Kaliarda XVI: Leotsakos

By: | Post date: 2017-12-02 | Comments: 3 Comments
Posted in categories: Culture, Linguistics, Modern Greek

Spatholouro’s finds continue. This time, he has reproduced material on Kaliarda from police reporter Spiros Leotsakos, writing in 1963 in Αστυνομικά Χρονικά [Police Chronicles].

The first excerpt, from Vol. 233, 1963–02-01, confirms the use of Kaliarda by female prostitutes—or at least of a Romani-based cant, which by then may have been quite distinct from Kaliarda. (Recall Petropoulos’ report that gay men (or transwomen) who spoke Kaliarda worked as support staff in cis female brothels in Athens.)

In those places of corruption, both Gypsy and Maltese women used the Gyspy dialect to communicate between one another, which was corrupted here and gave rise to the specialist language of brothels, the so-called “Lubinistika”. […] Mr Efstathios Bourganis, who retired as a police officer many years ago, had worked on Lubinistika in Greece during the first years of the establishment of the Police Corps in Athens. He was a Police Lieutenant at the time, working in the Athens General Security department, and in the Vice Squad in particular.

The second excerpt (Vol. 241, 1963–06–01) elaborates:

Until the City Police institution was extended to Athens and Peiraeus, those exercising the policing function found it impossible to understand the communications, even when they were physically present, between both procurers and common women, and the directives of their madams towards them, or what they were saying to her. That is because procurers would add words of criminal argot, which the police officers did not comprehend, and the women used the secret language of brothels, the renowned “lubinistika”, which, as they have indicated, was Romani, and which had been established as the language of brothels since the Middle Ages, when prostitutes were mainly Gypsies. But the new Corps could not work and enforce the law on places of corruption while secret communications were taking place in front of uncomprehending policemen. For that reason, the late Paxinos, a Police Captain at the time, learned the criminal argot, the renowned Mangika, and compiled a glossary in his book. And the then Police Lieutenant Mr Stathis Bourganis collected Lubinistika—a glossary I believe he should have published. Both of them taught both the argot of criminals and procurers, and the argot of houses of ill repute, in police officer meetings, so that officers working in the Vice Squad could understand them.

Spatholouro reports that Spyros Paxinos’ 1940 book Έγκλημα, κοινωνία, αστυνομία [Crime, Society, Police], which is otherwise a rich source of information, does not mention Kaliarda, though it does include two photos of bottoms in female clothes and their nicknames.

Petropoulos went to the Vice Squad for advice when he started researching Kaliarda; the police chief denied that there were street queans at all (though a beat cop took him aside afterwards and gave him directions), and discouraged him from continuing his researches. Had Petropoulos gone a decade earlier, it appears, he might have had more luck. As it is, Bourganis’ glossary would be quite the find.

The third excerpt (Vol. 239, 1963–05–01) seems to explain Manganaras’ usage of Twelve to refer to gays, if not Vamvakaris’.

During that period, from 1910 to 1925, another plague had become a veritable scourge for the small capital of Greece and its morals. Young men of ill repute. Homosexuality had unfortunately become widespread at the time, and corrupted youths circulated openly at night in Omonia Square and its side streets, to the extent that the expression “He frequents Omonia” or “He’s of Omonia” had come to be considered quite offensive for a man, as it would imply that he had passive homosexual tendencies. The most prominent of the ranks of those effeminate young men appear to have numbered twelve, because the following phrases were used with the same meaning: “He is one of the Twelve” or “He is of the Twelve”. They were most impudent, audacious to the point of straining incredulity: they circulated with provocative repulsive mincing, perfumed, powdered and painted, and they provoked men passing by to a repulsive degree, attempting to have relations with them.

As Googling showed, and commenters confirmed, councils of Twelve were commonplace in Ottoman Greece, so the Twelve of Peiraeus or of Omonia need not have been precisely twelve in number. (Recall that Manganaras named fourteen gays in Peiraeus.)


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