my Cyprus, my Κύπρος, my Kıbrıs

The power of ‘words’ (part 2)

Power of WordsIn my recently-penned post, The power of ‘words’ I spoke mainly about the role of the media on both sides of the island in propounding certain terms and turn of phrase: the perpetual use of inverted commas, use of the word ‘illegal’ and Greek (Cypriot) administration of the south.

These terms and turn of phrase are a reaction to a situation called the Cyprus problem. We know why the media does it – and let me stress that not all media does it, but unfortunately the vast majority do. For the media in the south it mainly comes down to not wanting to legitimise the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC). However, in the north, I believe it comes down to not recognising the Republic of Cyprus or the Greek (Cypriot) administration of the south, or at least claiming not to recognise it.

However being a journalist myself, I’m loath to place too much blame on the media, as there are other factors involved too, such as the language used by each community. In this case, I can only talk with certainty about Greek and the Greek Cypriot dialect rather than Turkish and the Turkish Cypriot dialect.

Words are powerful; they are heavy with meaning and emotion. In part 1 of this post [here], I received a comment from a reader, Marina P. saying: “Words have an emotional impact. The Cyprus issue also involves so much emotion. So we play games with words.” We play games with words because we can; perhaps for a long time it was the only thing we could do.

We all know this through the slogans that we grew up with on both sides such as Δεν ξεχνώ (I don’t forget), η Κύπρος είναι Ελλήνικη (Cyprus is Greek), όλοι οι πρόσφυγες στα σπίτια τους (all refugees to return to their homes), and many more.

The sad part is that even I do it; and the Greek language allows me to do so. Since taking on another language in some ways involves playing a part, I embrace that part. In English, I call it the north, however in Greek I call it κατεχομενα (the occupied areas). And calling the north κατεχομενα has become so common, that no one ever stops to think about the implications of the term. Yes the north is occupied, but not everyone feels that way. The occupation was a result of a number of events that preceded the 1974 Turkish invasion.

I have a story to relate on this and I deliberated for quite a few days as to whether I should actually relate it or not. I can’t decide whether it’s significant enough to mention or not, but I’ll let you decide that now.

During the time when I was going back and forth to Potamia for a museum project (unfortunately it didn’t happen in the end), as part of this project we had also organised a ‘panayır/πανηγύρι’ (fair). During one of my conversations with someone on the committee for the project, they referred to a Turkish Cypriot that they were working with as a ‘Τουρκαλλα’. This word in Greek very specifically means a Turkish woman (from Turkey). Admittedly, the person on the committee strangely enough wasn’t from Potamia, but simply worked in the village. Nevertheless, it seemed that she had slipped up, as she was young enough to know better, and to know that that kind of terminology was outdated.

Having grown up in the mixed village of Potamia where Cypriot traditions, such as weddings and fairs (panayır/πανηγύρι) are simply Cypriot traditions, not belonging to a particular community, I will always find it difficult to understand people who either consciously or sub-consciously view the minorities of Cyprus as ‘the other’. Because I’ve found over the years that as accepting as someone might appear to be, with a slip of the tongue, they might give themselves away.


2 thoughts on “The power of ‘words’ (part 2)

  1. Photis

    This reminds me of my mother who uses the phrase “dikoi mas” to differentiate between turks and turkish cypriots.

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