"When I was a soldier, I ended up in Greece"

It's been a little while since I've put up a language sample of an obscure variant of Greek; this is a sample of the Greek spoken in Calabria.

Of the Greek spoken in Italy, the Greek of Salento is healthiest, with something like 20,000 speakers; the Greek of Calabria has less than a tenth of the speakers, but is significantly more archaic. The sample is taken from Minuto, D., Nucera, S. & Zavettieri, P. 1988. Dialoghi Greci di Calabria. Reggio Calabria: Laruffa. pp. 56–58.

The book includes four recorded conversations in Greek from the early 1980s, from Chorio di Roghudi, Gallicianò, and Bova. The texts were gathered by Domenico Minuto, who taught himself Greek and participates in the conversations; they include both old-timers, and younger semi-speakers.

The text below is from villagers originally from Chorio di Roghudi, including the 19–year-old Pietro Zavettieri (whose idea the collection was), his father, his grandmother, and his uncle. The text's spelling is based on Italian (e.g. <scero> /ʃero/ "I know", corresponding to standard ξέρω), with the following additions:

<ddh> is a convention of Calabrese; as in Calabrese, <ddh> reflects historical /ll/. So <addho> /aɖːo/ "other" sounds something like an American drawled "add-draw", but corresponds to earlier Greek ἄλλο, /allo/. (Just as Calabrese iddha "she" comes from Latin illa.)

The story is revealing, of the type I like to feature in The Other Place: what happens when the Greek-speakers of Italy find themselves at war with the Greek-speakers of Greece. It's very easy for Greeks to lose sight of it, but through the inhabitants of Roghudi and Calimera spoke Greek, they live in Italy, and their ancestors have lived in Italy for anything between a thousand and three thousand years. Which means they are Italian. Still, Pietro's unnamed uncle did not end up the worse for wear for it, when he was with the occupation forces in Greece.

I'll post linguistic commentary separately. Following a common convention of Italiot Greek texts, I italicise the Romance words (many of which are inflected in Greek).

Zio: San immo ssordàto ejàna stin Grècia; ce ìmmaston dio; mu ipe: «Pame oden abucàto pu echi tundo spiti na tu zitìome ticandì na fame.» Ipan egò: «Pame, ma egò en tu ccapèo.» Ecìno ipe «Esù tu ccapèi ti platèi to greco.» Ipan egò: «En tu ccapèoAllùra tu ipan egò: «Platèspe esù: an ecìni platèu ce tu ccapèguo, allùra egò platèo; andè, den platèo proprio.» Tutos ode ejài ecì; tu ipe: «Thelo ligon alàdi, enan pumadòro, ligon ala, na camo mian nzaláta, na fao, ti immo nisticò.»
Uncle: When I was a soldier, I ended up in Greece. And there was two of us. He told me: "Let's go down here where that house is, to ask them for something to eat." I said: "Let's go, but I won't understand them." He said: "You will understand them, because you speak Greek." I said: " I won't understand them." So I said: "You talk: if they talk and I understand them, then I'll talk; if not, I'm not talking at all." This man goes there; he told him: "I want some oil, a tomato, some salt, to make a salad to eat, because I have not eaten."
Tutos ode, o greco, canni: «Ma egò, san de capèguo, ti en scero ecìno pu leghi, en scero, ecìno pu den mu leghi! Ti mu steki lègonda?» San egò ecàpespa ecìno ti eplàtespe manachòstu, ce ipe ola tunda pràmata, tu ipan egò: «Scerise ti theli? Mian stampa alàdi, enan pumadòri, enan crommìdi, na cami mian nzalàta na fai, ti pinài.»
That man, the Greek, goes: "But me, if I can't understand him, I don't know what he is saying, and I don't know what he is not saying to me! What is he telling me?" When I understood what he said on his own, and he said all that, I said to him: "You know what he wants? A little oil, a tomato, an onion, to make a salad to eat, because he is hungry."
«Ah! Esù leddhé! leddhé! leddhé! Pùtthen isson esù? Putthen isso?» «Putthen immo? Stratiòtes, italiàno.» «Pos' ecàmese na pàise me tin Italìa? Esù isso leddhé!» Ipan egò pos' ècama na pao in Itàlia! «M' epiàsan priguinèri ce arte immo obblighemméno na pao methétu!» Leghi: «Esù leddhé! Ecìno pu thélise, issa a disposiziòni sto spiti ton dicòmmu!»
"Ah! You, brother! brother! brother! Where are you from? Where?" "Where am I from? Soldiers, Italian." "How did you end up going with Italy? You are a brother!" I told them how I ended up going with Italy! "They captured me as a prisoner and now I am forced to go with them!" He said: "You, brother! Whatever you want is at your disposal in my house!"
Pietro: Vrete esì!

Zio: En calò o den en calò?

Minuto: En calò, po den en calò? Pollì calò.

Pietro: Well look at that!

Uncle: Is that nice or what?

