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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

That she was sure I was a tramper


to yellow, with fair complexions.

In not one of their countenances could be seen those features by which many pretend the Gipsies can, at all times, be distinguished from the rest of the community. The manner, however, in which the woman, at first, addressed me, created in my mind a suspicion that she was one of the tribe. In order to ascertain the fact, I put a question to her in Gipsy, in such a manner that it might appear to her that I was quite certain she was one of the fraternity. She immediately smiled at my question, held down her head, cast her eyes to the ground, then appeared as if she had been detected in something wrong, and pretended not to understand what I said. One of the children, however, being thrown entirely off his guard, immediately said to her, "You know quite well what he says." The woman, recovering from her surprise and confusion, and being assured she had nothing to fear from me, now answered my question. She also replied to every other interrogation I put to her, without showing the least fear or hesitation. After I had repeated a few words more, and a sentence in the Gipsy tongue, one of the boys exclaimed, "He has good cant!" and then addressed me entirely in the Gipsy language. (All the Gipsies, as I have already mentioned, call their language _cant_, for the purpose of concealing their tribe.) The whole party seemed extremely happy that I was acquainted with their speech. The woman put several questions to me, in return, some of which were wholly in her own peculiar tongue. She
asked my name, place of residence, and whether I was a _nawken_--that is a Gipsy. She further enquired whether my friend was also a _nawken_; adding, with a smile, that she was sure I was a _tramper_. The children sometimes conversed among themselves wholly in their own language; and, when I could not understand the woman, as she requested, in her own speech, to know my name, &c., one of them instantly interpreted the sentence into English for me. One of the oldest boys, however, thinking I was only pretending to be ignorant of their speech, observed, in English, to his companions, "I am sure he is a tramper, and can speak as good cant as any of us." To keep up the character, my friend told them that I had been a tramper in my youth, but that I had now nearly lost the language. On hearing this, the woman, with great earnestness, exclaimed, "God bless the gentleman!" In order to confirm their belief that I was one of their tribe, I bade the woman good-day in her own tongue, and parted with them. She informed me, on leaving, that she resided at Banff, but that her husband was then at Perth.

During the short interview which I had with these Gipsies, I collected the following words:

_Gaugie_, man. _Riah_, gentleman. _Raunie_, lady. _Vast_, hand. _Sonnakie_, gold. _Sonnakie vanister_, gold ring. _Roug_, silver. _Lowie_, money. _Grye_, horse. _Aizel_, ass. _Jucal_, dog. _Matchka_, cat. _Baurie_, great. _Vile_, village. _Baurie vile_, large village. _Nawken_, Gipsy. _Davies_, day. _Beenship davies_, _Nawken_, good-day, Gipsy. _Pen yer naam?_ what is your name? _Shucha_, coat. _Calshes_, breeches. _Gogle_, hat. _Coories_, blankets. _Roys_, spoons. _Skews_, platters. _Habben kairer_, baker of bread.

The method I adopted with them, as I have already hinted, was to ask them the English of the words I gave them in Gipsy, so that the answers I got were confirmations of the same words collected from other individuals, and which I drew from memory for the occasion. Had I attempted to write down any of their sentences, it would have instantly shut the door to all further conversation on the subject, and, in all probability, the Gipsies would have taken to their heels, muttering imprecations against me for having insulted them. Of this I was satisfied, that had I really been acquainted with their speech, these Gipsy children could have kept up a regular and connected conversation with me, with the greatest fluency, and without their sentences being intermixed with any English or Scotch words whatever, a fact which has been repeatedly stated to me by the Gipsies.


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