Kaliarda XV: Triantafyllidis’ Glancing Mention

By: | Post date: 2017-12-02 | Comments: 1 Comment
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Modern Greek

Petropoulos 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 important work on the builders’ cant Dortika, which is also based on Romani); he claims Triantafyllidis had researched Kaliarda extensively, but was too scared to publish anything.

Whether or not that is true, the information Triantafyllidis gives is indeed minimal, and what little he said seems to have led to some persistent misunderstandings. But his summary work on cants1 is quite impressive when it comes to all cants but Kaliarda, as we saw in the previous post; and it’s the more impressive because it originated as a talk, given in 1947.

This is the glancing mention he makes of Kaliarda in that talk.

p. 315. In reviewing professional cants, Triantafyllidis found the following word counts for countries of origin—allowing for unclear etymologies, and for the regional variation in cants and the languages they were in contact with: 58 Slavic, 38 Aromanian, 10–12 Italian (mainly in the cants of Ioannina), 9 Turkish, 7 Arvanitika, 5–7 Romani, 2 Ladino, 1 Hebrew.

If we add Dortika and some others, the picture changes to the benefit of Romani and Italian. In mangika [= Koutsavakika] idioms, which were formed in urban centres, there are fewer foreign words. It is worth noting that Italian is sometimes used to express more abstract [“higher”] concepts, while Romani is mainly used for concepts relating to suspect business, and is usual in so called verba erotica.

Footnote: In Greek such words appear in the language of the effeminate and prostitutes, lubinistika (from Romani lubni). That idiom, outside of Greek words, also has Romani and Italian words.

… That’s it.

It’s not much, but it’s still interesting to comment on this, as another early witness to Kaliarda, 20 years before Petropoulos. (The following post on the paper by Minniti-Gonias, about Italian words in Kaliarda, has more to say about what Triantafyllidis said.)

  • Triantafyllidis uses lubinistika to refer to Kaliarda, the same word Petropoulos first heard of Kaliarda as, a few years earlier. (1947 in fact is when Petropoulos was learning Kaliarda in the Great Salonica park. Triantafyllidis at Aristotle University would have been a few kilometres away.)2 In fact, lubinistika does seem to be the most common word for Kaliarda before Petropoulos.
  • Ioannidou’s 1977 report that Kaliarda was spoken by female prostitutes presumably originates here. Petropoulos dismissed it, but we have just seen a claim that was true from 1934. (And a future post will given even more direct confirmation, from an Athens policeman.)
  • The claim which people keep having to refute, that Kaliarda is mainly a language about sex, also seems to have originated here, if only through the allusion that Romani is the language used for vocabulary about sex. As we have seen, Romani is used for a lot more than vocabulary about sex in Kaliarda, and Kaliarda in full flower was indeed a language that covered a lot of ground (though the vestigial use of the language in parodies and in emblematic use does focus on the dirty words).
  • I didn’t mention it, but Kyuchukov & Bakker expressed surprise that Romani was the basis of a gay cant, given the traditional sexual conservatism of the Rom. The Rom working as prostitutes in the Ottoman Empire, that were at the start of Kaliarda, were of course working far from the censure of their relatives. Triantafyllidis’ blanket claim that Romani is used for criminal and sexual concepts doesn’t make much sense outside of Kaliarda—it’s not what the little Dortika he has published looks like; and it seems to be a superficial conclusion.
  • Triantafyllidis mentions Italian and Romani, which Montoliu has established are the main sources of Kaliarda vocabulary, along with Turkish. He does not mention English and French. It is quite plausible that English only took hold in Kaliarda between 1947 and 1971, with the rise of English as a prestige language. French would have been harder to miss; there’s still less French than Italian, but I wonder whether Triantafyllidis ignored the French element because upper class Greek, too, had been deluged with French loans.

Kaliarda XIV: The schematicism of Kaliarda

By: | Post date: 2017-12-01 | Comments: 3 Comments
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Modern Greek

Kaliarda is unintelligible on purpose, although you need to see extended instances for that to be obvious: not the song parodies that Petropoulos put in his appendix, which are merely Kaliarda-coloured Greek, or the Kaliarda you can find now on YouTube, but pieces like Pavrianos’ song Kaliardosynes, or indeed Klynn’s skit “Won’t One Faggot Speak Out” (Ένας Πούστης Να Μιλήσει)—for all that its Kaliarda is bookish and outsider—and noone who actually spoke Kaliarda would be so sympathetic to The People3.

Note how much of those texts is in red, the colour I used for Romani. As Montoliu was perceptive enough to pick up, Kaliarda deliberately builds new words on Romani bases, to maintain unintelligibility, and it uses its vocabulary parsimoniously, to keep it autonomous from Mainstream Greek. That means it is indeed artificial: the comparison with Esperanto was made in passing in a comment to Revenioti’s trailer on YouTube by Panos Panagis, and it’s fair. Indeed, for reasons of protecting its autonomy, Kaliarda is much more schematic than Esperanto, which itself is highly schematic among auxiliary languages. (Schematic in interlinguistics means “using a small vocabulary and compounding to maintain ease of learning”; the opposite pole is naturalistic, which involves using internationally common or familiar wordstock.)

A better comparison is the variant vocabularies that adults have to learn in societies, which rely on keeping their vocabularies low for learnability.

Like initiate languages: they can do some prodigious collapsing of lexical categories to keep vocabulary down. Kaliarda doesn’t quite do that—but the multiplicity of meanings of avelo, as a root verb (never mind its use as a light verb) is certainly unusual, and arguably artificial. As Montoliu again perceptively said, avelo would never have ended up with that range of meanings, if the speakers of Kaliarda had remained Rom: it happened because it was a Rom vocabulary taken over by gadjos as an artificial code.

… Or pidgins: Kaliarda is still Greek, and thus still flexional, so the comparison with isolating pidgins is not immediately obvious; but the prodigious compounding is the kind of thing you’d see in pidgins.

… Or, much more to the point, like cants. Which, after all, is what Kaliarda is.

I’ll come back to Triantafyllidis’ 1947 talk on cants,4 for its glancing mention of Kaliarda. But its mention of the parsimony with which cants use their vocabulary describes Kaliarda even better than the cants like Dortika which he did document.

Cants (συνθηματικές γλώσσες “password languages”) have a characteristic idiosyncrasy: given their relatively poor vocabulary, many words express concepts generically, which are kept distinct in normal speech. Dortika uses grast [< Romani grast “horse”] for horses, but also mules, and any beast of burden. The meaning “beast of burden” is most relevant, and the hearer can understand what exactly is meant from context or circumstance; or maybe they don’t, but that doesn’t really matter anyway. So the very few verbs are particularly multivalent. It’s as if the practitioners of secrecy languages worked out centuries ago the method launched in our time by English linguists and educationalists through Basic English:5 mangono [in Koutsavakika] means “take”, but also “steal”, and, followed by “a woman”, “marry”. praxalno [in Kudaritika, Epirus Builders’ Cant] is “work”, but is said of various things one can do: praxalnao ligrova “prepare food”, i.e. “cook”; but also “twirl” one’s moustache, or “strike” a bell. (p. 316)

We have seen this generic usage time and again in Kaliarda; not just with avelo meaning everything a verb can do, and dzazo meaning everything avelo does not, but also with nouns and adjectives; latsos for example being both “good” and “beautiful”. We noted that the Turkish Gay Cant was much closer to Romani, in having more concrete meanings to its words. Triantafyllidis exemplified genericness with Dortika grast; but Dortika is still closer to Romani than Kaliarda, in having more specific and less schematic word usage. For example, Dortika constrasts dʒala, dʒan with naʃto for “leave”; it has a distinct word for “sick”, mirelos < Romani merela “he is dying” (cf. Kaliarda baro “heavy thing”); it contrasts sumnal beautiful, healthy” and ʃapano “good” (cf. Kaliarda latsos for both). Recall that Dortika is a secrecy language, but its transmission was less artificial than for Kaliarda: its speakers are believed to have been hellenised Rom, as opposed to ethnic Greeks who took over a Romani idiom and elaborated on it.

It would be proper to speak here of periphrases occurring when a single-word rendering is not available. For example, absent a word for “be hungry” [Standard Greek pino], they will see θelo na tsaxtaiso “I want to eat” [in Alifiatika, Tinsmith Cant of Murgana, Epirus].

The Kaliarda use of avelo as a light verb is a logical outcome of that trend; we have indeed seen Pavrianos’ song lyric where “I am hungry” is rendered as avelo xalxalo “I want eat-eat” (or “I do hunger”, if xalxalo refers to hunger.) Kaliarda is not merely paraphrasing verbs, but systematically supplanting them with light verb locutions.

This lexical impoverishment is one of the reasons that they often come up with synoptical phrasing, in telegraphic style: [Dortika] posa stale to mas? “how much money the meat?”, i.e. “how much does the meat cost?” [Cant Not Specified] tsiukas kaloerepse “sun has turned monk [retired]” i.e. “night has fallen”. Yet cants also display the opposite phenomenon: lexical multitude. Thre are many words with identical meaning for the same thing, for concepts which are particularly emotionally salient for cant speakers. Of the 120 words I have recorded for Dortika, four are for ouzo/raki: atie, kias, mars, piki. We find that phenomenon elsewhere, e.g. in French argots. This richness in very concrete concepts has also been noted in cultures with a lower level of civilisation.

Yes, it was 1947. Petropoulos’ counting of synonyms in Kaliarda may well have been motivated by that observation: he makes a point of counting 45 synonyms for “gay [bottom], 10 for Kaliarda itself, 8 for “sperm” and “leave, escape”, 7 for “train, gossip, paederast [= top]”, and so on.

Triantafyllidis then goes on to note (p. 317) that “leave, escape” is the concept with the most synonyms in his records of cants, and on p. 315 he smirks “that’s spot on, isn’t it?”—speakers of cants are people who need to make a run for it, when whatever they are keeping secret is no longer a secret.

Kaliarda, as we have seen, is more artificial and more semantically underspecified than other cants. A lot of that artificiality has to do with its use of compounding, typically Romani-based, which is quite prodigious—and which does not seem to be paralleled in other Greek cants.

