Kaliarda XI: Christodoulou

By: | Post date: 2017-11-28 | Comments: 3 Comments
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Modern Greek

Katerina Christodoulou’s 2016 thesis A lexicological analysis of slang vocabulary of Modern Greek is a thorough analysis of the morphology, semantics and pragmatics of multiple Greek slang variants, old and new, and of the colloquial use of obscenities. Kaliarda is one of the old variants studied; while most attention is given to contemporary youth slang (not without the assistance of data from slang.gr), Kaliarda comes up several times, and is discussed separately.

p. 87. Kaliarda is unusual among Greek marginal lects, in that other marginal lects seldom borrow from it, because of the stigma of being gay. Recently women have been using Kaliarda words to express their autonomy from men.

p. 93. Kaliarda are linguistically autonomous, having even distinctive pronouns (imandes “we” < Romani mande “me”) and adverbs (karbone “together” < Italian carbone “carbon (copy)”).

p. 94. Kaliarda are dying out because the associated prejudices are dying out; but many Kaliarda words survive in contemporary slang: kulo “shit” < “nonsense”, tekno “young man” (twink or toyboy); xalastra “ruin, loss”.

p. 95. Notable loans:

  • radaro “read” < English read or radar;
  • sevdotekno “young pop singer” < Turkish sevda “love” + Kaliarda tekno;
  • midlanota “midnight” < English middle + Italian notte

Ingenious compounds:

  • viðobladorufa “leech” < viða “screw” + English bloody “blood” + rufo “suck”;
  • kuorokuravelta “love” < Italian cuore “heart” + Kaliarda kuravelta “sex act”.
    • G. Kastouda suggests for the latter kulo “shit” + averta “openly, with abandon”. One could just as well propose c(u)ore + averta, but that would be too romantic for Kaliarda. Or alternatively, one could just check Romani as Poniroskilo at slang.gr did, and find kurela “to have sex”, presumably with the verb avelo suffixed
  • retsinoparfuma “incense” < retsini “resin” + Italian parfuma “perfume”
  • talirokatarieme “to give the moudza gesture” (spread palm) < taliro “five drachma coin” + katarieme “to curse” (because the curse is given with five fingers spread)
  • sarmeloxamoɣelo “sex” < Kaliarda sarmela “penis” + xamoɣelo “smile”


  • xorxora “fire”
  • tsuxtroklaka “whip” < tsuxtra “jellyfish, stinger” + klak
  • sursuru “injection”

p. 96. Productive stems:

  • purevo “grow old”
  • pureklo “old woman”
  • purozeles “old man” < phuro + zeles “jelly”
  • purokumando “military command”
  • puromarioneta “old paralysed man” (lit. “old marionette”)

p. 97.

  • compound: matsoberdeðokuto “cash register, fund” < matso “cash” < Italian mazzo + berde “money” < Romani parne + kuti “box”
  • derived: afroðito “prostitute” < Aphrodite
  • derived: verɣoniaris “shy” < Italian vergogna “shame”
  • truncation: runa “policeman” < ɣuruna “pig” (Montoliu derives it from paparuna “poppy”
  • metathesis: lostre “mad” < trelos
  • metathesis: ksalimari “pillow” < maksilari
  • phrasal compound: antikoti prufa “domestic letter” < antikotos “distant” + prufa “letter”
  • “idiom”: turla susta “dizziness”

p. 151. Examples of of Kaliarda survivals into modern slang: kolobaras “top, active partner in gay sex” < Turkish kulampara; lubina “passive homosexual” < Lumpen(proletariat). The latter is clearly wrong, and the correct Romani etymology lubni “whore” is given for lubinia “deceit”.

My note: The Turkish etymology kulampara of kolobaras was a surprise to me. I’d assumed (as did Zahos’ 1981 dictionary of slang) that it was formed internally to Greek, substituting the first element of Farsi zan-pare “woman-fancier, heterosexual” with Greek kolos “arse”. (And I was curious how Greeks knew enough Persian to do so, when they’d only heard of the word via Ottoman Turkish.) Per Nişanyan, the word is already attested in Evliya Çelebi in the 17th century, and derives directly from Persian ġulāmpāre “boy-lover”. So there was no analogy on zan-pare necessary: the word does come straight from Farsi, and the folk-etymology “arse-fancier” in kolobaras is yet another happy coincidence, of the similarity of Arabic غلام ḡulām “boy” and Greek kolos.

