So, why is there an -f- in my email?

Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that my university email account contains a typo – sort of. It it achillefs.kostoulas@uni-graz.at, which is odd, since my name is Achilleas – sort of. Here’s what happened.

For much of the previous century Greece was a diglossic linguistic community. We had a ‘high’ variety, called katharevusa, which was used in formal contexts (and is still used, to some extent, by the Church, the Army and other conservative enclaves), and a ‘low’ variety (demotic), which was generally used in informal situations, and would not appear in written form. One of the most visible differences between the two varieties was the morphological system (i.e., the endings of nouns and verbs), where the katharevusa resembled Ancient Greek forms.

The diglossic situation was formally abolished in the 1980s, when the low variety was given official status, and the government implemented a series of linguicidal policies aimed at expunging linguistic varieties that differed from their standard of choice. However, when I was born, the katharevusa variety was still the only acceptable form in the civil service, and as a result I was registered as Ἀχιλλεύς, a formal version of the name, which is translitterated as ‘Achilleus’, and pronounced in Modern Greek as /axilefs/. Among family and friends, I was called Αχιλλέας, or Achilleas.

This mismatch was never a problem in Greece, where the two variants of the name are generally understood to be interchangeable. It was not a problem in the UK, either, as the prevailing policy is to use the name by which one is commonly known. On the other hand, the powers-that-be in Austria seem to think, not entirely unreasonably, that it could be confusing if one went about with two different names, and they therefore only accept the one that is written in my passport.

To cut a long story short, the University of Graz would only issue me an email account based on my formal name, in all its archaic glory. So, if you want to send me an email please make sure there is an -f- in achillefs.kostoulas@uni-graz.at, or else your message will be lost in the university servers (it is my understanding that you will not even get a ‘recepient not found’ message). Or you could just use my personal account.

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