June 18, 2010 | Greek

On Mnemonic Devices

A mythical creature helps me remember the Greek word for "because."

Yesterday I couldn’t take it anymore: I ran. I wasn’t initially sure it would be a good idea, but my doctor said okay, try it, though without great enthusiasm. He taped up my feet, which helped a lot.

I loved it so much that I ran again today—just three miles, but total heaven. I stretched extensively while simultaneously doing Pimsleur. I tend to do better with Pimsleur if I am not doing a stretch that is too painful—running the foam roller over my IT band is not a Pimsleur-friendly activity, for example—but otherwise, this brand of multitasking seems to benefit both my flexibility and my Greek.

I am really jamming on the Pimsleur right now. I go through phases. Sometimes I do more Rosetta Stone, sometimes I prefer Pimsleur. Tonight Brandt and I went to Central Park with our picnic blanket. He filed e-mails while I did even more Pimsleur. On our way home, we saw our first fireflies of the year. Fireflies are magic. I tried to photograph them but failed.

Turtle Pond: These Baby Geese Are Scarily Large

Turtle Pond: These Baby Geese Are Scarily Large

Studying Pimsleur on Great Lawn

Studying Pimsleur on Great Lawn

I am still really liking Greek. Some words are hard to remember, so I come up with tricks to help me. For example, I had quite a bit of trouble recalling γιατί, the word for “why” or “because.” I noticed it sounded a little like Yeti, so I started to picture a Bigfoot-like creature whenever a causal situation arose. Now I am doing quite well with the word.

What does “because” have to do with a giant apelike creature? Absolutely nothing. There is no obvious reason this should work. But it does, at least for me. Eventually the ape (or whatever it is) goes away and the word remains.

Comments (2)

Jordan • Posted on Sun, June 20, 2010 - 9:56 pm EST

Hi Ellen,
  One interesting Greek “factoid” that I came across some years ago. Someone had written in to a newspaper around the end of the year at holiday time and wanted to know the origin of the abbreviation “X-Mas”, for Christmas. The answer was that the Greek word for Christ is spelled (in Greek of course) X_ _ _ _ _. Whatever the other letters were I don’t remember, but the first letter of Christ, in Greek, is X, and so became X-Mas. 


Ellen Jovin • Posted on Sun, June 20, 2010 - 10:05 pm EST

Interesting - thanks! I haven’t learned “Christmas” yet, but according to Google Translate (and I think there is not much room for error in translating a single unambiguous word), it does indeed begin with an X: Χριστούγεννα.

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