Or perhaps not.
At some point in your life you may have found yourself saying Alpha, Beta, Gamma and then if you’re anything like me you tum-te-tum up to the Omega bit and then pat yourself on the back for knowing the Greek alphabet. Well forget it all. It’s not Beta – it’s Vita or not quite Vita – more a sound of thvbita but run the thvb part into one so that it’s actually one character. Now I know that the Greeks are going to say that it’s perfectly possible to do this because they have a character that says it is. The trouble is that that character is B so as far as I’m concerned it’s Beta and you need to be born within spitting distance of the Peloponnese to have an accurate stab at saying it without sounding like a B.
But all this pales into insignificance when you get to Gamma – Γ – for one thing how can you trust a consonant that looks like a vowel in disguise? When I invited the Greek lady who lives a few streets away from me to teach me the Greek alphabet and a few handy phrases to get me through a supermarket sweep, I had no idea that after five hours we’d still be facing each other with me trying to say Gamma. Imagine a hoarse Jack Russell terrier trying to defend its patch from the neighbourhood cat – ggghhrr but sneak a hint of an l and a y into the mix – ggglhhrllaama – and you’re just about there. It almost makes Swiss German sound easy and already I’m feeling a fondness for the umlaut that I would never have believed possible when I first started learning German.
And here I am, D-Day minus 8 – that’s okto or οκτο – and I’ve probably got better things to be doing than talking about my umlauts.