Compounding in Kaliarda—even three-part compounding—can be quite utilitarian. Take for example the listing of words relating to “death”. “Death” itself has a compound word in Kaliarda. The English idiom for dying, kick the bucket, has the Standard Greek equivalent τινάζω τα πέταλα “to fling one’s horseshoes”; it relies on the same notion of a dead body jerking straight, but refers to horses rather than people. Kaliarda brings it back to human shoes, with τζάζω τα τιραχά dzazo ta tiraxa. dzas-tirax- in turn becomes a productive morpheme for “death”:

  • dzastiraˈxaðiko “kick-the-bucket shop” = “funeral parlor”
  • dzastiraˈxas “kick-the-bucket-ist” = “executioner”
  • dzastotiraˈxakis “kick-the-bucket person (diminutive)” = “criminal, murderer”
  • dzastiraˈxokuto “kick-the-bucket box” = “coffin”
  • dzastiraxoˈmazema “kick-the-bucket gathering” = “funeral”
  • dzastiraxoˈbenama “kick-the-bucket speaking” = “eulogy”
  • dzastiraˈxosvoli “kick-the-bucket ashes”, dzastiraˈxospira “kick-the-bucket pellets” = “koliva, wheat ritually given out at funerals”
  • dzastiraxoseˈkeri “kick-the-bucket sweet”, dzastiraxoˈsolo ibid. = “poison”
  • dzastiraxoˈtrupa “kick-the-bucket hole” = “grave”
  • dzastiraxofiˈtevo “to kick-the-bucket plant”, dzastiraxoˈxono “to kick-the-bucket hide” = “to bury”

The words looks pretty elicited of course; you can see Petropoulos asking “so what other words are to do with death?” You can see a smirk in a lot of these: “planting” for “burying, for example, or “death sugar” for poison. Then again, my earliest exposure to Pidgins included “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him” in Tok Pisin as mi kam long plantim Siza long graun, no long mekim laulau bilong em. Granted, that was from Brush Up Your Pidgin, which does not take Tok Pisin terribly seriously; but if you had to make up a word for “bury” or “poison” with deliberately limited resources, those coinages are not necessarily absurd.

And yet, some of the compounds are truly coloured with a darkly cynical sense of fun; and the fun-making is certainly not limited to sex, as people often assume of Kaliarda. We already saw Klynn (somewhat clumsily) insert the word for “benefactors” into his skit; this is the full cynical sequence:

  • dzaz-berde “throw away money” > “make a donation”
  • dzazberdepuros “throw-money old-man” = “national benefactor, philanthropist”
  • dzazberdepurotsarðo “throw-money old-man hut” = “public building founded by a national benefactor, such as the Zappeion Hall.

The much longer series of words prefixed with vakul- “church” display both parsimony and anticlerical humour:

  • vakulaɣlaˈrizο “church non-dozing” = “attending a church vigil”
  • vakuloˈɡastroma “church pregnancy” = “church dome”
  • vakuloˈkerasma “church treat” = “holy communion”
  • vakulokreˈmala “church hanging noose” = “marriage” (from the mainstream slang “hanging noose” for “marriage”)
  • vakulolutsopuˈros “church light old man” = “beadle” (“church light” = “candle”)
  • vakuloˈbuki “church book” = “Bible”
  • vakulomasˈtura “church being-stoned” = “incense”
  • vakuˈlomolo “church water” = “holy water”
  • vakulonisesˈte “church clothes” = “cassock”
  • vakulodavaˈdzis “church pimp” = “bishop”
  • vakulopuˈros “church old man” = “priest”
  • vakulofeˈrofusta “church iron skirt” = “church bell” (“skirt” from the shape of bells)

I look forward to giving a list of the funniest of these, but I am still groaning under a wealth of material I’m unearthing on Kaliarda (and that commenters on Sarantakos’ blog are unearthing for me.) There will be posts on:

  • Minniti-Gonia’s paper on Italian in Kaliarda
  • Sechidou’s paper comparing Kaliarda with other Romani cants and Greek Para-Romani. (I’ve rushed this draft out, because at first glance it looks like she’s already anticipated what I’m saying here.)
  • Triantafyllidis’ papers on Dortika
  • Triantafyllidis’ glancing comments on Kaliarda
  • Spatholouro’s find of police attention to Kaliarda from 1963
  • A snippet of Kaliarda remembered from Larissa in the 1970s
  • A summary of the funniest and linguistically more salient words of Kaliarda


Kaliarda XIII: The Turkish Gay Cant

By: | Post date: 2017-11-30 | Comments: 3 Comments
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Modern Greek

I’ve found the paper by Kyuchukov & Bakker on the gay cant of Istanbul.

Spatholouro’s find and Montoliu’s had built up my expectations that this would be a carbon copy of Kaliarda, with the same polyglot amusements and compounding hilarity. Maybe it was; but the vocabulary Kyuchukov & Bakker recorded is just straight Romani words—like Kaliarda would have been at its very earliest stages. And a lot of the vocabulary is not shared with Kaliarda.

(I’m switching to acutes here, since they are combined in the article with Turkish orthography.)

Dortika, again for comparison, from Triantafyllidis, M. 1924. 7. Eine zigeunerisch-griechische Geheimsprache. Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschungen 52: 1–40. Reprinted in Άπαντα [Collected Works]: 2: 46–85.

p. 96. Although Romani has largely died out in Turkey, some subgroups in Turkey use Romani vocabulary. Romani musicians in Üsküdar use the following:

Turkish Musician cant Gloss Romani Etymology Kaliarda Dortika
maró “bread” maró mandó mandó
baró “stranger” baró “big” barós barós “big”
paní “water” paní mol < mol “wine” paní
cükél “dog” džukel Kaliarda has instead used non-Romani sources: ɣuɣumis (onomatopoeia) ɣuɣulfakis “little wolf” < English wolf + ɣuɣumis, lisaɣman < Greek lisaɣma “state of having rabies” + French -ment, fidelis < French fidèle “faithful” tskil, askél (< t’ askel “the dog” as metanalysis of tskil)
şukár “pretty” šukar Only latsos < lačho sumnal “beautiful, healthy” < Albanian shumë “very” + Romani šukar
román “Gypsy” Rom romanás rómis “smith, [Gypsy]” (Greek γύφτος means both)

p. 97. The paper only lists Romani words from the gay cant. Other words were of Kurdish or Slavic origin, or unknown; they do not mention Italian, French, or English, the other major sources of Kaliarda words.

The paper identifies lubunja “gay” as Slavic, from liubima “darling”. We have seen the equivalent Kaliarda lubína, and likely the older Kaliarda labuní, were derived from Romani lubhni “whore”. A Slavic etymology is not impossible, especially if there are other Slavic words in Turkish gay cant; but there are no Slavic words that I know of in Kaliarda, and the Romani word looks more plausible.

Turkish Gay cant Gloss Romani Etymology Kaliarda Dortika
naş “go away, get lost” nas Only dzaz- < džas naʃto
gaci “woman” gadži “non-Gypsy woman” Not present, although irakli “woman” < rakhli “non-Gypsy girl” is gadzana, gadzi “married woman”
laço “good looking man” latsos < lačho “good” latso
ṣukar “handsome man” šukar “good, pretty Only latsos sumnal “beautiful, healthy” < Albanian shumë “very” + Romani šukar
minca “vagina” mindž mudzo
çangal “shoe” cang “leg” only tiraxo
tato “bath” tato “warm”
phuri “old man” phuri “old woman” puri
p(h)uri balamoz “old man” phuri balamo “old non-Gypsy” puros
denyo “mad, crazy” dejno, dilo, dilino “insane” dilinos, diʎnos
matiz “drunk” mato Older Kaliarda matalo mato
piiz “drinking” pi- “to drink” Would be too close to Greek aorist pi- piela
baaro “male adult” baro “big” baros “fat” baros “big, rich”
but baare “big penis” but baro “very big” bara “crowbar” > “penis” is likely coincidence gar “penis”
but “very” but but but
taliga “taxi” taliga “carriage” Kaliarda would avoid dalika “truck”, which is already in colloqual Greek
taligatör “taxi driver” taliga “carriage”
tariz olmak “falling in love” thar- “to burn”
kelav “prostitute” kelav “I play, I dance”
peniz “talk, talking” pen- “to say, to speak” benavo pʰinela
çorna “theft” čor- “to steal” tsurno tsorela, tsurela
çornaci “thief” čor- “to steal” tsoris, dzortʲs
cici “homosexual” džidže “elder sister” aðerfi “sister” = gay; Kaliarda also has dzidzis, dzidzikis “bohemian, carefree”, which Petropoulos derives from Greek dzidziki “cicada” (via the Aesopian fable of the Ant and the Cricket)
soralo “homosexuals” šoralo “man with big head, leader”
tariz “burning, flame” thar- “to burn”
habbe “meal, food” habe, xabe xal xala, xalion “to eat”

p. 98 phuri preserves Romani aspiration, and baare, piiz vowel length; both are alien to Turkish. By contrast, Kaliarda phonology is thoroughly assimilated to Greek. Dortika, too, preserves Romani phonetics: pʰinela for Kaliarda benavo, kʃier “house” < kher, kxer.

The Kaliarda Romani vocabulary is clearly more parsimonious, which corroborates its greater artificiality: lačho also does the work of šukar, džav the work of nas.

A surprising number of words have no Romani-derived equivalent at all in Kaliarda, or have picked different Romani words (e.g. çangal vs tiraxo). The list of common words (even if we include the calque “sister”) is in fact quite small: “pretty, vagina, old, big (grown up), very, theft, food”.

We know that matalo used to be in Kaliarda; and it would be implausible to suggest an independent genesis of Kaliarda from Turkish Gay cant. But the complete absence of Italian in Turkish Gay cant is striking, given that Montoliu argued it represented the Ottoman, Levantine past of the idiom. Whatever was the case in the past, this is now only a vaguely related cant. And as the comparison with Dortika shows, it is also much closer to its Romani origins than Kaliarda is.

Kaliarda XII: Attestation from 1904, 1934, and 1938

By: | Post date: 2017-11-29 | Comments: 9 Comments
Posted in categories: Culture, Linguistics, Modern Greek

I’d been impressed with Spatholouro, commenter at Nikos Sarantakos’ Greek Langauge blog, for his detective skills with old Greek newspapers, from a recent article he wrote about inconsistencies in Markos Vamvakaris’ autobiography.

Greek linguistics owes Spatholouro a massive debt for the find he just posted at Sarantakos’ blog, reacting to my mention of this series on Kaliarda. Spatholouro has unearthed a description of Kaliarda and Kaliarda speakers from 1904.

I’m translating, and then annotating.

The “Art Nouveau satirical periodical” («αρνουβώ σατυρικόν φύλλον») Πεταχτό Κόρτε “Fleeting Flirt” was published by Giannis Mangas [pseudonym of anarchist Giannis Manganaras] in 1904. In the 1904–11–25 issue there is a report from Constantinople, mentioning that:

she, too, has her Group of Twelve [Δωδεκάδα] like our Athens […] But what connects the Twelve of Constantinople with the Twelve of Omonia Square, Athens is their language. One would think this is an international company with a common language and common customs. The language of our Omonia Twelve is recognised in Ottoman Law, and everybody is permitted to speak it and convey their meaning for every task they may have, and utilise it in their every activity.

