I Got Accused Of Offending Another Culture With My Name

Today, I was accused of offending another culture with my blog’s name. I further got accused of not caring about offending other cultures. 

Few months back, I stepped into the travel blogging world with a simple goal – to learn about life through people, places, and culture. But, today I got the first bump in my journey. 
I received a message on the twitter page of my blog, then called HyperGypsy, by another blogger and here is the actual conversation verbatim –

 

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Initially, I took the conversation in a lighter sense and assumed that she is not going to push it. It is practically impossible for me to know about all the different variations of a word and the only meaning I knew for the word Gypsy, was “being free-spirited or a nomad”

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I started my journey of travel blogging with a very clear intent. Hyper Gypsy describes me as a person: I am Hyperactive by nature and I am free-spirited, “Gypsy,” by choice. I didn’t start my journey to offend cultures or create differences amongst people. On the contrary, I want to bridge them by traveling, and that’s what I believe in. 

Here’s the definition of Gypsy according to Cambridge Dictionary 

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Here’s what happened next: 

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I acknowledged her thoughts and voiced my own opinion. I tried to reason out with her, but it was a Friday evening and I had some plans. So I tried to bring this conversation to an end. 

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It was another failed attempt of mine to share my thought process with her. She began accusing:

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It hurt me at this point. I felt really helpless trying to explain myself to her. What hurt me most is the mentality.

Why would you take offense without taking into account, the intent of the other person? Why do we want to focus on the negativities? Why does our mind get drawn towards the wrong end?

On one hand, Gypsy is an offensive word, not in my limited knowledge, and on the other hand, it has the beautiful meaning of being a free-spirited person. Why does the negative weight over positive?

 

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It started getting ugly from here:

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I started HyperGypsy on 1st Jan 2016, I made wonderful friends who are travelers and received an overwhelming amount of love from the wonderful readers of my blog. But today, I got accused of offending another culture. This is the exact opposite of why I set out my journey. This is the exact opposite of why I travel. This is the exact opposite of why I exist. I am hurt, but not down.

I am Hyper Gypsy, a free-spirited traveler who will continue traveling around the world, promoting one culture, the culture of humanity. 

If you are following my travel journey or you choose to in future, I promise one thing, I’ll be honest with you. 

What happened next ? I went silent for a few weeks and changed the name of my blog to HyperTrypsy

Further, I got the word Trypsy registered in the Webster dictionary so that no one can abuse the word again. 


Live and let live! 
Signing Off,

HyperTrypsy 

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Hyper Gypsy

Hyper by Nature and Gypsy by Choice, HyperGypsy is set out with a mission to inspire the laziest of all to backpack and travel!

37 thoughts on “I Got Accused Of Offending Another Culture With My Name

  • February 13, 2016 at 3:12 am
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    Hi Shivansh, thanks for sharing this! For what it’s worth, I agree with the poster on this. I don’t think intent matters in situations like this, it’s about impact and if someone is offended, that’s enough for me to want to be sensitive in the future. I agree, it’s very hard to anticipate these things, especially here in the U.S. where the the plight of Europe’s Roma community is (barely) starting to get press and the word is so deeply entrenched in our language. I admit, while I know the word “gypped” (for getting ripped off) is considered offensive and I avoid using it, I haven’t always thought of the Roma connection when I see the word used in a travel context like this. What you and I might see as positive traits–curiosity and exploration–could also be interpreted as unreliable, flippant, lazy, unmotivated, and one of a thousand other negative connotations that people have about people inclined to travel.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing this conversation, it definitely made me think! It’s up to you to decide what to do with it, but if I were in your shoes, I’d think about a rebrand. Growing a travel community is hard enough without also the managing the risk of coming off as culturally insensitive or tone-deaf to readers. It’s easy if you do early on, but gets harder as time goes on. Just my thoughts! Best of luck!

  • February 13, 2016 at 5:55 am
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    Hi Shivansh…thanks for sharing such coversation. I know you personally and I am damn sure that you never ever,ever ever think of offending another culture.I know your intentions are always right… Don’t worry of such obstacles………………
    “Sometimes Darkness wins,Sometimes that’s OK”

  • February 13, 2016 at 6:00 am
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    Thank you so much! Please message me on my personal FB
    profile and tell me who you are, i am really curious 🙂

  • February 13, 2016 at 7:31 am
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    That’s a hard one. Even for the same language, the way a word is perceived can change over time.
    My colleague from North Queensland was shocked when I was calling people from New Caledonia “Kanaks”. That’s how people from the Pacific Islands were named in the past, and it was derogatory. But – at least in French – the perception of the word has changed and the people there now actually refer themselves as Kanaks, even talking about renaming the place Kanakie. We found the difference between our two languages interesting.
    Gypsy is not derogatory from my point of view, it refers to an itinerant lifestyle. I remember a band called the Gypsy Kings were very popular when I was a kid. It’s actually sad that this lifestyle has become a derogatory term for some cultures. I don’t know what I’d do if I were in your situation. I understand your blog is only 1.5-month-old so rebranding wouldn’t be such a hard thing – and it’s better to do it now than later. But you chose that name for a reason and have an opinion about it, so that’s entirely your call. I remember visiting another travel blog called Gypsy Couple. Maybe their point of view could help.
    Good luck!

