On the subject of gypsies and language, I've enjoyed reading the myriad
comments, and find myself feeling ambiguous (which I define as feeling
very strongly both ways). And, I know it's been thrashed about and we've
a request for acknowledging that we are unlikely to change any opinions
on this. That said:
* I have had this discussion with a number people in the past, about the
very strong negative connotations of the word "Gypsy." Ambivalent as I
am, I do think we should look for a replacement word.
* I thought I'd collect all the words that have been suggested so far
(unless I missed one or two) in one place. Here it is:
No Hand Turn
No Hand Allemande (and I do think Allemande comes from "The
German," a dance)
Dance Around, or Walk Around
Face to Face Do Si Do
Bine (binary stars -- snippet below)
Nose-to-Nose Do Si Do
Dance Around - or Dance About
Orbit Around - or Orbit About
Eyes or "Take Eyes"
Face à Face (facey-face...)
Right (Left) Shoulder (without the G-word)
Cyclone (though mentioned with a complaint - too "violent")
* I like "Single File with a Smile" to replace "Indian Style." Many
Indians don't like the moniker "Native American," and vice versa --
America is a name that comes from a European explorer, in some ways more
insulting than the misconstrued "Indians," from the name given by a
murderous European explorer... It is good, I think, to stop using words
that come from stereotyped images of an oppressed or victimized people.
* When thinking of our positive feelings about the word -- "happy,
colorful," think about people of the slave-holding South remembered with
great delight how "Nigras" were always happy, and how warm and wonderful
it was when they were slaves. Of course, they rarely considered that
that "happiness" stemmed from fear -- the fear of bodily injury, jail,
or even lynching...
* We are teaching dance in a public forum. Dog breeders use the word
"bitch" regularly -- no problem. Start calling a woman that word, and
the connotation is different. A chink in a chain, a dike to hold back
water or in a rock formation, etc. are all used in specialized
situations. I run into a similar problem as I love playing the Jews
Harp... Our use of the word Gypsy in a public forum could be said to
have that specialized meaning. But it can be construed to have those
* Eric Black says he uses "Gents & Ladies," never, "men & women." Years
ago I stopped using Ladies & Gents since their roots are steeped in
classism, and we live in a severely class society -- even though we
pretend we don't. Be that as it may, I started using Ladies & Gents
again when I realized most of us don't have those connotations
associated with those words. Now I've gone gender free, and use ravens &
larks. But when I was young we used "him," and "he" to mean "everyone.
We did notice the affect this had on young women as promoting that sense
of exclusion that still dominates our culture. Most of us now say "he
and she," or just "she", and it has changed how some of us think about
the power of women. Language does make a difference. Much of this came
about from discussions on how the words I choose to use affect some.
Most of are "unaffected," by the use of certain words. Or at least we
don't perceive an affect of the use of certain words. It's like those of
us who are White often don't know the scrutiny Black people are
subjected to throughout their everyday lives. Or the majority of us men
don't live with the fear and degradation women are subjected to. It is
important to understand how our language affects those around us,
especially from the podium.
Well, enough for now, as that's more than two-cents worth...
The Snippet on from Richard Fischer (richardallenfischer(a)verizon.net)
> I have a suggestion for a new word to replace "gypsy." My word is
"bine" and I derive it from
> "binary stars" which, especially if they are of similar mass, circle
each other as in our dance
> move. I consulted with an astrophysicist friend, who told me that
under certain circumstances
> binary stars may be "tidally locked," that is, facing each other as
they orbit about each other.
> (Our moon is tidally locked, but in the earth-moon case it's not a
> "Bine" can be used as a verb and a noun, it's one syllable and easy
to say, and its etymology is
> known. (And some dancers might enjoy the image).
> As others have said, I too have appreciated this thoughtful
discussion. It is hard to know when
> to retire an established term that has been used without intention to
offend anyone, but I know
> many of us are considering doing so. So I thought I'd put my
suggestion out there.
I am looking for some EASY wholeset dancers for a Civil War event that is
mostly teenage boys. Wholesets seem to be the best option, but I am open
to othe suggestions. Virginia Reel is an obvious choice.
Peace & Thanks!
Linda Leslie's suggestion of gyre as a replacement for gypsy bubbled around
in my brain and a new (I think) dance percolated up. It has a twist that
isn't the gyre (which I consider just new nomenclature); women casting out
of the swing to travel from one minor set to another (similar to gent's
movement in Scoot by Tom Hinds).
