The Greeks Have a Saying For it

By Jonathan Carr and Paul Anastasi
Athens News

Medicine-tongue (Φαςμακογλσσα ­ Farmakoglossa)

Meaning: a venomous tongue; sarcastic person

In some parts of Greece the term for medicine is the same as that for poison, an echo of a time when the two were largely indistinguishable. The female version, arguably more common, is farmakoglossi.

Some men employ a similar term, medicine­vagina (farmakomouna), to describe a woman who has been widowed more than once, and hence to be avoided like the plague. The feeling is that for multiple husbands to have died, her vagina must contain some "poison".

Of the whore (Της πουτανας - Tis poutanas)

Meaning: chaotic, in a state of uproar

Most likely a city expression, originating in Athens or the pre-1922 cosmopolitan Greek cities of Asia Minor. Red-light districts in large cities naturally attract characters prone to brawling and mayhem in competition for a good-looking prostitute or in a quarrel over the revenue. "Of the whore" could also mean "at the whore's place", which in days gone by would often have been a disorderly place.

My fats, my charms (Τα παχη μου, τα καλλη - Ta pahi mou, ta kalli mou)

Meaning: a fat woman is more attractive than a thin one.

Rake-thin Western ladies, take note. In a largely rural and poor society, largeness in woman has been the par excellence sign of health and robustness, and above all, child-bearing endurance. The present bony fashion model ideal would not have lasted long in the fields and farms and fishing boats. The emphasis on child-bearing capacity was understandable in an insecure society where disease and war were rampant. Even now, in country areas, the plump wife is afforded huge social respect.

Not filling the eye (Δεν γεμιζει το ματι - Den gemizei to mati)

Meaning: not making much of an impression

When vision is focused on something less than impressive, it lacks "fullness" or satisfaction. The phrase is commonly used to describe perceived personal failings, for example, the flimsy attributes of a prospective son-in-law or daughter-in-law from a critical parent's point of view.

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Posting Date 12 April 2007)

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