GYP.

I’ve been having an exchange elsewhere about the word gyp ‘cheat, swindle,’ and I am (with some trepidation) bringing it here in the hopes of having a productive discussion and perhaps learning a few things. I will lay out the facts as I know them and my attitude toward the word based on those facts; as always, I welcome correction from those who know more than I. What I do not welcome is moral posturing, so please keep it to a minimum. I think we can make the good-faith assumption that both I, your jovial host, and the commenters who have the good taste to frequent this establishment deplore bigotry in general and the persecution of Gypsies/Romá in particular. It’s fine to suggest that the word is offensive for one reason or another, but please do not suggest that those who use it are therefore bigots and should feel bad. Reasonable people can have different understandings of the offensiveness of a given term. It is possible I may change my understanding based on what is said in this thread, but it will not be because of unsupported assertions, however vigorously stated. With that out of the way, here are the facts as I understand them.
1) Gypsies/Romá have been treated terribly ever since they first appeared in Europe in the fourteenth century. They were enslaved, expelled, branded, mutilated; their children were taken away; the Nazis tried to exterminate them (to quote the Wikipedia article, “Ian Hancock has estimated that almost the entire Romani population was killed in Croatia, Estonia, Lithuania, Luxembourg and the Netherlands”). Their sufferings have historically been reported less and taken less seriously than those of any other ethnic group of similar prominence; only recently has this begun changing (and one result of the change is the current disfavoring of gyp, as well as of Gypsy itself). It should go without saying that I would avoid doing anything that would cause pain to actual members of the group.
2) The word gyp is of unknown etymology. Most sources now say (with or without qualification) that it is derived from a colloquial shortening of Gypsy, and this is certainly a likely possibility, but nobody knows for sure. The OED (in a still unrevised entry) derives the verb from the noun, and says the noun is “perh[aps] short for GIPSY or for GIPPO ['A scullion, varlet,' from Old French *gipel, jupel (later jupeau), 'A short tunic worn under the hauberk'].” American Heritage says “Probably short for Gypsy,” which is a reasonable summary.
3) The word gyp is now widely considered offensive and avoided by those who try to avoid all forms of verbal offense. The exchange I mentioned at the start of this post came about because one person wrote that something seemed like “a jip,” questioned his own spelling, and was told the spelling was gyp but that it was “not the preferred nomenclature,” whereupon the first person looked it up, found it given as “American, back formation from Gypsy,” and said “Well, there goes another word from my vocabulary.” When someone said “the association with gypsies is so far removed from anyone’s real life in the US that we’re not actually doing anybody favors by getting rid of it,” the person who had talked about “preferred nomenclature” responded that similar explanations had been given for condoning the use of the words “gay” and “Jew” in pejorative ways, and therefore “I couldn’t really feel comfortable” using it. When I said that I didn’t see it as in any way like “gay” and “Jew,” he responded “even though I don’t know anybody who identifies as a Gypsy or anyone with Roma ancestry (that I’m aware of), now that I know the derivation of the word it still feels like about the same thing to me. It’s still maligning a group of people based on a stereotype of their culture/genetics, whether or not they’re around to hear it.”


And there’s the rub: is it maligning a group of people? Even if it is derived from Gypsy (which is only a hypothesis), if the people who use it make no connection with the ethnic group and if members of the ethnic group are not offended or hurt by it, how can it possibly be considered harmful or offensive? I deplore the use of “gay” as a general term of disparagement (“That’s so gay”) and of phrases like “jew down” (for ‘bargain down a price,’ if anyone is unfamiliar with the usage), but that is because I know gay people who are personally hurt by the first and Jews who are hurt by the second, and I don’t like people being unnecessarily hurt. But I do not know anyone who is personally hurt (as opposed to theoretically offended on behalf of theoretical others) by the use of gyp, and (as I put it in the original discussion, when persecution was brought up) “None of the people who persecute the Roma use the word, and none of the people who use the word persecute Roma.” I dislike theoretical offense, something that is more and more common these days; I realize that history does not provide equilibrium but rather swings from one extreme to the other, and an era of complacent insensitivity (such as that preceding World War II, when even the most vile ethnic epithets were tossed around casually by otherwise decent people) was bound to be followed by one of exaggerated sensitivity, when people eagerly took offense on behalf of any possible victims, but I still don’t like being told that some word is out of bounds not because any actual person is hurt by it but because someone has decided it might be hurtful to someone else.
A couple of points. Although I do not personally know any Gypsies/Roma, I had a friend in New York who was married to one and spoke Romanes herself (a rare accomplishment for a gadjo); she found the use of “Roma” by outsiders bizarre, and always spoke of “Gypsies” and said those she knew did the same in English. While we’re on the subject, it amuses me that few of those sensitive outsiders who insist on the “authentic” term “Roma” have any idea of either its pronunciation (the stress should be on the last syllable, which is why I often write it Romá) or its status as a plural (the singular is Rom, or Rrom if you’re really being authentic). And in the authentic ethnonym sweepstakes, I probably know more minimal pairs than any but a few specialists, thanks to my interest in languages and ethnicity; if you want to throw down, I’ll see your Gypsy/Roma and raise you a Galla/Oromo, and I’ll trump your Lapp/Saami with an Ostyak/Khanty. My point being that we are sinners all, in these matters, and it ill behooves anyone who isn’t positive that they know every proper ethnonym in existence (and thus is almost certainly referring to some group or other “wrongly”) to sneer at those who use a term they happen to know is disfavored.
So. 1) (If you are yourself a Gypsy/Rom) are you personally hurt by this term, or (in the more likely event you are not) do you know someone who is? 2) If you use the word gyp, do you think of it as a disparaging ethnic term? I welcome all discussion, as long as it is carried on in a civilized fashion; any flaming or trolling will be deleted, though I trust that won’t be necessary.
Update. Based on the convincing comments of respondents below, I have decided I was wrong and gyp is genuinely offensive. I thank everyone who took part in the discussion and helped me come to that conclusion.

Comments

  1. Oh, so you just want to bring up this topic and then have a nice, civil, lofty conversation, huh? Well, I’m sorry, my friend, but that’s not what this is. This is…this is gastric juices churning, this is enzymes and acids, this is intestinal is what it is, bowel movement and blood-red meat — this stinks, this is language, Steve, the game of being alive. And you think you’re…What? Above that? Above alive is what? Dead! In the clouds! You’re on earth, goddammit! Plant a foot, stay a while.

  2. Let none get their irish up over this, mm?

  3. michael farris says:

    I think I need some Dutch courage…

  4. Heh. The esteemed jamessal is (mis)quoting Roy Cohn, the character in Kushner’s wonderful Angels in America; you can see the original quote here.
    And yes, other ethnic terms have been used in various ways of varying degrees of offensiveness. While that would be an interesting general discussion to have sometime, I’d love it if we could discuss this particular term at this particular time.

  5. J.W. Brewer says:

    A hypothesis: perhaps because Romany-Americans, as it were, are so comparatively invisible/marginal compared to the presence of their compatriots in various European countries, I think most of the stereotypical associations of the word “gypsy” in AmE are more positive than might be the case in Europe. You know. carefree, vagabond, proto-hippie, Stevie Nicks singing about them while twirling around on stage, that sort of thing. Cheating/thieving/conniving/etc. implications/stereotypes are less prominent/salient to the U.S. audience — which would tend to make the connection of the ethnic group to the pejorative “gyp” opaque.
    It’s almost like separating out our stereotypes (whether positive or negative) about those who live in a “bohemian” fashion from our views of Americans of Czech ancestry. (The more extreme case is people complaining that the pejorative sense of “Philistine” is a consequence and/or cause of anti-Palestinian prejudice.)

  6. Don’t you mean Lapp/Saami?
    I think statements of the type “‘Gypsy’ is an offensive term” are usually equivalent to prescriptive declarations of the type “‘disinterested’ means ‘impartial’”, just on a more overtly sociopolitical level. They tend to be equally indifferent to empirical facts (such as your friend’s failure to be offended), and are intended more as decrees than descriptions.

  7. michael farris says:

    I was probably well over 10 before I ever saw ‘gyp’ in print and didn’t recognize it, I’d always mentally spelled it ‘jip’.
    I think the connection between the word and the people is so tenuous and opaque to speakers of (American at least) English that I don’t hesitate to use it. And besides, there’s no real alternative.
    Avoiding the word seems like talking about table limbs or avoiding words like pencil, testimony and seminal because of the references to male sexual functions in their etymology.
    just my opinion

  8. And there’s the rub: is it maligning a group of people? Even if it is derived from Gypsy (which is only a hypothesis), if the people who use it make no connection with the ethnic group and if members of the ethnic group are not offended or hurt by it, how can it possibly be considered harmful or offensive?
    I can take a crack at the counter-argument. Don’t know if it’ll be convincing to you, but it’s ok if it isn’t.
    1) “If members of the ethnic group are not offended or hurt by it” is speculative. I don’t think we know. Maybe some are? The instinct, I think, is to look to our intuition and assume that other people have the same kind of intuitions, but this one seems like a bit of a leap to me. Maybe you’re right about that. I dunno. I kind of doubt it. Then again, my speculation isn’t any better than your speculation on this one.
    2) “…if the people who use it make no connection with the ethnic group…” I don’t think this matters. At least, not as much as the statement implies. It’s not simply the motivations of individuals that determine the connotations of a word. It’s the place of the term in the sign system (as culturally-embedded and usage-based as that is, of course) that matters. Given the association (and whether or not the etymology is entirely definitive), the analogy is something like “gyp” is to “get ripped off” as “gypsies” are to “people who rip off others in business dealings.” Do people mean that when they say it? Well, does it really matter? Only a little bit. The classic defensive argument of people who unintentionally use offensive stereotypes is often “But I’m not a ‘racist/sexist/whatever,’ I didn’t mean it that way” and possibly “you’re overreacting.” Now with “gyp,” I think the thing that makes this an open question is basically that the analogy isn’t a particularly live one a lot of Americans. So it feels pretty defensible. Hell, the etymology isn’t water-tight, so we can even cast doubt on that. Makes it feel pretty safe to keep it. But I dunno. It does encode the analogy and the history of the analogy, doesn’t it, on some level?
    I grew up using the word /dʒu/ as a verb to mean “barter,” as in, “to /dʒu/ someone down,” and I didn’t find out it was a reference to the Jewish people until I was probably 20 years old. I’m from the rural Midwest. Plenty of people use the term this way who never even talk about “Jews” except when they’re talking about God’s chosen people at church. I never ever made the connection between the verb and the people I was reading about in Sunday school every week.
    But did my ignorance of its place in the sign system make it not a slur? I don’t think it did. Even now, the word still doesn’t feel like a pejorative to me, intuitively. But I stopped using it, for obvious reasons. Ethnic pejoratives are systemic, not simply personal. And even (hypothetically) finding some Jewish friends who might tell me, “Nah, it’s ok, that’s not really a bad word” wouldn’t excuse it either. The sign system is still in place.
    Anyway, that’s my shot at the counter-argument.