I haven't gotten to test it with dancers yet, as I just finished running it
through with pegs on my desk; but I wanted to share it in support of a new
A Gyre for Linda
by Luke Donforth
(4) Pass through to an ocean wave (ladies left, catch right with partner)
(4) Balance the short Wavy line
(2) Walk forward
(3) Shadow gyre right 1/2
(3) Gents gyre left 1/2 in the middle
(16) Neighbor gyre right and swing
(8) Men allemande Left 1-1/2 WHILE women cast cw around whole set one
(8) 1/2 Hey, passing partner by right shoulder
(16) Partner gyre right and swing at home
As for the other aspects that have been discussed:
I pronounce it with a softer g sound. For reasons unclear to me, gyre has
different accepted pronunciations; but (to my knowledge) gyration doesn't.
As for using the term (which I clearly support); it costs me nearly nothing
to switch and helps make the dance more accessible for some; both in
dropping a term some find offensive and making the name more descriptive of
the move. My job as a caller is to help share the joy of dancing, and if
this does that I'm in favor of it.
Pleas could you clarify how you intend to pronounce "gyre"?
I have been saying "gyre" with a hard "g" as in "give" or "gimble".
But if it is related to "gyrate" then maybe people are using a soft "g" and
making it sound like "jire".
Which do you use? Thanks.
By the way, I am still having major problems with understanding why the word
needs to be changed. "Gypsy" is not inherently bad.
Just Google, say, "gypsy pope" and you will find countless articles in
countless papers and other media (including Vatican Radio) referring to
"gypsies". Are they and the pope all racist? And that is just one example.
It is only racist if you use tone or context to make it so. But that can
apply to just about any word.
And in a dance environment it is definitely not racist.
If anyone ever asks me (and I doubt it will ever happen) I will tell them
that we call people who travel to dances "dance gypsies", just using the
word to mean someone who travels; the move likewise is just a move where you
travel around each other. No deep meaning!
John Sweeney, Dancer, England john(a)modernjive.com 01233 625 362
http://www.contrafusion.co.uk for Dancing in Kent
I am NOT "progressive". It is another loaded term in my opinion. To assume most of the (silent) people on this list serv are progressive is...........probably true!
I am sensitive to people's dignity and would not intentionally offend anyone. I find the Gypsie issue troubling but do not have a solution. Create another CallerLab to standardize terms and meanings? probably not.
All that said I agree with everything George says.
I wanted to emphasize the point George makes on the terms Gents & Ladies. Those terms "print" in the hearer's ear (harder consonants). When you have music and distractions on the dance floor you can lose the "WO" of women and it can be confusing. Even in the "all position terms" these print the best on the dance floor in my experience.
Cheers! -Joe (Independent in Seattle)
On Oct 30, 2015, at 11:50 AM, George Mercer via Callers wrote:
> I am a free speech kind of guy and about as progressive as they come. Political correctness is a loaded term that I avoid at almost all costs. There is no constitutional provision to claim a right to not be offended. Neither should there be one. The world and life are just to complex and complicated for that.
> Having said that, I'll add that it is wise to remember that it is better to be nice than it is to be not nice; it is better to encourage people to be nice rather than not nice; it is better to create and enhance an environment where people will want to be nice and not be not nice. That's human kindness, thoughtfulness and making the world better, not politics or language manipulation.
> The discussion has been interesting and, for me, profitable, so I'll leave it with this. I will continue to use the "g" word as necessary while at the same time endeavoring to find good workable (for me and others) alternatives. I will continue to use "allemande" until such time as I may have to change, I prefer it to "turn," which in dancing can have a whole different and therefore confusing meaning. I liked the reference to "gents and ladies" being class-based terms. They are and, as someone who has spoken out upon hearing someone say, "He is a classy person" or "she did that with class" I have thought long and hard about the usage in contra dancing. Still I prefer them to "men and women" which for me is clumsy and on the dance floor sound very similar. While I use active and inactive on my dance cards, I rarely use them when instructing or calling, I find them even clumsier. Lead and follow are also rarely functional. So until I find something better, "Gents and ladies" it is. The terms are indeed class-based, but other words are religion-based, or ethnic-discrimination-based, even ageism-based and sexism-based. Language is kind of that way. And English is confusing and cluttered enough without making more rules. Clarity appears to me to be all important. For that matter, the same thing applies to numbering couples of neighbors #1, 2, 3, etc. They can be problematic and vaguely imply status, but for the moment they're what I've got. If you want to get into it even proper and improper can have issues. In the mean time, I'd rather dance than call -- at least until the body gives out -- so much of this is just theory for me. Lets keep working on it and discussing it as friends Thanks, George Mercer
On Wed, Oct 28, 2015, Michael Fuerst via Callers wrote:
> I have been contra dancing for 30 years or so and this is the first
> time I've encountered a question about "gypsy" being controversial.
