Prompt 1: Slang Words

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any native speakers of Ancient Greek to discuss slang words, but in our readings we’ve examined some works by Aristophanes who is known for his use of more colloquial language. So when I was talking to my professor about our sources of slang from Ancient Greece, she directed me to some specific terms from Aristophanes’ comedies and the terms I’ll be examining more closely are: τᾶν, σοφιστής, and a passage from The Akharnians.

Since I took breaks from studying Ancient Greek by traveling around the Irish countryside, I thought that I’d share some of my favorite pictures of different places throughout this post. So here is the coastline of Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands off the Cliffs of Moher

τᾶν is a vocative, or direct address, meaning sir or gentlemen. The most well-known use of the vocative (in my opinion) comes from Shakespeare when Julius Caesar says “Et tu, Brute,” Brute is the vocative form of Brutus. But τᾶν is indeclinable, meaning it doesn’t serve any purpose outside of addressing someone and it has a nuanced meaning, as the textbook notes that it is condescendingly used. In context, two characters of Aristophanes’ Birds, Dikaiopolis and the rhapsode, or a reciter of Homeric poetry, are having a conversation about Pericles, the Athenian general at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War, and they hold very different opinions about. The rhapsode is of the mind that Pericles was the best thing to happen to Athens, while Dikaiopolis blames Pericles for forcing him off of his farm and for the death of his entire family in the city. But the rhapsode doesn’t know this yet, so when he says, “What are you saying, sir?” he is incredulous.

This was taken on Garnish Island, off the coast of Glenfarriff in Co. Cork

On a side note, the textbook my class uses is British and for the most part, I don’t see any real difference between British and American English when it comes to studying Ancient Greeks. We don’t talk about soccer/football or fries/chips and grammatically, I couldn’t tell the difference between British and American English before this course. But now I know that British English uses shall and will differently than American English to denote a threat or intention, as well as some other aspects of grammar. But the exact translation of τᾶν is “my dear chap” and that is something that makes the textbook uniquely British.

Molls Gap in Kenmare, on a tour of the Ring of Kerry

σοφιστής – This is an interesting word because a sophist was a tutor, typically of subjects such as rhetoric, philosophy, or politics, for young intellectuals of the wealthy upper class in 4th and 5th BC Athens. Socrates, according to Plato, was not a sophist, as he did not accept payment and disputed with sophists of that day. Yet in reading Clouds by Aristophanes, we meet the character, more a caricature, of Socrates and other sophists who are depicted as airheads (they have their head in the clouds and no grasp on reality) and thieves who take money from their students and teach them nonsense. Sophists in Athens really were highly criticized for accepting payment for their teachings, we know this from Plato’s account of Socrates’s trial and Plato is credited with defining the modern term sophist to mean a teacher of deception and false logic. I haven’t read Plato’s Sophist, so I can’t give his full account on the differences between a sophist, a philosopher, and a statesman. But Aristophanes uses the word, σοφιστής, in its more colloquial meaning and gives these philosophers the appearance of swindlers and cheaters, and makes Socrates their leader, which was used against him at his trial for corrupting the youth of Athens.

The coastline at Carrickfinn Beach, right next to the Donegal Airport, which was voted the most scenic airport in the world

The word σοφιστής is not an inappropriate, unsuitable for innocent ears, per se, but one must consider the implication of calling someone a sophist, whether they simply mean a teacher or a deceitful one. In the context of calling Socrates as sophist as compared to calling Gorgias, one of the founders of sophistry, the same would be very different situations. Regardless of a positive or negative view on sophistry, Gorgias was a sophist and calling him as such is a statement of fact. Whether to criticize or praise him for his skills and work would depend on who was speaking and to whom.

This is a picture of the Lake Isle of Innisfree, from the poem by W.B. Yeats, on Lake Gill by Sligo

Coming to the last example, I’ll admit that when I first read colloquial/slang words, my mind immediately went to curses. Then I considered in which situations are curse words appropriate to use? Not school assignments, that’s for sure. Nonetheless, I thought that a curse would make for an interesting examination of language. In this passage from The Akharnians, the chorus is cursing Lamachus, who was an Athenian general in the Peloponnesian War, and subsequently mocked by Aristophanes. 