  9. I admire Rich for attempting the counterargument, but I think it’s telling that where Hat talks about hurting people or not, Rich has to turn to “encoded analogies” and “sign systems.” Insults aren’t that learned. Personally I’ve never seen, heard of, or even read about someone being offended by “gyp,” and the few times I’ve used it myself it never crossed my mind that it might be a disparaging ethnic term.

  10. michael farris says:

    To ‘jew somone down’ is more transparently offensive (for me) because of the complete homophony between noun and verb, that’s lost with gyp and gypsy which adds an extra layer of opaqueness. Now if the usage were ‘to gypsy someone’ that would be different.

  11. Don’t you mean Lapp/Saami?
    *bangs head on desk*
    I read that damn thing three times before posting it. Fixed, thanks!
    Rich: Your counterargument is eminently sensible, and I certainly take your point about “/dʒu/ someone down” (I’ve heard similar reminiscences from others). But the reason you’re abstaining from the term is that you’re aware that there are lots of actual Jews who take offense at it. I am certainly willing to place “gyp” in the same category if it turns out that it causes similar offense; it is evidence of that that I am looking for. (I have said previously that I am perfectly willing to give up “niggardly,” despite the etymological absurdity of people’s taking offense at it, because it does cause real offense to real African-Americans.)

  12. The instinct, I think, is to look to our intuition and assume that other people have the same kind of intuitions
    Although I think it’s smart to question that instinct, I also think the time it takes to learn words that might be systemically insulting would be better spent hanging out at the bar, being nice, getting to know different kinds of people. The occasional “gyp” (and such) will sort itself out.

  13. I made a similar argument, once, over the use of the word “lame” to mean “of poor quality, undesirable”, which some people insisted was “ableist”. While in that case there is no doubt about the original etymology of the word, the use of “lame” to mean “crippled” is at this point archaic and nearly moribund. I don’t think that I’ve even seen the word outside of the Bible and discussions thereof, or in fixed phrases like “lame duck”, and for that reason I seriously doubt that the word can be accused of insensitivity in the present day.

  14. Fascinating. I am only familiar with the term “gyp” in the sense of a bothersome pain – “my leg is still giving me gyp after I fell over last week”. Usually when the fall in question resulted in a compound fracture. I haven’t come across it used in the cheating sense you mention.
    So to me it’s a slightly archaic and rather charming term redolent of stiff upper lips and self deprecating Britishness and has no connection at all with the term “Gippo” which I have only ever seen/heard used in a profoundly pejorative and unpleasant manner.
    Google brings up an interesting discussion from 2005 on the etymology/ies of gyp, including “gyppy tummy”. But you probably know all that if you’ve already exhausted the possibilities elsewhere.
    Also, what JW Brewer said. Even here in Europe (ok, my understanding of it in the UK) the word “gypsy” has floaty, flowery, multicoloured connotations. To attempt to call someone a Gypsy as a racist term of abuse is pretty feeble compared to all the more vitriolic alternatives available.

  15. Am I right in thinking that “gyp” is primarily an American word? (I heard it fairly frequently in the U.S., but can’t recall hearing a British person use it since I moved to the UK.) If so, I agree with J.W. Brewer and with whoever said that “the association with gypsies is so far removed from anyone’s real life in the US” that the term is no longer offensive.
    If I were to hear a British person say it, however, I would find it offensive, because prejudice against Gypsies is widespread here (though admittedly not as vicious as in mainland Europe). A British speaker, unlike an American speaker, would know exactly what they were doing by using that term.
    When I read this post, I thought of a similar contrast between the British term “pikey” and the American term “piker”. In the UK, to use the term “pikey” to refer to a shiftless or low-class person is widely considered offensive, because the word is also still used as a racist term for Gypsies, and to call a non-Gypsy a pikey implies that they have Gypsy-like tendencies. But I bet not one in a hundred Americans who say “piker” has any notion of where the word comes from, and even if they did, they almost certainly would not share in the bigotry it refers to. Hence, no offence is caused.

  16. Were there curmudgeonly old Abipones who said, “You know, I loved him like a brother, but his name wasn’t all that close to Nihirenak, and I’ve used that word for years, and Apañigehak is an ugly word, and why should we listen to that old woman, anyway?”

  17. mollymooly says:

    I’ve heard “gippo/gyppo”, and assumed it was derived from “gypsy”, used as an insult for Irish Travellers, who are ethnically unrelated to Gypsies but have filled a similar niche on the margins of Irish society.
    The “discomfort” sense of “gyp” is apparently etymologically unrelated to the “swindle” sense; I’m barely aware of the latter.
    I think knowing a word has an unpleasant past spoils it, like funding out the “low-fat” ice-cream is not low fat. Why could I not have carried on eating/speaking in ignorant bliss?

  18. LanguageHat, that seems like a sensible approach: first gather evidence, then base your usage decision on that. That makes sense to me.
    Laura, I wouldn’t be surprised if the usage turns out to be an Americanism. Mark Davies’s Corpus of Contemporary American English gives me 44 hits for ‘gyp’ and 30 for ‘gypped.’ I haven’t looked at the data very closely, but at a glance they seem to mostly be in the sense of “rip off.” They do occur in a range of registers, including TV news speech. On the one hand, that includes Rush Limbaugh complaining that about Political Correctness and how you can’t say ‘gyp’ in the LA Times any more (from 1994). On the other hand, the word does seem to be in use in other talking heads programs without raising any eyebrows. So the corpus evidence is a little ambiguous, but it broadly supports the general feel a lot folks here are reporting that there isn’t a particularly obvious or explicit ethnic association to the term in contemporary US usage.
    In comparison, the British National Corpus has fewer instances of the term at all (smaller corpus, too, though), and, more tellingly, the BNC instances are mostly of rr’s ‘bothersome pain’ meaning, which I’d never heard before his post.
    Rich

  19. Does the historical etymology of the word really matter, in any practical sense? If speakers started connecting “niggardly” and “black hole” with African-American stereotypes, we’d all quickly change our preferences to “stingy” and “space compactor.”
    What would matter is that the words would become shibboleths. I’ve heard “Canadians” for black people. Superficially, the epithet is not offensive, but the attitude definitely is. An acquaintance of mine called French people “frogs” collectively. No one calls French people “frogs” seriously, but he did with gusto, fully intending to offend.
    What does my argument boil down to? There are people out there who carry explicitly racist attitudes, and they are numerous and mainstream. They look for confirmation of their attitudes, often by trying to get at what you “really” think beneath your facade of “political correctness.” Using a word that can be interpreted as a playful slur can confirm an attitude of “ah, finally someone who stands up to these minorities.”
    So, yes, it’s a social blackmail argument, much like the argument for not ending sentences with prepositions in business writing, lest someone think badly of you. Here it’s the opposite, that your usage could be a kind of “dog whistle.” So the options are the same: either give up your usage and avoid the issue entirely, or persist and be ready to stand up for your values.

  20. To gyp is just as widely used in Britain (i.e. not terribly often) as it is in the States.
    But about “gypsy”, rather than “gyp”, I’m also interested in this. When I was talking about gypsies last week my wife said you’re not supposed to call them that in Norway (actually it’s Sigøyner), you’re supposed to say Romano.
    Reading Wikipedia, there’s lots of confusion. Although it’s sometimes used as a synonym for Romani, Colloquially, gypsy may refer to any person perceived as fitting the Gypsy stereotypes (that would be tinkers or travellers).
    Under English law, Under the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960, ‘gipsies’ are defined as “persons of nomadic habit of life, whatever their race or origin…
    It says use of the word “Gypsy” in English is so pervasive that many Romani organizations use it in their own organizational names. But elsewhere Wiktionary says Gypsy is not used by the Romani people themselves (it is an exonym) and is considered pejorative by some, mainly among the Romani people themselves.
    There’s another word besides Gypsy, French Gitan, Spanish gitano, which doesn’t seem to have an English equivalent, namely the above-mentioned Sigøyne in Norwegian, Zigeuner in German, similar in French and other European languages.
    I’d probably use “to gyp” myself, but I don’t know any gypsies to ask if they dislike it or “gypsy” itself.

  21. Am I right in thinking that “gyp” is primarily an American word?
    Yes, you are; see rr’s immediately preceding comment. Your mention of “pikey” and “piker” is instructive; they are actually unrelated (the former is from pike as in turnpike, the latter from a verb pike that developed in meaning from ‘to make off with oneself; to hasten off, go away’ to ‘to gamble cautiously or for small amounts’), yet you obviously connect them, and it would be natural for people to connect them if they thought about it, so if the former is offensive (in the U.K.), it would be assumed that the latter should be as well, even though in that case it’s as certain as can be that no Americans who use it know of or intend any reference to Gypsies, or (as the OED puts it in its pikey entry) “A vagrant, a tramp; a traveller, a gypsy; (hence more generally) a lower-class person, regarded as coarse or disreputable.” It is precisely that sort of automatic transitivity of offense that I am objecting to. (I hope it is clear I am not objecting to you or your comment, which was thoughtful and enlightening, just to the association it sparked off in me.)

  22. I should add that exoticized Gypsy performers and negative Gypsy stereotypes are all over mainstream Russian culture.

  23. Were there curmudgeonly old Abipones who said, “You know, I loved him like a brother, but his name wasn’t all that close to Nihirenak, and I’ve used that word for years, and Apañigehak is an ugly word, and why should we listen to that old woman, anyway?”
    I probably would have been just such an Abipone.

  24. To gyp is just as widely used in Britain (i.e. not terribly often) as it is in the States.
    This is not even close to being true.

  25. Does the historical etymology of the word really matter, in any practical sense? If speakers started connecting “niggardly” and “black hole” with African-American stereotypes, we’d all quickly change our preferences to “stingy” and “space compactor.”
    No, it doesn’t, and precisely that development has occurred with niggardly (though, thankfully, not with black hole); as I said above, I avoid the word for that reason.

  26. I can hardly comment on the English term, but FWIW Spanish Roma are fully content with being called gitanos and the few I’ve been more than passingly acquainted with tend to prefer it to the over-academic romaní (the sole exception I know is a scholar herself, and thus likely to be an outlier in the sample). However, they get very upset at any use of the (luckily obscolescent) derived terms gitanear, gitanería or gitanada.
    Unlike gyp, these are transparently derived from their demonym, so I don’t know that they make for an adequate parallel.

  27. I’ll bring up the term gypsy truckers, which are independent truckers who haul anything. In the US, gypsy is often synonymous with carnies and other fly-by-nighters who take a kind of pride in cheating the rubes and hayseeds.
    If gyp comes from the word gypsy, then at least here, it’s not specifically against the ethnicity, but the carnival workers and other wanderers who reject the ideal of private property – at least for their marks. So, even if the mainstream considers it bad to gyp someone, the con-men and crooked sideshow game runners consider it a virtue to be cunning and outsmart the bumpkins.
    Is niggardly from the pejorative for black, or is it related to niggle? Or are they both from the same place?

