Saturday, 10 August 2013

Words we get from Greek: 4 - xenophobia

Earlier postings in this strand have all been from near the front end of the alphabet (another word we get from Greek) so for this one I've dodged to near the end of the alphabet, but only of the Latin alphabet as the x of this posting's chosen word is found more or less in the middle of the Greek alphabet. Complicated, no? To add to the complication Greek has another sort of X pronounced more like the ch in words such as loch and that does come near the end of the Greek alphabet.

So anyway xenophobia, which in Greek has an x as in fix rather than a z sound (look, just concentrate) is fear or hatred of foreigners. Xenos is the foreign bit and phobia is the fear bit. I suppose it could be racism for posh people. Anyway, I'd be lying if I said that there were not instances where some Greek people didn't like some foreign people, but then, sad to say, that is true of any nationality.

The crisis has certainly played its part in creating xenophobia and naked hostility to people from other countries has been displayed in parts of the country, not least Athens. The rise of Golden Dawn, a political party which denies being neo-Nazi, but which has more than a whiff of the jackboot about it, has coincided with a rise in attacks on people from other countries, especially if the colour of their skin marks them out.

All of this is rather depressing but I would say that broadly speaking most Greeks I have encountered are prepared at the very least to be "live and let live" and many are friendly to you whoever you are (especially, surprise, surprise, if you are friendly to them). This, in turn, brings me to another word linked to our posting's title but which is one of my favourite Greek words....filoxenia (φιλόξενια). This is the spirit of hospitality, friendliness to foreigners, and as we are all foreigners somewhere let's hope for more filoxenia and less xenophobia.

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