The French and the Greeks have more in common than you think

From "allez" to "έλα"

If you've been lucky enough to visit both France and Greece, you likely noticed more than a passing similarity between the two. This hardly comes as a surprise, as the two nations have been famously embroiled in each other's diplomatic relations from B.C. all the way to the modern age. It's gotten to the point that the "Greece-France: Alliance" is a widely-used slogan to note deep relations between two parties. Comparably laid back attitudes and smoker-centric leisure culture of both countries aside, there's also something to be said for linguistic similarities.

The well known French phrase for "let's go" sounds similar to the Greek one, with allez sounding like a reversal of the Greek έλα (ela). Both are uttered in instances of rushing and excitement, of adventure springing forth into action. The French spelling of certain phrases also recalls Greek, as well as their same sometimes guttural inflections of phrase. The same energy that makes both languages so compelling to listen to is palpable in the way natives of both countries speak and interact with non-native speakers. It's an exciting coincidence that supersedes language and culture, and it's not one that has gone unnoticed.

In his essay "Some French and Greek Parallels," scholar Walter R. Agard of Amherst College noticed similarities between the two cultures as early as 1921, the time of the essay's publication. He notes the pride with which the French viewed their armies, their power, their finesse. He makes comparisons to classical Greece and makes points speaking to the French people he met in the Pyrenees, in Burgundy, in Paris. His main claim is that one should not approach Greece with the lens of a Western scholar, proposing France––infused with "Mediterranean character given fiber by northern blood"––was a happy middle.

Looking at both countries as they are now, and studying their ever-powerful relations with one another, we can safely assume he was right.


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