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Καλοσωρίζω κάπως καθυστερημένα τους αναγνώστες του Βήματος που ενδεχομένως να βρέθηκαν σ’ αυτό το ιστολόγιο, και τους καλώ να εντρυφήσουν όσο τους βαστά στα νερά της Λέρνας…
I never did close off the Lerna series of posts, on the count of lemmata of Greek and the urban legends that have grown around its misinterpretations. Part of the problem with closing it off is, I already wrote my epilogue half-way through the series, at IIId, before I started counting—and pointing out the futility of counting, with a stinging anecdote from Richard Feynman about the Modern Greek relation with their forebears. From the Big Picture view, I don’t have much to add to what I said then:
Lerna is a hoax, and Lerna is an annoyance, and Lerna is an embarrassment; but it will not die, because more than anything else, Lerna is a symptom. It’s a symptom of what Feynman found. And the way to singe the head of the Hydra is to get over that nagging sense of not measuring up to the Hellenes.
Those following the Magnificent Nikos Sarantakos’ Blog (or as I choose to call them, Team Fortier), will know that the debate about How Many Words Of Greek has continued in the letters page of the Athenian press, in Eleftherotipia and Vima. The course of the debate, with its sleights of hand, has been tracked by Team Fortier’s Stazybo Horn. The newspaper Vima has just published a group letter from Team Fortier. (“A team of existing or non-existing individuals, whose scientific knowledge of Greek is impossible to confirm, has lately been attempting to dispute that the Greek language is the richest in the world.” The syntax of the original is considerably more tortuous.) The letter includes my signature and links back to this blog, so I’m acknowledging the debate here.
[EDIT: Oops, that’s monstrously unclear. “A team of existing or non-existing individuals” is what Team Fortier has been called in the pages of Eleftherotypia by its implacable foe, Theodore Andreakos.]
Not that there is much to acknowledge. Those who would claim that Greek has a gazillion bajillion words know not what words are, what a logical argument is, and how little an inflated word count pissing match proves. Their passion and love for the Hellenic tongue did make me almost feel a remote sympathy for them—especially once I started looking at them through an outsider’s lens, rather than up close, as an anthropologist rather than a fellow Greek. And when Stazybo Horn commented here that he wishes he could see their heads explode as they read my posts, I didn’t gloat in response, because I kind of felt pity at a Hellenism that has to resort to such flimsy grounds to assert itself.
My pity didn’t last long; what with the threats and accusations of unGreek behaviour, and the suite of non-linguists telling linguists their business, and the digging up of dirt on anti-Lernaeans (and on pro-Lernaeans, to be fair), and the parading of phantom 120-volume dictionaries of Greek. My pity certainly does not extend to missives like this (which launched the debate across from Eleftherotipia to Vima):
2009-08-19. From Theodore Andreakos: With this letter, I wish the inform my friends, the readers of Vima, that there exists a Team which proclaims that it admires the Greek language, while it does everything to mock it and put it down internationally, with all the misinformation they have long been spreading against it in print and the electronic media. The head of this team appears to be an N. Sarantakos, who goes by the title of author and translator, residing, so he writes, in Luxembourg, and maintaining a website. He and his team claim, in particular, (1) that English is supposedly the richest language in the world…
And what though Sarantakos has been online (maintaining a website) for close to twenty years, has published extensively works on language, on bridge, and fiction, and has been hiding in pretty plain sight as an EU translator, we clearly need sleuths of the calibre of Theodore Andreakos, Educ. Insp. (Ret’d), Hon. Prof. Tech Coll., to ferret out Team Fortier’s deep dark purpose. Whatever that may be. To which I can only say, (a) *I*’m Spartacus, and (b) what do I have to do to get in the employ of the Bilderberg Group? They’ve just convened in Athens and all…
Theodore Andreakos, Educ. Insp. (Ret’d), Hon. Prof. Tech Coll., won’t be convinced by anything anyone from Team Spartacus Fortier has to say; there’s plenty of evidence of that in the newspaper correspondence. And it was not for him that I wrote. I wrote for Dokiskaki, who demanded of the scholars, “it would be good for what’s correct to exist somewhere as an easy read; else the sensible will end up mad.” And because I had some facts to contribute to the debate, and it was meet that I did.
I note with disappointment though, that noone from the linguistics establishment in Greece has weighed in. (Foivos Panagiotidis did, but he’s a prof in U Cyprus.) It’s your field that’s being taken for a ride in hobbyhorses….