But Gypsyism is declining, and its days are numbered. There is a force abroad which is doomed to destroy it, a force which never sleepeth either by day or night, and which will not allow the Roman people rest for the soles of their feet. That force is the Rural Police, which, had it been established at the commencement instead of towards the middle of the present century, would have put down Gypsyism long ago. But, recent as its establishment has been, observe what it has produced. Walk from London to Carlisle, but neither by the road's side, nor on heath or common, will you see a single Gypsy tent. True Gypsyism consists in wandering about, in preying upon the Gentiles, but not living amongst them. But such a life is impossible in these days; the Rural Force will not permit it. "It is a hard thing, brother," said old Agamemnon Caumlo to the writer, several years ago; "it is a hard thing, after one has pitched one's little tent, lighted one's little fire, and hung one's kettle by the kettle-iron over it to boil, to have an inspector or constable come up, and say, 'What are you doing here? Take yourself off, you Gypsy dog!'" A hard thing, indeed, old Agamemnon; but there is no help for it. You must e'en live amongst the Gorgios. And for years past the Gypsies have lived amongst the Gorgios, and what has been the result? They do not seem to have improved the Gentiles, and have certainly not been improved by them. By living amongst the Gentiles they have, to a certain extent, lost the only two virtues they possessed. Whilst they lived apart on heaths and commons, and in shadowy lanes, the Gypsy women were paragons of chastity, and the men, if not exactly patterns of sobriety, were, upon the whole, very sober fellows. Such terms, however, are by no means applicable to them at the present day. Sects and castes, even of thieves and murderers, can exist as long as they have certain virtues, which give them a kind of respect in their own eyes; but, losing those virtues, they soon become extinct. When the salt loses its savour, what becomes of it? The Gypsy salt has not altogether lost its savour, but that essential quality is every day becoming fainter, so that there is every reason to suppose that within a few years the English Gypsy caste will have disappeared, merged in the dregs of the English population.
There are many curious things connected with the Gypsies, but perhaps nothing more so than what pertains to their names. They have a double nomenclature, each tribe or family having a public and a private name, one by which they are known to the Gentiles, and another to themselves alone. Their public names are quite English; their private ones attempts, some of them highly singular and uncouth, to render those names by Gypsy equivalents. Gypsy names may be divided into two classes, names connected with trades, and surnames or family names. First of all, something about trade names.
There are only two names of trades which have been adopted by English Gypsies as proper names, Cooper and Smith: these names are expressed in the English Gypsy dialect by Vardo-mescro and Petulengro. The first of these renderings is by no means a satisfactory one, as Vardo-mescro means a cartwright, or rather a carter. To speak the truth, it would be next to impossible to render the word 'cooper' into English Gypsy, or indeed into Gypsy of any kind; a cooper, according to the common acceptation of the word, is one who makes pails, tubs, and barrels, but there are no words in Gypsy for such vessels. The Transylvanian Gypsies call a cooper a bedra-kero or pail-maker, but bedra is not Gypsy, but Hungarian, and the English Gypsies might with equal propriety call a cooper a pail-engro. On the whole the English Gypsies did their best when they rendered 'cooper' into their language by the word for 'cartwright.'
Petulengro, the other trade name, is borne by the Gypsies who are known to the public by the English appellation of Smith. It is not very easy to say what is the exact meaning of Petulengro: it must signify, however, either horseshoe-fellow or tinker: petali or petala signifies in Gypsy a horseshoe, and is probably derived from the Modern Greek [Greek: ]; engro is an affix, and is either derived from or connected with the Sanscrit kara, to make, so that with great feasibility Petulengro may be translated horseshoe-maker. But bedel in Hebrew means 'tin,' and as there is little more difference between petul and bedel than between petul and petalon, Petulengro may be translated with almost equal feasibility by tinker or tin-worker, more especially as tinkering is a principal pursuit of Gypsies, and to jal petulengring signifies to go a-tinkering in English Gypsy. Taken, however, in either sense, whether as horseshoe-maker or tin- worker (and, as has been already observed, it must mean one or the other), Petulengro may be considered as a tolerably fair rendering of the English Smith.
So much for the names of the Gypsies which the writer has ventured to call the trade names; now for those of the other class. These are English surnames, and for the most part of a highly aristocratic character, and it seems at first surprising that people so poor and despised as Gypsies should be found bearing names so time-honoured and imposing. There is, however, a tolerable explanation of the matter in the supposition that on their first arrival in England the different tribes sought the protection of certain grand powerful families, and were permitted by them to locate themselves on their heaths and amid their woodlands, and that they eventually adopted the names of their patrons. Here follow the English names of some of the principal tribes, with the Romany translations or equivalents:-
BOSWELL.--The proper meaning of this word is the town of Bui. The initial Bo or Bui is an old Northern name, signifying a colonist or settler, one who tills and builds. It was the name of a great many celebrated Northern kempions, who won land and a home by hard blows. The last syllable, well, is the French ville: Boswell, Boston, and Busby all signify one and the same thing--the town of Bui--the well being French, the ton Saxon, and the by Danish; they are half- brothers of Bovil and Belville, both signifying fair town, and which ought to be written Beauville and Belville. The Gypsies, who know and care nothing about etymologies, confounding bos with buss, a vulgar English verb not to be found in dictionaries, which signifies to kiss, rendered the name Boswell by Chumomisto, that is, Kisswell, or one who kisses well--choom in their language signifying to kiss, and misto well--likewise by choomomescro, a kisser. Vulgar as the word buss may sound at present, it is by no means of vulgar origin, being connected with the Latin basio and the Persian bouse.
GREY.--This is the name of a family celebrated in English history. The Gypsies who adopted it, rendered it into their language by Gry, a word very much resembling it in sound, though not in sense, for gry, which is allied to the Sanscrit ghora, signifies a horse. They had no better choice, however, for in Romany there is no word for grey, any more than there is for green or blue. In several languages there is a difficulty in expressing the colour which in English is called grey. In Celtic, for instance, there is no definite word for it; glas, it is true, is used to express it, but glas is as frequently used to express green as it is to express grey.
HEARNE, HERNE.--This is the name of a family which bears the heron for its crest, the name being either derived from the crest, or the crest from the name. There are two Gypsy renderings of the word-- Rossar-mescro or Ratzie-mescro, and Balorengre. Rossar-mescro signifies duck-fellow, the duck being substituted for the heron, for which there is no word in Romany. The meaning of Balor-engre is hairy people; the translator or translators seeming to have confounded Hearne with 'haaren,' old English for hairs. The latter rendering has never been much in use.