Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Lesson of Greek Swearing

A big part of cultural integration and also the first things you learn while in a new country, the swearing, tend to be overlooked by the typical language teaching books for some reason. I wonder why:)
It's time to correct this problem a bit and get you better integrated from a cultural point of view:D. One of the most common swear gestures in Greek is "Moutza". It is done with the open hand with the fingers widely apart so that the palm would face the person that is to be insulted. The gesture can be done also with both hands, making thus the insult stronger. The closer is the hand to the person's face, the more threatening the gesture is. It usually goes along with "Na!" meaning "have it!" or "here you go!"

Historically, the origins of the "Moutza" gesture can the traced back to antiquity when it was used as a part of a curse. Back than it was called "faskeloma" and it completed the spoken curses thrown against evil forces. 

It is said that the current name comes from the Medieval Ages when, according to the laws, a criminal was displayed on the streets of the city chained, riding a donkey backwards and, to increase the ridicule, with his face smeared with cinder. Cinder is a brownish, low density volcanic rock that used to be called "moutzos".

From the act of opening the palm and putting "moutzos" on the face with the fingers, this gesture became insulting on its own. 

These days with the crisis and all, the gesture became more and more popular.Last October, during a parade, a student who was the top of his class, gave the "Moutza" to the authorities. The picture spread like wild fire through all the internet in a matter of hours. While I admit it took a lot of balls to do that I don't think it took a lot of brains since I understood he got expelled.

Following his example, this year on the 21st of February, at the Ioannina's 99 year liberation anniversary parade,  a whole class of students turned their heads the other way and gave the "Moutza" to the authorities in deep "respect and appreciation" for the efforts they are making to take the country out of the crisis

That concludes out lesson of Greek Swearing for today. And remember, if you ever find yourself driving in Greece and there are people showing you their palm, they are not really waving at you.

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