I double-dog dare you to pronounce that name

New movie marketers decided to use the Greek alphabet in their poster, and caused my brain to stutter.

There is no “C” in the Greek alphabet; they should have substituted a Κ, kappa. No “L”, but there is a lambda, Λ. We get a sigma instead of an “e”, which is pronounced like an “s”. Then an omicron, so that part is OK. P is rho, it is pronounced like an “r”. Greek has a perfectly good, familiar letter A, alpha, but they put a delta, Δ, in there. That’s a “d”. Then a tau, Τ, which is a fine “T”, and an “R” character which doesn’t exist and should be a Ρ. Then it ends with another “d”.

I think that whole gemisch is pronounced “??sordt?d,” somehow, and I now have no confidence in the historicity of whatever this movie is.

I wonder if they plan to distribute this movie in Greece with that poster?


  1. birgerjohansson says

    …or at least use the besutiful ancient Egyptian scripts, like hieratic script.

  2. cgm3 says

    Some self-styled genius in Marketing convinced the higher-ups that going with “pattern recognition” would be a novel approach.

  3. cartomancer says

    I’ve never seen a tau, either capital or lower case, drawn like that. The descender doesn’t cross over the cap bar, like a lower case Latin “t” can. Any Greek reading that would probably think it’s a slightly off-centre chi.

  4. benedic says

    7 Rene
    General Ptolemy would be very upset to think that twenty centuries have passed and his family are not recognized as Greek.

  5. René says

    So, if we take a vocalic L, and a vocalic R (the one with the beard), we get SLSORDKHRD, and knowing that wordspace was invented very late, we can pronounce it as SLS ORD KHRD.

  6. mordred says

    @1 Coworker of mine had a Chinese character tattoo. He claimed it meant “I was a teenager – and stupid!”

  7. weylguy says

    Too bad that Mormon founder Joseph Smith isn’t still with us. He’d have quickly deciphered the title (looks like reformed Egyptian) and translated it into a new book, perhaps a companion to his nonsensical Book of Abraham. Seriosuly, just another example of the dumbing-down of America.

  8. Artor says

    Of course, they need a poster that is readable in English, but the mangling of Greek seems a sketchy way to do that. I would presume the release in Greece would be written in Greek, as the locals could actually read that without trouble. But wasn’t there another movie about Cleopatra made recently? What happened to that one?

  9. nomaduk says

    Really shite graphic design. They could have used real Greek, Κλεοπάτρα, in a backdrop, with the English/Latinised spelling in the foreground, and that would have been pretty cool, as well as ever so slightly educational. But, no, these people are morons. Which tells you everything you need to know about the film beforehand.

    As for me, there’s only one Cleopatra film, and that’s the one that almost destroyed 20th Century Fox. Liz Taylor, Richard Burton, Rex Harrison, Roddy McDowall, scenery chewing on an epic scale, the Battle of Actium, and a cast of thousands — can’t get enough!

  10. nomaduk says

    And, yes, Gal Gadot is easy on the eyes, but as an actor she’s — well, adequate is a polite way of putting it.

  11. says

    Κλεοπάτρα would have been perfectly readable to me, but probably not to the general American public.

    I think I’m most offended by the substitution of sigma for “e” and delta for “a”, when Greek has perfectly useable letters that would also be entirely readable by the American public.

  12. cartomancer says

    Also, are we going to have the same hoo-ha with this one about the actress’s ethnicity? There is some debate about whether Cleopatra had some black African ancestry, none at all about any from what is now Israel. No? Suddenly all the sticklers for “historical accuracy” are deathly quiet now it’s a white person in the role…

  13. says

    Cleopatra WAS Greek, descended from one of Alexander the Great’s generals (too lazy to look it up right now). And this is what the name looked like using the ancient Greek alphabet: Κλεοπάτρα.

    That would have been just as cool as their bastardization.

  14. cartomancer says

    And, while we’re on the subject, the vast majority of what we know about Cleopatra VII comes from Roman propaganda. If the story is following the well-worn cultural tropes about the woman (and it’s a Hollywood production, so I doubt it’ll be a revolutionary new take, based on scrupulous historical research into papyrus fragments, inscriptional evidence and archaeology) then we should really be using the Latin alphabet. “Our” Cleopatra is basically a Roman cartoon character at this stage.