τοῦτο μὲν αὐτῷ κακὸν ἕν, κᾆθ᾽ ἕτερον νυκτερινὸν γένοιτο

ἠπιαλῶν γὰρ οἴκαδ᾽ ἐξ ἱππασίας βαδίζων

εἶτα κατάξειέ τις αὐτοῦ μεθύων τῆς κεφαλῆς Ὀρέστης 

μαινόμενος: δὲ λίθον βαλεῖν 

βουλόμενος ν σκότῳ λάβοι 

τῇ χειρὶ πέλεθον ἀρτίως κεχεσμένον

ἐπᾴξειεν δ᾽ ἔχων 

τὸν μάρμαρον, κἄπειθ᾽ ἁμαρτὼν 

βάλοι Κρατῖνον.” (Aristophanes, The Akharnians, ll.1164-1174)

As for the English translation,

“That’s one curse for him; and here’s another, to happen to him in the night.

As he walks home shivering after galloping his horse,

I hope some drunkard— mad Orestes!

knocks him on the head; and when he wants to grab a stone

I hope in the darkness he grabs in his hand a fresh-shat turd,

and holding that glittering missile 

let him charge at his foe, then miss him

and hit Cratinus!”

Translation from:

The train station and Cobh Heritage Center, Co. Cork

As a note, Orestes was the son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, a figure from Euripides’s plays, the Oresteia trilogy, and serves as a metaphor for madness and aggression, while Cratinus was the name of a rival of Aristophanes. In looking at different translations of this passage, I was struck by the variety of nuances I was able to find. I chose this translation because it stuck to the original Greek as closely as possible, instead of aiming for the gist of the meaning and getting lost in euphemisms. The meaning is clear as there’s no double entendre or beating around the bush, and Aristophanes is crass. Instead of using curse words, the chorus members are trying to curse Lamachus. The one curse for him that proceeds this one is that sometime when he’s very hungry and just about to take a bite of his food that a dog will come and steal it from him. 

A regatta in Kinsale, Co. Cork

All three of these examples of slang or colloquialisms come from Aristophanes’s plays and to understand how or why they’re used, I will explain a bit about Greek drama. Comedy is the surviving source for some of the closest looks into the daily life of 5th century BC Athenians. The theater was a time and place where all people, regardless of social class, age, gender, and so forth, let loose and social bearings became unmoored. The comic poets took everyday situations, archetypes of society, and exaggerated them, or turned them on their head. Aristophanes in particular was known for his accuracy in the portrayal of Athenian life, and was known as the Father of Comedy. Personally, I liked reading his works because translating dialogue went much faster than prose. His works were meant as pleasure for the people, not to impress them with displays of oratory prowess. These comedies were written for the popular crowd, Athenians of every age and status, and specifically written to engage with the audience, with the chorus of a play often breaking the fourth wall to directly address the crowd. Greek comedy explored taboo subjects, political and religious tensions, and used language that wasn’t allowed in everyday interactions or other surviving works of Ancient Greek, such as oratorical speeches or epic poetry.

Prompt 6: Interviews

I met an Irish man in his mid-50’s perhaps, who lives in the area around Letterkenny when I stayed at his house for a weekend. His soon to be daughter-in-law was taught Latin in high school by one of my flatmates and we were invited to stay at their house if we wanted to see more of Ireland.

The Cathedral of St. Eunan and St. Columba in Letterkenny and the sunset from the front door with Benbulben in the skyline

He was born in Ireland, but raised in London, and him and his wife moved back to Ireland when their sons had moved out. He pays close attention to American politics and spoke disparagingly of the current administration to say the least, but generally he loves the US. Before moving back to Ireland, him and his wife spent six months traveling around the continental US. He loved the national parks and specifically said that South Dakota was his favorite place in the US. On behalf of the state of Minnesota, I was deeply insulted, but he explained that he spent very little time in Minnesota, just a bus ride from St. Paul to Sioux Falls, SD. After getting off the Greyhound in Sioux Falls, he spent time in town, then visited Little Bighorn, the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, and several reservations. He spoke about the abject poverty he witnessed while driving through the reservations and we talked about the United States’ treatment of indigenous peoples. We later talked about England’s treatment of the Irish, both in Ireland and in London, and I believe that these two topics influenced each other in his life. Moving west, he liked Yellowstone and the natural beauty of Montana and the Grand Canyon. He was very surprised by how little Americans traveled inside and outside of the US. Having spent time in the Southeast and the Southwest, he was surprised by how little overlap or shared knowledge there was between those two regions in particular. Since he was making a trip of traveling as widely as possible, I understand where he was coming from in that observation. Personally, I can’t imagine commuting between countries every day, but in that area of the Republic of Ireland, the border with Northern Ireland is so close that it makes complete sense and is very normal. I also believe that since the country of Ireland is so compact, as compared to the United States, that the Irish are in a different state of mind when it comes to driving places. My roommate and I were able to drive from Cork, in very southern Ireland, and drive north of Letterkenny, in very northern Ireland, in a leisurely seven hours. I’m about to drive ten hours to Notre Dame this weekend (and then for fall break, and for Thanksgiving, and for winter break) and that’s four states. So I’m not as surprised that some, maybe even most, Americans don’t often leave their region, but that was just my internal reaction to his surprise.

