Johnston St Carlton in Melbourne is not where Spaniards and Latin Americans live (it’s hipsterville), but it is where there is a critical mass of Spanish and Latin American restaurants is—along with salsa dancing classes, and a yearly street festival.
Ahah. Let’s not bugger flies, you say? Follow me, Quorans, into the scatological riches of Greek adages, and some rather disturbing insights into traditional Greek notions of sex, power, and bodily functions.
You’ve been warned.
- Έκανε η μύγα κώλο, κι έχεσε τον κόσμο όλο. “The fly has produced an arse, and has shat on the entire world.” Referring to impudence above one’s station.
- Έκλασε η νύφη, σκόλασε ο γάμος. “The bride’s farted: the wedding’s over.” Cf. Horace, if you will: The Mountain in Labour
- Δώσε θάρρος στο χωριάτη, να σου ανέβει στο κρεβάτι. “Give the peasant encouragement, and he’ll climb into bed with you.” Meaning don’t encourage those who will take advantage of you. Especially if they are peasants.
- Έκανε το σκατό παξιμάδι. “He’s turned his shit into rusks.” Bread was conserved as rusks, for those who could not afford fresh bread. The adage suggests a more advanced state of penury.
- Όπου αγαπάς νυχόκοψε, κι όπου μισάς κατούρα. “Cut your nails where you love, piss where you hate.” As far as I know, it doesn’t mean any more than what it says: using someone’s toilet is a bad omen, cutting your nails there is (somehow) a good omen.
- Κατούρα και λίγο. “Do take a break to piss.” A sarcastic riposte to someone boasting about his power and manliness. The silent presupposition is that since the referent is being so manly and macho, it is reasonable to suggest that he take a break, and use his penis for a secondary purpose.
- As a corollary, a non-sarcastic expression of a man’s control over a situation is: γαμάει και δέρνει. “He fucks and beats up.” Apparently, that’s what masters did to apprentices as an expression of power. And as US mass media will tell you, the practice remains endemic in prisons.
- Δε μας χέζεις ρε Νταλάρα. “Why don’t you shit on us, Dalaras”.
That last one needs some exegesis.
- George Dalaras is a very very earnest, serious, sincere singer. Who sings very very weighty serious songs.
- To “shit on someone” in Greek is to express contempt for someone.
- If you “shit on someone”, they will be beneath your notice, and you will cease associating with them.
- If you ask someone to “shit on you”, you’re asking them to consider you beneath their notice—which will lead to them ceasing associating with you.
- So the roundabout meaning of the adage is: “stop bugging me”. It’d be kind of saying to I dunno, Rush Limbaugh or Bob Dylan or someone like that: “Dude? Seriously. I’m not. Worth. Your time.”
The worst, I leave for last.
- Θα μου κλάσεις τ’ αρχίδια. “You will fart on my balls.” The meaning of this is: your threats to me are meaningless, as I am in a position of complete dominance over you.
A particular positioning of bodies is presupposed by this adage, as an expression of traditional male dominance (stereotypically associated with Greeks by non-Greeks, and with Ottomans by Greeks themselves). In such a positioning of bodies, the phrase content would be a plausible if impotent expression of repudiation of such dominance.
If you have no idea what I am alluding to, you are a better human being than I.
As Sokratis Di said, κουκουβάγια [kukuvaʝa] in Modern Greek. The proposed etymology is that it’s onomatopoeic, with kukuvau! the Modern Greek for “hoot! hoot!”, and Aristophanes’ ancient equivalent being kikkabaû! (“cry in imitation of the screech-owl’s note”).
The Ancient Greek is γλαύξ, /glaúks/. The ancients guessed that it was derived from glaukos, “blue”, because of the owl’s sparkling eyes (?!) Chantraine’s Etymological Dictionary just mutters “no definite etymology”.
What made Roman script suited for adoption?
The fact it was adopted a lot. Latin on its own is not particularly suited for a lot of phonemes, but it was the only game in town in Western and Central Europe, and that meant there was a long, long tradition of workarounds—both digraphs and diacritics. So another digraph or diacritic for another language was not a big deal. Only Vietnamese really stretched that.
Ultimately, hegemony came first: it was the script of the Catholic Church and the mediaeval intelligentsia—if you want to write down your barbaric dialect, deal with it.
What made Greek script suited?
Hegemony of Greek culture and the Orthodox Church, meaning it was a target for Bactrian and Cyrillic, and Balkan languages and Turkish. On Cyrillic see below.
But it wasn’t repurposed that often, the languages it was repurposed for were usually not mainstream languages (or it was not the mainstream spelling of a mainstream language). And while there are traditions of both digraphs and diacritics in Greek, they have never become mainstream themselves: a little digraph work in Greek dialect (Cypriot, Tsakonian), diacritics limited to Greek dialectology. That means that it was not a very good fit for other languages most of the time.
What made Cyrillic script suited?
Hegemony of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Communist Church. There was a merry-go-round of scripts from Arabic to Latin to Cyrillic to Latin.
A broader phonetic repertoire than Greek or Latin, which helped.
The broader phonetic repertoire was because Cyril was not afraid to add new letters. Greek did it only once or twice. Outside of the IPA, and the IPA-inspired African alphabets, Latin only did it once or twice. Through the precedence of Glagolitic, Cyril added a dozen.
And Cyrillic kept adding new letters (typically as variants of old letters) whenever a new language’s inventory showed up; there’s more new letters than digraphs and diacritics (though you get those too). Just as well they did: they have the languages of the Caucasus to deal with.