  15. cartomancer says

    I should probably also point out that the Ptolemaic dynasty was derived from Macedonian, not strictly Greek, stock. It was founded by Ptolemy I, Soter, who was one of Alexander’s generals and childhood companions.

    Though it was a heated issue, then as now, as to how Greek Alexander’s Macedonia actually was. Old-fashioned Athenians like Demosthenes painted it as a barbarous backwater with only a thin veneer of Greek culture, and there appears to have been some contention in Alexander’s ranks between Greeks and Macedonians (they were certainly separate, distinguishable groups). On the other hand the Macedonian nobility all spoke Greek (albeit with a funny accent, according to Demosthenes), worshipped Greek gods, and enjoyed Greek theatre and intellectual pursuits (Euripides was invited to work in the court of Alexander’s grandfather Amyntas, and Alexander and Ptolemy were both taught by none other than Aristotle). I suppose it is a similar situation to asking how English the Americans are.

  16. seversky says

    Actually, the best Cleopatra film is the classic British Carry On, Cleo. “Infamy, infamy! They’ve all got it in for me!”

  17. jacksprocket says

    Sorted? or rather sor’ed where ‘ is a glo”al stop. In Eastern Metropolitan Britspeak, it’s an all- purpose word meaning “fixed”, “OK”, even perhaps “amen”. Well*, Kelly O’Patra ended up sor’in erself aht, inni’?

    *L here pronounced as dark-L, as in zloty.

  18. Rob Grigjanis says

    cartomancer @22: The Argead dynasty (Alexander’s house) traced its origins to Argos; if that’s true, they would have been Dorian Greeks ruling Macedonians. Athenians also made fun of Spartan (also Dorian) speech.

  19. René says

    I doubt Κλεοπάτρα would have been able to read it as Κλεοπάτρα, since lowercase was invented by scribes in the Middle Ages.

    BTW, I made a mistake in my #10, but I’ll leave it to the commentariat as an exercise to figure it out. :-)

  20. René says

    Esprit de l’escalier (=aw fuck): I doubt Κλεοπάτρα would have been able to read Κλεοπάτρα as Κλεοπάτρα, since…

  21. cgm3 says

    nomaduk @16: I actually prefer the 1934 Cleopatra starring Claudiette Colbert (nostalgic associations). And for chuckles, catch the 1945 Ceasar and Cleopatra with Claude Rains and Vivian Leigh.

  22. fernando says

    What is the importance of the race of an actress (or actor) to the role she (he) play?
    If necessary, she (he) can use some mask or put more make-up.

  23. lumipuna says

    birgerjohansson at 2:

    I think it might have looked better in Futhark.

    You mean Futhark-styled Latin alphabet with heavy metal umlauts.

  24. says

    If they had spelled it using English letters but in a cartouche, then had a drop shadow of the Greek spelling, then in front a reflection in water of the hieroglyphic version, it might actually have looked cool. Or maybe just really messy.

  25. says

    I wonder if they plan to distribute this movie in Greece with that poster?

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if at least one marketing geniass seriously suggested it…

  26. John Harshman says

    #24 Did you know that you can actually produce all sorts of special letters easily on a Mac? just hold down the appropriate letter for a while, in this case L, and you get a little menu of similar letters. Złoty. Jagiełło. Łodz. Works great. Don’t know how that would work on a non-Mac, but I assume there’s a workaround somewhere.

  27. hillaryrettig1 says

    oy. Those “memes for classical teens” kids on twitter are going to go berzerk.

  28. flange says

    The target audience will be able to easily figure out the name, and realize it’s supposed to be foreign and exotic. They will also not expect to be quizzed on any historical facts. And if they’re lucky, they might expect to see some bare breasts or loins.
    The movie poster is perfect as is.

  29. says

    Oh, good. I’ve been waiting for Gadot to do a movie like this.
    I’ll just assume everyone can see what I did there and show myself out.

  30. chigau (違う) says

    How long have you been waiting for the opportunity to do that?

