Updated posts on “What did your language sound like 1,000/500 years ago?”

By: | Post date: 2019-03-16 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Mediaeval Greek, Modern Greek

I have consolidated my old Quora posts http://hellenisteukontos.opoudjis.net/2016-10-01-what-did-your-language-sound-like-1-000-years-ago/ and http://hellenisteukontos.opoudjis.net/2016-10-05-what-did-your-language-sound-like-500-years-ago/, and just had it published in Greek on Nikos Sarantakos’ blog: https://sarantakos.wordpress.com/2019/03/15/nikolaou-3

Albert/Bedwere/Nicholas: Imaginum Vocabularium Latinum in Ancient Greek

By: | Post date: 2019-03-02 | Comments: 3 Comments
Posted in categories: Ancient Greek, Modern Greek

In the Textkit Greek and Latin Forum, Bedwere has been translating Sigrid Albert’s Imaginum Vocabularium Latinum into Ancient Greek over the past year (as Λεξικὸν Ἑλληνικόν).

Albert’s dictionary is a Duden-style illustrated dictionary, where concepts are organised into thematic groups, and pictures of the concepts are accompanied by Latin glosses. In the (extensive) back of the dictionary, there are indexes of all Latin words used, and of their equivalents in German, French, English, Italian, and Spanish. The intriguing part of the dictionary is that the concepts are modern. (Or at least, modern-ish: the dictionary was written in the 90s, which means its stationery and technology section has dated badly: when was the last time anyone dealt with a typewriter ink ribbon?) So the Latin in the dictionary is substantially Neo-Latin.

The dictionary is not only of its time, but of its place. It was written by a German, for German students of Latin, and it shows: several of the concepts involved are heavily rooted in German culture, and a few of them need research for an unknowing outsider to make sense of. (Why is there a puck being used in curling? Oh, that’s Bavarian curling. And what precisely is a Konzern anyway?)

But both of these make it a fascinating undertaking, to see how Latin has been pummelled into place to cope with modern concepts. And the same holds for the dictionary in its Ancient Greek clothing. As Bedwere’s blurb puts it:

χαῖρε, ὦ φίλε ἀναγνῶστα. σύγε τούτῳ τῷ λεξικῷ χρώμενος, οὐ μόνον γράψεις τε καὶ λαλήσεις περὶ τὰ καθ’ ἡμέραν τῶν ἀρχαίων Ἑλλήνων ἀλλὰ καὶ περὶ τὰ τῶν νῦν ἀνθρώπων. αὕτη γάρ ἐστιν ἡ εἰς τὴν Ἑλληνκὴν γλῶσσαν μετάφρασις ἐκείνου τοῦ εἰκόνων Ῥωμαϊκοῦ λεξικοῦ

Halfway through Bedwere’s work, I got involved in the project, suggesting corrections and emendations to his translation, informed by my perspective as a Modern Greek speaker. As you can well imagine, the project had added fascination for me, not in terms of Ancient Greek, but in terms of Modern Greek. I made a point of seeking out any and all instances where Puristic Greek had already come up with its own Hellenic-based renderings, and minimising novel coinages as much as possible.

Which means that, for the purposes of this work, I embraced linguistic Purism, and did a lot of researching of older sources (including some quality time spent with the Iliou Encyclopaedia, Νεώτερον Εγκυκλοπαιδικόν Λεξικόν Ηλίου, 1945–1960). And I found it a lot of fun!

There were a lot of discoveries along the way:

  • The occasional faux ami with Ancient Greek (this is still, after all, meant to be a picture dictionary of Ancient Greek, not Puristic Modern Greek.) For example, see my startled discovery that, whereas Modern Greek differentiates drying something of excess moisture (στεγνώνω: plates, hair, clothes) vs drying something up (ξεραίνω: fruit, rusks, mummies), Ancient Greek used ξηραίνω for both. As a result, I was adamant that a hair dryer had to be a στεγνωτήρ, and ξηρός with relation to hair only made sense as dry, flaky hair as opposed to dried, not wet hair. Not so: the semantics of Greek have in fact changed over the last two thousand years. (It took a couple of passages tucked away in Aristotle for me to work that out.)
  • Old dictionaries of Greek (pre-1850), which have become widely available thanks to Google Books, are very valuable for working out how Greek used to deal with Modern concepts before the influx of French, and indeed even before the influx of Puristic coinages. Theocharopoulos (1834), for example, or Daviers (1844). And I continue to have a lot of time for Hepites (1912). (I have even more time for Dehèque (1825), because it captures a lot of early vernacular Greek, and I found it very useful in my time at the TLG; but Dehèque did not turn out to be as useful for this particular exercise.)
  • I was taken aback by how modern some of the concepts in the dictionary really were. There were equivalents of buttons in antiquity, for example, but the clear distinction between buttons, pins, and brooches is quite recent, and one that even 19th century vernacular dictionaries struggled with (θηλυκωτήριον: “something you insert into a plug [“female”]). The notion of nightclothes was meaningless in Ancient Greece, which is why the closest terms available are pretty much just blankets. And so on.
  • Purism ran out of steam in Greek, and French loans, took over, by the early 20th century: certainly by the 1930s. The early Puristic rendering of zipper in the 1910s as τορμοσυνάπτης “peg-linker” for example was likely coined too late to prevail against French φερμουάρ, and it is quite forgotten now. I could find no trace of a Puristic rendering of “fashion model”, a concept which would have been popularised in Greece by the 1930s: only the French μανεκέν and the Italian μοντέλο. And indeed, even “roulette” had no rendering but the French ρουλέτα and the Italian ρολίνα as early as the 1860s.
  • There is nonetheless a large body of Puristic coinages that have stuck from before the 1930s, and there is a smaller number of Puristic coinages that are succeeding and taking root to this day; γενόσημος for “generic”, for example, or λογισμικό for “software”. This of course varies by domain—sometimes seemingly randomly: there is a full Puristic terminology for soccer (although some English words have persisted in usual usage), but the terminology for tennis is substantially English. (That is not *that* random: tennis has a long history in Greece, but it was not mainstream until fairly recently, let alone reported on in the press; so the pressure for Greek-based vocabulary was simply not there, the way it was for soccer. There has never been a Hellenic term for “tennis racket”, for example: it has always been ρακέτα.)
  • And of course, there is more purism in official usage than in colloquial usage, to this day. This becomes really obvious with automotive terminology: the local garage and the Ministry of Transport have completely different vocabularies: e.g. πεντάλι vs ποδομοχλός/ποδόπληκτρον for “pedal”.
    • Whenever the Glorious Ancient Ancestors are discussed, there is an immediate and unsurprising recoiling from modern loanwords. For example a hairdresser’s cape is always a μπέρτα < French berthe; but the discussion for schools of an ancient sculpture depicting a hairdresser could not use anything but the ancient-looking περιώμιον.
    • There are ebbs and flows in fashion in language, and there has been some movement back towards more archaic usage in Greek in the past decade or so, as a reaction to the “victory” of Demotic in the 70s and 80s. I have had a waiter offer me an ἀπόσταγμα for “spirits”; I don’t think that would have been possible twenty years ago.
    • The parallel legal texts translated for the European Union have been a rich source of Puristic coinages (prominently figuring in online search engines like linguee.gr and el.glosbe.com.)
    • Online shopping catalogues are a boon for purism as well: the individual items on sale often use loanwords in their descriptions, but the categories of items in the sidebar (which are, after all, formal ontologies devised by boffins) tend to use Puristic terms, or at least more abstract terms. That was particularly noticeable on Skroutz.gr (“Scrooge”, i.e. “Thrifty”). This is not a great example (I couldn’t find the one that made me sit up and take note), but to give a poor example: the category is Διανομείς Καρτών “Card Distributors” (which the site feels obligated to translate in English (!) as Card Shufflers, but the individual items are ανακατευτήρας “shuffler”, σαμπό < French chabot, μοιραστής “sharer”.
    • A somewhat unexpected source of purisms has been the description of stock photos online. The usual term for “hair roller” for example is μπικουτί < French bigoudi; but the Puristic βοστρυχωτής shows up instead in photo search engines like www.fotosearch.gr. Again, I strongly suspect the tag words for these sites are coming from formal ontologies translated by boffins, rather than colloquial live translation.
  • A lot of Puristic coinages were of course awkward calques from French; and in the context of trying to use Modern Ancient Greek, some of them are just too awkward to be palatable. So κόμμα for “political party” is just a calque of partie, and “fraction” really would not make immediate sense to someone who didn’t know the etymology of partie. The Classical phratry “sub-tribe” would at least make more sense as a social sub-grouping (although its modern use to mean “faction” is itself anachronistic.)
  • Similarly, some attempts to reimport Ancient Greek terms into Puristic would be just too loose to work: καταιονάω has been used for “to shower”, but its original meaning in Hippocrates is “to foment, i.e. to bathe with warm lotions”.
  • Liddell-Scott consciously purged itself of Mediaeval words with each successive edition, where they were obvious (attested in Christian theologians). Where they were less obvious, or more relevant to Classics (in scholiasts and mediaeval dictionaries), they were kept: user beware. That applies for example, notoriously, to στοίχημα in the modern sense of “wager”; it also applies to late-attested derivations like ἀποχαιρετίζω “to farewell”; ἀλφάδιον “carpenter’s square; modern: water level” (so called because they were A-shaped) is also clearly mediaeval; and the meaning “divorce” for διαζύγιον is no earlier than Arethas in the 9th century.
  • There has been a little bit of work on Modern coinages in Ancient Greek done outside the context of Puristic and Modern Greek: the Akropolis World News, for example, or the Ancient Greek Wikipedia. These attempts are welcome, but not infallible: ἀσθεν-ούχ-ημα instead of ἀσθεν-όχ-ημα for “ambulance”, for instance, is incorrect. I am biased towards coinages by Greeks, but those coinages are mostly morphologically reliable.
  • … Not always though! I put my foot in it when I introduced myself to the θαμῶνες “regulars” of Textkit: that is a modern derivation from θαμά “often”—and an obvious calque of French habitué; but it is also a derivation impossible in Ancient Greek. ἐλατήριον for “spring” is another such modern error: in Ancient Greek it is a purgative (“that which drives out”), and the modern sense “spring” has been affected by the etymologically related ἐλατός “ductile”.
  • The Centre of Research into Technical Terms and Neologisms of the Academy of Athens (unsurprisingly) was a last bastion of Purism, and they were still suggesting Hellenic coinages for technical terms until the late 2000s. I got a lot of value out of their Athens Olympics volume of sporting terms. (As should be clear, they had a lot of coining work to do with tennis, and not much with soccer. In fact, with some tennis terminology, they just balked: there is no Hellenic neologism proposed to counter σερβίς “service” or ρακέτα “racket”.) The academy’s French- and Icelandic-style work on puristic coinages has attracted derision (see this this newspaper review of the Olympics volume), and the centre has given up on proposing Puristic alternatives in the past few years, now that they are under new management: they simply can’t keep up with the influx of terminology, and they aren’t being taken seriously as an authority for terminology, so they have now switched to descriptive rather than prescriptive work.
  • By the way (as you may have guessed): unlike the people who actually live in Greece, I find these Puristic coinages charming and enjoyable, and I am saddened at Greek giving up and borrowing English words wholesale. But its their language, they get to make it impure and parasitic. (And of course, it’s not like this kind of thing hasn’t happened before. Like, say, with French a century ago. Or Turkish a century before that.)
  • There are a few nice anecdotes to be had. Greek has stuck with referring to bronze medals as copper medals (χάλκινα), because they were copper in the Athens Olympics of 1896, and damned if they were going to pay any attention to the switch to bronze in 1900. On the development of Greek conventions for telling time with minutes, I will post in a future article…
  • I knew this, but others may not: The Perseus copy of LSJ has systematically mis-stressed words when it filled in the prefixes of lemmata. (The LSJ source text would give forms derived from a headword by just their suffix, e.g. λῐθολογ-έω “build with unworked stones”… -ος “one who picks out stones for building”.) Perseus often got the completions wrong (e.g. λιθόλογος, not the correct λιθολόγος), and unfortunately sometimes, like in that instance, you need to know the meaning of the word to know where the accent should go. (Other times, the accentuation they came up with is impossible.) The TLG copy of the LSJ spent a lot of time correcting these; unfortunately I’ve lost access to it, but the rest of you have not.

Our work concluded in January, and you can see the results:

The dictionary does not include an English–Greek glossary, or the images (although the Textkit forum thread includes most of them); that work could be done by someone else, but there will be some difficulties using the dictionary without them. To get the most value of the dictionary for now, you should obtain a copy of Albert’s Latin original, and use them in parallel.

I recommend the linguistically curious go through my discussion on Textkit: it’s somewhat dry in that it follows the dictionary page by page, but there are some pleasant surprises to be had in there.

Gloriana, as refracted by Alkaios

By: | Post date: 2019-02-21 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Culture, Modern Greek

Akis Alkaios was one of the great Greek lyricists of the past fifty years, in a culture which valued and cultivated the great lyricist. In his biggest hits, With a Canoe and Rosa, he was darkly allusive, yet still successfully universal and moving—like his great contemporary Manos Eleftheriou. (Alkaios had to insist against the record company on “the land of the Visigoths” being mentioned in a zeimbekiko pop song.) I’ve hyperlinked the translations by “Ross”, which are remarkably good by the standards of stixoi.info, the Greek lyrics database.

Those lyrics date from the endpoints of Alkaios’ mature period, 1982 and 1996. As Wikipedia notes, his youthful period was marked by leftist protest songs:

With his record Embargo (1982) the lyricist immediately marked out an identity apart from his politically engaged contemporaries, in that he also wrote as a citizen of the world, expressing the desire for world freedom with a theoretical Marxist grounding.

And in that period, it goes on to say, he was liberally influenced by Mayakovsky, Brecht, and Wolf Biermann.

As I was perusing stixoi.info to find decent translations (like those by “Ross”), I happened upon a poem by Alkaios from his protest period: it was published in his 1983 collection of poems also titled Embargo.

I am culturally Greek. I am culturally Anglo. I am not both at any given instant in time. Which is why I did a double take, when I saw a poem about Gloriana, as seen through the lens of Greek left populism. Elizabeth; or, Epithalamium, 1600 AD. This link is more stable than that on stixoi.info.

