Archive for July, 2015


July 31, 2015

In the two years since I wrote about the ubiquitous — and, in my opinion, unnecessary — prefix uber, it use seems to have diminished considerably, probably because the word now inevitably evokes the name of the company offering ride “sharing” via smartphone.

When I first read about Uber, I thought it would be pronounced “yoober”, as would be normal with English words beginning with an open-syllable U (utopia, use, urine, uvula…). But once I heard it talked about, it was invariably as “oober”. Since I couldn’t see any immediate connection with über, I concluded that it is meant to be read as a Latin word.

In Latin, uber can be an adjective meaning ‘fertile’ or a noun meaning ‘(female) breast’. For that matter, I don’t quite see what either one has to do with transportation.

But I look forward to the day when some app will be created that outclasses Uber, and will be referred to in English-language media as the über-Uber. Or, in real English, super-breast.

Brat’s end

July 15, 2015

No, I don’t mean Congressman Dave Brat, about whom (or rather about whose name) I wrote last year. Instead, I am referring to an essay I wrote some nine years ago, in which I characterized Greece as “the spoiled brat of Europe.” I wrote:

Examples of what Greece has managed to obtain by throwing tantrums include admission to the European Union despite its non-contiguous location, admission to the Euro zone despite not meeting the stipulated fiscal criteria, and a ban on calling ‘feta’ the common white cheese of the region when it is not made in Greece.

But perhaps the biggest such tantrum has been about the fact that a country to the north of Greece, formerly a part of Yugoslavia (and before that of Serbia), chose, on attaining independence, to call itself the Republic of Macedonia.

But now it seems that Greece’s knack for getting away with spoiled-brat behavior has come to an end. I feel very sorry about the hardships that the people of Greece (whom I prefer to call, as I explain in the cited essay, the Grecian rather than the Greek people) are suffering and will continue to suffer as a result of the constraints imposed upon them by the political and financial authorities of Europe. But it was the Grecians who elected the governments whose irresponsible actions have led to the present situation.

The spoiling of Greece has a long history, going back two centuries. In order to get the major European powers’ help for securing independence from the Ottoman Empire, Greek leaders played two different parts: to Russia they were the embodiment of Eastern Orthodoxy; when addressing the West, they took on the mantle of ancient Greece (and, for the first time in a millennium and a half, began to refer to themselves as Hellenes rather than Romaioi, that is, Romans). This ploy coincided with the tide of Philhellenism that was began to sweep over Western Europe in the late 18th century, making waves in Britain (with Lord Byron a famous disciple), France and especially Germany. King Ludwig I of Bavaria was so enamored of everything Greek that he changed the spelling of his kingdom’s name from Baiern to Bayern because the y made it look more Greek than the i, and offered his younger son Otto as the first king of Greece installed by France, Britain and Russia.

While German Philhellenism, at least in its political form, may have cooled when Otto was overthrown in favor of a Danish prince married to a Russian princess, in France and Britain it continued unabated to the present day, and Greece’s political leaders learned that with enough whining they could get what they wanted, even membership in the very Western EU with which they had little cultural or economic affinity. When this happened, in 1981, Germany — at the time under Social Democratic rule — went along. But since then global capital, with the German financial empire as one of its pillars, has taken over the world. Profligate spending on such trifles as pensions, healthcare and education for the people is behavior that the system will not tolerate. And so the brat is spoiled no more.