  31. silvrhalide says

    @39 “Waiting for Gadot”?
    (bounces rock off of feral boy’s slopebrowed skull)

    BTW, there were multiple Cleopatras throughout history, not just one. The famous one reportedly wasn’t that physically attractive but had a head for politics, until that last miscalculation. She was red haired and came from a family of hemophiliacs. Lucky for her that it’s sex linked mutation…

  32. silvrhalide says

    @26 The Cyrillic alphabet was brought to the unlettered and barbarian Rus by two Greek monks who traveled up through the Baltics, through Crimea to what would later become Russia. Unfortunately, according to my Thessaloniki college suitemate, they weren’t the sharpest tools in the shed… or star pupils when they were receiving their own education.

  33. tacitus says

    @feralboy12 – Oh, good. I’ve been waiting for Gadot to do a movie like this.

    Works better in the US than in the UK where the play’s title’s pronunciation is significantly different…

  34. jrkrideau says

    @ 35 John Harshman

    Hitting thu Alt (right) key brings up a few handy alternative letters in Ubuntu but generally it is easier to change keyboards. Takes about 2 seconds.

  35. bcw bcw says

    Was just in a Greek restaurant named tzatziki except they replaced the A with a delta. They also had a short blurb about their menu which did the same kind of damage with misplaced Greek letters.

  36. Erp says

    @20 Ahcuah
    “Cleopatra WAS Greek, descended from one of Alexander the Great’s generals”
    Actually a couple since the Ptolemies when they weren’t intermarrying with themselves intermarried with the Seleucid rulers descended from Seleucus I Nicator another of Alexander’s generals. Cleopatra was originally a Seleucid family name.

  37. Pierce R. Butler says

    Erp @ # 47: Cleopatra was originally a Seleucid family name.

    Dunno about that – Alexander had a sister named Cleopatra, for one thing. The name literally means “pride of her father”.

  38. Sonja says

    In third grade, I went through every 1964 World Book Encyclopedia in our set where it showed a hieroglyphic for each letter of the alphabet on the first page of that letter. Then I made a simple letter substitution code sheet and shared with my best friends. We would pass notes around written in “ancient Egyptian” and no on else could read them. I still remember some of it.

  39. Walter Solomon says

    Cleopatra was originally a Seleucid family name.

    Interesting if true. The Seleucids fought the Hasmoneans, an ancient Jewish people. Gal is portraying an ancient enemy to her people. Also interesting, the Hasmoneans and Nabateans (an Arab people) joined forces against the Seleucids. Probably the last time Jews and Arabs saw eye-to-eye.

    Suddenly all the sticklers for “historical accuracy” are deathly quiet now it’s a white person in the role…

    Whenever someone tries to argue that being white-passing is not as important as ethnicity, we’ll remember how that’s bullshit.

  40. wzrd1 says

    There’s an old Bedouin proverb: “Me against my brother; me and my brother against our cousin; me, my brother and my cousin against the stranger.”

  41. magistramarla says

    Since my husband and I have both studied ancient Greek, we’ve both often said the we can’t use that old trope – “It’s Greek to me”.

  42. KG says

    The history is rather more complicated than that. Cyril (and possibly Methodius) did visit Crimea, but this was on a mission to the Khazars, a Turkic people who ruled it at that time. And this was some while before the Cyrillic alphabet was devised – that didn’t happen until after the brothers C&M were dead, although it was based on Glagolithic (as well as Greek), a script they devised to translate the Bible and other texts into the language now known as Old Church Slavonic, which was spoken in the kingdom of Great Moravia, the earliest Slav state. Religio-political squabbles led to disciples of C&M being exiled to the Bulgarian Empire, and it was there Cyrillic script was invented, and from there it spread to Kyivan Rus, and centuries later, to Moscow (which didn’t exist until centuries later).

    Well Κλεοπάτρα must be Russian, so we can’t have that. – drew

    Ukrainian is also written in Cyrillic script, fuckwit.

  43. wzrd1 says

    So, they infected the Khazars, who infected the Viking traders in Kyivan Rus, who infected Russia and well, the entire region. ;)
    Positively Byzantine!

    I’ll just get my hat…