Subscribe to Blog via Email
March 2023 M T W T F S S « Nov 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
Kaliarda IV: Petropoulos’ addenda on Kaliarda
It turns out that the edition available online of Petropoulos’ Kaliarda is his second edition—which is just his first edition with an addendum. So I’m going to supplement the information I gave from his first edition.
I’m again going to limit myself to what he says about Kaliarda and his speakers, and how he engaged with it. I’m not going to go into all that he says about himself, and what a great rebel he is, and how much of a political act his publication was, and how the female linguist in 1977 who mentioned Kaliarda just tangentially should go back to the kitchen if she’s so terrified to lose her job. (p. 258: “Η φουκαριάρα, αφού τρέμει για τον μισθουλάκο της, γιατί δεν ασχολείται με την μαγειρική;”)
Petropoulos is the darling of the anarchist left in Greece for his documenting of the underworld as a political act. I’m not a fan of the anarchist left to begin with; but the kind of dissidence that tells professional women to get back in the kitchen, for whatever reason (and this wasn’t much of one), is not a dissidence I’m going to admire. And no, we did know better in 1980.
(I’m not the first not to think highly of Petropoulos; but of course that ultimately matters as little as his opinion of himself. What matters is what he recorded.)
- p. 205. Petropoulos was aware of a few words of Kaliarda from high school (in the 30s). He knew it under the Kaliarda synonym lubinistika “gay-ish, whorish”.
- Petropoulos then heard Kaliarda as a young man in Salonica, working on roadworks, and then as a security guard in the city park. He learned 50 words from “a very polite homosexual”, Menis (Kaliarda name Zoumbourlika), who had been an archimandrite and became one again later.
- p. 206–207. Petropoulos recorded Kaliarda over a year from mid 1968 to mid 1969. After identifying the gay beats of Athens, he got help from a cop in Vice (though not from the cop’s boss, who was in denial about gays existing outside of straight brothels), and then started befriending gays for information.
- p. 207. Of the underworld tribes he had encountered, only drug addicts were more closed off from outsiders than gays; and they would not respond to normal folklore methodology.
- p. 209–210. He was prosecuted for obscenity, and did eight months jail time.
- p. 213–215. He was annoyed that Alekos Sakelarios wrote an article on Kaliarda (“spoken by the most vulgar of the effeminate”) in the Ελεύθερος Κόσμος newspaper (1972–03–07) without citing him. That article already had worked out the Romani basis of Kaliarda. Sakelarios also noted the rapid speed at which Kaliarda is spoken, making it hard to understand for outsiders.
- p. 215. The earliest scholarly references to Kaliarda were: Hélène Ioannidi. 1977. Caliarda la langue secrète des homosexuels grecs. Topique 20; and Steve A. Demakopoulos. 1978. The Greek Gays Have a Word for It. Maledicta 2.1–2.
- p. 230–231. I don’t find Petropoulos’ limited correspondence with other intellectuals interesting, with the exception of the letter he got from the linguist Vasilis Foris (who was one of the pioneers of monotonic accentuation). That letter honours Foris, not only because he engages with the dictionary as both linguistic and social material (“There is material here for the study of an entire world, which is not limited to its own passions, but reacts, mocks, and pokes fun at everything around it. And most important: they’re alert to the world (είναι ξύπνιος)”), and not only for regretting that public mores don’t allow him to give the work the exposure it deserves (“Pardon me that stance if you will; and you can call it whatever you want—cowardice, etc; but prudery it is not”); but also because he asked good questions about it—which Petropoulos does not bother to answer. (He admits he made no contact with Foris before or after his letter):
- Do “upper-class gays” (κίναιδοι περιωπής) speak Kaliarda?—That is, is it exclusive to street queans, or is it used by gays in general? How do they “live” the vocabulary when they don’t hang around the tavernas and beats?
- Do provincial gays speak Kaliarda? The cant is polyglot enough that he doubts gays with less access to education (and thus foreign languages) would be able to command it.
- If avelo vakeloksekolupses means “get a divorce”, does it refer to conventional marriage, or to gay relationships? [Given that the Kaliarda for “divorce” literally means “priestly/religious unsticking”, I’d assume the former; but see the wedding parodies below.]
