Kaliarda XVII: Bourganis, Paxinos, Faltaits

By: | Post date: 2017-12-04 | Comments: 5 Comments
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Modern Greek

We saw that police reporter Spiros Leotsakos reported in 1963 that police officers Paxinos and Bourganis had recorded the underworld slangs of their time, and compiled glossaries. And one of those slangs, which Leotsakos says Bourganis recorded, was Lubinistika—as the language of female prostitutes rather than gay bottoms.

The Lubinistika he recorded may not have been identical to the gay cant now better known as Kaliarda; in fact, I strongly suspect they weren’t, even in the 30s. But Kaliarda likely originated with Rom male prostitutes (balamo “non-Rom man, boss” > Kaliarda “client of prostitute”); so the two will have had a lot in common—the more so as Petropoulos reports that gay bottoms worked as support staff in cis female brothels.

The commenters at Sarantakos’ blog have kept at it, and we have three additional pieces of information. The first, found by BLOG_OTI_NANAI, is Bourganis’ obituary, which dates his occupation with Lubinistika to 1930–1941 (when he held the rank of hypastynomos, “Police Lieutenant”.)

Former Police Captain (A.M. 727) Efstathios Bourganis, son of Dimitrios, died on 1981–12–25.

The deceased was born on 1900–02–15 in the village of Kytopina, Xiromeros, in Aetolia & Acarnania prefecture. He joined the police force as a constable on 1923–06–02. He was promoted to Police Lieutenant II on 1930-08–18, Police Leutenant on 1934–09–04, and Police Captain II on 1941–03–04. He retired by his own request on 1949–04–23. His funeral took place in his home village.

The deceased was one of the most distinguished officers of the corps, and his activity has remained notable in its annals. Before World War II he was part of the team neutralising Italian spies in our country. During the Occupation, he joined other brave officers of the corps in striking many blows against the German conquerors through superhuman efforts, and undertook hundreds of sabotages against the occupying army. (From Αστυνομικά Χρονικά, Jan–Feb 1982, p. 166.)

The second, found by Spatholouro, is a study on cants published in 1930: Konstantinos Faltaits. 1930. Περίεργες λαογραφικές σελίδες: οι μυστικές συνθηματικές γλώσσες στην Ελλάδα [Curious pages of folklore: secrecy languages in Greece] Αλεξανδρινή Τέχνη [Alexandrian Art] 4.9: 289–292. He has little to say about Lubinistika specifically, but he confirms its association with female prostitutes:

Mangika [Koutsavakika] is a popular secret language, just like Koudareika [Epirot Builders’ Cant], Lupiniarika [= Lubinistika?], Korakistika [Crow-Talk, schoolyard Greek counterpart to Pig Latin], Kombogianitika [Traditional Healers’ Cant] and so many others. (p. 289)

The language used by livestock sellers is based on Romani. That is also the case for the language spoken by women of easy virtue. It appears that formerly Romani had served as the basis for many professional jargons in many parts of the world. Such languages still survive in Europe, but the number of those that learn them or know them is steadily decreasing. (p. 290.)

(Not that it’s relevant, but fascinatingly, while his surname makes him sound like one of the Bavarians that came to Greece with King Otto, Faltaits’ surname is an alteration of his grandfather’s Faltagis (Φάλταγης), the family being recorded in Skyros since 1643. Konstantinos’ father Russianised the surname to Faltáyich while working in Odessa and Tagnarog.)

The third find, also found by Spatholouro, is a newspaper report on the glossaries compiled by Police Captain Paxinos and Police Sergeant Mavrotas, that appeared in Acropolis newspaper, 1933–05–15, page 1 and page 2. It was written by “Th-s” = Stathis Thomopoulos, whose 1934 report on female sex worker Lubinistika we have already seen. I have no idea if Bourganis’ glossary was part of their more general project, ranging across underworld cants, but the time frame is right.

The article speaks of the cants as if they are the one slang with multiple names—though the ensuing discussion makes it clear that they are distinct. The “professionals of five fingers” (i.e. pickpockets) refer to their cant as “Romika”—that is, Romani. Lubinistika is the name of the cant of “the world of easy women and procurers”; and the generic term for cants was “Masonika”, by analogy with the secret practices of Freemasonry.

