It Was All Greek To Me

My biblical Greek is lousy, but I thought I might be able to navigate at least some of the signage in the places we visited in Greece. It turned out to be all but impossible. For one thing, the Greeks, just as we do, use a lot of very stylized lettering in a variety of fonts to lend artistic expression or advertising zip to words. Moreover, since we were in areas haunted by tourists, many signs were in Greek looking letters that actually spelled things out in a variety of European languages using the Roman alphabet: sigma might be an ‘s’ sound on one sign and an ‘e’ sound on another. I gave up and just allowed myself to enjoy the chaotic beauty of it all.

2 thoughts on “It Was All Greek To Me”

  1. Shakespere, \”Julius Caesar, Act.I,Scene 2: Cassius: Did Cicero say anything? Casca: Ay,he spoke Greek. Cassius: To what effect? Casca: Nay, an I tell you that, I'll ne'er look you i' the face again…but for my own part, it was Greek to me…Dr. B

  2. The Greek alphabet can be very confusing, especially in signs. The capital sigma has sharp corners, like a capital W tilted sideways to the right. The small sigma looks like an \”o\” with a tail on the top, except when final, when it tooks like a \”c\” with a tail on the bottom! (In Byzantine Greek it often looks just like a captial \”C\” in all positions. You may see it in church signs, icons, etc.) The rounded letter that may look like a sigma is probably a small epsilon-an \”e\”. The capital is just like \”E\”. The long \”e\”-eta, is like an \”H\” when a capital, and either a small \”h\” or an \”n\” with a long tail when small. Modern Greek pronounces it just exactly like the iota, the sound of English \”bee\” or \”see\”. Confusingly, the same sound is pronounced for \”oi\” or the upsilon, short \”u\” or \”y\”! Modern Greeks really hate the \”Erasmian\” pronunciation of ancient Greek taught in seminaries and most colleges in Western Europe and North America. The Greeks insist that it was never the correct way to pronounce even for ancient Greek. They are wrong, but don't try telling them that! (On a similar subject, don't try telling Italians-or Catholics-that ancient Latin was not pronounced like the Church pronounces it, where \”ae\” is rhymed with \”hay\” and not with \”eye\” as it was in classical times!) In the last election primmaries, the people of the state of Nevada hated to hear the Spanish word pronounced like Spanish-NAY-VAH-DAH. They say NUH-VAD-DUH. Dr B

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