Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Greek Myths and English Language Essay

Abstract: Do you know â€Å"Achilles’ Heel†? It’s an allusion from Greek myths. Instances like this are not difficult to find in English language. They are terse and vivid because of Greek myths and legends behind them. Therefore, they enjoy popular use. But these words and phrases are peculiar to the native culture and language, they appear exotic to foreign learners. So let’s share some words and idioms which are relevant to Greek myths in view of knowing the ins and outs of them and understanding how to apply them. In the meanwhile, they can help you understand English history and English culture more thoroughly and deep and taste the wisdom and humor of the English people. Key words: relationship, Greek myths, English language, English idioms  Once the Republican supporter made comments on Clinton’s scandal, â€Å"A misbehaving president is regarded as a government’s Achilles heel and is expected to resign.†Ã‚  What is Achilles’ heel? If you don’t know it, you will not understand the meaning of the supporter’s comments. The idiom means the weak or vulnerable point of a person, organization and country, etc. which comes from Greek myths. The story is about Achilles, one of the Greek heroes in the Iliad. When he was a child, he was taken by his mother Thetis and dipped in the river Styx to make him invulnerable. The water washed every part of his body expect the heel in his mother’s hand. It was precisely at his vulnerable point that Achilles was later killed in Trojan battle. Greek mythology is a set of legends about the gods, heroes, natural events and universal history of Hellenic civilization. The myths of Greece mostly come from Hellenic literature such as Homer’s Iliad, Hesiod’s Theogony and Sophocles’ drama. From the Renaissance to now, Greek Myths is one of their required courses when the English people receive classical education. These stories and myths are so enjoyable that they impress themselves upon the English. Therefore the myths of Greece become the abundant supply of English language. Let’s take Europe for instance. Sometimes it is also called Europa, which originally comes from Greek Mythology. In it, Europa is a princess who is abducted and carried off by a white bull to Crete, the cradle of Hellenic civilization. And the bull is actually Zeus, king of the Gods. In the same way, Paris is a person’s name also from Greek myths. Paris is the son of the King of Troy. These two are place names. And the main characters from Greek mythology also appear in everyday speech. For instance, a huge or heroic task is said to herculean. This is in tribute to the Greek mythological hero Hercules. And when you talk about a book of maps, atlas will occur to you. It is named after Atlas, a titan who supported the heavens on his shoulders. Here’s one you are probably familiar with it. It’s the word promethean which describes a daringly creative or defiantly original act, because of the Titan Prometheus, who defied the wrath of Zeus and stole fire in order to benefit humankind. And another word you may have used before without realizing your debt to Greek mythology. The word panic comes from Pan, the God of shepherds. Pan was always considered to be the cause of the sudden fear especially in lonely places. That’s why it’s called panic. Then more attention will be paid to the relationship between Greek myths and English idioms. Idioms consist of set phrases and short sentences, which are loaded with the native cultures and ideas. Therefore, there are a great deal of idioms are relevant to the myths of Greece. And these idioms are not easy to understand from its literal meanings, for example, Greek gift. Does it mean a gift made in Greece? Of course not, it symbolizes a dangerous gift. But as they are colourful, blunt, expressive and impressive, they form an important part of the English vocabulary and are now used in different situations. So I will share some of them with you in view of giving you the background of them. As defined by famous psychologist Sigmund Freud, Oedipus complex is the unconscious desire of a young child for sexual intercourse with the parent of the opposite sex, especially between boys and their mothers. The source of this complex is from the Greek legend of King Oedipus. Oedipus was the son of King Laius of Thebes, a city in Greece. There was a Apollo’s oracle predicted that he would killed his father and marry his mother. So when he was born his father Laius bound his feet together and had exposed him on a lonely mountaintop where it must soon starve. Then the poor infant was rescued by a shepherd and raised by Polybus, King of Corinth. And he was called Oedipus. Years later, Oedipus, too, like Laius, thought to make it impossible for the oracle to come true and resolved never to see Polybus. But on his journey he unwittingly killed King Laius with whom he quarreled. He arrived at Thebes shortly thereafter and saved the city from the ravages of the Sphinx. He was proclaimed king in Laius’ stead, and he took the dead king’s widow, Jocasta, as his own wife. After several years a terrible plague struck Thebes. The Apollo declared that the plague would be stayed upon one condition: whoever had murdered King Laius must be punished. In the course of his investigation, Oedipus discovered that he himself was the killer and that Laius had been his real father. Finally he couldn’t act against the decrees of fate. In his despair at this discovery, Oedipus blinded himself. Girls have a similar sexual desire for the father which is repressed in analogous fashion and is called Electra complex. It also comes from Greek mythology. Electra is the daughter of Agamemnon, the king who led the Greeks against Troy in the Trojan War. To obtain favorable winds for the Greek fleet sailing to Troy, Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia to the goddess Artemis and so came under a curse. After he returned home victorious, he was murdered by his wife, Clytemnestra, and her lover. To avenge his father’s death, Electra helped her brother kill their mother and her lover. The allusion also comes from the Greek legend of King Oedipus. The Sphinx is winged monster having the head and breasts of a woman and body of a lion. She lay in wait for the wayfarers along the roads to Thebes and whoever she seized she put a riddle to, telling him if he could answer it, she would let him go. No one could, and the horrible creature devoured man after man until the city was in a state of siege. And at that time, Oedipus heard what was happening in Thebes in his lonely wanderings. He was a homeless, friendless man to whom life meant little and he determined to seek the Sphinx out and try to solve the riddle. â€Å"What creature,† the Sphinx asked him, â€Å"goes on four feet in the morning, on two at noonday, on three in the evening?† â€Å"Man,† answered Oedipus. â€Å"In childhood he creeps on hands and feet; in manhood he walks erect; in old age he helps himself with a staff.† It was the right answer. The Sphinx, inexplicable, but most fortunately, killed herself. The Thebans were saved. It is so called Sphinx’s riddle which means difficult problems. And Sphinx is also used to describe an enigmatic person. The following are a few examples in actual uses.

No comments:

Post a Comment