Οι ρεβεράντζες οι αυλικές πολύ μ’ αρέσουν
Το βιργινάλι η ιερακοτροφία
Κι οι μενεστρέλλοι σαν στα πόδια μου θα πέσουν
Μα πιο πολύ αγαπάω την Αγγλία

Το νιτερέσα-μου φυλάνε οι φτωχοί
Σα να ‘τανε δικά- τους νιτερέσα
Μοιάζει η Αγγλία με ολόγιομο πουγγί
Μα πιο πολύ αγαπάω το που ‘χει μέσα

Language play is one of the things that gets sacrificed in translation; and language play—specifically, register play—is one of the things Alkaios excelled at. The final verse of With a Canoe is wrenching, with is comparison of the singer’s lovelorn body with “a cheap shooting range, / where foreign conscripts train, cursing”. It is all the more wrenching because the previous line speaks of Attica as a “pallid quarry”, violently juxtaposing an ancient Greek and a Turkish word (φαιό νταμάρι).

That gets lost here: the sneer of the low (Italian) word for “interests”, νιτερέσα, the awkward folksiness of the syntax in the final line and its bathetic rhyme, “what it contains” (το που ‘χει μέσα). What gets lost even more irreparably is how the Elizabethan cultural references sound in Greek. Curtsies, virginals, minstrels: these are familiar in English to generations bred on Shakespeare. In Greek, ρεβεράντζες, βιργινάλι, μενεστρέλλοι are utterly exotic and alien; he might as well be writing about the marvels of the Safavid court. That, you can’t communicate in English.

I’ll translate it anyway:

I love the curtsies of my court,
and hawking, and the virginal,
and minstrels playing for my sport.
And I love England best of all.

The paupers hold my interests close,
close as their own, each passing minute.
England is like a purse of groats;
And more than it, I love what’s in it.

Updated post on the language of Syros

By: | Post date: 2019-02-13 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Modern Greek

I have expanded my old Quora post http://hellenisteukontos.opoudjis.net/2016-08-28-what-should-i-know-but-dont-about-the-culture-and-history-of-the-cyclades-in-general-and-syros-in-particular/, and just had it published in Greek on Nikos Sarantakos’ blog: https://sarantakos.wordpress.com/2019/02/13/nikolaou-2/

The expurgated and unexpurgated online versions of the earliest dictionary of Macedonian Slavonic

By: | Post date: 2019-01-29 | Comments: 1 Comment
Posted in categories: Other Languages

In the leadup and midst and the aftermath of the Prespa Agreement, the Macedonia naming dispute has flared up again within Greece, and it’s never been terrain I’ve been enthusiastic about wading in to. I guess I’m on the side of those pro, being an διεθνικιστής “internationalist” = “anti-nationalist”, as my non-“internationalist” friend George Baloglou has smirked at me. (I’d prefer to refine it as an open, civic nationalist; I wouldn’t be moved to tears by Giannis Antetokounmpo’s assertion of love for Greece in the face of Greek racism, if I was a complete anti-nationalist.)

But there was a bit of misleading going on in a Facebook thread I waded into, that I’d like to correct.

There’s a language in the language that I often refer to in English as Macedonian, as indeed just about everyone in English does, and that I sometimes refer to in English as Macedonian Slavonic.

There is a discourse that objects to the name, and part of the armament of that discourse is to deny that it is a distinct language—in particular, a language distinct from the closely related language, Bulgarian.

Now, the earliest record of the Macedonian (Slavonic) language is an anonymous glossary written in the late 16th century. The glossary reflects the dialect of the Kastoria/Kostur region, and one of its phrases is oit koja strana da pojdime vo Bogasko “how do we get to Bogasko”; Vogatsiko (Macedonian: Bogatsko) is a village 15 km away from Kastoria. (Vaillant adds that “the village is now completely Greek, as Georgios Hatzikyriakes was happy to note in his Σκέψεις καὶ ἐντυπώσεις ἐκ περιοδείας ἀνὰ τὴν Μακεδονίαν [Athens 1906, pp. 60–61], a ‘topographical, historical, archaeological’, and not least patriotic survey of Macedonia.” In one of those ironies of fate that the Balkans abound in, it was the ancestral village of the Greek nationalist and politician Ion Dragoumis, who was one of the major pro-Greek agitators in the Macedonian Struggle—or as the Bulgarian Wikipedia terms it, Greek Armed Propaganda In Macedonia.)

(Why yes, Dragoumis is related to Dragomir.)

The grammar was published in 1958, and its title page is used in online discourse as a refutation of those who would say that Macedonian is not a real language:

Un Lexique Macédonien du XVIe Siècle. Par Ciro Giannelli avec la collaboration de André Vaillant. Paris: Institut D’Études Slaves de l’Université de Paris. 1958

“See? There’s a 1600s dictionary calling it Macedonian!”

Well… no. There’s a 1600s dictionary of a language variant we now call Macedonian. The dictionary does not call it Macedonian, nor was it likely to have, and it does not take the position that the contemporary international community takes on Macedonian. That does not argue against what the language should be called; it just does not argue for it, either.

I would not have waded in publicly, except that the link posted to the dictionary, and the version most readily found online, is the version on Archive.org and scribd.com. It has “helpfully” taken out the foreword and commentary, and left just the lexicon. It has added a summary in English of the foreword and commentary, and it is a very very brief summary, that does not do the edition justice.

(For example: Giannelli, the scholar who found the manuscript and who wrote the foreword, speculated that the compiler of the glossary might have been a native speaker, and that speculation is reproduced in the English summary. The actual linguist involved in the edition was Vaillant, who wrote the linguistic commentary, and his conclusion was that there were too many grammatical errors for the compiler to have been a native speaker: he was likeliest a Greek cleric who worked in the area, and was curious about the language spoken there.)

Rather more offensive to me, the archive.org copy chops out the first sentence of the dictionary. The sentence where the compiler gives a name to the language he is recording.

Over the years, I have come across resources from the www.promacedonia.org site. If you go looking for a bias in the site, you might notice that there’s a bit more Bulgarian presence than you might expect from a Pro-Macedonian website. But the site puts up its sources unexpurgated, and that is to its credit.

Those sources include the Giannelli–Vaillant dictionary.

Now, what Wikipedia says about Macedonian ethnic identity—which reflects on the nomenclature around the language—is fairly uncontroversial, at least in most circles:

The concept of a “Macedonian” ethnicity, distinct from their Orthodox Balkan neighbours, is seen to be a comparatively newly emergent one. The earliest manifestations of incipient Macedonian identity emerged during the second half of the 19th century among limited circles of Slavic intellectuals, predominantly outside the region of Macedonia.

[…] Yet, throughout the Middle Ages and up until the early 20th century the Slavic population majority in the region of Macedonia were more commonly referred to (both by themselves and outsiders) as Bulgarians. However, in pre-nationalist times, terms such as “Bulgarian” did not possess a strict ethno-nationalistic meaning, rather, they were loose, often interchangeable terms which could simultaneously denote regional habitation, allegiance to a particular empire, religious orientation, membership in certain social groups.

So you’ll have already guessed what someone in the region in the 1580s would have referred to Macedonian Slavonic as. And indeed, the first sentence of the dictionary, which the archive.org copy chops out, is:

Ἀρχ(ὴ) ἐν Βουλγαρίοις ῥιμάτου, εἰς κινῆ γλότα ἐρχομένη
Beginning of words in Bulgarian, coming [= translated] into the common language [= Greek]

Again: that does not argue against us now calling the language Macedonian. It does not argue for it, either.

