Saturday, 3 May 2008

Lesvians against lesbians

This week 3 inhabitants of Lesvos started a process to protect the name Lesbian. Lesbian is the name for people who come from Lesvos, but it's also the name for a specific group of women. The publisher Dimitri Lambrou has had enough of the misuse of the name and wants to get a ban on the name lesbian being used by the 'Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece'.

You'd think that all this fuss is just to get some publicity. Because how in heaven can you fight against a name that for decades has found its place in the world? Dimitri Lambrou declares that when he gets his right in Greece, he will fight the case internationally. Which will be great fun, because then he will get the whole of the lesbian world (and here I mean women who love women) against him. They're getting ready for it, reading about his case in Greece. Just google Dimitri Lambrou and you'll see what those women want to do to him! Mr. Lambrou is in serious need of some bodyguards if he doesn't want to get hurt.

You would say that Mr. Lambrou doesn't have a case. First of all the inhabitants of the island of Lesvos are more often called Lesviots or Lesvonians (see: And secondly, thanks to the new alphabet and translation rules an inhabitant of the island is not called a Lesbian, but a Lesvian. Just like the island is no longer called Lesbos, but Lesvos. Because the second letter of the new Greek alphabet β is not beta anymore but vita! That is what I learned at my Greek classes.

And that is not such a great burden, but a very nice change whenever you surf on the internet. When you type Lesbos, you get thousands of sites that have nothing to do with the island, because they are meant for these special women. However when you type Lesvos, you get all the information you want on all kinds of sites about the island of Lesvos.

Greeks really have problems with names. Just look at the political dispute about the name FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). The fight between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia about which name this quite young country (it was founded in 1993) may use has taken years now.

Mr. Lambrou could also have researched why the island of Lesvos has two names. There are many Greeks who call the island Mytilini, the same name as its capital. You see this name on maps and even in the old times references to this island used the name Mytilini (Mytilene). It would be the most simple solution for the island to be officially named Mytilini. Then you would not have to go to court and the inhabitants would just be called Mytilenians.

And by the way, not only the island has two names. The little town of Molyvos also has two. Greeks mostly talk about Mithymna and this name is written on many road signs. Many a tourist will get lost because they could not find the name Molyvos...

But the lesbians also do not have right on their side. They named each other after the island because Sappho once lived here. According to them, Sappho was the first lesbian. However, when you carefully read everything that is written about this great poetess, you will never find any proof of Sappho being a lesbian. Most stories about Sappho point in the opposite direction: it is said she had a daughter and Sappho jumped from a rock because of her love for a man. So why, women love? Is that only because of her poems that glorify not only men but also women like the goddess of Aphrodite?

Mr. Lambrou has a point saying that the name lesbian hurts the inhabitants of Lesvos because a reason not to visit the island is that many tourists still think that Lesvos is an island exclusively for lesbians. Most of the tourists here on the island are from both sexes. And of course we may have a slightly higher amount of female visitors, but most of 'those' ladies go to the west to Eresos, where it's claimed that Sappho was born. The island is so big, that no one can be offended by that.

So, Mr. Lambrou, you'd better look into the translation rules for the use of the letter β (vita) and you should find out what name officially belongs to this island.

But, ladies lesbians, you also should think over your name: nobody ever proved that Sappho was a member of your club (and why aren't you called sapponians?). And then, the horrible things you say on the internet don't suit you. Not against this poor Mr. Lambrou who at least started a very interesting debate, nor against this beautiful island that gave you your name.

Readers: beware of the name Lesbos!

Copyright © Smitaki 2008

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