Minuto: It's nice, how can it not be? Very nice.
Zio: Arte canno àddonen discúrso. To stesso in Grècia. Poi immasto dio pu epìgame viàta ismìa; ejàmmasto ce etrovèspame enan tabakkìno. Sce tundo tabakkìno etrovèspame octò, deca eciúndo greco. Pos arrivèspame ecióssu, mas efèrai ena, ena giro peròtu, possi ìssai eciòssu, na pìome. Poi egò eghìrespa na tus offrèspo ecinòne. C' ecìni mu errifiutèspai; iche ton bbarìsta, ipe: «Sanàrte sa offrèusi ecìni, avri, methàvri, tu sonnite offréspi esì.» Dopu ti epìame nduttu, ce mas edùcai ciòla enan pakètto sicarètte, peròma ti ìmmasto dio, èrchete o barrìsta ce mu ipe: «Vre ti avri su amènome ode.» «Ma egò den ercho ode» tu ipan egò, «jatì egò en iscèro ta fatti po ppasi.» «Esù avru èrchese ode; sto tali oràrio ti s' amènu tèssere, pende ghinèke, ti thelu na ivru po pplatèvghise esù to greco
Uncle: Now I'll tell another story. Also in Greece. There were two of us who always went together. We went and found a tobacconist. At that tobacconist's we found eight, ten of those Greeks. As we arrived there, they brought us a round for each, everyone who was there, to drink. Then I tried to treat them. And they refused me; the barman was there, he said: "For now they are treating you; tomorrow, the day after, you can treat them." After we drunk everything, and they moreover gave us a packet of cigarettes each, there being two of us, the barman came and told me: "Look, tomorrow we'll wait for you here." "But I won't come here", I said to him, "because I don't know how things will go." "You're coming here tomorrow, at such and such a time four or five women will be waiting for you, because they want to see how you speak Greek."
Ejàmmasto! Ejàmmaston ecì. Epettòame eciàpanu, pu iche mian addhi stanza ce eciòssu accheròai crùnnonda ce chorèonda ce na gustèspu emmè pos to eplàtegua to greco. Pinnonda, cànnonda ecì, emmèna to fucìli mómine. Dopu ti epìame, echorìstima c' ejàssame ta fàttima. San arrivèspame a un certu puntu, mu canni tutos addo: «Ce to fucìli to dicòssu pu ene?» Tu ipan egò: «Ecì èmine.» Leghi: «Pu to thorìse ple! En su to donnu ple.» Ipan egò: «Condofèrrome, thorùme, an mu to donnu mu to donnun.» Me tin strata ortèo ena pu èrcheto me ton fucìli ton dicòmmu. Mu ipe: «Esù isso leddìdi dicòmma. An den isso leddìdi dicòmma to muskètto en to ìthore ple.» C' ecòspame ecì.
We went! We went there. We got up there, where there was another room, and inside they started playing music and dancing and enjoying how I spoke Greek to them. Drinking and entertaining myself there, I left my gun behind. After we drank, we started to leave. When we got to a certain point, this man goes to me: "And where is your gun?" I told him: "It's back there." He said: "You're not seeing it again! They won't give it back." I said: "We'll go back, we'll see: if they give it to me, they give it to me." Along the way I meet a man coming with my gun. He said to me: "You are our brother. If you weren't our brother, you would never have seen your musket again." And we broke off there.
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GTAGE: Losing One's Religion

Today's installment of the Golden Treasury of Anglo–Greek Expressions (GTAGE) takes religion in vain. That does not mean the expressions I'm going through are blasphemous per se—although if taking religion lightly is not your thing, you shouldn't be reading further. If anything, the expressions show how central a role Orthodox Christianity has played in how Greek saw the world and their society, just as Shakespeare's English betrays a lot of popular Catholicism, that was slow in dying in England.

Most of the translations this time around aren't all that jocular, but instead are quite close to the literal meaning; it's the opacity of the idioms, of course, that lends them their humour. But the first instance resorts to an English soundalike:
Aaron, Aaron: Άρον άρον

This is a biblical quotation: ἄρον ἄρον, σταύρωσον αὐτόν "take, take, crucify him!" (John 19:5; English translations uniformly leave it as "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!") The expression is quite opaque now, so the GTAGE compiler could get away with namedropping Moses' brother instead. It is opaque, because ἄρον is no longer the imperative for "take!"
  • The present tense of "take, lift" was αἴρω; now it is παίρνω, which is the modern counterpart for ἐπ-αίρω, "to take up, lift up" ( /ep-aírɔː/ > /eˈpero/ > */ˈpero/ > /ˈperno/ : Modern Greek deletes unstressed initial /i, e, o/, and avoids /r, l/ as a present tense ending, adding the less anomalous /n/ after them.)
  • The imperative which was ἄρον is now πάρε. The ancient imperative of ἐπ-αίρω is ἔπ-αρον, a second aorist (corresponding to the Germanic strong verbs). The second aorist died out and was replaced by the first aorist (corresponding to the Germanic weak verbs). Even if the second aorist stem survived, its inflection did not, and at any rate the aorist imperative endings were matched to the present imperative; so ἐπ-άρε. The initial /e/ becomes unstressed and is deleted, by analogy with the present; so /ˈeparon/ > /eˈpare/ > /ˈpare/.
  • In addition, Ancient Greek allows "take!" to be used without an object. In Modern Greek, you can only do this with inanimate objects: you can say πάρε to mean "take it" (actually, "take some"—if you're not naming what is taken, it is assumed to be something appropriately nebulous.) But for a human object, you would have to supply a pronoun: ἄρον ἄρον, σταύρωσον αὐτόν "take, take, crucify him" would now be πάρ' τον, πάρ' τον, σταύρωσέ τον "take him, take him, crucify him".
ἄρον ἄρον doesn't make any sense to Modern Greek speakers, and the repeated imperative sounds odd, like some sort of incantation. (For all I know, ἄρον in antiquity may have been more about seizing the moment than literally taking anyway.) So the phrase was reinterpreted to make sense in context. Churchgoers heard "Aron Aron Crucify Him", and concluded that "aron aron" must mean "hurry up", coming from the crowd pressing to see Christ executed—and so with a connotation of an action being forced. The slang.gr definition is:
Said of something happening very quickly, in a great hurry, a great rush and great stress. Said of something that happens on the go, on the fly, in the fast lane, heart beating like a drum, whoosh, etc.