For what it’s worth, the question of Bulgarian vs Macedonian as the name of the language does not occupy the attention of either Giannelli or Vaillant for a second. As far as they were concerned, back in 1958, it was the language of the Kastoria region (the Kostursko, as Vaillant adds); and the way for Italian and French scholars to refer to the langauge of the Kostursko in 1958 was as Macedonian.

Karamanlidika orthography

By: | Post date: 2019-01-26 | Comments: 2 Comments
Posted in categories: Modern Greek

I blogged about Phanariot in the last post, but what I actually wanted to talk about was something far more tangential.

Phanariot, as we discussed, was filled to the brim with Turkish loanwords. Phanariot was still Greek, and it was still written in Greek script. That included the Turkish loanwords in the Greek.

But the Phanariots using Turkish words pronounced them in accurate Turkish; and they were concerned to write Turkish words in Greek script with phonetic accuracy. So they employed the conventions of Karamanlidika.

The Karamanlides were a Turkish-speaking Greek Orthodox people living in Karaman and Cappadocia; being Christians, they were subject to the 1924 population exchanges, and were resettled in Greece. Whether they were originally Karaman Turks, or Turkicised Cappadocian Greeks, or, much more plausibly, both, is hard to know, and not terribly relevant here anyway.

What is relevant is that script followed creed in the Ottoman world; so if a Greek Orthodox Christian spoke Turkish, and was literate, they would read Turkish not in the Arabic script, like their Muslim colinguals, but in Greek script. As an extension, Karamanlidika was the name given to Turkish written in Greek script — whether it was written by or for Karamanlides, or by the Greek-speaking Phanariots, who sprinkled their Greek so generously with Turkish.

With the opening up of Greek academe to the Ottoman past, there has been much research into Karamanlidika in recent years, and Evangelia Balta of the National Hellenic Research Foundation has been the main researcher active. Her website appears to be down currently, and the most accessible resource online for Karamanlidika is a somewhat unexpected source.

The Karamanlides moved to Greece. Their speaking of Turkish was frowned upon in the new country, and was not something they passed down. They did pass down other aspects of their culture, though, like their cuisine. One of those they passed their culinary heritage down to was Fanis Theodoropoulos, who has opened a Karamanli restaurant in downtown Athens: Τα Καραμανλίδικα του Φάνη, “Fanis’ Karamanli Foods”. And with the web address http://karamanlidika.gr, Fanis has felt it proper to include a blog on the restaurant website, covering not just the latest news and offerings of the restaurant, but also the culture and language of the Karamanlides and the Cappadocians. Including their script.

Thus, Samples of books printed in Karamanlidika, from the 16th to the 19th century. The 16th century is a reference to Martin Crusius printing a Karamanlidika text in his 1584 Turcograecia, the first Western study of Modern Greek. Other than that, the samples are almost all 19th century, with one text from the late 18th.

Now, there are several phonemes of Turkish that cause difficulty transcribed into Greek: none of <c ç h ı ş ö ü> /dʒ tʃ h ɯ ʃ ø y/ are present in Standard Greek. But as it turns out, <b d g> also pose a long-standing difficulty for transliteration in Modern Greek. Modern Greek has the phones, but not necessarily the phonemes: in many dialects of Greek, and in the Standard Modern Greek of older speakers, they occur only prenasalised, as reflexes of prenasalised stops. In other dialects, and in younger Standard Modern Greek, the prenasalisation drops off: <μπ ντ γκ> Ancient /mp nt ŋk/ > Older Standard Modern Greek /mb nd ŋɡ/ > Younger Standard Modern Greek /b d ɡ/.

Which means, sure, if you want to transcribe /b d ɡ/, you’ll use <μπ ντ γκ>. But given the history of Greek, and the variation in pronunciation, you’ll also use them to transcribe /mb nd ŋɡ/. And, indeed, /mp nt ŋk/.

The pronunciation of all of these has fallen together in Modern Greek, and Greek-speakers are not necessarily aware of it. Dante, for example, was transliterated as Δάντης, <ðantis>; but the Modern pronunciations of the name are /ðandis/ and /ðadis/. Greek loves using the German loanword lumpen to refer to “trash culture”, from the Marxist notion of the Lumpenproletariat, the underclass. But they’ve only ever seen it as λούμπεν, and they know less German than they do English, so they’ve pronounced it as they read it. Hence when time came for a Greek satirical website to adopt the word as its name, it inevitably ended up as https://luben.tv.

What this means is that if you’re trying to transcribe /b d ɡ/ in Greek, <μπ ντ γκ> might have ended up the only choice in contemporary Greek, especially given how integral /(m)b (n)d (ŋ)ɡ/ are to the language. But if you are not writing Greek at all, especially back in the 18th and 19th century, you don’t have as strong a motivation to lean on the Hellenic <μπ ντ γκ>. Especially when you’re already having to deal with /dʒ tʃ h ɯ ʃ/ anyway.

There is not a unified Karamanlidika transcription, but there are two main conventions one can see in the editions: one with diacritics, the other without. (The one diacritic it does admit is the diacritic 19th century Greek already admitted for Demotic: ι̮ for [j].) The transcription without diacritics fails to make some distinctions, like that between /mb/ and /b/ (both μπ), or between /ʃ/ and /s/ (both σ); it does however take advantage of the fact that Turkish has no /ð/, to transcribe /d, dʒ/ as δ, δζ. And at least by the 19th century, to judge from the samples, Karamanlidika had settled on using a spare Greek grapheme for /i/, η, to transcribe /ɯ/, in both the diacritic-based and the non-diacritic transliteration.

… Except when there’s an actual Greek word in Karamanlidika. When the word is Greek and not Turkish, Greek historical orthography is respected, and eta means /i/. So in fact, to read Karamanlidika accurately, you are sort of expected to know something about Greek anyway.

The rulebook of the Cappadocian Educational Fraternity, for example, has the following code switch (Greek words in boldface, and I am guessing at the Turkish via Google Translate):

  • συνιστᾶται … Καππαδοκικὴ Ἐκπαιδευτικὴ Ἀδελφότης, γι̮άνι Καΐσεριε ἐπαρχίασηνην Οὐχουββέτι τεδρισιερί τεσ̇κὶλ ὀλουνμούσ̇δο̇υρ
  • Kapaðokiki Ekpeðeftiki Aðelfotis, yani Kayseriye eparxiasının Uhuvveti tedrisiyeri teşkil olunmuşdur
  • The Cappadocian Educational Fraternity, that is the educational brotherhood of the district of Kayseri, has been created

In a Greek word like Καππαδοκικὴ, eta is /i/; in a Turkish suffix like -σηνην, even if it is attached to the Greek word ἐπαρχία, eta is /ɯ/. Similarly, the list of Bible books—

—contrasts the Gospel of Luke, ΛΟΥΚΑΣΗΝ Lukasın, with the Gospel of John, ΙΩΑΝΝΗΣΙΝ Ioannisin. Eta is /ɯ/ in the Turkish suffix of Lukasın; it is /i/ in the Greek name Ioannis.

