Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Europe (
-   -   A famous Gypsy...or, should I say Romany? (

NYCFoodSnob Nov 30th, 2004 09:44 AM

A famous Gypsy...or, should I say Romany?
Awhile back, a certain supercilious, semantic-loving poster tried to paint me as less-than-politically-correct (or worse) for using the term "Gypsy." I couldn't help but think of her and smile as I read in this month's issue of The New Yorker, writer Adam Gopnik's observations as he contemplates “Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend.”

SeaUrchin Nov 30th, 2004 10:23 AM

Thanks for posting the article, it was fascinating.

Personally, I know people with Gypsy backgrounds who call themselves Romani or Gypsy. They know that non-Gypsies have no idea about their subculture and pay no attention to what "we" call them.

LoveItaly Nov 30th, 2004 10:42 AM

I do not understand this "do not call them Gypsy" thing.

In 1995 we had a dear friend in the ICU wing of a hospital in Vallejo, CA.

The King of the Gypsies was there also and died there. There were many Gypsies there holding their vigil. The hospital really had a time of it trying to accomodate all the them.

The point is that they called themselves Gypsies and called the patient The King of the Gypsies.

If that is good enough for them I should think it would be for the non Gypsies. Take care.

Marilyn Nov 30th, 2004 11:14 AM

I'm several issues behind! But I'll definitely get to that article. Have any of you read Robertson Davies? I believe there's quite a bit about Gypsies in The Rebel Angels -- one of the characters is of Rom descent if I remember correctly.

Patrick Nov 30th, 2004 11:39 AM

I'm not so sure the problem is simply using the term Gypsy. I think the controversy usually comes up when someone mentions "beware of the Gypsy pickpockets" or something like that which "seems" to indicate to some who can't tell the difference that all Gypsies are thieves.

ncgrrl Nov 30th, 2004 11:40 AM

Thanks for the link. My Dad had several Django Reinhardt albums he would play on the hi-fi (well, that's what is noted on the player). Looks like it might make a good Christmas gift.

SuzieC Nov 30th, 2004 01:02 PM

Its that pathetic and sad mind set... that people are soooo sure of generalizations.

All blondes are nitwits...
All French are rude...
All native Americans drink too much...
All Gypsies are thieves...
All fat people are gluttons...
etcetera, etcetera, etcetera

(Me - curmudgeon in waiting...)

LoveItaly Nov 30th, 2004 01:07 PM

Well for sure not all pickpockets and thieves in Italy are Gypsies!

NYCFoodSnob Nov 30th, 2004 01:07 PM

<i>I think the controversy usually comes up when someone mentions &quot;beware of the Gypsy pickpockets&quot; or something like that which &quot;seems&quot; to indicate to some who can't tell the difference that all Gypsies are thieves.</i>

Yes, ignorance is bliss for some. There was a time not long ago in Rome when a specific style (ie: children with cardboard signs) of Romany thievery was not only a way-of-life for many but quite a prevalent threat to unsuspecting tourists. I wish someone would have warned me (pre-internet) of the Gypsy thieves in Rome prior to my first encounter with them. No kind soul likes to think or believe that children can be encouraged by adults to steal from strangers even as a means of survival. Had they asked me for money I would have gladly given them some.

Of course, pickpockets of all kinds work the crowded streets of Rome and New York but none of these crime professionals seem to be children.

Nikki Nov 30th, 2004 02:04 PM

Thanks for the article. It is very timely, as I have lately found myself listening to music by some of the Django-influenced musicians referred to in the article. I may check out the Sunday afternoon music at the Chope des Puces.

walkinaround Nov 30th, 2004 02:36 PM

NYC...patrick is right, there is no excuse for prejudice. &quot;nice people&quot; do not label a whole race of people as criminals. Do you warn your visiting friends about black people in NY? Probably not as that would be offensive.

If someone is robbing me i don't care what race they are...they are a criminal. however, i don't label or assume someone is a criminal just because of their race. blissful ignorance maybe...but some would call it &quot;not being prejudice&quot;.

Patrick Nov 30th, 2004 03:00 PM

You might notice that in my post I said &quot;some who can't tell the difference&quot;. What I meant was I personally see nothing in the world wrong with saying, &quot;I was pickpocketed by a group of Gypsy children.&quot; If the pickpockets happened to be Gypsies then so be it, call it like it is. The ingnorant ones are the ones who read that or hear it and think I've said that all Gypsies are thieves.

