The April Edition

(Reading time: 4 - 7 minutes)

In line with our traditional policy of having an April laugh, two of the following news snippets are totally genuine but the third contains a lie. Answers given next month.

Why do Americans speak with a nasal twang?
You may have wondered how the distinctive US vocal sounds came about; that is to say the distinctive ‘twang’ of the northern states and the ‘drawl’ of the southern ones.

Obviously it had to do with environment, and, at one time, I privately thought most US children were rigorously drilled in holding their noses closed for the first 5 years of their lives!

But what actually started it remained a mystery to me until I came across an entry in Google, a few days ago, entitled ‘the dialects of American English;’ and found that the truth was far more exciting than merely wearing a clothes peg over their ‘schmozzles.’ In fact, it all had to do with religious persecution!

By Andrew Leech

During the reign of Charles I (UK c.1625-1649) the Puritans were having a hard time under the strongly Catholic administration of the time and many decided to emigrate to the US; all of which is well known as the saga of the Pilgrim Fathers, one of the founding groups of the USA. They spoke with a distinctive nasal intonation that is still sometimes heard in the area of Suffolk (UK), today. Over the years this mixed with other environmental speech sounds and ultimately turned into the US speech generally found in the north-eastern states.

However, after the Parliamentarians (mostly Puritans) won the Civil War and executed Charles 1st, they turned their attention to the Cavaliers (the supporters of Charles 1st), who now had their turn at feeling the discomfort of persecution; with the result that many of them also emigrated to North America.

However, not wishing to live next door to their former tormentors, the Cavaliers moved further down south, started plantations and copied their Puritan northern neighbours in buying up a few slaves to do the work, under the religiously accepted pretext of “enlightening the heathens and saving their immortal souls.”

At that time, most aristocrats of the Cavalier type spoke with a very pronounced slow drawl – still found in several UK families - that, over the years, became the basis of the southern US drawl; and which, through time, became mixed with Creole, French, Spanish and other local sounds, till it became what it is today.

Mazower warns Greeks not to underestimate the power and danger of Golden Dawn.
In February, the well known historian, Professor Mark Mazower, of Columbia University, came to Deree College in Agia Paraskevi in order to give the Kimon Friar Lecture for 2013. “Greeks must not underestimate the threat of Golden Dawn if they accept it as a legitimate, mainstream political movement,” he said and did not hesitate to draw parallels between the Greek far right party and the nationalist socialist (Nazi) party of the 1930s.

“There is commonality of approach,” he said of the two parties stressing their emphasis on biological racism and violent street tactics that sets them apart from other European nationalist movements like Le Pen’s National Front party.

Greece’s financial crisis has shot Golden Dawn, never previously a high poll party, well into the spotlight, and a recent opinion poll shows a near doubling of the party’s support, compared to the 7 percent, and 18 seats, it achieved in June’s election, now putting the party in third place behind New Democracy and SYRIZA; and even reports of attacks against immigrants and Golden Dawn’s open endorsement of the 1967-1974 junta have not affected its appeal to voters in a country where national self-understanding has been significantly shaped by the fight against the Nazis and opposition to the junta.

Mazower, author of several books on 20th century Greek and European history, said: “Greece’s political class has failed to assume culpability or accept even a symbolic share of the burden that the population has had to face as a result of the bailouts.” Nevertheless, he said, “Greeks must not turn their back on the democratic legacy of the post-1974 era.”

“People need to defend the achievement of the metapolitefsi,” he stated, referring to the longest period of democratic stability in the country’s modern history. However, he added, they should try to remedy the system’s failings starting with “the credibility of the political class” or, as I would personally prefer to put it: the extreme gullibility of certain voters.

Though he agreed that all forms of lawlessness are equally dangerous, he pointed out that previous left-wing protests and law-breaking behaviour have not put Greek democracy in jeopardy, and added that the “fundamental kinship” between fascism and communism – bringing them both under the label of “totalitarianism” – are flawed.

However, on a personal level, I take great exception at this seemingly relatively naive placidity towards the extreme Left which has blighted Greece for decades. I am sure that if any sensible person were asked whether they would rather be beaten up by Golden Dawn or have their central Athens business torched by anarchists, they would say 'neither, thanks'!

“The totalitarianism thesis has been abandoned for very good reason,” Mazower said, criticizing attempts by conservative politicians to raise that possibility in order to score political points against SYRIZA.

“Unfortunately the Greek state does not seem to realize the urgency of the situation,” he stated, “and New Democracy seems to prefer going after anarchist-run squats in Athens, which are of little political importance, rather than focus on the greater threat of Golden Dawn.”

New legislation for frontistiria 
As any frontistirio school owner knows, the government has pushed out a veritable flurry of paper work and new changes that all have to be pursued and acted on solely via the Internet, through badly designed and user-unfriendly software programmes.

These range from new laws on the size of classrooms and in what complicated way you will renew your school licence, to the quality of fire prevention, latrine facilities and how often, and when, you fill out your IKA submissions and pay for them.

Recently, we just finished transmitting the tax numbers of our clients in 2011 and 2012. This is supposed to help the tax department trace where people spend their money and weed out whether those declaring only €5,000 p.a. aren’t actually putting their three kids through a dozen different frontistiria and the local music school!

I can just imagine what is going to happen next year, with the new criteria regarding tax numbers, where we are not allowed to accept any child in a class whose parents do not have one. I suppose, on the basis of double necessity – that is to say, money for the school owner and education for the child - this may lead to turning a blind eye to the issuance of a receipt in some cases!

And, no doubt, Golden Dawn enforcers will regularly tour the frontistiria, acting as unofficial tax spies, looking for evaders who would dare to have an unlisted immigrant child in their classes?

However, what is probably highest on the minds of school owners are the costly conversions required by the new legislation on the girls’ WC facilities where every one, from 1/9/2013 onwards, must have a bidet installed.

This is likely to cause problems in most schools where the size of the existing cubicles does not permit the addition of the bidet. Certain of the larger independent schools have put forward the suggestion that where a group of cubicles exist only one should have the traditional bowl replaced by a bidet (a cheaper suggestion), though this would require the user to actually have to change cubicle in order to use it. No doubt we will hear more about this in the months to come.


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