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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

The dialect of the English Gipsies


I

observed to this woman that her language would, in course of time, be lost. She replied, with great seriousness, "It will never be forgotten, sir; it is in our hearts, and as long as a single Tinkler exists, it will be remembered." I further enquired of her, how many of her tribe were in Scotland. Her answer was, "There are several thousand; and there are many respectable shop-keepers and house-holders in Scotland that are Gipsies." I requested of this woman the Gipsy word for God.[196] She said they had no corresponding word for God in their speech; adding, that she thought "it as well, as it prevented them having their Maker's name often unnecessarily and sinfully in their mouths." She acknowledged the justice, and highly approved of the punishment of death for murder; but she condemned, most bitterly, the law that took away the lives of human beings for stealing. She dwelt on the advantages which her secret speech gave her tribe in transacting business in markets. She said that she was descended from the first Gipsy family in Scotland. I was satisfied that she was sprung from the second, if not the first, family. I could make out, with tolerable certainty, the links of her descent for four generations of Gipsies. I have already described the splendid style in which her ancestors travelled in Tweed-dale. Her mother, above eighty years of age, also called at my house. Both were fortune-tellers. It was evident, from this woman's manner, that she knew much she would not communicate.
Like the Gipsy chief, in presence of Dr. Bright, at Csurgo, in Hungary, she, in a short time, became impatient; and, apparently, when a certain hour arrived, she insisted upon being allowed to depart. She would not submit to be questioned any longer.

[196] Ponqueville, in his travels, says that the Gipsies in the Levant have no words in their language to express either God or the soul. Of ten words of the Greek Gipsy, given by him, five of them are in use in Scotland.--_Paris_, 1820.

[The Gipsy for God, according to Grellmann, is _Dewe_, _Dewel_, _Dewol_, _Dewla_.]--ED.

Owing to the nature of my enquiries, and more particularly the fears of the tribe, I could seldom venture to question the Gipsies regarding their speech, or their ancient customs, with any hope of receiving satisfactory answers, when a third party was present. The following, however, is an instance to the contrary; and the facts witnessed by the gentleman who was with me at the time, are, besides the testimony of the Gipsies themselves, convincing proofs that these people, at the present day, in Scotland, can converse among themselves, on any ordinary subject, in their own language, without making use of a single word of the English tongue.[197]

[197] Had a German listened a whole day to a Gipsy conversation, he would not have understood a single expression.--_Grellmann._

The dialect of the English Gipsies, though mixed with English, is tolerably pure, from the fact of its being intelligible to the race in the centre of Russia.--_Borrow._--ED.

In May, 1829, while near the manse of Inverkeithing, my friend and I accidentally fell in, on the high road, with four children, the youngest of whom appeared to be about four, and the eldest about thirteen, years of age. They were accompanied by a woman, about twenty years old, who had the appearance of being married, but not the mother of any of the children with her. Not one of the whole party could have been taken for a Gipsy, but all had the exact appearance of being the family of some indigent tradesman or labourer. Excepting the woman, whose hair was dark, all of the company had hair of a light colour, some of them inclining


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