A is an 18-year-old woman. She is currently studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. She considers her nationality to be American, but more specifically she is one quarter Greek Cypriote, one quarter German and half Argentinian. that being said, she strongly identifies with her Greek roots. She is fluent in both English and Greek, and is currently learning Mandarin.
A: Um, I don’t know if this is a me parable or family parable but I really hated taking baths when I was little, so they used to sing a song about a little kid who wouldn’t take baths and would turn into a pig. Cause she was so dirty. But I think its real because it actually has a tune, like I don’t think my Grandmother actually made up a song, but the song is like “I’m a little piggy, cause I stink a lot,” basically in Greek. And it goes like “well you’ll turn into a piggy too unless you take a bath.”
A: So yeah, I was afraid I was gonna turn into a barnyard animal. It was fun.
Me: But you took the bath!
A: This is true.
Me: Did they sing this to your siblings? Do you have other siblings?
A: I don’t, I’m an only child. And this was with my grandparents too, and I’m the only grandchild as well.
Me: Aw. But you’ll probably do it with your kids too.
A: Oh yeah. It was so much fun. It’s got it’s own song! My grandfather told me a lot of stories about donkeys, I don’t remember exactly what they contain, but every story that had a moral always involved a donkey. Like a donkey on an adventure.
Me: Your grandparents liked farmyard animals is basically…
A: You know what, my grandparents grew up in the village with farmyard animals, so I’m sure this is how their parents told it to them.
Me: So the songs and the stories are like based on that?
A: Oh yeah. And it’s definitely based on the old village, which is like way the heck up in the mountains, like I’ve been there.
Me: Is there a name for it?
A: Yes, Ayiosgiannis. So my last name is the name of the village, just shortened. The name of the village is St. John’s in English. Um, Ayios is St. in English and that’s where Ayiotis, my last name is from.
A: So the last names were very frequently based on the area where you are from or like what you were called in the village. So I’m pretty sure my great-grandfather made up that name.
Me: So that’s generally where Greek last names come from?
A: I believe so. A lot of them, like a couple of them, are professions, but a lot of the ones are places.
Me: So places and professions but mostly places?
A: Actually let me rephrase. If you got out of the village then it’s a place cause you wanted to honor your village, but for people in the village, why would they all have the same last name as the village?
A: So it was in the village it was by profession or by nickname or sometimes you will genuinely find people name “Andreas Andreou” like “Phillip Phillipou,” like people with the same last name as their first name, and it’s very funny. Um they’ll do like men’s first names as well as last names cause that was your dad’s dad. So basically common ways to distingush between people with the same name in a village.
Me: So your last name, does it change?
A: It can. We didn’t have last names until the British came and were like “why the heck do you not have last names?” And that was in the 30s, um the 20s. Yeah, Cyprus was a British colony up until the 60’s.
A: Um that’s when they gained their independence.
Me: You didn’t have last names until the 20’s?
A: Yeah, why would we need it? We’re farmers, we’re farming.
Me: That’s true.
A: I remember my grandfather was born in like 1934 and he told me he saw a car in his village once when he was like nine years old and that was probably the only car on the island of Cyprus, driving through all the villages like “oh my god I bought a car!” So it was very…
A: Yeah. And it’s still very farm-heavy. Its still agricultural.
Me: Is Cyprus an island off of Greece?
A: It’s an island actually closer to Lebanon than it is to Greece. It’s north of Egypt and south of Turkey in the Mediterranean Ocean, but since that area used to all be ethnically Greek in the Greek, Egyptian, and Ottoman Empire and since Cyprus is an island it saw less change over time as more people moved in and out because it’s harder to conquer an island. So the people who are Greek there, like our dialect of Greek is more similar to ancient Greek.
A talks about a song that her grandparents used to sing to her when she was little to get her to take a bath. This is a fond memory that she has and she said that it works, the song was effective in making her believe that if she were not to take a bath, she would turn into a pig. A also explains that the song might have to do with her grandfather’s origins, which are especially important to her as the root of her last name is the name of the village. Her grandfather lived in a very agricultural, farm-heavy village, and this is likely where the song originated. The dirt being the result of farming all day, and turning into a pig being the result of not cleaning yourself, so turning into one of your farm animals. The name, the village, and the song are all connected in one way or another.