Here is its renowned vocabulary alphabetically:

  • aˈvelo: I go
  • ˈavela: I went
  • ˈavele: go!
  • ˈaveles?: did you go?
  • ˈavele dzas: leave quickly!
  • ˈaveˈle mu ðio parniˈes: give me two drachmas
  • aˈveli berˈde?: will you give money?
  • aˈveli mian laˈtsi: he has a pretty girl
  • ðiˈkeli: he sees
  • irakˈli <Hēraklē>: woman
  • irakˈles <Hērakles>: women
  • kalianˈðro: ugly
  • korˈðoni: policeman
  • kuliˈko: makeup (φτιασίδι)
  • kuraˈvalta: (noun of the active verb kuravelˈto and the passive verb kuravelˈtume)
  • kaˈte: he
  • labuˈni: …
  • latˈsi [fem.]: beautiful
  • latˈsi [neut.]: ten lepta coin
  • latˈso [neut.]: pretty
  • ˈmatalo: drunk
  • ˈmokolo: be quiet
  • ˈbatsos: police constable (αστυφύλαξ)
  • balaˈmo: (noun formed from the active verb balaˈmo)
  • balaˈmo and but balaˈmo: …
  • berˈde: money
  • dap: a beating (ξύλο)
  • paˈɡro: moustache
  • parniˈa: drachma
  • parniˈes: drachmas
  • paˈɡra: beard, hair
  • ˈpuli: …
  • puˈro: old man

Unfortunately I couldn’t find the next issue so we don’t have the continuation of the vocabulary. It might be in the National Library of Greece when they open up, God willing. [That issue is not there either, it turns out.]

In the 1904–12–09 issue you can read the name of “the Group of Twelve in Peiraeus”:

Αλεκάκι, Μανωλάκι, Γαλατού, Χαραλαμπάκι, Ρόφα, Σαλεπιντζού, Ροδίτισσα, Αντωνία, Καμπουρίτσα, Καμπερούλα (ναύτης), Οδοντοϊατρός, Παπλωματού, Μπουντούρης (ναύτης), Πετρού

Little Alex [neut], Little Manolis [neut], Milkmaid, Little Haralambos [neut], Rofa [Sucker?] [fem], Saloop-Seller [fem], Rhodian Woman, Antonia, Little Hunchback [fem], Little Kambera [fem] (a sailor), Dentist [masc], Duvet-Seller [fem], Boudouris (a sailor) [masc], Petra [fem]
[…] They call one another “sister” (αδελφή) […] The members of the Group Of Twelve have become completely feminised; they speak as women, they behave as women, they walk as women, they dress indoors as women, and they swear at each other as women, using [expressions like] μωρή παληοβρώμα “you damned hussy”.

If I’m not grossly mistaken, I believe these texts have been unknown until now, and have not been identified by students of Kaliarda—by which I mean Petropoulos, but also contemporary students such as Domenica Minniti-Gonia (Italian and Heptanesian words in Greek slang).

As Spatholouro clarified in a followup, Πεταχτό Κόρτε magazine is not online: the Greek Literary and Historical Archive (Ελληνικό Λογοτεχνικό και Ιστορικό Αρχείο) has digitised it, but you can only consult it in situ. (As Spatholouro has done.) He has noticed mentions of lubinistika in later newspapers.

Montoliu had already inferred that Kaliarda reflects the Ottoman world linguistically, and that a Romani-based gay cant is also used in Istanbul. The reference in Kaliarda to Bairaktaris, first Athens Police Chief, also dates Kaliarda to the 1890s. But this is the earliest direct evidence we have seen of Kaliarda.

The fact that Kaliarda was the same (as far as Manganaras could tell) in Athens and in Constantinople is to be expected, since Kaliarda and ibne culture both formed in the Ottoman Empire, and likely predated the Greek State. (That’s certainly true for ibne culture, and even if Kaliarda originated in Istanbul after 1830, it would have been straightforward for it to travel to Athens from Istanbul.)

What is striking at first is how little Kaliarda, and for that matter the group that spoke it, seem to have changed between 1904 and 1968. Both descriptions feature bottoms socialising as women, insulting each other as women are supposed to instead of resorting to fisticuffs, and banding together for solidarity with pseudonyms. The Kaliarda of the two descriptions are close to identical. The differences between the two are going to be far more informative.

I do not know what “the Twelve” is a reference to; it cannot be that there were literally 12 bottoms in Peiraeus (and in any case Manganaras names fourteen). But it does corroborate that there was a strong group identity among them.

It’s also worth noting that the term “sister” (αδερφή) dates from at least as far back as 1904. This term (cf. English sissy) has become widespread in mainstream Greek slang with reference to gays; it is derogatory, but nowhere near as hateful as pustis has become. (One could even argue that the primary meaning of pustis is now “someone dishonourable” rather than “someone gay”—and like Commonwealth bastard, pustis is a double-edged sword, also used to flatter someone for their cunning—including the speaker himself.) Petropoulos records aðerfi as one of the many Kaliarda words for bottoms, and he also records that bottoms avoided calling themselves pustis; so the term could well have originated as a solidarity term within the community, before being taken up by outsiders.

There is one slight difference that strikes me, although the evidence is slender. Petropoulos emphasised that there was a wall between Kaliarda and Koutsavakika, petty criminal slang; and all the names of bottoms he gives are feminine, even to the extent of using wife-names (Haritakena i plakomuna “Haritakis’ Wife the Lesbian”). Manganaras’ list, by contrast, has a few words we recognise as Kutsavakika from Rebetiko songs (mokolo “be quiet”, Koutsavakika moko < Italian moco “nothing”; batsos “policeman” (now mainstream slang) < Turkish baç “tax, blackmail”). And his list of names includes neuter diminutives, which can be applied to either gender: noone in fact would assume Manolaki is anything but masculine Emmanuel—cf. Petropoulos’ reference of the pustomangas Manolia “Emmanuelle”. Indeed, he has some explicit masculine names: oðontoiatros “The Dentist”, Boudouris.

It’s possible that the Ottoman world of the ibne, reflected in 1904, was not the hermetic world of the lubines Petropoulos found in 1968—with only the world of drug addicts more closed off to outsiders like him, and with minimal contact with the “mainstream” underworld other than through the feared pustomangas. It’s possible that the world of the ibne was less closed off, and less defensive, because of greater social tolerance under the Ottomans, even if it was as second class citizens—so that their use of underworld slang was unremarkable. And correspondingly, if the ibne felt less persecuted under a Muslim than a Christian state, they may have felt less pressure to assert an overtly feminine identity in reaction, with neuter diminutives and masculine names still being possible. (If the masculine names are of tops, that also indicates a more fluid situation, when tops and bottoms could be considered part of the same social group; that’s certainly not what Petropoulos describes.)

Again, there’s little evidence for this; it’s an interesting hypothesis though.

The vocabulary is small (and already up to pi, so if Spatholouro ever finds the next issue, it won’t be many more words); but there’s a lot going on in there:

  • aˈvelo is already semantically underspecified: its main gloss is given as “go”, but in ˈaveˈle mu ðio paries it means “give”, in aˈveli mian latsi it means “have”, and in ˈavele dzas “leave quickly!” it is a light verb. As Montoliu concluded, that degree of overuse of avelo only makes sense if Kaliarda had long since stopped being spoken by actual Rom; that was clearly already the case in 1904.
  • irakˈli: Petropoulos was misled by phonological similarity to assume that the word for woman was derived from Heracles; as Poniroskilo at slang.gr already worked out, it is merely rakhligadjo girl” preceded by the feminine definite article η i. Petropoulos accordingly spelled irakli with an eta, like Hēraklēs; Manganaras has done the same.
  • kalianðro: ugly; a spelling rendering of [kaliadro]. The Kaliarda rendering we now know is kaliardo < Romani kaljardo, so the form recorded has a metathesis. Petropoulos records that he first heard of Kaliarda in high school as lubinistika, so the name Kaliarda itself may not have originally been widespread (and Petropoulos recorded a large number of synonyms); it may be surprising to a modern audience that the name of the language itself isn’t mentioned along with kaliardos, but it was not inevitable.
  • The word korðoni “ribbon” has not survived in Kaliarda for policeman: the usual word is runa. Sarantakos recorded korðoni in 1985 as military slang for cadets, by metonymy, and it’s an obvious metonymy to apply to policemen as well. I’m not aware of it being used in other slang of the time, but I wouldn’t rule it out.
  • kuliko: “makeup” in Manganaras; in Petropoulos, that is the meaning of plural kulika, while singular kuliko means “colour”. The derived and compound forms in Petropoulos involve “makeup”: kulikokarbono “black makeup”, kulikoma “application of makeup”, kulikono “apply makeup”, kulikomenos “in makeup”. Petropoulos thinks kuliko is likely from French couleur; French was already fashionable in both Greece and Turkey in 1904, but I still suspect the “makeup” meaning is original, and “colour” secondary. The internal etymology would be as an adjectival form of kulo “shit”—cf. kuˈli “shit-coloured = brown”. Faeces have been used historically in makeup, and if the practice continued in Ottoman times (which I have no idea about), Kaliarda speakers would have been delighted to point it out.
  • kuravalta is not glossed, being the first of the obscenities in the list; it is “sex”. Manganaras has the verb as kuravelto and the noun as kuravalta; Petropoulos has the verb as kuravalo and the noun as kuravelta. I have rejected Katsouda’s etymology kulo “shit” + averta “openly, with abandon” (i.e. anal sex), and Romani kuřipe “sex”, kurela “to have sex” are too clearly related to kuravelta. I don’t see an obvious explanation for the infix –av– of kur-av-el in ROMLEX, other than a blend with avelo. (The verb avelo does everything else in Kaliarda, after all.) Maybe a blend with kurva “whore”, which is Slavic and also known in Romani and Greek? East Slovak Romani kurarica ~ kuravica “wart” does not look promising.6
  • labuˈni: Unglossed, and hence an obscenity; this is most likely the word Petropoulos recorded as luˈbina, for “gay (bottom)”, from Romani lubhni “whore” (if it was not the word for “whore” itself in 1904). The later word lubina has an overt feminine ending: if labuˈni (which would have been a neuter in Greek) is the same word, it is another indication that older Kaliarda was less thorough-going about applying the feminine gender to bottoms.
  • The neuter latˈsi “pretty (little) thing” for a ten lepta coin had not survived into Petropoulos’ dictionary.
  • ˈmatalo “drunk” is not recorded in Petropoulos; it is Romani < maťol “get drunk”, Gurbet Romani (Former Yugoslavia) matalo “drunkard”
  • ˈmokolo “be quiet”, cf. Koutsavakika moko “ibid.” Both this and ˈbatsos appear to be Koutsavakika.
  • balaˈmo: unglossed; this is Romani for “boss, non-Rom”, and Kaliarda for “client of gay prostitute” (recall that’s how a hitchhiking Revenioti referred to Petropoulos). The verb balaˈmo is not attested in Petropoulos; and for all its polyglot amusements, the derivational morphology of Kaliarda is quite Hellenic: one would have expected the verb to be balamiazo or balamevo—if not avelo balamo. So I’m not convinced the verb is real.
  • The meaning of but balamo “very punter” is not clear to me.
  • We saw that Montoliu derived berˈde “money” from Romani plural parne “money”; berˈde in Greek is the Turkish loanword for “curtain” (incl. “stage curtain”), and its applicability to “money” is questionable. I had assumed berˈde was a folk etymology. But parne turns up in Manganaras’ list as parniˈes, alongside berˈde, as “drachmas” vs “money”. That makes it likelier that the two words were distinct from the beginning, and some sort of metaphor involving curtains becomes worth considering again.
  • Manganaras has singular paˈɡro “moustache” vs. plural paˈɡra “beard, hair”; Petropoulos has paˈɡro for “hair, fleece”. The Romani etymology is bagro “sheep”, with fleece applied to human and animal hair alike, as is the case for Greek malia. I hesitate to think this is a genuine difference between the two periods.
  • dap is “a beating” in Manganaras; it is “masturbation” in Petropoulos, but Petropoulos has “a beating” as dup. Clearly both dap and dup are onomatopoeas, and the specialisation of dap vs dup in 1968 might not have been in place in 1904.
  • The final unglossed entry ˈpuli is “arse”.