The phrase is not really slang at all, but quite commonplace mainstream Greek; in fact there was a debate on slang.gr on whether the phrase should be included at all. It's presumably not related, but that interpretation is reminiscent of an earlier repetition, at the end of actual Greek incantations (magical papyri and tablets): ταχὺ ταχύ "quickly, quickly!"

That's the only phrase from the liturgy in the list; there's also a reference to the man reading the liturgy:
And if you are priest you will stand in the queue: Κι αν είσαι και παπάς με την αράδα σου θα πάς

Just about literally rendered, but for the affectation so beloved of GTAGE, of overliterally translating και: και literally means "and", but it can be used not only to join two things, but also in front of just one thing, to mean "also" or "even". So, "and if you are and a priest, with your line you will go": that is, "even if you are a priest, you're still going to stand in the queue." So also defined at slang.gr:
An All time classic popular expression used since time immemorial. αράδα as we know is a queue (σειρά). We also know of the respect that villagers for the most part showed their priests (as well as the teacher and the policeman). Often people would give their place to the priest, so he could be served in a timely manner.

So the expression simply means that one must await the suitable time or moment to act, without exception. Even if one is a priest, for instance, he must still wait his turn—let alone a common mortal.

The explanation presupposes a Greek notion of queues, something that does not quite gel with my experience of Hellenism. Now αράδα is a quite old word for "line", which is now limited to typography and as a synonym for "large number of"; "queue" now is σειρά, which is why slang.gr had to gloss it. But σειρά, which is after all the same word as series, has a clear notion of one party following another; αράδα doesn't have that connotation to me. So I suspect αράδα is used to refer to it being one's turn to be served, without there being an single orderly queue in place. Turns are ordered one after the other, even if the petitioners for those turns are not. Note that it's "*your* line (= turn)", not "your place in the line (= queue)".

In a society where Christianity is the default, Christianity can stand in for what is self-evident: if everyone is supposed to be Christian, then Christianity is supposed to be understood by anyone, putting it in the same category as knowing how to walk or how to jump a queue. So not understanding Christianity was not brought up as a badge of free-thinking, but of questionable mental capacity:
He doesn't understand Christ: Δεν καταλαβαίνει Χριστό
I don't know Christ: Δεν ξέρω Χριστό

Compare the Southern US phrase losing my religion, which actually means "being at the end of one's tether"—although when the Southern US rock band REM launched the phrase into a more secular listening public, that's not how the phrase was understood.

The Greek phrases are used to indicate that someone is refusing to understand something, which should be self-evident. Consequently, it means that someone is pig-headed, since what they are refusing to understand (i.e. go along with) is what *you* are proposing is self-evident.

There is a nuance here: the definite article is not used before Christ. So the phrase cannot mean, literally, "he doesn't understand Christ (e.g. what Christ is saying)" or "he is not acquainted with Christ": without an article, Christ is not being treated as a person. Rather, Christ is being treated like a body of knowlegde—just like δεν καταλαβαίνει βιοχημεία "he doesn't understand biochemistry" or δεν ξέρω κολύμπι "I don't know swimming (= how to swim)". So what is not being understood is not Christ himself, but Christ's body of knowledge: Christianity.

That's my interpretation; slang.gr has a different take:
The religious counterpart to δε μασώ "I won't chew" [I don't give a damn], indicating that the subject is so determined to maintain a particular position that even if Christ himself came down to explain why he should change his mind, he would not understand and would not be persuaded.

But the absent article makes me think I'm right. There is a second meaning, "I don't understand a damn thing" (brought up in the slang.gr thread, appropriately enough, by the user called Jesus). That could be a reinterpretation of the phrase: "I refuse to understand a damn thing" > "I can't understand a damn thing" (hearers take away that it is invective and involves failure to understand, and reapply it); or it could play on the same notion of Christianity as Obvious Truth ("I'm so confused by this, I don't even understand Christianity any more"' cf. the use in English of "I've forgotten my own name.")

If someone obstinate won't even understand Christ, someone hallucinating will misunderstand Christ, again because Christianity is assumed to be self-evident, as common property of the community. Hence, the absurdist vision:
He saw G.I. Christ: Είδε τον Χριστό φαντάρο

Once again, GTAGE requires the Greek to be rendered in English without nuance. By putting φαντάρο "conscript" after the object τον Χριστό "Christ", "conscript" is a small clause, a predicate describing the result of the verb, like "he painted the house red": here "he saw Christ as a conscript".

In another culture, and another time, this would be quite right-thinking, if liberal theology: Christ humbled to the station of Everyman, and the Greek army conscript is as Everyman as the modern culture allows—a stage of humiliation and drudgery every Greek citizen is supposed to go through, if they don't have the right connections to avoid it. The theologians always knew about the humbling of the Incarnation, which is why Byzantine theologians came up with the concept of Kenosis—the emptying out, the voiding of God's will in the Son of God as He becomes Man.

