The Greeks Have a Saying For it

By Jonathan Carr and Paul Anastasi
Athens News

Reckoning without the hotel keeper

(Υπολιξω χωρις τον ξενοδσχο) (YpoJoyizo bons ton xenodobo)

Meaning: failing to take basic factors into account; superficial thinking

The expression arose before the advent of modern hotels. The term xenodobeio originally meant an inn, or lodgement for travellers. The phrase indicates that lodgers were often unpleasantly surprised by the amount on the innkeeper's bill, and may have had to alter their plans accordingly.

Shoe from your own place, even if it's patched

(ΙΙαποντσι απσ τον τσπο σου, χι ας ειναι μπαλωμενο) (papoutsi apo ton topo sou, ki'as einai baJomeno)

Meaning: one's own people and products are the best

As an example of populist chauvinism, this expression - elevated into a proverb - can hardly be bettered. The Greeks since Herodotus' day have famously considered themselves a cut above other peoples. In more modem times, wherever they have emigrated they have tended to marry within their ethnic group. Intermarriages, on the contrary, have a more than even chance of failing within a couple of years. The Greeks still feel most comfortable among themselves, and have no compunctions in showing it.

Slaughtering with cotton wool

(Σφαξω με το βαμβαχι) (Sfazo me to vamvaki)

Meaning: condemning by kindness; the iron fist in the velvet glove

Cotton wool, at first glance, would be an unlikely instrument of murder. Yet there are ways in which it could conceivably kill. The idea here is of employing superficial kindness and smiles to demolish someone - an un-Greek trait that the Greeks somewhat enviously attribute to others, notably the English.

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(Posting Date 4 June 2007)

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