The G Word
June 10, 2024 12:48 PM   Subscribe

The G-Word: The Fight for Roma Rights in America by Caren Gussoff Sumption A five minute live talk at Ignite Seattle in Town Hall Seattle from March 2022.

What is Ignite? "Each speaker gets 20 slides, which auto-rotate every 15 seconds, to share their experiences and passions."

Wikipedia entry on Romani history for further reading.
posted by bq (20 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Cher's back catalog keeps dwindling away...
posted by pracowity at 2:15 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]

I wonder about the distribution -- geographic? generational? something else? -- of people not knowing it's a slur. I stopped using it a lot of years ago, and so it feels like a thing "everyone knows" even though I know, obviously, they don't, and so it feels jarring every time I see it used to mean "free spirit" or "free spirited."

Now I'm remembering. There was a lot of press/pushback/education when the wedding reality show happened. Not sure if I knew before that, but that was certainly a gigantic confirmation.
posted by lapis at 3:55 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]

I don't dispute the FPP and have long thought of the g-word as a slur. But last year I was in the Balkan Mountains in Bulgaria documenting some traveling wedding musicians, and they very specifically use the g-word to refer to themselves and said they would never refer to themselves as Roma or Romani or variations. Didn't get a chance to prod much further....
posted by msbrauer at 4:46 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]

Yeah, there are groups that refer to themselves that way, but that definitely seems like a situation where people need to self-identify that way first before using it.
posted by lapis at 5:00 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]

The term is also still used when talking about the legacy of Django Reinhardt -- there are many, many instructional books and videos on "G**** Jazz," but I don't think I've ever heard anyone say "Roma/Romani Jazz." It's a very complicated issue, because from what I've read (I believe it was in Michael Dregni's biography of Django), for many years after his death, his music was largely unknown in the Roma community because of a tradition wherein a departed person's belongings are burned and their name no longer spoken aloud. When his family burned his caravan-home, apparently there were some rough recordings and/or scores for new music he was working on; my heart breaks to imagine what amazing work was lost forever. But in any case, it was supposedly many years later that outsiders reintroduced his music back to his own people. So, it's non-Roma using the g-word in a way intended, at least, to honor Roma legacy and culture.
posted by Saxon Kane at 5:22 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]

Wikipedia suggests G____ is seen as offensive by some members of the GRT community in the UK but accepted by a majority, many of whom reject the term Roma (the link cannot be posted). Several campaign organisations use G____ in their titles. It's pretty clear its a term of self identification for many.
posted by biffa at 5:25 PM on June 10 [5 favorites]

The first syllable of the G word is used around my neck of the woods to mean 'to rip off'. Most folk don't realise it comes from the G word, even spelling it gipped or jipped. I ask people not to use it and many have no idea of origin or relation to cultural slander.
posted by Thella at 6:45 PM on June 10 [9 favorites]

I follow Marc Willers KC @mwillersqc on twitter, a Barrister
@gardencourtlaw "Fighting to protect the environment and rights of G [Marc has the word]/Travellers/Roma in the UK and Ireland." He also has the G word on his courts employers website.

G is a very nuanced word, more about people who choose to describe themselves so, or choose not to using Roma instead.

When I grew up I knew one half of my people were either G or didicoy (often part G, and sometimes a slur by G, or by settled people) but my mum looked and culturally was very G, who peole would say behind her back 'be careful, she's fae', and they weren't kidding. When I was growing up (in 70's in the UK) people were wary of G, and they of us, but I didn't hear racist words against them, G wasn't a slur at least to us then, and was used in my family.
posted by unearthed at 7:17 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]

The word was in a couple songs in my act — viz. “My Old School” and “Into the Mystic.” I use "hippie" instead now.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:41 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]

When his family burned his caravan-home, apparently there were some rough recordings

source for this? wiki suggests only that he accidentally burned his own caravan down.
posted by knock my sock and i'll clean your clock at 8:13 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]

The word was in a couple songs in my act — viz. “My Old School” and “Into the Mystic.” I use "hippie" instead now.

