A great anecdote from Geoff Pullum at Language Log makes me nostalgic for New York City and its immense Greek community (I once wandered into a restaurant that was officially closed for a christening party—but was invited in to join the proceedings and share the delicious meal):

I’m in New York for the American Philosophical Association’s Eastern Division meetings, and I’m having breakfast at the Art Cafe on Broadway, at 52nd Street. It’s all bustling efficiency, staff zooming hither and thither. Two eggs up with bacon and wheat toast arrive within a couple of minutes. Suddenly there’s a shattering crash from behind the counter, and the Greek proprietor is looking down mournfully at the coffee cup he dropped on the tile floor to smash into a thousand pieces. Four or five nearby waitresses turn in shock. For two seconds of silence they stare at the scene of the accident. And then one of the waitresses yells excitedly: “Opa!” — the traditional Greek cry of encouragement to dancers and musicians and drinkers at those wild parties where they smash plates on the floor as they dance just to show what a great time is being had. And then the entire staff cracks up, and they all resume working at high speed, but now laughing till tears come to their eyes — the boss included. It’s only breakfast time in New York, but already, thanks to one well-chosen interjection, it’s like a party.

Lift a coffee cup in my direction, Geoff! And if you’re ever in Astoria, try Opa! Tony’s Souvlaki, right under the 30th Ave. station on the N line; the gyros and super-garlicky skordalia are delicious.


  1. Funny — with my “other language” being German, I always figured that place was named Grandpa Tony’s. I wonder how many other people make this mistake.

  2. Yeah, I just realized that the post title “Opa!” is like someone yelling at their German grandfather: Opa is grandpa and Oma is grandma.

  3. In Israel people yell “Mazal Tov!” when someone breaks a dish, reminiscent of breaking the glass at a wedding – when the band starts playing and the dancing begins.

  4. I’m sorry to learn that Opa! closed a couple of years ago. Astoria gets ever less Greek…

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