Project Gutenberg has put online Charles G. Leland’s The English Gipsies and Their Language (2nd ed., 1874).

The book contains some remarks on that great curious centre and secret of all the nomadic and vagabond life in England, THE ROMMANY, with comments on the fact, that of the many novel or story-writers who have described the “Travellers” of the Roads, very few have penetrated the real nature of their life… There is also a chapter containing in Rommany and English a very characteristic letter from a full-blood Gipsy to a relative, which was dictated to me, and which gives a sketch of the leading incidents of Gipsy life—trading in horses, fortune-telling, and cock-shying. I have also given accounts of conversations with Gipsies, introducing in their language and in English their own remarks (noted down by me) on certain curious customs… There is a collection of a number of words now current in vulgar English which were probably derived from Gipsy, such as row, shindy, pal, trash, bosh, and niggling, and finally a number of Gudli or short stories.

(Via wood s lot.)


  1. Pekka Karjalainen says

    If I may point out a typo: it’s Gutenberg, not -burg.

  2. languagehat!!
    this is a strange case of “online minds”.
    Just posted about quinquis, travellers and jenisches!!!

  3. D’oh! Thanks, I’ll fix it.

  4. Um, that was directed to Pekka! Here‘s silmarillion’s most interesting post on related Spanish vocabulary.

  5. Although Gypsies live in Europe, their language is actually most closely related to Hindi and Pashto in distant India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. They are believed to be descendents of a tribe of Hindu worshipers who were expelled from their original homeland by Muslim invaders in the 8th century. They appeared in Byzantine Asia Minor by the 9th century where they were called the “Athinganoi” the source of the Romanian and Russian words for “Gypsy” t’igan and tsigan. The English word comes from “Egyptian” because Medieval Western Europeans thought that they originated in Egypt.
    The Gypsies have been widely persecuted in Europe with some of the worst persecution occuring in Germany during the 15th century and again during World War II. Still, they have managed to survive and some have even immigrated overseas to the United States and Mexico. Ethnographers have often overlooked the significant Gypsy presence in the populations some European countries like Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, Albania and Turkey. Most surprising is that some of them even range as far north as Finland which you would think would be too cold for them. Especially if you travel and live in wagons!

  6. Actually, Leland documented English Romani at a time when the language was already well on it’s creolised path to the form used today, called “pogadi jib” (broken language.) “Deep Romani” – fully conjugated, the dialect studied by John Sampson in the early 20th century – continued to be spoken in Wales into the 1970s. Compare “Tacho like my Dad” (Leland) with modern Lovari “chacho sar muro dad”.
    Because of the craze for “Gypsylogy” centered round Liverpool University (where Sampson was the librarian) and the birth of the Journal of the Gypsy Lorer Society, a lot was published about English Romani just as the language was dying out and morphing into modern Pogadi jib. Whenever I read some novel about Gypsies and see the ostensibly Hungarian or Romanian Gypsy characters using words like “gorgio” or “kushti” I immediately know the writer has spent a lot more time in the library than speaking with Roma.
    there are examples of Welsh Romani at
    Lots of ineresting stuff about Romani dialects spoken in Austria (Sinti, Hungarian, Turkish/Arlije, and Lovari) at
    The origins of the Roma are not well documented, but Rom scholar Ian Hancock at U. of Texas has some amazing attempts to piece it together based on linguistic evidence (warning, not everybody agrees with Dr. Hancock.)
    A ton of Ian Hancock’s fascinating articles at the Romani Archives:

  7. Oops! I missed the direct link to Hancock’s article on Angloromani. I should mention that Dr. Hancock is half British Rom, half Hungarian Rom himself.

  8. Hey, zaelic! I was hoping you’d drop by with some of your Romani lore.

  9. Well, last week I was in Finland, playing with my band at the Kaustinen Festival along with Muzsikas and Romano Drom. Then the Mahalla Rai Banda from Bucharest pulls into our bngalow colony, which is located along the Perho river – and saw I was decked out for trout fishing. So Romano Drom and Mahalla Rai all went with me to the Perho River at 1 am after our concerts (it doesn’t get dark up there) and with two Moldavian Gypsy flute players in tow, we had a big fishing party with lots of rum. I got some trout, but the Mahalla Rai boys caught a lot of perch and had a 7 am fish fry. Thing was, the Mahalla guys spoke a slightly different dialect of Romanes than Romano Drom, who arer Lovari (and howww….) SO I was translating between Romanian and Hungarian and kept interrupting with “Sa amenge dzanas Romames, soske te csi das vorbi ande Romanes?” (We all speak Gypsy, why don’t we just speak Gyspy?) But the two groups were too self conscious of their dialect differences andf used me to translate… (nota bene: “cirlig” is Romanian for a size 14 caddis fly nymph….)
    Monday I’m off on the annual Balkan turkoid-Romani-dervish tekke crawl through the south balkans. Bulgaria and then Istanbul for a few weeks. I pack all my gear into a small book bag and nothing more. This year’s goal: gettin’ down with the Muhajjir Turks resettled from Romania and Caucasian Adyges living in Turkish Thrace…. in a town with kick-butt Rom musicians… more soon from the road…

  10. Damn, I envy you. Enjoy!

  11. One of these days you ought to tag along, Hat. Pretty much every August… reserve the time now…

  12. There’s a broken link to Silmarillion’s post above. I hope this works:
    Silmarillion’s post
    Does in my preview at least!

  13. ktschwarz says

    The post quotes from Leland (1874):

    There is a collection of a number of words now current in vulgar English which were probably derived from Gipsy, such as row, shindy, pal, trash, bosh, and niggling …

    Leland is letting his enthusiasm run away with him there (hard to blame him): the only one of those that is accepted by other etymologists as coming from Angloromani is pal. And he’s more measured in tone in the chapter where he discusses individual words at length, for example:

    TRASH is derived by Mr Wedgwood (Dictionary of English Etymology, 1872) from the old word trousse, signifying the clipping of trees. But in old Gipsy or in the German Gipsy of the present day, as in the Turkish Rommany, it means so directly “fear, mental weakness and worthlessness,” that it may possibly have had a Rommany origin. Terror in Gipsy is trash, while thirst is trush, and both are to be found in the Hindustani. Tras, which means thirst and alarm or terror.

    Of course, Leland also cites other British slang words that are uncontroversially from Angloromani, such as dick or deek ‘see, look at’ (see comment by Piotr Gąsiorowski).

    And more Angloromani words entered British slang after Leland’s time: mush ‘man, fellow’ (previously at Language Hat) isn’t documented in English until the 20th century.

  14. Gąsiorowski also suggested that deek pops up, however improbably, in Boontling, the jargon of an isolated small town in Northern California.

  15. a tribe of Hindu worshipers

    Nowadays known as the BJP.

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