My favorite Greek word? Eleftheria

The Greek word for freedom—eleftheria (ελευθερία)—is perhaps my favorite of  them all, though more for aesthetic reasons than patriotic ones. It sounds so pretty spoken, so lyrical, that it’s no surprise to find it a name commonly bestowed upon girls. I have met quite a few Eleftherias in my travels.

It’s nice, too, when one’s research subject trips off the tongue. I like the very sound (in Greek, anyway) of what I’ve been researching in Greece: representations of what it means to be free. Though I know — what else would an American fixate on but the concept of freedom, you ask. How predictable, even hackneyed a topic for one who comes from the land that trivializes freedom daily with its gas stations euphemistically named “liberty” or its twisted-knickers insistence on “freedom fries”; and yet keeps real freedom elusive, a country with a national anthem, as the character Belize says in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, written by a “white cracker” who “set the word ‘free’ to a note so high nobody can reach it.”

Just slot me into that long line of English and American travelers who since the late eighteenth century have found no better place to study freedom than Greece, that original land of liberty, and declared it the quintessential place to unshackle themselves and experience the fullness of freedom. Look at that Greek landscape. Surely, the travelers agreed, it is a land meant to be free, with its untamed mountains, piercingly blue sky, and expansive heat liberating the body and spirit from the hunching and huddling of life in the north.

I miss it! (Especially when the rain’s rolling down my windowpanes in Dublin.)

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