  28. John Emerson says:

    I have no firm opinion about “gyp” or “Gypsy/Roma” but will use “Gypsy” below.
    It’s damnably difficult to find out how many Gypsies there are in the US. It seems not to be a census category at all. Estimates ranged literally from 20,000 to 1,000,000. If I were to bet money I’d bet 100-200,000.
    In any case, I think that prejudice against Gypsies in the U.S. is incidental and local, whereas in Europe it seems to be (like anti-Semitism) a structural part of the culture, so that people who have never seen a gypsy and don’t live within 100 miles of one still feel a prejudice. My theory in this case, as with anti-Semitism, is that you can only have so much structural prejudice, and that in the US that prejudice attaches to blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and native Americans in rather rapidly descending order.
    At the same time, locally prejudice and hatred can be more important than nationally. American attitudes toward native Americans tend to be fairly benign, though often condescending and romanticized, but in areas near reservations the prejudice becomes quite intense. I think that it’s the same with Gypsies. There’s a fair-sized community in Spokane, and there’s a lot of prejudice and also has been police harassment, leading to a million dollar lawsuit which the Gypsies won. There are also communities in Portland OR (about a thousand near Burnside and near 82nd St. SE) and people in those neighborhoods are often prejudiced.
    In French Gypsy, Czech, and bohemian (in our sense) once were confused, but Gitan, Tchèque, and bohémien seem to be the present preferred usage. Gypsies were thought to be from Bohemia, and bohemians were thought to be gypsy-like. At one time different accents were used to distinguish the different meanings, but seemingly that is archaic now.

  29. This is not even close to being true.
    Well it was used that way in England 200 years ago. See here.

  30. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWgWuz6JDhk&feature=related
    love this, hope people would enjoy it

  31. John Emerson says:

    Abipones Nihirenak Apañigehak
    Sole Google hit for those three names together.

  32. Well it was used that way in England 200 years ago. See here.
    Actually, that’s the OED’s 1. a. “At Cambridge and Durham, a college servant, esp. one who attends on one or more undergraduates.”

  33. John Emerson says:

    Here.
    El tigre del cual he hablado hasta aquí, se llama entre Guaraníes Yaguareté, entre los Abipones en tiempos pasados Nihiranák, más tarde Apañigehak, …”

  34. John Emerson says:
  35. John Emerson says:

    And also, finalmente, Lapriratraye.
    Sounds like Rabelais.

  36. aqilluqqaaq says:

    I think that prejudice against Gypsies in the U.S. is incidental and local, whereas in Europe it seems to be (like anti-Semitism) a structural part of the culture, so that people who have never seen a gypsy and don’t live within 100 miles of one still feel a prejudice.
    … takes the biscuit.

  37. I’ll begin, in deference to our host, by assuming a highly immoral posture. (My wife, at least, will appreciate it.)
    Ahem. Yes. To the point:
    Gyp is a word I don’t use, cheat being a sufficiently short and expressive word for the same thing. People do take offense at it, whether sensibly or not, and so I sensibly avoid it. (I don’t avoid moist or tweak or panties, though, unless I’m actually in the presence of someone who expresses an aversion to them.) But I don’t feel as strongly about as I do jew, doubtless because I am on intimate terms with Jews and not with Gypsies/Roma/Sinti. But I don’t think that only people who actually belong to an ethnic group (or whatever sort of group) are privileged to take offense at an ethnic (etc.) slur, though the group does get to define what is or is not a slur. I take offense when someone says nigger in my hearing, for example, at least if they are white. (A tough case is Indian and Native American; if you use either you offend somebody.)
    I had never heard Ostyak before today. Apparently it was used up till the 1930s to refer generally not only to the Khanty but also to the Ket and even to the Selkup, who apparently are Ket who now speak a Samoyedic language.
    RR: The OED attributes that sense of gyp to a contraction of gee-up, what one says to a horse to make it go. To give [something/someone] gyp was originally always to beat them, but now to cause them pain of any sort — in a Lord Peter Wimsey story, a dentist refers to a cavity as “giving [the victim] jip”.
    Laura Brown: Again according to the OED, piker and pikey are only very distantly connected, and the former does not refer to Gypsies at all. The beginning of the story is pike the weapon, and then turnpike, the similar-looking device used to block a road until one had paid the toll, and later the toll road itself, a sense now mostly confined to North America. Those who wandered the turnpikes in England were pikeys, and some of them were naturally Gypsies. The word went downhill after that.
    In America, where there was no such strong opposition between the settled and the wandering (settlers often “got up and went”, and still do), to pike off was to travel the turnpikes, or just to go anywhere. So a piker was first a traveler, and later someone who ran away (by implication, out of cowardice), and later a gambler who would take only small risks. Mixed with this is Piker, a poor white migrant from Pike County, Missouri (itself named after the explorer Zebulon Pike), which came to mean a petty criminal.

  38. The point is not that “gyp” meant at Cambridge the same as “scout” does and did at Oxford, but that White says in his letter:

    …my bedmaker, whom we call a gyp, from a Greek word signifying a vulture, runs away with everything he can lay his hands on, and when he is caught, says he only borrows them. He stole a sack of coals a-week, as regularly as the week came, when first I had fires; but I have stopped the run of this business, by a monstrous large padlock, which is hung to the staple of the bin. His next trick was to bring me four candles for a pound instead of six; and this trade he carried on for some time, until I accidentally discovered the trick; he then said he had always brought me right until that time, and that he had brought me fives, but had given Mr. H. (a man on the same staircase) one, because he thought he understood that I had borrowed one of him [etc.] …they are all alike. They know you regard them as a pack of thieves, and their only concern is to steal so dextrously that they may not be confronted with direct proof.

    So yes, it’s a noun not a verb, but 200 years ago in England “gyp” was synonymous (at least for some) with stealing or conning people out of what was rightfully theirs. Which I believe is the meaning of gyp that you say is not even close to being true in English usage. So hah to you.

  39. Sole Google hit
    OCR error in English translation.

  40. Bottom line is that Gyp is a derogatory term, and refers to having been robbed or swindled in confidence by someone.
    As a derogatory term, it has come to be known, for most people, as a contraction of Gypsy.
    Gypsies are still a public target (look at the Italian and German deportations, and the impending French deportations, from this last week alone).
    The term Gyp reduces them to a base endeavor that passively confirms a prejudice that too many people carry.
    I see this as no different from saying that someone “Jewed you” if you were taken advantage of in a market transaction.
    The larger question is: Should you use language that is derogatory by etymology and function?
    I say no.
    Don’t use the word, or else you are taking part, even passively (regardless of how you rationalize your degree of association to yourself) in the derogatory branding of a culture.
    One of the reasons that most Roma remain invisible in society is because there’s too much prejudice against them, and too much media confirmed folklore that reduces them to a caricature. You may think you don’t know any Roma, but you wouldn’t know by looking at them, or by talking about their lives unless you were to ask them about their family culture, and that doesn’t come up without an established basis of trust.
    Continuing to use the word Gyp pejoratively can only contribute to this, no matter how marginally. Who wants to be that person?
    I can’t think of an instance where i’ve heard it used otherwise, unless it is a contraction for a name, where someone has named their dog Gypsy, and then only call them Gyp instead.
    But, who calls a Roma a Gyp without some element of the pejorative? I’ve never heard it.

  41. I don’t know whether there are any Roma-related people here in New Zealand, but I never met or heard of anyone who made that claim.
    There are groups of itinerants in house trucks who call themselves Gypsies, but I always assumed (maybe wrongly) that they were just people who’d chosen a mobile lifestyle.
    I never encountered the word gyp until I started reading American fiction and I wouldn’t use it.

  42. Yeeks, a lot of posts while I wrote the above.
    Hat, it’s part of the folklore among American physicists that black hole has an offensive meaning to Russians, which is why the Russian word for the phenomenon means literally frozen star, and why American physicists should be cautious about black hole at professional meetings where there are likely to be a lot of Russians, as they will either start giggling or stomp off. I don’t know how true any of that is.
    Zhoen: Niggardly means to be like a niggard, which contains the obsolete native word nig, which means the same thing: a stingy or parsimonious person, a miser. No connection with nigger < negro, a borrowing from Spanish or Portuguese. The origin of niggle is not known, but niggle ‘fiddle with’ is probably connected with niggle ‘have intercourse with’ through an unrecorded sense ‘masturbate [someone else]‘, probably imitative.

  43. So yes, it’s a noun not a verb, but 200 years ago in England “gyp” was synonymous (at least for some) with stealing or conning people out of what was rightfully theirs. Which I believe is the meaning of gyp that you say is not even close to being true in English usage. So hah to you.
    Yes, but what I said was not even close to being true was that “gyp is just as widely used in Britain … as it is in the States,” which, whatever may have been its sense 200 years ago, is not even close to being true. So ha, I say, and again ha!

  44. Or hah, if you prefer. I’m easy that way.

  45. In my dialect of English (East Anglian) the local word for Gypsies is “didicoy” which I have no idea whether is offensive or not (as opposed to “pikey”) even though it is a Romany derived word? The formal term which used to be written on signs on pub entrances was “van dweller” as in “No van dwellers” the rural version of the “No Irish, no Blacks no dogs”.

  46. But I don’t think that only people who actually belong to an ethnic group (or whatever sort of group) are privileged to take offense at an ethnic (etc.) slur, though the group does get to define what is or is not a slur.
    Well, yes, that’s the point, isn’t it? Jews define “jew down” as a slur; do Gypsies define “gyp” as a slur? That is what I am trying to determine. So far as I can tell, only non-Gypsies looking for fresh causes for vicarious offense define it that way.

  47. [blah blah blah] The larger question is: Should you use language that is derogatory by etymology and function?
    I say no. [blah blah blah]
    Ah, our first example of moral posturing. Tell you what, read my post and the thread with a little more care and actually think about it, then come back and respond with more concision, less bluster, and fewer paragraph breaks.

  48. The few times I have heard someone say “Jew down” in my hearing, I politely said I found it offensive, and the person who used it (in every case) said something like, “Really? I’m sorry! I never made the connection to actual Jewish people* before. I’ll stop that.”
    *”Jewish people”: what some people use, going too far, in order to avoid saying Jew. This is funny to me.

  49. Well what I said was that it’s not often used in either place …

  50. The few times I have heard someone say “Jew down” in my hearing, I politely said I found it offensive, and the person who used it (in every case) said something like, “Really? I’m sorry! I never made the connection to actual Jewish people* before. I’ll stop that.”
    Interesting. Did you find them credible? As I say, I’ve heard it before as well, and in those cases I believed the person telling me, but of course it would also be a convenient copout. (I think I’ve mentioned before that I had to break off my prepared lesson to explain anti-Semitism to my English class in a Taiwan college, but I’m quite sure they had never knowingly met an actual Jew, so their offending usages were purely theoretical and imitative, not based on real prejudice.)