A fellow student of mine is a professor of philosophy at a university in India and she has never been to America, so she had a different perspective from the last person I spoke to. The first thing that she said about the United States was that she hates Trump, which is a sentiment shared by a lot of people that I’ve met, such as taxi drivers when they could hear that I was an American. But she quickly changed topics to what she enjoys about America. She has a particular love of pop music, specifically music from the 30’s and 40’s, even the 50’s. This was possibly as far from what I consider to be pop music as possible, but her interaction with American pop culture is very different from my own. She added that she also really enjoys film noir and books from this time period, as well as jazz, swing, and big band music. “There is nothing better than bebop,” is a direct quote that she wanted me to include and when I asked why bebop she said that it makes her happy.

The weather in Cork was pretty consistent, with not too many days like the first, but these pictures were taken nine hours apart

She shared the story of the time she spent a month in London when it rained and she listened to Leonard Cohen songs constantly and how that steered her music taste towards music that makes feel the opposite of that month. I thought that was an interesting decision, mostly because I usually pick music that fits a situation, whether it’s my mood, the weather, or events like a road trip or a run. But I’m now considering choosing music based on the situation I want, rather than the one I have.


Some flowers next to the bridge I crossed to get to campus, and the sign for the O’Rahilly Building, where we learned Ancient Greek

Another classmate of mine is a graduate student from Canada and when I asked about her opinion on America, she made a joke that we were a “curséd” country. She had some legitimate complaints about the United States that I hadn’t experienced as an American. She mentioned that she avoids flying with connections in the United States because of the manner in which non-American citizens are treated at customs. She specified that it wasn’t just Canadians that are treated horribly but anyone who is not carrying an American passport. She spoke about American relations with Mexico and with Canada, the ways in which they’re similar and the distinctions. Then we had spoken previously about multinational corporations, like Nestle and their baby formulas, and our shared hatred of them, so she talked about her opinion on American business’s roles in other countries. She had taken a course in critical theory and post-colonialism thought which shaped most of her opinions on that topic and the topic of capitalism in general. This interview, along with other conversations that we had, was the most interesting for me in collecting info for this prompt.

Prompt 3: Holiday in Cork

It was apparent upon my arrival in Cork that they took pride in their artistic showcases. (There is a contingent of Cork natives who argue that the capital should not be Dublin, but move to Cork because of the rich Irish culture found there as opposed to Dublin.) There were advertisements all over town for the Midsummer Festival for the Arts, which took place the weekend of June 21-24. I was able to make it to a modern Irish dance performance at Elizabeth Fort and go to the Wandesford Quay to see a multimedia piece called “Wise Men Say.” I really enjoyed both of these showcases and being able to take time away from the classroom to see more of Cork.

The view of St. Finnbarre’s Cathedral from the top of Elizabeth Fort and one of the paintings on masculinity and media in Irish culture.

Keeping the Midsummer Festival in mind, it didn’t surprise me when I went to the Cork Public Museum and asked about holidays unique to Cork that the worker immediately said the Cork Jazz Festival. The Irish love their music (I visited the bar that Enya’s family runs up in County Donegal and saw the church in County Kerry where Dolores Reardan of The Cranberries was married) but they love all kinds of music and according to this museum employee, there isn’t another jazz festival in all of Ireland like the one in Cork. Notre Dame hosts the Collegiate Jazz Festival every spring, so I’m familiar with how jazz in particular brings people together.

Me, standing outside of the restaurant named after Enya’s father, who just passed away in 2018

I asked one of my classmates in the Greek course who teaches English at UCC about the festival and he gave a similar account to the museum worker on Cork’s jazz festival. Both first spoke highly of the energy and approachability of the music, with dozens of locations hosting live music every day from tents and booths set up in the parks and on the street, to enjoying a show and a drink at the pub.

The Cork Public Museum is in Fitzgerald Park, just beside this water feature

They both talked about how a majority of events are completely free to the public and the museum worker emphasized that part of the fun of the jazz festival is how they bring the music to the people. People from around the world — musicians and aficionados and casual enjoyers alike — fill the hotels and Airbnb’s in the area surrounding Cork to share in this festival and my classmate asked if I was planning to attend this year. The date of the festival moves around every year, following the bank holiday weekend in October, which in 2019 falls on the 27th, the same weekend as the Michigan football game when the marching band is traveling to Ann Arbor. The worker was able to give me more information about the festival itself, such as that it began in 1978 and her favorite sub-genre of jazz, the New Orleans Brass Band.