At any rate, kolobaras was obviously used a lot by Kaliarda speakers, but I have little reason to think it was ever exclusive to Kaliarda: it was merely the Ottoman expression for tops, and Kaliarda was not the only language variant in which tops were spoken of. See e.g. discussion in Mehmet Ümit Necef: Turkey on the Brink of Modernity: A Guide for Scandinavian Gays—a discussion of traditional norms of gay sex that will be quite familiar from foregoing discussion:

In contrast to ibne [bottoms, Greek bines, who often cross-dressed, and now can be trans], kulampara [top] does not constitute a special type of man. Any married man “too full of lust” or separated too long from his wife looks for prostitutes, mistresses, animals (dogs and donkeys) or ibneler. Nobody would consider himself as “abnormal”, “perverse”, “sinful”, let alone “homosexual” for fucking an ibne. He would not identify himself with a (minority) group of “men-fuckers” or “animal-fuckers”. To bugger an ibne is an enjoyment open to all; any man could be seduced by one of those.

p. 223. The use of feminine suffixes (-u, -a, -i) to create novel words, including onomatopoeias, is not restricted to Kaliarda; there are examples from the slangs of drug addicts (paramiθu, paramiθa “heroin” < paramiθi “fairy tale; solace”) and rebetiko songs (afra “burglary” < ksafrizo “to skim the foam off the top = to steal”).

My note: But the Kaliarda usage appears to be much more systematic.

p. 267. Kaliarda is notable among Greek slang variants for its three-part compounds, used because of the secrecy nature of the cant; these are both exocentric and endocentric:


  • kifinoturlukoliko “religious icon” < Kaliarda kifinas “monk” < Standard Greek “drone bee” + Kaliarda turlukuliko < turlu “salad” < Turkish türlü “mixed food” + Kaliarda kuliko “colour” < French couleur (NOTE: The latter with an adjectival ending -iko, which makes it look like the Kaliarda for “shitty” < Romani khul)
  • metaxalemadokamari “dining room” < Greek meta “after” + Kaliarda xalemade + Greek kamari “room”.

My note: The derivation given of xalemade from Albanian halë, Turkish halâ “toilet” should be rejected in favour of Romani xal “eat”. The derivation of xalemade as xal + Albanian made “food, stomach” is possible, but a pseudo-French -ment seems to me more in keeping with Kaliarda


  • ilektropopilobuso “trolleycar” < Greek ilektriko “electric” + popilobuso “bus”, calque of Puristic Greek leoforio “people-carrier”, < Italian popolo “people” + English bus
  • matsoberdeðokuto “cash register” < matso “cash” Italian mazzo + berde “money” < Romani parne + Greek kuti “box”

Youth slang occasionally also uses three-part compounds: malako-putso-ɣliftra “jerk-dick-licker” = “immoral woman”, kariolo-tsibuko-ɣliftra “whore-blowjob-licker” = “immoral woman”, seksopornoðiastrofikos “sex-porn/whore-perverted” = “perverted”.

My note: It is fair to say that Greek has periodically enjoyed multi-part compounds, and I’ve cited in this blog instances from both Early Modern Greek literature, and from the Hellas-L mailing list in the 90s. However three-part (and even four-part) compounds are a much more systematic part of Kaliarda, owing to its artificiality: its deliberate use of a restricted, largely Romani lexicon to devise new words internally to Kaliarda.

