GTAGE: The Tsipras Edition.

A few months ago I reported on the return of Nick Nicholas to blogging; he’s been doing great stuff ever since, and it’s high time I posted about some of it. I’ll start with his delightful posts titled “GTAGE: The Tsipras Edition”: Part #1, Part #2. He takes “comically literal translations of Greek into English” and explains how they work, beginning with a Facebook meme: “Years and Zamania i have to come to America. Last time i was here i saw the Christ soldier…” Nick goes into detail about each element:

Greek has plenty of loans from Turkish […] zaman is also such a word. In Turkish it means “time, period”, and it derives from Persian zamān. If you google, you’ll see that it used to be used somewhat more widely; e.g. μια φορά κι ένα ζαμάνι “at one time and one zaman” = “once upon a time” (the only expression now is μια φορά κι έναν καιρό “at one time and one season”); or the Cretan folk song ζαμάνια το ’χα να σε δω “it’s been zamans since I’ve seen you.” (2:06 of the recording by Nikos Xilouris .) Even when it was used more widely, it would be paired with a Greek word: μια φορά κι ένα ζαμάνι, where ζαμάνι has been replaced by καιρός; and in Xilouris’ folk song, it’s paired with καιρός itself […] Now zaman survives in only one fixed expression, which again pairs it with an equivalent Greek word: χρόνια και ζαμάνια έχω να Χ, “I have years and zamans to X” = “it’s been ages since I’ve X.” The object years and zamans has been fronted before the verb, for emphasis; it adds to the emphasis already provided by the repetition in “years and zamans”.

I love this kind of thing, and if you too like seeing idioms taken apart, you should enjoy the posts even if you don’t know modern Greek.

And as lagniappe: Did Tzetzes write the first attested instance of μουνί?. I’ve long been a fan of the erudite and touchy Tzetzes; see this 2003 post and this 2010 one (both featuring Nick, as a matter of fact).


  1. David Eddyshaw says:

    Talking of Turkish words in Greek, I remember two lines from a nineteenth-century Aegean folksong (this is from memory from about forty years ago, so may not be completely accurate):

    Δεν ήξευρα ο σεβντάς πως χορτάν’ ειν’ και φυτρώνει
    Κ’ εφύτρωσε στην καρδιά μου και πλιά δεν ξεριζώνει

    I didn’t know that love was like grass, and grows
    And it’s grown up in my heart and won’t be uprooted any more

    … where σεβντάς “love” is apparently not a derivative from the Turkish sev- “love” but ultimately (via Turkish) from the Arabic سوداء sawda:ʔ (“blackness” ->) “melancholy” with a surprising semantic shift presumably resulting from contamination from sev-.

    (Perhaps not so surprising, as any teenager will confirm.)

  2. David Eddyshaw says:
  3. >>Persian zamān?

    Is that related to Arabic zaman/Hebrew z’man?

  4. David Marjanović says:

    Of course. Also Tatar Zamanälif “modern alphabet”.

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