But that's theologians. The common folks' understanding of Christ is what they saw in the icons: Christ as Arch-Priest, as the Almighty, as the Conqueror of Death.

For someone to see with their mind's eye Christ voided, as a lowly Everyman (and as a contemporary Everyman at that), they must be pretty far gone. Accordingly, the phrase is used to indicate that someone has been driven to extremes, that he has been pressed or worked so hard, that he is hallucinating, and seeing manifest absurdities.

More summarily, slang.gr defines the phrase as:
1. Used to stress that we are going through difficult or intense experiences.
2. To be terrified.

Orthodoxy—common folk and theologians—have a special place for the Virgin Mary, as universal mother and divine intercessor. In fact, slang.gr reports an extension of "I saw G.I. Christ": Είδα την Παναγιά περίπολο και το Χριστό φαντάρο, "I saw Holy Mary on patrol and Christ as a conscript." So if something is especially rare, it gets calledː
Holy Mary's eyes: Της Παναγιάς τα μάτια

Eyes are already used to refer to something dear, something that cannot be replaced—with accompanying derision for blindness in proverbial wisdom. So μάτια μου "my eyes" remains a term of endearment. If you're going to pile on preciousness and scarcity, the object of affection can't just be irreplacable eyes, but the irreplacable eyes of someone irreplacable: your mother. And to go even further, not just your mother, but the universal mother. But the expression refers not to something dear but to something scarce. Per slang.gr, with suitably irreverent example, and a definition which looks different but ends up meaning the same:
Absolutely everything, the lot:
Woah, she ate absolutely everything, that fart-eater. She didn't even leave Holy Mary's Eyes out!

The next reference to folk religion has been rendered overliterally once more, although the idiom is opaque enough that it's hard to realise:
He cannot crucify girlfriend: Δεν μπορεί να σταυρώσει γκόμενα|o

girlfriend/boyfriend actually (γκόμενα ~ γκόμενo), and the phrase does not refer to executing one's partner on a tree. The phrase actually means there is no partner to execute: "he can't possibly get a girlfriend/boyfriend". The expression can be used with anyone or anything impossible for someone to get hold of: δεν μπορεί να σταυρώσει φράγκο "he can't crucify a franc = he can't get (= earn) a single drachma". The nuance is that this is because of the person's inability or incompetence, not because it is impossible for a person of reasonable means to do; so you wouldn't say δεν μπορεί να σταυρώσει κότερο "he can't crucify a yacht", unless you wanted to imply that surely anyone who's anyone can surely afford a little yacht, dahlink.

The catch with this idiom is that σταυρώνω does not only mean "crucify". In traditional Greek society, which did not use Roman methods of execution, the only entity referred to as crucified was Christ, and those references were limited to Easter. The more commonly used sense of σταυρώνω is "to make the sign of the cross over" something or someone. For people, this was done as a blessing, typically to ward off evil spirits. For objects, this was done likewise, and evil spirits would be warded off a costly acquisition.

The implication here is a nice little vignette: the pauper, after much effort, finally gets a single drachma, and makes the sign of the cross over it to keep it put. The dateless is yearning to get a girlfriend; if he ever does (which he won't), he will be desperately making the sign of the cross over her, to make sure she doesn't get away from him through the offices of some evil spirit (or less nerve-wracked lover).

slang.gr does not have a distinct entry for crucifying girlfriends, but deals with the colloquial use of the verb overall:
To acquire, to happen upon, to make one's own, to fuck [in the slang sense of "to be a success"]. This admittedly pas tellment slangue term is usually expressed in the negative. Possibly from the English "he cannot crucify a girlfriend". [Yes, slang.gr in-joke referring back to GTAGE.]

The other examples given of something not gained, despite great effort and desperation, are a football victory, and a customer:
  • The team cannot manage to play soccer, it cannot "crucify" a victory (δεν μπορεί να σταυρώσει νίκη), and of course it is not even dynamic enough to get bad referreeing.
  • Doubling up the range of a brand, with two models close to each other, often shows bad strategy from the car manufacturer. A classic example is the VW Jetta; as long as the Passat is alongside it, it cannot "crucify" a customer (δε μπορεί να σταυρώσει πελάτη).

The discussants are at something at a loss of where the expression comes from. Xalikoutis suggests two possibilities. The first is crossing a customer off a list, with some relief. The second, which is along the lines I have proposed, is housewives making the sign of the cross over a painstakingly prepared dish, before putting it in the oven. Others bring up examples of passengers making the sign of the cross over the airplane crew, and a lawyer making the sign over the trial documents.

"Crucifying" a girlfriend would be a red-letter day indeed for our hapless Lothario, at any rate. After all,
It's not every day St. John's: Δεν είναι κάθε μέρα τ’ Αη-Γιαννιού

GTAGE overliteral word order of course: "Not every day is St John's", with "every day" emphasised by moving it after "is not". St John's is an important feast day in Orthodoxy as it is in Catholicism; the importance of the day for Catholics has made it the Quebec National Day (and makes for some awkwardness, now that the day is being promoted as secular, and not exclusive to the Francophones).

The Catholic feast for St John the Baptist is the commemoration of his birth, on June 24, making it the midsummer festival. The major Orthodox feast day for St John the Baptist is on January 7, making it the capstone to the Twelve Days of Christmas.

