Columns - 2003

    My Big Fat Greek Column

    by Doug Brook
    Deep South Jewish Voice Columnist

    Give me a letter in Greek. Any letter. I will show you how it was originally a letter in Hebrew.

    Alpha Aleph
    Beta Bet
    Gamma Gimel
    Delta Dalet
    Epsilon Hay
    (none) Vav (notice all the V's in Latin? The Greeks wanted to be different.)
    Zeta Zayin
    Eta Chet (remember, eta is an "H")
    Theta Tet
    Iota Yud
    Kappa Kaf
    Lambda Lamed
    Mu Mem
    Nu Nun
    Xi Samech (okay, but they look sort of similar)
    Omicron Ayin
    Pi Peh
    (none) Tzadi ("tzadik" is Hebrew for "righteous," so the liberal Greeks left this one out)
    (none) Koof (in an early example of cost-cutting, the Greeks decided they already had the k sound covered)
    Rho Resh
    Sigma Shin (the other form of shin, sin, matches)
    Tau Tav (Greek didn't have a V, so they had to do something)
    Upsilon (oops, Hebrew's out of letters, and the Greeks paid by the hour...)
    Phi (fie on you for thinking this theory's fallen apart... if every letter had an exact match, why would they have created Greek at all?)
    Chi (in honor of the Greek navy's invention for the never-to-be invasion of Venice: the kayak)
    Psi (sigh... why did they need these extra letters? They're making me look bad.)
    Omega (they actually were finished after psi, but the secretary was writing down everything, including the committee head's pained exclamation, "Oh, mega-headache")

    For additional reference, I include a comparison between Greek and English. If you didn't get the significance of all that... this probably won't help much.

    Alpha A
    Beta B
    Gamma C
    Delta D
    Epsilon E
    (notice a trend yet?)
    Zeta F
    (none) - G
    (notice why I asked if you noticed a trend when I did?)
    Eta H
    Theta (in an early display of political correctness, they left this letter out because they didn't want to accidentally offend the language committee who had a lisp)
    Iota I
    (none) J (Ioseph, a member of the committee, was tired of people calling him "eye-oseph" all the time)
    Kappa K
    Lambda L
    Mu M
    Nu N
    Xi (this sound was dropped to the end in English... the committee members hated xylophones)
    Omicron O
    Pi P
    (none) Q (English barely uses Q either)
    Rho R
    Sigma S
    Tau T
    Upsilon U
    (none) V (the Greeks forgot to include this sound, which the English considered ery, ery ital)
    (none) W (the sound of W wasn't in Greek or Hebrew, and the committee wanted to do something original)
    Phi (the Scottish said "fie" all the time, and those British nations didn't get along, so the English didn't want to sound like their neighbors)
    Chi X (they look alike, trust me)
    Psi Y
    (none) Z (another committee secretary who wrote down everything, even when they dozed off)
    Omega (the committee fell asleep waiting for the secretary figure out how to draw an omega symmetrically)

    This analysis of Greek as derived from Hebrew, and English from Greek, is an exercise in etymology, the study of the origins of language. This is not to be confused with entymology (the study of ants and bugs) or auntymology (the study of aunts who bug you).

    While the scientific relevance of this study is obvious, so much so that I don't need to quote (or find) any research, this analysis never made it into the great tomes of Jewish thought.

    Even the erstwhile Mishnah tractate Baba Gump excludes this information. The Mishnah was canonized before the Jewish nation was cannon fodder for the Greek.

    The only mention in Baba Gump is a brief dialogue between a villager and a rabbi. The villager shows the rabbi a paddle with Greek letters on it, and asks the Rabbi why they look so familiar. The rabbi, Shlumiel ben Shlumazel, replied, "I don't know. It's all Greek to me."

    Doug Brook is a technical writer in Silicon Valley. His play Retrograde, published in the 8 Tens @ 8 Festival anthology, recently had its professional New York premiere on 42nd Street. For more information, past columns, other writing, and other current events, visit his website at

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.