How to Be A Cultural Greek
God or Goddess
It’s with great enthusiasm that we emphasize Greece as the basis for our monthly culture tips. Do you know what characteristic the strategic words in bold share? If not, don’t panic! Just keep reading…
There are over 150,000 words of Greek origin in English, including the ones in bold above. In the 1950’s, a Greek economist named Xenophon Zolotas famously delivered two speeches in English using Greek words only. Curious? You can check out the text here. Greek mythology has also given the English language many everyday expressions including “to have an Achilles’ heel” (a weakness) or “to open a Pandora’s box” (to do something that will create many other problems).
Some Greek words are difficult to adequately translate, including Philotimo (φιλότιμο), among the most important of Greek values. Philotimo is derived from the Greek root words “filos” (friend), and “timi” (honor), and while it can officially be translated as “love of honor”, the true sense of the word goes much deeper. As described in this excellent short video on “The Greek Secret” of Philotimo, it is a unique combination of the concepts of duty, hospitality, honor, courage, sacrifice, empathy, and pride in interactions with others. The Greek philosopher Thales said, “Philotimo to a Greek is like breathing. A Greek is not a Greek without it.”
Greece is one of 64 countries that have a religious symbol on their national flag. While nature is represented through the blue and white colors, the Greek cross embodies the importance of faith to the country’s 10 million Greek Orthodox Christians. Orthodox Christianity is one of the world’s three major Christian traditions (the other two are Roman Catholicism and Protestantism) and predominantly present in Europe. According to the Pew Research Center, there is a gap between religious identity and practice in much of the Orthodox world and, “it would not at all be uncommon for someone in Greece…to identify as Orthodox and participate in major community celebrations tied to Christianity (Easter, Christmas, Theophany, etc.) but not actually believe in the teachings of the church or, possibly, even in God.”