Stipulate with me–will you?–that this Greek graffiti* (χυδαία φράση) tickles under the linguistic chin more than any other you’ve seen today:
Theta-M-G, but theta looks like an O! There’s too much happening to even parse–just breathe it in. Greek! English! Textspeak! Rejoice or despair, according to your tolerance for language contact and change.
We saw this on a bookshop wall in Athens (under the also-graffitied English phrase “folk tears”, which…I need to know if that’s a noun phrase by itself or a noun and a verb, and I need to know bad), and we delighted just in its raw existence, but then, in poking around in the 1934 just a tiny, my favorite thing has happened: it turns out that something linguistically gorgeous has been hiding in plain sight, and I’ve only just found it out for myself, and I CAN’T BELIEVE I never saw it and I’m so happy!
So, it’s this:
You see, I first mistook theta for omicron so was looking that up. And, already great: I mean, yeah, wow, o-mikron, little o! So cute. Aw, and look: it’s used to name the fifteenth brightest star in constellations! Love it. I didn’t even know there were Greek numerals. 70: great!
And at this point, I still haven’t even realized the thing. I’m just having fun in the 1934 Websters Int’l! And I think: “wait… ‘omega’ ? Oh, let’s look up ‘omega’ and see about that.”
And I’d say the instant of locating the word on the page and the flash of realizing with deep joy what I knew I’d see occupied the very same second.
Micron! Mega! Little! Big! What have we all been doing that we’ve never talked about this with each other?!
Finally, amazingly, Shel Silverstein. The Missing Piece Meets the Big O. Click through it all, this here, rejoice and despair, to grow up, to grow down.
A mikron taste:
*Ok, I’d like to address any distress you are feeling over my use of “graffiti,” clearly a plural Italian word, to fulfill the duties of the singular. So: speaking of language contact and change, and rejoicing…the thing is, amici, we borrowed this word, and worked it into English, and we aren’t actually Italian. Or, I’m not. So, unless there’s a compelling case, I don’t denote singular and plural with a word-final -o /-a or an -i, respectively. Unless I am in Italy, or being metacheeky by writing amici. When I am in Italy…well, don’t try to stop me, is my advice.