OUR Artists and Researchers

Anna Charalambidou and Petros Karatsareas

Εssay on Grenglish Words of Alimentary, Culinary and Gastronomical Interest

Funded by Middlesex University and the University of Westminster

Dr Anna Charalambidou is Senior Lecturer in English Language at Middlesex University. She holds a Ptychion in Greek Philology from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, and an M.A. in Modern Greek Studies (Sociolinguistics and Literature) and a Ph.D. in Language, Discourse and Communication from King’s College London. Her work and publications are positioned in the broader fields of language and identities research, and especially language and ageing, working with Cypriot Greek data. Her current research, in collaboration with Petros Karatsareas, documents ‘Grenglish’, the variety that UK’s Greek Cypriots borrowed from English and adapted into the Cypriot Greek phonological and grammatical system.

Petros Karatsareas is Senior Lecturer in English Language and Linguistics at the University of Westminster. He holds a Ptychion in Greek Philology from the University of Athens, and an M.Phil. in Linguistics and a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Cambridge. His research interests lie in the sociolinguistics of multilingualism, including multilingual education, specialising in contexts of migration and diaspora. Empirically, he focuses on speakers of Greek in London. He has published articles on the Cypriot Greek varieties that are spoken in the UK, including on the position the dialect occupies in Greek complementary schools in the country.

Anna Charalambidou and Petros Karatsareas showcase the deep connection between language and culinary practices, and how they can recreate new diasporic identities.

Grenglish is the unique linguistic variety used by Greek-speaking Cypriot migrants in the UK. It consists of words and phrases borrowed from English and integrated into the Cypriot Greek varieties that migrants brought with them from Cyprus. In many cases, Greek endings were added to English words, creating forms like πάσον • páson for ‘bus’ or νόττης • nottis for ‘naughty’. In others, English words acquired a Cypriot Greek pronunciation. We see this especially in popular placenames like Captain Tow’ and Fishbury Park for Camden Town and Finsbury Park.

Grenglish is emblematic of the linguistic history and resourcefulness of Greek-speaking Cypriots in the UK and includes words and phrases that reflect the places, professions, interests, and culinary trajectories of UK’s Greek Cypriots over the last century. The Grenglish Project aimed to document Grenglish directly from the community and leave a permanent record for generations to come. Greek-speaking UK Cypriots submitted Grenglish material on the dedicated website www.grenglish.org. Words and phrases were also collected from posts on social media where people regularly talk about Grenglish. All the sourced material will be published in the form of an illustrated Grenglish glossary.

Food featured prominently in the Grenglish material that we collected. Many words and phrases had to do with eating, cooking, shopping for food, working in restaurants and takeaways – reflecting the everyday lives and livelihoods of Cypriot migrants. Some of these words meant objects that they might have first encountered in the UK; for example, κέτλον • ketlon for ‘kettle’ or φρίζα • friza for ‘freezer’. Other words replaced original Greek Cypriot words such as σόσιντζια • sosinja for ‘saussage’ or τσιίκιν • chikin for ‘chicken’.

The culinary and alimentary autobiography below was written using original material that was collected as part of The Grenglish Project. Grenglish words are indicated using emojis such as the ones Grenglish speakers use on social media.





The Grenglish Project showed that the languages and culture of migrants, rather than ‘frozen in time’, continue to evolve after migration. It is certainly true that migrants often preserve speech features that may fall out of use in their country of origin – words, phrases, forms, particular pronunciations. At the same time, however, they create new ones, not least through the borrowing (or, rather, copying) of elements from other languages they come in contact with in their new environment. In this way, we see the birth of new, diasporic varieties. The project also brought to light the diverse attitudes diasporic communities can have towards the new varieties, which they might judge as ‘impure’ or indicative of a low level of education and a lack of command in English. One of the objectives of the Grenglish Project is to counter such views by highlighting the creativity of migrants’ linguistic formations and their importance for individual and community identities.

The project also showed that people treat Grenglish with nostalgia and affection as a reminder of their own and their families’ experiences. Grenglish takes older speakers back to the first years of migration, the communication challenges they faced, and the ways in which they overcame them. Younger speakers express feelings of fondness for Grenglish as they hear in it the voices of their parents and grandparents. The Grenglish variety is thus a very apt vehicle for remembering and transmitting the community’s rich gastronomic heritage.