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
24 thoughts on “Poor Widdle Racist Romania *sniff*”
Well, we always call them “tigani” and not “romi”. Really now, how can the name of a nation be pejorative? We can associate the nation with certain traits, true, but a nations’ name can’t have a negative aspect to it, as it depicts the ones that are part of a certain group.
Avere-ai parte numai de tigani si manele!
Gipsies themselves dislike the world “Rrom” because they’ve always called themselves “Tigani” and are proud of it.
So in UK they are gypsies, in France gitanes, in Spain gitanos, in Italy zingari, Czech Republik cikani, in Denmark and Norway sigojnere, in Germany zigeuner, in Hungary ciganyok, in Malta zingari, in Netherlands zigeuners, in Poland cyganie, even in Turkey cingeneler(courtesy of google translate). And yet those bad bad Romanians they want to call tigani those poor gypsies….Really unbelivable, isn’t it????
Look, I am not prejudiced against tigani – I have met some in my 32 years in Romania. And I have never met one who would not call himself tigan. Most of them are quite proud to be tigan, it is a question of heritage pride, the same way their traditions are a question of heritage and pride – starting from marriages at young age and ending with building a palace but living in a tent in the courtyard.
Thank you. My thoughts exactly!
was amuses me though is that everybody in the west has had an opinion at one time or another about the gypsies and especially their “integration”. Big daddy west has always said “oh, why don’t you integrate gypsies, you scums romanians? they are so easy to integrate”. And then few years later what does France to “integrate” the gypsies? They ship them off to Romania and lets us deal with them and keeps giving unwanted advice. They are yours now, they chose your country, deal with them, they are nomad people by nature so don’t be so surprised they came there….
I don’t think it’s anyone’s responsibility to integrate gypsies, and certainly not France’s responsibility … but i do see your point. Any country in western Europe giving lessons to Romania on integration of minorities is one big hypocritical mess.
e.g. have a walk in paris and the suburbs of paris and get a direct image of what integration means in France…nothing!
that’s exactly what I ment, the hypocritical aspect of it. It’s not anyone’s responsability to integrate because the majority of them don’t want to be integrated. They still wanna marry their kids when they are 12…
Oh, if you only knew how right you are on this one…
Another good reference: http://ro.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C8%9Aigani
Thank you for a wonderful blog. I was SO pleased to read such a pro-Romanian article. I’m not Romanian but I’ve visited there twice – once in 2006 for six weeks and this summer for a two week holiday.
Each time I have been devastated going back to the UK. I love Romania – the people, the culture, the language, the food, the music.
There is poverty, yes, but every country has its impoverished aspects. Maybe Romania has some more ‘on going’ problems, due to the C regime of previous decades, and there are some great organisations out there who are trying to tackle it.
Personally, it makes my blood boil to hear/see ignorant UK citizens who have never been to Romania spout off racist attitudes and ignorant attacks towards a country they know nothing about and assume that *all* Romanians are gypsies and moreover that *gypsies* are scum. They are not – it is simply a different way of life.
I think there does need to be a new name for such a way of life than “Roma” as it confuses the simple folk of the world ;) but I don’t think it should be the name that is proposed, purely because of its associations and meaning.
Anyway, so just wanted to thank you for your post. I didn’t agree with *all* of it, but I enjoyed reading it and agreed with a fair chunk of it :)
Annie, you’re the first English person I hear talking so highly of Romania! From the depths of Leicester, I salute you :-)
I bet if this blog was called “I’m More Gypsy Than You” I’d be raking in the money :))
To be honest, I think the move to change the name from Roma to Tigan has more to do with a desperate try to differentiate from the two when it comes to how people abroad view Romania and Romanians. Roma is a bit too close for comfort to Romanian and the other term would better differentiate them.
I’m not saying that this is a good move nor that there isn’t some degree of racism behind it, just that I see that as one of the important reasons behind proposing that change.
As for the articles, unfortunately it’s become something of a standard when talking about Romania so I can’t say that I’m surprised.