I mentioned also in previous posts that Christopoulou has derived runa “policeman” from < ɣuruna “pig”, while Montoliu had derived it from paparuna “poppy”. I should have trusted Montoliu; Spatholouro linked to a 1934 article on slang by Stathis Thomopoulos, reproduced at Sarantakos’ blog which features the word paparuna “poppy” = “policeman”.

The 1934 article gives a sample of the slang of female prostitutes, which is cited as a mixture of “flower” slang (criminals), “mangas” slang (Koutsavakika—it’s not clear to me how “flower” slang and Koutsavakika were distinct), and “loulou” slang. Loulous were effeminate men, and sure enough, there is Kaliarda in there. (That refutes Petropoulos’ dismissal of Ioannidou’s early claim that female prostitutes spoke Kaliarda. It also hints that male and female sex workers were on speaking terms—unless Rom women were also overrepresented in Ottoman prostitution.)

The three words I can identify as Kaliarda in boldface:

Η υπουρή ανθίστηκε το λάχανο και έπιαμε τη μαγερία. Έδωσε μούρο στο μάπα και έγινε η μάσα. Όταν ήτανε στην «πούλη» ο μάπας με την λατσή την Νίνα ψείρισαν το λάχανο και του μολώσαν μανιτάρι. Μα τη τσουκνίδωσε ματζουράνα στην κατούνα και τα ’πε κι’ ήρθαν η παπαρούνες.

The madam realised that the client had a big wallet, put hashish in his cigarette, and began the operation. It happened when the victim was in the most tender amatory expressions with beautiful Nina. Then they stole his wallet and and they replaced it with another one, stuffed with newspaper. But the constables arrived, because one of the service staff betrayed it.”

Lit. The ipuri (puri “old woman”) smelled-the-flower of the cabbage and started off the cooking. She gave a blackberry to the fool and the feed happened.. When the fool was in the puli (“arse”) with latsi (“beautiful”) Nina, they flea’d the cabbage and they hid him a mushroom. But a marjoram in the room thistled her and she spoke it and the poppies came.

The criminal slang is all metaphor; the Kaliarda stands out as the only words unfamiliar from mainstream Greek.

One final note from Sarantakos’ blog thread on Cythera dialect which I’ve derailed (because the book reviewed is by Georgia Katsouda herself, whose Kaliarda etymologies in Christopoulou’s thesis I have commented on): Sarantakos has mentioned that the Greek poet Napoleon Lapathiotis, who was gay, spoke Kaliarda in 1938. Commenter BLOG_OTI_NANAI reproduces the citation:

Aris Dikteos describes in his introduction to Lapathiotis’ poems his first and last meeting with Lapathiotis and Mitsos Papanikolaou [Lapathiotis’ fellow poet and friend]. He says of Mitsos Papanikolaou in particular: “One of the most unseemly people I have seen in my life. Stubby, swarthy, copper-green… with gold teeth, choleric, miserable.” During the meeting, which occurred in Elliniko restaurant, probably in 1938, Lapathiotis and Papanikolaou spoke in Kaliarda, the secret homosexual language; he says they kept repeating the verb dzinavi “he understands”.

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”

Kaliarda X: The etymology of Kaliarda musando, Mainstream Greek Slang musi “fake”

By: | Post date: 2017-11-26 | Comments: 1 Comment
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Modern Greek

A Kaliarda adjective that poses an interesting etymological conundrum is musando “fake”. It is interesting both because it is in a chicken-and-the-egg relationship with Mainstream Greek Slang musi “fake”, and because the etymology of both could be Romani, Turkish, French, Greek, or likelier a conflation of all four.

The data for this comes from a post on Nikos Sarantakos’ blog about musi, which was reposted twice—Από τη μουσαντένια ιστορία στο μούσι του αυτοκράτορα and Μουσαντένιο μούσι—and the commenters on both posts.

Here is the data:

  • The French mouche “fly; goatee, soul patch” was borrowed into Greek as musi by 1902.
  • Vrasidas Kapetanakis’ dictionary of slang (1950) records the adverb musanda “as a lie”.
  • Konstantinos Danguitsis’ dictionary of slang (1967) records the adverb musanda “as a lie” as well.
  • Kaliarda, as recorded by Petropoulos in 1971, has the entry musi, meaning a lie; Petropoulos writes that it was already used in mainstream colloquial Greek to mean a lie. Sarantakos and I both recall that meaning from our infancy (which in Sarantakos’ case means the 1960s), and the associated gesture of stroking one’s beard to mean that someone is lying.
  • Petropoulos records in the same meaning muselman de tif (a jocular French exapansion on musi as “Mus-lim of tuft”, with tuf likely a calque of Greek kotsana “stalk; nonsense”)
  • Petropoulos also records, again meaning “fake, lie”, the prefix mus- (e.g. mus-flori “fake flower = nylon”, mus-Dzusis “Jesus the Fake = Jesus”), and musando. musando- as a prefix is particularly productive in Kaliarda.
  • Zahos’ dictionary of slang (1981) records the adjectives musandenios and musande (the latter with the fake-French ending so beloved of Greek slang). Vasiliki Metatroulou reports musandenios used in a 1965 movie, along with sta musanda, referring to someone pretending to play the bouzouki.

And here are the accounts:

  • Petropoulos suggests that the meaning comes from “beard” via the colloquial use of trixes “hairs” to mean “nonsense”.
  • Petropoulos accounts for musando as a pseudo-French ending; cf. piasman, piasmante (in the song Kaliardosynes piasmanto) “groping” < piaso “hold” + French -ment.
  • Sarantakos adds that fake beards, which feature in Mardi Gras costume parties, would have added to the association of beards with fakery.
  • Kostas Karapotosoglou proposes it comes from Turkish مساعده musa‘ade “help; permission” (< Arabic سعد sa‘ida “fortunate”), with the notion of concession (“I’ll allow you to say that”) being extended in Greek to allowing someone to pretend.
  • Sarantakos hesitates before a Turkish meaning, because of how late the word appears in Greek. He is also not convinced by Petropoulos’ account.
  • Commenter Ein Steppenwolf proposes Romani musardo “spoiled, damaged”, which would work well with Kaliarda.
  • Karapotosoglou then proposes Ottoman Turkish مصنع musanna‘ “fake, artificial” < Arabic مصنع musanna‘ “affected, artificial”.
  • Karapotosoglou rejects Romani musardo, because in Kaliarda Romani -rd- is preserved as -rd- —as indeed occurs in the name Kaliarda < Romani kaljardo.
  • Commenter Diver Of Sinks (who is an Ottomanist) thinks musa‘ade is irrelevant, though he likes musanna‘.
  • Commenter Katerina suggests the Turkish suffix -muş, -müş, -mış, meaning “allegedly”. Commenter Antrikos agrees that derivation satisfies Occam’s Razor.

I’ll add my own observations:

  • Kaliarda systematically distorts words to match polyglot affectation, or folk etymology. We have seen in Montoliu’s paper Italian presenza “presence” pseudo-Francified as prezanda, and Romani parne “money” folk-etymologised into Turkish berde “curtain”. A distortion of Romani musardo into musando, whether because that sounded more French (-(m)ent), or because it matched musanna‘, is hardly implausible.
  • On the other hand, Kaliarda and Koutsavakika did not communicate much, and we know that the words already existed in virtually the same form (musanda) in mainstream slang. Mainstream slang could also have taken the form independently from Romani, or from Kaliarda, but that is less likely. Since mainstream musanda looks closer to musanna‘, that derivation is indeed somewhat likelier, and both the phonology and the semantics is much closer.
  • The -d- in musanda could have been introduced by conflation with Romani musardo; but geminates are absent from most Greek dialects anyway, and if musanna‘ was indeed pronounced with a double consonant (as does occur with Arabic loans), musanda might have been how Greeks heard it.
    • I don’t know to what extent that kind of development happens in Turkish loans into Greek though. It certainly doesn’t happen in Turkish anneden babadan > Greek anadan babadan “from mother and father”.
  • The Turkish suffix -muş, -müş, -mış has in fact been borrowed in degrammaticalised form into Greek Cypriot: miʃːi “allegedly”. That could well have inspired musi in Standard Greek slang; and once contact with Turkish was lost, the French meaning “beard” took over in popular understanding of the word—to the extent of inspiring the associated hand gesture, and the folk etymological connection with “hairs” = “bullshit”, which becomes a happy coincidence.
  • The similarity with musanna‘ is another happy coincidence. So Greeks introspecting on their language would assume that musi and musanda are related. The two could be related in Kaliarda, which would add an -and- as pseudo-French, as it did in piasmante. But if musanda was created outside of Kaliarda, that is less likely: -and- doesn’t mean anything in Greek.
  • That’s a lot of happy coincidences, and coincidences should normally make us suspicious. But coincidences can still happen.

