Everywhere, Down Under, and Neo-Kantian Language Morality

By: | Post date: 2010-03-04 | Comments: 8 Comments
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Modern Greek
Tags: , , , ,

This is kind of a lazy post, but commenter Panjomin wanted my verdict on how proper Greek the words ολούθε “everywhere, all over” and χάμω “on the ground” are. I’m a remarkably poor pick to pass such verdict, my sense of the language being blunted from not living there, and being brought up in the countryside when I did. (I was an adult when it was pointed out to me that δεκαρά for δεκαριά “ten or so” is East Cretan dialect, not general Greek slang.)

But this gives me a pretext to translate a quite cool comment thread from slang.gr (the Greek counterpart to the Urban Dictionary), culminating in a droll statement of linguist orthodoxy like Motorcycle Boy’s that I translated a while back.

So first:

Classical Greek had the adverbial suffix -θεν to denote motion from: ἀγορῆθεν “from the market”, ἄλλοθεν “from somewhere else”, Ἀθηνόθεν “from Athens”. The suffix hasn’t survived into the vernacular side of the modern standard, though it does come in via learnèd loans. But it did survive in dialect; and the survival is shown by the fact that it’s ended up looking somewhat different.

First, the “from” meaning went away; the fine distinctions of Ancient Greek between motion towards, motion in and motion from were wiped in the Modern language, and the reflex of -θεν just ended up meaning “at”. The final /n/ went away, as is normal in the Modern language. In Early Modern Greek, -θεν ended up as -θεόν > -θιόν. So ἔξωθεν “[from] outside” is listed in Kriaras as ἐξωθιόν and ὀξωθιόν; ἐπάνωθεν “[from] above” as ἐπανωθιό and ἀπανουθιό.

Now, “all” in Ancient Greek is πᾶς, παντός, “everywhere” is πανταχοῦ, and “from all [directions]” is πάντοθεν or πανταχόθεν. In Modern Greek, πανταχοῦ survives as παντού. But “all” is no longer πᾶς, it is now ὅλος, from the Ancient word for “whole”. (Nope, hólos and whole are not related.) The -θεν suffix survived in dialect; so a new word for “everywhere” was coined, ολού-θε—with the /n/ dropped, and the -ού as in παντού.

It’s not part of the standard: the Triantafyllidis dictionary annotates it as “colloquial”, and Google has 67k hits vs. 2200k hits for παντού. Accordingly, it sounds literary or folksy in Modern Greek (the two go together, given the history of Demotic literature.) Even as a “colloquial” word, it’s not a word I’d use casually.

I would and do use χάμω, and I’m perplexed some people wouldn’t, but that makes for a more complex story. Ancient Greek distinguished between κάτω “down” and χαμαί “on the ground” (as in the last oracle Julian heard from Delphi that all Greek schoolchildren know, χαμαὶ πέσε δαίδαλος αὐλά, “fallen is the splendid hall”). In Modern Greek, χαμαί has survived as χάμω (remodelled after κάτω “down” and [ε]πάνω “up”), and still means “down” as in “on the ground”. So κάτσε κάτω means “sit down”, on a chair; κάτσε χάμω means “sit on the ground”. And of course you’d say χάμω στο πάτωμα “down on the floor” rather than κάτω στο πάτωμα.

Or rather, I would. The internets wouldn’t: χάμω στο πάτωμα has 4700 hits, κάτω στο πάτωμα 217k hits.


It turns out, this is a distinction made in Southern Greek, but χάμω itself is also regarded as “colloquial”, and is deprecated in the standard; and the word is completely absent in Northern Greek. It’s so absent, Salonicans calls Athenians χαμουτζήδες.

There’s two ways of understanding the word. The first, which I’d always assumed, is “the people who say χάμω” (with the same Turkish -τζής suffix as in opoudjis). Actually, it’s more like χάμου, which is an (even more colloquial) variant of χάμω.