To conclude, a rendering which combines the Byzantine, the Information Age, and Modern Greek aggro, describing the kind of blasphemy that this posting has skirted.
I downloaded vigil candles: Κατέβασα καντήλια

Κατεβάζω can be used to mean "to download", and doing so is incongruous enough to make it a natural choice for GTAGE. Its more general meaning, of course, is simply "to take down". The expression means "to blaspheme", and it is modelled after κατέβασα άγιους, "I brought down saints". It would be tempting to assume in this expression some sort of rueful self-awareness, that by blaspheming in naming saints, one is bringing the saints down to their base level.

But that kind of self-awareness is fairly counterproductive, and instead I think the expression is based on the use of Χ τον ανέβασα, Ψ τον κατέβασα "I brought him up X, I brought him down Y", meaning to go through a list of descriptions for someone—the descriptions typically derogatory. (There is a variant "I brought him up X, I brought him down X", meaning that the derogatory description X is the only description fit for something.) The first few examples I've googled:
  • Νερόπλυμα τον ανεβάζω, νερόπλυμα τον κατεβάζω και ποτέ δεν τον πλησιάζω (Of filter coffee) I bring it up "dishwater", I bring it down "dishwater", and I won't go near it.
  • Το Στάθη γιατί τον ανεβάζω κωλόγρια και τον κατεβάζω πορνόγερο. Το χειρότερο είναι ότι είναι και τα δύο Why do I bring Stathis up "old hag" and bring him down "old goat"? What's worst is that he's both.
  • ολοι σιγουρα εχετε διαβασει ποστ μου οπου βριζω τον τζεικ και σκυλο τον ανεβαζω κουταβι τον κατεβαζω
    αλλα νομιζω οτι τωρα τον εχω συμπαθησει σαν χαρακτηρα You must all have read posts by me where I swear about Jake (of Twilight), and I bring him up "dog" and bring him down "pup". But now I think I like him as a character.
  • Ποιος έγραψε πουθενά ότι ο Παπαχελάς είναι “πράκτορας της CIA”; Εγώ πάντως όχι. Αν μη τι άλλο Μπιλντερμπέργκερ τον ανεβάζω Μπιλντερμπέργκερ τον κατεβάζω And who wrote that Papakhelas is a CIA agent? Not me. In fact, I bring him up a member of the Bilderberg Group, I bring him down a member of the Bilderberg Group.
  • κάθετα όχι. Δεν μ'αρέσει. Ντικ τον ανεβάζω, ντικ τον κατεβάζω. Δεν ξέρω γιατί, μάλλον εμπάθεια (Response to someone welcoming Dirk Nowitzki to Olympiakos Basketball Team) Absolutely not. I don't like him. I bring him up "Dick", I bring him down "Dick". I don't know why, probably my hostility.
  • Έτσι και πάρει την ΑΕΚ, έχει να γίνει πολλή πλάκα με τη φάτσα του. Ερμπακάν θα τον ανεβάζω, Θείο θα τον κατεβάζω (Of Haralambos Kozonis, prospective owner of AEK Football Club) If he takes over AEK, there'll be a lot of fun to have about his face. I'll bring him up "Erbakan" [because of his similarity to the Turkish politician], I'll bring him down "Uncle".
  • Και εγώ θα τα πάρω με το Λεωνίδα, μαλάκα θα τον ανεβάζω, καριόλη θα τον κατεβάζω, θα του ρίξω τα καντήλια του I'll get in a rage with Leonidas, I'll bring him up "wanker", I'll bring him down "whore", I'll throw him down his candles. [Variant of the phrase under discussion here.]

The image here, *I* think, is of someone going up and down a catalogue of descriptions; by using them to describe someone, you are taking them up and down the catalogue. Once you have gone up and down a catalogue of saints, you can shorten it to just going down the catalogue—which would emphasise, if not the earthiness of the listing, certainly its definitiveness and condemnation (by the straightforward spatial metaphor, DOWN = bad, condemnation, anger).

If the saints are being brought down, it is a euphemistic and absurdist metonomy to switch from saints the cult objects associated most with saints: the candles lit in their name in church. Taking down candles is an oblique of saying you're taking down the saints that the candles are lit to honour, which in turn means to go through a derogatory cataogue of saints.

One last time, the slang.gr definition, and an explanation in comments that I don't agree with (the candles don't go down of their own accord in the expression). But it's all opinion for these derivations anyway:
Swearing, usually swearing about holy matters, blasphemy.
"Panayotis, stop pinching grandpa, because if he wakes up he's going to take down a candle on you, and he'll be entirely within his rights to."
  • Meaning, our curse will be so blasphemous, that the very candles of church won't be able to stand it and will come down.
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Pontic locatives

In the last post, I said—somewhat flippantly—that the locative adverbs of Pontic are neurotic; and John Cowan asked me to spell out how.

To do so, I've gone through the 60 pp discussion of George Drettas' 1993 grammar of Pontic, Aspects pontiques. I have to say, I don't like Drettas' grammar; as a friend said to me, "it's very French". By that, I don't just mean that it's *in* French—which makes it looking through a dark glass for me; it also means that it takes an approach to grammar which I'm unfamiliar with, and its exposition is rather too leisurely, and at times woolly.

