• Gypsy •Pronunciation: jip-see • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. (Capitalized) A Romani person or the Indo-European (Indic) language that they speak. 2. (Uncapitalized) Someone who works on his or her own outside normal channels.
Notes: Today's rather Good Word is, alas, tainted with centuries of racial bias. Because the people are Romani, Gypsy is a slur, rather like the "N-word", though not as taboo. When shortened and used as a verb, to gyp, the bias toward the Romani emerges even more clearly. Like the Jews, the Romani comprise a diaspora, a nation driven from its homeland in India, and forced to roam elsewhere, living wherever they are allowed at a given time.
In Play: Because of their vagabond lifestyle and colorful dress, we often think of the Gypsy life as a romantic one: "When women visit his house, Luke Worme likes to play Gypsy love songs in an attempt to convince them that he is a wild and crazy guy in a romantic sort of way." In the US, this word is often used uncapitalized in reference to someone who works outside normal channels: "Wiley Driver roams the streets of New Monia, Pennsylvania, in his gypsy cab rather than share his fares and tips with some cab company."
Word History: Today's Good Word is one of those words that become more intriguing the deeper you go into their history. When the Romani first began appearing in Europe, they were mistakenly thought to have come from Egypt. After the common aphetic loss of the initial vowel, the word became something like Gyptians, then Gypsies. The English word Egypt was borrowed from Latin Aegyptus via French. Latin borrowed the word from Greek Aigyptos "the Nile, Egypt". The Greeks picked up the word from ancient Egyptian (an Afroasiatic language related to Arabic and Hebrew), from the word ha-ka-ptah "temple of the soul of Ptah". Though Ptah was the god associated with the ancient city of Memphis, it was taken by the Greeks as the name of the river that nourished that city and then as the name of the country as a whole. (Let's not wander off like Gypsies and forget to thank Susan Maynard for suggesting such a historically revealing Good Word.)