The Greeks Have a Saying For it

By Jonathan Carr and Paul Anastasi
Athens News

Stories for savages

(Ιστοριες για αγριους ) (Istories ya agrious)

Meaning: lame or preposterous excuses

Here lies another trace of the ancient Herodotian dichotomy between Greeks and "barbarians". It's a trace that remains finnly in the Greek psyche, resistant to present notions of political correctness that frown on the use of the word "savage" to describe primitive people purportedly prepared to believe anything.

There is, however, an ambiguity in the Greek preposition "for", which is also translatable as "about". Thus stories about savages could be a synonym for fairy tales.


(Σπανγοραμμενος) (Spangorammenos)

Meaning: miser

A miser can be so miserly as to sew up is pockets with string to prevent anything from coming out of them, hence the analogy.

Taking it news

(Το παιμο ειδηοη) (To paimo eidisi)

Meaning: becoming aware of something

One of the character traits of the Greeks is that they take pride on being acutely aware of their surroundings and the world in general. They are one of Europe's more news-devouring peoples.

Saint Paul noticed this when he called at Athens in the 1st century AD. To the Greeks then as now, to be aware of the latest news was a sign of a capable and responsible intellect. Conversely, to be unaware of something, "to not take it news", was, and still is, scorned as a sign of dull-wittedness.

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(Posting Date 4 June 2007)

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