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” 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 Diyarbakir 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org