X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week. If you receive it, you’ll also find your subscriber number at the top of our weekly highlights email.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.spectator.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050. If you’ve only just subscribed, you may not yet have been issued with a subscriber number. In this case you can use the temporary web ID number, included in your email order confirmation.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

If you have any difficulties creating an account or logging in please take a look at our FAQs page.

Rod Liddle

Rod Liddle: What do you call travellers when they are no longer travelling? 

With hordes of them expected to settle in the UK soon, we'd better sort out what to call them

26 October 2013

9:00 AM

26 October 2013

9:00 AM

How should we describe the people who allegedly abducted that little girl in Greece, after a neighbour claimed that they actually paid £850 for her to a passing Bulgarian? It is a minefield we are entering now, having asked this question. Clearly the terms which hitherto some of us may have employed, not always affectionately — pikey, gyppo, tinker — are likely to get you into trouble with the police these days. Probably more trouble than if you, for example, dug up the road to remove a few hundred yards of fibre optic cable, or declined year upon year to pay your taxes. So those three are out.

Gypsy, we are told, is also a pejorative term, although the Travellers’ Times — an online site which you probably help to pay for somewhere down the line — uses the word happily enough. However, the delicious chocolate- and coconut-flavoured biscuits Gypsy Creams have long since disappeared from the shelves of our supermarkets, lest they in some way give offence. Then, of course, there is ‘traveller’, which seems to be the politically correct gentilic here — certainly this is what Vanessa Redgrave uses on the occasions when this immensely caring and committed actress spends a few hours away from Hampstead campaigning upon their behalf, to the irritation of swaths of rural ratepayers.

The problem then, though, is what to call them when they no longer wish to travel anywhere: you would surely not care to lump together a group of people under what amounts to a living denial. Our hospitals and education services have got around this with the thrillingly oxymoronic description ‘static travellers’, which at best suggests that these people — like Carlos Castaneda after swigging a few cups of peyote tea — travel only in their minds. Both Roma and Romani are imprecise and in any case gender-specific, even if it is politically preferred at the moment (these derogations change by the week, by the hour). We are left with Lom and Dom, which locates the people in Trans-caucasia, and therefore excludes the Irish travellers, static or otherwise, who keep us in the UK glued to our television screens with their flamboyant parties, bare-knuckle fights, remarkably high levels of illiteracy and occasional forays into what some might call the rather de trop economic enterprise of slave ownership.


So Lom and Dom are not much good to us, and still less the preferred Romanian term, Tsingani, which the Loms and Doms reportedly heartily dislike. It still seems to me that ‘gyppo’ and ‘pikey’ are useful means of lumping them all together — but then one supposes that they would prefer not to be all lumped together, except when it is to make the case that they are similarly oppressed and persecuted by people like me.

I have spent some time on the question of nomenclature because, firstly, it seems to be open season on these people, whatever it is you want to call them. And secondly because from January, thousands upon thousands more of them will be arriving in the UK from Bulgaria and Romania, much to the absolute delight of the governments of Bulgaria and Romania. European Union work restrictions on these people expire on New Year’s Day and, despite unbiased and non-partisan BBC news reports that very few will actually come over here and those who do will be absolutely bloody lovely people, our own government is bracing itself for somewhere in the region of 50,000, not all of whom will be fully qualified neurosurgeons or Stakhanovite plasterers. The advance party of these hordes is still camped out somewhere near Park Lane in a sort of shanty-hamlet. Just wait, just wait. The French authorities recently evicted thousands from a campsite near Marseilles and the scene left behind brought to mind the sort of thing you might see in Rwanda or, at best, Manila. Whatever — it seems only right to me that as we prepare to welcome these valuable incomers (as the Romanian ambassador puts it, guffawing behind his hand) we should settle upon a name for them all, or we will be left only with confusion.

So, little Maria, aged four or five, nobody is very sure, but a ‘blonde’ and ‘blue-eyed’ (i.e. not Roma, or Romani, or static traveller) ‘angel’ was allegedly abducted by Hristov Salis and his fragrant partner Eleftheria Dimopoulou and used for begging. She was held by them at some ghastly campsite in northern Greece. During the raid on the site the Greek police discovered the usual haul of a gun, bullets, knives, stolen credit cards, cameras, laptop computers and of course drugs. The story is front-page news from Thessalonika to Dublin, partly, I suppose, because it is what people commonly think the travellers get up to; it invokes that Europe-wide nursery tale of the gypsies in the wood who will spirit you away. Well, occasionally it seems they will. The story has particular resonance in the UK because of the similarities between Maria and another abducted girl, Madeleine McCann — plus, of course, the arrests of several travellers on charges of slavery is still in our minds.

Not all travellers abduct little girls or enslave people, of course; but there is a profound antipathy towards them for other aspects of their behaviour all the way across Europe, especially in the centre of the continent and in the east. That is one reason why they will be flocking to the UK as soon as they are allowed — so we’d better sort out what it is we should call them.

An earlier version of this article said that the couple accused of abducting Maria had claimed they paid £850 for her. This claim was in fact made by a neighbour rather than the couple.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


Show comments
Close