  51. Well what I said was that it’s not often used in either place …
    Right, but it is in fact used quite frequently in America. I’ve heard it all my life, and used it myself. It would be unthinkable for an American to say, as rr said above, “I am only familiar with the term “gyp” in the sense of a bothersome pain.”

  52. John Emerson says:

    When I was young the word “gyp” was the most common word used to mean “cheat”. And there was lore about migratory gypsies who bought and / or kidnapped children, though some stories suggested that they did it as a favor to parents. So there was a trace of enduring prejudice, though as I said, it had none of the intensity of the feelings about blacks. (No members of either group lived within 50 miles.)

  53. Jewish people*
    Right. As opposed to Jewish trees and Jewish pets.

  54. moral posturing, yes?
    is your question not a moral one?
    “And there’s the rub: is it maligning a group of people?”
    in my experience, yes it is.
    according to your original post, “jew down” and “gay” bother you because you know Jewish and Homosexual people.
    are you asking because you don’t know anyone who is Roma in your company?
    do they need to identify themselves for you to reconsider your use? it seems that they do.
    You also wrote: “None of the people who persecute the Roma use the word, and none of the people who use the word persecute Roma.”
    I like your pleasant use of repetition, but it is untrue.
    as you dislike theoretical offense, let me tell you that i have had immigration officers at airports in Eastern Europe call me a Gyp, and joke maliciously about how they should nail everything down at the counter before allowing me to remain there while they check my file.
    maybe, as you say, i am one of those whose “sensitivity is exaggerated”.
    Then again, maybe this is what you were actually getting at:
    “I still don’t like being told that some word is out of bounds not because any actual person is hurt by it but because someone has decided it might be hurtful to someone else.”
    fair enough.
    for the innocent, it doesn’t matter, other than their passive alignment with those holding power over others, and for those who pretend to be innocent, they have the passive ignorance of others to hide behind when they rub it in.
    either way, this is not an abstract or theoretical argument. it is a question of common usage, and its effects.
    i’ll stick to my original statement.
    it is derogatory when used with purpose, and lazy when it is not.

  55. Jews define “jew down” as a slur; do Gypsies define “gyp” as a slur? That is what I am trying to determine.
    Gypsies don’t speak with a single voice. Given that there are 2-11 million Romani in the world (estimates vary widely), no doubt there’s at least one Rom who sees the word as a slur, and one who doesn’t. So how do you decide whether the word should be considered a slur? If fifty percent of the Romani found the word offensive, would that be enough? What about ten percent? One percent?
    Hat, I’m sure you have the best of intentions; however, it’s somewhat problematic to ask the one or two Roma who might ostensibly show up to this thread to speak on behalf of all Roma in this matter.

  56. as you dislike theoretical offense, let me tell you that i have had immigration officers at airports in Eastern Europe call me a Gyp, and joke maliciously about how they should nail everything down at the counter before allowing me to remain there while they check my file.
    OK, that’s certainly a relevant anecdote, but (if you don’t mind my asking) are you in fact a Gypsy/Rom? If not, did the immigration officers think you were, or were they just being random jerks? In any case, it seems from what you say that they were not using gyp in the American sense (they were, after all, Europeans) but were explicitly using it as a short form of Gypsy. If so, that’s obviously deplorable but doesn’t directly address my question; your experience does, however, explain why you’re so indignant about the issue, and I’m sorry you had to go through it.
    this is not an abstract or theoretical argument. it is a question of common usage, and its effects.
    Yes, exactly, and I am trying to determine usage. So far you are the first person who’s contributed a first-person account of derogatory use, for which I thank you.

  57. Gypsies don’t speak with a single voice. Given that there are 2-11 million Romani in the world (estimates vary widely), no doubt there’s at least one Rom who sees the word as a slur, and one who doesn’t. So how do you decide whether the word should be considered a slur? [...] it’s somewhat problematic to ask the one or two Roma who might ostensibly show up to this thread to speak on behalf of all Roma in this matter.
    You’re absolutely right, of course, and it’s not like I didn’t consider that point, but I want information and I’m not sure how else to get it. If someone could point to a study of Perceptions by Roma of Potential Ethnic Slurs, Broken Down by Country, that would be super, but something tells me there is no such study. Failing data like that, all I have to go on is asking people what they know and think.
    Also, if any Gypsies showed up, I wouldn’t consider them official representatives of their people, but I would take it seriously if they said “Actually, most of the Gypsies I know hate the term”; that would be enough to convince me I was wrong. As it is, the only (admittedly skimpy) anecdata I have point in the other direction.
    I appreciate your ascribing good intentions to me, and I certainly understand your concern, but what would you have me do, treat the word as verboten based on no data whatever?

  58. The only data point I have for you is that I was told as a teen by a slightly older friend that she was part Gypsy and that she took offense at my use of it. I quit using it. I have no idea if she’s genuinely part Gypsy or not–I know her grandmother is from New Zealand as my friend said, because I met her, but that’s all I know, but we’ve lost touch. At any rate, I’ve tried not to say it since. My great-grandfather was apparently periodically accused of being a gypsy (he traveled and made fiddles–I’m 99% sure he wasn’t one, but I have sympathy for namecalling). There are plenty of other words to use.
    (I was actually shocked as a kid when I found out the origin of “jew down”–I always thought it was “chew down,” because my mom’s idiolect is a little weird. My mom still says it. :/)

  59. I should add that I’m really enjoying this thread, and I’m glad I asked the question. It’s hard to find venues where difficult stuff like this can be discussed without flamewars erupting.

  60. I thought I’d heard it in England too, but now you’re making me doubt it. Dammit. And I’ve never heard this rr & PG Wodehouse sense. Wodehouse didn’t really talk like his books, apparently he used to say fuhgeddaboudit quite a lot.

  61. Why not contact Dr. Ian Hancock at the University of Texas, or Dr. Ethel Brooks at Rutgers? Both are prominent Romani academics (by which I mean that they are themselves Roma, as well as being involved in Romani Studies.). Dr. Hancock is also a linguist with an expertise in creole languages, by the way. Dr. Brooks has recently written several articles in Roma for the Guardian. I think they’d both tell you that the verb “to gyp” is considered offensive by Roma, as it perpetuates the idea of Gypsies as criminals – I’m fairly sure I read as much in one of Dr. Hancock’s books. But I’ll check on that for you.
    But elsewhere Wiktionary says Gypsy is not used by the Romani people themselves (it is an exonym) and is considered pejorative by some, mainly among the Romani people themselves.
    From personal experience, Roma in many places use the term “Gypsy” (or its local equivalent) to describe themselves. In other places, they do not. That said, most Roma seem acutely aware of the pejorative sense “Gypsy” often has when used by outsiders; it’s often not the term itself which is offensive, but the combination of the term and the person
    who’s using it, and of course the manner in which it is used.

  62. i appreciate that my position in this may be compromised, as my indignity toward the term does betray, but i am Roma. i’m not sure what that implies in this context, or how you may read into my response because of it.
    i hear the term all the time, and i do not correct people. where i live now, in North America, there is a small Roma community that does not assert itself publicly, and is under no threat compared to their status in Europe. here, i hear the term used innocently, and i’m not particularly interested in the endeavor that it takes to correct them when they use it. but in direct and open discussion, i am willing to take a small stand on it.
    i’m not sure how my status as Roma legitimates my understanding of Gyp in common usage, just because i have a first person anecdote to tell.
    i don’t speak for any Roma other than myself.
    as for the immigration officers, i can say that when people see me on the street in eastern europe, or when those with the cultural experience see me here, they have no doubt about my family. i realize that this may not be easy to see if you are recently from North America. it is not as common a problem here. they knew my status before they asked me, and when i replied in the affirmative, the epithets started, as always with a cutting joviality to protect their minor power, but cutting nonetheless, and i am reminded how invisible i am in my present home.
    now i am curious. you seem to imply that the European sense of Gyp is to rob or swindle, but that it is somehow different in the US. as the US is a country of immigrants, unless you are aboriginal, i have always assumed that this was part of the legacy of British and European colonialism. Does Gyp mean something other than to rob or swindle in the US? i have re-read your post and am now unsure.

  63. Man, there are so many tangents that this post and discussion have inspired me to go off on that I’m reluctant to comment. I guess I’ve overcome that reluctance. I’ll limit myself to three of the least off-topic tangents.
    1. Ha! I suspected there was a Gypsy community in SE Portland, where I lived for four years (and if you think you know what that implies, you’re right). Once again John Emerson has enlightened me.
    2. Compare the patently false but widely believed etymology of “picnic” that connects it with lynching. This word causes very real offense; should we avoid it for this reason. My gut says no; a compromise is avoiding it around those who express offense. (Trying to set the record straight with folk etymologies is a battle you can’t win. Or I can’t win.)
    3. The same person who scolded me for saying “gyp” also scolded me for saying “the Ukraine” (I was speaking Yiddish at the time, and my filter that keeps me from seeing this in English apparently didn’t carry over). I think this reveals something, but I’m not sure what.

  64. David Eddyshaw says:

    @Eel:
    According to Chambers dictionary, “didicoy” is from a Romani word for an itinerant who *isn’t* Roma.

  65. Until about 5 years ago, as a native speaker of American English, growing up in the Midwest and living there until I was in my early twenties, I would have answered the following. Gyp means more or less the same thing as cheat, is vaguely associated with “Gypsies” which are a more or less theoretical concept that I associate with women wearing long skirts and braids and men who play the violin but in any case I have never seen (outside of bad movies) nor spoken with. I actually remember having a discussion about this word ten years ago due to the father of a friend using the phrase “Jew down” as Rich noted above. Our conclusions about gyp were that it probably has some sort of vague racist origin, as do the terms paddy-wagon and jerry-built, but since the racism on which it was based is effectively eliminated, I don’t really care and will use it on occasion and even find it amusing.
    However, I now live in Italy and have for the last six years. I see gypsies/Rom/”zingari”/nomadi on a more or less daily basis. There are a LOT of negative stereotypes about these people here in Italy. I’ve also had personal bad experiences with more than one Rom. Here the racism which is (presumably) underlying the term gyp is not something historic, long forgotten, and amusing. A few years ago a Rom camp was set on fire. Due to all this, if *I* were now to continue using the word “gyp” it would probably have at least a tinge of real racism behind it and so I no longer use the word. But I don’t think it’s necessarily racist or even necessary to eliminate from usage for most Americans, because most Americans don’t have any personal experience of any kind with gypsies nor would they be likely to judge a gypsy that they met negatively.

