Dear Dictionary, Time for a Change

Dear Dictionary, Time for a Change

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Revka Lee started this petition to Oxford University Press Oxford English Dictionary and

We of the Gypsy Nation take issue with your definition for the name of our people, 'Gypsy', and the racial slur associated with it, 'Gyp'.

The word 'Gypsy', itself, when used appropriately, is not inherently racist. It is for those of us who can trace our ancestors to one of the families who were from Northern India, and became the Romiti for the Sultanate of Roum during the warring at the time, between the Indians and Turks. If you cannot trace your ancestors to one of those families, you are not Gypsy. Simple as that. Irish Travellers are not Gypsy. They are Irish Travellers. They are a different race from us. It is through ignorance that the English continue to tie Travellers to us. They are their own separate entity.

But even that is not so much what we take issue with, as far as the word 'Gypsy'. It is the origin of the idea that it is a lifestyle. It was borne from hatred. It comes from depictions of our people as vagabonds. But those depictions don't stop at just traveling. They also include that we were homeless, beggars, liars, cons, thieves, whores, and child kidnappers. Free spirit and wanderer sounds nicer, so the definition evolved. But do not mistake, it was still borne from hate and a description of a racial minority. So it is not ok for a hippie to take the term for themselves and tell us to buzz off when we attempt to enlighten them about it's ugly history that is hurtful to a people who still very much exist today. Yet there it is. Every time we do, a screenshot of your definitions are thrown at us, telling us 'well it's in the dictionary, so....'

In this day and age, why do you retain a definition created from racism? Why do you have yet to remove this alternative inaccurate definition? It doesn't matter what people think it's come to mean. Let me explain this so it is more clear- take the N word, for example. Say people decided, based on a book (and as I understand it, the change to the word Gypsy was due to a book from the 1600's), that it means a happy go lucky people, a laid back person, somewhat similar to what some old blackface characters portrayed. Now over time, people forget it's actual meaning, and other races start calling themselves that, cause they fancy this inaccurate definition. If a black individual then tries to enlighten a non-black person about the ugly history behind it, should they really have one of your dictionary entries thrown back in their face describing a laid back person, and be told "well it's in the dictionary, so...."? Or should the non-black person step back and re-evaluate how they use the word and change their long held, incorrect beliefs?

It is well past time you remove this definition that 'Gypsy' is a lifestyle or free spirit. We are a people. We are a recognized stateless nation by the United Nations. We have never been a lifestyle, the word was not coined to describe a lifestyle, and a random old book deciding it so, doesn't make it so. What's more, your definition for the word 'Gyp' being described as a word that was never used out of bias, even though the entire reason it exists came from the idea that Gypsies are inherently thieves and cons, is also grossly inaccurate. It was a racial slur from it's inception. All of you know better than to have 'Jewed' in your dictionaries, or, make it crystal clear it is a slur. Why do you not have the same good sense with 'Gyp'?

We are trying to gain some ground to stand on to change the ignorance that, to this day, gets our people harmed, discriminated against, and even killed. Things like this make it all the harder for us to get through to people. We are not wanderers, we are not free spirits, we are not nomads, we are not a dancer in a chorus of a musical show, nor are people who 'act' like a Gypsy one of us, nor are unlicensed workers Gypsy (such as Collins dictionary including things like a "gypsy plumber" and a "gypsy cab"). We are a real people, and deserve more respect than to be relegated to a homeless lifestyle because of a random old book. We the undersigned are asking you to remove this alternative definition. No dictionary should include a false definition created from ignorance.

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