The term “Gypsies, ” as used in the title of this volume, corresponds to common English usage. It originates from past mistaken beliefs that the Romani people came from Egypt. The term was imposed on the Roma by outsiders to their culture who were unaware of the Roma'S Indian roots. Even the terms “Rom” (singular) and “Roma” (plural) lend themselves to misunderstandings because they seem to imply descent from Romania; in fact, these terms connote “man” or “husband” in the Romani language, which is related to Sanskrit. Further complications may arise from externally imposed terminology. The result may be to include persons who, because of their customs, are erroneously believed to be Roma. The German Sinti have insisted on their own separate identity as “Roma and Sinti. ”
These problems of language are sensitive because they reflect and reinforce conflicting modes by which the Romani people identify themselves and how they are identified by others. An ideal solution that is accepted by all the people concerned has not yet been found. Moreover, the problem is not unique to the Romani people. The term “Eskimo, ” for example, was imposed on the people concerned by their Native American neighbors. Its meaning of “people who eat raw meat” had disparaging connotations, yet the increasingly used term “Inuit” covers only a small segment of the population. Similarly, the French term “Allemands” for Germans covers only a small segment of the German population bordering France. The term “Nemtsy, ” used for Germans in Russian and in derivative forms in Slavic languages, had originally negative connotations of mute people who are incapable of communicating in any articulate way.
Related problems are created by the use of the term “host country” for the nation-state where Roma are present. This term, too, touches upon sensitivities that relate to Romani identity. The Sinti legitimately claim that they have been located in Central Europe for six hundred years and that they are entitled to be called Germans as much as anybody else in Germany. To call them mere guests in a host