Written in stone?

A winter spike in cases and the consequent lockdown aside, Greece has handled the pandemic better than much of the world. Less so the incursion of coronavirus-related foreign terminology, which, one esteemed Greek linguist feels, is being transmitted among the Hellenes at an alarming rate. Georgios Babiniotis, a former education minister and the author of Dictionary of Modern Greek, worries that “Greeks have had to get their heads, and tongues, around words such as ‘lockdown’, ‘delivery’, ‘click away’, ‘click-and-collect’ and ‘curfew,’” reports The Guardian. “The emergence of ‘Greenglish’—Greek written with English letters—as an unofficial e-language since the arrival of the internet has also sparked alarm.”

On the other hand, Greece did give the world the word of the past year—“pandemic”—and the Greek language, some three and a half millennia on, remains the country’s greatest export, keeping the globe well stocked in polysyllabic tongue twisters that can nevertheless be satisfyingly pulled apart and understood. And even though English-language imports such as “weekend” long ago infiltrated Greece (and most of the world), it doesn’t mean the Greeks have completely abandoned, for instance, their word for weekend—savvatokyriako—which, like so many Greek words, just rolls off the tongue. And keeps rolling. (The accent, by the way, is on the 4th—or is it the 14th?—syllable.)