The National Geographic channel’s newest reality show, “American Gypsies” will premiere on July 17 and is produced by “Karate Kid” star, Ralph Macchio. The show will focus on the Johns family and the modern gypsy way of life in the United States. As with all reality shows, there will likely be drama and verbal barbs exchanged between the cast and those who cross the line in this NATGEO series will wind up in “Gypsy Court” and be judged by their peers. If you can not wait a few more days to see the show, a free premeier episode is available through an Itunes link on the NATGEO website for a limited time.
Hopefully the educationally-focused National Geographic channel will do the Romani culture justice and not merely seek to sensationalize the proud history of the often misunderstood group for ratings. The term “gypsy” is often thought of as offensive by Romani people. The phrase was a nickname for the Romani from centuries past when it was believed the group stemmed from Egypt, which they did not.
In preparation for the premiere episode of “American Gypsies” Natioanl Geographic posted a “Glossary of Terms” so prospective viewers could learn about the Romani culture and slang used by gypsies. A “Romani Facts” portion the website delves into the history, traditions and customs of the Romani people.
During a NATGEO interview with Macchio he noted that he began working on the idea for the series several years when a friend’s son shared raw footage from a film school project. Macchio stated he did not know such a gypsy community existed and he became “fascinated” with the characters and concept for a series.
Although unscripted shows are routinely referred to as reality shows, Macchio bills “American Gypsies” as a docu-series bringing a little-known subculture to national attention. The National Geographic series reportedly infuses some character elements which are reminiscent of “The Godfather” and “The Sopranos” as far as the “passionate family dynamic” is concerned.
The Johns family featured on “American Gypsies” consists of Bob Sr. the patriarch, Tine, the matriach and their five grown sons, Bobby, Nicky, Erik and Jack and their families.
Romani Glossery Terms to Learn Before Watching “American Gypsies” – As noted on the National Geographic series website:
Romanipen or Romaniya noun Romani tradition and law; the essence of Romani culture ; the set of behaviors that constitutes living properly, and involves maintaining spiritual balance.
Romanes or romani čhibnoun the Romani language
gajo noun m (also gadjo or gadžo) non-Romani person; outsider (f gaji; m plgaje; f plgaja)
gajekane adj non-Romani
dad noun m (also dat) father
daj noun f (also dej) mother
čhavo noun m (also shavo or shavoro or shabaro) boy; son; child; unmarried Romani male (plčhave)
čhajnoun f girl, daughter; unmarried Romani female
romni noun f woman; wife; married Romani female
mami noun f grandmother
bori noun f bride; daughter-in-law
phral noun m brother
phen noun f sister
Dati or Tati noun m nickname for father; “Dad”
Bapo noun m nickname for grandfather; “Grandpa”
Bre or Breh noun m nickname for brother; “Bro”
kris noun a court or tribunal, made up of community elders, where disputes within the Romani community are settled according to local Rom law
glabanoun a fine, paid sometimes as the result of a decision made by the elders in a kris.
divano noun (also diwano) an informal meeting to settle a dispute, preferred to a kris
vitsa noun Romani clan; formed of numerous extended families
kumpania noun (also kumpaniya) a group of Rom living in one territorial area, who claim exclusive rights to work there
pakiv noun (also patjiv) respect, esteem, honor; give a feast
Rom baronoun m literally “big man”; leader of a vitsi
prikaza noun bad luck; retribution for upsetting spiritual balance that in turn brings bad luck
Mamioro noun a spirit believed to bring serious illnesses; literally “little grandmother”
marime adj impure, dirty, unclean, polluted; rejected; outcast
kintala noun spiritual balance; harmony
bibaxt noun misfortune; bad luck
mulo noun dead person; deceased; ghost, spirit; (pl mule) ancestors, guardian spirits