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ξέρετε τι λέτε - Do you know what you're saying?

Greek language has a long history together with the rich heritage of the Greeks in general and it has evolved many times into Modern Greek today. As we have learnt, Greek is an Indo-European language. We have also learnt that Greek language and the culture have been playing huge roles in shaping our society and the influence is still seen in our world today. For instance, the philosophy texts which are credited for the Western world foundation were in Greek and in many dialects of Greek to be exact. The New Testament of the bible was also written in common Greek (Koine Greek). The words we use every day also have Greek etymology and influence, sneaking into our everyday lives and once again, re-emphasising how Greek culture has shaped our society today.

In this blog post, I will be focusing on how Greek language has influenced all of us reading this blog post (or those who speak English, which is a huge number), through our everyday spoken words.

Do you really know what you’re saying? I mean, how well do you know the words you’re using, about their etymologies?


The brand: Hermes

Have you ever struggled with trying to pronounce the luxury brand that people rave about for their handbags, belts and bracelets? I know I did and I can help you with that today! It is not pronounced as “her-mess” but “airrr-misz” in Greek. You’ve got to roll your tongue for the rrrrrr’s. However, the English pronounciation would be “her-miss”, much easier for daily conversational use. Unless you want to be as fancy as the luxury brand, then the Greek pronunciation would probably be a better option.Click on the hyperlink for the actual pronunciation if you’re still unsure.

This word used for the French luxury fashion brand has its roots from Greek culture and Greek mythology to be exact. Hermes is the son of Zeus (yes, again) and Maia. He was a Greek messenger god, god of trade/merchant as well as the god of thieves, travellers and athletes. Hermes was a cheeky god who enjoyed tricking other gods for his own enjoyment or at times he tricked them in order to help the mortals. He was cunning ever since he was an infant as he sneaked out of his cradle and stole Apollo’s goats which made Apollo so mad. He was also skilled in many aspects such as having eloquence, dexterity, inventing.

With all the recent lectures about trade, I guess Hermes must have been a popular Greek god to worship then because of the prevalence of trade and how trade can bring riches to people and society.

In my opinion, he was a really competent and witty god that was just a little too mischievous at times and like how every story needs a witty-comedic character, Hermes has that role in Greek mythology. Kind of like Puck in Midsummer Night's Dream.


Also, his symbolic objects or “logos” are a sandal with wings (talaria), the kerykeion (herald's rod), petasos (brimmed cap) with wings and chlamys (traveller's cloak).







The above images are the logos or symbols of “Hermes” the Greek god, On the other hand, the logo representing “Hermes” to most people today are these...



Now, it’s time for a more commonly used term in our spoken language- Chronology. Chronology is defined as the order in which a series happened and Chrono- is a word-forming-element of time. These words or terms have Greek etymology and it is related to the Greek god of time, Cronos/Kronos. Cronos is a titan, the father of the Greek Olympian gods that we are more familiar with such as Zeus, Poseidon and Hades (the big 3). He overthrew his father and his children overthrew him, because karma.

Before he was overthrown by his children, he made the extra precaution of eating his children once they were born. However, his wife was upset and managed to trick Cronus and prevented Zeus from being eaten. Zeus then forced his father to spew his siblings out who fought together with Zeus against their father in which they succeeded.


Other Words/Terms

Other than words with etymology related to Greek mythology, there are also words that are not related to Greek mythology. For instance, kudos which means praise in Greek and even today in English. Anemia which means the lack of red blood cells today came from the Greek word “aneimon” means unclad, or without. One “without” red blood cells would thus have Anemia. Eureka, an exclamation when one discovers something. A word which was shouted by a Greek mathematician who found out if he was cheated by a goldsmith during his bath.



The list of words could go on forever and this just shows how much we are influenced by Greek language unknowingly or maybe knowingly, every day. As such, continuing and carrying the culture of Greeks even though we do not seem closely related to the Greeks. The language of Greek shown through English single-word etymologies demonstrate what the Greeks valued-their religion, mythology, trade, mathematics. And yet people say “a picture paints a thousand words”! I think it should be “a word tells a thousand/billion/gazillion words”.

I know there has been many blog posts written about the Greeks and it is not tested in our upcoming exam, but I really am attracted to Greek culture and I hope you guys enjoy learning about it as much as I did while preparing for the blog post!


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