The Greek retirement package

If you are a Greek public service worker, you can retire at age 53, getting 80% of your salary.   If you hold a job officially deemed to be hazarous–including hairdresser (all those chemicals) and broadcaster (bacteria on the microphones), you could retire at 50.

The austerity plan that is the condition for Greece’s bailout requires that the retirement age be raised into the 60s.  This is one reason there is rioting in the streets.

See  this and this .

Interesting linguistic footnote: The Greek word for “crisis” is also the word for judgment.

If you must speak improperly, do it correctly

I’m fascinated by the various dialects of English and have studied them a little in graduate school. I’ve defended the regional use of “you all” or “y’all” as serving a valuable grammatical purpose. Most languages have a plural form of the second person pronoun.

Actually “you” IS the plural form, which explains why it always takes a plural verb: “you ARE,” like “they are”; “you eat,” like “they eat,” but “he eats.” What happened is that we lost the second person SINGULAR form, which was “thou.” As in other European languages, the second person singular–Spanish “tu,” German “du,” English,”thou”–acquired also a social meaning, so that it began to be applied as a “familiar” pronoun, reserved for either social inferiors or to people you are very close to. That Luther in his vernacular translation of the Bible used “du” to refer to God–something echoed in the English Bible’s “thou”–meant that though He is the high King of heaven and earth, He is also our close, intimate, heavenly father.

Anyway, if we can’t bring the singular “thou” back (with its conjugations, “thee” and “thy”), we could at least make room for a new plural. In American English, the South has “you all”; some Northern dialects make the pronoun plural the same way we make nouns plural, by adding an “s,” resulting in “youse.” In some Southern dialects–I have heard it in Arkansas and Texas–there is the contraction of “you ones”: “you’uns.”

Last week, though, I heard “you all” used as a SINGULAR! A fellow-Virginian passed me in the parking lot and greeted me with “How are y’all?” Now that is incorrect! It’s using a plural for a singular! When we speak improperly–in the sense of using a non-standard dialect–we must be sure to do so correctly!

Where does the word “Easter” come from?

David Koyzis has a fascinating post on that question.  Other languages call the festival of Christ’s resurrection some version of the Aramaic word for “Passover,” namely, “Pascha.”  This is a good Biblical term.  But the Germans call it “Ostern” and the English call it “Eastern.”   The Anglo-Saxon historian the Venerable Bede said that the word  derives from “Eostre,” a pagan fertility goddess with rites in the beginning of Spring.

But twentieth-century scholarship has called into question Bede’s interpretation. There is still no general agreement on the origin of the word, but it has been suggested that it may come, not from the name of a goddess, but from eostarun, the Old High German word for the dawn itself. (Our word east obviously has similar origins.) In fact there are some remarkable similarities between the words for resurrection, Easter and dawn in several Indo-European languages. The common meaning underlying these words is a rising of some sort.

If our own word Easter originally meant sunrise, then perhaps it was fittingly applied to the Rising of the Son of God from the dead by our Teutonic forebears. And if this is so, then it seems that we English-speakers do after all have a most appropriate name for the feast of Christ’s Resurrection.

via Easter: what’s in a name? » Evangel | A First Things Blog.

To stupak

Bart Stupak, the pro-life Democratic congressman from Michigan, went from a hero to a goat in a single moment.  With his blocking of the health care reform bill unless it included anti-abortion provisions, pro-lifers were thinking they too might be able to become Democrats after all.  But then came his press conference in which he agreed to accept the bill on the basis of a presidential executive order saying tax money will not be used to pay for abortions, something that can’t be enforced in the courts, can be changed at will, and doesn’t matter anyway since segregating money means as little as  putting it in your right pocket rather than your left.  So now BOTH pro-lifers AND pro-abortioners are mad at him.  The whole performance inspired Kathleen Parker, who is no right-winger, to coin a new word:


Etymology: Eponym for Rep. Bart Stupak.

Function: verb

1: In a legislative process, to obstruct passage of a proposed law on the basis of a moral principle (i.e., protecting the unborn), accumulating power in the process, then at a key moment surrendering in exchange for a fig leaf, the size of which varies according to the degree of emasculation of said legislator and/or as a reflection of just how stupid people are presumed to be. (Slang: backstabber.)