- p. 241–247 Petropoulos had gathered additional Kaliarda words, especially when he was in prison in 1973 over his publication of Kaliarda, and gay person Perla, who had provided him with material in 1968, ended up in Korydalos Prison as well. The new entries include gems such as papi “official document” (literally “duck” , but the word is from German Papier, which was commonly heard enough during Nazi Occupation); karofloko “cart jizz = petrol”; grandabota “big boot = Italy;” dzas-Dzusis “drives out Jesus = anti-Christ = Adolf Hitler”—Jesus himself is referred to in Kaliarda as mus-Dzusis “fake Jesus, Jesus the fake”; spiroxetopuros “Spirochaete Old Man = dictator Georgios Papadopoulos: spirochaetes are the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease and syphilis; biskototekno “biscuit twink = supporter of Papadopoulos”, named after Papadopoulos brand biscuits.
- p. 247–248 More information on the anomalous category of the pustomangas, the “faggot spiv” (which we already noted was the only instance Kaliarda uses the derogatory straight term pustis, for a thuggishly straight-acting gay).
This is the right opportunity to refer to a particular class of homosexuals, the so-called pustomangas, which has long since vanished. The pustomangas was also a passive homosexual, but at the same time was very aggressive. The pustomangas did not act effeminately, he hanged out with mangas (spivs), and when necessary, he’d pull a knife on you. You had to be very brave to insult a pustomangas. The pustomangas has more to do with the underworld, than with catamites.
Several renowned pustomangas lived in Metaxourgeio before the war. I printed a photo of Mitsia in my Rebetiko Songs. Mitsia was the best known pustomangas of Salonica. It appears that the famous Manolia was also a pustomangas. [Petropoulos noted in the first edition that she was killed by communist partisans.] I don’t know the names of other pustomangas.
- p. 248–249 Petropoulos gives more Kaliarda parodies of songs, including Seferis/Theodorakis’ legendary On the secret beach (Στο περιγιάλι το κρυφό). Like public cursing, songs only have a few words of Kaliarda, as they are intended to be understood by bystanders, sung at gay tavernas. The Secret Beach parody for example, uses Kaliarda words for “take” (= fondle), “cunt” (bis), “saw”, “fucking”, “petting”, and “arsehole”. At 7 words out of 49, used just for obscenities, it’s not Kaliarda in full flower.
- p. 250. There was a parody Wedding Service in Kaliarda, which even Petropoulos hesitates to reprint. The wedding service parody was used in weddings between bottoms (πούστηδων, with Petropoulos using the straight derogatory word) and twinks (τεκνών, with Petropoulos using the Kaliarda term that has since become standard slang).
- The first edition noted maypole festivities by gays in Athens before the War during Mardi Gras; there were also Mardi Gras festivities in Salonica, renting out Glaros taverna with the permission of the police.
- Petropoulos thinks there are 5000 words of Kaliarda, and rushed to publish his 3000 words so as not to be anticipated by someone else, to his professed shame.
- p. 251. “Kaliarda must have picked up new words by now, but I am no longer the right person to talk to about that. [Petropoulos had already moved to Paris.] Let the lazy shits (κοπρίτες) of our universities continue the work.”
- p. 251–254 Petropoulos concedes that there is a lot of Romani in Kaliarda, and that he wasn’t well-placed to pick up on it. He received correspondence on the Romani words in Kaliarda from various specialists, including the classicist Gordon Messing. (Messing has two major claims to fame: he revised Smyth’s grammar of Ancient Greek for reprinting in 1956; and he published in 1981 a glossary of the Romani of Agia Varvara, one of the main Roma communities of Greece.)
- p. 251. Although he accepts at least some of her Romani etymologies, Petropoulos has several disagreements with Ioannidi’s study:
- Female prostitutes do not speak Kaliarda
- Ioannidi is too caught up with a philological approach to language: she does not have a “feel” for language, and she is too attached to the theoretical approach of folklorist Nikolaos Politis and linguist Manolis Triantaphyllidis (who had recorded the Romani-based builders’ cant Dortika).
- Ioannidi thinks Kaliarda is a secrecy language (cant), but is to some degree different from other cants. Petropoulos thinks the difference between Kaliarda and other cants is radical—that Kaliarda is much more an artificial language than other cants are.