The second isn’t the primary way of understanding the word, but it’s a cute pun. Southern Greece is down below Northern Greece; and Salonica, which is acutely aware of being in second place to Athens, gets its revenge by calling the Athenians “down-below-ers”.

If they’re thinking that, it’s revealing. Southern Greek makes a semantic distinction between “down” and “on the ground” which Northern Greek doesn’t. Somewhere south of you is never χάμω, it’s always κάτω, because the Peloponnese is not sitting on the ground. But to Northern Greek, both are κάτω, and χάμω is just that funny Southern way of saying κάτω.

Not the first time one dialect makes a semantic distinction another doesn’t. The standard doesn’t have a word for “listen” distinct from “hear”; dialects have forms of αφουκράζομαι. Cretan has a distinct word for “trickle” (don’t remember it, unfortunately); Standard Greek just has τρέχω, “run, flow”.

I don’t think χάμω is as foreign to the standard as ολούθε is, but like I say, I was brought up in as χάμω a territory as Greece gets, in Crete. (OK, Down Under is more χάμω than Crete still.) So I wouldn’t trust my intuition.

I do trust the fine folks of slang.gr more than is healthy. And their discussion thread on χαμουτζής did not disappoint, especially when someone made the misstep of saying “there’s no such word”. Enjoy excerpts, with annotations:

In Northern Greek, an Athenian. From χάμω i.e. κάτω “down”

—I’m going to Athens the day after tomorrow.
—What, down to the χαμουτζήδες?


All southerners are called χαμουτζήδες, Central Greeks and Peloponnesians. For the latter καταβλακιώτες is preferred.

(08/08/08) slaggos

dinaki’s observation is correct. Καταυλακιώτες, meaning κάτω από το Αυλάκι “under the ditch”. The “ditch” is the Corinth Canal.

I guess, but of course /kat-avlak-iotes/ is ambiguous with /kata-vlak-iotes/, from βλάκας “idiot”. Don’t think the Salonicans hadn’t realised it.


Only Peloponnesians are called χαμουτζήδες, particularly in the south. Those from Kalamata at least, because we say χάμου rather than χάμω. I think that doesn’t happen elsewhere in Greece, but I’m willing to hear to the contrary.


As a Thessalonican, I declare without any hesitation, and with full cognizance of the seriousness of (blah blah blah), that when we say χαμουτζής, we mean Athenian. The other Old Greeks (or Ol’ Greeks)—they don’t bother us, we don’t bother them, I guess. Now just between you and me, the Athenians don’t bother me either. But [English] when in Rome…

So yes, χαμουτζής is not a complement, and when in Salonica, you have to diss Athens. Old Greece is pre-1913 Greece; slurring it into Ol’ Greece (παλιολλαδίτες) allows the insulting interpretation of “old” as “lousy, damn”. But we’re not bothering acg, so he won’t bother us.


I agree with eisidzi. Salonican born and bred, from what I can recall I’ve never used or heard χαμουτζής referring to someone not from Athens.

Like other slang.gr regulars, vikar is transliterating Latin login names into Greek (acg = εϊσιτζή – eisidzi).

(08/07/09)Ο ΑΛΛΟΣ

But noone in Athens says χάμου / χάμω, if you do they’ll call you a hillbilly!

A Vlach, literally. Confirming the word χάμω is deprecated in the Standard.


Yes, but we live “down below”. If you start with the entry for “go down”, and look at things geographically, the northerners are πάνου “above” and we are χάμου “below”. What, do you want us to try and prove the guys above wrong (λάθους)?

να αποδείξουμε ότι οι πάνου είναι λάθους; Now, χάμου is not pronounced χάμου because of the Northern Greek raising of unstressed /o/ to /u/. It couldn’t be, χάμω isn’t a Northern Word at all. But if it was, it would be χάμου, like πάνω is πάνου, and λάθος is λάθους.
The entry for “go down” is written from a Salonica perspective: “down” means Chalcidice.

