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Lost in Translation

Thursday, 2 July, 2015

Socrates, Plato and Aristotle all had a few things in common back in their day:

1) They were all philosophers
2) They were all a little sexist
3) They were all Greek

It seems that the Greeks and their language have made remarkable contributions to today’s world including those to mathematics, the sciences and the sociocultural nightmare that is sorority and fraternity housing. They helped out Sigmund Freud (the psychoanalyst who suggested that at 3 years old we have sexual feelings about our parents) by defining the word εγώ (meaning I, thus, the ego) and concocting some real fucked-up myths. Being half Greek myself, I chuckle at the innocent mispronunciations made by my tutors who are forced to teach mathematics in a different tongue simply because the Greeks did it better.

Yet, when it comes to surnames, the Greeks don’t have a leg to stand on. Indeed, the population of bilingual Greek-and-English-speaking people share some secret jests about them.

Here are a few of my favourites:

Katerina Papoutsaki is a Greek actress whose name translates in English to Catherine Little-Shoes. Papoutsi means shoe and the suffix aki indicates cuteness and smallness.

Paul Spirakis, a scientist and author of Harvard University, is otherwise known as Paul Pimple.

Michael Kakoyiannis, writer, producer and director of Zorba the Greek, has a last name that directly translates to ‘badly behaved John’ …I’ll leave that one up to you to interpret.

Approach your Greek friends and ask them what their last names mean in English. You won’t regret it. Fortunately for myself, my last name has a rather boring meaning, but I’ll leave that for you to find out.