Tag Archives: Greek

It’s all Greek to me…

This is a phrase that I have heard a lot in recent weeks.

I have a Greek friend and while her English is impeccable, she does struggle with a couple of bits. One day she received quite a complicated legal letter and she said, in Greek, “I don’t understand this.” She then followed it up with the phrase “Είναι όλα τα κινέζικα για μένα.”

The one word I could pick out of that was “κινέζικα” which in Roman characters would be written Kinezika. Kinezika is the Greek word for “Chinese”. Given that China or the Chinese had nothing to do with the letter she received I asked her. I said “Chinese, what has that got to do with anything?”. She replied “It is a phrase we have in Greece. We say “It’s all Chinese to me.” It means that it might as well be written in Chinese because I can’t understand it.”

Of course at this point I burst out laughing and she had no idea why. I of course explained it to her. It turns out that the phrase “It’s all Greek to me” is, ironically, of Greek origin, except there they say “It’s all Chinese to me”. So there you have it. The next time someone tells you that it’s all Greek to them, you can then say that the Greeks say the same of the Chinese.

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The Castaway files: School work from when I was a child.

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In School, I came second in the Latin competition. That's right, that's exactly how cool I was before I got into a fast life of drink, drugs and girls.

When I was younger, I was very estudious. My nickname in primary school was “Professor”. Everybody had such high hopes for me. They thought I was going to be the most famous person to come out of Torpoint since John Langdon Down. John Langdon Down, who grew up in the same small Cornish Town as me, was the first to isolate Down’s Syndrome, and that is who it is named after.

I never understood why people thought so highly of me. I was always the cleverest one in the class. I lacked application but was always very clever.

One thing I noticed when I was wading through papers that my mum had kept for over twenty years is that she had kept schoolwork of mine from when I was at Primary School. I went to Albion Road (at that point the best Infant’s School in the country) and then to Carbeile briefly before my mum got me into Montpelier (at that point the best Primary School in the country).

One piece of work utterly leapt out at me.

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I actually spelt my name wrong. It's not "Βεννυ Βαρτον". Before I went to Greece a friend told me how to write in Greek and my name is actually written "Μπέντζαμιν Μπάρτον" in Greek.

Those who know me will know that in 2012 I was in Greece for a brief period. It amazed me that when I was in school there was a worksheet that I had that asked me to write in Greek. I actually got the whole sheet right. As an adult though I realise there are glaring issues with it, how a lot of it is in fact incorrect.

What the sheet singularly fails to point out is that Greece is so accepting of tourists, visitors and businesses that across the entire country, everything is written in both Greek and English. English is obviously the lingua franca of the world, and I never met a Greek person under the age of 25 who didn’t speak it.

I always harked back to what gave me my ability to speak Greek and remembered a friend of mine, whom I met on my birthday the year before going to Greece. Our “first date” was going to a cafe in Plymouth for coffee and she taught me all about the Greek language, helped me immensely with words here and there, even taught me a swearword or two, and set me on the right path with a lot of knowledge useful for when I got there. I clean forgot that I’d learnt the basics, albeit the ancient basics, in school.

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A map I drew in school of my home town, Torpoint.

Perhaps one of the things that growing up in a small Cornish town affords a child is the ability to get one’s bearings. As a adult I lived in Nottingham and there are still areas of Nottingham that I don’t know today despite having lived there for eight plus years. One couldn’t ask a child to draw a map of Nottingham as it would be pointless.

As a child, any child in Torpoint could tell you where the shops are, in relation to their house. They could tell you where the Ferry Landing is, the library, the police station, the fire station is closed but the doctors surgeries and the school. It’s small. Not so small as to rule out a trip to Plymouth every now and then, but not big enough so as to be imposing. It is very quiet, a little too quiet.

I was asked, I’m not entirely sure at what age, but I was asked to draw a map of Torpoint. I think it sets it out pretty well. I look back at life in Torpoint in a very difficult way. It can’t have been easy or a good time for my mum, and aside from once or twice my memories of living there aren’t troublesome or painful. I suppose that’s probably reflected in the fact that everyone is smiling.

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My sister's maths work

I don’t remember my sister being particularly bright at school, especially not in terms of maths. I saw this though where she drew up a conversion chart to convert Pounds to Dollars and was impressed. I’m even more impressed that she actually referred to pounds as the Pound Sterling and specified that the Dollar was the US Dollar.

It was nice finding these things but there really was no need to keep them any longer and so they had to be thrown out. I think looking at, and reflecting on, such poignant markers of one’s youth, is something to at least capture, so I took photographs of it, and one day I’ll probably weigh it against the schoolwork of my own children, but for the moment, I share it with you. I’d rather keep it, I’d rather keep it for the rest of my life, but logic and reason dictate that it was destined for the skip, and that’s where it ended up.