Columnist Kasbarian Releases Dikranagerd-Armenian Dialect Dictionary

Teaneck, N.J.—After years of compilation, a new dictionary of words and expressions from the Dikranagerd-Armenian dialect is now available. Titled, “Inch g’usis”: A Dikranagerdtsi Vernacular Handbook,” the term “Inch g’usis” literally means “What do you say?” in the dialect of Dikranagerd.

Authored by Charles Kasbarian, “Inch g’usis”: A Dikranagerdtsi Vernacular Handbook showcases the earthy and humorous dialect of Dikranagerd, presented in English transliteration. Kasbarian is also known as “C.K. Garabed,” the columnist behind “Uncle Garabed’s Notebook,” which has appeared in The Armenian Weekly for almost 25 years.

No one knows how many Armenian Genocide survivors were integrated into Turkish society, nor how many native Armenians may remain, though hidden away. In either case, there are few, if any Armenians in the Diarbekr region of Western Armenia (present-day Turkey) who still speak the native dialect. As a result, it is likely that the dialect of Dikranagerd will become extinct in our lifetime. Aside from this obvious fact, Kasbarian explained his reasoning for creating “Inch g’usis?”: “The Dikranagerd dialect is my native language. In my childhood, while trying to converse with non-Dikranagerdtsi Armenians, I would get laughed at for what they perceived to be a queer way of speaking. But in my maturity, I realized that there was a lot to be said for dialects – the one of Dikranagerd in particular.”

As such, Kasbarian took on the task of trying, in some small way, to document elements of the Dikranagerd dialect for posterity. And so, he began to note Dikranagerdtsi words and phrases, which grew into the present collection. “And far from being laughed at,” Kasbarian continued, “linguistic scholars have consulted me on the virtues of the dialect which they feel is worthy of preservation.”

To make the work widely accessible, Kasbarian decided to put the handbook online. The work can be freely accessed on Kasbarian’s Armeniapedia page:

http://www.armeniapedia.org/wiki/Dikranagerdtsi_Vernacular_Handbook_In_English_Transliteration

Included are words and terms “A” through “Z”, a section on Dikranagerdtsi nicknames, and an Armenian alphabet mnemonic. Arranged alphabetically and containing a pronunciation key, the handbook offers many colorful phrases, interjections and exclamations such “Kher eghnah” (“May it be useful or good,” often said when somebody sneezes); “Leghin badri” (“May his gall bladder burst,” meaning “May he drop dead.”); “Jivit godreh, doun nusdi” (“Break your leg, stay at home,” meaning “Stop gadding about.”); and “Kna kni” (“Go to sleep,” meaning “Get out of here.”). Parents of young children are cautioned that there are many ribald entries.

Kasbarian grew up, during the Great Depression, in Union City, New Jersey — which was once heavily populated by Dikranagerdtsi Armenians. Over the years, he has presented folk tales and skits in the Dikranagerdtsi dialect at cultural evenings held in the New Jersey area. Also in progress on his Armeniapedia page are his The Dikranagerd Mystique Armenian Cookbook; a number of articles about growing up Dikranagerdtsi; Oyin Mi Tavli, a one-act play in the Dikranagerd dialect; and The Dictionary of Armenian Surnames.

Says Kasbarian of “Inch g’usis?”, “like everything else, there are bound to be missing

words and phrases and even mistakes, in which case readers should feel free to bring them to the attention of the author.” Kasbarian can be reached at ckgarabed@aol.com

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18 Comments

  1. Are there plans to make this available in Armenian letters? The dialect is non-standard as it is, and representing it in English only will lead to people learning it incorrectly. There are two problems I can foresee in using only Armenian: according to the pronunciation key, this dialect has two sounds not present in standard Armenian — “the flat a sound, as in hat, which it borrows from Persian and Arabic” and “the oo sound, as in fool” (different from “the oo sound in Persian, Arabic and Turkish”). Otherwise, it’s impossible to accurately distill 38 Armenian letters into 26 Latin ones, even by pairing some together. Plus, by making reference to English pronunciations, it’s not clear whether we’re talking about a Boston accent, a New Jersey accent, or something else. Lastly, and most importantly, it further undermines the need to retain Armenian literacy.

    • Dear Daniel:
      I call it a handbook in the Merriam-Webster sense of being a small book that gives useful information about a particular subject
      It was never intended to be a primer with which one could learn the Dikranagerdtsi dialect. That can be done only by being tutored by someone who is well versed in its usage, or by immersing oneself in a community of Dikranagerdtsis. The nuances of the dialect are manifold, and cannot be rendered academically.
      The project started out as a self-amusement. When it subsequently appeared that it could serve as a legacy for posterity, friends and relatives encouraged me to make it available to a wider audience.
      So, here it is, for better or worse.

    • In order to respond to the question, one must know in what context it appeared. If in writing, especially Armenian, the letter used for dj will be either of two, one meaning thigh or leg, the other meaning water, juice or liquid.
      If spoken, one must know if the speaker is speaking in Eastern or Western Armenian.

    • Considering that only one word in the sentence is Armenian, and the rest Turkish, one would expect the woman to be Aintabtsi, not Dikranagerdtsi.

  2. “Uncle Garabed,” I CAN’T wait to order one!! I wish my mom was here to read it……Oh, I can only imagine the roars of laughter as she enjoyed it! Ara D. mentioned this dictionary to me this summer, but I thought we’d have a longer wait…..congratulations, and thanks!!

  3. Dear Margaret:
    Nice to hear from you. The Handbook is available on line only, but you can printit from there. It will probably run about 30 pages.
    Fond memories of your mom.
    Uncle Garabed

  4. How tragic…People can’t even speak Armenian properly and now soem are rushing to learn a few words of dialect. Encapsulates the sad and unavoidable fate of the “diaspora”. Voghpam merelots

  5. This is the language I grew up with and still speak it with my sisters and all my acquaintances that can trace their roots to Diyarbakir. You have done an excellent job and I congratulate you on your initiative. I don’t know how much resources you have but if you require any assistance to complete your work you know how to reach me.

    By the way gulmuni means resemble,looks like.

    Herike ghosank. Pammi ghousisne hidis ghosa. Himma Kena moutfouna soughtour gir.

  6. I am trying to find the root of my last name Gulesserian. Were Yeres and Yeser in Dikranagerdtsi dialect used interchangeably? Does anyone know?

  7. Gulesserian is probably a variant of Gulasarian, which is Persian in derivation.
    Gul is defined as rose or rose colored, and sar as head.

  8. What a blessing to find this dictionary! My grandparents, Shookry & Rose Asfar, were Diyarbakir Dikranagerdtsi and I can hear them going on and on in this dialect. The port city of nearly 1 million residents, prior to 1915, such as my grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins have made their mark in the world and Dikranagerdtsi pride is alive and well.

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