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The name

My PhD thesis, which I worked on from 1994 to 1998, was on a single word of mediaeval and modern Greek, as I delight in telling people. Note that the word in question (which is similar in function to English that) does a lot of work; in fact, even though by the end of the 4.5 years I spent on it I'd written over twice as much as I was supposed to --- and ended up turfing angst-inducing amounts of it --- I didn't actually even get to mediaeval Greek. That word is pou (που) in modern Greek; in mediaeval Greek, before the aphaeresis typical of the language set in, it was opou [opu] (οπού).

At any rate, when I got to Salonica in January 1996 on my research trip, my immediate concern was to get mediaeval data; and the first place I called on was the Mediaeval Dictionary of Vernacular Greek (the abridged version is available online in Greek).This is widely known as the Kriaras dictionary, after the scholar who founded it, although it has been managed from the late 1980s until 2002 by the late Tassos Karanastassis, who was without question the scholar with the best overview of mediaeval Greek. (Not to be confused with Anastastios Karanstasis, the dialectologist who compiled the dictionary of Southern Italian Greek. There's something about being called Tasos that attracts lexicographers, I guess.)

The Dictionary was at the time housed in the Centre for Byzantine Studies, on Egnatia St., at the west edge of the City Centre -- the other side of the Rotonda from Aristotle U., and just up from a forlorn McDonalds. The Dictionary was staffed by a small army of lexicographers, either on secondment from the University, or graduates preparing to undertake postgraduate work. When I rocked up (having arranged it with the staff there beforehand), it so happened that one of the lexicographers was currently working on the lemma for opou. This was Tasos Kaplanis (or as he was known in the office, Tasos The Younger --- not to be confused with the Italiot specialist either) . Tasos Kaplanis has since moved on to get a PhD from Cambridge, and is now lecturing in U. Cyprus.

It was inevitable that when I introduced myself to him, Tasos The Younger exclaimed "Oh, so you're the other opou-guy." And because Tasos is a lexicographer, he said it in a linguistically inventive (if not necessarily politically correct) way: "A, esis iste o alos opudjis" (Α, εσείς είστε ο άλλος οπουǰής). Now, -djis [dʒis] --- Standard Greek -dzis (-τζής) --- is a colloquial professional suffix; and it's colloquial, because it's originally Turkish: - [dʒɯ]. So "opou-guy" is actually a pretty reasonable rendering of the word.

Since I lived and breathed that word for five years (and in some ways, will do so until my dying day --- just see my publications list), I liked being identified with the word like that; so I took it on as an applelation online.

In rendering it in English, I made some further tweaks. The palatoalveolar pronunciation is alien to Standard Greek, but widespread among Greek dialect --- obviously including Tasos the Younger's. One place where it is entrenched even in surnames is Cyprus; and whereas in Standard Greek surnames derived from the Arabic for 'pilgrim' are prefixed with Hatzi- (Χατζη-), in Cyprus they are pronounced with a palatoalveolar [xadʒi]. Whatsmore, the palatoalveolar voiced affricate there is romanised as dj; so my father's original surname (see bio) was Hadjimarcou (Χατζ̌ημάρκου). So spelling opoudjis with a dj, rather than a more English j, a more Greek tz, or a more Turkish c, was some sort of homage to the Cypriot side of my ancestry that I've never really explored. Plus of course it looks more exotic, which is fine by me. The same goes for the hellenocentric romanisation of [u] as ou --- more French than English.

The name also features the tension between Turkish and Greek morphology, which intrigues me. Turkish is agglutinative, and its morphology is very clean; its vowel harmony makes it even cleaner. So one dolma give you many dolmalar, and one opu would give you one opucu (and many opucular). Greek takes Turkish stems, and forces them into the glorious mess of its fusional morphology; so one dolmas [dolmas] (ντολμάς) gives you many dolmadhes [dolmaðes] (ντολμάδες), and one opoudjis [opudʒis] (οπουǰής) gives you many opoudjidhes [opudʒiðes] (οπουǰήδες). A plural like dolmadhes strikes me like graffitiing on a wall --- something that may end up beautiful or ugly, but certainly doesn't do with the wall what its original owner intended. So I liked having that featured too.

Well, you asked.

The blog name

The blog name opɯdʒɯlɯklar is more Turkish. If I am an opou-guy—in Greek opoudjis, in Turkish opucu [opudʒu], then the stuff I do is opuculuklar, opou-guy-nesses (or opou-guy-doms). And since I'm determined to throw a spanner in the works of browsers by wedging in obscure Unicode symbols, I've taken opuculuklar, wedged in the not-necessarily correct but typically Turkish vowel ı [ɯ] (so opıcılıklar), and written everything in IPA—for reasons of whimsy. Actually the plural suffix -lar was last minute whimsy too; that's why it didn't make it to the blog URL, which is just plain opuculuk.blogspot.com .

The logo

Yet further toying with the name. The opou- bit is in Greek (polytonic), and in as close to a Gothic lettering as I could be bothered emulating. Gothic font is derided among typographers with taste when applied to Greek: it's an utterly Western creation, that just plain doesn't fit either historically or aesthetically with Greek. Kinda like me. And it does hint at my being interested in the mediaeval stage of Greek, even if the lettering is from the wrong side of the contintent.

The -dji- bit is in IPA, and it distorts the suffix two ways. First, I use the back unrounded vowel [ɯ], which can materialise in the Turkish suffix, though it never shows up in Greek (outside Cappadocia). And instead of a palatoalveolar affricate [dʒ], like dialectal Greek --- or an alveolar [dz] like standard Greek --- I alighted on the alveopalatal [dʑ]. Because alveopalatals are cool. They're fairly infrequent (the best known languages with them are Polish and Mandarin). They're impossible to get a lecturer to characterise properly at undergraduate level --- or indeed at most levels: the real point about them, I've worked out, is that they're laminal rather than apical (blade, not tip of tongue). Oh, and Tsakonian has them. (Unvoiced, as its reflex of palatalised /k/, but still.) And as my 2002 first year students found out at their peril, I just luuurve Tsakonian.

And there's an integral sign at the end. The -s was left over from the Tsakono-turcicised version of -djis, and I thought I'd use a long-s, to point out that my day job has something to do with the positive sciences (since I program and mind computers.) Or that I like Shakespeare, who used long-s. Take your pick.

Nick Nicholas, opoudjis [AT] optusnet . com . au
Created: 2003-4-28; Last revision: 2011-03-10
URL: http://www.opoudjis.net/Play/opoudjis.html