A correspondent writes on behalf of a researcher of his acquaintance:

The researcher asks about the composition of the audiences in Ottoman gazinos (cabarets/nightclubs) in Istanbul/Constantinople ca. 1908-1910. If a prominent Sephardic singer such as Haim Effendi were performing, what might the audience have consisted of (in terms of nationalities, religions, etc.)? Would women have attended, too? Would Haim have performed songs principally in Judeo-Spanish, in Turkish, or both? Would any of these answers change after the revolution of summer, 1908?

The question about songs in Judeo-Spanish and/or Turkish is of course of Hattic interest (though perhaps unanswerable by anyone present), as is the word غازینو‎ (gazino), from Italian casino — I wonder why the initial consonant got voiced? (We talked about Ottoman Turkish in 2007 and 2017.)


  1. David Eddyshaw says

    Well, syllable-initial voiceless stops are aspirated in Turkish, so I suppose the Italian unaspirated /k/ might sound more like /g/ to a Turkish speaker.

    Just to confuse the issue: the well-known Ottoman title pasha (as in Glubb) may or may not be derived from baş “head”, apparently:

  2. Dmitry Pruss says

    I wasn’t ready to believe that a secular singer of the time could be called Effendi, but it checks out

  3. John Cowan says

    Perhaps it was a hereditary nickname like Drinkwater (for a diabetic ancestor). Alternatively, if we understand it with a lower-case e, one could be “a man of power, property, or education” in the Ottoman Empire without being religious.

  4. I suspect a word that is commonplace in Bulgarian that sounds like it it is derived from that, whose meaning is “playboy”, but a vulgar, lower-class one. It’s гъзар or газар.

  5. J.W. Brewer says

    I believe the Italian plural of “casino” is “casini.” One internet source says that the plural of “gazino” is “gazinolar” in modern Turkish and “gazinos” in Ladino. I’m happy for the English plural (to the extent there is occasion to use it as a loanword in English) to be “gazinos,” and not because I think we’re obligated to follow the lead of Ladino. FWIW, the same source glosses the Ladino sense as “outdoor cafe with music,” which is akin to “cabaret/nightclub” but not completely coterminous. Unless in those days Constantinople had some sort of taboo against such establishments located indoors?

  6. A Turkish culture site in Russian explains that gazinos used to be illegal and served alcohol, but were legalized in around 1930 by Ataturk to provide Western-style light entertainment to the masses. It was supposedly only then when the meaning of the word changed from “a den of vice” to “an outdoor cafe with music”

  7. A paper on the turn of the 1920s in the Train Station district of Istanbul notes:

    After a while, new coffee houses, café-chantants (kafeşantan), bars and gazinos (a large refreshment bar like a music hall), appeared in this direction (Aydın et al., 2005: 257, 269, 292-293). Greek Iraklis opened the future famous Kuyulu Coffee House at that epoch (Özalp, 2016: 334). At the beginning of the 20th century, a recreation area called Nation Garden (Millet Bahçesi) was laid out at Taşhan Square (Dedekargınoğlu, 2019b: 361). Ahmed Fehim, who had recently come to the city in the days of the Train Station construction, initiated an improvisational theatre (tulûat) with a gazino inside the garden. Hungarians who came to the city to build; soldiers and civil servants, living in exile; but also the so-called bandits, specifically seymens, frequented this gazino (Aydın et al., 2005: 307-308). Revelries were organized there with the performance of an orchestra.

