Greek to Me.

Two of the Ph.D. students in the group at the Cambridge Computing Lab I’ve gotten to know pretty well here are Greek. As in, from Greece… their names are Andreas and Nikiforos (or Niki). Now, since I’m letting my hair grow out long, it’s at this annoying intermediate stage where I must wear hats all the time to keep it out of my face (not long enough yet to pull back)… and since my hat options here are limited, I’ve been wearing my old fraternity hat that says ΔΥ (Delta Upsilon).

Today (moments ago, in fact), Niki asked me what this hat was all about. So I explained that it was a fraternity hat from my undergrad days, and he asked what it stood for, so I said, “Δικαια Υποθηκη,” pronounced “di.KAI.ah yoo.po.TAY.kuh” (the way we’d always said it in college). He looked positively perplexed. “I’m probably not pronouncing it with a proper Greek accent,” I sheepishly explained. He said, “So what is it supposed to mean?” and I translated, “Justice, Our Foundation.” Niki replied, “Oh…!” (The first “th” is voiced, as in “these,” the second unvoiced, as in “thing”).

He went on to explain that the way I pronounced it is probably closer to the ancient Greek accent. We also discussed the “th” sound and how it exists in modern Greek but probably didn’t in ancient times… and that there are very few languages that use it even today… English and Icelandic being two other major players. Anyway… funny how an old fraternity hat turned into a Greek language lesson. ;)

I really like being in the company of other computational linguists.

Musings about life across the big pond by Burr and Natalie Settles. More »