> The people who contra dance on average are well left of center
> politically--people who would never use an ethnically offensive
> word.(Finding a bumper sticker at a contra dance gathering supporting
> a Republican candidate is quite impossible.)As you noted, language
> evolves, and the use of "gypsy" in contra dancing never had any
> offensive baggage or intent. Given the thousands of left-wing contra
> dancers who have guiltlessly gypsied over the years, having a single
> individual (who may not well be a member of the allegedly offended
> group) come to a dance, and for some reason makes the connection she
> did, does not seem adequate to drop the word.
<belly laugh> Your suggestion that progressive people promoting
political correctness always stick to their progressive principles is
risible. I suggest that you do some research into the countless number
of times that "progressive" people have screwed over minorities who
weren't in their own demographic.
To save you a bit of time, here's one specific example that consumed
large amounts of time and emotional energy in one of my other social
> Your examples of "nigger" and "faggot" are not comparable, as they are
> today often sill used with intended hate.
Please re-read the messages pointing out that in Europe, particularly,
"gypsy" still definitely gets used as a hateful slur. And I don't know
enough about *ALL* of American culture to presume that "gypsy" isn't used
that way here in significant subcultures. Certainly "gyp" (as a verb)
does get used.
Hugs and backrubs -- I break Rule 6 http://rule6.info/
<*> <*> <*>
Help a hearing-impaired person: http://rule6.info/hearing.html
I facilitate several communities of practice of various kinds around the country, and all are struggling to find ways to make the virtual communication between face-to-face meetings vibrant and meaningful. When working through this with my colleagues, I often use SharedWeight as an example of a really successful virtual community, with only one face meeting per year that I know of - lunch at Ralph Page - and that not even of all the members, but lots of meaty, lively, personal, valuable online conversation, enduring over years.
This discussion about the use of the word “gypsy” totally proves my point!! We ran the gamut from digging into the painful areas, to exploring academic esoterica, and landed on a wonderful possible solution. Gyre. I love it! And I can’t wait to try it out next dance!!
> On Oct 29, 2015, at 9:08 PM, Rich Sbardella via Callers <callers(a)lists.sharedweight.net <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>> wrote:
> Martha, gyre is an excellent option,but now we'll have to develop a basic move called "chortle". It has such a ring to it.
> On Thu, Oct 29, 2015 at 4:24 PM, Martha Wild via Callers <callers(a)lists.sharedweight.net <mailto:email@example.com>> wrote:
> Gyre makes me chortle. Could work.
> On Oct 29, 2015, at 12:16 PM, Amy Wimmer via Callers wrote:
>> I LOVE that word as a replacement for "gypsy." It makes absolute sense and conveys the idea of the move perfectly.
>> On Oct 29, 2015, at 9:23 AM, bill fischer via Callers <callers(a)lists.sharedweight.net <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>> wrote:
>>> blessings linda
>>> having read volumes of only occasionally interesting thoughts about this subject, i am delighted to give a powerful second to the suggestion of gyre
>>> the word’s use in the two works cited - two of my favorites - cements its appeal for me
>>> grateful for you!!
>>> down the road..........
>>> billy fischer
>>> www.billthedancecaller.com <http://www.billthedancecaller.com/>
>>> outonawhim(a)erols.com <mailto:email@example.com>
>>> home 203-393-3464 <tel:203-393-3464>
>>> mobile 203-314-0221 <tel:203-314-0221>
>>>> On Oct 29, 2015, at 10:59 AM, Linda Leslie via Callers <callers(a)lists.sharedweight.net <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>> wrote:
>>>> Thanks, Erik for summarizing. It is very helpful to have the list below. I have one other suggestion to add for consideration for those who wish to make a change in terms. Gyre can be found in Carol’s “Jabberwocky" and Yeats’ "The Second Coming". It has the advantage of being one syllable, not used for anything else, and begins with the same sound as gypsy. Rather capricious, if I do say so myself! My husband Bob Golder, thinks that this word is even better than gypsy, because the meaning of the word conveys the movement.
