Holocaust Survivors and Remembrance Project: "Forget You Not"™
Editor's Questions on the Origin of Terms Employed in the Romani Holocaust Studies
with Answers by Texas University Professor, Dr. Ian Hancock
February 7, 2006

Q: Why the Holocaust of the Romanies is being referred as the Porrajmos? If the word 'Porrajmos' is the literal translation from the Romani language, how then this particular word came into existence?

A: This comes from the verb "to devour", and is the noun form meaning "the devouring" (of life).

Q: In many articles, I have noticed that the Romanies --as a people-- are separated into 2 apparently distinct groups, Roma AND Sinti instead of Roma OR Sinti. Why is this?

A: This is complicated. "Sinti" is the name that the Romanies in northern Europe (especially Germany and the Netherlands) call themselves. They will tell you that they are Romani people, but not "Roma." For them, and for many groups, "Rom" means "married man" and isn't the name of the whole group. The Roma from Romania, however, do use the word for the whole group. After 1989 when a lot of Roma from souther Europe began to go to Germany, the Sinti didn't like being confused with them, and insisted that they be named separately. Something like a Litvak not wanting to be called a Galitsyaner, although both are Jewish. My own practice is to use the adjective as the noun (Romani/es), which no Romani group objects to, and which all groups use.

Q: In places like Romania (my country of birth), Romanies are being called as Rromi (with 2 'R's). Why not everywhere, the European Gypsies are being called Romanies?

A: The two Rs distinguish a sound in our language from another sound spelt with just one R. It is a "throat" R as in French or German, while a single R represents the more common R sound as in Romanian or Italian. Thus RAI is "gentleman" but RRAI is "twig". Secondly, some Romanians are not happy about the fact that ROMANI and ROMANIAN sound very similar, and so support a different spelling. Not so long ago, the government wanted to use TSIGAN as the official ethnic label, but this is (as you know) offensive.

Q: In a number of mainstream reputable dictionaries, I have noticed that the word 'Romani" is being spelled with an 'y' in the end as 'Romany." Is this an acceptable derivative and why?

A: It is an older British spelling. The spelling recognized and used by the UN and by the EU, as well as in our own documents, is with the -i.

Q: A basic article on the etymology of various Romani words as related to the Holocaust would be an extremely interesting addition, wouldn't ?

A: It would be handy -- though there aren't that many words. We're still trying to figure out the most suitable word for "survivor". 'Final Solution' is 'Agorutno Iripe.'