Greeklish. Every Greek-American (or Canadian) knows the meaning of this word, but for those of you who are not Greek, or a Greek not living in an English speaking country, it basically means the destruction of the civilized world! Well, not really. It’s when we start mish-mashing Greek and English, thus… Greeklish.

Technically, Greeklish, according to Wikipedia, is the “Greek language written in Latin characters” which was developed for use with the computer. It’s actually a heated debate. That’s not what we’re talking about here. What we’re talking about is the everyday words used by Greek-Americans. Everyone has their own. There are numerous lists of them floating around on the internet. But, in my opinion, there are several types of Greeklish.

The first type we will call “Make It Sound Greek, Greeklish”. This is taking an English word and making it sound Greek (remember to roll the “r”s). For example – a car is known as “karo,” birthday cake is “birthday cakie,” or the different floors in a building are referred to as “florie,” as used in, “to spiti ehi tria flories”. You get it. Growing up, I always thought cakie was a real word until someone asked me if I wanted some “tourta” (τούρτα). What the heck was tourta? That’s when I realized that maybe my family and friends weren’t exactly speaking “proper” Greek! There’s also “stekie” for steak, “hot dogia” for hot dogs, and, my personal favorite, “meatballakia” for small meatballs! Greek-American comedian, Basille, has a funny YouTube clip about this type of Greeklish relating to the word moon. I can’t discuss it here, though.

Another form of Greeklish is the “If You Don’t Understand What I say… Tough, Greeklish”. In this type, it is the way a Greek, with an accent, pronounces English words. Such as, “Fere mou to garachky”. Sounds Polish, right? Wrong. Garachky is the key to the garage – the garage key! How about, “Take e rizie”. No, we’re not talking about giving someone some rice – rizie, we’re telling someone to “take it easy”. Now you’re getting it.

Then there is the “Reverse Greeklish”. That’s where an English word has become so engrained in the Greek psyche that it becomes Greek. For example, the Greek word for computer is “ilektronikos ipologistis” (ηλεκτρονικός υπολογιστής). No ordinary Greek I know uses that word. They all say “computer,” of course, rolling the “r”. Even the late great singer, Dimitri Mitropanos, in the song, Roza, uses the word computer instead of ηλεκτρονικός υπολογιστής. Can you imagine, instead of Mitropanos singing:

“Συγχώρα με που δεν καταλαβαίνω τι λένε τα κομπιούτερς κι οι αριθμοί” he sang,
“Συγχώρα με που δεν καταλαβαίνωτι λένε τα ηλεκτρονικός υπολογιστής κι οι αριθμοί”

It just doesn’t cut it!

Of course, to be fair, I’ll include the English speaking person speaking Greek with an English (American/Canadian) accent. There is no rolling of the “r” or soft “g,” etc. (Some do this on purpose – you know who you are).

Finally, there is the “Half and Half Greeklish”. Usually this is used by young children talking to their Greek grandparents, especially on the telephone. For example (the English words are in quotes and bold): “Yiayia. Tha pame sto “store” ke tha paroume “toys” na pexoume mazi, “you and me”. Ti “time” thelis na pas? O “daddy” tha kani “drive” to “karo”. Ella pio “early” na fame “hamburgers” kai “hotdogia”. If you’re a parent with children born in the USA or Canada I am positive you have heard them speak like this… as I am sure some adults still do!

The world is becoming smaller and smaller and about 27% of the world’s population speaks English and a very high percentage of people around the world use American-English (known as Globish) in internet use. I have been told the Ancient Greek language had about 300,000 words. The Greek language at the time of the 1821 revolution had about 30,000 words and today’s modern Greek language has about 3,000 words. The way we are going, soon, the Greek language of the future will only have 300 words and most of them will be some form of an English word.

Oh well, Na ehete kali day!

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