The English Gipsies and Their Language eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 247 pages of information about The English Gipsies and Their Language.


Those who attempt to read this letter in the original, should be informed that German Gipsy is, as compared to the English or Spanish dialects, almost a perfect language; in fact, Pott has by incredible industry, actually restored it to its primitive complete form; and its orthography is now settled.  Against this orthography poor Charles Augustin sins sadly, and yet it may be doubted whether many English tramps and beggars could write a better letter.

The especial Gipsy characteristic in this letter is the constant use of the name of God, and the pious profusion of blessings.  “She’s the blessing-est old woman I ever came across,” was very well said of an old Rommany dame in England.  And yet these well-wishings are not always insincere, and they are earnest enough when uttered in Gipsy.


Jockey.—­Tool.—­Cove or Covey.—­Hook, Hookey, and Walker, Hocus, Hanky-
Panky, and Hocus-Pocus.—­Shindy.—­Row.—­Chivvy.—­Bunged Eye.—­Shavers.—­
Clichy.—­Caliban.—­A Rum ’un.—­Pal.—­Trash.—­Cadger.—­Cad.—­Bosh.—­Bats.—­
Chee-chee.—­The Cheese.—­Chiv Fencer.—­Cooter.—­Gorger.—­Dick.—­Dook.—­
Parny.—­Posh.—­Queer.  Raclan.—­Bivvy.—­Rigs.—­Moll.—­Distarabin.—­Tiny.—­
Toffer.—­Tool.—­Punch.—­Wardo.—­Voker (one of Mr Hotten’s Gipsy words).—­
Welcher.—­Yack.—­Lushy.—­A Mull.—­Pross.—­Toshers.—­Up to Trap.—­Barney.—­
Beebee.—­Cull, Culley.—­Jomer.—­Bloke.—­Duffer.—­Niggling.—­Mug.—­
Bamboozle, Slang, and Bite.—­Rules to be observed in determining the
Etymology of Gipsy Words.

Though the language of the Gipsies has been kept a great secret for centuries, still a few words have in England oozed out here and there from some unguarded crevice, and become a portion of our tongue.  There is, it must be admitted, a great difficulty in tracing, with anything like accuracy, the real origin or identity of such expressions.  Some of them came into English centuries ago, and during that time great changes have taken place in Rommany.  At least one-third of the words now used by Scottish Gipsies are unintelligible to their English brothers.  To satisfy myself on this point, I have examined an intelligent English Gipsy on the Scottish Gipsy vocabularies in Mr Simpson’s work, and found it was as I anticipated; a statement which will not appear incredible when it is remembered, that even the Rommany of Yetholm have a dialect marked and distinct from that of other Scotch Gipsies.  As for England, numbers of the words collected by William Marsden, and Jacob Bryant, in 1784-5, Dr Bright in 1817, and by Harriott in 1830, are not known at the present day to any Gipsies whom I have met.  Again, it should be remembered that the pronunciation of Rommany differs widely with individuals; thus the word which is given as cumbo, a hill, by Bryant, I have heard very distinctly pronounced choomure.

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The English Gipsies and Their Language from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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