Interesting program on Romani

Posted by Andy Gavin on Tue, 2008-07-29 19:23

BBC Radio 4 recently had a programme Word of Mouth on the words we use (BBC Radio 4 FM, 11:00pm Monday 28th July). It's interesting to find out that a lot of words in English have their roots in the Romani language. The programme found that Romani was a dying language in the UK until recent immigration from Europe which has brought about a revival.

One thing I found interesting were the origin of some words that are in common use that are of Romani. I've looked around the web and here are some of the words that are originally Romani:

  • chav: This is from the Romani word Chavo which means boy.
  • lolly: The slang for money.
  • cosh: From the Romani word for a stick.
  • cushti : Slang for in good order. From a Romany word for happiness Kushtipen
  • lollipop: From the Romani for red apple (loli phabai), but probably was originally cosh lollipop: an apple on a stick.
  • rum: seems to have Romani origins although the base word seems to be disputed some places on the web suggest that it comes from rom the word for male. Although at least one source suggests that there is a similar sounding word for odd. Which would fit some of the records for rum meaning odd,strange.
  • pal: Meaning friend in English comes from the Romani word for Brother phral.
  • Wonga slang for cash. This comes from the Romani word for coal.

See Words borrowed into different dialects
Wikipedia has a page on Angloromani the Anglicized Romani. It seems a lot of slang words have their origins in the Angloromani language, which has some of it's roots in India.

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