Philip Newton (pne) wrote,
Philip Newton

Of dentists, umbrellas, sick children, and Greeks

Yesterday, Stella and I went to the dentist’s for our annual appointment. (It had been a year and a half since the last time we went, but “once per calendar year” is the minimum requirement for receiving a bonus from the insurance company so we should be fine on that count.)

Fortunately, our teeth were fine. Stella had worried that she had caries in two teeths but it turned out that the spots were just fillings shining through from under the surface.

Amy had a bit of a cough that morning so we let her stay home from school, so she went with us to the dentist’s. She even let the dentist look at her teeth—a first, I think! We had had her with us at least two times already, but she didn’t want to open her mouth. Afterwards, she chose a little plastic car from the bucket o’ goodies.

After that, I went to pick out an umbrella since I seem to have lost mine.

Two of my characteristics combined to make the search a difficult one (and the funny thing is, when I mentioned that fact to Stella in the evening, she knew exactly which two I meant!): (a) not liking change, i.e. wanting the new one to be exactly like my old one if at all possible, and (b) not liking a wide choice because I find it hard to choose from among many alternatives.

Fortunately, I had kind of settled on a Knirps, since I think they’re good quality (and my old one had been one, too), so together with the size I was interested in (about a foot, folded up, so that it’ll fit easily into my backpack), that narrowed it down to essentially three varieties: a manual one, a semi-automatic one (push a button to open, close manually) and a fully-automatic one (push a button to open, push again to close, pull down closed umbrella manually).

The manual and fully-automatic ones were out of some fibre compound, while the semi-automatic one was steel. The prices were all the same, so I tried out one of each kind to see whether I liked them.

The manual was OK but I had kind of got used to being able to open an umbrella single-handedly when getting off a bus (for example), so I focussed my search on the other two kinds. The semi-automatic one was folded like a W, unlike my old one: so the tips of the ribs were at the top when folded together; the fully-automatic one was folded like an N (like the manual one and my old one).

I was a little surprised that the umbrella’s telescoping stems(?) had three components; my old umbrella only had a two-part one. (Apparently, it was a bit bigger than the ones they had there, so I presume that they didn’t have any just like mine—though when I walked through the shop this morning, I saw some that might be the same size but they had curved handles rather than just a knob at the end.)

Retracting the fully-automatic ones was pretty difficult, presumably since I had to push against two springs rather than just one; it got easier if I didn’t press the button to close it but instead simply pulled down the slide, which would not only retract the stem but also fold the umbrella, against a force comparable to the semi-automatic one there and my old one.

So since I was more used to the N-shape folding method, I ended up buying a fully-automatic one, intending to use it as a semi-automatic. (Picking out a colour wasn’t that difficult since I wanted something with dark, muted colours like my old one, and there weren’t that many of those to choose from.)

But since I wasn’t quite sure, I asked the lady at the cash register whether I could return it; she said I could as long as I kept the receipt and the little tag attached to the umbrella itself.

So I didn’t use it on the way home, even though the first snow of this autumn was swirling when I came home. (And Stella ended up saying that she didn’t think much of fully-automatic ones. She suggest I check Amazon reviews to help me choose an umbrella I’ll like.)

In the evening, Amy was pretty ill; she was running a fever, falling asleep often, and generally out of sorts. So it was a good idea we had kept her at home. Poor child.

She was still feeling poorly this morning, though her temperature had gone down. I told her she’d probably be best off with a lot of rest and some tea. And this afternoon, I got a phone call—from Amy! Telling me that the tea had been a good idea of mine: Stella had made her some and she apparently liked it. Quite a surprise, since Amy’s not very talkative on the phone and nearly never initiates a call.

This morning on the bus on the way to work, I sat next to a young lady who was talking loudly on her cell phone. After a while, I thought I heard some Greek (είμαι τέτοιο “I’m one like that”(?)), so I listened a bit more closely: and the bits I could understand were mostly German but mixed with quite a bit of (slightly German-accented) Greek. Interesting, because I don’t hear Greek all that often over here.

The first bits I heard sounded pretty German-accented, especially in the vowels, but I heard a tapped /r/ in “Katerina” and a /θ/ in κοιμηθώ at one point, which are both completely non-German, so the accent can’t have been all bad.

Like many young diglossic people, she switched back and forth seemingly easily, sometimes in the middle of a sentence (I remember one “το ξέρει besser als ich” = she knows [in Greek] better than me [in German]).

And I wonder whether her family came from northern Greece since I thought I heard με λέει “she told me” several times, where standard/southern Greek would have μου λέει instead.

Standard Greek has a nominative–“dative”–accusative distinction in pronouns, while at least some varieties of northern Greek have just nominative–accusative, more or less like English. So just as English doesn’t distinguish between “dative” me in he gave me a book and “accusative” me in he saw me, northern Greek doesn’t either, while standard Greek distinguishes between them just like (e.g.) German does (er gab mir das Buch, er sah mich). (Greek would be μου έδωσε το βιβλίο (standard)/με έδωσε το βιβλίο (northern) and με είδε.)

My favourite anecdote about this merger is a story I heard about a lady on the bus in Thessaloniki, who was standing by the rear door and wanted to be let out; she called to the driver Άνοιξέ με από πίσω!. Which means, “Open me up at the back!” and sounds funny to someone who had learned standard Greek, but in the north, it can also be the dative-benefactive “me” that figures in sentences such as “He built me a snowman” = “He built a snowman for me”, i.e. “Open up at the back for me”. (Which in the standard would be, you guessed it, Άνοιξέ μου από πίσω, using the “dative” [historically, genitive] form.)

Tags: amy, greek
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