But I’m more interested in the diacritics used with Karamanlidika. Karamanlidika with diacritics adopted the overdot as a universal diacritic. So <χ̇ σ̇ π̇ τ̇ τ̇ζ ο̇υ ο̇> are /h ʃ b d dʒ y ø/. We have just seen δ used next to τεσ̇κὶλ: because it could not mean /ð/, it was still used to mean /d/ in some transcriptions, though not others: the Bible book list is titled ΑΧΤ̇Η ΑΤΙΚ ΙΛΕ ΑΧΤ̇Η Τ̇ΖΕΤ̇ΙΤ̇ΙΝ ΦΙΧΡΙΣΤΙ Ahdı Atik ile Ahdı Cedidin fi-Xristi “The Old Testament and the New Testament of Christ”. Similarly, while the Bible books use τ̇ζ for /dʒ/, they do not use τσ̇ for /tʃ/: Turkish has no /ts/ (hence it transliterates Tsipras as Çipras), so the Bible is content to use τζ (/ts ~ dz/ in the 19th century) for /tʃ/: Ο̇ΥΤΖȢ̇ΝΤ̇ΖȢ̇ ΠΑΤ̇ΙΣ̇ΑΧΛΑΡ <Ọutzọunṭzọu Paṭiṣaxlar> Üçüncü Padişahlar “3 Kings” (corresponding to Western 1 Kings). And there does not seem to be any use of γ̇: γγ/γκ have been accepted as /ɡ/, since Turkish has no /ŋɡ/.

The Karamanlidika overdots for /b d/ have made enough of an impression on Greek scholars, that they have been reused rather far from Greek transliterations of Turkish. The plays of the Cretan Renaissance were written in Roman script, using Italian orthographic conventions; Italian of course differentiates /b mp mb/, and just as Phanariot in Greek script preserved the non-Hellenic distinctions of Turkish loanwords, so too did the Italianised Cretan of the Renaissance preserve the non-Hellenic distinctions of Italian loanwords. But those texts still ended up published in Greek script, both at the time and in modern scholarly editions. And in at least one instance (I think it’s Alfred Vincent’s 1980 edition of Fortounatos, edited from the Roman script autograph manuscript), the Karamanlidika dots are used to differentiate the original’s <mp> and <mb>.

In the 18th century, though, there was a different way of writing /ʃ/. This merited a passing comment on p. 33 of Peter Mackridge’s paper on Phanariot:

For [b] [d] [ʃ] [dʒ] some writers use the diacritics that had been developed for use in karamanlidika earlier in the eighteenth century (π̇, δ̇, σ̈́, τ̇ζ), but most make do with the unadorned Greek alphabet: thus [kurdízo] is variously represented as κουρδίζω, κουρντίζω and κουρτίζω.

He adds in footnote: “For [ʃ] the sigma is in fact surmounted by three dots in a triangular pattern, but I am unable to reproduce this here.”


I’ve asked Peter, and he’s sent me a sample from the satirical comedy Το σαγανάκι της τρέλας. (Not “The frying pan of madness”, let alone “The saganaki of madness”: contemporary Greek σαγανάκι “small frying pan”, and any dish prepared in a small frying pan, like fried cheese, is a diminutive of σαγάνι < Turkish sahan “copper dish”. The Turkish word here is the unrelated sağanak: “The storm of madness”.) The comedy is attributed to Rigas Feraios, and was published in Lia Brad Chisacof. 2001. Ρήγας. Ανέκδοτα κείμενα, Athens. the text is published alongside the manuscript, and he has sent me two instances of the novel diacritic in question: pp. 158–159 ϗʹ μεσ̈́αλάδες “& torches” (Turkish meşale), and pp. 176–177 μεσαλοσ̈́άνον (= Greek μεγαλουσιάνον “bigwig”; in that case, the character is being used for [sj] < [ʃ], presumably a dialectal pronunciation within Greek.)

This is what the two words look like in the manuscript:

Peter has told me that “What this scribe (who is no doubt the author) actually writes is not three dots but more like an acute accent flanked on each side by a dot.” Other instances may have been triple dot, but this instance is more like the diaeresis + acute that he resorted to in print. Maybe, though they look like triangular triple dots to me in the manuscript anyway.

And there’s a reason they should. I didn’t give the entire footnote above. He continues:

Christodoulos Christodoulou informs me that this use of three dots follows Arabic practice, šīn [ʃ] being distinguished from sīn [s] in the same way in Arabic script.

That diacritic is from Arabic: it is the distinction between س and ش. There is precedence for mixing diacritics and letters from different scripts; Samaritan for example has combined Samaritan letters (related to Hebrew) with Arabic vowel diacritics. This is the first time I’ve seen it in Greek.

And there’s good reason Peter Mackridge had difficulty rendering a three-dot sigma in his 2017 paper. Unicode has the three-dot Arabic diacritic, U+06DB ARABIC SMALL HIGH THREE DOTS. But combining Arabic diacritics with Greek or Roman script is disastrous: the diacritics are designed for a completely different letter height. Luckily, Unicode does offer a triple dot diacritic compatible with Roman (and Greek): U+1AB4 COMBINING TRIPLE DOT. Unluckily ,the character was added in Unicode in 2014, which means font support for it is still minimal: among the fonts I have installed (and I have a lot), the diacritic only turns up in Google’s Noto fonts and Dehuti, and sigma with triple dot only looks presentable in the latter:

Phanariot: an apology for Schleicherian bias

By: | Post date: 2019-01-25 | Comments: 4 Comments
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Modern Greek

I was recently perusing Peter Mackridge’s paper Some literary representations of spoken Greek before nationalism 1750-1801, and I got sidetracked by an incidental footnote on diacritics use in Karamanlidika in the 18th century.

And now, to unpack.

Peter Mackridge is the emeritus professor of Modern Greek in Oxford. He has written a wealth of papers and books on Modern Greek, and has always been a keen observer, both of how the language works, and of the particularities of its diglossic history.

Latterly Peter has taken an interest in the language of the Phanariots. The study of the history of Modern Greek is a much broader and fuller thing now than it used to be; but the Phanariots have mostly been off-limits until now in any study of Modern Greek; and indeed, little has been said about 18th century Greek in general. As Peter notes in his paper, it is the chunk of the history of Greek least well served by surveys, dictionaries and grammars. (The 16th and 17th century outside of Crete have not been that much better served, but Eleni Karantzola has been active in redressing that imbalance over the past decade.)

There are two straightforward reasons why Phanariot Greek has been something Greek historical linguists have instinctively shrunk away from; and I will admit to have shared that prejudice in my own time. The Phanariots were affluent Constantinopolitan artistocrats under the Ottomans, who occupied high office in the administration of the Ottoman Government, and particularly in the rule of Romania on behalf of the Ottomans. They were urban and urbane, they were multilingual and cosmopolitan, they were loyal Ottomans and unsavoury intriguers; and their Greek was full to the brim of Turkish and Turcisisms.

Almost as full as Greek in Greece now is of English and Anglicisms, in fact.

Modern Greek historical linguistics has had some blind spots it’s needed to get past. That you need to understand Kartvelian languages to work out Pontic, for example. Or that Greek borrowed words from other languages even when it isn’t obvious where they did. Or that there is a lot more Puristic in Modern Standard Greek than the ostensive victors of the diglossia wars would like to think.

And a more pervasive bias than that, one I’ve shared, is a Herderian and Schleicherian view of language change, as tied up with the expression of ethnicity, and as paralleling the evolution of lifeforms. There are sophisticated takes on those views which are still current: historical linguistics continues to have a lot to learn from evolutionary biology, and much of sociolinguistics is about the nexus between language and identity.