>>>> gyre [jahyuh r] noun
>>>> 1. a ring or circle.
>>>> 2. a circular course or motion.
>>>> Oceanography. a ringlike system of ocean currents rotating clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.
>>>> On Oct 29, 2015, at 4:24 AM, Erik Hoffman via Callers <callers(a)lists.sharedweight.net <mailto:email@example.com>> wrote:
>>>>> On the subject of gypsies and language, I've enjoyed reading the myriad comments, and find myself feeling ambiguous (which I define as feeling very strongly both ways). And, I know it's been thrashed about and we've a request for acknowledging that we are unlikely to change any opinions on this. That said:
>>>>> * I have had this discussion with a number people in the past, about the very strong negative connotations of the word "Gypsy." Ambivalent as I am, I do think we should look for a replacement word.
>>>>> * I thought I'd collect all the words that have been suggested so far (unless I missed one or two) in one place. Here it is:
>>>>> No Hand Turn
>>>>> No Hand Allemande (and I do think Allemande comes from "The German," a dance)
>>>>> Dance Around, or Walk Around
>>>>> Face to Face Do Si Do
>>>>> Bine (binary stars -- snippet below)
>>>>> Nose-to-Nose Do Si Do
>>>>> Dance Around - or Dance About
>>>>> Orbit Around - or Orbit About
>>>>> Eyes or "Take Eyes"
>>>>> Holding Eyes
>>>>> Hands Off
>>>>> Face à Face (facey-face...)
>>>>> Right (Left) Shoulder (without the G-word)
>>>>> Cyclone (though mentioned with a complaint - too "violent")
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Taftsville, VT 05073
While we're complaining, I think I object to having dance terminology drawn
from a dead writer's drug trip.
As for “mad robin”, I'm still for renaming it “angry bird”.
On Thu, Oct 29, 2015 at 9:25 PM, Jacob or Nancy Bloom via Callers <
> Lewis Carroll may have defined the word that way on one occasion, but
> Humpty Dumpty defined the word as "to go round and round like a gyroscope."
> And Humpty Dumpty was an expert on getting words to mean what you pay them
> to mean!
> And William Butler Yeats said, in his poem The Second Coming, "Turning and
> turning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer." So his
> meaning was clearly a spiral in which one turns.
> On Thu, Oct 29, 2015 at 7:44 PM, John Sweeney via Callers <
> callers(a)lists.sharedweight.net> wrote:
>> Sorry, but in 1855, in the magazine Misch-Masch, Lewis Carroll defined
>> as follows:
>> "Gyre, verb (derived from GYAOUR or GIAOUR, 'a dog'). To scratch like a
>> So, nope, nothing to do with gyration!
>> And, I have always understood it to be pronounced with a hard "g" as in
>> "give". My dictionary agrees with me. So, no doesn't sound like "gypsy".
>> Of course, you can still use the term and pronounce it "jire" (based on
>> other definitions).
>> You see, words never mean what you think they do! :-)
>> Happy dancing,
>> John Sweeney, Dancer, England john(a)modernjive.com 01233 625 362
>> http://www.contrafusion.co.uk for Dancing in Kent
>> Callers mailing list
> Callers mailing list
If the term is to be changed I think there should be agreement as to what the replacement is and not have a variety of terms. The health of many contra dance series is very dependent upon new dancers coming and having a good time so they return. There is a big vocabulary to learn and having it not be the same at successive or neighboring dances would add to the confusion.
On Oct 28, 2015, at 3:21 PM, Don Veino via Callers <callers(a)lists.sharedweight.net> wrote:
> Might I suggest at this point there's been enough shared such that folks have figured out where they are on this subject? And, while the discussion has been informative, that further posts will do little to change anyone's beliefs?
> If that's accepted, I further suggest we move forward with our own personal belief and act as conscience dictates:
> Should you wish to continue with the status quo call, then do so and incorporate whatever learning you've taken from this exchange to improve your teaching and leading. Your further experience and learning from dance participants may inform your future view.
> Should you be motivated to change the term, have a conversation with your dance organizer(s) and try out an alternate call/description, should they be willing - see how it goes. That learning may inform the culture by example.
> I hope we can trust the Folk Process to be robust enough to do its thing in this matter - as it has so many times before.
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