Poor Bart Stupak. The man tried to be a hero for the unborn, and then, when all the power of the moment was in his frail human hands, he dropped the baby. He genuflected when he should have dug in his heels and gave it up for a meaningless executive order.

Now, in the wake of his decision to vote for a health-care bill that expands public funding for abortion, he is vilified and will forever be remembered as the guy who Stupaked health-care reform and the pro-life movement. . . .

Stupak’s clumsy fall from grace is a lesson in human frailty. In a matter of hours, he went from representing the majority of Americans who don’t want public money spent on abortion to leading the army on the other side.

Something must have gone bump in the night.

Whatever it was, demonizing Stupak seems excessive and redundant given punishments to come. Already he has lost a speaking invitation to the Illinois Catholic Prayer Breakfast next month. His political future, otherwise, may have been foretold by a late-night anecdote.

After the Sunday vote, a group of Democrats, including Stupak, gathered in a pub to celebrate. In a biblical moment, New York Rep. Anthony Weiner was spotted planting a big kiss on Stupak’s cheek.

To a Catholic man well versed in the Gospel, this is not a comforting gesture.

via Kathleen Parker – Stupak’s fall from pro-life grace –

Use the verb “stupak” in a sentence to bring up other examples of people standing up for principle only to cave when it mattered most.

The Falerian Schoolmaster

My daughter Joanna, a Latin teacher, told me a great story from Livy.  It can give us a new word for a teacher who harms students or uses them for his own ends.

This account is from Plutarch’s version.  Camillus is the noble general of the Roman Republic who is besieging the Falerii:

Now, it so happened that in Falerii there was a school-master who had under his charge a large number of boys, and after their lessons were finished he would take them daily to the outskirts of the town for play and exercise. He constantly assured them that they had nothing to fear from the enemy at their walls, and they followed their master with perfect confidence wherever he chose to lead them. One day he approached the Roman advance-guard, surrounded by all the boys, whom he delivered up to be carried to Camillus. When questioned by the commander, he told who he was, and said “that he preferred the favor of Camillus to the obligations of duty, and that he had come to hand over to him the Falerian children, and through them the whole city.”

The commander was shocked at such base treachery. “War is at best a savage thing,” he said, “but it has its laws from which men of honor will never depart; though desirous of victory, they do not avail themselves of acts of villany.” So saying, he ordered the lictors to tear off the wretch's clothes and tie his hands behind him, then to furnish each boy with a rod and a scourge, with which to whip the traitor back to the city.

Meanwhile, the Falerians had heard of the fate of their boys, [146] and men and women crowded to the gates in a state of distraction, filling the air with their lamentations. Suddenly they beheld the school-master running towards them pursued by his pupils, who did not spare their blows, but shouted and yelled with delight, while they proclaimed the Roman commander “their God, their Deliverer, their Father.” The citizens were so struck by the generosity of Camillus that it was decided in council to send deputies to the noble commander to surrender the city to him. Camillus took time to consult the senate of Rome, who advised him to demand a sum of money of the Falerians, but on no account to accept anything more. Peace was then restored, and the Roman army returned home.

via The Baldwin Project: Our Young Folks’ Plutarch by Rosalie Kaufman.

Can you think of some Falerian Schoolmasters today?


Mollie Hemingway writes about media coverage of sex-selective abortion, particularly in China and India where families want sons and so get an abortion if their in utero baby is a girl.  This even has acquired a name, something to add to our vocabulary:  gendercide.

Mollie (I can call her that because I know her) cites a story in The Christian Science Monitor about the consequences of wiping out so many females in the population.  It features a farmer in India lamenting that he can’t find a wife to marry.  Mollie tells about how he is “lamenting that he no longer cares about caste, religion or looks — he just wants a wife to give him a son. Funny, isn’t it. It’s hard to find a wife to give you a son when the people of your country are killing so many of the unborn female children because they’re not sons.”

via The war on girls » GetReligion.