“Mouvare to karo sou giati tha fas tiketo” said the shopkeeper on Danford street on a visit to Greektown Toronto Canada. So I quickly run out to move my car to avoid the parking ticket. I return to the shop and I look at this store owner “TRIKA? I say he takes a good look at me, “VALKAN?” both our nicknames from days gone by.
Taso “Trika” and I were in the same class back in the xorio in Greece. He lived on the southern part of the village and I lived to the north with the main street that dissected the town (dimosios dromos) determining which turf you were on. Taso led a gang of southern bullies and I… okay, okay I’m a good guy now and it wasn’t all my fault besides Laki, his brother Niko, “Soukios”, Flekias” and “Prinos” nominated me to lead the northerner “good guys” against those no good southerners and I had to defend the “panw maxala”
Those days 2-3 times a week we would meet and exchange stone-throwing at an undisclosed location. Our group (led by my command of course) would spend the non-rock throwing days looking for sharp, pointy edged “petres” that would cause the most damage to the “enemy” and the southerners would do the same.
My Mom loves telling the story of how I split “Nirvana’s” head open like a cantaloupe once and ran home to “avoid” the consequences at broad daylight. “Mom I’m tired and I have to go to sleep” I told my mother. Mom knew I had done something bad but didn’t know what, “why do you want to sleep all of a sudden, it’s only 1:00 o’clock what did you do again”? “Nothing, nothing, I’m tired Mom” and quickly ran to the bedroom and locked the door behind me. I got in bed and hid under the covers with eyes closed “sleeping”. Well don’t you know it, I start hearing screams coming from Nirvana’s Mom and immediately hear my mother’s death threats “ANOIXE THN PORTA THA SE SKOTWSW’ “Koimame” “ANOIXE THN PORTA THA SE PNIXW”. So I open the door and there’s Voula with the “tsouknida” in hand.
Now I know that many of you were raised with the fear of the pantofla but let me tell you something about the tsouknida to put things in perspective. Getting hit with the pantofla hurts, if you get it from a tsouknida your “pisino” gets a rash and you can’t sit down for days. The tsouknida is similar to poison ivy with the difference being that the stem part has these little thorns which upon contact releases a “poison” to the skin that causes a serious sting that hurts like hell for days.
So I’m thinking to myself: How did Greeklish evolve among all Greeks living abroad? They all say things like caro, gasolini and flori, how did that happen? Was there a Greeklish school at the Olympic Airways arrivals at JFK teaching all the new immigrants Greeklish and they later helped spread this new language to all U.S. cities?
How does one explain that? Here’s another one for you: The word KARAVAIKI (Carribean). In the Greek language it’s pronounced KARAIVIKH not KARAVAIKH. Now this is not a Greeklish word it’s a Greek word and for some reason every time I hear a 50+ year old Greek come back with a tan in the dead of winter and ask where he got that ugly shirt from he says “KARAVAIKI”. How did that happen? Did my theia Toula fron Chicago go to the Carribean and once she got home called all the philoptoho societies and said “molis gyrisa apo thn Kaavaikh” and that’s how it spread?” Then we have “kekia” (cakes) and “stekia” (steaks)
A few days ago this guy was traveling overseas and I asked him what city he was flying out of so he stopped, swallowed hard, looked up at the ceiling with index finger pointing upwards and with a seriousness as if he was on Jeopardy said “NIOUARK” and my obvious follow up question was “NEW YORK?” “NO, NIOUARK” he said again with his eyes closed as if he would win $10,000 if he pronounced Newark correctly.
One of my all time favorites was when my grandma was telling my mother years ago about these relatives who lived in North Jersey “to Niou Tzersey ths Neas Yorkis oxi to diko mas” (Our New Jersey not New York’s New Jersey). Word hasn’t gotten out that there’s a Norh and a South Jersey I guess.
We also have words like “Troki” (truck) “Hemi” (ham) and Tourko (Turkey) and we put everything on a rollo (roll) and what do we wash down the “samitsa” (sandwich) with …a “Sotha” preferably “tzitzirella”! Then there’s “Marketa” (Supermarket) and “Mpara” (bar). By the way, have you noticed how an accountant is always a “bookkeeper”? “thelw na paw ston bookkeeper na mou kanei ta taxes” . Then rhere’s the boxi (box) and the hadoki (hot dog). And when it’s cold out “fritziazoume” and if it’s hot we turn on the “arkoudisio”(air condition). We go to the Parko and we eat scrambo eggs in the morning with sases and we have coffee with hef-in-a-hef, Greeks love going to places like the “louloudia” and ride the eleveta to get to work.
Those old time Greeks were too busy working I guess doing “mapa sta floria” to put ungrateful kids like me through college so that I can make fun of them today. I can just hear their voices: “GIOU SANAVAMPITSI”.