Friday, January 27, 2006

Greek at Home

While I wait for my machinery to process through some ten thosand files, I will let the various software kettles stew for a little while I take care of a very important matter. You see, I completely forgot to do something the other day!

I promised some of our young readers to post an interesting point about something they brought up over in one of the home-schooling bloggs, where they mentioned our Uncle Gilbert and this blogg (so of course they mentioned our dear Aunt Frances as well!!!)

Anyway, in order to explain the thing I am going to post, I had to look up something about GKC, and I found it - but it is almost more interesting than the first thing I was going to post! So like Elisha, you will get a double portion today.

First, I will remind you that up until not terribly long ago, about the time of our grandparents, just about EVERYONE learned Latin and Greek if they went to school more than just a few years (those few which we now call "grammar" school). And GKC was like that. But! Since his parents were very unusual, he also learned some things at home... And one of the things he learned very early was the Greek Alphabet! Here is the story:
The change from childhood to boyhood, and the mysterious transformation that produces that monster the schoolboy, might be very well summed up in one small fact. To me the ancient capital letters of the Greek alphabet, the great Theta, a sphere barred across the midst like Saturn, or the great Upsilon, standing up like a tall curved chalice, have still a quite unaccountable charm and mystery, as if they were the characters traced in wide welcome over Eden of the dawn. The ordinary small Greek letters, though I am now much more familiar with them, seem to me quite nasty little things like a swarm of gnats. As for Greek accents, I triumphantly succeeded, through a long series of school-terms, in avoiding learning them at all; and I never had a higher moment of gratification than when I afterwards discovered that the Greeks never learnt them either. I felt, with a radiant pride, that I was as ignorant as Plato and Thucydides. At least they were unknown to the Greeks who wrote the prose and poetry that was thought worth studying; and were invented by grammarians, I believe, at the time of the Renaissance. But it is a simple psychological fact; that the sight of a Greek capital still fills me with happiness, the sight of a small letter with indifference tinged with dislike, and the accents with righteous indignation reaching the point of profanity. And I believe that the explanation is that I learnt the large Greek letters, as I learnt the large English letters, at home. I was told about them merely for fun while I was still a child; while the others I learnt during the period of what is commonly called education; that is, the period during which I was being instructed by somebody I did not know, about something I did not want to know.
[GKC, Autobiography CW16:60]
Very interesting. I learned the Greek alphabet (both capital and small) when I was about 8, from the appendix of a science book. Here you can see them:

Smalls: abgdezhqiklmnxoprstufcyw

I thought it was so cool because there were these other very cool letters which were NOT the same as English letters and in a strange order (Z comes after E, near the front!) And at the very end I saw that strange looking thing called "Omega" which I could see on the main altar of our church, opposite from the Alpha. (Oh, so that's why Jesus said that He is the Alpha and Omega!) Yes, the Greek alphabet is a very handy thing to know, even if you do not learn Greek, or math, or science, or join a fraternity or sorority. They are just very neat to lok at, and to write. (You can usually find it in your dictionary under "alphabet", where you will find out why it's called "alphabet"!!!)

Now, I have told you this because there is something you need to know about a certain English word. That word, which was used by one of my young e-friends, is "enthusiasm". And I will again quote GKC to show you why:
I myself have little Latin and less Greek. But I know enough Greek to know the meaning of the second syllable of "enthusiasm," and I know it to be the key to this and every other discussion.
You can scurry off to your dictionary to look it up, if you like. But I will tell you what it means. The Greek work QeoV, or Theos means "God". "Enthusiasm" literally means "to have God within"!

(I would quote a much more profound discussion of this from GKC, but it is reserved for posting on St. Patrick's day, which is not all that far off.)

So "the second syllable" of enthusiasm is "the key to this and every other discussion"... so you may take any subject (for there is no such thing as a different subject!) from pork to pyrotechnics, from geography to computer science, from cable TV to literature, from poetry to theology, and you will still find there is just one key. And it is the right key, because it opens the door.

I told you at the start that it was important. And now I think my "kettles" have stewed long enough so I will go back to my cooking, uh, I mean, coding.


Post a Comment

<< Home