In 1972, the Greek folklorist Elias Petropoulos was awarded a seven month jail sentence for publishing the world’s first dictionary of homosexual slang. He was charged with the circulation of ‘obscene’ publications and insulting the Greek Orthodox Church, government authorities and the royalty. Containing over 3,000 words of Kaliardá, or the secret language used by ‘passive’ Greek queers, Petropoulos’s book eventually became a bestseller and has been reprinted numerous times.
However, little is known about the 45rpm record of Kaliardá speech that Petropoulos had initially planned to include in the first edition of the book. In the appendices to his expanded third edition of 1980, Petropoulos writes:
“Kaliardá is an incomplete book. I don’t only refer to the written contents of the preceding pages. When I was preparing the first edition, I decided to have Kaliardá published in a square format with a pocket inside the back cover to hold a 45rpm vinyl record. To make this possible, the graphic designer Anakreon Kanavakis gave me invaluable technical advice. The disc would have contained recordings of Kaliardá dialogue spoken by various queers, in order to compensate for the glaring lack of phonology in the printed lexicon. I found people to talk on the recordings but failed to get past the monopolistic record companies who press the discs. My collaborators sought clearance from the censors, but even I had no permission to publish the record – so the plan came to nothing. Recently, I returned to my original idea of releasing a record, but was again blocked by the fascist censorship of Karamanlis’s pseudo-democratic government.”
Despite Petropoulos’s intentions, no actual sound recordings of Kaliardá speech were ever made, let alone published on disc. The folklorist and lexicographer Mary Koukoules, who was wife to the late Elias, has no memory of any such recordings, on cassette or reel-to-reel tapes for instance, being left in his archive upon his death. The Elias Petropoulos Papers at the Gennadius Library in Athens certainly contain no sound recordings in their holdings.
With no archival recordings to share, I will end this blog on Paola Revenioti’s 2015 documentary film “Kaliarda”. It focuses not only on the language itself but on the history of queer life in Greece during the 20th century. In a clip published on YouTube, Fotis sings an entire song in Kaliardá while accompanying himself on guitar. In his book, Petropoulos reproduces the lyrics to a song in Kaliardá that was also blocked by the censors, and thus never released. The full Greek text is presented below.
Ιμάντες η Παγώνα,
Παγώνα η μπαροτάτη,
Με σίκ τον θρόνο αβέλω,
με σίκ τεκνό δικέλω,
και δίπλα μου μιά ρένα
με στέμα σαν και μένα.
Θα τζάσω και θα διώξω
τις λούγκρες κατσικέ,
γιατ’ είμαι μέσα κι όξω
δεξιά και προβατέ.
Κι εγώ η λιμπερτά,
κόρη τζάς-μπάν και σβέλτα,
πρώτη στα δικελτά,
πρώτη στην κουραβέλτα.
Τιμή μου και μουτζό μου
τα μπούκουλα του δρόμου!
Τεκνά για μένα ουρές
και μόκολα οι πουρές.
Μισώ τις προβατέ
π’ αβέλουνε μπερντέ
και μένω αποκατέ,
λατσή και κατσικέ.
[Translations and album cover mock-up by Michael Alexandratos]
‘Ηλίας Πετρόπουλος: Ομιλείτε την Καλιαρντήν;’[Do you speak Kaliarda? Elias Petropoulos and the the study of Greek subcultures], The Books’ Journal, v. 7 (May 2011), 62-69
Kaliarnta (Kaliarda: An Etymological Dictionary of Greek Homosexual Slang), Athens: privately printed, 1971 / Athens: Pleias, 1974 / Athens: Nefeli, 1980, 1982 (Collected Works, 1993).
“Kaliarda,” review by Kimon Friar, Books Abroad, October 1972.
“Jagd auf Jakob” (About Petropoulos’s Kaliarda, Homosexuality, and Censorship), unsigned, Der Spiegel, 5 February 1973, p. 92.
“Caliarda: la langue secrète des homosexuels grecs” (Kaliarda: the Secret Language of Greek Homosexuals), by Hélène Ioannidi, Topique: Revue Freudienne, No. 20, October 1977, pp. 115-150.
“Kaliarda,” review by Jean-Luc Hennig, Libération, 16 December 1977.
“The Greek Gays have a Word for It,” by Steve A. Demakopoulos, Maledicta, Vol. II, 1978, pp. 33-39.
“Elias Petropoulos: A Presentation,” by John Taylor, Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora, Vol. 8, No. 4, Winter 1981, pp. 7-28.
“A Greek Gay is a Greek Gay is a Greek Gay. . .,” by Steve Damakopoulos, Maledicta, Vol. VI, 1982, pp. 45-51.
“Benávis ta kaliardá?”, by John Taylor, Gay Books Bulletin, No. 9, Spring-Summer 1983, pp. 14-19.
“Kataggeliva” (Accusation: article mentions Kaliarda), Patrivß (Puvrgou-Hleivaß), unsigned, 1 July 1983.
“Kaliarda Revisited,” by John Taylor, The Cabirion, No. 11, Fall-Winter 1984, pp. 10-11.
“Kaliarda,” by John Taylor, Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, edited by Wayne Dynes, New York: Garland, 1990, volume, pp. 656-657. (See also “Greece, Modern” by William A. Percy and John Taylor, pp. 501-504.)
Μπενάβετε καλλιαρντά; Αφιέρωμα Γλώσσα & ομοφυλοφιλία του Τίμου Αγγέλου
Greek wikipedia article on the Kaliarda:
Special thanks to Mary Koukoules. And an especial thanks to John Taylor, whose extensive bibliographic references on the Kaliarda were taken from his unpublished manuscript on E. Petropoulos.