  • February 13, 2016 at 7:37 am
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    I understand your pain and know that you didn’t have any intention of offending anyone but I believe you should change your name if it’s derogatory to some culture. Think about it from their perspective, it’s something that they despise. Sometimes words carry more power than their mere definition. For instance the ‘N’ word means black. If I start a t-shirt website that only sells black t-shirts, it will still be offensive to many. Even though It’s relevant in the context, but I am sure you’ll also realize that it’s offensive. You know it’s offensive because probably you’ve exposed to it’s offensive nature by movies and such. In a similar way the term ‘gypsy’ might be offensive for their culture that we are unaware of.

  • February 13, 2016 at 9:52 am
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    This is a very tough question. Cultural sensitivities are raw and deeply entrenched in human minds, but, at the same time, are not easy to understand and sometimes hard to spot for people outside of particular societal groups and ethnic communities.

    I lived in Europe and the US for the extended period of times. I learned to be sensitive to the peculiarities of local traditions, environments and linguistics. Sometimes, things looked illogical or really blown out of proportion. However, because of intense and raw feelings, offering a different or an unpopular view on some topics is often not even an option.

    I understand that you had only good intentions when you came up with a name for your blog. You used the meaning of a word that is the most common in a country where you live. Up to this point, everything is fine. However, you travel outside of your country. Moreover, your blog has a worldwide reach. To be successful, you have to be sensitive to the customs and languages (including slang) of other countries. For example, nobody argues that entering a Buddhist temple in a skimpy shorts is unacceptable. Think about language in same terms. Would you want to offend some group of people? Keep in mind that explaining your position would not always be possible or, even more often, you wouldn’t be heard among an angry chorus of offended locals.

    Personally, I do not have any problems with the name of your blog. I understood it exactly as you intended. Said that, I think you need to do some assessment of the audience of your blog and go from there.

  • February 13, 2016 at 12:06 pm
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    Having a similar identity of Gypsy, this was very disturbing and frankly a bit surprising to read. Though it is true that the current usage of word in some parts of the world might be derogatory, it has been found that Gypsies as a community originated from the Indian sub continent and mass emigrated from there about 1500 years ago.

    Even if you ignore that fact, the word is quite frequently used in a non derogatory context in many countries of the world. It is to note that a word is like a tool and has no identity of its own and depending upon the intent and the context of its usage can be used in a good or a bad way.

    We sincerely hope you do not change the identity you have assumed because of this interaction. Though we thoroughly support respecting cultural nuances and take care to not offend sensibilities, your dialogue with the person was maybe an emotional one for her and probably does not fall under any of the two categories.

    Take care and best of luck for your travels!

  • February 13, 2016 at 4:08 pm
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    Well, i think it is not insulting any culture as every word has got ten different meaning in ten languages. If you are not abusive in your language or targeting anyone you should not b bothered.

  • February 13, 2016 at 4:31 pm
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    all i can say is, you’re really patient. i probably would have ended it with, “noted. thanks for the information. but i can assure you it wasn’t my intention to offend anybody.” after she said it’s a slur. well, you can’t please everybody.

  • February 14, 2016 at 4:31 am
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    This is a serious matter. And I jnderstand your sentiments. That is why I am very careful when Im in the process of choosing ny blogsite name

  • February 14, 2016 at 8:02 am
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    My advice is to not consider changing your identity/name. Almost ANYTHING we do can or will offend someone, somewhere. Having traveled extensively in Eastern Europe, I know that the term “gypsy” is frowned upon in some countries – some have even outlawed its use. But the term gypsy also clearly has another meaning that is not racist or derogatory, and that is your understanding and intended use of it. As you say, intention is everything. Next time, explain yourself if you feel so inclined, but if the person is unwilling to have an open mind, just hit delete.

  • February 14, 2016 at 5:45 pm
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    Happens!!! Quite a few times, words have different meanings in different languages and perceptions in different cultures! For eg., the word ‘Hardik’ means ‘Heart felt’ in Hindi and its just x-graded in English! We can’t help it. As long as there are more people happy and less people sad, because of us, we just have to keep moving on.