Why did they keep adding new letters? As with Roman and diacritics: precedent. That’s how Cyrillic, as distinct from Roman, started adapting to new languages.
What made Arabic script suited?
An OK consonant repertoire, and diacritics meaning that you can add more consonants as variants (three dots for Farsi, four dots for Shina language, as well as digraphs for Urdu). OTOH, avoiding vowels outside of matres lectionis. Doesn’t work well outside Semitic.
And Hegemony of Islam.
What made Hebrew script suited?
I don’t know if Hegemony and Judaism go together, but that. And as for Arabic: some diacritics and digraphs, though not common enough outside of Yiddish to be a fine-tuned instrument; and only matres lectionis for vowels.
Don’t know enough about other scripts.
I… don’t actually like opera, with the following exceptions. So my answers are (a) not representative, and (b) damn good, if they got past my “I don’t like opera” filter.
- John Adams, Nixon in China.
- Alban Berg, Wozzeck.
- Wolfgang Mozart, Don Giovanni.
- Richard Strauss, Der Rosenkavalier.
Need a fifth, OK:
- Benjamin Britten, Peter Grimes.
Thirty years ago, but I remember liking it at the time.
EDIT: Strike that. I meant to say
- Philip Glass, Akhnaten.
Not aware of one in Greek folklore. Lots of Arapis in Greek fairy tales, filling the same niche as ogres and giants—sometimes benevolent, sometimes malicious, but always exotic. But not aware of White Arapis.
This issue has been addressed beautifully in My Dog: The Paradox – The Oatmeal (final panel):
This raises the interesting question of whether dogs always realise that you did the stepping—let alone whether it was intentional.
But without some concerted linguistic work, Greek script was not much better suited to Turkish than Arabic script was. No differentiation between <ı> and <u> for example: both ου. No systematic differentiation of <c> and <ç>, just as Greek (at the time) did not differentiate /ts/ and /dz/: both τζ. No smooth way of rendering <ö> and <ü>. No differentiation of <ş> and <s>.
Now these were not insurmountable difficulties. The Soviet orthography for Pontic (now reborn on the Pontic Wikipedia) dealt with similar issues by inventive use of digraph, and by ignoring any backward compatibility with metropolitan Greek.
But why bother when
- there was a lot more precedent of using Latin for new language scripts (Cyrillic was mostly a Soviet-era thing), including diacritics (which only Greek dialectologists use)
- Latin was consistent with Kemal’s imperative of Westernisation
- Latin did not have any significant associations with minorities (Levantines were few, and seen as representatives of the West anyway)
There was also the small issue of who the Turkish War of Independence was fought against…
I referred to my wrong answer in Nick Nicholas’ answer to What is it like to be able to fluently speak Klingon?. The oddity is also commented on in Pedro Alvarez’s answer to What English word is pronounced the most differently from the way it is spelled?
Here’s the deal, from the appendix to Vox Graeca
Greek had a diphthong ει. It was a diphthong in Homeric Greek, /ei/, but by Attic it was /eː/, and had merged with what was in Homeric Greek /e.e/, εε. By Roman times, it was pretty much /i/, and it is transliterated into Latin as <i>. So Εἰρήνη Irene, εἰδύλλιον idyll, συμπάθεια sympathia > sympathy.
Because most Greek loans came into English via Latin—or were spelled as if they did—we rarely get a Greek word in English spelled with an <ei>.
But there are exceptions. Such as deixis and seismic.
So. How to pronounce those?
If you pronounced ει in your Greek like Modern Greek, or even like the Romans did, you would be pronouncing it as an /i/. It would end up [sɪzmɪk, dɪksɪs].
That’s not what happened. Greek was being taught in England with Erasmian pronunciation: an attempt to approach the original pronunciation. Because Greek spelling is conservative, that would end up as a diphthong. And the diphthong that ει looks like (and indeed was in Homeric times) was /ei/.
That’s fine. English has an /ei/ diphthong, so that won’t be a problem. We can just tell people to say δεῖξις as in “day-xis”, σεισμικός as in “say-smi-koss”.
So what happened?
Well what happened is that the [eɪ] pronunciation of long a in English is recent. Like, 18th century recent. Which is why in Scots long a still has its older pronunciation of /eː/.
So if you’re teaching Ancient Greek in England in the 17th century, you have a problem. You know that ει sounds like [eɪ], but if you’re teaching it in 17th century English, there is no English sound corresponding to [eɪ]! Certainly not long a.
So they did the next best thing. (For some bizarre notion of “next best”.) They picked the nearest diphthong available in the English of the time.
They picked long i.
And when English did pick up the [eɪ] sound, it was too late. The teaching of Greek in England was stuck on [aɪ] as the pronunciation of ει. And when Greek words were borrowed afresh into English, with the <ei> spelling, they took the 17th century teaching pronunciation with them. σεισμικός was taught as [saismikos], so seismic was pronounced as [saɪzmɪk].
Language. You can’t make this shit up.
Uncontroversially: from the Greek εις την Πόλιν [is tim polin], “to the City”—The City being the informal name of Constantinople in Greek, to this day. There is at least one similar Turkish placename: İstanköy is the Turkish for Kos (εις την Κω /is tin ko/).
There are some uncertainties about why it ended up as İstanbul instead of İstinbul. In fact there’s a paper I stumbled on in academia.edu, quoting me to support a Tsakonian origin for the /a/. (Impossible, the Tsakonians wouldn’t have shown up next to Erdek until 1700, and we’re talking two villages. But it’s nice to be quoted.)