On a non-jazz note, I was able to see a band that I enjoy after they’ve spent the last five years on hiatus

Overall, I found that both accounts of the jazz festival were remarkably similar and as I thought about why that might be, I realized that both my classmate and the museum employee were so excited to talk about Cork and things to do here. One of the many things I’ve noticed and appreciated during my time here in Ireland is the approachability of the Irish people. At first, I thought I was just lucky to find someone happy to help when I would ask a question, but as my time progresses, I have yet to find someone who’s not happy to help. Workers go above and beyond and total strangers are ready at the drop of a hat whenever they can tell that someone needs help. Both accounts of the Cork Jazz Festival came from a place of love and pride for Cork. Neither of them were official representatives of the festival but wanted to share their love for it, and for Cork, with me.

Prompt 5: Food in Cork

Hi everyone, after enjoying 8 weeks at the University College Cork’s Greek and Latin Summer School, I’m posting my all my blogs which were delayed by my broken computer!

After our third exam, a group of my classmates and I walked from the UCC’s campus to the Cork Butter Museum. We watched a live demonstration of butter churning and learned about how butter was made and its significance throughout history in Ireland and particularly in Cork.

From outside the Butter Museum


How butter is made:

Butter began as simple full milk, and the finished product was cream (the fatty solid) and buttermilk (the liquid). The fat separated from the liquid by force or pressure, i.e. shaking in some manner. As our demonstrator explained it, the fat was existing happily in a calm liquid, but once it was shaken up, it connected itself to the other fats and they formed clumps which became the butter. He used a hand crank mechanism, not the plunger method that I’ve always associated with butter churning. But the milk was in a glass jar, and a rotating paddle spun like a revolving door to agitate the liquid. The milk was cool, he explained that it was chilled to 14 C, or 57 F, but more importantly, the jar was colder, at 8C or 46F. Some kids from the audience acted as man power turning the crank while he explained the process and some history of butter. After a short time (maybe 10 minutes) it grew difficult to turn the crank which signified that the solid was forming, and it was time for the liquid to drain. Another volunteer held a sieve that caught the butter as the buttermilk poured into another jar. Then the solid was put into the jar again with cold water and drained in the same manner. It was important to keep the buttermilk separate from the diluted butter water (as the buttermilk was extremely high in calories and nutrients which is why it went to the most important member of the household, the pig) and the process was repeated until the uncontaminated solid remained and the water came away clean. After that, the butter was ready for our consumption, where normally it would be processed further, salted, and packaged for sale, our demonstrator grabbed a loaf of bread and started spreading the butter. 

Our demonstrator churning and draining the butter

As for the significance of butter in Ireland, today it is one of its largest exports and has been for centuries. Cork in particular, with its proximity to the ports in Cobh and Kinsale, plays a large role in the exporting business. Right around the corner from the museum was the site of the Cork Butter Exchange Market that started in 1730 and closed in 1924. Our demonstrator explained how dairy farming evolved from subsistence to Ireland’s greatest export in the 18th and 19th centuries. As roads and transportation methods improved, butter became profitable, not just within a parish, but across county lines, and eventually transcontinentally. He talked about the quality of Irish butter and the inspector’s grading system (IV was the highest quality) and how it all began with the green grass. The richness in butter comes from the fat content of the milk, and the best grass makes the fattest cows, and he specifically mentioned that cows in Ireland live outside year round to enjoy their fresh grass. And I happened to know that Land O’ Lakes butter is the highest producer of butter in American with Kerrygold, the Irish brand, as the second biggest producer in America. In order to defend my semi-rural hometown in Minnesota, I had to let him know that if he lived in Minnesota, he wouldn’t want to live outdoors year round either, which got a laugh. 

The remains of the Cork Butter Exchange

After the demonstration, we explored the rest of the museum which housed artifacts for different methods of producing butter, like a plunge churn and a barrel churn. There was a display of children’s writings on folklore that involved butter and old women and another on superstitions involving butter. Our demonstrator had noted that women and the supernatural were intrinsically linked to butter throughout history in Ireland and it was fascinating to read stories passed down through generations exemplifying this. There was a station where you could stamp a piece of paper with different butter logos and examine the differences in advertising. Then there was a section on butter in prehistory which included bog butter, barrels that had been preserved for centuries. I had seen some bog men, human bodies preserved in bogs, at the National Museum of Archaeology in Dublin and found the ancient barrels of butter much more palatable.

Bog butter

After our excursion at the Butter Museum we enjoyed a meal near the English Market and I had an Irish beef steak with garlic butter garnish, also locally produced, which combined some Irish staples of beef, potatoes, and butter.