  66. Failing data like that, all I have to go on is asking people what they know and think. [...] I certainly understand your concern, but what would you have me do, treat the word as verboten based on no data whatever?
    That’s fair. I have no foolproof algorithm for determining which words should be made verboten; I only wanted to point out a salient ethical concern.
    That said, my personal preference is to avoid using words of this type, on theoretical/ethical/political grounds, for the simple reason that my desire to avoid marginalizing people with my speech trumps my desire to have a large vocabulary. It’s not like it’s an irreplaceable word; “cheat”, “fleece”, “hoodwink”, “scam”, and “swindle” make perfectly serviceable replacements, as do about a dozen other words one can find in any thesaurus. The notion that the English language is irreversibly impoverished any time we stop using a word on theoretical grounds is totally inane; the disappearance of old words is as much a part of the process of language change as is the formation of new ones.

  67. @:David Eddyshaw
    Thanks for that, maybe it is offensive then after all if didicoy is used to refer to “travellers” instead of true Romany?

  68. narrowmargin says:

    As an American, born in the early fifties, I’ve never heard or seen the word “gyp” used except to mean “cheat” or “swindle”, always in lowercase, always as a verb, always spelled “gyp”.
    Later I learned it came from “Gypsy”, which I was told derived from “Egyptian” because it was believed they originally came from Egypt. (Well, that’s what they said.)

  69. I think they’d both tell you that the verb “to gyp” is considered offensive by Roma, as it perpetuates the idea of Gypsies as criminals – I’m fairly sure I read as much in one of Dr. Hancock’s books. But I’ll check on that for you.
    i am Roma. [...] i hear the term all the time, and i do not correct people. [...] i’m not particularly interested in the endeavor that it takes to correct them when they use it. but in direct and open discussion, i am willing to take a small stand on it.
    OK, that’s good enough for me. I hereby place the word on the “do not use” list.
    i’m not sure how my status as Roma legitimates my understanding of Gyp in common usage, just because i have a first person anecdote to tell.
    I just feel strongly that only the affected people get to decide on the offensiveness of a word. Don’t worry, I don’t feel you speak for all Roma, but you have convinced me, and I apologize for being so snappish with you earlier. I get that way sometimes.

  70. OK, that’s good enough for me. I hereby place the word on the “do not use” list.
    That’s it? That’s the end of the thread?

  71. Yeah, what a hoodwink.

  72. The terms jerry-built and jerry-builder long predate Jerry ‘German’, which was a World War I (and later II) term. In any case, the stereotype of Germans as builders would tend to the perfectionist, not the slapdash.
    The OED says: “That jerry-builder and jerry-built originated in some way from the name Jerry is probable; but the statement made in a letter to the newspapers in Jan. 1884, that they commemorate the name of a building firm on the Mersey, has on investigation not been confirmed. The earliest example yet found is that of jerry-built 1869.”

  73. That’s it? That’s the end of the thread?
    You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.
    *polishes bar meaningfully*

  74. I just feel strongly that only the affected people get to decide on the offensiveness of a word.
    First, good for you for reaching the right conclusion and adding the coda to the post.
    But, really, you also need to reconsider this “only the affected people” thing. Why on earth should the offended have to complain first? In the Vietnam War, the pejorative of choice for the Vietnamese, regardless of affiliation, was “gook”. That word has a history going back to US involvement in the Philippines. Its intended sense, describing a person of of subhuman status, whether applied to Filipinos, Koreans or Vietnamese, was always clear among those who used it. Was it necessary for any of those “affected people” to complain before “gook” could be considered offensive? Is it really necessary for any ethnic group to complain before any word describing them in a pejorative sense is considered offensive?

  75. J.W. Brewer says:

    Maybe a suggestion for LH’s next venture in this area: I learn via google books that according to Prof. Hancock (cited as authoritative at various points in the thread above), “There is a corresponding slang term among American Roma, to ‘get gadged,’ meaning to be cheated by non-Gypsies.” (From the usual Romany word for outsider spelled various ways including “gadje.”) Should self-appointed spokespersons for groups (certainly not meaning dave in this thread, who was very clear he was not claiming to speak on behalf of anyone other than himself) that complain about the language use of others be required to clean up their own houses first?

  76. marie-lucie says:

    JWB, it is quite likely that “get gadged” is a recent “tit for tat” calque of the older “get gypped”.

  77. As a boy in Oregon I happened across “welsh” as in “to welsh on a bet.” I didn’t know that there were such a people as the Welsh, nor (obviously) that there was a prejudice against them roughly equivalent to the prejudice in my own community against Indians / Native Americans. I picked it up as a novelty word and used it for a while. Eventually I found out there really were Welsh people and “to welsh” was a pretty near equivalent, in offensiveness, to “Indian giver.” At no time in this process did I ever know anyone Welsh, but I stopped using it. I guess theoretically no one was getting hurt, but it just tasted bad after that.

  78. At no time in this process did I ever know anyone Welsh, but I stopped using it. I guess theoretically no one was getting hurt, but it just tasted bad after that.
    You’re not thinking of Welsh Rabbit?

  79. michael farris says:

    “But, who calls a Roma a Gyp without some element of the pejorative? I’ve never heard it”
    I’ve never heard the word gyp used referring to a person and google hits supporting such usage are pretty marginal (and it’s not clear if it refers to Roma). I’ve heard Gyppo (gippo?) but only from British speakers.
    Did the officials call you ‘Gyp’ in English (where did they learn that?) or some local equivalent? I have no doubt that you were treated badly, but I am curious about the language(s) and words being used.
    “snappish … earlier. I get that way sometimes.”
    Sometimes??????

  80. I can add one data point to the discussion. My father was teaching (in Canada), and used the term “gyp”, and privately after class one of the students pointed out to him that as a Gypsy he found the usage offensive. The student understood that most people who use the word don’t think about where it came from (as was certainly the case with my father), but he thought it was worth speaking out about. My father didn’t use the word after that.
    As to jerry-built, is this related to jury-rigged?

  81. David Eddyshaw says:

    “Welsh” as verb does indeed mean “duck out of an obligation” and is certainly a straightforward racial slur.
    On the other hand, none of the Welsh people that I know (I am part Welsh and live in Wales) seems in the least bothered by it. Perhaps there is a feeling that deviousness is a perfectly measured response to all these illegal-immigrant English who have temporarily planted themselves in Lloegr. Back to Jutland with the lot of them, I say! Cymru am byth!
    [More likely reflects the absence of any contemporary active persecution, although a close relative of mine was sufficiently teased about being Welsh in school in England a generation ago to deny being Welsh most of her life thereafter.]

  82. Why on earth should the offended have to complain first?
    It depends on the situation. In your example, gook was a clearly offensive term, a pure ethnic slur, and was used as such from the beginning, so there was no need for any additional information. This case is entirely different: a normal English word that was alleged to be offensive even though the vast majority of the people who used it knew of no connection with Gypsies and had no intention to insult anyone. In such a case, I think it’s reasonable to find out if anyone is actually offended (besides professional offense-finders of the sort who object to picnic, black hole, and anything else they can dig up).
    Should self-appointed spokespersons for groups … that complain about the language use of others be required to clean up their own houses first?
    No.

  83. @JS Bangs: “While in that case there is no doubt about the original etymology of the word, the use of “lame” to mean “crippled” is at this point archaic and nearly moribund.”
    ‘Lame’ is still very widely used in this sense in reference to horses.

  84. michael farris says:

    stormboy, yes I grew up around horses and the term was commonly used. I was surprised to find out (right here) that others think of it as archaic or moribund.

  85. If I were to hear a British person say it, however, I would find it offensive, because prejudice against Gypsies is widespread here (though admittedly not as vicious as in mainland Europe). A British speaker, unlike an American speaker, would know exactly what they were doing by using that term.
    There is certainly widespread prejudice against Gypsies/travellers in Britain, for which there are sometimes reasons, as in France.
    But I disagree with the second statement.
    I know gyp in both senses, to cheat, and as pain, “giving me gyp” (though I’m not sure o fthe spelling of either), and had never, ever, associated it with Gypsies until I saw this thread.
    And I would as strongly say that most British speakers would NOT know exactly what they were doing.
    It seems to me the term is less used now than it was, but only because of natural changes in language usage, not because of supposed offense.

  86. When someone takes exception to an antisemitic trope, I wouldn’t ask them “Are you entitled to feel offended? Are you a Jew?” (Note that not only self-identified Jews are affected by antisemitism: “Wer Jude ist, bestimme ich.”) Sexist language is just as bad when there’s no perceived woman in the room, and it’s not up to women to point it out. For determining which words to avoid, I use my common sense, which, as the word says, does not require being or consulting a member of the target group in every single case. Also, I don’t generally challenge people to speak on behalf of whatever group they may (be perceived to) belong, because I know what it feels like when someone asks me for my opinion “as a” German or “as a” gay person.
    That said, I think the original inquiry is legitimate as a matter of linguistic curiosity. But it should have been rephrased as such. Personally, I (ESL) connected gyp to gypsy the first time I came across it, and avoid it for that reason. The γύπας etymology seems convincing, but it doesn’t make the perceived connection to gypsy go away.

  87. It seems no people is immune from having their name used as a label for a swindler: from OED
    Hence {sm}Yankee v. (rare{em}1), trans. to deal cunningly with like a Yankee, to cheat; {sm}
    Gyped by a Welshing Yankee.

  88. David Marjanović says:

    I know what it feels like when someone asks me for my opinion “as a” German or “as a” gay person

    On another blog, there’s someone who makes fun of this by calling himself the Official SpokesGay.

  89. So Paul knows “to gyp”. It’s an English coinage, and I swear it’s still used in England.

  90. Sorry AJP
    I have never to my knowledge heard ‘gyp’ to mean swindle in uk English.

  91. marie-lucie says:

    I know what it feels like when someone asks me for my opinion “as a” German or “as a” gay person.
    If I am asked what I think or feel “as a French person”, I never assume that I am asked to speak for the millions of French people or French speakers in the world, or “as a woman” for the billions of women. Earlier in this thread, someone wrote “As an American …”, and I doubt that he was claiming to speak for the hundreds of millions of Americans. Quite often, persons asking such a question are interested in your feelings or viewpoint because they have not had the personal experiences which usually come from being a member of whatever group they are not (another gender, ethnicity, religion, etc), and they wonder what it would be like to have had different experiences, which they may or may not have even heard about. To me this is not a matter of “them” putting you off as an outsider, but trying to draw you in and understand you. This is different from saying, for instance, “As a woman/French person/etc, you must be/feel/think, etc …” which assumes that “they” already know about your experiences, viewpoints, etc, but here again, sometimes this phrasing is equivalent to a question, mentally asking “Am I right?”. Even then, “their” assumptions can be wrong or misguided, but I don’t think they are necesssarily prejudiced or hostile unless something else in “their” speech and attitudes leads you to that conclusion: if an English speaker asked my opinion “as a Frog”, I would probably take that as an insult, or a clumsy attempt at a joke, because the term is very derogatory in Canada, but in France this word would just make people burst out laughing.

