Kaliarda XXVI: Lubunca

By: | Post date: 2017-12-20 | Comments: 6 Comments
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Modern Greek

Just when I thought I was done.

Anna T’s article I just posted on mentioned Nicholas Kontovas’ 2012 M.A. thesis on Lubunca, the Turkish Gay Cant that until now I only knew of from Khyuchukov & Bakker’s 1999 paper.

The first 9 pp of Kontovas’ thesis are available online. They’re actually enough to answer a lot of questions about Kaliarda.

  • The Turkish Gay Cant has a name, then, and lubunca, lubunyaca is the exact Turkish equivalent of lubinistika, the usual name for Kaliarda (at least by outsiders) before Petropoulos: “whore-language”, from Romani lubhni.
  • It’s mainly used in Istanbul, but is spreading to other big cities (just as Kaliarda was an Athens and Salonica language).
  • Its daily use is now limited to trans female sex workers in Istanbul; it was in common use among gay males in the late 20th century. (Kaliarda has also declined in Greek, although an attenuated version of it has picked up in emblematic use.)
  • Sources on Lubunca are no earlier than 1981, and many of them are roundabout (translations of queer-themed French texts); the Lubunca Sözluk [Dictionary] appeared online in 2010, and the 2008 Büyük Argo Sözlüğü [Great Slang Dictionary] by Aktunç helped Kontovas sift Lubunca from other Turkish slangs. [The pre-Petropoulos attestations of Kaliarda were unearthed in response to my posts, by blog commenters with access to digitised Greek press archives; there may be treasures waiting to be found in the Turkish archives for Lubunca as well, and we know that Manganaras explicitly said in 1904 that he found the same Gay cant in Piraeus and Istanbul.]
  • Petropoulos had a rich harvest of vocabulary for Kaliarda: 3000 headwords, 700 of them root words (and 52 of those Romani). There’s much less there for Lubunca: 153 lexemes, 85 lexical roots. That count is comparable to the 100-odd words (all root words) Triantafyllidis recorded for Dortika (and I’ve already commented that Lubunca as Khyuchukov & Bakker recorded it looked like a para-Romani, just as Dortika does).
  • Lubunca is meant to be spoken with a stereotypically “gay” or ‘camp” intonation (just as Kaliarda is).
  • We finally have an explanation for Kaliarda berde “money”, which looked like the Turkish-derived word for “curtain”. The Lubunca for “money” is belde, which is an anagram of Turkish bedel “price, cost, fine”. Metatheses are frequent components of cants, and Christodoulou had remarked on them in Greek slangs; they also appear in Kaliarda, but rather less frequently than for other slangs. The only two instances in Lubunca are bedel and şebzü < beşyüz “five hundred”.
  • Lubunca also uses written puns: ellisekiz “(notorious) bottom” < “58”, which in Arabic numerals looks like an anus and an erect penis. That kind of pun is not alien to Greek: generations have tittered over <ῳ>.
  • 26 of the 85 roots of Lubunca are Romani. We have a few additions from Khyuchukov & Bakker, and they explain a few more things about Kaliarda (particularly nakka):
    Lubunca Romani Kaliarda
    balamoz “old man” balamo “non-Roma man; boss balamos “client of prostitute”
    çavo “young gay male” çhavo “Romani boy cf. tekno “twink, child” < Rom. tikno “small”
    dik(el), tikel “to see, to glance, to look” dikhel “he sees ðikelo “to see”
    koli “sex” kolin “chest, breast”
    matiz “drunk” mato “drunk” Older Kaliarda matalo “drunk”
    nakka “nothing, none, no” na khan “not at all” naka “nothing, none, no”
    tato “bath” tato “warm”
  • So naka is not a variant of Albanian nukë, although I suspect its synonym nuku is; a few Albanian words do turn up in Kaliarda, and Arvanitika was the pre-modern language of much of Attica, including parts of Athens itself.
  • The Romani in Lubunca is at times heavily altered, and reflects a mélange of the variants of Romani common in the Balkans.
  • The next contributor to Lubunca is French with five root words: turalamak “to stroll” < tour; pişar “a piss” < pissoire; lapuş, lapış “lips, mouth, kiss” < la bouche; albuş “a kiss” < à la bouche; lavaj “anal douche, enema” < lavage. There’s a lot of French in Kaliarda; these aren’t in there, and indeed the run-in articles suggest an oral acquaintance with French, whereas Kaliarda Francisms are meticulous and clearly learnèd.
  • Greek has contributed four words, and the first is our old friend paparon, paparun, paparos “policeman”, from paparuna “poppy” (now truncated to runa in Kaliarda). We saw this was Koutsavakika slang as early as 1906; Aktunç’s slang dictionary explains it as a type of cigarette, and he is likely right.
  • The other two Greek roots are nonoş “bottom, transvestite, effeminate gay man” < nonos “godfather”; and nafta “middle aged man” < naftis “sailor”. (Kontovas counts four Greek words, but gives only three.)
  • English: gey < gay, malbuş < Marlboro cigarette, homoş < homosexual, and laki “morality police” < lackey
  • There are also a few words from Armenian, Ladino, and Arabic. The word similya “penis” < Ladino semilya “seed” may be related to the Kaliarda sarmela “penis”.
  • There are only one or two Italian lexemes: albergo “hotel” < albergo, and possible laçka “old bottom” < lascia “leave him”? That is a striking difference with Kaliarda, whose Italian component is massive, and which Montoliu explained as Levantine, i.e. Ottoman; it might be that Greeks had access to Italian vocabulary in a way that Turks did not, as fellow Christians.
  • There is one word apiece from Bulgarian, Kurdish, and Russian.
  • As with Kaliarda, there are a lot of words with uncertain etymology, and many of them are likely inventions meant to sound foreign.


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