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What does the expression ‘Γιάννης κερνάει, Γιάννης πίνει’ mean?



‘Γιάννης κερνάει, Γιάννης πίνει’ (pronounced jánis kjernái jánis píni) is an expression widely used in Greece. It literally translates to ‘John treats (drinks/alcohol) and John drinks’ and means someone who firstly makes sure he has taken care of himself before anyone or anything. Because usually when you treat someone, you make sure your invited is treated first before you, but not in the case of John!

It is said that Γιάννης (John) was a lad of Theodoros Kolokotronis, one of the most prominent Greek Revolution heroes (around 1821). His name was Γιάννης Θυμιούλας (Yannis Thymioulas). He came from the town Tripoli and had amazing physical dimensions. It is said he was extremely tall, strong and he could lift a whole horse with one hand! Thymioulas could eat a whole lamb and still be hungry. He also liked drinking. Still, he was extremely agile, he did not count the danger, and when he was coming out on the battlefield, the enemy would see him and flee. Many captains asked Kolokotronis to lend him to them when they wanted to do some bold business. Once, Thymioulas was besieged with five more comrades in a cave of a mountain for three days. At one point, the little food they had with them ended, and Yannis began to suffer from hunger. In order not to starve, he decided to make a dash. He grabbed his scimitar, walked out of the cave and at incredible speed began to run among the besiegers and hit those he could reach. The enemies were scared and ran for their life. Then Thymioulas descended from the mountain to a Greek village, killed three lambs and cooked them on a spit. Together with the food he ordered a twenty litters barrel of wine and started devouring everything. Yannis invited whoever was passing by and offered him wine and food. At some point Kolokotronis arrived there and asked to know what was happening. The Preacher of the village replied: "John treats and John drinks".

Today this expression is used when people do business only with people in their inner circle without giving opportunities to people who are not linked to them, (not so fair as we think), so this expression is a good example of caustic humour especially when refering to politics.




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