Greek Words.

(Let me start by saying that I very strongly resisted the urge to title this “It’s All Greek to Me”.)

“Logic. It’s a Greek word.” Christos interrupted himself to continue a running joke, a joke that had been running ever since I entered Greece through the tunnel of love (the actual name of the border crossing with Bulgaria. It’s a long story that involves families of bears and millions of additional dollars to construct a tunnel). The joke started on my first night in Greece with the obvious words: democracy, chaos, analogy. Soon friends of my couchsurfing hosts were interjecting our conversations with cries of “Anarchy is a Greek word, of course!”

Christos, my host in the town of Drama (the name had nothing to do with theatre, by the way, but is instead named after hydrama, the Greek for water) extended the joke and with him it really blossomed and came into its own. When asked if I wanted to learn Greek, he would reply for me, “She already does. Thirty percent of English words come from the Greek.” This of course is hyperbole (Greek word!) and we both knew it. We began a kind of verbal tug-of-war in which he would point out many of the Greek words I used (logical, practical, critical) and I would in turn try to find non-Greek synonyms instead (reasonable).

Besides a tenuous attempts to trace the name of Spain back to Greek word origin, the most interesting Greek words I learned were elephant (comes from the Greek elephas, meaning ivory), Egypt (from Aigaiou huptiōs, meaning below the Aegean) and Istanbul (which comes from the Greek is tin polin, meaning to the city). Add to the list just about every word with a ph, words that end in –is, in –logy, the prefixes auto–, bio–, pan–, and anti–, and suddenly the expression it’s all Greek to me takes on a whole new meaning.

(Forgive the corniness, as it turns out, I couldn’t escape the compulsion to use that cliché.)

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