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.

There are now in existence about three hundred works on the Gipsies, but of the entire number comparatively few contain fresh material gathered from the Rommany themselves.  Of late years the first philologists of Europe have taken a great interest in their language, which is now included in “Die Sprachen Europas” as the only Indian tongue spoken in this quarter of the world; and I believe that English Gipsy is really the only strongly-distinct Rommany dialect which has never as yet been illustrated by copious specimens or a vocabulary of any extent.  I therefore trust that the critical reader will make due allowances for the very great difficulties under which I have laboured, and not blame me for not having done better that which, so far as I can ascertain, would possibly not have been done at all.  Within the memory of man the popular Rommany of this country was really grammatical; that which is now spoken, and from which I gathered the material for the following pages, is, as the reader will observe, almost entirely English as to its structure, although it still abounds in Hindu words to a far greater extent than has been hitherto supposed.

CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTORY.

The Rommany of the Roads.—­The Secret of Vagabond Life in England.—­Its peculiar and thoroughly hidden Nature.—­Gipsy Character and the Causes which formed it.—­Moral Results of hungry Marauding.—­Gipsy ideas of Religion.  The Scripture story of the Seven Whistlers.—­The Baker’s Daughter.—­Difficulties of acquiring Rommany.—­The Fable of the Cat.—­The Chinese, the American Indian, and the Wandering Gipsy.

Although the valuable and curious works of Mr George Borrow have been in part for more than twenty years before the British public, {1} it may still be doubted whether many, even of our scholars, are aware of the remarkable, social, and philological facts which are connected with an immense proportion of our out-of-door population.  There are, indeed, very few people who know, that every time we look from the window into a crowded street, the chances are greatly in favour of the assertion, that we shall see at least one man who bears in his memory some hundreds of Sanscrit roots, and that man English born; though it was probably in the open air, and English bred, albeit his breeding was of the roads.

For go where you will, though you may not know it, you encounter at every step, in one form or the other, the Rommany.  True, the dwellers in tents are becoming few and far between, because the “close cultivation” of the present generation, which has enclosed nearly all the waste land in England, has left no spot in many a day’s journey, where “the travellers,” as they call themselves, can light the fire and boil the kettle undisturbed.  There is almost “no tan to hatch,” or place to stay in.  So it has come to pass, that those among them who cannot settle down like unto the Gentiles, have gone across the Great Water to America,

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