Despite the Facebook, despite the Twitter, despite the literally thousands of wonderful and amazing Romanians who visit this site, talk about this site or link to this site, a tremendous number of visitors are drawn to this blog by searching for two things – “gypsy” and “Romania”.
I’ve written about this (seemingly) hundreds of times, from their slang to their music to the Chocolate Chip Professor’s landmark visit, including my multi-faceted take on this topic, which you might remember from this post.
Yet time and time again, the “poor widdle ole Romanians” camp wins out again, this time with two extremely heavy-hitting pieces out of the British media.
The first is this Guardian article by Rupert Wolfe-Murray. I sincerely sat here for 30 minutes with a heavy heart before deciding to write this piece, but I feel I simply cannot let this go by without commentary.
I’ve linked to RWM’s photo blog on this website for months. He’s been coming to Romania for a long, long time. He speaks almost no Romanian but he’s traveled almost everywhere here. He’s clearly got a lot of affection for this country, else he wouldn’t bring his family here.
Yet he’s bought this “woe is Romania” image hook, line and sinker. And because he’s starting to become well-known in the British media circuit, he’s getting called on more and more often to contribute or write articles in English about Romania. And that, my friends, is the image the wider English-speaking world gets about Romania.
Look at the photo – of course, it’s some gypsies, all looking poor and downtrodden, the main guy in the photo holding an enormous TAPED-TOGETHER bag. Aww…
But let’s get to the meat of this article:
There’s room for ‘Roma’ and ‘Romanian’
A bill to replace the Roma name with a pejorative term risks opening a Pandora’s box of prejudice and frustration.
Silviu Prigoana, a Romanian MP, has introduced a bill that would ban Romanian institutions from using the word “Roma” to describe the Gypsy minority. He suggests the word be replaced by the pejorative “Tzigane”, a word that comes from the Greek term for “untouchable”. The Romanian government has sent the bill to parliament and the initiative has the support of President Basescu, who recently said on public radio that the introduction of the word Roma into official terminology, in 1995, was “a mistake”.
Okay, to begin with, what in the Sam Hill is the officially, super-duper correct name for these people (in English)? Because I’ve heard “Romany”, “Roma”, “Rroma” as well as “Sinti” and of course “gypsies”. At least the first four of those are considered “correct” by the very people they refer to!
Secondly, in Romanian it’s not “Tzigane”. It’s not even “Tigane”. It’s either “Tigan” (singular) or “Tigani” (plural). Tigane is the archaic way for someone to use the vocative tense to address a male gypsy! Jesus.
People mock me for listening to manele but at least you learn the damn language deodata.
And how in the world is tigan offensive? It is literally identical to the modern Russian word and almost identical to all Slavic variants.
I finally realized where he got all this crap, right from the “most intelligent” British news periodical in the world, The Economist:
The term ‘Tigan’ does not exist in the Romany language”, Delia Grigore, a lecturer in Romany language at Bucharest University, has written. “It is a word that is profoundly insulting to the Roma and comes from the Greek term for ‘pagan’, ‘heretic’ and ‘untouchable.’
Anyway, click on the links if you want to read the rest of this complete arrogance mixed with a great deal of ignorance.
The sad thing is I’m quite sure a great deal of this proposed law change in Romania is motivated by some racism. But you know what? That’s for Romanians to deal with. They’re adults. They don’t need Big Wise Western Daddy giving them a lecture.
For RWM, The Economist, the CC Professor and everyone out thinking like you do, I bring you the immortal words of Nicolae Guta:
Juramantul sa nu-l calc, ca la noi este o lege – TIGAN PE TIGAN SE ALEGE
Printesa Ardealului sa stie! :D