If you know the difference between chopia (lamb chops) and bootey (car boot), then chances are you are a hybrid Greek. As a member of a minority, you may find that you are privy to secret lingo that caters to the needs of the antipodes. Hard-liners scoff, condemning this pidgin language as “lazy” or just plain “incorrect.” Those who grew up with it, understand the importance of the Interactive Greeklish Project (tobooko.com) an open research study that records Australian, North American and South African Greeklish in one huge database.
The effort to gather together all the eccentric words of an in-between language in one huge urban dictionary kicked off in 2010 by Greek-Australian radio presenter Kyriakos Gold. He wanted to ensure that classic Greeklish phrases, such as “Shurup william!” (Shut up, will ya!) would be immortalized for the sake of posterity.
Greeklish was born as newcomers, more fluent in Greek, groped for words to communicate with their children proficient in English. In cheeky collusion, they found a way to bridge the gap between languages and generations.
The initiated greeting each other with a bevy of phrases, such as “Goomorni” (Good morning), “Alo dali mou,” (Hello, my darling), “Havayiou?” (How are you?). They call their local “roofiano” (roof-repairer) to fix their “roofies” (roofs). They may go to work by “carro” (car) or catch a “bassi” (bus). Like most people they go about their business, doing their laundry in the wassemassini (washing machine)
Sticklers for rules frown on Greeklish. They see it as cannibalizing language, but on a sociolinguistic level it is fascinating because it is evolving, showing that language is living and developing.