The metro station Syntagma, which means Constitution in Greek is in the heart of Athens. It is a demonstration led by a Greek general at the Palais Royal (now the Greek Parliament) in 1843, demanding a constitution for the country that gave its name to this stop. In French, however, “syntagme” is a grammatical term that means group of words. One needs the help of etymology to understand the link between the two meanings. In Greek, “syntagma” means thing arranged, composition, doctrine, organization, putting together : the link between the two words becomes transparent. And for the linguist that I am, to pass every day by the Syntagma stop is a small moment of grammatical happiness.
The Acropolis had been on my list of places to see for a very long time. The danger of being disappointed was therefore much greater. There are, however, places that are larger than life and the Acropolis is one of those. The site, which dominates the city, has everything to impress, despite the inevitable erosion showing in its majestic constructions. The moment was all the more moving because the democratic values originating from this place seem to have been floundering lately.
For the grammarian that I am, the emotion also came from the fact that ancient Greece is also the birthplace of Western grammar. The era when philosophers explored the faculty of language, reflected on the parts of speech, and saw the noun as representing substance, instead of being a SN, and before becoming a mortally boring matter for generations of school children who have never reconciled with his “rules”.
It was worth waiting Greece !