Saturday, February 4, 2012


My Greek glass is made up of a variety of people. Some students are on the Antiquity bachelor and need either Latin or Ancient Greek, others are aspiring archaeologists, and some are just nerds. Half the group has already disappeared, and I think quite a lot of people thought they had signed up for a class in modern Greek, something that doesn't exist at Oslo University. The other day in Greek class I overheard a conversation between some girls. They were talking about loud neighbors.

GIRL 1: ..and the funny thing is that when they speak English, they speak like normal people, but as soon as they speak their made up language, they are extremely loud!
GIRL 2: Made-up language...?
GIRL 1: All languages you don't understand are like made-up languages. *duh*

The word she used for made-up language was "tullespråk", something that is a bit difficult to translate. Roughly it's "joke language", because to "tulle" is to make jokes. Examples of tullespråk are when Scandinavians add -ur to all their words and pretend they're speaking Icelandic, or add ge- to any verb and place it at the end of the sentence, pretending it's German. Or just completely made-up language, like the "Russian" in Tingeling.

At first when I heard this conversation, I got a bit annoyed, because it sounded slightly disrespectful. Then I realized how extremely appropriate it was to have such a conversation in Greek class, since the Greeks called their enemies barbarians. "Barbar-" sounded to them like incomprehensible babbling, and that was what the Persians etc. produced when speaking. In a similar vein, the Slavs called Western Europeans "mute" since they couldn't understand what they said. (Немцы has not always been used to refer to Germans, but to papal emissaries, Swedes, etc.) Oh, the joys of ethnocentrism!

Studying Ancient Greek is highly satisfactory, since all of a sudden you know where a huge amount of common Western words come from (and this idea of "pure" languages and "pure" nationalities seems even more ridiculous than it previously did), and you are able to progress very quickly since you don't have to worry that much about actually speaking the language or composing your own texts. When I study Ukrainian, I don't worry that much about learning paradigms. I usually understand the form of a word anyway; I just encounter problems when I have to produce them myself. I hope that this will eventually sort itself out with increased exposure. I have lots of paradigms to learn for ancient Greek though, so I bought an overly girlish book today to fill this purpose!

Third week texts. Awesome.

My new best friend, and my more serious notebook.