(28/09/09) βορρας

χαμουτζήδες is what all southerners are called, because they’ve come up with a word, χάμω, which of course doesn’t exist anywhere. They are also called kalamakophages.

“There’s no such word”. Oh he’s done it now. Sit back and watch North (βορρας) burn.
Before you do, kalamakophages (straw-eaters) refers to the Athenian word for souvlaki skewers, καλαμάκια “little cane, straw”.


What do you mean, “doesn’t exist anywhere”?

Says Mes, hyperlinking to the Triantafyllidis Dictionary definition.


My grandmother, who recently passed away (101 years old, sound of mind and without company) used to say: “throw them down (χάμε), the cat’ll eat them.”

πέτα τα χάμε, α τα φά ο κάτης. χάμε is etymologically χάμαι, the ancient χαμαί with Modern accentuation. I have heard χάμαι in Crete, and the archaic κάτης (Latin catta, instead of Standard γάτα > Italian gatto) also points to the Greek islands. α for θα “will” suggests the Dodecanese to me.


Do you think she meant we should take the crumbs down to Athens?

Electron’s pretending to make the same error Northerners do: His grandmother can’t have meant “down to Athens”, because χάμω only means “down on the ground”.


God rest your granny. Someone should have explained to her while she was still alive that the word χάμω “does not exist”.

Mes hyperlinks to the slang.gr definition of δεν υπάρχει. While δεν υπάρχει means “it doesn’t exist”, it also means “there doesn’t exist”, Greek being pro-drop. As a slang phrase, “there doesn’t exist” means “there’s none like it”, “it is excellent”. aias.ath in the slang.gr definition discussion thinks it is a calque of German das gibt’s doch nicht


Whatcha talkin’ ’bout, “doesn’t exist anywhere”? And what’s Ancient Greek χαμαί supposed to be?!

From Wikie:
1. οὑτοιί σοι χαμαί, καὶ σὺ κατάθου πάλιν τὸ ξίφος “There, [I’ve put the stones] down for you. And you put away your sword” (Aristophanes, Acharnians)
2. εἴπατε τῷ βασιλεῖ, χαμαὶ πέσαι δαίδαλος αὐλά, ούκέτι Φοῖβος ἕχει καλύβην, οὐ μάντιδα δάφνην, οὐ παγἁν λαλέουσαν, ἀπέσβετο καὶ λάλον ὓδωρ (χρησμός της Πυθίας) “Report to the emperor, fallen is [the] splendid hall, Phoebus no longer has [his] house. Neither the prophesying laurel nor the well will talk anymore, silent also the babbling water.” (Pythia’s oracle)


Haha Electron! Nice, just saw it.


Crap… so Aristophanes is a χαμουτζής too? What would be funny is if the word also turned up in the writings of the Northern Greek Aristotle…

Commence laughing: Aristotle, History of Animals, 611b, 618a. Of course (a) the dialects of Ancient Greece were slightly different from those of Modern Greek, and (b) being from an Ionian colony, and with Ancient Macedonian unloved and of the hinterland, Aristotle’s Greek was probably not that northern anyway.


To say that a word in current use does not exist, you must be many kilos worth of a chauvinist, a moron, or both.


I’d love to know how many kilos worth of a chauvinist, a moron, or both the dude is between the two smiling gentlemen of Mussel No. 2.

English “media” [file], jocularly borrowed as μύδι “mussel”. Photo #2 illustrating the χαμουτζής entry shows the populist Thessalonica politician Panagiotis Psomiadis to the right and far right politician Georgios Karatzaferis to the left—the intent quite possibly to show what leftwing Athenians think is the worst of the insularity that makes Salonicans disparage Down-Belowers. Between them, a dude defining several new shades of beige in the middle:
The caption, inevitably, is: “There don’t exist.” (Or, “They don’t exist.”)


