The Greeks Have a Saying for it

By Jonathan Carr and Paul Anastasi
Athens News

Life and Hen (Ζωη χαι χοτα - Ζοι και κοτα)
Meaning: prosperity; the good life

With their recent history of poverty and insecurity, the Greeks have never been plagued with that vague guilt that accompanies material wealth in Protestant climes. The good life is to be sought after avidly, and bully for him who manages it. The "hen" in the expression is probably a reference to roast chicken as a dish indicative of a certain level of luxury. The hen could also refer to the presence of a woman, making happiness complete.

Life is a cucumber (Η ζωη ειναι εν'αγγουρι Ι zoi einai en'angouri)

Meaning: life is full of problems.

The humble cucumber shares with the banana the dubious distinction of being the unavoidable phallic image. The cucumber is perhaps being envisioned in this expression, as something that can invade, or violate, one's sense of well- being.

Speaking of winds and waters (ΙΙερι ανεμων χαι νδατον - Peri anemon kai ydaton)

Meaning: small talk, inconsequential chatter.

Wind and water are metonyms for the weather in general. Curiously enough, the phrase is couched in archaic purist Greek, which emphasizes the artificiality of the supposed talk. In modern usage it connotes a situation in which small talk (i. e. talking about the weather) is an attempt to evade more serious issues for discussion.

What goes meow-meow on the roof tiles? (Τι χαωει νιαου-νιαου στα χεραμιδια; Ti kanei niaou-niaou sta keramidia?) .

Meaning: the answer is obvious.

What meows on the rooftops is, of course, a cat, so the question has an obvious answer. The phrase is used in rhetorical questions to refer to something self-evident but unstated. Greek cats, incidentally, don't say meow but niaou, a pronunciation difference that only a cat could explain....

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(Posting date 28 August 2006)

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