Scientists are renaming the Gypsy Moth because the term “Gypsy” is problematic. That’s all well and good, but just how far can this move towards removing the word from modern language realistically go?
Listen, there is no question that the word “Gypsy” began as a pejorative. A takeoff on “Egyptian” due to the mistaken belief that the Romani people originated in Egypt, it had negative connotations. That’s undeniable. But with the passage of years, “gypsy” with a small G has evolved to mean more than just its original definition. From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: “(1) a member of a traditionally itinerant people who originated in northern India and now live chiefly in south and southwest Asia, Europe, and North America (2) the Indo-Aryan language of the Romani people (3) one who resembles a Gypsy, especially a person who wanders or roams from place to place. Or as a verb: “to travel or roam from place to place”. It’s the latter usage that has passed into the modern lexicon.
Cher’s “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves.” Cinderella’s “Gypsy Road”. Fleetwood Mac’s “Gypsy”. Cher’s song is a song *about* prejudice, but the Cinderella and Fleetwood Mac songs have nothing to do with the pejorative connotations. Then there’s Gypsy Rose Lee and the musical GYPSY, Stephen King’s THINNER, and countless other examples. Of course I mention this here on this site because the Gypsies are so much a part of Bram Stoker’s DRACULA, wherein they are referred to as such. It’s because of the characters in DRACULA and those appearing in the classic Universal Monster movies that I’ve always had a fascination and appreciation for the Romani people. But I’ve always known them as “Gypsies”. The word is prevalent. It is ubiquitous in the English language. It’s gonna be a pill, if not impossible, to now remove it. Should we even try? Maybe just stop using the word with the capital G? Can we divorce it from its ethnic origin and just keep the “nomadic” part?