  92. Personally, I (ESL) connected gyp to gypsy the first time I came across it, and avoid it for that reason
    And that was your choice. As long as you do not beat others over the head with it, I have no problem with it. Reasonable people can differ on where to draw the line; I, as a strong devotee of free speech and of maximum variety in language (which is to say, I reject the “there are other ways to say it” argument), am not as eager to avoid words as you.

  93. Quite often, persons asking such a question are interested in your feelings or viewpoint because they have not had the personal experiences which usually come from being a member of whatever group they are not (another gender, ethnicity, religion, etc), and they wonder what it would be like to have had different experiences, which they may or may not have even heard about. To me this is not a matter of “them” putting you off as an outsider, but trying to draw you in and understand you.
    marie-lucie, as usual, is wise.

  94. *”Jewish people”: what some people use, going too far, in order to avoid saying Jew.
    Yes, because many gentiles experience expressions like “the Jews” or “Tom is a Jew” as vaguely anti-Semitic. “The Jewish People” or “Tom is Jewish” are neutral. It would be interesting to know how exactly that came about because it is certainly bizarre. In my experience, if a gentile office worker walks up to me and says “hey, I hear that new guy is a Jew”, I can be pretty certain he’s got some issues. If he were to say “hey, I hear that new guy is Jewish” he’s just conveying information.

  95. marie-lucie says:

    Thanks, LH, I hope it is true that wisdom increases with age!

  96. I heard the “Wer Jude ist bestimme ich” story from people who lived in Berlin during the Third Reich, and the way they told it, the point was somewhat different—that Goering was motivated by power, not anti-Semitism.
    The story is that when some of his employees complained about the heritage of one of their co-workers, Goering turned them down, saying “I’m the one who decides who’s Jewish around here.

  97. …hey, I hear that new guy is a Jew”, I can be pretty certain he’s got some issues. If he were to say “hey, I hear that new guy is Jewish” he’s just conveying information…
    It seems we could similar make a distinction between somebody who said the new guy is ‘a Brit’ (or ‘a black’, or ‘a Pole’ etc) or the new guy is ‘British’ (or ‘black’, Polish etc). The use of the terms ‘a Jew’ and ‘a Brit’ suggest no great effort is being made to identify an individual. He/she is considered indivisible from a group the speaker is probably hostile towards. The label says all you need to know. To say he is ‘Jewish’ or ‘British’(etc) is to allow individuality and to offer Jewishness and Britishness as a single component of a more fully developed identity.
    In my inexpert view..

  98. PK: If you have never heard to gyp as to swindle, I suspect it’s a generational thing. It may not be common usage to people under, say, 50 or 60.

  99. I heard the “Wer Jude ist bestimme ich” story from people who lived in Berlin during the Third Reich, and the way they told it, the point was somewhat different—that Goering was motivated by power, not anti-Semitism.
    That’s not Goering, that’s Karl Lueger—it’s probably his most famous saying (except, being Viennese, he said “Wer a Jud is, bestimm i!”).

  100. michael farris says:

    When I hear someone say “He’s a Jew” instead of “He’s Jewish.” it’s a warning that the person likely has anti-semitic views. There’s a chance they don’t but the odds aren’t in their favor.
    The real clincher though is using Jew as an adjective as in “some Jew doctor” or “Jew lawyer”. IME only anti-semites follow that usage.
    (the above of course only applies to native speakers of SAE, if I hear any kind of non-American accent my benefit-of-a-doubt meter stays out of the red zone for longer)

  101. I’m a writer, and I never associated the word “gyp” (not one I use in my book) with any ethnic group. I think the word’s power, like that of…well, I can’t print any of them here…derives from the power of the clipped-off one syllable toss-away.

  102. J. W. Brewer says:

    I think several decades back there was a concerted effort by sensitivity-mongers to encourage goyische-Americans to use locutions like “Jewish person” etc. rather than ever say “X is a Jew.” But then people moved onto other issues and the momentum behind that campaign lapsed (plus patterns in how Jewish-Americans talked about themselves may have changed as attitudes toward identity, assimilation, etc. shifted), so whether or not a particular well-intentioned goyische-American was ever socialized into this particular reflex may largely depend on when and where he grew up. Which is a way of saying I think michael farris may perhaps need to get out more. “X is a Jew” is probably easier than some of the alternatives to use in a pejorative fashion, with supporting evidence that a particular usage is pejorative to be found in context, intonation etc., but given what I believe to be a wide range of usage in AmE I wouldn’t draw a lot of strong inferences from the bare words. Note also that things are different if you introduce an adjective. “X is an Orthodox/observant Jew” seems to be to be a perfectly neutral way of conveying salient information such as we shouldn’t schedule a meeting relevant to X on Shavuot. You wouldn’t say “X is Orthodoxically/observantly Jewish,” would you?

  103. To me it’s like the old joke “he’s not really a Jew, he’s just Jew-ish”. In other words it’s a euphemism, which is saying that the real word is too disturbing to use. If you want to know what actual Jews say: Mel Brooks says “Jew”, while Woody Allen doesn’t.

  104. Well, I go with “there are plenty of other words to use” *once* you’ve gotten the idea that you may be causing offense, as in the case of my friend’s claimed ancestry.
    I do think there’s a line between reacting to every rumor and between being an obnoxious, insensitive git (which I am pretty sure does not derive from gitano, for the record).

  105. marie-lucie says:

    native speakers of SAE
    mf: I did not immediately recognize “SAE” as “Standard American English” which I think you meant. I am familiar with it as “Standard Average European”, a cover term for most European languages as opposed to other kinds of languages, especially Native American ones. I think this term was coined by Benjamin Lee Whorf, an insurance inspector better known for his contributions to linguistics.

  106. I thought he was talking about envelopes.

  107. michael farris says:

    I’m aware of Whorf’s SAE too, but there are only so many letters going around so some acronyms need to be shared.
    A term similar to Whorf’s I’ve seen used in Artificial Language Circles (broadly understood) is WENSA, which IIRC stands for Western Europe, North and South America. This is pretty much restricted to Germanic and Romance.

  108. marie-lucie says:

    Yes, that is the case for Whorf’s SAE too – no Basque, Finnish, or even Celtic.

  109. Fascinating debate, only sorry to come late to it. For my part, I know “gyp” as an American usage from growing up (I’m 30) but haven’t heard it of late, perhaps because I’m largely in more liberal circles these days. I’ve never heard it in my time in the UK but again can’t speak for the class dynamics of such a usage. I used it myself until the (probable) etymology was pointed out. I think I’m going to adopt “get gadged” as my new standard usage, if none of the gadje here mind…

  110. “I just feel strongly that only the affected people get to decide on the offensiveness of a word”
    Would that include wannabe “Gypsys” like Johnny Depp and Keith Richards whose affectations look more in need of a good scrubbing than a bleeding heart to assuage their rapscalliousness?

  111. Bill Walderman says:

    “I’ll . . . raise you a Gallo/Oromo . . . .”
    A small correction (for someone who takes pains to be accurate): the (possibly) perjorative term for the Oromo people in Ethiopia is Galla, not Gallo.

  112. D’oh! Thanks, I’ll fix it. I was writing at white heat!

  113. (And possibly thinking of cheap wine.)

  114. This Google News timeline search for “gyp” (searched in quotes to avoid “gypsum,” “gypsy” etc.) tells a tale. It shows the word peaking in the 60s and then declining in news source usage. For most words not tied to a specific point in time, the graph shows increasing usage because GoogleNews has more material from the most recent years. So for example, here’s “gypsy”, and here’s “bicycle” (which shows a peak at the time of its introduction in the late 1800s, and then a gradual build during the 20th C.). It seems to me the only explanation for the gradual decline of “gyp” is that it is increasingly seen as objectionable.
    By the way, the 1912 spike is due to the case of “Gyp the Blood”, aka Harry Horowitz, a notorious gangster and murderer.

  115. I’d like to add a story without a point to this discussion–not that it has any significance, but simply because it involves my parents, who passed away more than three decades ago.
    My father was Jewish (or, if you prefer, a Jew). His parents were from Odessa and came to this country in the 1880s. My father was born in Baltimore in 1896 and grew up there and maybe in Morningside Heights in New York City. I, too, was raised in the Jewish faith and I self-identify as a Jew, although neither I nor my father, nor, I gather, his father practiced the Jewish religion.
    My mother was born and grew up in a small town in Oklahoma, her parents and grandparents having moved down from Nebraska when Oklahoma was opened up to settlement by whites. Her background was mainly English, although her paternal grandfather was Danish, and her maiden name was the most Danish of surnames, Jensen. I was never sure what her religious affiliations were–I think she may have been raised as a Baptist but may have been converted as some point to Judaism in a token ceremony that probably wouldn’t have been recognized by most branches of the faith–I just don’t know.
    My parents met in Sacramento, CA, were married in Covington, KY (a notorious “marriage mill” where people went to elope) in 1934, and lived in Washington, DC, Scranton, PA, Chicago, Springfield, MO, the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Memphis (I think), and maybe some other places, too.
    One day, my mother, quite innocently, used the expression “jew down” in my father’s presence. She felt entitled to do so, she later claimed, because one of her father’s friends was Jewish–the owner of the local dry goods store in Perry, OK. But she didn’t count on my father’s reaction–he flew into a towering rage.
    I, too, was somewhat shocked, but of course she was my mother.
    This was in the early 1960s. My parents were exceptionally close and were married for 41 years, until my father died in 1975.
    The discussion of “jew down” resurrected this poignant memory for me, but, as I said, there’s no point or significance to this story.

  116. to get ‘Gypt’d', my grandmother told me, was a term applied to being swindled, like buying that fake kartosh (sic. sp.) probably, when the british still “controlled” egypt.
    “Later I learned it came from “Gypsy”, which I was told derived from “Egyptian” because it was believed they originally came from Egypt.
    as narrowmargin says.

  117. I am from Spokane, Washington and we have quite a large gypsy family in town, as someone else has mentioned they were in a huge lawsuit and won. Anyway, I didn’t know for years that gyp was a derogatory word rooted from gypsy. I didn’t find out until junior high or high school maybe, since then I quit using it. I’m never quite sure who I may be speaking to. My father is Mexican and my mother is Irish-American, while I look a lot like my father, I do have lighter skin which makes me sometimes “invisible.” I’ve heard horrible things towards Hispanics because someone didn’t realize who was in the room, it’s an awkward and horrible experience. I quit using gyp for that reason, I don’t want someone to think I mean anything bad about gypsies, and I do not know if the person I am speaking to is gypsy.
    I work at a big hospital in town, and the gyspsy community was in and out of the hospital for months visiting a friend or family member while they were there. I saw first hand prejudice against them. I thought prejudice against gypsies was a thing of the past, and then I saw it full blown and in the public. People were saying things about the families are probably going to rob the hospital blind of equipment, etc. It was unbelievable. I guess there is still gypsy prejudice alive and well, even though I thought it faded away.

