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.

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