Ancient Greek characters may become history in new cost-c
Author: Damian Mac Con Uladh
ΟΧΙ may have to become OCHI if the troika-forced transliteration rules are implemented (Reuters)Greeks may have to abandon their unique alphabet and embrace Latin characters under new plans that the troika promises will save the country millions every year.
Exasperated at still not being able to read simple street signs or hostile newspaper headlines since starting their austerity mission in Greece three years ago, troika inspectors decided to bring up the issue with senior government officials in recent weeks.
"If we can't get our heads around this crazy script after so many years in the country, what chance does a tourist spending a few days or weeks have of understanding it?" one troika mandarin commented.
He said ditching Greek characters will lead to immediate savings and would thus contribute to paying off the country's onerous debt.
"It would also send a strong signal to the markets that Greece was serious about getting back on track. Changing alphabet would be a strong confidence-building gesture that could help the state's privatisation programme by making it easier for investors to find their way around the country," he continued.
Companies would no longer have to produce special computer keyboards for the Greek market and municipalities would have to spend less on street signs, he pointed out.
"There would also be benefits for tourism. With the need to transliterate place names gone, traffic signs will become smaller, freeing up the view of the Acropolis and other Athens landmarks for motorists driving on central boulevards," the troika official said.
Lenders have already set up a subcommittee - the troika transliteration team - to prepare a timetable for the character change. The hope is that pro-memorandum politicians and pundits will lead by example by communicating in Latin characters before any official switch.
Conservative estimates put the cost of Greece and Cyprus having a unique alphabet in the region of about €800m a year, money that the troika says would be better used to pay off bondholders.
The official said that the Cypriot government - the island being more familiar with Latin characters owing to British rule from 1878 to 1960 - had already indicated its willingness to ditch the 24-character script.
He added that Ireland's move to exchange Gaelic for Roman type in the Irish language in the 1950s was a precedent that Greeks could follow.