  118. A wonderful post, LH. I wish certain other blogs would host such genuinely self-questioning, respectful, and humane discussion.
    Here in Australia we use the verb gyp without consideration of its source. I doubt that many users would associate it with gypsy, so it differs from our attitude to Jew. Here we are touchy with terminology for our indigenous people, as Americans for theirs and for African[-]Americans, or whatever it is proper to call them this month. Abo is right out, but Ab is respectable academic and socio-discursive usage. It is generally thought improper to lower-case the unabbreviated term, aboriginals; and some make an elusive distinction between Aborigines and Aboriginals. Blackfellas is often acceptable, especially since Blackfellas commonly use Whitefellas for non-Abs; but it’s all still a minefield for the delicate of tongue.
    I have returned to translating parts of Lorca’s Romancero Gitano, and I am tempted to take on the whole eighteen poems of it. (Of course someone has to do that at least twice a decade.) Researching deeply, and reading a great deal of commentary and extended background. I’m sure I will use the word gypsy as necessary; there is nothing that comes close as an alternative.

  119. It seems to me the only explanation for the gradual decline of “gyp” is that it is increasingly seen as objectionable.
    As I said above, I suggest that at least in Britain it is a natural development of language usage, as people find other words to express the same idea.

  120. I’m sure I will use the word gypsy as necessary; there is nothing that comes close as an alternative.
    It depends: to describe their ethnic background someone might prefer Romani, or something else. It avoids the imagary of gayly-coloured caravans and Ratty and fortunetellers, which may not be fitting.

  121. David Marjanović says:

    That’s not Goering, that’s Karl Lueger—

    Yes, but Göring quoted it famously.

  122. Thanks David, for motivating me to google for the full Göring story. Fascinating stuff.

  123. An Australian friend of mine comes up with the following:
    I remember having a meal with a friend and his Indonesian wife. When I offered to pay my share, she said “You can’t do that, that’s Dutch”. And it was obvious from her tone of voice what the Indonesians think of the Dutch. But we don’t always connect the dots when we hear the common usage.

  124. rr: AJC I am happy that you have never been given gyp, but also somewhat surprised – google books turns up 143 results
    By an enormous coincidence, those are the 143 books that I still haven’t read in English. I’m hoping to be finished by the end of the year.
    Ah, what complex times we live in.
    Yes, but as someone’s already said, it’s easy to overestimate the importance of the individual words compared to how someone will hear the gist of what you’re saying. And on the other hand, some people who are prejudiced against Gypsies probably wouldn’t call them gippos nowadays, when it’s harder to look cool while you’re using abusive names, even if you still wouldn’t want your daughter to marry one.

  125. No idea where I first heard the term but it is so seldom used that it’s noticeable when it is. Seeing the title of this post immediately brought to mind the Weird Al song, The Night Santa Went Crazy. One line says, “Sounds to me like he was tired of getting gypped.”
    I never would have tried to put it together with the word gypsy, and had never before heard of Roma. People are just too sensitive when it comes to association. And as you said, theoretical offense is entirely pointless.
    Let the eggshell-walking pansies (is that word offensive to anyone? I hope so) have their cries of bigot and scoundrel. And let us have the word gyp and rest in peace knowing that we aren’t offended by imaginary etymological connections. Maybe it will be the name of a new Ashton Kutcher TV show: You got gypped!

  126. j. del col says:

    Well I’ll be a Dutch uncle! The whole dispute is enough to make me take French leave. It could even drive someone to Russian roulette.

  127. John Emerson says:

    Geckomayhem’s post is a pretty good example of why I take the opposite position to his. It ends up not being about just one word.

  128. Okay that’s a good point, although in his case I don’t think it would matter too much which position he took.

  129. Terry Collmann says:

    I am perfectly willing to give up “niggardly,” despite the etymological absurdity of people’s taking offense at it, because it does cause real offense to real African-Americans.
    Then they really need to get over themselves. There is no reason at all to find offence where none can possibly be meant.
    Personally I find “Brit” offensive: it was not meant pleasantly by those who popularised it.

  130. j. del col says:

    When a Washington DC bureaucrat was fired a number of years ago for using ‘niggardly’ in a memo, one prominent black political figure was asked for his response to the incident. He said the people objecting to the word needed to consult a dictionary and apologize to the man who was fired.
    That works for me.

  131. j. del col says:

    Ignore my previous post on ‘niggardly.’ I was working from memory. In 1999, the DC bureaucrat, David Howard, used the word in a conversation with co-workers and provoked such a hostile response from them that he resigned.
    The politician’s response was along the lines I stated, if my increasingly porous memory is to be trusted at all.

  132. I find it slightly offensive when someone asks if I want to “go Dutch” on a date. But that might be because my mother (Dutch) is often teased by my father (English) for being cheap. If my mother were overly generous and irresponsible with her cashflow would I still see “go Dutch” as a slur against the Dutch being cheap?

  133. Ignore my previous post on ‘niggardly.’
    But … but … if we ignore that one we can make no sense of this one.

  134. Ah, but I had calculated that the insatiable curiosity of the Hat’s readers would immediately prompt them to read my previous post.

  135. John Emerson says:

    Hello, I’ve been looking for a good place to buy psychotropic prescription drugs on the internet, and I’ve been told that one is the best.

  136. Psychotropics, that’s something to do with Joseph Conrad.

  137. marie-lucie says:

    Ange: I learned the phrase “go Dutch” when I first came to the US (many years ago) and never associated it with being cheap, only with participating equally to the expenses – that way neither person feels obligated to the other one. It seemed to me that it must refer to a commendable Dutch custom, not that it was a derogatory comment about the Dutch.
    As a French person, the only stereotype I had encountered about the Dutch was their extreme cleanliness, people going so far as to wash the portion of the sidewalk in front of their houses.

  138. Marie-Lucie, that’s what the phrase has come to mean, certainly, but a “Dutch-treat” has the same connotations as an “Indian-giver”. If you’re invited out only to learn that you’re expected to pay it stops being a treat. As I said, if my experience wasn’t with a Dutch person that also happened to be frugal I’d probably feel the same as you. And I think that reflects on “what a gyp” etc. I’ve heard stories that the Rom believe all other races were put on the Earth to make life easier for them by providing easy marks. So perhaps it might even be complimentary…but if we cannot be sure we should err on the side of caution.

  139. John Emerson says:

    In Taiwan (1983) the Chinese were taken aback by the American/European habit of going Dutch and splitting expenses. As I now understand, social gatherings in Taiwan almost always were comprised of a host and his guests, often including a guest of honor, the guests were generally taken to be a meaningful group rather than just whoever it was who happened to show up, and most gatherings had some kind of occasion — a holiday, birthday, anniversary, arrival, departure, etc. (even though it might just be a pretext).

  140. I agree with Ange, my mother was born in the Netherlands [Dutch] and I also take offense at the use of the “go Dutch” term. There should be a better term such as “go Share” or something similar without the negative ‘racial’ connotations.

  141. John Emerson says:

    My grandfather was of Dutch descent and spoke Dutch, and I think that his kind of Dutchman would feel OK about being frugal and paying their own way (not being a mooch goes along with going Dutch).
    This Dutch joke is close to the jokes about Scotsmen, and some Scots at least admit to the stereotype, in part at least, and just say “take it or leave it”.

  142. narrowmargin says:

    Marie-Lucie is correct: “going Dutch” (in America, at least) means sharing the cost. Nothing negative there. It may once have referred to someone’s idea of the Dutch being cheap or stingy or not wanting to be in someone’s debt, but I’ve never heard it used with that connotation.
    Brian = since when is “going Dutch” a racial expression? You’re saying Dutch is a race of people?

  143. Language has never been away this long before.

  144. John Emerson says:

    He checked in to clean up the most recent post.
    However, I too resent his having a life outside his blog. That’s thoroughly irresponsible.

  145. I think that insulting terms about the Dutch in English, e.g., “Dutch courage”=drink, go back to the Anglo-Dutch war in the 17th century.
    I wonder about “going Dutch” because it seems like an American expression to me. Also it’s an American concept.
    If you go out for drinks after work in the US, for example, it’s normal for each person to pay separately. After all, your co-workers are your equals. There’s no good reason for you to buy them drinks or vice versa.
    In the UK, in that situation, traditionally, there would be a system of rounds-buying by each person. In a large group there would be too many people for everyone to buy a round at one sitting, so you would have to carry around a mental model for each person where you stood with them for next time.
    Not buying your round when it was your turn would make you look like a parasite, but buying too many rounds would make you look too flash.
    “Dutch” in American expressions usually means German, like “Pennsylvania Dutch”.
    In dating situations (US), “going Dutch” used to mean that it’s not really a date, the couple are just friends. But for the last 40 years or so, it can also mean that the woman prefers to be treated as an economic equal. I don’t think it has been considered an insulting term, at least for the last century.
    Is “going Dutch” used in the UK?

  146. Yes; as is the phrase Dutch treat, to mean the same thing.
    I find the idea of being offended by it to be absurd; certainly in Britain, which is very close to the Netherlands and where everyone knows the Dutch don’t have a reputation for meanness. To make a comparison with racial slurs is also absurd, in my opinion. There are no doubt some English words I don’t like, but I’d never thought to imply to others that they ought to be dropped from the language. But, come to think of it, I’m not thrilled by the expression “doggy doo”. It’s kind of insulting, and I want it gone by the end of the week.

  147. @Maidhc : I think we use Dutch because Nederlandish/Nederlander would be a very long name.
    @AJP : I cannot see how using a phrase originally meant to deride and ridicule an entire country-worth of people (as Maidhc says, it came about during the wars, same as “dutch courage”, “dutch wife” and “dutch uncle”) is any less insulting than a phrase originally meant to deride and ridicule an ethnic type “to gyp”. Since you feel it’s fine to use the term “dutch treat” you’ll have no problem with me starting a movement to refer to people who are bad in bed but have intensely strange fetishes as “English lovers”, right?

  148. Then there’s the French letter, or capote anglaise.
    I had a whole collection of these Dutch-phrases (also of Dutch phrases) when I went to the Netherlands 20+ years ago, to entertain my Dutch friends with. They had heard of most of them except for Dutch anchor, ‘useless object’. None were offended.

  149. I recently visited Mexico City, and spent a rotten night suffering what some call Montezuma’s Revenge (yes, it should be Moctezuma). I mentioned this to one of my English uncles, and he said, “a touch of gippy tummy, too bad.” I assume “gippy” is a colonial coinage derived from “Egyptian.” You could say that it’s a neutral word in this context, because it merely describes a reaction to the common bacteria of a country remote from one’s own. But I think “gippy” can also refer to Egyptians, and may be coloured by assumptions about the suspect cleanliness (and culture) of places where gippy tummy might be experienced, i.e. the haunts of dirty foreigners. But is all that xenophobia still alive in the term, which I had never heard before my uncle mentioned it?
    Another uncle of mine spent three decades in a wheelchair, and reacted with scorn when anyone described him as “disabled.” “I’m not disabled, I’m a cripple,” he said.