There are also unsophisticated takes on those views. Not just Herder’s Blood and Soil nationalist romanticism, or Schleicher’s original notion that there are primitive languages for primitive peoples (or even his subtle variation, that there are overcomplicated languages for primitive peoples). Those have been rejected in polite company; but there are lingering romantic notions in thinking about language change that have outlived them. For example, that rural and oral language is the only true object of study of the historical linguist, and that urban and written language is subject to contaminating, artificial influences, and of secondary interest, if of any interest at all. It’s a naturalistic bias, and it’s a puristic bias. You can see how easily it can turn to cultural purism, with the untutored village folk seen as the only true teachers of the language, and with the learnèd influence on the language derogated, if not disavowed; something that gets in the way of forming an accurate picture of how Standard Modern Greek works to this day.

You can also see why the only mention Triantafyllidis makes of Phanariot in his monumental history of Greek is to raise his eyebrow at how much Turkish there was in their written texts. An untutored Herderian villager would never speak such a farrago, surely.

Any non-Greek linguists sneering at this point would do well to examine their own conscience. The dismissal of written language as not the proper domain of linguistics is a reaction to generations of prescriptivist dunderheads; but it is a biased reaction all the same, and it does not admit the fact that spoken language in literate societies is profoundly influenced by whatever neogrammatically incorrect nonsense takes place in written language. (Nor will fleeing to the Rousseauvian paradise of preliterate societies give you back your pristine language organism: preliterate societies are just as subject to changes in register and genre, and contamination between them.)

There is artifice in human language. There is a lot of artifice. And that is nothing to be ashamed of.

So, the bias against looking at Phanariot is a deep one. It’s informed by comic-book tribal politics: the Phanariots were aristocrats and intriguers, they were the bad guys. It’s informed by nationalism and purism: the Phanariots were collaborators and Turcophiles, they did not speak pure Greek (although, as Peter informs me, some of them were consciously puristic in their Greek, the page after another author seems to be cramming as much Turkish into their text as they can get away with). It’s informed by Herderian Romanticism: the proper object of historical linguistics is to be found among shepherds and peasants, not among dragomans and patriarchs. But it’s also informed by Schleicherian Romanticism: the proper object of historical linguistics is the “natural” evolution of language, and what the Phanariots were doing was anything but natural.

I am glad that in my dissertation, even though I dodged Herder to the extent I could, I did not dodge Schleicher. I was doing a global dialectal survey, and to do it I needed to work on a simplified model of language change, factoring out sociolinguistics as much as I could, rather than work on everything at once. It was a better use of my time to survey all the peasantries of Greece for how they were using the complementiser I studied, than to expend effort diving deep into what the townsfolk of Athens or Leonidio were doing, and how Puristic Greek (or, in the case of Leonidio, how second-language Tsakonian and dying-Tsakonian conspired with hubris) influenced it.

But it was a simplification, A simplification that had me keep seeing Phanariot in the corner, and thinking, nah, that’s not the proper object of my study.

I’m glad Peter is on the case now. And I’m sorry my next contribution to that topic is going to be so tangential to what he is on the case about.

Updated post on the etymology of βύσσινο “sour cherry”

By: | Post date: 2019-01-22 | Comments: 1 Comment
Posted in categories: Uncategorized

I have expanded my old Quora post http://hellenisteukontos.opoudjis.net/2016-04-13-what-is-the-etymology-of-the-russian-word-vishnya-cherry-there-seems-to-be-a-connection-to-the-turkish-word/ and just had it published in Greek on Nikos Sarantakos’ blog: https://sarantakos.wordpress.com/2019/01/21/nikolaou

Yes, this does mean I’m coming back. Eventually.


By: | Post date: 2018-01-12 | Comments: 9 Comments
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Mediaeval Greek, Modern Greek

In my time at the TLG, there was many a mediaeval Greek word that was not in the main dictionaries—Lampe, Trapp (which was not yet complete at the time), and Kriaras (ditto); and I would expend pleasant and assiduous effort in trying to track those words down elsewhere.

One such word was the Byzantine Greek word for brocade, φουφούδιον. It’s in Trapp’s dictionary now that Vol. VIII has appeared (after the end of my time at the TLG):

φουφούδι(ο)ν, τό. Brocade. -ιν TestBoil 23, 131. -ιν AIv 47.37 (a. 1098). -ια APantel 7.12. -ιν 18 (a. 1142). -ιον OktoEng 40.15. -ιν 19. φοφόδην FalkSing 450.6.—Car[acausi], TestBoilP 157, ByzAD.

φουφουδοτός (corrct to: -ωτός) Decorated with brocade. DucApp I. s.v. ῤένδα: Cod. Reg. 2437 (= Par. 156).

φουφούλιον, τό. Brocaded garment. -ια EpBib 5,2. φουρουλ( ) (?) μετὰ σταυρίου ὀξέου “with a purple cross” Typ.Kechar 152,28.—LexPont -ιν; cf. Φουφούλης Car, φουφούλα Stam[atakos].

So we have fufuði(o)n, in one text fofoðin, 1 attested in various monastic texts of the 11th through 13th century. We have the related adjective fufuðotos, attested (mispelled) in the appendix to DuCange’s 1688 Glossarium ad scriptores mediae et infimae Graecitatis (presumably from a manuscript no longer available). And we have the variant fufulion, attested in the 10th century Book of the Eparch of Leo the Wise, as well as the 12th century typikon of the mponastery of Theotokos Kecharitomene. The latter word survives in Pontic Greek as fufulin, and in standard Greek as fufula (Stamatakos is a Modern Greek dictionary): per the Triantafyllidis dictionary fufula refers to “the lower hind part of islander breeches (vraka), which is puffy and has folds; breeches by extension; pantaloons for women and children, held up by suspenders”.

Trapp’s volume wasn’t out at the time I came across the word in the TLG. But other sources had already published fufuðion.

Such as Girolamo Caracausi’s Lessico Greco della Sicilia e dell’Italia meridionale (secoli x–xiv), a dictionary of the monastic documents of southern Italy, where it is glossed as “a kind of cloth”, with Falkenhausen’s example and two others, and with the contemporary Latin phrases from the same region, fuffude rossa et citrina (1065) and uno fuffudi citrino et nigro (1088). I had in fact gone through Caracausi for words for the TLG, but for some reason I had missed φουφούδιον.

A source I did come across when researching φουφούδιον was ByzAD: Artefacts and Raw Materials in Byzantine Archival Documents, which has an extensive article on the garment and its attestations, and renders it as “silk fabric, samite (?)”. The article posits that the name is “doubtless of Iranian origin”, and associates it with Leo VI the Wise’s fufulion, where the editor believes it is a kind of baggy pants. It also notes that fufula has survived into Modern Greek ByzAD is an online database, so I did eventually find it there.

That isn’t where I first found it either though.

I first find it through the word’s transmission into Russian. The word shows up in Old Russian as fofudja; and because of the delay in getting the lexicography of Byzantine Greek up and running, the only source Vasmer had access to in his etymological dictionary of Russian (where it is glossed as “precious fabric for imperial clothes”) was the 1688 attestation of fufuðotos.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say abut the Russian version of the word:

The word was quite obscure and was not included in several editions of orthographic dictionaries either in Ukraine or Russia.

