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War of words over 'gypsy' label intensifies

Civil society and Romania’s cultural elite are fighting over whether the term ‘tigan’ (gypsy) is derogatory to an ethnic group. And the battlefield is - the Romanian dictionary. Report by Cerasela Marin

March 2011 - From the Print Edition

French [french] – noun
1. the people of France and their descendants
2. a name given to someone with bad habits

Bulgarian [buhl-gair-ee-uhn] – noun
1. a native or inhabitant of Bulgaria
2. a name given to someone with bad habits

These entries would never appear in the official dictionary of any language. So why is it that the description of an ethnic group, the tigan (gypsy) in the official Romanian Dictionary DEX, refers to the people as ‘a person who ...

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COMMENTS
There are 4 comments:

Franco: on 2011-03-03 20:42:03
I agree with Alex: it'd be the case to add a [pejorative] tag in the dictionary next to the 2nd meaning (which exists and is largely used not only in Romanian but in several other languages, so the Romanian Academy's got a point there).

Prigoana has a point too, in that he based his appeal to change the official name of the ethnicity on the fact that not all Roma identify themselves as "Rom" (Sints for instance will hardly call themselves like that), but this doesn't make "tigan" any more valid as a hypernym.

"Gypsy" has been used in such a way by some linguists, e.g. Yaron Matras, to address either all subgroups (Rom, Sints, Manush, etc.) or both Romančs-speaking people and similar peripatetic communities (Travellers, Camminanti, etc.) who speak different and unrelated languages.

It should also be noted that "gypsy" and "tigan" have different originies, and while the latter's ethymology shows it's always been derogatory, the former simply meant "Egyptian", so it can't be considered inherently derogatory.

Julian: on 2011-03-05 01:01:51
Thinking back to when I lived in a village of course there was a low level prejudice against 'gypsies'. If one of my staff was lazy the others called him 'gypsy'. But there was simple stereotyping too. A popular musician in the village was called 'gypsy' simply because of who had taught him (and very well too). It's pervasive. To this day if someone shouts across the office (in London) I am tempted to ask him 'whether he is a gypsy selling tin cans?' They did shout when selling goods. But that was because our dogs tended to be aggressive towards them.

But all that is nearly trivial anecdote. Of course Romania is unwilling to engage with its current prejudice. The collective unconscious dictates it. The last ethnic group persecuted by the Romanians was the Jews. Romania was not only a willing associate in the Holocaust, its people started early. At least a quarter of a million were exterminated. (Search on google for the "trenul mortilor".) How many Romanians now live on land stolen by their grandfathers who were happy to eject Jewish neighbours to their deaths? Deal with the issue of Roma persectution and sooner or later the Holocaust will appear in full view. The Romanian collective unconscious would rather deny any prejudice than face truth.

It's not as if Romanians can say that 'others were just as bad'. Bulgarians reused to join the Holocaust and so did Hungarians until direct Nazi control in 1944.

And after 1945? Then Romanians turned on one-another at Soviet behest. Let's kill the kulaks and the intelligentia! Let's tear down our towns at Ceausescu's behest! There isn't much to be proud of. So let's pretend that we are without fault!

This is a problem of a nation with a powerful inferiority complex. Current prejudice against the Roma is just the latest symptom. The whole disease needs to be addressed.

Alex: on 2011-03-03 11:30:19
I've been looking for a long time for a balanced take on this subject, glad I found it. Most other articles I've read were made out only of soundbites from pundits and NGOs, none of them asking the Roma what they think.
Now, the discussion about discrimination and integration is a long one and I'm not going to go into it here. The only thing I'd like to say is why the heck don't they just add that "pejorative" particle in the dictionary, in front of the "bad people" definition? It;s not like it costs them anything, they're not using more paper for it, come on, people, it's not that hard!
This is just like if the Americans kept using the N word without acknowledging that it's derogatory. The Roma are going to be the same people no matter what you call them, so why not call them Roma, if that's what they want? Congrats on the piece!