- p. 254–256. Petropoulos reviewed the 1979 autobiography of “transvestite” “Betty” (Elisavet Vakalidou, born Periklis Vakalidis, and the first edition was under her birth name—and I’m tickled pink that she’s using “Elisabeth” as her formal chosen name). Betty’s website is offline, but there’s plenty of material about her online anyway.
Betty’s language is a mixture of Kaliarda, mainstream slang, cultured jargon (which Petropoulos also calls Kolonaki argot, after the affluent suburb of Athens), and cants of other marginalised groups, such as pimps, prisoners, or soldiers. Some of her Kaliarda is “external Kaliarda”, by which Petropoulos means (p. 257) Kaliarda for external consumption, standard Greek with faint Kaliarda elements. (As we will see, “external Kaliarda” is what survives now.) He distinguishes the following terms in Betty’s book:
- Kaliarda proper: mori, konsava duzur. mori is “hey you (fem, impolite); bitch!” in Greek; konsava is French comment ça va “how are you” (also used as an expression of incredulity); duzur is not listed in Petropoulos’ dictionary, but I assume it’s French toujours “always”.
- External Kaliarda: m’ eperne “he was taking me = he was fucking me”; kaname gave “we were begging”; gave is presumably a pseudo-French form of gavos “blind” (which beggars often pretended to be), and the light verb used is standard kano instead of the typical Kaliarda avelo; enxirismeni/xirurɣimeni “operated on” (? trans woman who has had gender-affirming surgery?); sort-taim “short time” (quickie?), tin ksepetakse “he flung her” (had a quickie?), to kra ke to kru “the (interjections) kra and kru” (kra as in krazo, to publicly ridicule, particularly gays, so public ridicule of gays?), ixe pola suksu-muksu “he had a lot of blah-blah” [I’m surprised to see this as Kaliarda at all], ton ekðilosa “I expressed him” (?), ksetsibukiazi tus fadarus “she’s blowing soldiers”, ftoxoaɣapitike “pauper/lover!” None of these actually look particularly Kaliarda to me at all, which I guess is why Petropoulos put them in the “external” category.
- p. 258. Petropoulos accuses Triantafyllidis of a lack of integrity in not working on Kaliarda or the slang of the underworld.
- Petropoulos’ mentions Napoleon Lapathiotis’ 1938 sonnet Vao Gao Dao, wondering whether it was Kaliarda or some sort of language game. As the recent article on the poem at Nikos Sarantakos’ blog details, it was a parody of surrealism in nonsense Greek. There’s no reason to think it had anything to do with Kaliarda, apart from the fact that it is not in standard Greek, and that Lapathiotis was gay.
- p. 259. There is also a verse by poet Marinos Sigouros which looks like Kaliarda, but Romani is a more obvious explanation.
- p. 259–260. In 1979, lyricist K. Panagiotopoulos and composer K. Sfetsas asked for permission to record a political Kaliarda song. (From this article by Timos Angelou, we know it was featured in the revue “There’s a cat on my head” (Στο κεφάλι μου μια γάτα) at the Rialto theatre.) They were refused.
[…] in his second edition accused the linguist Manolis Triantafyllidis of academic dishonesty, in the minimal information he gave about Kaliarda in his work on cants (which we saw included his […]
[…] with lyrics by Giorgos Pavrianos, and sung by Betty Vakalidou; recall that Petropoulos had discussed Vakalidou’s use of Kaliarda in her 1979 autobiography. The video clip is online, and features naked luchadores. It is a Kaliarda text generated from […]
[…] George Le Nonce refers to it as Kolonaki Kaliarda, after the high-class Athens suburb. Recall that Petropoulos in his second edition had used Kolonaki argot to refer to the cultured jargon that Betty Vakalidou’s autobiography […]
I hasten to point out that the spirochaetes that cause Lyme disease and syphilis are about as closely related as English and Hindi.
And I’m reasonably sure that the syphilis variant was the only one that Kaliarda speakers would have heard of.
There’s yaws, too.
“I’ll have a beer.”
It seems that Lapathiotis himself was a Kaliarda speaker, something that Petropoulos should have known. In Aris Diktaios’ preface in his Collected poems of Lapathiotis, Diktaios is reminiscing of the time when he, as a young man, first met with Lapathiotis and Mitsos Papanikolaou in the late 30s, and they were using Kaliarda -he cites a couple of words.