Say it in Greek: Kalikoutsa

Just like with every other language, Greek is one of many dialects that change when you change regions on the Greek map. Nowadays, not many of these dialects are spoken especially between younger generations. However, some words have survived and are still part of the spoken language of the people living in or coming from specific regions in Greece.

This has the result of a number of words used to describe that exact same thing. Some sound the same or almost the same, some are completely different. One of these words is the Greek word for “piggyback ride.”

If you try to find this word on a Greek dictionary, you probably won’t since it is a word that is almost never written. Unless you are writing an article about it. People in the south of Greece use the word “kalikoutsa” or “kalikoura” for piggyback ride. Some variations from southern Greek regions are also “kaliagotsa,” “kalikotsia” and more similarly sounding words with slight changes. As I am sure you can guess, these words do not actually sound Greek. The root of this word is probably Albanian. The word “kavaloutsi,” however, which is also used in the south sounds like a combination of Greek with a non-Greek ending. There are words for piggyback ride in the Peloponnese that sound nothing like the ones above, like the word “zalouka” which they use in Arkadia.

If we start travelling North, we will start noticing bigger changes in the word. Usually the greatest differences in Greek dialects are between the North and the South. In Epirus for example, they say “gotsa” or “gos”. In Kozani some people say “galiagoutsi.” If you go slightly more north east, from Kozani to Imathia, the word will change to “angourka.” In Thessaloniki, you will here the word “kavaliki” as well as many other variations. And if you reach north-eastern Greece and arrive to Thrace, the word will become “tsousia” or “tsountsa.”

With a lot of these words you can tell how the variations were created because of the specific accents of different regions, while others sound entirely different. And these are just some variations of this surprisingly complicated word Greeks use for piggyback ride. There are still hundreds of them around the country and in some cases families living in the same neighborhood might use something entirely different.

Linguistic instances like this is just every day proof of the plurality of languages, dialects and peoples that have interacted with each other on the land of our country and of the influence they had on the Greek language just like Greek had on a great number of languages too.

So, next time you want to ask for a piggyback ride in Greece, make sure you use the right word for it. It might be trickier than you think.

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