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*”
This makes great sense to me!!
That’s very educative piece of writing
This may sound cruel, but I think the reason for the change of nomenclature is completely different. I think that it has been one of Romania’s priorities in terms of foreign policy to bring attention to the distinction between Rroma and Romanian. Not only that, but the Romanian government (regardless of political colour, yes that means the PSD as well) consistently tries to pass the problem on to the EU. The argument is simple: “we have a problem integrating our rroma/gypsy minority, they are EU citizens, YOU (to be read: UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain) teach us how to do it, since you keep criticizing us of not doing the right things.”
To be honest though, as a Romanian living in the UK, I find the Guardian article pathetic and ignorant at best, clearly failing to understand that the Rroma problem is more complex than presented in the article. Ironically, the British have a very short and accurate to characterize this: rubbish!
@Ellunes: as I mentioned before, tigan, zigeuner, gipsy, gitane a.s.o are close to being banned in diplomacy, politics, and media out of respect. But nobody is trying to impose certain words on the general population. In Romania, the situation is the opposite: the population is trying to impose their lingo on the official manner of speaking, and some populist politicians are only to eager to comply.
@Adya: I really am not going to argue with you on linguistics. But the other thing you say actually concerns me more: you “plan to visit some countries in Europe, and totally not in the mood to keep explaining that you are Romanian and not Roma”. Now why on earth would you have to explain that to anybody? I frequently travel all over Europe and I have never had to explain myself to anybody. I meet with the people I have to meet and state my business and this is it. On the very rare occasions somebody asks where I come from I answer that I come from Romania and again, this is it.
Maybe cause I allready had to explain it?
And now another example of an illeterate tigan proud to be just that
Is she considering herself tigan or not?
So the argument that ” the population is trying to impose their lingo on the official manner of speaking, and some populist politicians are only to eager to comply.” is more then false – their population recognize themselves as tigan, not rom(which by the way it is not accurate, cause in Romanian law it is Rrom).
If is not politically correct, why the french people use the word “gitanes” and the spanish “gitanos”? It’s the same fucking term! And I don’t hear Guardian complaining about racism in France and Spain. If ţigan is considerred offensive, then so should be gitanes and gitanos
OK, this one calls for some input.
1) the word ţigan DOES exist in Romanian. What Roma activists are mostly (Delia Grigore is somewhat of an exremist exception) saying is that it its origins are pejorative, it has been derived from atinganos, which is Greek for untouchable. In time the word made it’s way into similary pejorative expressions like a te ţigăni (to bicker). Of course, just like in other languages, the word comes up in neutral denominations as well – muşchi ţigănesc, similar to the German Zigeunerschnitzel.
2)The argument that Roma call themselves ţigani is flawed. Of course most of them do, because they are illiterate. But there is also a new (albeit thin) layer of educated Roma who would never refer to themselves by the term ţigan (artists are the notable exception, since they are proud of what they call muzică ţigănească).
3) I’ve never heard activists calling for the replacement of the word ţigan in the entire language. They are never so absurd as to ask that f.i. muşchi ţigănesc should henceforth be called muşchi romanes. All they want ist that this ethnic group is refrred to as Roma in official documents.
4) Yes, the word ţigan has its correspondent in most languages. But then again most countries and international institutions use the term Roma or something derived from it, for the same reason it has been used since 1995 in Romanian official documents – probably some kind of reparation for WW2. Even if it’s sort of Newspeak.
5) Prigoana’s bill is nothing but the expression of severe identity issues. To think that just because you’ll change the official denomination of a minority, the majority will pe perceived more positive abroad is THE most stupid thing I’ve ever heard. But then again, it’s a nation in the middle of a political, moral and economic crisis and it needs its scapegoats. Yes, Roma steal more than Romanians in terms of the number of perps. This is the reason why jails are crowded with them. But corruption in politics and economy, which lead to huge losses in terms of GDP is “white”. I’m not sure that a gipsy pickpocket does more damage to the image of the country than a cop, a doctor, a customs officer, a politician or a public servant asking bribes from a foreigner.
There’s actually much more to be said, especially on the topic of integration. But I’ll leave it to that.
Have u seen Connect-R’s T-shirt?
Is he illiterate too? And the word tigan does not come from atinganos, but from the russian word – check DEX http://dexonline.ro/definitie/țigan
I am do not have anything against gypsies, but next year I plan to visit some countries in Europe, and I am totally not in the mood to keep explaining that i am Romanian and not Roma.
And let those activist be….in everything you can find an activist, but it is not said that he does represent the majority…
Sorry, it is not russian, but “slavic”. And how many greek words have the slavic countries?
And another consideration – are you sure that the tigani consider that this word comes from the greek atinganos and they are offensed??? cause dear Alex you called them illeterate…..so they are illeterate but they know the translation of am old greek word????
Genial, genial, genial scris!