In case you did not understand it after Mes’ politeness, Ironick’s science, or Gatz’s slangois, then you’re cruising for a Jesus FU. Enough already!

I think that’s what τζίζα με μπινελίκι means: μπινελίκι, “insult, flaming”; τζίζας < English “Jesus”, defined in slang.gr as Jesus Christ or a lookalike hippy. In other words, “you’re looking a blasphemous insult”, as an outburst of extreme frustration.





[Bunch of commentary about the beige dude]


With all due respect to the city hosting me, I have wrought and submit to you a scale of linguistic moral development, where stage 1 is total linguistic autism:

  1. There’s no such word as χάμω.
  2. The words I don’t know are not words.
  3. Words in other dialects are not words.
  4. The words used by speakers of other dialects are words, but they’re wrong.
  5. The way they talk elsewhere is not wrong, but it is less proper than ours.
  6. Languages and dialects are situated in a clear hierarchy according to how much they have contributed to Humanity.
  7. I recognise that all languages and dialects are creative expressions of societies and communities, but some of them seem lacking in quality and poetry.
  8. Language is an act of creativity, and I enjoy it in both its high and its daily manifestations. Any language and dialect you can become familiar with has its own beauty.
  9. A language is a dialect with an army and a navy.
  10. slang.gr FTW

Note, the scale is Neo-Kantian, and I’m submitting it for fun. I don’t want to get a reputation out of this.


Oh, Spek!!!

Mes links to the definition of “spek” in slang.gr: truncation of English respect.


  • opoudjis says:

    Followup: in Cretan it means "filthy", *or* "someone speaking in gibberish"—both expected stereotyping, I guess. The latter sense is what blogger Halikoutis uses as his byline:

    "xalikutis: Whoever speaks incoherent words. xalikutizo: to speak incoherent words… But 'Halikoutika' was, and still is, my neighbourhood."

  • opoudjis says:

    I'd never heard of the word, but I googled it, and it's an intriguing story; thanks for bringing it up, Anon! Halikoutis or Halkoutis was the name for the African Muslims who formerly lived in Crete. The article claims it comes from hal il kuti, "African" for "put down the box", referring to porters.

    That sounds like an awful folk etymology, although the Halikoutides did indeed work as porters: Xanthinakis' Dictionary of West Cretan much more plausibly derives it from Turkish halk "pauper" and the suffix "-utis", backformed from such words as ξεκούτης "dotard", φαφούτης "toothless".

    The word survives in Cretan as an insult, meaning "filthy", but not as an ethnic epithet; Christian Cretans don't remember the African Muslims that used to live there, and the linked article refers to a Cretan lawyer who spent three years researching them, and found one of the last Afro-Cretans living in Ayvali, one of the towns the Muslims Cretans ended up in when expelled from Crete.

    Anon, you knew about this, I suspect. 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    I meant the word, not the user, N. 🙂

  • panjomin says:

    Many thanks for the very thorough explanation!

  • opoudjis says:

    @John: The link was throwaway anyway—it just said the similarity was coincidental without expanding on it. Thanks for the fill in; "safe and sound" is of course a very common association.

    So not everyone has access to the same preview-only pages on Google Books? That is not good news, and I'll have to adjust my linking accordingly. (I already know about books being available in full view from an American IP address and not outside, but that's different.)

  • opoudjis says:

    Anon: the whole post is a tribute to xalikoutis. 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    No comment on "xalikoutis"?

  • John Cowan says:

    The link to whole vs. hólos gets me a "page restricted or page count exceeded" error.

    But in fact the English cognate (well, indirectly) of hólos is safe < Fr sauf < L salvus < PIE *solwos. The semantic transition from "unharmed" to "unendangered" is an easy one. Per contra, *kai-lo- > whole does not appear to have any Greek reflexes; the w in the English spelling is spurious (cf. OE hál).

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