Greek 101

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Robb Walsh wrote about Ekko's this week in the Press. A couple of days ago, someone asked me whether "gyros" was singular or plural and I thought I'd share this with you so that you can dazzle the Greek guy behind the counter the next time you're out and about.

Like many words that come from foreign sources, singular and plural forms of the word get confused when they are used here in the States. "Kolache" and "tamale" come to mind, as the singulars are actually kolach and tamal and the plurals are kolaches and tamales. There's confusion regading "gyros" being singular and/or plural.

The word gyros, meaning "a turn," comes from the fact that the meat is roasted on a vertical, rotating spit. Our words such as gyrate, gyroscope, etc. come from the same Greek root. In Greek, many nouns are given an "s" at the end. But if it is a formal name, you drop the "s" when addressing the person. For example, you would refer to Jesus as Jesus (from the Greekification of "Yeshua", Iesus) if you were writing about him but if you were addressing him you would call him "Jesu".

"Gyros" is masculine, 'o gyros', and when you order one, a single one is actually 'ena gyro'. Two or more would be dio gyra as Greek doesn't make plurals with the letter "s" like English and Spanish but changes the end vowel like Italian.

It's known as doner kebab or doner in Turkey and some parts of Greece, and a doneraki would be a little doner kebab. In the 19th century, the doner concept came to Mexico via Lebanese immigrants. Over time, pork became the default meat, the name changed to taco al pastor, and the vertical spit became known as a trompo or spinning top. Though in Puebla, you'll find places serving a taco Arabes on flatbread.

So here's your Greek for the day:

You enter and greet the chef:

"Kalimeh' ra sas'! Ti kah' neh teh'? O' la ehn dahx' ee?"

He replies, and whatever he says, just say "Mah' lee stah" with a big smile.

Then you order:

"Thah ee' theh lah' enna yee' ro parakalo' me pata' tes teegan' eh tehs' "

Your new best friend will be beaming at you and serve you a hot gyros with French fries and you finish with:

"Oray' oh to fah' gee to'!"


-- Jay Francis

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