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Vessel featuring two boys interacting and an oval-shaped pattern along the bottom. - click to view larger image
Chous (jug)

LUCAS: Okay, everyone, here we have a teeny tiny vase with a special name. Look at the label for it. This is a ... choose. A choss. A chows? A chowus. Oh, man, I knew how to pronounce this like 5 seconds ago. Wait a second.

Hey, Sophia! How do you pronounce this vasey cup thing? Is it a ‘choose’?

SOPHIA: Bless you! It’s pronounced ‘koos’!

LUCAS: Thanks!

Koos. Koos, koos, koos. Okay, I’ll remember now.

It’s tricky, though, isn’t it? How do we normally pronounce ‘ch’ in English now? That’s right, ch. As in children chasing chickens chewing cheese.

But there are a few words in English where the ‘ch’ is pronounced ‘ck’, and usually that means we got the word from Ancient Greece. Can you think of any?

What about 'character'? The Ancient Greeks used that the same way we do, to describe a person.

Or 'chemical'? That’s from the Ancient Greek word to describe fluid or juice.

Or 'chaos'! When things are crazy and out of control. That’s from the Greek word kaos, which means a vast, empty space. Maybe if things are chaotic you feel like you’re about to fall into a vast, empty space.

So even though Ancient Greek hasn’t been spoken much for over 1,500 years, some of the words are still used all the time. Some things never change!

Like kids, actually. Look at the boy on this chous. I bet some of what he’s doing is pretty familiar. What can you see?

The boy has a pet dog and a crow is hopping along behind him. We know the Ancient Greeks loved their pet dogs just as much as we do, but they didn’t have as many types of dogs. Their pet dogs would have probably looked like today’s Maltese terriers – you know, those cute, white, fluffy yappers.

The boy is also holding a musical instrument. Do you know the name of this instrument?

It’s a lyre, which is a stringed instrument, a bit like a harp. The harps we know are usually made from wood. But a lyre like this one was often made from the shell of a tortoise.

Maybe this boy is on his way to his lesson. Do you think he loves playing? Or does he think it’s soooo boring and his parents have to make him practice? Being able to play the lyre was a sign that you were well-educated and from a wealthy family. So maybe the boy was proud of his lyre. Or maybe his parents just wanted to show off. What do you think?

Disclaimer and Copyright notice
This is an edited transcript typed from an audio recording.
The National Museum of Australia cannot guarantee its complete accuracy.

© National Museum of Australia 2007–21. This transcript is copyright and is intended for your general use and information. You may download, display, print and reproduce it in unaltered form only for your personal, non-commercial use or for use within your organisation. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) all other rights are reserved.

Date published: 17 December 2021

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