According to the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary, fofudja (Russian: фофудья, Greek: φουφουδότης) [which is presumably a distortion of DuCange’s φουφουδοτός] is an oriental precious cloth woven with gold thread and often used in ceremonial garments in the Byzantine Empire during the time of Kievan Rus and similar to an ephod. Fofudja was was mentioned as a form of payment in the 12th century birch bark documents found in the Veliky Novgorod excavation. Fofudja was mentioned in the Radziwiłł Chronicle in the 13th century when Leo VI the Wise rewarded Oleg of Novgorod with gold, fofudja and other items. The term is mentioned again when Vladimir II Monomakh distributed fofudja, among other goods, to the people on their way to the church.

Note that Leo VI the Wise was the 10th century emperor to whom the Book of Eparch was attributed, which had fufulion. The fufuðion was expressly mentioned as Byzantine in the Russian sources, and is mentioned over the same period it appears in Byzantine sources, 11th through 13th centuries.

Fofudja/Fufudin passed out of use in both the Greek-speaking and the Russian-speaking world, though the related fufulin clearly survived in Greek. There are two paradoxical survivals of Fofudja/Fufudin though.

There’s a reason I was able to find mentions of fofudja online so easy:

Fofudja (Russian: Фофудья [fɐˈfudʲjə]) is an internet and social phenomenon in the Ukrainian segment of the LiveJournal community. While its name denotes a piece of religious clothing, it has been used lately as a satirical protest against Russian imperialism, xenophobia, ukrainophobia, antisemitism and religious intolerance. By application of reductio ad absurdum this phenomenon involves people assuming comically exaggerated xenophobic and antisemitic views with the aim to mock them. As such, members of the Fofudja community sarcastically purport to be members of the supposedly oppressed Russian-speaking minority in Ukraine suffering from nationalist and Zionist oppression.


The theme of this phenomenon can be traced back to another widely popular Ukrainian Internet creation — a novel “The City of Lvov”. [started 2006–02–20] This satirical Internet novel written by “Professor” Ivan Denikin (a pen name of an unknown joker) deals with a few Russians traveling to Lviv and on their way encountering “unspeakable suffering” of the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine brought on by Ukrainization.


The main symbol of this phenomenon is the fofudja itself. In the view of some observers the name was probably selected because of a number of factors: because of its obscurity, because it sounds similar to a piece of clothing called fufaika, and also due to its Byzantine origin and orthodox symbolism. Members of the community sarcastically position themselves as semi-underground Russian minority in present-day Ukraine, proud Russian patriots and devout Orthodox Christians.


Fofudja as a piece of religious clothing is meant to be a symbol of Russian Orthodoxy and of Russian culture. Participants believe that they will be persecuted by Ukrainian authorities for wearing it in public as a piece of national Russian costume. In fact, the leader of Ukrainian communists Petro Symonenko was asked in an Internet conference the following question:

“Hello, I am from Kherson oblast and I am an ethnic Russian. My daughter was prohibited from wearing a fofudja at school, a symbol of Russian culture — on the grounds that the state language is Ukrainian. I just wanted to ask you, Peter Nikolayevich, for how long [will it last]?

Unsuspecting of being a victim of a practical joke by members of the fofudja community and willing to profit on the sensitive inter-ethnic question Mr. Symonenko promised to “look into it”.


The symbol of “fofudja”, the catchphrase “доколє” (“for how long” “until when”, an archaic question word), the Russian-Ukrainian letter mix and the Imperial Cyrillic — these are the distinctive features of this Internet phenomenon that spread beyond the Live Journal blog and into the wider community in Ukraine.

Hence, the fofudja in its natural contemporary habitat, as a meme accompanied by the archaic and plaintive доколє “for how long”:

The Greek survival of fufuðion is somewhat less spectacular. On the other hand, if you’re a dialectologist, it’s arguably more spectacular.

Nikolaos Pantelidis is a dialectologist at Athens University, and he has been researching dialects that have gotten short shrift in Modern Greek dialectology, notably Peloponnesian. In Το παλαιοαθηναϊκό ιδίωμα: Πηγές, μαρτυρίες, χαρακτηριστικά, he assembles all available sources to date on the Old Athenian dialect—which, thanks to two recently published 19th century plays, are a lot more sources than we used to have. The dialect has gone from almost unattested, to attested enough for him to extract a basic grammar. (And for me to formulate an impressionistic description of it as a Tsakonian-flavoured Cretan.)

Of the two plays, Gynaikokratia (1841) has a brief speech in Old Athenian, written by Dimitrios Byzantios/Hatziaslanis, the same playwright who wrote the renowned satire of Modern Greek linguistic diversity Babel. The second, with a more extensive speech, is Sotirios Kourtesis’ 1862 Ο Καρπάθιος ή ο κατά φαντασίαν ερώμενος “The Carpathian, or the Imaginary Lover”.

(You’ll find very few traces of Kourtesis online, but one trace you will find is that this particular play was an imitation of Molière. A second was that he was the first to satirise the Piraeus toughs, the Koutsavakis/Mangas, as far back as 1868.)

And in the very end of the old native Athenian woman’s plaint on modern female fashions in Kourtesis’ play, in the second last page of Pantelidis’ article, right before the use of που after a dubitative verb that I wish I had been aware of for my doctoral thesis (τιγάρις θάρρευγες που σε γέλαγα—cf. A Survey of Modern Greek Dialectal Complementation), she says:

Εµείς, τσυρά µου, τα ζιπούνια µας, τα σταµπόσιαλια, τα επαίρναµε προιτσιό, τσαι πάλι τα δίναµε στα παιδιά µας, τσαι εσάς δε σας φτάνουνε δυο-τρία φουστάνια το µήνα, τσαι για τούτο δε θα κάµετε προκοπή ποτές, µε τούνα δά τα φουφούδια που φορείτε.

My lady, our waistcoats, our Istanbul shawls, we received as dowry, and we handed them on to our children; and as for you, two or three dresses a month are not enough for you, and that’s why no good will ever come of you, with these fufuðia you’re wearing.

The word clearly does not refer here to pantaloons, but to fancy clothes; so in fact it is closer to the fufuðion than are the pantaloons and breeches of fufula, which we know survived in Greek.

Old Athenian was a notoriously archaic dialect; it’s almost too good to be true to find a Byzantine survival like fufuðion in Athens, which was isolated from the remainder of the Greek-speaking world by Albanian incursions in the 14th century—right after fufuðion is no longer attested. And maybe the word was used more widely after all.

A look at Google Books shows that it was. In Rhodes, fufui < fufuði refers to boils on childrenʼs heads; the form is reported by Agapitos Tsopanakis in an article in Hellenika in 1985, and he also reports that he had already derived it from *ὑποφῴδιον “under-blister” in 1940. So it’s unrelated.

This snippet from the journal of the Greek Philological Society of Constantinople journal (Σύγγραμμα Περιοδικόν, vol. 17) of 1882–83, on the other hand, very much attests the word: it’s a song lyric that goes

Κάποια Μέρισα, κάποια Μεροδοπούλλα,
εροθύμθησε πα’ ’ς τογ ’γιαλόν να πλύννη
τα φουφούδια της και τα μεταξωτά της

A Merisa (?), a Merodopoulla/Merodian (?) girl,
went down to the beach to wash
her fufuðia and her silken garments (p. 224)

Mercifully the Internet Archive has also digitised that volume; the song is from Symi, the next island up from Rhodes. (So that Rhodian word for boils might somehow be related to fufuðia after all.)

