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What is the most British thing ever?
This is obscure. But Quora is a stamping ground for me to pass on anecdotes.
This anecdote involves one of the doyens of Mediaeval and Modern Greek Studies in Fair Albion, Professor Geoff Horrocks.
Author of the most authoritative English-language summary of the history of Greek there is:
That’s the second edition cover. The first edition cover is to my mind more accurate, and I loved the look on classicists’ faces when they saw it:
Anyway, the anecdote takes place a couple of years before he published the first edition. The Second International Conference on Greek Linguistics was being held in Salzburg, in 1995. The conference had a couple of Russians, a few Anglos, two Dutch-speakers (one of them Flemish), and a gajillion voluble Greeks. And your humble correspondent was present, too; in fact, I got a paper published in the proceedings.
Towards the end of the conference, Khorox (as the Greeks present all pronounced him) thought it might be a good idea to moot the formation of a professional association of Greek Linguistics.
Oh, Khorox, that was not a good idea. Not a good idea at all. The lecture theatre instantly got consumed by polemics of Athens Uni vs Salonica Uni. (There is a longstanding ideological dispute between the two departments—but of course there is an even longer standing dispute between the two cities.) Me and Helma the Dutch speaker just sat at the back of the lecture theatre, chuckling at the rich cavalcade of histrionics.
After maybe a half hour of this, Khorox stands up and says, “can we please try and arrive at some consensus before Doomsday!”
The Grecian ears ignored him, and kept on duking out Athens vs Salonica: The Grudgefest. My antipodean ears were more finely attuned, and so were Helma’s: we just looked at each other and blinked. That was pretty much the British equivalent of Khorox grabbing a baseball bat and going postal.
In a roomful of Athens vs Salonica: The Grudgefest, though, it was hardly noticed…