The G-word is all over a lot of 1960s rock, where it was pretty much used as a synonym for "hippie wanderer." The most prominent member of Donovan's entourage (who also co-wrote a lot of his lyrics) was literally G___ Dave. "Hippie" is a good substitute, but what about the Who's "Going Mobile" which rhymes the G-word with "hippie"? The past is a foreign country.
posted by jonp72 at 8:48 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]

Choosing raggle taggle hippies, oh,
Over shoes of Spanish leather?

posted by clew at 10:21 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]

The slide she showed with the 2016 poster reminds me that here in Chicago, the word has been used a lot in contexts like, "people suspected of being [the G word]" on the local news to refer to an alleged crime ring, suggesting the identity was a crime in itself. Similarly, people have been known to go around posting xeroxed signs saying "Watch out for [G word]," warning locals about various scams. With this going on, I am definitely not comfortable using the word myself. I'm having a hard time thinking of a slur that's been more loaded with negative assumptions. And yet, I was recently sitting in a class where a student said laughingly, "We're not even allowed to say [G****] anymore," as if that was the most absurd kind of political correctness. I just can't get over this. Is there a single other group where a slur is used uncritically in this sort of fashion today?
posted by BibiRose at 9:18 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]

Yeah, i have several friends who are (Rroma/G*****s/Diddicoy) and my understanding is that, while some folks call themselves the G-word, most (but not all, especially in the UK!) will also consider themselves to be included in the ethnonym "Rroma". In general, it should be considered an in-group-only term unless you have been specifically asked to refer to someone or their family/group that way, or unless you are using official language agreed to by some body of people. (For example, GRT is the official UK term for the broad umbrella of minoritized people with a history of nomadism, and advocacy groups in the UK will use it.)

(Note: i had to use for that Wikipedia link, because apparently the slur filter dings on the word even when it's included in a URL. You can get to the live Wikipedia version from easily, however.)
posted by adrienneleigh at 10:11 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]

I can’t find the link now but I saw somewhere once a request for advice from someone whose coworker refused to use her name ‘because it was a slur’. Her mom was a big Stevie Nicks fan.
posted by bq at 10:31 AM on June 11

Another interesting incident - I subscribe to an indie comic book. In one issue a character used the word 'jipped'. Soon thereafter, a letter from a reader ran in the letters column with profuse and aghast apologies from the writer, who did not realize the origin of the term.
posted by bq at 12:01 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]

This thread is an excellent example of why word filters are stupid.
posted by kickingtheground at 12:25 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]

I also learned that G---- was considered a slur long before I realized that "j**ped" was derived from it.

Here in Texas, there are more than a few upscale boutiques and antique stores named things like "G**** Spirit," largely catering to older affluent white people (predominately women) -- there's very much an "Eat Pray Love" vibe to such places.
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:20 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]

Concur with others that in the UK, Roma is more likely to be considered incorrect/a slur by Romany people who have lived in the UK for generations.

Last weekend was the Appleby Fair and this Guardian photo essay by a Hungarian-born Roma photojournalist gives a great insight into its importance. (Note that, for the reasons explained above, the article itself uses the g-word.)
posted by plonkee at 4:24 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]

thank you for this post

i was reminded of it when i saw a recent essay in Third Text, "Cinematic Cartographies: Mapping the Queer Roma Spaces in Brothers of the Night" that reminded me of this post. searching for that essay online, i found another [Bristol University] also "LGBTIQ Roma and queer intersectionalities: the lived experiences of LGBTIQ Roma":
"I discuss: LGBTIQ Roma’s experiences of antigypsyism; the enactment (or lack thereof) of non-normative sexual and gender identities due to experiences of rejection; and the less familiar experiences of acceptance by families, communities and other kinship structures. I argue that the lived experiences of LGBTIQ Roma pose a fundamental challenge to one-dimensional, essentialising and homogenising conceptualisations of Romani identities ... informed and shaped by the workings of interlocking axes of structural inequality."
posted by HearHere at 8:25 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]

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