Kaliarda IX: Montoliu

By: | Post date: 2017-11-25 | Comments: 6 Comments
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Modern Greek

I’ve already posted the etymological information from Montoliu’s 2005 paper on Kaliarda.7 This is what else the paper covers:

p. 300. There is a Romani-based gay cant used in Istanbul8. The Istanbul cant and Kaliarda share words and linguistic features, and may be related from Ottoman times.

p. 301. Kaliarda is derived from Romani kaljardo “blackened” < kalo “black”—which is also the name of the Spanish–Romani language Caló. So, “the language of the dark-skinned”, meaning the Roma themselves.

p. 303. Kaliarda is not morphologically exotic—its grammar is just Modern Greek; but it has a huge amount of foreign vocabulary that make it unintelligible to Standard Greek speakers, not restricted to Romani. The polyglot nature of Kaliarda is not characteristic of Para-Romani languages (mixed Gypsy languages used in language shift), but of secret Romani-based languages spoken by non-Roma. But it must have been initially coined by Romani bilingual speakers, before being transmitted to Greek speakers who developed it further.

Kaliarda treats Romani voiced and voiceless stops as allophones in free variation: pagro “hair” < bakro “sheep”. This is common to Turkish and Southern Italian “dialects”.

p. 305. The following counts obtain for different classes of Kaliarda words:

  • Base words are 51% non-Greek: 7% Romani, 22% Italian, 8% English, 8% French.
  • Compound words are 63% non-Greek. 39% of them are Romani, 31% Italian, 16% Turkish.
  • Derived words are 60% non-Greek. 43% of them are Romani, 30% Italian, 10% Turkish.

p.307. So foreign words are overrepresented in compounds and derivation—which is consistent with this being a secrecy language, being obfuscated by foreign words used to form new words.

A very large proportion of words are compounds—40%. This is likely the most radically extensive instance of compounding among Modern Greek variants.

p. 308. Romani is overrepresented because of the persistent use of a small number of constituents, which are arguably grammaticalised, and are certainly highly combinative. That includes avelo, as well as the compound constituents balo “fat”, baro “fat”, kulo “shit”, molo liquid, mudzo “vagina”, pagro “hair”, piselo “sleep”, pulo “arse”, puro “old”, dzus ~ dzas “flight, sacking, throwing away”, dzinavo “to be gay”, xal “food”.

The high score of Italian reflects the high prestige of Italian in the Ottoman Empire; the French and English contributions to the vocabulary are smaller, and must date from rather later. Examples used in compounding are vivo “living”, groso “big”, gran “big”, lakrimo “tear”, lutso “light”.

p. 309. There is common relexification and calquing of Greek expressions and concepts via Romani in Kaliarda, as is common in Romani-based slangs. So the Standard Greek use of θeo- “God” as an intensifying prefix is rendered in Kaliarda with English godo-; the derogatory use of Standard Greek palio- with Romani puro- or Italian veko-. The use of pagro “hair” from Romani bakro “sheep” is only possible because Greek conflates fleece and human hair as mali.

The use of mol “wine” to mean “water” is also a demonstration of creativity, extending to mololetra “water company letter”; on the other hand moliazo “to get drunk” preserves the original Romani meaning.

p. 309. but gratsiozo “thank you” , lit. “very thankful”, from Romani but + Italian grazie, affixes Italian -oso to make the word look even more Italian—or as a misconstrual of grazioso “graceful” as “grateful”.

p. 310. In koza tembo avelis “what time have you got?”, Italian (che) cosa has been generalised from “what thing” to a generic interrogative, reminiscent of what happens in creoles.

p. 311. kularo tin isandes prezanda “Fuck you, Your Excellency!”, lit. “I shit your presence”, is a calque of Turkish and Arabic hazret “presence” to mean “Your Excellency”. Kaliarda has not used the equivalent Greek “your lordship” i afentia su; whoever coined this expression used the Turkish idiom, calqued it into Italian presenza, and wrapped it with a French ending. Which only makes sense if Kaliarda was born in the multilingual Ottoman Empire. And had Petropoulos recorded more Kaliarda, we would have found more such instances.

Compounds have the following patterns:

  • Adj + N (most common): balo-muskulos fat-muscled = muscular, ilektro-popilo-buso electrical people bus = trolleybus, latsokangela good iron-bar = good metal = gold, latsotemba beautiful weather = summer, calque of Greek kalokeri
  • O + V almo-biseliazo soul–put-to-sleep = hypnotise, animatsurnos soul-thief = death, panxalo eat everything = autumn
  • V + O dzas-moliazo expel-liquid = sweat
  • N + N, apposition lutso-lakrimo light-tears = candle, sodomolu soda wine = champagne, dzastiraxosekeri away shoes sugar = kick the bucket sugar = death sugar = poison

p. 313. Kaliarda often borrows Romani verbs in the perfect (avil, dikhel, hal); this also occurs with Turkish verbs. The meaning of the verbs is not consistently perfective or imperfective. avelo is a light (“delexicalised”) verb, like Greek kano “do”, or more so Turkish etmek “do”, but it has been even more generalised; that is not only because avav has a wide functional range in Romani, but also because the cant was adopted by non-Roma speakers, and again it resembles developments in creoles.

p. 316. Even in Ottoman society, exclusively homosexual activity was marginalised; public displays of exclusively homosexual activity were limited to easily identified, marginalised manifestations, i.e. prostitution and transvestism, and marginalised groups such as the Roma would have been overrepresented among them—just as they were in other looked-down upon professions (blacksmiths, musicians). Both gay men and Roms are well known for their wit and “for their tendency to distort received language as a way to face the conventionalisms of society.”

Kaliarda VIII: Pavrianos, Klynn

By: | Post date: 2017-11-24 | Comments: 2 Comments
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Modern Greek

In this post, I give two somewhat extensive texts in Kaliarda, that give a better flavour of the language than I’ve found elsewhere—even if they don’t date from the 1960s, let alone the 1920s.

The first is a 2013 pop song, Καλιαρντοσύνες “Kaliardadoms”, 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 within the community. And it has several words beyond Petropoulos’ dictionary.

The second is a skit from comedian Harry Klynn from the 1997 album The X Klynn Files, Ανάποδα, featuring a gay man complaining in Kaliarda about politicians. It’s clearly a text from outside the community; in fact its punchline features the one word Kaliarda speakers never used to describe themselves, pustis.

—What’s that guy saying?
—Weren’t you saying “Won’t some son of a bitch stand up and say what’s wrong with this country?” [In idiomatic Greek: “some faggot”]
—… Yeah?
—Well, that was the faggot.

Initially, I was impressed by Klynn’s skit, and unimpressed by Pavrianos’ song. After transliterating and glossing them, I’ve flipped on both. Pavrianos’ song is somewhat disjointed, and its chorus parrots the top five Kaliarda words; but it is clearly reflecting a real language, that was not exhausted by Petropoulos. Klynn’s skit, once I looked at it closely, cleaves a little too closely to the dictionary (the Greek people’s hunger is not religious fasting, for example), and there’s only a little morphological productivity on display.

I’m italicising the Kaliarda words in the following, and boldfacing the words not in Petropoulos. I’m putting in red the known Romani words, in blue the known French words, in green the Italian words; in purple the Turkish words; in brown the English words; in grey the words whose etymology is unknown. I’ve asterisked the words which are foreign but have come into Kaliarda phonologically unchanged via either Standard Greek, or Koutsavakika.

I owe the transcription of Kaliardosynes to a comment on Gay News In Greek:

[EDITED with corrections. In brackets, verses from the transcription not in the video; in curly brackets, verses from the video not in the transcription]

[Ανάλω] Αβέλω νταμίρα*
η ντάνα η μοίρα
τα μπουτ μου [αβέλει] μπενάβει κουλά
Αβέλω μια φούμα
βινάρω την ντούμα
κι αρχίζω σερσέ για τουλά

[Αβέλω κατόλια
που ντίκω τα τσόλια*
να έχουνε βγει πρεσαντέ
Αβέλω και ντέζι
μια λούγκρα με παίζει
μα νάκα αβέλει μπερντέ]

Αβέλω χαλχάλω
βουέλω να χάλω
κακνά της κακνής δικελτά
Αβέλω μπαλόμπα
και νάκα η μπόμπα
μονάχα τα μπουτ πιασμαντά

[Αβέλω τζους λέσι*
μια λάτσα μ’ αρέσει
κι αρχίζω με σικ το παρόλ
Αβέλω μια μόλα
και γίνομαι γκόλα
και δίνω παντού κοντροσόλ]

{Αβέλω και ντέζι
μια λάτσα με παίζει
μα νάκα αβέλει μπερντέ
Αβέλω μια μόλα
και γίνομαι γκόλα
κι αρχίζω με σικ το κονέ}

Βουέλουμε μπουτ
στα καλιαρντά

I smoke hashish
Fate that whore
tells me a lot of crap
I take a drag
I drink in the smoke
and I start [looking] for money

I cry
seeing scoundrels
go out on the beat
I get horny
A bitch/pretty girl plays with me
But she doesn’t have any money

I [am hungry?]
I want to eat
fried eggs
I eat too much
and no blowjob (?)
just a lot of groping

I clean up
I like a pretty girl
and I start gently [chatting her up/getting to know her]
I have a [drink]
and I get [drunk]
and I give kisses everywhere