    As in the Ottoman era, some restaurants located on Karaoğlan Avenue operated as restaurants during the day before becoming a gazino in the evening (Özalp, 2016: 403-404). Zevk Restaurant opened, replacing Teceddüd in 1923. It was well-liked for its pot dish and frequented particularly by Vehbi Koç, future founder of Koç Holding (Tanyer, 2016: 241-242; Özalp, 2016: 390). Just down the street, opposite Taşhan, İstanbul Patisserie, the first patisserie of Ankara, opened in the same year under a hotel constructed after old buildings were demolished by the Municipality (Özalp, 2016: 353-354). It was known as a “club of intellectuals”, where they could also have a drink in addition to tea and coffee (Aydın et al., 2005: 397).
    Next to all of these modern-looking places, we discover an “obscene area” (Lefebvre, 1991: 36). Çankırı Road, a “street of bars” (oriental night clubs), was seen in front. Previously, jerry-built drinking and gambling places existed, where peddlers (mıngacı) sold meatballs (Özalp, 2016: 388-389; Ayhan Koçyiğit, 2019: 45; Tunçer, 2014: 31-32). “

  8. No, apparently, some aspects of gazino phenomenon may have been illegal, and regularized in the 1920s with the development of open-air spaces, but it started decades earlier in a decidedly official and upper-class way:

    In the second half of the 19th century, coffeehouses where newspapers, journals, and books were read were called a kıraathane, or literally, a “reading house.” Called the Okçularbaşı Kıraathanesi, the first such reading house was located opposite the tomb of Reşid Pasha in the district of Beyazıt; it was afterwards known as Sarafim Kıraathanesi. This was the first coffeehouse to make newspapers and magazines and even purchased books available for the customers. It was also the first to offer musical entertainments – outside of the month of Ramadan – on Friday and Sunday evenings; and in consequence it began to be called a club (gazino). The leader of this ensemble was the violinist Kör Sebuh, who was very popular with the residents of Istanbul. During the same period, well-known bureaucrats in the imperial service used to come to the coffeehouses in the district of Mahmut Paşa. The gazino that drew prominent figures and the well-to-do during the reign of Abdülaziz was located in Karakulak Han.

    Coffeehouses in the Ottoman Empire and the republic confined their offerings to only coffee (and tea)- unlike the cafes in Europe which became places in which one could dine. Though some Turkish coffeehouses eventually became gazinos, (restaurants with musical entertainment, generally open only on the evenings), the overwhelming majority preserved their identity as simply a place for males to gather to drink coffee or tea and play cards or backgammon.”

  9. Wow, great finds!

  10. Okçularbaşı Kıraathanesi, the first such reading house was located opposite the tomb of Reşid Pasha in the district of Beyazıt

    The gazino that drew prominent figures and the well-to-do during the reign of Abdülaziz was located in Karakulak Han.

    I wonder why the initial consonant got voiced?

    (In the background at a café, I just heard a song from the album Neogazino by the Turkish pop band Madrigal, which has a retro 80s feel and has been in heavy rotation for the past two years, and it recalled this post about gazinos to me.)

    There is a video with some photographs of the kıraathanes in the Beyazıt district and Okçularbaşı Street as it used to appear in a video on YouTube here. The guy walks up and down the area that used to be Okçularbaşı Street, where the Karakulak Han was located (Ottoman ḫān ‘caravanserai, inn, hostelry, public house’, Republican Turkish han). The space occupied by the street is now just part of a plaza adjacent to the Beyazıt-Kapalıçarşı stop on the Istanbul metro. The entrance to the Grand Bazaar is at the far end. (You can orient the path he traces on the plaza and its relationship to the tomb of Reşid Pasha on this page.)

    The earliest citation that Andreas Tietze in his etymological dictionary of Turkish, Tarihi ve Etimolojik Türkiye Türkçesi Lugatı (2009), offered for gazino is from a letter of Namık Kemal written in January 1867 and describing current life in Istanbul during Ramadan to a friend staying far from the city. Namık Kemal’s family belonged the upper echelons of the Ottoman administrative class, and he studied French in addition to Arabic and Persian. It must have been not long after writing this letter that Namık Kemal went into exile, first in Paris, and then in London, where he published a dissident newspaper.

    The citation is as follows:

    Ramażānıŋ sekizinde Karakulak-ḫānı açıldı. Biliyorsuŋuz ki İstanbulda andan başḳa ġazino yoḳdur. Müsteʾciri her Ramażān bir ṭaḳım çalġı tutuyor ve duḫūliyyesi beş ġuruşa olduğundan ḥammāl ṭaḳım giremiyor. ʾEvāsıṭ-ı nāsıŋ en güzel eğlence maḥallidir.

