiatus). Like ParOuSi. A and Agatho. Poi. E. O. I guess that works for them; but Koine was not spoken by robots, just like Homeric Greek wasn’t spoken by yodelling Martians.

See also:

How do you cheer or say “Hooray!” in your language?


Ζήτω! Zito!

Now, have I ever written a Quora post on how you say something in Greek, without a detailed disquisition on etymology and alternate expressions?

I won’t this time either.

Zito! is a third person imperative of zo, “to live”: so “may he live!” The third person imperative would certainly have died out by 1000 AD. And “may he live!” looks suspiciously like German Es lebe!

Yes. Like any number of other Modern Greek formulaic expressions, Zito! is a German expression, translated into Ancient Greek. Just like εντάξει endaxi = “OK” is the Ancient Greek translation of In Ordnung.

The Byzantine equivalent, which doesn’t have as much to do with German, is Εἰς πολλὰ ἔτη Is polla eti, “For many years!” That expression survived into modern Greek dialect—and Bulgarian—as Σπολλάτη! Spolati!

What is Yahweh’s name (Hebrew) translated into Ancient Greek?

There was a taboo on saying YHWH out loud in Hebrew, and that extended to other languages; so yes, the Septuagint rendered YHWH as Kyrios, the Lord, just as Jehovah (when Christians rediscovered YHWH) comes from YHWH with the vowels of Adonai.

Now, Jehovah has come into Modern Greek as Ιεχωβάς, /iexovas/. Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, are Μάρτυρες του Ιεχωβά. But Jehovah is a Renaissance coinage in western languages.

Did any Greek writings render YHWH?

Well, some Greek theologians discussed YHWH as YHWH. The Hebrew יהוה looks like the Greek ΠΙΠΙ. Hence the work spuriously attributed to Evagrius Ponticus “About PIPI”—although if you read it, pseudo-Evagrius knows perfectly well what a yod and a he is.

We also know that Theodoret (Quaestiones in Octateuchum p. 112) said that the Samaritans pronounced YHWH as Ἰαβέ, /iaβe/. He says that Jews instead pronounce “I am that I am” as Ἰά /ia/, which is of course just Yah. Epiphanius of Salamis‘ Panarion also mentions Ἰαβέ “He who was and who will forever be” as one of the many Jewish names for God

The Greek Magical Papyri are full of referenced to all manner of deities, including Yahweh, but only once or twice as Ἰαβέ. Their usual way of alluding to YHWH was Ἰαώ /iaɔː/(Iao – The Encyclopedia of Ancient History – Pleŝe – Wiley Online Library ).

What do you think of name/nickname “Luc” for a girl?

I am from Australia. In Australia, we truncate names. For this is the way of the Australians.

I had a colleague named Lucien. Anglo Australian, so Lucien was pronounced “loose-ee-yun”. But this is not the way of the Australians. The way of the Australians, including his 15 year girlfriend, was to pronounce it “loose”. Spelled, I daresay, Luce.

Australians would have no problem with a woman named thus. But the spelling would be Luce there too.

Hate typing answers on the phone: no IPA.