As I've said before, if I said some tall man robbed me, would that mean that I'm prejudiced against all tall people? No, of course not!! I'm just describing who happened to rob me! Referring to an incident and giving a description of who did it should not be interpreted as some sort of generalization about an entire race. And anyone who thinks it is, is just being silly in my opinion.

walkinaround Nov 30th, 2004 03:05 PM

no but many of the racist statements here are not descriptions of who robbed people but are things like this:

&quot;i didn't get robbed but i did see a lot of gypsies around.&quot; and even the *nice* warnings like &quot;be careful of the gypsies on the metro&quot;.

Intrepid1 Nov 30th, 2004 03:26 PM

Thanks very much for the post and the link to the New Yorker article.

Even though we were recently admonished by the frustrated prison warden/bored and obviously unproductive office worker/henpecked spouse/angry and failed monarchist/failed schoolteacher/faux redneck (take your pick) on the board that not everyone reads the so-called &quot;liberal press&quot; I continue to thoroughly respect their merciful God-given and Constitution-backed right to remain misinformed.

cigalechanta Nov 30th, 2004 05:04 PM

nc girl, if your father's records are in good condition, they are worth alot to collectors of Reinhardts music who influenced so many musicians when the Americans flocked to Paris in the 30s', to hear this original guitar playing gypsy. He was a Manouche. Manouches are gypsies from Northern France and Belguim.

cigalechanta Nov 30th, 2004 05:08 PM

there are many other well-known gypsy musicians that include the gypsy kings.
I have met many in the south of France but there'll always be uninformed predudices like a poster once who boycotted wearing L'Occiataine because it was French.

Clifton Nov 30th, 2004 06:36 PM

The following is purely academic... as much just to the things I've read elsewhere than a judgement on anyone on this thread's character. Really.

Anyway, we just got back from Romania, which has a higher percentage of Rroma or Rom than any other country in Europe. And yes, I saw a fair number of them. But none among the few that attempted any sort of thievery towards us personally. So, I can't make a connection between behavior and race based on what I know so far.

I guess I'm saying that if it's safe to say that not all pickpockets are Rom and also accurate that not all Rom are pickpockets, then wouldn't that leave the whole reason for blanket warnings as sort of irrelevant? There's a tremendous difference between describing your attacker to the police, and warning that people you don't know but who look like the attacker are prone to rotten deeds.

As far as semantics, I'm not in a position to say. I'm not in that group. I have read that the history of this term was given to the Rom after they emigrated from India and were enslaved in Europe. The &quot;Gyp&quot; part came from the misperception that they were from Egypt. So, if nothing else, it's not terribly accurate. But whether it's ok to use as a general term? I have no idea (now I arrive at the ugly truth). Perhaps it's a bit like every other ethnic minority. Some continue to fight, some take ownership of the slurs (heard the self-references in rap music lately?) but may mind if others join in. I did meet some who refer to themselves as Gypsies. And have read websites by others in groups who are incensed by the word because of it's past uses and it's origin.

I guess if the word is worth something to you and that second group isn't of any concern, use it.

Clifton Nov 30th, 2004 06:41 PM

Trying to make sense of this: <i>But none among the few that attempted any sort of thievery towards us personally</i>

Meaning that we had a few pickpocket and con attempts along the way, (mostly in Timisoara), but none from the Rom/Gypsies that we saw.

StCirq Nov 30th, 2004 06:51 PM

The history of the Rom people is fascinating, and it was very well documented in a PBS series a few years ago that I was captivated by.
I think it's just as easy to understand the people who rail against the &quot;Gypsy pickpockets&quot; as it is the people who claim to espouse the PC point of view that it's crude to call people &quot;Gypsies.&quot; Neither understands what is going on here. The Rom culture has been alive and well for centuries. It's assumed now that the Romanian gypsies we all think of when we think of gypsies derived from India originally - at least their language appears to have.
They all HAVE traditionally made money via thievery and deception - at least that's our Western perception of what they do, not how they would characterize it. There is no doubt at all that many of the folks you see in subways in Paris and Rome are Rom people practicing their &quot;art.&quot; They also train their young children to pickpocket and otherwise deceive and steal from you. It's not a pretty picture.
On the other hand, they are a largely illiterate population. Marriage among the Rom typically takes place when the girl is 12-14 years old. No birth control is practiced. They have large families. Women are regularly abused. They are itinerant and despised by most resident populations. I could go on (I work on World Bank and IMF and other publications that deal with this group). They have unique problems, partly of their own making, yes, but partly because they are a unique ethnic group. I don't care whether they are called Gypsies or whatever, but I do think they deserve at least attention if not respect.

llamalady Nov 30th, 2004 07:14 PM

Two totally engrossing ways to learn
more about the Rom:

The film 'Latcho Drom' and the book
'Bury Me Standing'. The subtitle of
Isabel Fonseca's book is &quot;the gypsies
and their journey&quot;.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 07:10 PM.