  • February 14, 2016 at 6:58 pm
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    Oh there is always one in the crowd that has to be jealous or offended. Don’t sweat it, I would chalk it up to jealousy myself. Speaking of “real gypsy’s”, I lived in West Virginia for 44 years and surprisingly, I had to learn from a TV show that we had the biggest gypsy population outside of Romania. Who knew? Anyway, I’m sure it was all edited and sensationalized by TV, but their culture was very interesting and surprising. I had no idea. You picked your name because you liked it and it worked for you, nothing else matters. Enjoy!

  • February 15, 2016 at 12:55 am
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    I never heard about gypsies being sluts. I always thought they were street performers, or maybe that’s the impression that a Disney film gave to me. Sorry for the experience you had to go through. A lot of the people on the internet get offended easily.

  • February 15, 2016 at 3:55 am
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    Shivansh, I don’t know why you carried on that conversation for so long. We cannot explain our intention to everyone and think that people will understand. There are two sides of a coin. I think both of you are correct. But you have registered a domain and paid for it, so the conversation ends right there. LOL

  • February 15, 2016 at 12:54 pm
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    I agree that it is the intent that is more important. It’s right that we don’t judge immediately as one thing can mean something different to another. It’s important to be true to yourself and keep your identity.

  • February 15, 2016 at 1:47 pm
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    Both sides have heard each other’s explanation and since she still doesn’t accept your explanation, it’s her problem. Both parties have points and at the end of the day, it’s your blog and she should mind her own business. You explained your side that you didn’t mean to insult anyone and that’s already a great answer to her query. Let her pay for your change of domain if she still disturbs you. :p

  • February 16, 2016 at 1:29 am
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    I can see both sides, but agree with one of the other folks who commented here. Going back and forth for so long with the person probably just amped them up. You can’t please everyone!

  • February 16, 2016 at 4:49 pm
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    I understand how you got upset by this and I think you showed an immense amount of patience with that conversation, like others said! Personally, I don’t find the word gipsy offensive and in the context of a travel blog is for me overly evident that it’s used in the sense of nomadic and free-spirited. In other contexts ok it could be used as an insult but almost anything can be used that way if the intent is there and I believe that is a misuse of the word gipsy, not its generally accepted meaning. Maybe, but this is just for the sake of your own peace of mind, you can use this post or create an about page where you explain the meaning of the title? I genuinely do not think people reading your blog or even just your title would find it offensive or racist, but that could help in case it does unwillingly hurt someone. 🙂

  • February 17, 2016 at 7:11 pm
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    People get offended by the weirdest things nowadays 🙂

    Sometimes I get offended by the fact that they get offended. They should stop being offended because they are offending me for being offended.

  • February 17, 2016 at 8:43 pm
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    This is an interesting post, and quite the complicated issue. I hadn’t given much thought to the word ‘gypsy’ (also a lover of the Gypsy Kings band) until I moved to Europe and began writing about people and places here. When I began to hear more and more about the Roma people, researching and visiting countries where they try to make a living, I quickly found out from locals that using the word ‘gypsy’ is derogatory and disrespectful to a huge group of people found around the world…and who are shockingly not accepted by any country. They have been nomads, unaccepted and unwanted, with limited or no rights, in every country they try to stay and work and find safety….for over 11,000 years.

    But, I completely believe that you’re wanting to use the name in a positive, free-spirited way. If you’re wanting to travel around the world, writing about people, I would have to agree with many of the other comments and suggest to you to change your blog name, finding something that evokes the same passion and feeling, but nothing that would end up conveying unintentionally negative sentiments towards others. It would be easier to do that now at the beginning.

    Wishing you luck with your decisions…and future writing. Thanks for posting this personal situation!
    Cheers,
    Nina

  • February 18, 2016 at 11:49 am
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    Wow as a traveller myself, I really found this discussion a lil deep. Who is that person, where are they coming from, whats their intention? By attacking yo what do they gain. And the final question I would ask myself is…does it really matter in the bigger scheme of things?

    See some people really decide to take it out on others, belittle them and basically vomit allover them in the guise of world peace….I find it a lil curious that despite your explanation of why you use the word Gypsy, she still insisted she is offended. And No I dont think you should change it at all.
    YOU CANT LEASE ALL THE PEOPLE ALL THE TIME….Live your life with integrity, have fun, perform random acts of kindness and above all have Joy and be motivated to lIve fully. And ignore the haters…

    The word for Chicken in Hawaii is the same word for feaces in my language…I didnt go about demanding that they change it for my sensibilities! In fact it became hilarious every time we ordered chicken…on our 3 week hiatus in Oahu and it didnt put us off eating it lolol! So sometimes leave what doesnt serve you behind for its nt meant to enhance your life. Your job on this planet is to live the bets life you can period!

