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Words of wisdom from a wine-drinker

A bit of wine, a bit of sea and my boyfriend … as an old Greek song says! No coincidence, of course, since wine is inextricably linked with the Greek tradition and diet. The fact that Greece was by tradition an agricultural society is certainly not without importance.

This way, the wine was connected with traditional rituals, religion and of course culture and language. Infinite expressions, proverbs but also everyday expressions which are used in various circumstances are inspired by the drink of Dionysus! We will mention just a few, very characteristic ones. And of course, if you know more or other similar in your own language, feel free to send them to us. Maybe this will be a new inspiration for a new webblog.

A Greek would say “last years, sour grapes(=Περσινά ξινά σταφύλια); not because he likes the sour grapes but because this is a way to refer to old and forgotten situations.

If you hear someone to say “Good wines(Καλά κρασιά…” ) …. do not be confused; it is not a wish before the harvest but an expression which is used ironically for someone who talks without relation to the subject of the discussion or he seems to be out of place and time.

When a Greek “Ads water into his wine(Βάζω νερό στο κρασί μου) it does not mean that we do not want to get drunk or follows the tactic of ancient Greeks, who drank their wine always mixed with water. It means that the someone intends to calm down his anger, to become more conciliatory or less demanding.

The vine was crooked and the donkey ate it …. ” (Ήταν στραβό το κλήμα, το’φαγε κι ο γάιδαρος) you’ll hear often, if you have Greeks friends. And do not ask yourself, how the vine got crooked or -even more- where a donkey was found in year 2017, since the expression is simply about a situation that was from the beginning problematic and at the end something else comes unexpectedly to complete the “disaster”.

And because property is sacred and everyone is fully aware of what belongs to him and to others, if you hear someone to say “come my grandfather to show you your vineyards (Έλα παππούλη μου να σου δείξω τα αμπελοχώραφά σου), remember that it is an expression which is said in an ironical mood to or about someone who wants to tell us things that we are in position to know better than him.

And of course it is self-evident that a vine, as a personal property, is always or almost always fenced. “Un-fenced vine yard(Ξέφραγο αμπέλι) is a phrase that if it is said not literally, it means a situation where there is no respect to the law and rules and everyone does what he wants without obstacles and without punishment.

There is no doubt of course, that “οίνος ευφραίνει καρδίαν” (=”wine beautifies the heart”) as people in ancient Greece used to say; and at the time of drinking and toasting, most of the people come in a philosophical mood and begin to develop profound theories or unworthy gossip. Something which a Greek in one word will call “Ampelofilosofies(Αμπελοφιλοσοφίες= Vine-philosophies).

He went like a dog to the vineyard” (Πήγε σαν το σκυλί στο αμπέλι) is something a Greek will say about someone who has left this life unfairly and rather helpless. A phrase that comes from rural life as well, since when a dog comes into a vineyard when the grapes are ripe, he causes a great damage. That is why it is said that much earlier, people used to kill such dogs without many formalities and without any right for the dog’s owner to say or demand something.

He drank his horns(Πίνει τα κέρατά του). .. How can something like that happen ??? It is probably impossible but this very characteristic expression of the last years is used for someone who has drunk way too much.

And then, as is to be expected, he doesn’t recognize where the limits are and nobody expects wise and serious conversations from him. In this situation a Greek will say “Now the wine talks(Τώρα μιλάει το κρασί).

And if it is possible for someone to drink his horns, in the same way it is possible that hollies can be turned into vines. However, if you hear something like that, just keep in mind the most important part: the company is good and the wine also. “And the hollies, vineyards!” (Και τα πουρνάρια κλήματα). Is commonly said as a wish, which means that the wine is so good that we wish that hollies could be vines in order to have more and more of this wine!

This is something which you will almost never hear to be mentioned between strangers, or, as they characteristically say in Greece: “ Relatives from the far vineyards(Συγγενείς από τα πέρα αμπέλια). This phrase is used very commonly for a non-existent or a very distant relationships.

And a last one which for sure needs no explanation and which seems to be a pure distillation of folk’s wisdom: “Where the devil can’t do the job himself, he sends the wine” (Όπου ο διάολος δε μπορεί να κάνει την δουλειά του μόνος του, στέλνει το κρασί). This phrase is mainly used locally.


                                          © Lato,
Het Griekse Taal– & CultuurCentrum van Amsterdam

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