On the other hand, it has the rare benefit among grammars of Modern Greek dialects that it treats the dialect as a linguistic system in its own right, and it does not merely list the ways it differs from Standard Modern Greek—as most dialect grammars do. Some of the paths Pontic grammar has taken are quite alien to the Standard dialect; so this is well-justified for Pontic. In fact, Drettas gives his Pontic in IPA; given my readership, I'm transliterating back to Greek.

I won't resist the comparison to Modern Greek locatives either. As I said last post, Standard Modern Greek is rather limited in its means of expressing location. A couple of prepositions: από (motion from, location away from), σε (motion to, location on), and I guess μέχρι/ώς (up to). The rest is done by adverbs: μπροστά, μέσα, πάνω, πίσω "front, inside, above, behind" etc. The adverbs can be prefixed with απο- , which still means "away from" (motion or location); so βάλ' το πάνω "put it up", βάλ' το αποπάνω "put it up from = put it over, put it above".

Pontic also has a limited repertoire of spatial prepositions: σ', ας, ους, corresponding to Standard σε, από, ώς. (Etymologically ας corresponds to Ancient ἐκ ~ ἐξ, which elsewhere survived as αχ ~ οχ.) It also has a list of adverbs to supplement them, quite similar to Standard Greek. So Pontic distinguishes between άν "up" and απάν "above", and κά "down" and αφκά "below"; the latter pair corresponds to κάτω and αποκάτω, and the former to πάνω and αποπάνω. (Etymologically πάνω is itself a compound of ἐπί + ἄνω "on + up", and Pontic άν is of course merely ἄνω.) So απάν, αφκά, and απές "inside" are primitive adverbs of Pontic that already include the απο- prefix etymologically.

But beyond those etymological instances, Pontic can also prefix απο- optionally to a productive range of locative adverbs. Those locative adverbs start with words for "here" and "there".

Pontic has three words for "here" and "there", ακεί means "yonder"; αδά means "here (close to me)", and ατού means "there (not close to me, though still nearby)". By default, ατού means "close to you"; but if you're next to me, I would use αδά and not ατού. The distinction corresponds to the three-way distinction in Latin of hic, iste, ille (and I render it here as "here, there, yonder")—but not to Modern Greek εδώ and εκεί. (ατού corresponds to Modern Greek αυτού "there", but αυτού is deprecated in the Standard, and I'm not aware that it is systematically distinguished from εκεί.)

Pontic can prefix these locations with από, and so far that is just like Standard Greek: Standard Greek αποδώ, αποκεί "over here, over there; from here, from there", Pontic απαδά, απατού, απακεί.

But Pontic goes further. "Here" and "there", whether or not with a "from" prefix, can be suffixed with the adverbs for "above, below, inside, behind", απάν, αφκά, απές, οπίς. So "Go away" in Standard Greek is φύγε από δω, "leave from here". In Pontic, it is φύγον απατουπές, "leave from there inside" (από + ατού + απές). "Come up!", "He fell down", and "Look in!" are έλ αδαπάν "come here up", έρουξεν εκιαφκά "he fell yonder down", and τέρεν ατουπές "look there inside". You can use the adverbs on their own (as you would in Standard Greek), but Pontic tends to insert the location as the starting point.

What gets even harder to pin down are the four additional particles that can be added on after the adverbs; they are impossible to gloss in Standard Greek, and not much easier to gloss in French. Drettas' 15 pp discussion does not leave me much clearer about what they mean, but I gather that:
  • κες means "trajectory, direction, orientation, vector"
  • κιάν means "space, volume moved through, space apart from"
  • κα means "this is the new reference point of the discourse; this is a specific location"
  • κεκά means "in the vicinity of"

I'm going to give examples from Drettas', which are supposed to illustrate how this all works, though some of them leave me even more confused:
  • επίεν οκςςου-κές "he went out" (in the direction of outside)
  • εκάθουμνες οκςςο-κά "we were sitting outside" (and "outside" is now the reference point for what I say next)
  • αδα-κές "hither"
  • πού-κες "whither?"
  • οψές επέρασα ασην Αθήναν κες "last night I passed through Athens" (emphasis on going through Athens, following a path)
  • οψές επέρασα ασην Αθήναν κιαν "last night I passed through Athens" (emphasis on getting away from Athens) [hilariously, a Pontic speaker used them to show Drettas the difference between κες and κιαν—but he glosses them identically]
  • σύρεατεν σο φουρνίν κιαν "he threw her into the oven" ("at the oven movement-through")
  • σύρεατεν σο φουρνίν κες "he threw her towards the oven" [I made up this example, hoping I got it right]
  • εσύ αδα-κές μαναςςέσα πώς είσαι; "how did you end up here all alone?" (the subject is not still moving, but κές means she has moved)
  • ατείν τα εικόνας-ατουν είχαν-ατ αφκα-κές, εσκάλεζαν κ' επέγνανε, καταφύιον εποίνανε και είχανε τα εικόνας εκειαφκά "they kept their icons downwards (= hiding them under the floorboards); they kept digging, made a shelter, and kept their icons down yonder [no added particle]"
  • ατου-κιάν "over there" (across from here)
  • ας εκείν την ημέραν κιαν "from that day forward..." (that day is set apart from the future)
  • ο ήλιον αφκά-κιαν 'κι στεκ "the sun won't stay down" ("down", conceived as being within the space between the earth and the heavens, that the sun can move through)
  • θα κόφτω και τεσόν το κιφάλ θα βάλ-ατ εκε-κά "I'll chop of your head, and I'll put it yonder (in my sack)" ("yonder" relative to the here-and-now, but "here" relative to the story's context: that is the reference point)
  • αβούτο κείτ εκε-κά και 'κ' ελέπσ-ατο "it's sitting right there and you can't see it" (it's there, but "there" is now where we're focussing attention in the discussion, as the reference point)
  • εκαλάτςςεβαμ εκε-κά κάτ ελέγαμεν "we were speaking there, we were saying something" (the action has a reference point as its location, so it is a specific instance)
  • ποντιακά εκαλάτςςεβαμ ε-κές "we were speaking Pontic thither" (the action has a direction rather than a reference point as its location, so it is not specific: it is interpreted as "we used to speak in Pontic in general")
  • πού-κεκα "where exactly?" (in the vicinity of where)
  • έτρεξεν κ' έρθεν σον α-Εάνην κεκά "he ran up to St John's church" (lit. "he ran and went to the vicinity of St John")
  • εκατήβαν εκεί σα χοράφ-εαμουν κεκά "they came down yonder, near our fields" (lit. "to the vicinity of our fields")
  • ασό δρανίν απαν-κεκά ετέρναν "they looked from up on the roof" (lit. "they looked from the roof, in the vicinity of above")
  • αδα-κά, ακε-κά, σο καφούλ οπισ-κεκά "right here, right there, behind that bush" (lit. "in the vicinity of behind the bush")

