My husband, the Irishman, has been to Greece five times. Each and every summer, he’s thrust into the middle of my enthusiastic, but non-English speaking relatives and is a great sport about nodding his head and smiling to them en masse. He realized pretty early on that unless he picked up some basic Greek, he was going to have an endless series of smiley head-bobbing summers ahead of him.
So, the Irishman enlisted my father’s help in translating some of the phrases that he used most regularly. This is the order in which my dear husband learned Greek phrases:
One beer, please. Mia beera, parakalo.
Excuse me, where is the bathroom? Signome, pou eene ee toileta?
(He got nervous that someone might take him for a Greek-speaker, so he decided to learn the following phrase in the event that anyone actually spoke back to him.)
I’m deaf. Eeme koufos.
He used his three phrases religiously and started getting comfortable asking my father to translate other phrases on an as-needed basis. After dinner one night, the Irishman asked for the translation for the word toothpick. As an aside, my husband cannot go a single meal without a toothpick. This would explain the existence of the phrase, “may I have a toothpick” in the top ten Greek phrases he learned. There was recently an incident where he was worried that there might be a toothpick shortage in town because we went to dinner and then to an Irish pub and both establishments said they were out. His comment? “I guess we better stock up just in case.”
Back to the lesson – my father told him that the translation for toothpick was “othondoglyfeda.” When the Irishman commented on the lengthiness of the word, my father (as he’s prone to do) broke down the word for him. “You see”, my father said, “it’s actually a compound word. Othondo means tooth and glyfeda means licker.” My husband looked to me for confirmation (my father is known to be quite the jokester) and when he received it, he thought it was hilarious. In fact, he liked it so much that he adopted tooth-licker as the official term for toothpick in our house.
So there you have it folks. If you’re ever in Greece (or in my house) just remember to ask for a tooth-licker.