Funny language blunders and misunderstandings in Greek!

Some language blunders many students in the Greek Language can easily recognize: about “Margaritaria – Μαργαριτάρια!”

After so many years in Greece, I thought to have mastered the Greek language. As with any other language, you learn Greek by trial and error, but my Greek has a lot of “error”, so I sometimes have to pull myself together and make some corrections… So last week , it was my mother’s birthday and I wanted to surprise her with a nice scented shower gel of Greek make. They are very popular at the moment and the new “shower gel with blackberry scent” seemed to be an original present.

The shop assistant, a nice young man, came to help me. While asking him which scents are available, my Greek went terrible wrong…
To understand the hilarity of the incident, I have to explain two Greek words:

“vatomouro – βατόμουρο”means “blackberry”
and “moutro – μούτρο” is slang for “face”….
You can probably imagine what happened next? I wanted to ask him “ echete vatomouro” ( do you have blackberry?) but instead, I said: “ echete vatomoutro?” ( have you got a blackberry face?)

Whilst I immediately realized my mistake and burst out in laughter, the serious looking sales assistant just stood there staring at me… Now, fortunately, I have the advantage, being 1.80m tall and having a non-Greek appearance, of immediately being classified as “ North-European” In this category, blunders, even blatant ones, are forgiven… every Greek realizes that their language is not the easiest one. Moreover, he didn’t have either a blackberry scented shower gel nor a face like a blackberry.

This incident shows us once more that misunderstandings in the Greek language happen quite easily because the difference in the words is often very small, while the difference in meaning can be very big.

After a lesson of Greek grammar or a difficult text, it is always very relaxing to finish the lesson with a funny example of such a mistake. Oddly enough, Omilo students very often come and tell us about their own “blunders”:

For ex. The difference between “stoma – στόμα” (mouth) and “stroma – στρώμα” ( matress). You want to say: “ I put a clean sheet on my matress” but , with just that one letter difference, you say: “ I put a clean sheet in my mouth”… the rest of the sentence is exactly the same.

Or you want to call your child affectionately: “ psyche mou – ψυχή μου” ( my soul) but instead you say: “psychio mou – ψυγείο μου” ( my refrigerator)…

And how about “ profora – προφορά” (accent) and “ prosfora – προσφορά” (offer). The intention is to say: I have an English accent, but what you really say is: I have an English offer.

At the dry cleaners you can ask if they can clean your “chali- χαλί” (carpet), but with one letter difference you could well have asked them if they can clean your “choli – χολή” ( your bile/gall).
So, be careful.

The Greeks call these blunders “ Margaritaria” (pearls). The fact that they have a word for it must mean that the Greeks themselves sometimes struggle with these subtle differences.

It are these pearls which make the Greek language even more interesting and, at the same time, an ideal stimulus to memorize difficult words. And even more important, our students always end their lesson with an enriched knowledge of the Greek language and a big smile on their faces.