1. Γιατί; Επειδή το λέω εγώ!
Literal translation: There is no ‘why’. It’s because I said so! Actual meaning: Well, don’t expect a deep underlying philosophy, but it really depends. Commonly, preceding this answer is a “request”. From mum’s side it could be something like ‘do your homework’, in which case you are given two options: do it with a smile or do it whining. Bottom line is, you’ll do it, and yes you guessed right… because she said so. Alternatively, it could come after a blunt ‘no’ to one of the usual things kids ask, and expects in vain for the wish to be granted. Typical example? ‘Mum can I go out with my friend X tonight until 2.00 am?’ You usually hear this as a teenager, when a mother has understandably lost some of her patience and fills in the gap with the – not so subtle – art of forcing.
Main takeaway: While this phrase comes nowhere close to the democratic decision-making ideal, at the very least it initiates the child to the attitude they might come across in their future workplace.
2. Πάρε ζακέτα μαζί σου θα κρυώσεις!
Guaranteed to spark the start of a long, exhausting conversation with no clear conclusion, if you choose to disobey.
Literal translation: Take a coat with you or you’ll catch a cold. Actual meaning: Nothing different to note here compared to the literal meaning, as mums tend to say this out of genuine concern their child will catch a cold. All good so far, sounds pretty reasonable, at which point it seems unworthy of inclusion in this Top 10. But hold your horses. What about all those times we were told πάρε ζακέτα an evening after a 30°C day? Surely it has happened to you too, no point in denying it…
Main takeaway: You can easily get away with this one (though temporarily), by saying ‘yes mum’, taking your zaketa and… hanging it on the doorknob!
3. Αν πνιγείς θα σε σκοτώσω!
A personal favourite of the person compiling this list, and the epitome of paradoxical absurdity. It brings to mind memories of carefree summer afternoons at the beach, playing with friends, enjoying the beautiful sun until suddenly the idyllic experience is interrupted by a screaming mother.
Literal translation: I’ll kill you if you drown. Actual meaning: Please be careful.
Main takeaway: Yes it is a generalisation, but Greeks do tend to exaggerate with their words, especially when expressing feelings. And maternal love really hits the mark on this one.
4. Ίδιος ο πατέρας σου είσαι.
Literal translation: You’re just like your father. Actual meaning: All of your bad traits, you inherited from your father. The unstated part of this equation is that you took after your mother in all things commendable, from good marks at school and being a sports talent, to your unique beauty both in appearance and character.
Main takeaway: Remember, this phrase is mirrored by its match Ίδια η μητέρα σου είσαι used by the father of the family. The scapegoat being blamed changes, everything else remains the same, as per above.
5. Φάε κάτι! Πετσί και κόκκαλο έμεινες.
Literal translation: Eat something! All that is left of you is skin and bones. Actual meaning: This one might sound a bit far-fetched for some, but here it goes anyway. It comes down to what is known in Greece as the ‘Occupation syndrome’. One of the devastating effects of Greece’s German occupation during WWII was lack of basic goods and starvation. Put simply, the average Greek yiayia has lived through years of hunger and to make up for the deprivation she went to the other extreme, ensuring that future generations would take cooking and eating seriously. Hence, your mum insisting you grab a bite, even when not even an hour has passed since your last meal!
Main takeaway: You might as well enjoy it while it lasts. After all, homemade Greek food is not an offer easy to pass up.
6. Γιατί πρέπει να τα κάνω όλα εγώ σε αυτό το σπίτι;
Literal translation: Why is it me that has to do everything in this house? Actual meaning: Either she could really use a hand with household chores, or she is telling you off for not having done your part, such as cleaning up YOUR room.
Main takeaway: Whatever the case, we ought to spare her this one, mum was probably right. And if you had not done so in the past… it is never too late to acknowledge it!
7. Καλά, περίμενε να φτάσουμε σπίτι και θα δεις εσύ!
Literal translation: Wait till we get home and you’ll see what happens! Actual meaning: You are in big trouble. It could be for any reason. She might be wrong. Or not. These ‘details’ are of little significance in that moment.
Main takeaway: You know how they say sometimes it’s better not to talk? Well, this is one of those times. It’s all about waiting for the storm to pass.
8. Πήρες την ξαδέρφη σου; Έχει γενέθλια σήμερα.
Literal translation: Have you called your cousin? It’s her birthday today. Actual meaning: As per literal translation. She is of course implying that you must call your cousin and wish her happy birthday. Most likely, for this prompting to occur, you are hardly in touch with that (third or second at best) cousin. But you are related by blood and this is all that matters.
Main takeaway: Keeping social conventions is a given in a typical Greek family, perhaps in yours too. Love it or hate, you learn to live with it. And who knows, you might even end up hanging out with that cousin of yours down the track.
9. Στην ηλικία σου είχα ήδη δύο παιδιά.
Literal translation: When I was your age I already had two kids. Actual meaning: At a first glance, same as the literal translation. According to the more elaborate interpretation, your mother wants to highlight the disparity between your state of mind and hers at that age. In plain English, she is calling you immature.
Main takeaway: Sometimes there is no deeper meaning. Maybe she just means the clock is ticking for… her, i.e. she wants grandkids.
10. Σαν εμένα δεν σε νοιάζεται κανείς. (Nobody cares for you like I do.)
This is plainly true, requires no further elaboration, and – needless to say – knows no nationality. After all… mana einai mono mia!