Kaliarda III: The Romani basis of Kaliarda

By: | Post date: 2017-11-16 | Comments: 4 Comments
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Modern Greek

NOTE: Updates on The Romani basis of Kaliarda, updated.

What Petropoulos had not picked up on in his first edition was that the base of the distinctive lexicon of Kaliarda is Romani—something that he had emended by the second edition.

There is precedent for a Romani base in other Greek cants—notably the builders’ cant Dortika in Eurytania, which Manolis Triantafyllidis published on in 1923.1

In his magisterial post but—or, the influences of Romani on Kaliarda, slang.gr user Poniroskilo has compared Petropoulos’ vocabulary against the ROMLEX database of Romani dialects and I. Alexiou’s dictionary of Romani, and come up with the following list of core Romani vocabulary in Kaliarda. (I’m adding a column for Dortika, though Triantafyllidis did not publish a lot of his material, and his published article only went through words starting with mu.)

Kaliarda Romani Dortika
aˈvelo give, take, do, put, take out, want, have avel, avela, avol be, become, come, arrive
ðiˈkelo see, look; dik look dikhel see, look, inspect
irakˈlja woman, iraklo buxom woman rakli, rakhli non-Roma girl
ˈkakna, kakˈni chicken khajni chicken
kaliarˈda Greek gay cant < kaliarˈdos ugly, evil, strange kaljardo black, African, blackened, dishonoured < kalo black
kaˈtes, kaˈte that kate, kathe here
kuˈlo turd, shit khul turd, shit
kuraˈvelta sex, kuraˈvelo to have sex as a top kuřipe sex, kurela to have sex
laˈtsos beautiful, good lačho good, beautiful
luˈbina gay lubni, lumbi, lumli whore, slut
manˈdo bread manro, mandro bread manˈdo
mol water, liquid, alcoholic drink mol wine mol wine
muˈdzo vagina mindž vagina, vulgar word for girl or girlfriend > English minge
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
baˈros, baˈlos fat baro big, tall baˈros big
but very but very, many but very
peˈle testicle pelo, pl. pele testicles
ˈpuli anus bul arse
puˈros old phuro old, grandfather
ˈrelo fart ril fart (in the Sepeči Romani dialect of Volos)
tekˈno boy, young man, small tikno small, dainty
tiraˈxo shoe tirax shoe (in the Sepeči Romani dialect of Volos)
ˈdzazo drive out, leave, flee džal, džala, džal-tar leave, depart, distance oneself, go ˈdzala leave!
tsurˈno theft, especially of the wallet of a top by the bottom’s friend hiding under the bed čor thief, robber
ˈxalo eat xal, hal eat xaljon

(The multivalent verbs avelo and dzazo are light verbs, a type common in the borrowing of verbs into other languages: nouns are easier to borrow than verbs, so languages often borrow the nouns, and use vague verbs like “do” with them. In fact, contemporary Greek does that routinely with online communication verbs taken from English notions: κάνω subscribe, κάνω add, κάνω like.)

In his 2005 study2, César Montoliu concludes that “Kaliardá is not a mixed Gypsy language. It is rather a slang or a professional jargon with an important Romani element in it.” Poniroskilo also cites Sofronis Chatzisavvidis of Thessalonica University (article no longer online) as saying that 15% of the Kaliarda vocabulary is Romani.

Montoliu adds his hypothesis “that it first appeared in a Romani speaking environment connected with male prostitution.” The smoking gun is in fact in Poniroskilo’s list, in the entry for balamo, as slang.gr commenter Vrastaman was delighted to realise:

Vrastaman: I always wondered where the dick [πού στον πούτσο] those two communities intersected. I never realised the obvious, that they intersected on dick! You found the missing link under balamo which explains everything. Respect!

Iron: It’d also be interesting to make a list of those words which have ended up in everyday Greek slang: τεκνό, πουρό, τζάζω, λουμπίνα, κουλό etc.

  • tekˈno “toyboy, twink”,
  • puˈro “dirty old man”,
  • ˈdzazo “to send away, to get rid of”,
  • luˈbina, variously defined on slang.gr “whore” (explained here as derived from the pseudonym of a well-paid female sex worker of the 1930s—clearly itself taken from the Romani for “whore”), “gay bottom”, and “cunning and conniving”,
  • kuˈlo Kaliarda: “turd”; Standard Greek slang has meanings derived from its normal meaning “lame”: “nonsensical, unreasonable” (possibly independently from English lame); “left hand” in Koutsavakika—although one commenter speculates that the meaning “nonsense” derives from Kaliarda

John Black: Obviously, Vrasta. Gays would give 20 drachmas to a horny Gypsy kid, or buy him a cheese pie, and he’d stick it in them (τους τον φέρμαρε). See Giannaris’ classic film From the Edge of the City, although the male prostitutes in that film are ex-Soviet Pontic Greeks (ρουπούδες), not Roma.

  • John Black’s ρουπούδες is an acronym, using the unofficial Greek syllabic alphabet: ρου που = ΡΠ = Ρωσσο-Πόντιοι “Russian Pontians”.


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    M T W T F S S
    1. Triantafyllidis, M. 1923. Τα «ντόρτικα» της Ευρυτανίας: συµβολή στα ελληνικά µαστόρικα. Λαογραφία 7: 243–258. Available online.

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

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