The Greeks Have a Saying for it

By Jonathan Carr and Paul Anastasi
Athens News

Boiled Rice (βρασε ρνζι- Vrase ryzi)
Meaning: fat chance; it's not going to happen

Like most food metaphors in Greek colloquialisms, this one harks back to pre/mid-20th century times when food was scarce among large sections of the rural population. Meat was considered a rare luxury. Cheap vegetarian dishes were the norm. The phrase ""boiled rice" signifies that as it would be delusional to expect meat at any ordinary mealtime, simpler fare such as rice would have to do.

It was, and is, uttered in a cynical mode, together with the characteristic gesture of making a circular motion with the right hand. Another version is vrase oryza.

Calling figs figs and a washboard a washboard (or a basin a basin) -(Λεω τα συχα ουχα και ιη σχαφη σχαφη - Leo ta syka syka kai ti skafi skafi)
Meaning: plain talking; calling a spade a spade.

The image here is culled from autumn fig-harvesting time, when the squishy green fruit is plucked off the trees and gathered in baskets or wash basins. One might well imagine some attempt at trickery during the weighing, as in the basin being weighed along with the figs. To separate the two would be a sign of honest dealing. Hence the connotation of plain-talking frankness.

Careful the eggs
(Σιγα τ' αυγα- Siga t'avga)
Meaning: big deal

Someone is carrying eggs must be careful with them, in case they break. In times when eggs were a luxury, transporting them required special care. The expression comes into play when someone makes an exaggerated fuss about something trivial, or displays some ludicrous self-importance. (See 'Care the chandelier')

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(Posting date 21 August 2006)

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