Dr. Lucian Iosif Cuesdean: on 2011-03-05 02:42:46
Are cineva dreptul să-i radă de pe suprafaţa pământului pe ţigani, un act socotit holocaust intelectual prin etnia romani.
În România, fiul luptătorului evreu antifascist Walter Roman, Petre Roman, a fost cel care a cerut ca prim ministru al României schimbarea numelui de ţigan cu cel de rom, membru al etniei romani, pe buletinele de identitate ale ţiganilor, comiţând un adevărat holocaust intelectual la adresa ţiganilor, care astfel îşi pierd definitiv identitatea şi sunt şterşi din istorie, confundându-se cu romani, strămoşii întregii ginţi latine din care face parte Franţa, condusă azi de domnul Sarkozi, Spania, Portugalia, Italia şi România, pe lângă faptul că salutul roman, "ave Cesar", copiat de fascişti, devine salutul ţiganilor cerşetori cetăţeni ai României, ridiculizat în Franţa, ca salutul cu mâna întină la cerşit al etniei romani "silvuple mesieu", mediatizat intens de francezi în "onoarea" neamului românesc.

Am adus pe tapet astăzi această chestiune, deoarece la prânz mă uitam la Realitatea Tv, ce transmitea discursul de inaugurare de către Regele Cioabă a unei instituţii a celor numiţi romani, deşi "nu ştiam" până acuma că romanii au un rege cu un asemenea nume, cioabă, ciob însemnând gunoi, hârburi, atât în română cât şi în turcă.



CIOB, cioburi, s. n. Bucată, fragment dintr-un obiect de sticlă, de faianță, de lut etc. spart; hârb. – Cf. tc. çöp (=gunoi).

Sursa: DEX '98

Acest domn care-şi spune rege, dacă ar fi putut şti că numele lui înseamnă gunoi şi-ar fi schimbat oare şi el numele ?

El nu-şi pune întrebarea, dacă l-ar mai fi acceptat cineva să-şi spună bulibaşă, dacă nu ar mai fi fost un Cioabă, din marea familie domnitoare Cioabă, ci unul dintr-o familie să zicem cu numele complet necunoscut Ciberus ?

La studiile sale este greu să înţeleagă faptul că numindu-se romani el şterge din istorie tot neamul său, cu o identitate definită în milenii, de care ar trebui să fie mândru, cum sunt ţiganii cei şcoliţi şi deveniţi celebri ca Bănică, tatăl şi fiul, marii actori ,Voicu tatăl şi fiul mari muzicieni, Bănică, marele futbolist de la Steaua, regretatul actor de film şi teatru Jan Constantin, etc.Toate marile personalităţi din România, enumerate, au crescut şi au fost iubite şi stimate de societatea românească, făcând un renume din numele de ţigan, pe care unii încearcă să-l speculeze în mod josnic afirmând o persecuţie a etniei ţigăneşti printre români, pentru a obţine foloase materiale nemeritate, cu preţul dispariţiei din istorie a unui nume de etnie şi cu preţul unor grave confuzii pe care numele de etnie romani le generează.

Cum se va numi opera Voivodul Ţiganilor, voivodul romani ?Dacă v-om spune că miroase a rom v-om înţelege că miroase a ţigan, o romă în flăcri va însemna o ţigancă în călduri, ciocolata rom va fi un produs original ţigănesc, rom expo v-a fi o expoziţie ţigănească ? Cine vrea să producă toate aceste confuzii, pe plan internaţional, numai pentru că vrea ca ţiganii să dispară din istorie ?

Europa îmbătrâneşte văzând cu ochii.În curând s-ar pute ca singurii copii pe care-i vom mai vedea ca europeni pe stradă

să fie doar copii romani, adică ţigani.O suedeză, căreia îi vine ciclul menstrual la 17 ani v-a face cu greu concurenţă unei ţigănci ce poate procrea de la 9 ani, fiind un metis de european cu un drawidian de origine africană.La un moment dat nu o să mai ştim cine-i cineva care se cheamă romani.

Sunt oameni cu o dexteritate deosebită, admiraţi pentru rezistenţa lor deosebită în condiţii vitrege de trai. Educaţi în spirit european pot deveni o etnie de ţigani care să se bucure de respectul tuturor fără să fie nevoie să se ascundă după deget şi să se împăuneze cu numele de romani care nu le aparţine lor.



 
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