    On the seventh of Ramadan, the Karakulak Inn was opened. You know that there is no other gazino in Istanbul besides that. Every Ramadan, the tenant [of the inn] hires a music band, and since the entrance fee is five kuruş, the riffraff can’t get in. It is the nicest entertainment spot of the middle classes.

    Namık Kemal spells the word as غازینو ġazino, but other sources, such as the Ottoman dicitionary Kāmûs-ı Türkî (1901), have the spelling قازینو as if kazino (entry here). Just a normative etymological spelling, while the popular pronunciation remained gazino?

    However, the coexistence of variants of words with g- and k- is frequently encountered in Turkish. On reason is the general voicing of k- to g- typical of Anatolian Turkish dialects, with dialect mixture subsequently leading to the coexistence of variants and perhaps dialect nativization. Perhaps hypercorrections due to prestige, or reverse prestige, can play a role, too.

    I hope you can see a historical treatment of voicing of velars on page 202 of Bernt Brendemoen The Turkish Dialects of Trabzon, here.

    In the passage of Namık Kemal quoted, he uses the word ġuruş ‘kurush’ (from German Groschen; looking just now at the amounts of silver involved, 5 kuruş would very roughly have had around the value of the British shilling at the time, so a lot more than a day’s wages for unskilled laborer). Although most often spelled غروش‎ ġuruş in Ottoman texts, the word is consistently kuruş (1/100 of a lira) in Republican Turkish now. (Initial غ ġ was pronounced /g/ in initial position, as in غریب ġarīb ‘strange, foreign, miserable, desolate’, now Republican Turkish garip.)

    As another example, consider a definitely disreputable word: godoş ‘ponce, pimp’. It comes from Armenian (like several for other Turkish words for ‘pimp’: pezevenk, astik, dasnik). The source is Armenian կոտոշ ‘horn’ (as in the horns borne by a cuckold), modern Western Armenian pronunciation godoš, Eastern Armenian kotoš. (The Classical Armenian voiceless unaspirated stops have become voiced in Western Armenian, while the Classical voiced stops have become voiceless aspirated.) The general and usual form in Republican Turkish today is godoş, but the wide currency of the variant kodoş is also witnessed by Romanian codoș ‘pimp’, Macedonian кодош, apparently now ‘snitch’ (but also ‘pimp’?), Bulgarian кодош, something like ‘joker, jokester, banterer; joking, banter, fun, number’ (doubtless from the fact that young men engaging in friendly banter call each other ‘ponce’ and ‘pimp’ ).

    There are other borrowings from Italian and French where ca- shows up simply as Ottoman ka-. Some examples drawn from across the centuries: kasara ‘deckhouse, ship’s cabin’ (Italian cassaro, cassero), kasa ‘cash box, window casing’ (Italian cassa), kasko ‘automobile insurance’ (Italian casco ‘fall’? casco ‘(crash) helmet’?).

    However, I skimmed through Tietze and found some other cases where variants in g- beside k- appear in borrowings from Italian with ca-, such as gavila beside kavilya, kavela ‘marlinspike’, from Italian caviglia ‘pin, peg’.

    I wonder if folk etymology could have played a role in the appearance of g- in gazino. We can consider some items among other 19th century Ottoman borrowings from European languages. To pick a general example off the top of my head… gardırop ‘wardrobe’, from French garde-robe, was altered to gardolap, with influence from everyday Turkish dolap ‘cabinet, cupboard’; gardolap is still common today beside more standard gardırop. More interesting for our purposes is kangren ‘necrosis, gangrene’, from French gangrène. Gangren is also attested, but it was early altered to kankıran (understandable as ‘blood pestilence’, kan ‘blood’ + kıran ‘epidemic, pestilence’), and this popular form exerted influence on the original form gangren to yield the now usual modern form kangren. And folk etymology isn’t even needed for strange outcomes: looking out the window just now, I can think of everyday Republican Turkish panjur ‘slatted shutters, Venetian blinds’ comes from French abat-jour. (Don’t ask me what happened. I have no answers for you.)

