Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Greek, continued

As you might have guessed from a previous post, I like studying languages. Working with a foreign language has given me a more thorough understanding of English vocabulary and grammar.

As I’ve studied Greek, I’ve found that its grammar has some odd twists now and then. Most double negatives, for example, simply intensify the statement—“you may not jump off a cliff at all.” In certain uses, though, the double negatives cancel each other. Thus, a proverb saying “No one will not die,” actually means “everyone will die.”

My Greek textbooks also had this passage from Herodotus, describing the Egyptians’ mixed feelings toward crocodiles. I’ve tried to reproduce the awkward grammar for you:

“The crocodiles are holy to some of the Egyptians, therefore, and to others not, but they treat them as enemies. Those around Thebes and the great marshes of Moeris believe them to be holy. And each place feeds one crocodile and teaches it and puts a glass earring into its ear and bracelets around the forefeet, and they provide food set apart and offerings. While they live, therefore, the crocodiles are very well treated, and after death, the Egyptians mummify them and bury them in holy tombs. But those at Elephantine even eat them, for they do not consider them to be holy.”

Irony, anyone?

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