Thursday, 4 September 2014

Gypsy storytelling

Should sustainability be an abstract concept? I went to a talk by Damian le Bas last weekend at Greenbelt on Romany language, storytelling and culture and I asked him how he would express the concept of 'sustainability' in Romany.

The answer he gave all of us was surprising at first. For all the precious lessons that Romany people have learned from the past about travelling light, for their low carbon footprint, there's no word for sustainability. Granted, Romany is an evolving language, but there's no English Romany word for 'sustainability'. According to Damian, English Romany is not often used for abstract ideas; more for saying "I'm going up the hill to catch a rabbit".

However, the Professor chipped in, there is an international Romany constructed word, dur-shayipe; sort of 'long term ability to carry on, etc', which can be used in the context of sustainability. They both agreed, though that it's a word with little currency.

This got me thinking. Should something so vital to our existence be relegated to the realm of the abstract? Where's the concrete language to talk about what we mean?

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