  150. Ange, you’re going out of your way (you’re not even from the Netherlands) to look for supposed insults and then try & cause offence — well, that’s your problem, poor you. “Dutch treat” and “going Dutch” are not meant offensively, whatever their origins. Racial slurs, in view of the events of the twentieth century, are something else.
    John, I’ve never heard “Dutch anchor” either; did you find any explanation for the large number of Dutch phrases or where they originated?

  151. AJP, I have absolutely no intention of taking offense. But I still think my example is parallel, based on the fact that it’s how the words are taken as opposed to how they’re meant. Which was the entire point, as we were discussing whether “to gyp” could be offensive.
    I also don’t plan to cause offense. I used the English thing because, as previously stated, just as my mother is from the Nederlands, my Father is English.

  152. michael farris says:

    Ange: “AJP, I have absolutely no intention of taking offense.”
    In that case you might find this funny. It’s from the National Lampoon (a humor magazine for adults). It’s a parody of race/religion hate newsletters and conspiracy theories with the Dutch taking the place of the usual suspects. Behold the glory that is: Americans United to Beat the Dutch (from 1973!)
    http://web.archive.org/web/20031211010156/www.nationallampoon.com/dutch/dindex.html
    samples:
    (book ad) NONE DARE CALL IT GOUDA.
    And neither will you, once you’ve read the shocking facts about what really lies beneath that innocent-looking outer layer of red wax.
    (opinion poll)
    Have you ever known anyone who went to the Hague and came back?

  153. John Emerson says:
  154. Well, that’s just your opinion, John.
    Ange, I don’t think they’re at all the same. Whatever happened in Indonesia before independence, I have never heard of Dutch stereotypical “meanness”; whereas there is prejudice against gypsies for being, allegedly, “sly” or “dishonest”. So, whereas using “to gyp” could reinforce a racial stereotype and prejudice, if one were to say “let’s go Dutch” nobody could take it as a reference to the niggardly or Scroogelike peoples of the Low Countries.
    Even if there were such a prejudice (which there isn’t), there’s still a difference between old national rivalries and racial prejudice. For example, how is “I hate England, it rains all the time” qualitatively different from “I hate Spanish football” or “I hate Norwegian goat cheese”? Whereas, because of history, “I hate Jews” or “I hate blacks” aren’t far from saying “I approve of the Holocaust” or “Bring back slavery”.

  155. David Marjanović says:

    yes, it should be Moctezuma

    Or even Motecuzoma II Xocoyotzin. I don’t know what to believe anymore.
    (…means: I don’t feel like doing the research.)

    Belgium does not exist.

    Link does not work.

  156. michael farris says:

    Try here:
    http://zapatopi.net/belgium/
    Also note this, I always thought there something fishy about AJP……
    http://www.poormojo.org/cgi-bin/gennie.pl?Rant+5
    “England” was invented in 1951 by Walt Disney himself, just a tiny element of the baroque, far-flung marketing strategy for Mary Poppins.”

  157. John Emerson says:

    London Bridge is in Arizona. The nursery rhyme is fake.
    As I hinted above, I think that Netherlands Dutch do have reputation for frugality even to excess, much like the Scots and perhaps for the same Calviunist reasons.
    I think that it’s quite valid to excuse the stereotyping of non-victim peoples while condemning the stereotyping of peoples who are often subject to lynching and the like. Netherlands-Americans in New York (first migration) , Michigan, and Iowa (19th century migration) are notably successful, smug, and conservative, and hardly victims.

  158. So: no England and there is no British Crown, he says. I wonder if he knows I’m also King of Mars.
    And if we’re going to keep this on topic, famous Dutch comedian Dick van Dyke appeared in Mary Poppins.

  159. marie-lucie says:

    In France it is the Auvergnats (people from the Auvergne, in the central mountains) who have a reputation for stinginess. In common with the Scots, they live in a region with a harsh climate and poor soils, so they have always had to be extremely careful not to waste the little they were able to harvest. On the other hand, the Normans (descendants of Viking men and Gaulish/Frankish women) live in a rich agricultural province, but they also have this reputation, and they are proud of it.

  160. michael farris says:

    “famous Dutch comedian Dick van Dyke appeared in Mary Poppins”
    IT ALL TIES TOGETHER!!!! Why can’t more people see?

  161. michael farris says:

    In Poland it’s partly Crakovians but above all Poznanians (Poznan, where I live) that have the reputation for being the cheapest bastards in the country.
    Most Poznanians are not at all bothered by this and if anything seem to revel in it. A rew years ago, a local newspaper with interviews of notable locals had a set interview and one of the questions was always ‘do you turn off the lights when you leave a room?’
    There’s also a famous joke with two variants:
    Poznanians are originally from Scotland but were kicked out for being too cheap.
    Scots were originally from Poznan but were exiled for throwing their money around like it grew on trees.

  162. Wikipedia: The population of Poznan declined (from 20,000 around 1600 to 6,000 around 1730), and Dutch settlers (Olędrzy) were brought in…
    The term Olędrzy … describes settlers in Poland from Friesland and the Netherlands, [and] in a later period (up to the middle of the 19th century), to describe settlers of different ethnicities …at times Scots

  163. michael farris says:

    Oh my God! I’m living in the middle of the conspiracy!!!!

  164. They’re everywhere!

  165. According to Rosalie Maggio in Talking About People, there are over 70 ethnic slurs against the Dutch that came out of “the bitter trade and marine rivalry that once existed between Great Britain and Holland.” I wonder if there are 70 ethnic slurs against the British in Dutch?
    BTW, highly recommend the book. It made me a believer. And it offers excellent alternatives that don’t sound stupid (no “firepeople”).

  166. OED2 says that Dutch treat predates go Dutch, and they have the same semantics: each pays for themselves. But Dutch treat is clearly derogatory: the Dutch are so cheap that even when they treat you, you end up paying for yourself. Go Dutch lost the semantics of treat, and so lost the derogation too.

  167. It made me a believer.
    A believer in what, mab?

  168. A believer in the importance of ridding my speech of anything that someone could find offensive, even if I meant no offense and even if I think the offense is sort of silly. She recognizes that at some point everyone thinks: “Oh come on! That’s going too far!” She doesn’t insist on anything, but simply says, “it’s up to you, but here’s how some people take this.” And she does provide elegant alternatives.
    For me the hardest phrase to purge from my speech was “Dutch treat,” which I didn’t really associate with alleged Dutch stinginess and which I liked, in part, because of Nora Ephron’s phrase: “the only real result of the women’s liberation movement was the Dutch treat.” But if someone from Holland were standing next to me when I said it, I’d feel lousy. I also didn’t know that “to gyp” was a derogatory reference to the Roma, so although I used the word “innocently,” I’m trying not to say it anymore. And I call people whatever they want to be called — both in terms of ethnic description and honorifics. If someone wants to be Miss or Mrs. or Ms. or Dr. or Mr. — I’ll use it. Oddly, although I have my preferences, I don’t really care what people call me. I only wince when called Mrs. in countries where that is standard polite address for a “woman of a certain age.” I keep thinking they’re talking about my mother.

  169. Thanks for the explanation. I’ll take a look at Talking About People. Mrs, Mr, Miss, etc. (Lord & Lady) are only used in Norwegian nowadays in translations (there was never an equivalent of Ms, as far as I know). In Norwegian, I’d be known to strangers as “Crown” rather than “Herr Crown” and my mail’s addressed to AJP or Arthur Crown. I think it’s a great system (as opposed to the British system: I just filled out a British passport application and next to the Surname and First Name boxes is a box where you write your Title).

  170. Sir Arthur, what does “bt” stand for? We in the hoi polloi are so uneducated…

  171. michael farris says:

    “We in the hoi polloi are so uneducated…”
    As witnessed by writing ‘the hoi polloi’…..

  172. I guess you missed my fascinating explanation somewhere recently of bt, bart. or baronet being a kind of hereditary knighthood. It’s somewhere near the bottom of the barrel of British aristocrats.
    “They” don’t hand out baronetcies any longer, so there isn’t any pressure to fix the anomaly that there isn’t a word for a female baronet — “baroness” is a lord — there’s only “Lady”, for the wife of a baronet.

  173. As hoi represents a definite article in Ancient Greek, some authorities consider that the construction the hoi polloi is redundant and should not be used in English.
    You’re supposed to write We in the poloi? It’s too much like “We in the police”.

  174. But hoi polloi is what you say in English.

  175. Yes, and “the hoi polloi” is perfectly normal English. It’s not good Greek, of course, the absence of “the” in Greek being one clue.
    And thanks for the book recommendation, mab; it sounds well worth reading. I’ve been coming to similar conclusions myself.

  176. John Emerson says:

    “Bint”?

  177. Huh?

  178. John Emerson says:

    A suggestion for the missing name for a baronet’s wife: 8:45.

  179. Blacklisting gyp is of course right, my only concern is that ethnic cleansing of the language can take us where we don’t want to go, or end up creating more problems than solutions.
    Gyp and implied ethnic type-casting is offensive, but isn’t there a huge culture of admiration of the Cheat? Sting? Figaro? Rogue? Dodger? The two sides of the travellers’ lifestyle are so deeply blended, it’s impossible to disconnect them. Carmen, a bohemienne, based on Merime who was inspired by Pushkin’s Tsygane, should she be banned as an offensive stereotype of les roms?
    In Russian the verb corresponding to gyp is (вы)цыганить (tsyganit’) with the same unpleasant connotations.
    I looked at gyp and thought: hey, it looks like hype to me: gyp – hyp – hype (as in the old-fashioned way of transcribing H- words in Russian – Hamlet-Gamlet, Hispanic-Gishpansky). Then I looked in my OED which gives this example: ‘that’s salesmanship, you have to gyp people into buying stuff they don’t like’.
    Isn’t it the same as hype?
    Could marxists in this cafe help me? I remember reading Frederik Engels’ essay on gypsies and gypsy magic. I thought it was in his Dialectics of Nature, but couldn’t find it there. Does anyone remember it?

  180. I have the same aversion to calling someone a Japanese or a Chinese that people have to calling someone a Jew.

    I always feel like I should add person. “Chinese person”.

    “He’s a Chinese” just sounds wrong.

    It’s proper usage, though.

    Also, I have a book called WHY WE SAY IT that has separate entries for gyp and Gypsy.

    The verb “gyp” supposedly comes from the Greek for vulture, not from Gypsy.

    So although I would probably avoid using it, I also wouldn’t complain when other people use it, since it might have nothing to do with any particular ethnic group.

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