The word also shows up a fair way away from Symi, in Missolonghi, in the local paper citing Akakia Kordosis’ 1998 Μιλήστε Μεσολογγίτικα “Speak Missolongian” (which is available in an earlier edition here):

Αναφουφουδιάζω (απ’ την λέξη φουφούδια που λένε για τα φρεσκοπλυμένα ρούχα). Φρεσκάρω. Αναφουφούδιασα τα σκουτιά.

Φουφούδι, το. Καθαρό, ωραίο. Τα ρούχα γίνανε φουφούδια απ’ το πλύσ’μο.

anafufuðiazo (from the word fufuðia which is used to refer to freshly washed clothes). To freshen up. “I anafufuðiazo the clothes.”

fufuði neut. noun. Clean, beautiful. “The clothes have become fufuðia through washing.”

So the original Byzantine garment, the brocade awarded to the Rus, turns up in Symi, Missolonghi, and Athens, as a description of nice dress—clean clothes in Missolonghi, fancy clothes in Athens, precious clothes in Symi.

(I’ve also seen an instance of contemporary usage of fufuðia to mean “nonsense”, and some other scattered instances whose meaning I can’t work out; e.g. from a childbirth forum, εμενα μου την εβαλε γιατρος και μαια που με ειχαν στα φουφουδια που λεμε…με εξτρα ζελε και ξυλοκαινη-σουπερ περιποιηση “I had [the catheter] inserted by a doctor and a midwife, who had me, as the saying goes, “in the fufuðia“, with extra jelly and xylocaine: they were wonderful to me”.)

So the survival of fufuðia in Old Athenian is not as unique as I’d thought an hour ago; but it’s still a survival that (as far as I can tell) has not been linked to the Byzantine garment before.)

Kaliarda XXXIV: Miscellanea from Kaliarda

By: | Post date: 2018-01-05 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Modern Greek

The following words mainly illustrate the interesting ways Kaliarda implements its schematicism:

cat: “little sissy” (gays identifying with cats)
soul: “wind life”
distant: “un-seen”
director: “‘That’s how I want it!’ old man” < Arvanitika është dua “that’s how I want it” (also used in mainstream slang)
countryside: “houseless”
interior, Greece: “here-ness”
gesture, signal: “here saying” (“hither signal”)
stenography: “virgin writing”
wandering seller of greens: “goat chick” (since goats eat greens)
ɡuda dzorna
Good Day (English + Italian)
slap < “swift”
to scratch: “nail pussycat”
frog: “large quack” (note that the Greek onomatopoeia for frogs is koaks)
to bite: “wolf eat”
cotton: “grass fleece”
casino: “go-around dice chick” (alluding to roulette)
binding, knot < “lace”, hence ðanteliazo “to tie”
window, cinema: “looks oracle” (because seeing through window or cinema lets you know something far from your physical presence?)
striking makeup < “idol”; iðoliazo “to portray”
candle: “bug light” (i.e. light using an insect product, wax)
imandes baka
sister: “our belly”, i.e. “from the same belly”
kanɡurosalo, kanɡurosoliasma
snot: “nose saliva”
cap (headgear) < “cap, lid” (the conflation is alien to mainstream Greek)
photograph: “card ugly”, in pseudo-French, by analogy with kart-postal “postcard”, kart-vizit “calling card”
to melt: “to candle”
to die: “bone live” (cf. Standard meno kokalo “to stay bone = to be stunned”)
pose: “bone face” (again, in the notion of someone stunned)
coquettish: “arse leg” (from how she walks)
to torment: “arse singe”; hence kolotsitsiri “pest”
card playing: “piece of wood”
kula de pari
bullshit!: “shit of Paris” (in pseudo-French)
soft to the touch: “rabbit meat”
rain < ˈlakrimo “tears”
meeting again: “good seeing”; sto latsoðikelma “see you soon”
massage: “good beating”
abroad: “there-ness”
madam benavia
chat < benavo “to talk”
vinegar: “mold water”
threat: “fake beating”
brush: “mustache filth chick”
nylon: “fake flower” (from plastic flowers)
bear: “fat wolf”
cow: “fat beef”
elephant: “fat fus-fus” (onomatopoeia for trunk? fus-fus means “train”)
bomb: “big fire”
mansion: “rich hut”, but basdulotsarðo “chief rich hit” = “bank”
cherry: “tomato marbles”
mosquito, gnat, bedbug: “blood wedge”
bon kates
Mister (used as title), (rarely) sir!: “that good one”; fem. bon kate “Mrs”, (almost never) “madam!”
doorbell: “singing button”
school: “very children”
blood brother, close friend: “hashish blood-brother” (both from Koutsavakika)
teacher < dik “look!” or “opposite”
courage: “hard breathing”
work: “un-drone”
farewell: “unstuck + byebye!”
cousin: “stranger brother” (kudzinos comes from Italian cugino “cousin”, but means “brother” in Kaliarda)
lemon: “sour seed”
to soften: “to rusk” (because rusks were softened in water to make them edible)
second (of time): “kid hour” (literally “biscuit watch”)
the past: “wide, flat (?) time”
purke de skende?
why should that happen? Pseudo-French (pourquoi “why”)
to delay: “to press the watch”; sbroxtoɣotsi “shove watch” = “delay”
foundations: “hut root”
deep: “rice planting”
tomato: “red balloon”
vodka: “Russian drink”
steam engine: “iron water”
sik ala tsai nanai
very politely (pseudo-foreign)
sik ranse
great dignity: chic rangé “dignified chic”
tape recorder: “know-how box”
cimena: “shadow stage”
worry beads: “dog ball” (Koutsavakika “dog” = “tough guy”)
café: “dog hangout” (Koutsavakika “dog” = “tough guy”)
chocolate: “black sugar”
bee: “sugar bug”
cable: “flute”
nerve: “spring” (springs proper are called sinda)
expulsion: Koutsavakika spase! “break” = “get lost”, conflated with Russian spasiba “thank you”
beer: “wheat foamer”
beer: “wheat drink”
ring: “tight”
fortune: “good ending-up”
povery: “crooked ending-up”
translation: “turn language”
to regret: “turn think”
billiards: “balls twig” (i.e. billiard balls and cue stick)
“wedge”, extended to any sharp object (e.g. needle, key)
shovel: “iron wedge”
mirror: “baking dish”
minute: “hour child”
note: “writing child”
thumbtack: “screw child”
step in staircase: “land angle”
year: “day cycle”
watch: “day circle”
cloth: “hair curtain” (?)
hiccup: “larynx shock”
smile: “stretch mouth”
notebook: “leaf-full”
telephone: “voice gossip”; hence fonokuskusolista “telephone list” = “phone catalogue”, fonokuskus komandaris “telephone commander” = “head of the telephone company”
tin of food: “food bomb”
fever: “fire blood”
spice: “fire powder”
orange: “golden seed”
sinew, nerve: “flesh rope”
  • Subscribe to Blog via Email

    Join 307 other subscribers

  • March 2019
    M T W T F S S
    « Feb    
    1. FalkSing: V. von Falkenhausen. Un’inedita singrafe dotale calabrese del 1208/09. Rivista Storica Calabrese n.s. 6 (1985) 445–456,