p. 278. Metathesis is a common feature of contemporary slang , where it is known as poðana < ana-poða “backwards”. It occurs in youth slang, drug addict slang, soldier slang, and to small extent prisoner slang. Metathesis is to be expected in secrecy languages, but it does not appear in older Greek cants (e.g. koutsavakika). The only examples in Kaliarda appear to be ksalimari < maksilari “pillow”, and komoda < domata “tomato” (which may instead occur in the dialectal metathesis komodori < pomodori < Italian pomodoro)

p. 283. Truncation is a characteristic of both older and newer slang variants. The only instance given as Kaliarda is dzaz “mad” < dzazlos “ibid.” < dzazo “to leave” (i.e. be out of one’s mind) < Romani džav (the truncation is targeted at dzaz “jazz”). But several instances given as contemporary youth slang are also in Petropoulos’ dictionary: dana “whore” < putana, dania “dishonourable action” < putania lit. “whorish action”, tna “pimple” < Mt Etna, runa “policeman” < ɣuruna “pig”, duma “hashish smoke” < dumani. (Most of these are given in p. 535 as Kaliarda anyway.)

p. 294. Reduplication is characteristic of soldier slang, but is common (if not very frequent) in other variants; the Kaliarda instance cited is kul kul “shit” < Romani khul

p. 300. Phrasal compounds: the Kaliarda instances cited are: kipi kapaki “green beret”, Kaliarda “green hat” < “garden-coloured lid”, kapaki plereza “black beret”, Kaliarda “black hat” < “mournful lid”

p. 307. Idiomatic expressions: the Kaliarda instance cited is ðeno/ðanteliazo/avelo fionɡο “to bind/embroider/have a ribbon = to have sex with a homosexual who I thought was heterosexual”; the gloss Petropoulos actually gives is “to have sex with a bottom who I thought was a top”, reflecting the more salient dichotomy of the time. The idiom is in fact a pun on the word fionɡο “ribbon” < Italian fiocco, which means in Kaliarda “bottom who acts like a top” (cf. “straight-acting”), and is in fact a truncation of older mainstream slang dzidzifiongos “dandy” < Turkish cici “beautiful” + Italian fiocco.

p. 309. Verbal idioms in slang often feature a light verb—kano, perno, vɣazo “do, take, take out” in Koutsavakika, avelo, vuelo in Kaliarda:
avelo tula “be silent”, avelo dup “beat up”, avele apokate “come here”, avelo puf, vuelo fuma “smoke hashish”, vuelo dza “go away”, vuelo foria “pressure”.

Christodoulou discusses altering grammatical gender of references to humans as one of the means of increasing or decreasing offensiveness in slang, with feminines referring to men as typically offensive (even when effeminacy is not being overtly alluded to). The use of feminines in Kaliarda of course is not about insult at all, and purposefully celebrates effeminacy, if not femininity.

p. 535. Further examples of morphological processes:

  • Blend: sikafrachancre, ulcer associated with syphilis” < siko “fig; derogatory mainstream word for gays” or sik “chic” + afroðisiο “venereal (disease)”, which has been truncated in turn
  • Truncation: tua “money” < tula “ibid.” (Etymology unknown)
  • Truncation: pfes “coffee” < kafes
  • Phrasal compound: dzas nionio “mad” < Kaliarda dzas “leave” + Colloquial Greek nionio “mind”
  • Phrasal compound: kart kaliard “photograph” < French carte + Kaliarda kaliarda “ugly, bizarre” [The ending of kaliarda has been truncated to make it look French, by analogy with kart postal < carte postale “postcard”]
  • Phrasal compound: pompino frape “blowjob” < French bonbon + French frapper “strike” [or of course frappé]
  • Phrasal compound: prufa mors “telegram”, lit. “Morse letter”
  • Phrasal compound: flokia romanof “Russian salad, Olivier salad; a mix-up”; lit. “jizz Romanoff”
  • Idiom: artista tu vuvu “elderly and experienced gay” lit. “silent cinema artist”
  • Idiom: avelo kusumia “to gossip jealously” lit. “to do insults”
  • Idiom: benavo anθiɣiina “to gossip jealously” lit. “to speak unsanitarily”
  • Idiom: dzazo ta mol “to have diarrhoea” lit. “to expel water”
  • Idiom: latsa xalemata “expensive food” lit. “beautiful food”


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