The distinctions are extraordinarily subtle, and I'm not sure I've quite got them. Often enough, it seems, κες means "towards" ("hither", "passed through") and κιάν means "away from" ("from that day forward", "into the oven"). But ποντιακά εκαλάτςςεβαμ ε-κές "we were speaking Pontic thither" does not involve any motion towards, but some notion of κες as a generic location; while the sun in ο ήλιον αφκά-κιαν 'κι στεκ "the sun won't stay down" is not yet away from the horizon, κιαν merely indicates that it *will* move away. And I'm sure I'm vague on the perspective shift introduced by κα.

Now that said, none of this is that unusual from the viewpoint of human languages: there are other languages that will say things like φύγον απατουπές, "leave from there inside", or will do perspective shifts like κα does, or will distinguish between vectors and spaces like κες and κιαν do. But there's nothing particularly Indo-European about how Pontic has done it: Pontic is regaining the subtleties of Ancient Greek prepositions, but it isn't using cases and lots of prepositions to do it. And John Cowan has surely been reminded of Lojban from about the third paragraph of this post; but I'm reasonably certain Pontic hasn't picked this behaviour up from Lojban either.

As will be no surprise to anyone, this looks like influence from Caucasian languages, as Drettas concludes: the neighbouring Laz has at least 48 different preverbs indicating spatial orientation and direction. (And "Laz" is what Pontians actually called themselves before the scholars renamed them after the Black Sea.) The picture of the Laz preverbs Sylvia Kutscher sketches is absurdly rich. Pontic's locative adverbs, its "above" and "inside" and "behind", are not ultimately alien from the rest of Greek even if their combinatorics are. Laz is certainly on a much more neurotic level still; Pontic does not make distinctions like dolo- vs. mola- (pouring into the mouth of someone lying down vs. pouring into the mouth of someone standing up; the bottle is in the basket vs. the cup is in the cupboard.)

But the parameters Laz appeals to, such as orientation, shape, and horizontal vs vertical (which Setatos before Drettas had suggested to explain κες vs κιαν)—all sound like they have rubbed off on their Greek-speaking neighbours.
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Going from X = Going past X

Way, way back, Tipoukeitos asked if I could comment on the seemingly illogical use of πάω από Χ "to go past X", which has attracted opprobrium from at least one Modern Greek language maven. ("Language maven" is not intended here as a term of praise.) What is seemingly illogical about the construction is that it literally means "to go from X", but X is the destination and not the origin of going. So how can such an expression have come about? If you're going to X, how can you say you're going "from X"?

I have no idea if someone has already worked this out, and I'm not going to bother checking, because the explanation is fun and simple. You may have already worked out what is going on yourselves; if not, this will be quick.

I start by noting that Modern Greek is pretty impoverished when it comes to prepositions. In contrast to the prodigious combinatorics of prepositions and cases in Ancient Greek, and the neurotically precise locative adverbs of Pontic, Standard Modern Greek makes do with very little: από for motion from (or distance from), σε for motion to (or proximity to), and a few adverbs for clarification. Ancient Greek could deal with motion past by a simple παρά; but that is not available to the modern language.

So with the limited means of "from" and "to", Modern Greek needs to convey a notion of a temporary destination. What it does is not particularly uncommon in colloquial, vivid language: it has come up with an expression that is economical, but that is not the obvious way to say it. That is what makes it vivid language, the first time you see it: like a punchline to a joke, you have to think about it to get it. The expression conveys the notion of a temporary destination, which will then also serve as a point of departure later on. So X is both a destination and an origin.

To achieve this, X is marked as a destination in one way, and an origin in another way. It is marked as an origin by the preposition, "from". It is marked as a destination by the context, because the expression only works if you're not already at X. That's what makes you have to think about it, in classic punchline mode—that is, in conversational implicature:
  • Πάμε από την Πανεπιστημείου "We're going from University St"
  • But we're not already at University St
  • So we're going to have to go *to* University St, so we can then go *from* University St to somewhere else
  • So we're going to stay at University St only briefly: we're going past University St

You also use this expression to emphasise this X is part of a route: you go to X precisely in order to get to somewhere else, so X is the origin for your ultimate destination. Hence Tipoukeitos' example:
  • θα πάμε από Πανεπιστημίου γιατί η Ακαδημίας είναι κλειστή "We'll go *via* University St because Academy St is blocked off."

