Those Not So Funny Names

“Where do I live when I’m at home?” The gypsy laughed to me. “My heartstone’s set in good red loam, and the sky was raised for my own roof-tree. As he hoists his shell on a shiny track, I carry the sky, like a snail, on my back, till it dabbles its eaves in the sea.

Beatrice Ravenel October 1920 poetry: A magazine of verse

Gypies or as they are the Romani people have their origins in the Indian subcontinent and began migrating westwards in the 11th century. The first Romani people arrived in Great Britain at the 16th century to escape conflicts. In 1506 it was recorded Romani people in Scotland, arriving from Spain and they made their way into England by 1512. Soon law makers began to pass laws to stop Romani immigration and assimilation of those already here. In 1530 during the reign of Henry VIII, The Egyptians Act banned Romanies from entering country and required those already living here to leave within sixteen days. Failure to do so could result in confiscation of property, imprisonment and deportation. In 1554 the Act was amended which allow the Romanies to escape prosecution if they gave up their nomadic lifestyle.

The word Gypies is an exonym a name given to an outsiders and is based on the belief that Romanis came from Egypt hence the Egyptians Act. The name calling is deeply offensive and is associated with discrimination. In England the name Gypies is given to people who are seen as dishonest or thieving.

Why am I telling you this? As a small child I was called a gypsy, both in my junior and senior schools. It was a name calling that followed me. “You’re nothing but a dirty gypsy.”

My mother had olive skin, jet-black hair and piercing-blue eyes and I always wondered if she had Gypies blood. I grew up at a flour mill and have never travelled in a caravan so I never understood where the name calling came from. Children tend to get their name calling from what they hear others saying. Now in my 60’s I never expected to be called a Gypsy again, and especially not while standing in my garden by a house I worked hard to buy.

Yesterday while working in my garden, my neighbour and good friend came over to bring me some onion sets they had left over from their planting. We were chatting. It was all lighthearted banter, as I remined them of when we first got to know each other. They had given me onion set then thirty odd years ago as they leaned over the fence and chatted to me as I was tidying up my garden.

I like to think my garden is tidy, but we all have a corner where we hid odds and ends away. My vegetable garden still had its winter look, which is why I was busy working in it. Cutting back ivy, digging over beds and planting my potatoes. My neighbour looked around and said, “My goodness you’re such a Gypsy… Come on, Paula tidy this mess up.”

An arrow went straight through my heart. My inner child felt the pain at hearing such a old familiar word that followed me around childhood playgrounds and journeys home. It was a name of shame. Not being quite good enough. After finding my voice again, I said, “Well, I wasn’t expecting to be called a Gypsy again at my time of life. I have been rather busy and I am the only one to look after the garden.”

I know my neighbour was unaware of my childhood pain and I guess my point in writing this post is to show the word Gypsy still carries the offensive and discrimination it has always had since the Romani people first arrived in Britain.

I of course said nothing of my hurt. My friendship means the world to me. We all forget how painful words can be at times, and I hope my post reminds you all to stop and think before you call someone a name other than their own. Every adult carries their inner child who never forgets the past hurts.

Have a peaceful, beautiful day.

I shall be busy in my garden today.

This photo was taken last year.

5 thoughts on “Those Not So Funny Names

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    1. Yes, it was taken last year. It needs a bit of a tidy up this year. That photo was taken May/ June time so the garden doesn’t look so good at the moment. If you go through the gate in the corner, next to the garage door, you go into the vegetable garden. My garden is divided up into four parts. It’s not a large garden. My house is a semi-detached. So I have a front, side and back, but because the house is on a corner plot, it’s larger than most.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Calling us by our correct name is important, Paula. Like you, I had a nickname at school. But even worse, nobody even called me by my correct given name, it was shortened by the teacher ‘because it was easier’. I hated it! Enjoy your garden, it looks lovely. I’m afraid that I leave all the gardening to my husband!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Paula. You are a friend of mine and my hackles went through the roof when I heard the insensitive comment your neighbor made to you. I know you can’t say anything, because she is your neighbor, after all and has been for all those years, but still, the prejudicial thought is there. And not just toward you either. This person thinks that way toward all people with messy gardens! (Count me among them LOL!) Certainly that is the tip of the iceberg, because, frankly it’s not a garden thing at all is it? It’s treating people with common decency and respect no matter what their origins or where they are from. It’s too bad in this day and age that people (ie. your neighbor) haven’t learned to be more open minded. But they haven’t and, unfortunately, it seems to be getting worse. I’m sorry that happened, Paula. You’re garden is beautiful, by the way, just like the beautiful person you are! Thank you for sharing the photo. Thank you for letting me vent! Take care and I hope you have a great day 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you have misunderstood. It more the comment about me being a gypsy I found upsetting. A garden is always untidy at the beginning of the year. I have an old freezer in the garden my husband and I were planning to get rid of. It was originally behind the shed laying on it side. It had been there for quite a few years without its door. I used it to store old flowerpots. I pulled it out and stood it upright ready to the scrap-man to take away. Then to my delight Brutus turned it into his house. I closed of half the opening halfway down and halfway across to give him shelter from the bitter winds and cold nights. He has a mat in there now. Today he lay in there watching me as I worked. How can I get rid of that now. It isn’t in anyone way. Okay, so it a bit rust. But I would rather Brutus wasn’t laying on the damp ground. He won’t come indoors unless it is very cold so now I know he’s off the ground and is out of the wind and rain I’m happy. When I go through the gate he pops his head out and is happy to have his meals in his little house. ☺️

      Liked by 1 person

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