Commenter (and friend of this blog) Diver of Sinks thought that Romika indicated an awareness that Kaliarda is Romani-based, something that seems to have been forgotten by Petropoulos’ time. I think that’s a misleading impression given by the loose wording of the article: Romika was not the name given to Lubinistika but to pickpockets’ cant, familiar to us from Rebetiko song: it is used like “Masonic” to indicate that the language is secret, since the use of Romani-based cants like Dortika was clearly well-known. It does not necessarily mean that people realised that Lubinistika was such a cant.

These are the words of Lubinistika reported, with their somewhat florid glosses; I put Kaliarda words next to them.

Female sex worker Lubinistika Gloss Kaliarda Etymology
iraˈkliðes girls irakliˈes Romani rakhli “non-Roma girl”
ipuˈri (female) director of houses of ill repute [= madam] puˈri “old woman” Romani phuro “old man”
laˈtsi maid laˈtsi “pretty” Romani lačho “beautiful”
papaˈrunes officers of Vice Squad runes “policemen” Greek papaˈrunes “poppies”
tekˈno lover tekˈno “twink, young man” Romani tikˈno “small”
karliaˈdos the policeman who rescues them from criminals kaliarˈdos “ugly, bizarre” Romani kaljarˈdo “blackened”
kapˈsuris someone in love Greek kapˈsuris “lovelorn”, lit. “burning up”
tsakirˈdzis exploiter [= pimp] Turkish çakırcı “seller of blue-eyed women”


  • As elsewhere, iraˈkliðes has been spelled with a folk-etymological eta. The plural ending is consistent with a feminine in -i that was recently borrowed, so that Greek-speakers would have been reluctant to give the normal -es ending; but that tends to happen to masculine recent nouns, not feminines, and I wonder if the author didn’t simply supply his own fanciful Heraclids as the “daughters of Heracles”.
  • We saw ipuri in Thomopoulos’ 1934 piece too; the initial i- presumably came from the same place as the initial i- in irakli, as a metanalysed Greek feminine definite article.
  • In the 1934 piece, latsi was rendered with its normal adjectival meaning as “beautiful”.
  • kapsuris is Koutsavakika; there is a rebetiko song titled Ο Καψούρης “The Lovelorn” written by Giannis Papaioannou, and first recorded between 1943 and 1945. It is now mainstream colloquial Greek.
  • papaˈrunes “poppies” does not appear to be Koutsavakika, somewhat to my surprise.
  • τσακίρ in Greek is now only known in the collocation τσακίρ κέφια, Turkish çakır keyif, çakırkeyif, the peak euphoria reached on a night out. It was difficult enough to find a gloss online for çakır that I suspect the word is obsolete in Modern Turkish. The derived form tsakirˈdzis could have been formed within Greek (or Lubinistika), since the borrowed Turkish suffix is productive in colloquial Greek with reference to professionals or people characterised by something (taksidzis “taxi driver”, banistirdzis “peeping tom”.)

The listing continues directly with non-Romani words which do not look like Lubinistika at all, but are clearly underworld slang; some of them have survived in Greek slang to this day (ˈkarfoma “betrayal” lit. “nailing”; ˈxina “1000 drachma note” lit. “goose”, via phonetic similarity with xiliˈariko). The one word which does appear to relate to Kaliarda is duˈlaki “5 drachma coin”, a diminutive of *duˈlo. The singular duˈlo and the plural tuˈla turn up in Kaliarda as “money, coins, loose change”, and ˈdula as “5 drachma coin”. (Hence, inevitably, dulakuˈbu “money touch chick” = “bank”, duˈloprufa “money letter” = “tax query; cheque”; duˈlotsarðo “money hut” = “mansion; multi-storey building”; and dulotsarðopliviˈas “money hut pleb” = “builder, cementer”.) This is presumably Romani (slang.gr also suspects so for both duˈla and tuˈla), but I’m not seeing an obvious Romani etymon (yet).


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