You do, I do
You do, I do
We do a lot of lies
You understand, I understand
You speak, I speak
We speak in Kaliarda


from κατ-αναλ-ώνω “consume”?  But avelo is more plausible.
damira “hashish”:
Dura Liarda, from Koutsavakika, and the word features in old Rebetika songs. According to Donmhtsos at slang.gr, from Ottoman Turkish damır “thin”, and it was also used to refer to the hallucinogen datura stramonium “jimsonweed”
dana “whore”:
truncation of Standard Greek putana < Italian
ta but “the (neut.pl) very” as emphasis of “very”.
The use of the neuter plural article is a Kaliardaism that is not grammatical in Modern Greek—but it does correspond to Ancient (and Puristic) Greek τὰ μάλα.
the omni-purpose verb appears both as avelo and as its Dura Liarda variant vuelo, and is used here both as a content verb (“I take a drag”, “she has money”, “I want to eat”, “I take a drink”) and as a light verb (“I do tears = cry”, “I do horniness = I am horny”, “I feel hungry”, “I feel full”, “I do away filth = I clean up”)
“drag (of cigarette, of hashish)”: truncation of Standard Greek fumaro “I smoke” < Italian
vinaro “to drink”
< Italian vino “wine”
duma “smoke”:
truncation of Standard Greek dumani “smoke” < Turkish
serse “looking” (?)
< French chercher “to seek”
tula “money”:
“Etymology unknown” [EDIT: Romani thulo “thick”, as a calque of Greek slang xontra referring to wads of cash]
katolia “tears”:
“Etymology unknown”
diko “see”
< Romani dikhel
tsoli “scoundrel”
< Standard Greek “mop” < Turkish çul
presante “on the beat”
< French presenter “to present”
dezi “desire, horniness”
< French desirer “to desire” or Italian desiderio “desire”
lugra “bitch”:
“Etymology unknown”
naka “not”:
“Etymology unknown” (Arvanitika nukë?) [EDIT: Romani na khan “not at all”]
berde “money”
< Standard Greek “stage curtains” < Turkish; Petropoulos suggests it is because money covers up everything? Montoliu gives the more plausible Romani parne “money”; there may have been a folk-etymology at work. [EDIT: actually, Lubunca belde < Turkish bedel “price, cost, fine”]
presumably “hungry”, as reduplication of Romani xal “eat”
xalo: “eat”
< Romani xal “eat”
kakna tis kaknis ðikelta:
according to Petropoulos both kakna (neut.pl) and kakni (fem) mean “chicken”; but from context the neuter here means “egg”:
“eggs of a hen, eyes”, which is a calque of Standard Greek αυγά μάτια “egg eyes” = “fried eggs”. In Petropoulos, the expressions is tekna tis kaknis ðikelta, “children of a hen, eyes”, which makes more sense.
ðikelta: “eye”
< Kaliarda ðikelo “see” < Romani dikhel
baloba: “fatso”
< Kaliarda balos “fat” < Romani balo “pig”
bomba: “blow job”
< Kaliarda bombona “sweet” < French bon-bon
piasmanta: “groping(s)”
< Standard Greek pias- “to hold, to grab” + French -ment (nominaliser)
dzus: “away; without” <
Romani džav
lesi: “filth”
< Standard Greek “corpse” < Turkish leş; dzus-les- is productive in Kaliarda with the meaning “cleaning, beautifying”; hence dzus-les-latsaðiko “filth-away beauty shop = beauty parlour”
latsa: “beautiful”
< Romani lačho
me sik: “gently, politely” (lit. “with chic”)
< Standard Greek sik “chic, style” < French chic
from context, “chatting up” < French parole “speech”. The video has, I think, kone < French connaître “to get to know”
presumably variant of mol “drink” < Romani mol “wine”
listed in Petropoulos as Dura Liarda for “deaf”; but from context this is an inflected version of older mainstream slang indeclinable gol “drunk”. This literally means “(soccer) goal” < English goal, but has been derived from older gon < English gone
kontrosol “kiss”
< kontro “against” < Italian contra + sol “sweetness, pleasure”: “Etymology unknown”
musanda “fake”
< Standard Greek musi “goatee; bullshit” < French mouche
dzinavo “to understand”
< Romani džanav “to understand” + džinav “to count, to read”
benavo “to speak”
< Romani phenav

I owe the transcription of Klynn’s skit to the Zone-Memo blog; it’s more accurate than the transcription on YouTube, which is genuinely confused, but I’ve still intervened in places to normalise the text to match Petropoulos.

Κυρίες και κύριοι, σας αβέλω λατσαβαλέ. Αβρακιάζομαι η κουρκουζελού, γιατί δικέλω όλες τις ζουγκλολουμπίνες, τις λούγκρες, τους γκραν τζαζμπερτεροπουρούς και θεόμπαρα που γοργοτζολιάζουν θρονιασμένοι παραντίκ στο Γκραικοκάθικο, να έχουν αρπάξει την ζουμοσακούλα και ν’ αβέλουν μπαλόμπα και καλιαρντά χαλέματα. Ενώ ο λαός, λιγδομπερντές δικελοσβουριασμένος, ατζινάβωτος και αναιμιάρης συνεχώς στο ανεμοτζάσιμο και στη γκοντάχαλη, αβέλει διακόνα στο μπερντέ και έχει πέσει στην αχαλού και στο γυροδιακονάρισμα.
Σας αβέλω μπακαλούμω, να πρεσάρουμε* και να αβέλουμε κόντρα τέμπο σε όλους τους κατέδες που τζεβέλουν κουσελιά στα όνειρα μας, και νάκα αβέλουμε τούφες.* Και αφήνομε τις βιδομπλαντορούφες να μας πίνουνε το μπλάντυ. Μόνο έτσι θα γλιτώσει η μπαξ-και-λατσή μουτζόπουρη Ελλάδα. Αλλιώς μας δικέλω να τζάμε τα τιραχά και να αδικοκουτιαζόμαστε. Αβέλτε μου κανά γαργαρογλασόνι, άφρισα η μπλούκρω! Ούψα και στο λατσοδίκελμα!

Ladies and gentlemen, I bid you welcome. This slut is outraged, because I see all the disgraceful gays, the bitches, the grand philanthropists and the fat men stink as they’ve enthroned themselves next to Athens, grabbing the spoon and gorging themselves and eating bizarre food. While the people, penniless and dizzy, innocent and confused, are left in sacrifice and fasting, are out begging for money, and have ended up in hunger and begging. I ask of you that we should pressure all those who wish to betray our dreams, so that we can’t sleep, but let those leeches drink our blood. That’s the only way that Mother Greece can be saved once and for all. Otherwise, I see us dying and in coffins. (Get me a soft drink, I’m so thirsty I’m foaming at the mouth!) Goodbye, and see you soon!


latsavale: “beautiful-doing” = “welcome”.
In Petropoulos λατσάβελες (pl.); this variant uses the pseudo-French suffix .
avrakiazomai: “I am outraged”
< a- “un” + vraki “underwear” < Latin bracca: a calque of the Standard Greek expression for being outraged, βγαίνω από τα ρούχα μου “I come out of my clothes”
kurkuledzu: “slut” (πουτανιάρα).
“Etymology unknown”. On the recording, kurkuzelu
ðikelo: “to see”.
< Romani dikhel
zuɡlolubines: “disgraceful gays”.
< Greek zuɡla “jungle” + Romani lubhni “whore”
luɡres: “bitches”
“Etymology unknown”
ɡran dzazberteropurus: “grand philanthropists”.
Italian gran “big” + Kaliarda dzazo “to drive away, to throw away” < Romani džav + Kaliarda berde “money” < Romani parne + Kaliarda puros “old man” < Romani phuro
θeobara: “extremely fat”
< Greek θeo- “God” as intensifying prefix + Romani pharo “heavy”
ɣorɣodzoliazun: “stink”.
< Gorgonzola cheese
paradik: “next door to”.
< Greek para “next to” + Romani dikhel “to see” (i.e. facing)
ɡrekokaθiko: “Athens”, lit. “The Chamberpot of Greece”
< Italian greco “Greek” + Greek kaθiki “chamber pot”, so called because all of Greece has ended up in Athens, and because geographically Athens is situated in a basin
zumosakula: “spoon”
< Greek zumi “broth” + Greek sakula “bag”
avelo balomba: “to gorge oneself”
< Kaliarda balomba “fatso” < Kaliarda balo “fat” < Romani balo “pig”
kaliarda: “bizarre”
Literal use of kaliardos “ugly, evil, strange” < Romani kaljardo “blackened”
xalemata: “food”
< Kaliarda xalo “to eat” < Romani xal “to eat”
liɣðoberdes: “penniless”
< Standard Greek liɣða “stain” + Romani parne “money”
ðikelosvuriasmenos: “dizzy”
< Kaliarda ðikelo “see” < Romani dikhel + Greek svura “spinning top”
adzinavotos: “innocent”
< Greek a- “un-” + Kaliarda dzinavo “understand” < Romani džanav “to understand” + džinav “to count, to read”
anemiaris: “dizzy”
lit. “bloodless”
anemodzasimo: “sacrifice, work in vain”
Standard Greek anemos “wind” + Kaliarda dzazo “drive out, throw away” < Romani džav (so: throwing something to the winds)
godaxali: “(religious) fasting”
English God + Greek a- “un-” + Kaliarda xalo “eat” < Romani xal
ðiakona: “begging”
Truncation of Formal Standard Greek ðiakonia; avelo ðiakona sto berde “go begging for money” is a fixed Kaliarda expression
axalu “famine”
< Greek a- “un-” + Kaliarda xalo “eat” < Romani xal
ɣiroðiakonarisma “begging”
< Greek ɣiro “(going) around” + Formal Standard Greek ðiakonia “begging”
bakalumo “request”
< Turkish bakalum “we’ll see”
presaro “to press, to pressure”
< Standard Greek “to press on a laundry press; metaphorical: to pressure” < Italian pressare
kontra tempo “pressure”
< Italian contra “against” + Italian tempo “time”
kates “that one”
< Romani kathe “here”
dzevelun “to want”
< Kaliarda avelo < Romani avil
kuselia “betrayal”
“Etymology unknown”
naka “not”:
“Etymology unknown” (Arvanitika nukë?)
tufes “deep sleep”:
Possibly Italian tuffo “diving”, word shared with Kutsavakika
viðobladorufes “leeches”:
Standard Greek viða “screw” + Kaliarda English bladi < English bloody + Standard Greek rufo “to suck”
bladi “blood”:
< English bloody
baks ke latsi “once and for all”:
Calque of Standard Greek mia ke kali lit. “once and good”; baks < Puristic Greek apaks “once” < Ancient Greek hápax; latsi “beautiful” < Romani lačho
mudzopuri “mother”:
lit. “cunt old-woman” (i.e. old woman who gave birth) < Kaliarda mudzo < Romani mindž “vagina” + Kaliarda puros < Romani phuro “old”
dzazo ta tiraxa “die”:
lit. “fling off shoes = kick the bucket”, calque of Standard Greek idiom τινάζω τα πέταλα “fling off one’s horseshoes” < Romani džav + Romani tiraxo
aðikokutiazomaste “be buried”:
< Kaliarda aðikokuti “coffin” < Standard Greek “box of injustice” (from the notion of death being unjust: cf. Standard Greek idiom αδικοχαμένος “unjustly lost = dearly departed”)
ɣarɣaroɡlasoni “cold soft drink”:
Standard Greek ɣarɣara “gargle” + Kaliarda ɡlasoni “ice” < French glaçon
blukro “thirsty woman”:
Not in Petropoulos’ dictionary; < Kaliarda blukru “thirst”, which Petropoulos believes is onomatopoeic
upsa “salutation; hi!”:
“Etymology unknown”; cf. English woopsie!
latsodikelma “seeing again”:
(used in farewells, as calque of Greek επανιδείν, which is a calque in turn of French revoir and German Wiedersehen); lit. “good seeing” < Kaliarda latso < Romani lačho + Kaliarda ðikelo “to see” < Romani dikhel

Kaliarda VII: The Romani basis of Kaliarda, updated

By: | Post date: 2017-11-23 | Comments: 3 Comments
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Modern Greek

I have found a copy of Montoliu’s paper on Kaliarda.9 I will post on it separately, but I’m going to use the opportunity to supplement the Romani etymologies provided by Poniroskilo on slang.gr, with the extensive etymologies provided by Montoliu. Where a term appears in both Poniroskilo and Montoliu, I have gone with Poniroskilo’s transliteration (taken from ROMLEX), and I have attempted to normalise the transliteration to ROMLEX.

