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.

Each of these tribes or classes speak a separate and distinct dialect or jargon.  That of the Rhagarin most resembles the language spoken by the Kurbats, or Gipsies of Syria.  “It seems to me probable,” says Captain Newbold, “that the whole of these tribes had one common origin in India, or the adjacent countries on its Western frontier, and that the difference in the jargons they now speak is owing to their sojourn in the various countries through which they have passed. This is certain, that the Gipsies are strangers in the land of Egypt.”

I am not astonished, on examining the specimens of these three dialects given by Captain Newbold, with the important addition made by Mr W. Burckhardt Barker, that I could not converse with the Rhagarin.  That of the Nawers does not contain a single word which would be recognised as Rommany, while those which occur in the other two jargons are, if not positively either few and far between, strangely distorted from the original.  A great number are ordinary vulgar Arabic.  It is very curious that while in England such a remarkably large proportion of Hindustani words have been preserved, they have been lost in the East, in countries comparatively near the fatherland—­India.

I would, in conclusion to this work, remark that numbers of Rommany words, which are set down by philologists as belonging to Greek, Slavonian, and other languages, were originally Hindu, and have only changed their form a little because the wanderers found a resemblance to the old word in a new one.  I am also satisfied that much may be learned as to the origin of these words from a familiar acquaintance with the vulgar dialects of Persia, and such words as are not put down in dictionaries, owing to their provincial character.  I have found, on questioning a Persian gentleman, that he knew the meaning of many Rommany words from their resemblance to vulgar Persian, though they were not in the Persian dictionary which I used.

ROMMANI GUDLI; OR, GIPSY STORIES AND FABLES.

The Gipsy to whom I was chiefly indebted for the material of this book frequently narrated to me the Gudli or small stories current among his people, and being a man of active, though child-like imagination, often invented others of a similar character.  Sometimes an incident or saying would suggest to me the outline of a narrative, upon which he would eagerly take it up, and readily complete the tale.  But if I helped him sometimes to evolve from a hint, a phrase, or a fact, something like a picture, it was always the Gipsy who gave it Rommany characteristics and conferred colour.  It was often very difficult for him to distinctly recall an old story or clearly develop anything of the kind, whether it involved an effort of memory or of the imagination, and here he required aid.  I have never in my life met with any man whose mind combined so much simplicity, cunning, and

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