Monday, 4 December 2017

Ssh, Don't Tell Anyone, but...

I may have mentioned this before, but Greek people can't say 'sh'. If you hadn't noticed it before, you will now. It can be off-putting, but it's usually simply curiously amusing. When you see a TV advert or roadside hoarding for example, talking about a sale, the strap-lines are often transliterations from the English. Thus, a very popular phrase that gets used rather a lot is "Price Shock!", or they'll put the word 'price' in Greek and the word 'shock' transliterated from the English, so it'll usually read...

SOK TIMES!  Look...

Borrowed from the website of B. Pantazis. Thanks!

More often than not you find yourself thinking that it's a sign about a newspaper that specialises in stories about what you wear on your feet inside your shoes, only without the 'c'. In actuality it's pronounced 'sok teemez' with the accent on the last syllable.

I have a lot of Greek friends, some of whom speak pretty good English, but if I ask Lena, for example (she who's married to Petros. They crop up in chapter 10 of the book Tzatziki For You to Say for starters), where she's going on Saturday, her reply will sometimes be, 

"We're going sopping. I need some new sooz."

Now, I think I speak Greek with a reasonably good accent. Yeah, I know that I sound foreign, but at least I do soften my consonants, which those few Brits I know who do speak some Greek just can't seem to do. The result is they'll say something like 'efdomada', when they mean 'evthomatha' (both 'th' soft, as in 'these' as opposed to 'thick'). Plus why is it that most Brits too, even though they may hear it from a Greek's mouth, will persist in pronouncing Greek words with the stress on the wrong syllable? Kalymnos is an excellent example. The island's name is KAL-ymnos, yet almost without exception Brits will persist with ka-LYM-nos, even when in conversation with a Greek who says it correctly. MoussakA is another example. Brits will usually call it mou-SAH-ka. Seems to me that it's simply a case of listening and imitating. I don't claim to be anything special, but I can copy what I hear, which can't be that difficult, can it?

Greeks speaking English do try their best, but since there is no 'sh' at all in Greek it's a tough one for them. There's also no letter J. Thus, if you write my name in Greek you have to spell it Tzan. That's another thing, they seem to have a lot of trouble with the letters o, u and a. Daffy Duck, in Greek is, for some inexplicable reason, spelt Δαφι Δακ, ie. Daffy Dak. Odd eh?

I must confess to being slightly preoccupied by all this stuff, with no intention to offend or spread malice, it's just fun, pure and simple, plus slightly strange.

Anyway, if a Greek tells you they have a 'sack', just remember, they're probably talking about a hastily hammered together building in their back yard, not something we Brits may once have had our coal delivered in. If you work in a milk bar, don't be surprised if a Greek asks you for a 'milk sake'. And if they tell you something is a 'same' they don't mean it's similar to something else. Near the sea they have a 'sore' and it's nothing to do with red patches on the skin.

There we are. Just some musings, nay ramblings. I'm off now to have a 'save', you know, put a 'sine' on my chin. 

Just watch out if you tell a Greek to sit, now, won't you. You know, when you want to watch a sow together...


  1. That’s why the US President is a “Tramp”!


    1. Of course, I remain strictly politically neutral in all things. So I think I'll brush over that remark. Or rather comb over...