June 23, 2010 | Greek

Candor in Greek

In some languages, people are more direct than in others.

I have been doing a lot of Rosetta Stone. I am definitely learning from it, but I concede I am having a hard time at any given moment understanding where I am in the sequence of lessons. I plan to explain this issue in more detail later, when I have a firmer grasp of the program’s construction.

Near Penn Station Around Noon

Near Penn Station Around Noon

Another resource I am using, a book called Teach Yourself Greek, has a funny little section entitled “Personal Questions.”

In it I was cautioned: “Be prepared to meet people who ask what we consider ‘personal’ questions from the very first moment you are introduced. Most Greeks don’t differentiate between ‘What’s your name?’ and ‘How much do you earn?’!”

There followed a list of questions that I, and other Greek learners, might be asked.

Among them were:

  • How much do you weigh?
  • How old are you?
  • I think you look fatter! Have you put on weight? 

Frankly, I find that refreshing. If more people could be more candid about such things, perhaps the global obesity epidemic would be slightly less devastating. And perhaps more people would be proud of growing older instead of constantly paying other people to vacuum off their old skin and their new fat.

Perhaps this isn’t really a corollary of the above, but I am imagining a world where, when a guy is asked, “Do these jeans make my ass look fat?” he could reply candidly, “No, darling, your ass makes your ass look fat.” And it would all be okay.

Language shouldn’t be used to obscure certain kinds of truths.

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