'Swindler' Gypsies slam Spain's new dictionary

Steve Tallantyre/The Local/AFP
Steve Tallantyre/The Local/AFP - [email protected]
'Swindler' Gypsies slam Spain's new dictionary

Roma rights groups are to protest against the decision by Spain's Royal Language Academy (RAE) to include a definition of a 'gypsy' as a 'swindler' in their new official dictionary.


Spain's Association of Roma Feminists for DIversity (AGFD) are planning a demonstration in Madrid on November 7th after learning of the new definition, included in the 23rd edition of the RAE's massive new dictionary of the Spanish language.

Check out The Local's top ten list of new words officially included in the Spanish language.

The previous edition was criticized by the Romani Union in 2012 for defining the word 'gitano' (gypsy), also the name for Spain's Roma community, as 'someone who scams or works through deceit'.

As a result of the complaints, the RAE agreed to amend the definition but Roma community groups were outraged when they read the updated version.

The offending definition had been removed but a new, 5th definition now described 'gitano' as meaning  'trapacero' (swindler). 

RAE's dictionary in turn defines 'trapecero' as 'From "swindle": deceptive and unlawful artifice used to harm or defraud someone in a purchase, sale or exchange.'

READ ALSO: Spain's Gypsies are more invisible than ever

According to Spanish daily ABC, the AGFD described the use of the word 'gypsy' in that way as "obsolete" and added that it would fuel "a series of prejudices and stereotypes that already exist about our people".

They claimed that the inclusion of the definition led them to believe that the RAE's directors "like it, given that they have agreed to legitimize it even though only in a linguistic sense".

The association said that the definition's inclusion would help with the "manipulation, segregation and marginalization of an entire people and their culture."

Spain's Gypsy Secretariat Foundation (FSG) published the 2012 and 2014 definitions on its website in an article lambasting the RAE's decision.

"It must be noted that the gypsy community, both in Spain and across the EU, is one of the least valued social groups and one of those most burdened by old, negative stereotypes and prejudices, with serious discriminatory consequences in daily life," it wrote.

"We at FSG believe that it does not help to depict the Roma people and culture in such a negative sense in an educational reference publication as popular as the RAE dictionary," it added.

The academy declined to comment on the issue to news agency AFP, but cited the introduction to its dictionary, which says it takes care to avoid "gratuitously slanted or offensive" definitions.

It says it seeks definitions that reflect genuine "linguistic usage" and insists that language "reflects beliefs and perceptions that remain present in

The new Diccionario de la Lengua Española (Spanish Language Dictionary) has a record 93,111 entries, including around 5,000 new words, many of which proceed from English or other languages, often filtered through the great world of variety which is Spanish as spoken across the American continent.

With new words ranging from 'birra' to 'yihad', the dictionary draws from the worlds or culture, politics and technology to provide a snapshot of the language at large.


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