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International Day of the Romani people. International Day of the Romani people.
by Thanos Kalamidas
2011-04-08 09:45:20
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The International Day of the Roma (April 8) is a day to celebrate Romani culture and raise awareness of the issues facing Romani people. The day was officially declared in 1990 in Serock, Poland, the site of the fourth World Romani Congress of the International Romani Union (IRU), in honour of the first major international meeting of Romani representatives, 7-12 of April, 1971 in Chelsfieldnear London.

The Romani (also Romany, Romanies, Romanis, Roma or Roms; exonym: Gypsy; Romani: Romane or Rromane, depending on the dialect) are an ethnic group living mostly in Europe, who trace their origins to the Indian Subcontinent. The Romani are widely dispersed, with their largest concentrated populations in Europe, especially the Roma of Central and Eastern Europe and Anatolia, followed by the Iberian Kale in Southwestern Europe and Southern France. Deported to Brazil by Portugal during the colonial era and via more recent migrations, some people have gone to the Americas and, to a lesser extent, other parts of the world. The Romani language is divided into several dialects, which add up to an estimated number of speakers larger than two million. The total number of Romani people is at least twice as large (several times as large according to high estimates). Many Romani are native speakers of the language current in their country of residence, or of mixed languages combining the two.

In the Romani language, rom is a masculine noun, meaning "man, husband", with the plural roma. Romani is the feminine adjective, while romano is the masculine adjective. Some Romanies use Rom or Roma as an ethnic name, while others (such as the Sinti, or the Romanichal) do not use this term as a self-ascription for the entire ethnic group.

In the English language (according to the Oxford English Dictionary), Rom is a noun (with the plural Roma or Roms) and an adjective, while Romani (Romany) is also a noun (with the plural Romanies or Romanis) and an adjective. Both Rom and Romani have been in use in English since the 19th century as an alternative for Gypsy. Romani was initially spelled Rommany, then Romany, while today the Romani spelling is the most popular spelling. Occasionally, the double r spelling (e.g., Rroma, Rromani) mentioned above is also encountered in English texts.

Although Roma is used as a designation for the branch of the Romani people with historic concentrations in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, it is increasingly encountered during recent decades as a generic term for the Romani people as a whole. Because all Romanies use the word Romani as an adjective, the term began to be used as a noun for the entire ethnic group. Today, the term Romani is used by most organizations—including the United Nations, the Council of Europe, and the US Library of Congress. The standard assumption is that the demonyms of the Romani people, Lom and Dom share the same origin.

The English term Gypsy (or Gipsy) originates from the Greek word for "Egyptian", Αιγύπτιοι (Aigyptioi, whence modern Greek γύφτοι gifti), in the belief that the Romanies, or some other Gypsy groups (such as the Balkan Egyptians), originated in Egypt, and in one narrative were exiled as punishment for allegedly harbouring the infant Jesus. This exonym is sometimes written with capital letter, to show that it designates an ethnic group. The term 'gypsy' appears when international research programmes, documents and policies on the community are referred to. However, as a term 'gypsy' is considered derogatory by many members of the Roma community because of negative and stereotypical associations with the term.

As described in Victor Hugo's novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the mediaeval French referred to the Romanies as egyptiens. The term has come to bear pejorative connotations. The word Gypsy in English has become so pervasive that many Romani organizations use it in their own organizational names. In North America, the word gypsy is commonly used as a reference to lifestyle or fashion, and not to the Romani ethnicity. The Spanish term gitano and the French term gitan may have the same origin as a reference to Egypt.

 

 


     
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