A Greek word
My oldest son sent me a BBC World News article on the word philotimo. It is a fun story about language with serious implications. Any story like this is foundational in this blog. I promote ongoing conversation with others who like the study of language, words, conversation, and who use listening skills to further dialogue.
From the article, “The exact meaning of philotimo is hotly debated, given that the word belongs to the pantheon of Greek lexical items that defy easy explanation.”
My interest in words is grounded in Scripture. The first words of God in Genesis, ““Let there be light,” and there was light.” Words call our realities into existence.
Some of us are fascinated with words and language and the whole symbolic nature of our being. I am called into being as one created in the image of God, and by the “Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” Besides, although many in our present world don’t seem to follow this, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”(Matthew 4:2-4)
I chuckle since my early education was in a one room country school house, White Pigeon School, in Sugar Creek Township, Cedar County, Iowa, USA. Six grades together with one teacher in a seating arrangement with a teacher’s desk in the front, a recitation bench, and rows of desks.
Maybe it was the words White Pigeon and Sugar Creek that started the journey. Maybe it says something about farm boys. At the Fitness Center is a man who farms with a GPS tractor, who after reading one of my blogs said, "I see you like language." So does he. Kindred farm boys.
I know a lady at Church who comes from the Greek community in Chicago. She and I have talked frequently about the Greek language. I sent her the article on philotimo. Later at Trinity Cathedral, Davenport, she said the article and the Greek word made her day. “So true,” she said about that word. Now she is on a journey to learn more.
The big sentence in the article for me is the one I already referenced, and there are other Greek words defying translation. This must be true for all languages. I remember entering the Emergency Room office where the staff doctor was reading Persian poetry during a quiet time. He said the Persian language was full of nuances. There you have it.
The Hebrew language is the same I am told, and I have found this true in a few instances. The word yad can mean hand, near, or destiny depending on the context.
The BBC article did not talk about context although the stories told provide the context. Context is a huge part of meaning. This is where metaphor comes in, when the context changes, previous words are moved to the new situation. This is how metaphors work!
My reflection continues the introduction for this blog. Words and language will be the major focus for meaning, compassion, and service.
“Philotimo (Love of honour), its official translation, is a utilitarian yet insufficient attempt to convey the constellation of virtues squeezed into the word’s four syllables.
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To be continued,
Developing the art of story metaphor listening and helping people find and explore the metaphors in our conversations for a deeper understanding of feelings and meanings.