The Dortika are from (UPDATED) Triantafyllidis, M. 1924. 7. Eine zigeunerisch-griechische Geheimsprache. Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschungen 52: 1–40. Reprinted in Άπαντα [Collected Works]: 2: 46–85.

NOTE: I will be updating this listing as I discover more Romani words. Montoliu counts 52 roots. I have 44 (though one, mataˈlo, would have been unknown to Montoliu, and one, parniˈes, replaces berˈde which he erroneously derived from Romani—it is Turkish via cant metathesis.)

Kaliarda Romani Dortika
aˈvelo give, take, do, put, take out, want, have aˈvav, pf. aˈvil be, become, come, arrive vˈela come
ˈaxatos this kate, kathe here ko < Romani k’o “the”
balaˈmo middle-aged client of male prostitute balamo, balamno boss, judge, non-Roma; in Sepeči Romani dialect (Volos): ethnic Greek balaˈmos man, human; boss, householder
banˈɡolos deaf, banˈɡola short-sighted banˈɡo bent, tilted, lopsided; lame, cripple
baˈlos fat baˈlo pig
baˈros fat phaˈro heavy; hear, tiresome, difficult baˈros big
baˈro disease phaˈro heavy; hear, tiresome, difficult
beˈnavo, buˈavo to speak pheˈnav to say, to speak pʰi˞ˈnela to say
bitzaˈnu ravenous homosexual bičiˈnav to sell
buriˈaris singer puˈřiv to give away; to blackmail someone
but very but very, many but very
davelo to take davel “he gives”
dap masturbation, (Older Kaliarda) beating; dup beating tab, tap beating taˈba beating; to beat
ˈdzazo, ˈdzao drive out, leave, flee džav leave, depart, distance oneself, go ˈdzala leave!
ˈdzare 500 drachma note (which is green), dzaroˈsermela “green penis” = “zucchini” (according to Petropoulos) dzare green: presumably, čar “grass”
dziˈnavo understand conflation of ˈdžanav to know and džiˈnav to count, to read
dzoˈvi louse, fly, bug džuv louse ˈdzuva louse
ðiˈkelo, kuˈelo see, look; dik look dikhˈlav, pf. diˈkhel see, look, inspect ˈksela look (Romani etymology unknown)
eˈmandes Ι, manˈdula Ι (diminutive) mande Ι
eˈsandes you (sg), sanˈdula you (diminutive) mande Ι + Greek esi you (sg.)
iˈmandes we mande Ι + Greek emis we
iˈsandes you (pl) mande Ι + Greek esis you (pl.)
irakˈlja woman, iraklo buxom woman rakli, rakhli non-Roma girl rakˈlo boy
ˈkakna, kakˈni chicken khajˈni chicken kaiˈni, ɡaɡˈni chicken
kaliarˈda Greek gay cant < kaliarˈdos ugly, evil, strange kaljarˈdo black, African, blackened, dishonoured: past participle “blackened” of kaljaˈrav to blacken < kaˈlo black; cf. the Spanish Roma language name Caló. Montoliu concludes that this originates from the Roma being called swarthy
kaˈtes, kaˈte that kate, kathe here ko < Romani k’o “the”
kuˈlo turd, shit khul turd, shit
kuraˈvelta sex, kuraˈvelo to have sex as a top kuravel causative of kurel “he beats, he masturbates, has sex” kuraˈvela sex
laˈtsos beautiful, good lačho good, beautiful
luˈbina gay lubhˈni, lumbi, lumli whore, slut
manˈdo bread manˈřo, mandro bread manˈdo  bread
mataˈlo (Older Kaliarda) drunk mato drunk, matalo drunkard maˈto drunk
mol water, liquid, alcoholic drink mol wine mol wine
muˈdzo vagina mindž vagina, vulgar word for girl or girlfriend > English minge
ˈnaka nothing, none, no na khan not at all
paˈɡro hair baˈkro sheep (as a fleeced animal; Standard Greek μαλλί refers to both hair and fleece) baˈkro sheep, goat
parniˈa, pl. parniˈes money parˈno, pl. parˈne white; money
peˈle testicle peˈlo, pl. peˈle testicles
piˈselo to sleep pašˈlav to put to sleep
ˈpuli anus bul arse
puˈros old phuˈro old, grandfather
ˈrelo fart řil fart (in the Sepeči Romani dialect of Volos)
so kerdes? what exactly? how exactly? so kerdes? how are you?
tekˈno boy, young man, small tikno small, dainty
tiraˈxo shoe tiˈrax shoe patsarˈxa shoes
tsurˈno theft, especially of the wallet of a top by the bottom’s friend hiding under the bed čoˈrav to steal, to rob tsoˈrela, tsuˈrela theft
tuˈlo five-drachma piece, duˈlo money thuˈlo fat (via mainstream Greek slang xonˈdra “fat, thick” (neut.pl) = “a lot of money”
ˈxalo eat xav, pf. xal eat xala < khala “he eats”, xaljon < khaliom “I ate”

NOTE: The words develo ~ dzevelo “to desire”, dapavelo “to surrender” are clearly also Romani, but I have been unable to date to work out their etymology. (dapavelo looks like the causative tapavel “he makes someone beat someone up”)

Kaliarda VI: Revenioti

By: | Post date: 2017-11-22 | Comments: 2 Comments
Posted in categories: Culture, Linguistics, Modern Greek

The trans activist Paola Revenioti has made a series of documentaries in recent years about sundry aspects of Greek society. On of these was a a documentary about Kaliarda in 2014; the trailer is available on YouTube:

There is an interview with her on Lifo magazine about the documentary, as well as an extensive review; a second interview appeared in Popaganda. (A third interview at the Athens International Film Festival site is much more about her than about the film.)

The documentary mixes talking heads (I was delighted to recognise linguist Costas Canakis, with a twinkle in his eye, saying “we shouldn’t refer to Kaliarda as a language; it’s rather a very extensive specialised vocabulary”); with people who witnessed or were part of the scene, and modern twinks speaking in reenacted Kaliarda. (That artifice is also used in documentaries about Polari.) At 00:09:

Καλέ φίλη; Το δικέλεις εκεί το τσόλι;
—Why, girlfriend? Do you see that scoundrel [“mop”] there?

And the next sentence, as is supposed to be the case with Kaliarda, went too fast for me: “over there, with the arse? something?”

At 0:52:

[XXX] Μ’ έβαλαν τα ρουνά, με τζάνε μέσα,  «σήκω φύγε»
The cops put me, they put me in [jail] [? τζά(ζ)ω is to take out, not to put in], [they said] “get out of here”.

One of the interviewees is Revenioti’s fellow sex worker, Nana Hatzi, cited in the previous post, who died shortly after the film was made; she’s at 0:21 of the trailer, saying to Paola: (in Standard Greek) “We served in the army together; are you going to ask me about Kaliarda?” (and in Kaliarda, as Paola chuckles) Εσάντες νάκα τζινάβεις καλιαρντά; “Do you not understand Kaliarda?”

(Hatzi had used a Kaliarda word in her own Lifo interview about her life as a trans sex worker: “Sex was free back then. The moudzes (= pussies = cis women) in our groups would ask trans women for advice on how to dress, how to put on makeup, how to have their breasts stick out.”)

From the Lifo review by Antonis Boskoitis:

  • I mentioned Malvina Karali’s eccentric variant of Kaliarda that she used on TV in the 90s; the interviewed poet 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 drew on.
    • My recollection of Karali’s variant was that it did not have a lot of Romani, but it did have a lot of grammatical genderfuck—randomly switching the grammatical gender of inanimate or abstract nouns, rather than referring to gays born male in the feminine. Because we don’t have much connected Kaliarda discourse, I don’t know whether that was her invention, or original to Kaliarda.
  • Revenioti made the film because she wanted to preserve a dying idiom, as it is now only heard in conversations of aged homosexuals near Omonia Square.
  • Kaliarda passed relatively quickly from a marginal language of outcasts to daily use of the social mainstream—a clear comparison to what happened to rebetiko music, and the koutsavakika slang of the petty criminals that it was sung in.
  • The trailer was not misleading: the reviewer found both Canakis and Hatzi hilarious, and a welcome contrast to the usual talking heads, “who would lend the project prestige without having anything to do with the unconventionality of social outcasts.” (I don’t know how much of an outcast a linguist gets to be, but Canakis does list queer theory as one of his fields.)
  • Revenioti had her own stories about the two gay priests who conducted a whole mass in Kaliarda; recall Petropoulos’ testimony of Kaliarda wedding ceremonies.
  • The Kaliarda skits were noted, as predictable but necessary to the format.
  • The film and Petropoulos’ dictionary are the only serious records of the cant—without being subordinated by mainstream sensibility, or the Kostopoulos Lifestyle notions which essentially entombed Kaliarda.
    • That needs expansion: Petros Kostopoulos in the 90s published a series of pop culture, “lifestyle” magazines, full of undigested English, and glamourising the nouveau riches of the time. Kostopoulos went bankrupt in the early 2010s, and the world he was glamourising has now passed. (There’s some interesting reflections from him looking back in this interview from 2012; as he justly points out, it’s not like 10 million Greeks weren’t complicit.) The reviewer is hinting that the celebration of formerly marginal identity in the hipster pop culture of the 90s debased it. I doubt you even needed Kostopoulos for that to happen; as the reviewer admits, it had already happened to rebetiko in the 50s (not with uniformly bad results). The reviewer also says that Revenioti did a more conscientious job of documenting Kaliarda than a “Lifestyle” mag ever would; that’s true, but it’s hardly a high bar.

