In Diana Wynne Jones's book "The Ogre Downstairs", there's a scene where some menacing bikers grow out of the ground like plants. Their speech is colloquial English, but written in Greek script. Some people have asked for a transcription, so here it is. I've avoided trying to represent their accent in the English text, so I've put "them" for "'em" and so on. The typesetters for some editions of the book seem not to have understood the joke; in my copy (HarperCollins, 2010) capital lambda is written as a section mark, and capital beta as a comma. I've seen editions with even stranger substitutions.
They stared at the buried man in some perplexity, wondering how he got there and whether to help him out. While they stared, the face shook its chin free of sand and stones and spoke.
“ν θε λιδαγειν ᾿ανσε υοτιωγετ!!” it said. ["...n the lid again and see what you get!" - I think some text from the MS might have been lost here?]
“What language is that?” said Johnny.
“It might be Greek,” Douglas guessed, equally mystified.
A clattering of gravel made them look up. The other mushrooms, up and down the lane between the cars, had also grown into men in crash helmets. The next nearest was now only buried from the waist downward. He had his hands on the gravel and was levering to get his legs free. Beyond him, a number had grown to full height and were stepping up onto the ground, shaking their boots. They were all identically dressed in black leather motorcycle suits and white crash helmets, and they all had most unpleasant faces.
With one accord, Douglas and Johnny looked round to see how near the car was. It was twenty yards off. Between them and it, the lane was filled with motorcyclists stepping free of the ground and moving menacingly down toward them.
“I don’t like the look of this,” said Douglas. “And don’t tell me it’s my fault. I know.”
The nearest man struggled up from the earth and shook himself. Stones clattered from his leather clothes and mud spattered the boys. Carefully he drew his boot from the last of the gravel and walked a step or so toward them.
"Θιωκ ᾿ιυ κνιτ φελλως ᾿ον Θε εδ δουιου?" he demanded of Douglas. ["Think you can hit fellas on the head, do you?"]
“I’m sorry. I don’t understand,” Douglas said.
The man looked round at the other motorcyclists.
"Θης κιζ τραιδ του θυμπ μι, φελλως!" he said angrily. ["These kids tried to thump me, fellas!"]
From the way the others reacted, it was clear that, whatever this meant, it meant no good for Johnny and Douglas. They all gave the boys most unpleasant, blank looks and strolled nearer. "'Ωκει, λετς τεικ βωθοφεμ ᾿απαρτ ᾿αβιτ" ["Okay, let's take both of them apart a bit"]
said one. And one who was still only half out of the ground added "Λετμε ᾿αττεμ." ["Let me at them"]
Neither of these suggestions sounded pleasant. Johnny looked despairingly round what he could see of the car-park between the advancing leather suits. He found nothing but cars, lines of them, locked, silent and deserted. There did not seem to be another soul in sight.
“Get back to back,” said Douglas. “Use the mop on them.”
Johnny at once scrambled round Douglas and leaned against his back. He held the dustbin lid as a genuine shield, and put the head of the mop under one arm, with the stick pointing outward toward what was now a circle of menacing motorcyclists. Behind him, he heard the clang of the strawberry soap rolling in the dustbin as Douglas raised that for a shield and leveled the broom. Johnny was glad that he had such a tall back as Douglas’s to stand against. If it had been Caspar’s or Malcolm’s back, he would have felt a great deal more frightened. Not that their defenses seemed to impress the motorcyclists. Some laughed jeeringly. One said, "Φυλλα σπιριτ, 'αρυντθει?" ["Full of spirit, aren't they?"]
which was clearly a sarcastic remark of some kind, and all of them laughed. Then the first of them said, "Λετσγω, φελλως." ["Let's go, fellas."]
And they closed in.
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