  • February 18, 2016 at 6:19 pm
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    I wouldn’t worry about it. These days with all the PC around anyone can dercide to be offended by something. I have just opened up Instagram and did a search for @gypsy……… Instagram then give options for gypsysoul_16, gypsyjema, gypsynester, gypsy_blonde, _gypsycouple………and many more gypsy’s……
    Are all these people offending as well??

    Once upon a time “Gay” meant “Happy” but we wont go into all that incase someone is offended 🙂

  • February 18, 2016 at 8:12 pm
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    I am sorry so people some people like to argue. Someone is always going to be offended and every culture cannot be happy. You stated you have the best intentions and it would have been the end of the conversation.

  • February 19, 2016 at 5:07 am
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    What a facsinating look at the word, “Gypsy”! I never thought it could be a bad word in another language. Great post

  • February 19, 2016 at 10:47 am
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    Such an interesting post. A little complicated but I hope you’re okay now.

  • February 19, 2016 at 7:16 pm
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    This is such an embarrassing moment. I am feeling so sorry that people are so much bothered in certain stuffs, which are completely meaningless and unintentional.

  • February 19, 2016 at 7:29 pm
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    I think you shouldn’t worry about this. This person is totally negative, she did not heard of you, your explanations and not even tried to understand you. To most folks, a gipsy is a free-spirited, hippie type who moves around a lot. If she didn’t like your post she could simply unfollow you

  • February 20, 2016 at 6:07 am
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    For me, there is nothing wrong with that word. As long as you have clean intentions and not to offend anyone, you can still continue. And besides, it is really difficult to make argue with people who are close minded.

  • February 20, 2016 at 7:23 pm
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    Sometimes you have to just say what you mean, there’s always going to be someone offended by words lost in translation. There’s simple Spanish words that, if spoken in English speaking countries, will get you in big trouble. As long as you don’t purposely offend someone, you’re good. 🙂

  • February 20, 2016 at 9:39 pm
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    Honestly. This just seems like too much drama. Why didn’t you block instead of engaging? Then you post the screen shots and write about it – for what? More drama? I mean, if you are true the name behind the blog, who cares? Block the trolls and move on instead of feeding into it like you are right now. I don’t feed too much into the word gypsy (I AM Romanian) but you can’t please everyone. Don’t waste your energy and fuel drama.

    Welcome to the internet…

  • February 21, 2016 at 8:49 pm
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    The name of your blog is not offensive and even if it was, she doesn’t have to read it. The nerve of that entire exchange. You’re a lot kinder than I would have been.

    Happy Travels!

  • February 22, 2016 at 12:10 am
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    Your first thought to the comment of “Gypsy is a slur” was to respond “You mean slut?”

    I’d consider five things here.

    1) Because you are not of the culture that is offended by the use of the word, you likely are not qualified to determine whether or not someone is correct to take offense to it or not.

    2) Your first reaction was to make a joke using another derogatory term. Not exactly showing off your intent NOT to offend.

    3) Your blog appears to be all of 5 weeks old. I wouldn’t exactly say that you were bbrand committed to the name at this point. In fact, your twitter name and URL istelf do not contain the word.

    4) You claim to be a travel blogger. As a travel writer, would you feel comfortable approaching tourism boards in eastern / southeastern Europe for work with that name? If so, do you think that they would be comforaable working with you? In my opinion, travel writers are usually known to be snesitive to local culture and practice. They want to learn from, and educate others about the world around them. You do not appear to be doing that in this case.

    5) Why did you post this article at all? Are you looking for online validation for your name? You want to try and build your reputation showing how tolerant you think you are, while simultaneously bringing the other person down? What do you want from your readership here? Because other than congratulating you on “holding firm” to your subjective interpretation of values being more correct than someone else’s (in fact over an entire culture), it’s not exactly clear what I am supposed to add here.

  • February 26, 2016 at 9:09 pm
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    Very interesting and eye opening. Surprising at so many levels.

  • February 28, 2016 at 3:10 am
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    I see you’ve changed your name, but that’s disappointing. The most important thing here is that this person has tried to offend you, with the intent of trying to control something she has no right to control. As all the comments say, you are completely in the right. Gypsy is not offensive. It’s possible a person could use that word offensively, you are doing the opposite. The writer herself is following a an Orwellian notion that context and language is controlling. Furthermore, the writer is not Roma, nor does she speak for Roma people. The right approach would be to ignore. If you change your name, this only encourages that person to offend others.

  • March 13, 2016 at 8:14 am
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    And who knows? Maybe the future 40-something SamanthaB will have similar feelings about present-day SamanthaB.

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