Sounds Greek to Me! 7 Popular Greek Sayings February 24, 2015 00:00 1 Comment

The Greeks are famous for socializing around a spread of food, so it's no surprise most of their folk sayings and proverbs are food-related metaphors that are either instructive, ironic, humorous, and sometimes all three at once.

Have these sayings engraved on a wooden koutala, wood plaque or coffee mug for a bit of Greek wisdom (and laughter).

You are going to eat wood. / Θα φας ξύλο.

Imagine Yiayia wielding a giant koutala and saying, ‘You are going to eat wood.’ That may look funny, but when you are Greek and you’re Grandma looks mad, run! She means that you are going to get a beating.

Slowly, slowly, the sour grape becomes honey. / Αγάλι αγάλι γίνεται η αγουρίδα μέλι.

In life as in kitchen, people, situations or things often require a great deal of time to mature. Patience is indeed a virtue, be it οn English or Greek shores.

Life is a cucumber, either you eat it and are refreshed or you eat it and struggle. / Η ζωή είναι ενα αγγούρι: ή το τρώς και δροσίζεσαι ή το τρως και ζορίζεσαι.

Life is what we make of it. We may have been all given the same things at birth, but each of us would differ on how to use those things or advantages so that the same thing can be a curse to one person while it is a blessing to another. Alas, not all of us see the glass half-full; some of us see the glass half-empty. Americans would perhaps say to the same effect, "If life throws you lemons, make lemonade." 

There are orange trees elsewhere that grow oranges. / Υπάρχουν και αλλού πορτοκαλιές που κάνουν πορτοκάλια.

This saying refers to not getting stuck with just one person if that person turned out to be a disappointment or failed to measure up to our expectations, which often happens in relationships. So if comforting Toula who has just been jilted by Niko you may say to her that, elsewhere, there are orange trees making oranges. (A fruity version of the American, 'There are many fish in the sea.')

Where you hear many cherries, carry a small basket. / 'Οπου ακούς πολλά κεράσια κράτα μικρό καλάθι.

There is something universal about promises not fulfilled. The Greeks might advise that when you hear many promises from someone, you may want to keep your expectations low. (So when a politician is campaigning with many cherries, bring a small basket.)

We ate bread and salt. / Φάγαμε ψωμί και αλάτι.

Salt is so basic in life that Greeks consecrate them in rituals. Ancient Greeks also had more than 50 kinds of bread, and salt was not just used to eat bread with; Greek cakes were also sprinkled with it and served as dessert. So when you say that you ate bread and salt with someone, you imply that you two go a long way back.

He calls figs figs and troughs troughs. / Λέει τα σύκα-σύκα και τη σκάφη-σκάφη.

Calling figs figs and troughs troughs refer to telling it like it is, to be speaking frankly about something or someone even though it is unpleasant. This saying probably originated from an ancient Greek play with a vulgar theme, as the fig and the trough were symbolic of consummating the marriage.