Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday rerun: Greece is the word

They're having their troubles over in Greece these days, aren't they? I happen to know a woman with relatives in Athens, and she told me years ago that if you move to another house or apartment in that ancient city, you get in touch with the phone company for a new installation and then prepare to wait. And if you've ever been told that the phone company or the cable guy will be to your place "between noon and 5 pm," and it's 4:30 and you're pacing the floor, imagine how you feel in Greece when you're pacing the floor and can't even call anyone to tell them about it because your phone isn't there yet. My friend tells me it can take up to TWO YEARS to get a phone installed in Athens.

Aristotle is still waiting for his conference call with Plato and Socrates! And, to steal a joke from the great Woody Allen, they wanted to meet with Isosceles, who had an idea for a new triangle.

(I don't often steal jokes, but when I do, I rip off the best!)

We all studied the oldtime Greek civilization in school, and it's a pity to see that great nation torn by economic crisis, rioting in the streets, civil unrest and out-of-control crime and corruption. In fact, there was a movement afoot in the Greek parliament to rename Athens "Little Philadelphia."

There are so many aspects of Greek culture that we have taken as our own. The latest is Greek yogurt, which is just loaded with cultures. As are art, music, cuisine, philosophy and the running of marathon races, which, according to legend, were begun to commemorate the run (speaking of movements afoot) of the Greek soldier Pheidippides, a messenger from the Battle of Marathon (the namesake of the race) to Athens. That's a distance of 26 miles, 385 yards, and that's why our marathons are the same length, although the winner is rarely named

Now, everyone in Europe is concerned about the Greek monetary system and how it is crumbling. A massive infusion of money - $157.5 billion, which roughly approximates Oprah's shoe budget - has not stanched the flow of economic woe. Economists the world over are predicting that Greece is tottering on the abyss of debt default.

I don't have the slightest idea what will happen to the European economy, or the American. That makes me the one blogger who will admit that he can't predict the future, which is really the only thing that is predictable. Except for this: I guarantee you, if you watch CNBC and the other business channels, at one point in the next few days, on the topic of Greek insolvency, someone will say, "It is what it is."

And that, my friends, is a tautological pleonasm. The term 'tautology' comes from two Greek words meaning "It says this." As much as to say, it already says this; why say it again? A perfect example of this sort of redundancy is the now-popular expression "It is what it is." Just as multiplying any number by one leaves the number unchanged, and just as "a rose is a rose," why even bother saying such things? "I wanted a ham sandwich but they gave me roast beef. I guess it is what it is." I guess it's a roast beef sandwich. Nothing more, nothing less.

Yes, the guy who lives down the street who practices his Sousaphone at 3 a.m. is a nuisance, but his neighbors say, "He says he can't sleep and that's the only time he has to devote to his music. It is what it is." What do those five words add to any discussion?

It's all Greek to me.

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