No one enjoys a bit of hideous intersocial embarrassment more than me, and here are some pairs of very common, not obscure Greek words, that are easily confusable. I have confused them myself, much to the general amusement of Kythniots and other Greeks from 30 or even 40 years ago. Once, when my wife Annie and I were in a taverna in 1982 in wonderful Chios, disdaining the English version menu, instead of a ‘country salad’ I asked for a ‘nightwatchman’s salad’. The fiftyish and balding waiter who had looked depthlessly morose and very preoccupied before he took  my order, split his sides with merriment and went off to tell everyone he knew about my idiotic request. Later he asked me what I thought a bloody old Greek nightwatchman would like in his salad, and I said plenty of kautos (incendiary, cockle-warming) tsipuro, grape brandy in the dressing… and give the Chiot servitoros his due, he grinned his arse off at that as well.

1.Ntomata and domatia ( ‘a tomato’ and ‘a room’)

(NB,  the first is pronounced ‘domata’ and the second ‘thomatia’ where the ‘th’ is pronounced as in ‘there’).

Possible howlers

a) Give me a nice cheap one with a toilet that doesn’t stink, and a shower that isn’t blocked with body hair. I can tell you now, I don’t want  a tomato without a television, and I don’t want a boiling hot bloody tomato either, even if it is August. Nor do I want a dark tomato or a poky tomato or a noisy bloody tomato or a non-smoker’s tomato! I don’t want any drunken bloody Albanians singing next to my bloody tomato, d’you hear?

b)This outsize room here is frankly past it and turning putrid. If it was in good condition it would suit someone living on their own, and I could fill it to bursting with rice, or even rice and beef, but no bloody chance the way it is! Look, it’s swollen and split and mouldy and it’s even  cracking down the middle and oozing what looks like piss…

2.Pisina and pisinos (‘a swimming pool’ and ‘a backside’)

Possible howlers

a)Your backside is truly enormous, love,  but tell me do you ever get it looking unbelievably horrible all over its surface, with slimy green algae ? Common as anything these days, eh, some kind of modern biological plague? So how do you get rid of all the ugly scum off your backside, I’d love to know? I always think the ideal backside is one that is pure and clean and that you can see right to the bottom of. I guess you need to get those guys out to drain and clean and blow boiling hot steam into your backside now and again, do you?

b) I have an embarrassing condition with my swimming pool. It has pustules up the you know where, the thingy passage, and now and again they start to bloody suppurate. I mean it doesn’t do wonders for your love life when you have an oozing, bloody swimming pool that your husband wouldn’t touch with a bargepole. Mind you he’s a first class bastard, he really is, irrespective of my poor old swimming pool

3.Eorti and giaourti   (‘celebratory party’ and ‘yoghurt’)

Possible howlers

a)Let’s share a bloody big, truly monstrous yoghurt together, you and me, shall we, and show the world what we’re made of! Spread the word and we’ll get half the village and they can tell the whole of the valley about our no expense spared blow-out yoghurt. It’ll be a sell out, make  no mistake. and if the whole village isn’t laid up puking all tomorrow after a riotous night of crazy bloody yoghurting, my name isn’t Kostas Filippaous…

b)This so called party is kind of boring and tasteless, and needs a bomb in the form of a bloody big dollop of honey thrown everywhere, just so I feel some inclination to get stuck in to it. By the way, I don’t know whether it’s a sheep’s party or a goat’s party or a cow’s party, all I know is it’s got no bloody oomph to it!

Enough for now, and possibly more in the future. But how often do I, permanent albeit British Kythnos citizen, get these kind of things confused? Nowadays after 18 months on Kythnos and regular Greek lessons, I mostly know which word means which, but occasionally fatigue or too much ouzo me pago make me a bit stupid. Only yesterday, I confused kouverta (blanket) and kouventa (conversation) and said at full volume in the Glaros, I’d had a really interesting blanket with the good-looking woman on the other side of the bay who is a maritime lawyer. You should have heard all the wahooing and guffaws. It sounded faintly Carry On saucy of course, but then she lawyer Margarita is happily married, and I now have someone I really care about and am 1000% faithful to, without the slightest effort…



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