    As for folk etymology operating in the case of gazino, we can note that Namık Kemal is describing a venue opened during Ramadan, which in turn suggests that it was a specifically nighttime venue. (Ramadan in January is no sweat at all!) Namık Kemal assumes his correspondent knows the word gazino and doesn’t bother to explain it, which indicates that the word was already established in Ottoman to some extent in 1867. As rank speculation, I wonder whether there could be folk-etymological influence from gaz ‘coal gas, town gas’, a source of nighttime illumination becoming more widespread at the time. As far as I have able to ascertain, gas street lighting was being installed in the 1850s in Istanbul, although the more western districts (like Beyazıt) do not seem to have had gas networks installed until the 1880s. I haven’t invested the time in finding more exact information.

  11. Wonderful stuff, thanks for all that! (And the Brendemoen link works fine for me.)

  12. Trond Engen says

    Is there a lost comment?

    Googling Brendemoen, I found this old podcast on the history of Black Sea Turkish dialects.

    (I realize that I own and have read Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red in Bernt Brendemoen’s translation.)

  13. Is there a lost comment?

    He must have edited it again — this is the third time I’ve rescued it from oblivion!

  14. Trond Engen says


    [Edit: But now it’s gone again!]

    And since you didn’t ask, the surname Brendemoen is obviously a farmname. finds no current farmsteads in Norway named Brendemoen, but the name is used for one site in Gudbrandsdalen north of Oslo that probably used to be a small farm before being gobbled up by the nearby village. A compound farmname in the definite indicates that the farm is fairly young and hence (usually) small. A neighbouring farm is named Brende,

    The head mo is “(pine) forested sandy plain”. This particular sandy plain with pines was discerned from other nearby sandy plains with pines by its most salient characteristic, namely being close to and/or part of the property of Brende. Brende is in turn believed to be derived in one way or other from brenna v. “burn”, i.e. a site that was cleared by burning.

  15. The head mo is “(pine) forested sandy plain”.

    So is that from Old Norse mór ‘moor, heath, barren moorland’?

  16. Trond Engen says

    Yes, by regular loss of case endings.

  17. And now it’s back again!

  18. Trond Engen says

    The case endingr?

    Edit: ..oh, wow.

  19. David Marjanović says

    Kaskoversicherung, from Spanish casco “ship’s hull”.

    The case endingr?

    Kept in Rather High German in monosyllabic words, e.g. wir, er; but Moor “peat bog” must be Low German for phonetic and pragmatic reasons.

  20. Tietze lets you extend the domain over which something exists and is defined, but you cannot expect the extension to be unique.

  21. Trond Engen says

    David M.: Moor “peat bog” must be Low German for phonetic and pragmatic reasons.

    ON mór is supposedly not the same word as Ger. Moor and Eng, moor. However, the range of meanings in NGmc. is about the same as that of the WGmc word. It’s also without a good etymology. I wonder if it might instead be a reanalysed borrowing from WGmc — or from Celtic — or even from a substrate language.

  22. Trond Engen says

    Contradicting myself, I bring forward Norw. dial. mogen m. def., which I think might point to something like *mo:ɣá- or *mo:ɣʷá-, but that doesn’t take us any closer to an etymology.

  23. Kaskoversicherung, from Spanish casco “ship’s hull”

    This is excellent!

    All the Turkish etymological dictionaries currently just say “İtalyanca casco” (TDK) or the like (Wikipedia: “Kasko sözcüğü Türkçeye İtalyanca casco (kaza) sözcüğünden geçmiştir”), which seemed dubious, hence my question marks. (It’s a word that sprang to my mind immediately when trying to think of foreign words in ka- probably borrowed in the 20th century, because driving in Turkey is simply insane.) I will include your correction among some other suggestions the next time I write to Sevan Nişanyan.

  24. jack morava says

    @ Brett, I saw what you did there…

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