From the Lifo interview with Alkistis Georgiou:

  • The documentary set out to cover the intonation of the cant, its gestures, and so forth. (Petropoulos had intended to include a vinyl recording in the original edition.) She was also worried about preserving the testimony of the last remaining people who experienced Kaliarda.
  • Kaliarda was in use up to the mid 70s, and kept developing. Its vocabulary is based on anagrams, onomatopoeia, metaphor, and loans from foreign languages: French, Turkish, English, Italian, Romani.
  • Kaliarda arose from the conservatism of Greek society, which forced gays to seek protection in secrecy.
  • Revenioti caught the tail end of Kaliarda as a living cant in the late 80s, in the beats of Zappeion Hall, but also in the countryside, where Kaliarda was used (contrary to what Petropoulos and aias.ath have said).
  • The documentary covers not just the cant, but the development of gay life in Greece in the 20th century: love, sexuality, beats, and the problems gays encountered.
  • Kaliarda was not restricted to young people: it was shared by whoever frequented the beats and hangouts of the time
  • There are very few words and expressions still in use, mostly by the gay and trans community. Because of TV and theatre, some Kaliarda words have entered mainstream slang, with people not even being aware of their origins: dzus, tekno, puro, lugra, lubina, tsarði, tsoli “get lost!, twink, (dirty) old man, evil, gay, hut = house, mop = scoundrel”. But the language proper has died.
  • With sexual liberation and gay liberation, and greater social tolerance, the reasons for Kaliarda have died out, so Kaliarda itself died out. The death of Kaliarda can’t be said to have been to the detriment of the gay community. (In other words, they can’t be too nostalgic about a manifestation of their oppression.)

From the Popaganda interview with Filippa Dimitriadi:

  • The interviewer watched the documentary in Revenioti’s flat; Golden Dawn’s Kasidiaris had just been yelling at a rally in the square outside.
  • “I was in Omonia sqaure when I heard some 70-year old queers speaking Kaliarda. They were telling stories from the Jardin (= Zappeion Hall beat). I caught Kaliarda during its decline, when I was around 16, in the early 80s. I thought that this was a story that should not be lost, a piece of Greek culture.” (The dark park in the trailer is indeed Zappeion Hall, and the same park bench where Revenioti used to do sex work.)
  • Kaliarda served both for protection, as a secrecy language from punters and cops; and as an emblem of their identity.
  • Of the talking heads, Revenioti recommends the author Thanasis Skroubelos, telling tales from Hawaii, the first gay club and drag show venue of Athens:

    Back then, if you wanted to fuck, you had to be married, or at least engaged. Boys back then had to find an outlet for their urges. To put it simply, all they were looking for was a hole. So boys who looked like girls and dressed like them were your only option. But inevitably, that wasn’t the end of it: there were some powerful love affairs that came out of it.

    To which Revenioti comments, “What he’s saying is important: keep listening, and you’ll understand why Kaliarda died.”

  • Nana Hatzi tells the story of the first drag show in Greece at Stasa’s taverna: a woman (Kaliarda: moundza—the word also meaning “cunt, pussy”) who encouraged gays to dance tsifteteli in her establishment, and earn some berde (Kaliarda: money).
  • Nana’s Salonica was much more cosmopolitan and free in the 70s than Athens.
  • I’ve already mentioned the hostile relations between bottoms and tops; Revenioti expands on that, starting with a definition. The slang term for tops is kolobaras “arse-fancier”, modelled after zabaras < Turkish zampara < Persian zan-pareh “womaniser”. On the face of it, that would mean the kolobaras was a homosexual top, since they were defined in opposition to womanisers in Greek slang. But in the world of gay sex workers back then, the top was a sex tourist; as Revenioti puts it,

    Kolobaras, those who would fuck both men and women—and you know, they’d boast that they were doubly men for it: see how cunning we Greeks are, don’t you think? What stories we can come up with to make excuses?—The tops who fell in love with one of the boys at the Jardin or Hawaii were initiated into Kaliarda, and started making it public. Then came Malvina [Karali] who introduced Kaliarda into people’s living rooms. Gays were somewhat exposed by then, but they kept making up new words to protect themselves. The end of Kaliarda came when faggots wanted to become modern, to embrace normality, to become mainstream so to speak. There was no longer a reason to use it.

Revenioti has a fair few videos up on YouTube, including a 1992 interview with Malvina Karali. I encountered Karali when I was in Greece in 1996; I was initially enchanted, but I soured on her after seeing her proudly feature a military parade on a show, and say in an interview that her greatest joy was sharing obscene soccer slogans with her infant son. Military parades and soccer fandom: I’m used to rebels being a little more rebellious than that from the Anglosphere.

But Revenioti’s first answer in her interview is delightful:

I’d like to ask you, my lovely. How did you find the courage to rid yourself of the social role of a man, wear women’s clothing, get your gorgeous blonde hair together, and go out into society?

… I didn’t give a fuck. And I’ve never really thought about it. It’s one of the questions I keep getting asked, and I don’t know what to say. I liked it, I did it […] I realised I had two choices in life, and I’m lucky I worked it out as young as I did. I could either become a yuppie, get married, have a family, and chase after boys in secret and pay them; or I could get the boys to pay me. And I chose the latter.

The half minute anecdote Revenioti recorded from “Zozo” is probably as close as I’ll find online to someone gay or trans speaking Kaliarda. (It’s not very close, and Zozo chewing gum doesn’t help; at the very end, you can hear Revenioti complaining about the poor audio. YouTube commenters had a hard time of it too.)

Ξέρεις τι μου ’λεγε ένας παλιός κωλομπαράς; Ότι η μπάρα δεν είναι φτιαγμένη για το μουτζό, είναι φτιαγμένη για την πούλη. Γιατί αν ήταν φτιαγμένη για το μουτζό θα ήταν σαν το παντζανταράκι. Και μετά, μου ’πε ένας άλλος, που μου ’κανε μπομπονάκι, μου λέει «δεν πιστεύω να είμαι λούγκρα». «Όχι καλέ,» του λέω, «μην το ξαναπείς αυτό, θα τσακωθούμε.»

You know what an old top used to tell me? That the “crowbar” is not made for pussies, but for arses. Because if it was made for pussies, it would be shaped like a beetroot (?). And then someone else who was blowing me told me, “I’m not a bitch, am I?” “Why, of course not,” I said, “don’t say that again, we’ll end up arguing.

The Kaliarda is limited to pussy, arse, blow job (“bon-bon”), and bitch. The words for “top” and “crowbar” (penis) are not Kaliarda at all, they’re generic slang.

Something I was not expecting to see was Petropoulos and Revenioti in the same film:

The full documentary about Petropoulos, Ένας κόσμος υπόγειος “An underground world”, is online:

The documentary came out in 2005, two years after Petropoulos died, and was filmed shortly before his death in 2003.

There’s a snippet of Revenioti speaking in Kaliarda in a bar. Revenioti recounts that when she was fifteen, getting started in sex work (which would have been by her interviews the early 80s, certainly not 1968), she was with a friend, hitchhiking at 1 am in drag (“not like trans women are now, we’d just put on a spot of makeup, and go”), and said “let’s get a ride with this balamo into Omonia Square” [Romani: boss, non-Roma; Kaliarda: client of sex worker]. The balamo—“some guy with a beard in a Volkswagen”—was Petropoulos; and as Paola and her friend were chatting in the back seat, he ended up correcting their Kaliarda.

(There’s the possibility that Revenioti is lying about her age—she certainly isn’t publicising the year she was born; she shifts between late and early 80s as when she got started; and I doubt she was 15 when she was editing the gay magazine Κράξιμο in 1982. Petropoulos had permanently moved to Paris in 1974.)

Petropoulos, for his part, recounts having gay sex workers over to his place to gather words for the Kaliarda dictionary (to the consternation of his concierge: “has this guy changed preference?”) When they’d run out of words, he’d proposition them to get a reaction worth recording; the one he recalls was “I’d rather swallow an entire kiosk”—Petropoulos at 40 in 1968 apparently being too unattractive for him. Or at least, that was Petropoulos’ impression.)

Petropoulos also says in that interview the following:

I don’t like the expression “marginal” (the Greek euphemism for “outcast”). It’s a faggot word (πούστικη). They are people of the underworld. And they are downtrodden by not just the bourgeoisie, but the proletariat, which is supposedly so progressive. And the communists. It’s very easy for communists to tread on the junkie. But the junkie is for me much more of a revolutionary than a communist.

The polysemy of πούστικη (in colloquial Greek: “dishonourable, dishonest”) is something I don’t expect Petropoulos to hide from; but it’s still quite discordant, given he was the guy documenting what the poustides spoke. Anyone who expects the actual proletariat to be socially progressive has really not met many proletarians. And yeah, sneering at the lumpen-proletariat is one of the more socially regressive things Marxists have done. But the rebellion for rebellion’s sake that Petropoulos admires is nihilist, and I’m not convinced it’s that helpful to the groups he was documenting.

Then again, I’m harsh on Petropoulos, and I’m bourgeois and straight. Paola, who is trans and was in the lumpen-proletariat, admires him. That means something, I guess.

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  • December 2018
    M T W T F S S
    « Jan    
    1. Manolis Triantafylidis. 1953. Ελληνικές συνθηματικές γλώσσες [Greek secrecy languages]. Ελληνικά 4: 661–684. In his Άπαντα [Collected Works]: 2; 299–320.

    2. Request to readers: where is the Μεγάλο Πάρκο Θεσσαλονίκης?

    3. Klynn has his “faggot” refer to “The People”, with the honoured wording of the Left: Ενώ ο Λαός… The more realistic Kaliarda for that would have been to popolo < Italian popolo (you can almost see the Venetian nobleman sneering), or i plivia “the plebs” (you can definitely see the urbane gays sneering.)

    4. Manolis Triantafylidis. 1953. Ελληνικές συνθηματικές γλώσσες [Greek secrecy languages]. Ελληνικά 4: 661–684. In his Άπαντα [Collected Works]: 2; 299–320.

    5. Basic English hit peak publicity just after WWII, “as a means for world peace”.

    6. EDITED: In fact, this is merely an (unattested?) causative of Romani kurava “hit, masturbate, have sex”, kuravava, 3sg kuravela, as explained for Dortika by Triantafyllidis.

    7. Montoliu, C. 2005. Is Kaliarda, Greek Gay Slang, a mixed gypsy language? Erytheia 26: 299–318.

    8. Kyuchukov, Hristo & Bakker, Peter. 1999. A note on Romani words in the gay slang of Istanbul. Grazer Linguistische Studien 51.

    9. Montoliu, C. 2005. Is Kaliarda, Greek Gay Slang, a mixed gypsy language? Erytheia 26: 299–318.