Sacred Texts  Legends/Sagas  Roma  Index  Previous 
Buy this Book at

English Gipsies and Their Language, by Charles G. Leland, [1874], at


0a The reason why Gipsy words have been kept unchanged was fully illustrated one day in a Gipsy camp in my hearing, when one man declaring of a certain word that it was only kennick or slang, and not “Rommanis,” added, “It can’t be Rommanis, because everybody knows it. When a word gets to be known to everybody, it’s no longer Rommanis.”

1 Lavengro and the Rommany Rye: London, John Murray.

5 To these I would add “Zelda’s Fortune,” now publishing in the Cornhill Magazine.

21 Educated Chinese often exercise themselves in what they call “handsome talkee,” or “talkee leeson” (i.e., reason), by sitting down and uttering, by way of assertion and rejoinder, all the learned and wise sentences which they can recall. In their conversation and on their crockery, before every house and behind every counter, the elegant formula makes its appearance, teaching people not merely how to think, but what should be thought, and when.

24 Probably from the modern Greek πατουνα, the sole of the foot, i.e., a track. Panth, a road, Hindustani.

26 Pott: “Die Zigeuner in Europa and Asien,” vol. ii, p. 293.

30 Two hundred (shel) years growing, two hundred years losing his coat, two hundred years before he dies, and then he loses all his blood and is no longer good.

32 The words of the Gipsy, as I took them down from his own lips, were as follows:—

“Bawris are kushto habben. You can latcher adusta ’pré the bors. When they’re pirraben pauli the puvius, or tale the koshters, they’re kek kushti habben. The kushtiest are sovven sār the wen. Lel’em and tove ’em and chiv ’em adrée the kávi, with panny an’ a bitti lun. The simmun’s kushto for the yellow jaundice.”

I would remind the reader that in every instance where the original Gipsy language is given, it was written down or noted during conversation, and subsequently written out and read to a Gipsy, by whom it was corrected. And I again beg the reader to remember, that every Rommany phrase is followed by a translation into English.

33 Dr Pott intimates that scharos, a globe, may be identical with sherro, a head. When we find, however, that in German Rommany tscharo means goblet, pitcher, vessel, and in fact cup, it seems as if the Gipsy had hit upon the correct derivation.

34 “Dovós yect o’ the covvos that saw foki jins. When you lel a wart ’pré tutés wasters you jāl ’pré the drum or ’drée the puvius till you latcher a kaulo bawris—yeck o’ the boro kind with kek ker apré him, an’ del it apré the cāro of a kaulo kosh in the bor, and ear the bawris mullers, yeck divvus pāuli the wāver for shtār or pange divvuses the wart’ll kinner away-us. ’Dusta chairusses I’ve pukkered dovo to Gorgios, an’ Gorgios have kaired it, an’ the warts have yuzhered avree their wasters.”

35 Among certain tribes in North America, tobacco is both burned before and smoked “unto” the Great Spirit.

38 This word palindrome, though Greek, is intelligible to every Gipsy. In both languages it means “back on the road.”

53 The Krallis’s Gav, King’s Village, a term also applied to Windsor.

65 Pronounced cúv-vas, like covers without the r.

70 The Lord’s Prayer in pure English Gipsy:—

“Moro Dad, savo djives oteh drey o charos, te caumen Gorgio ta Rommanny chal tiro nav, te awel tiro tem, te kairen tiro lav aukko prey puv, sar kairdios oteh drey o charos. Dey men todivvus more divvuskoe moro, ta for dey men pazorrhus tukey sar men for-denna len pazhorrus amande; ma muck te petrenna drey caik temptaciones; ley men abri sor doschder. Tiro se o tem, mi-duvel, tiro o zoozlu vast, tiro sor koskopen drey sor cheros. Avali. Tachipen.”

Specimens of old English Gipsy, preserving grammatical forms, may be found in Bright’s Hungary (Appendix). London, 1818. I call attention to the fact that all the specimens of the language which I give in this book simply represent the modern and greatly corrupted Rommany of the roads, which has, however, assumed a peculiar form of its own.

75 In gipsy chores would mean swindles. In America it is applied to small jobs.

81 Vide chapter x.

83 This should be Bengo-tem or devil land, but the Gipsy who gave me the word declared it was bongo.

110 In English: “Water is the Great God, and it is Bishnoo or Vishnoo because it falls from God. Vishnu is then the Great God?” “Yes; there can be no forced meaning there, can there, sir? Duvel (God) is Duvel all the world over; but correctly speaking, Vishnu is God’s blood—I have heard that many times. And the snow is feathers that fall from the angels’ wings. And what I said, that Bishnoo is God’s Blood is old Gipsy, and known by all our people.”

112 “Simurgh—a fabulous bird, a griffin.”—Brice’s Hindustani Dictionary.

124 Romi in Coptic signifies a man.

127 Since writing the above I have been told that among many Hindus “(good) evening” is the common greeting at any time of the day. And more recently still, meeting a gentleman who during twelve years in India had paid especial attention to all the dialects, I greeted him, as an experiment, with “Sarisham!” He replied, ‘Why, that’s more elegant than common Hindu—it’s Persian!” “Sarisham” is, in fact, still in use in India, as among the Gipsies. And as the latter often corrupt it into sha’shān, so the vulgar Hindus call it “shān!” Sarishan means in Gipsy, “How are you?” but its affinity with sarisham is evident.

133 Miklosich (“Uber die Mundarten de der Zigeuner,” Wien, 1872) gives, it is true, 647 Rommany words of Slavonic origin, but many of these are also Hindustani. Moreover, Dr Miklosich treats as Gipsy words numbers of Slavonian words which Gipsies in Slavonian lands have Rommanised, but which are not generally Gipsy.

171 Fortune-telling.

189 In Egypt, as in Syria, every child is more or less marked by tattooing. Infants of the first families, even among Christians, are thus stamped.

206 The Royston rook or crow has a greyish-white back, but is with this exception entirely black.

209 The peacock and turkey are called lady-birds in Rommany, because, as a Gipsy told me, “they spread out their clothes, and hold up their heads and look fine, and walk proud, like great ladies.” I have heard a swan called a pauno rāni chillico—a white lady-bird.

210 To make skewers is a common employment among the poorer English Gipsies.

213 This rhyme and metre (such as they are) were purely accidental with my narrator; but as they occurred verb. et lit., I set them down.

218 This story is well known to most “travellers.” It is also true, the “hero” being a pash-and-pash, or half-blood Rommany chal, whose name was told to me.

219 The reader will find in Lord Lytton’s “Harold” mention of an Anglo-Saxon superstition very similar to that embodied in the story of the Seven Whistlers. This story is, however, entirely Gipsy.

221a This, which is a common story among the English Gipsies, and told exactly in the words here given, is implicitly believed in by them. Unfortunately, the terrible legends, but too well authenticated, of the persecutions to which their ancestors were subjected, render it very probable that it may have occurred as narrated. When Gipsies were hung and transported merely for being Gipsies, it is not unlikely that a persecution to death may have originated in even such a trifle as the alleged theft of a dish-clout.

221b Although they bear it with remarkable apparent indifference, Gipsies are in reality extremely susceptible to being looked at or laughed at.

235 This story was told me in a Gipsy tent near Brighton, and afterwards repeated by one of the auditors while I transcribed it.