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24 September 2014

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Romany Roots: Pookerin' Romany

A guide to language:

You may have noticed that words of Romany have been included in many of our broadcasts as well as in messages left on the boards. The language consists mainly of sanskrit words which are used in sentences using a standard English construction.

For instance Travellers might say 'Dick here chavvie' to mean 'look here boy'. The sanskrit is of a form of language used in Northern India in the ninth century and therefore gives us a clue when the Gypsy people first left that area and began to travel the world.

In addition to the Asian words are others that originate in 'Cant' which was the language of the road used by the 'sturdy beggars' of Elizabethan England.

'Mort' meaning woman and 'kenna' for a house are examples of Cant words. Also mixed into modern day Romany Pookering are occasional words and expressions drawn from Cockney rhyming slang and other local dialects.

Some Romany words have also moved in the opposite direction and are used locally by non Travellers, these include 'cushti' meaning 'good', chavvie when used by Gypsies means 'son' or 'child' but is now used by many non Gypsies to mean 'mates'. 'Wonga' comes from the Romany 'Vonga' meaning money.

Some older Romany Gypsies are concerned that because people no longer travel like they used to and the children now go to school that the old language is in danger of dying out.

Young Travellers tend to know less of it than their grandparents, although in Roma schools in continental Europe there is a standardised form of Romany now being taught.

There are no standard spellings for Romany words because it is an oral language which has always existed outside the academic environment.

There are different opinions amongst Gypsy Travellers as to whether the language should be put onto websites or made more widely known by other means.

It has always been a secret language used amongst Travellers to communicate amongst themselves without anyone else understanding.

It is also used by Gypsy Travellers to identify each other and to make sure that the person you are talking to really is who they say they are.

Some Romany words used by local Gypsy Travellers:

Ankas Pears
Atchin tan Stopping place
Bok Bok
Chokkas Boots
Cushti Good
Del Dark
Divvus Day
Gavver Policeman
Gorjer Non Gypsy




Jel Go
Jook Dog


Pookering Speaking
Pobble Apple
Poove Field
Wesh Wood
Vardo Wagon
Vastas Hands
Yok Eye
Yog Fire

If you want to find out more a dictionary of European Romani can be found at:

Manfri Wood comes from a large, well known Welsh Gypsy family but was born near Paddock Wood in Kent whilst his family were travelling. His English Romany word list can be found at:

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