In fact από "from" is the way Modern Greek expresses "via".

Now expressions like this, with odd prepositions after verbs, work by analogy with other verbs. Prepositions are quite flexible in their meaning, according to the verb that governs them: English prepositions' meanings are so hard to pin down because they are determined by verbs.

There is a verb where "from = past" is already well established in Modern Greek, and it is of course περνάω, "to go past, to go through". In fact, "from" after περνάω has the same shade of meaning there as well, compared to the normal expression:

  • Πάω στην Πανεπιστημίου "I'm going to University St"
  • Περνάω την Πανεπιστημίου "I'm passing through University St"
  • Πάω από την Πανεπιστημίου "I'm going past University St"
  • Περνάω από την Πανεπιστημίου "I'm going past University St"

Normally, you go to (πάω σε X) a destination; by saying "from", you're making the destination an origin as well. Normally, you go through, or overtake a tangent (περνάω X); by saying "from", you're making the tangent an origin—which implies you're stopping by there long enough for the tangent to become an origin. If you don't say "from", X remains a tangent, and you can't be stopping there:
  • Πέρασα από την Πανεπιστημίου να δω το Γιώργο "I went past University St to see George (at University St)"
  • Πέρασα την Πανεπιστημίου να δω το Γιώργο "I went through University St to see George (at the next street)"

Cf. Tipoukeitos' example:
  • θα πάω απ' την πεθερά μου πρώτα να πάρω τον μικρό "I'll go by my mother-in-law's first, to pick up the kid".

And because περνάω/πάω από is strongly associated with places as origins, you can't use it with persons:
  • Πάω στο Γιώργο "I go to George"
  • Πάω στου Γιώργου "I go to George's (place)"
  • ??Πάω από το Γιώργο "I go from George"
  • Πάω από του Γιώργου "I go past George's"
  • Περνάω το Γιώργο "I overtake George"
  • ??Περνάω του Γιώργου "I pass through George's"
  • Περνάω από του Γιώργου "I go past George's"
  • Περνάω από το Γιώργο Not "I pass from George", but "I go past George's"

As for the purported illogicality of the expression—language is not formal logic: if it was, you wouldn't get defeasible implicatures (assumptions by your listener about what you mean, which may turn out to be wrong), and you wouldn't get the exploitation of defeasible implicatures (punchlines—you assumed I meant X, when I actually meant Y, so I momentarily tricked you in what I said). Defeasible implicatures is what makes language vivid.

And as we saw, the expression makes sense just fine, once you allow that people can both go to a place, and (then) from that place. Maybe you can't do that in Language Maven World; but Language Maven World is not a place you want to spend a lot of time in anyway.
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"Neighbouring Bulgaria" project

In a previous blog post, I went through Shishmanov's listing of erstwhile Bulgarian villages in Asia Minor, and tried to map their location—to get a sense of how isolated Kızderbent was, and whether that would account for the heavy Turkicisation that Trakatroukika reportedly underwent.

Stoyan Shivarov, of the Ottoman Archive in the Bulgarian National Library, has been in touch to ask about my sources, and that has made me aware of his own ongoing research into the Anatolian Bulgarians. Shivarov and his colleagues Georgi Zelengora and Konstantin Panayotov have been undertaking archival research as well as visits to the sites of the villages; so his own Google map of the villages is going to be rather more reliable than my own.

Here's my uninformed map (blue = Bulgarian villages, red = Kızderbent):

View Anatolian Bulgarians in a larger map
And here's his well-informed map, with notes on the identifications if you click through:

View bulgarian villages in anatolia in a larger map
Shivarov has a blog about the "Neighboring Bulgaria" research project. He has just come back from his second field trip, and he is finding new villages not previously reported, as well as identifications of previously reported villages. He has also found some Bulgarian still spoken in the region (Kocapınar), by Pomaks.From this post, it looks like Pomaks were already settling the region in 1878, and more came after 1922 from Drama.

So Christian speakers of Bulgaro-Macedonian settle in Bithynia between the 1500s and 1875, mostly from southern Bulgaria, though also from Kastoria and probably Ohrid. Muslim speakers of Bulgaro-Macedonian settle in Bithynia from 1878 on, also from southern Bulgaria but also from Greece. Most of the Christians ended up going back to Bulgaria. Some Christians ended up going to Greece instead. So you can speak Bulgarian, but your descendants, depending on your credal choices, end up Bulgarian, Greek, or Turkish. Yes, ethnicity in the Balkans is a complex thing.

As to why the Pomaks came to Bithynia, maybe the Ottomans decided to settle them where there was already Bulgarian spoken, maybe they chose the location themselves. I'd be fascinated to find out about how the Christian and Muslim Bulgarian-speakers of Kocapınar got along: finding themselves together in a strange place, similar but not the same.

Like the Trakatroukides and the indigenous villagers in Polypetro, say.

You'll see that Kızderbent looks rather more isolated in his map than mine, although I was uncertain about the villages closest to it. That is circumstantial evidence for why the language of Kızderbent was so Turkicised, although I still don't have a real sense of how its Turkicisation really worked.
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