New Internationalist

Curiosities

Issue 272

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Curiosities
Questions that have always intrigued you about the world will appear in this, your section,
and be answered by other readers. Please address your answers and questions to ‘Curiosities’.

When Germans refer to travelling people they call them ‘Roma’ or ‘Sinti’. ‘Roma’ is clearly related to Rom, but who are the Sinti? My German-English dictionary just says ‘Sinte’ – which leaves me none the wiser.

According to my copy of Duden: Deutsches Universalwörterbuch it is not the Germans but the Sinto themselves who divide the Romany people into der Rom and der Sinto.The ‘Sinto’ are the Romany of German origin: the ‘Rom’ is the name for the Romany from other lands. Most Germans seem to use the words together to show respect – anything to avoid Zigeuner which isn’t seen as a compliment, my wife informs me.

Stuart Fellows
Essen, Germany

There are actually three major groups of the people commonly called ‘gypsies’: Kale (gitanes, tziganes) of Spain, Southern France and Portugal; Roma of the Balkan countries – primarily Romania; and Sinti (Zigeuner) of Germany and Central Europe. I cannot find any etymologies for these names.

These groups are thought to have come to Eastern Europe from north-western India between 800 and 1000 AD and to Western Europe as late as the fifteenth century. The word ‘gypsy’ is derived from Egyptian since it was wrongly assumed that Egypt was their country of origin. They were – and still are – persecuted because they have their own language and culture and many have a nomadic lifestyle. Nazi Germany killed thousands of Sinti and there have been recent attacks on Roma living in Romania.

Conrad Borovski
Menlo Park, US

What evidence is there that children vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella at an early age will enjoy lasting immunity? What is the risk of their developing these diseases at a later age, when they can be more serious?

Contrary to the answer given in NI 271 this important question cannot be fully answered until about 2030, when the first generation of vaccinees reach old age. Studies to date show that most, but not all, of those receiving measles and rubella vaccines retain measurable antibodies for over 20 years. Mumps vaccine only became available in 1988.

Most of the detailed long-term studies have involved rubella vaccines with the specific aim of ensuring that girls vaccinated at puberty retained this protection into their childbearing years. Although up to nine per cent were found to have lost circulating antibodies after three to five years, more detailed studies suggest that many have developed cellular protection against infection.

However, the question overlooks the fact that the main purpose of immunizing infants against measles, mumps and rubella viruses is to break the chain of transmission and to eliminate the risk of infection to anyone.

In the expectation and hope that this programme will be successful, there will be no risk to elderly vaccinees because there will be no risk of infection.

Dr Helen Zealley and Dr Martin Bull
Edinburgh, Scotland

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awaiting your answers

What proportion of Muslim women cover their faces in public? Is the practice currently increasing? And do women who cover their faces suffer any discomfort or health problems?

Sandra Mariner
Taunton, England

How would the introduction of a single European currency affect countries of the South?

Isabel Milner
London, England

Given that the profit from slave labour in today’s terms is a staggering $187,500 million, is there any legal precedence for this money to be repaid in some way as a legacy to the living descendants of such slaves?

Lloyd Jeffers
Worthing, England

Are there any cultures in the world where there is never any reason to exchange gifts?

James Phillips
Wigston, England

If you have any questions or answers please send them to Curiosities, New Internationalist, 55 Rectory Road, Oxford OX4 1BW, UK, or to your local NI office (see here for addresses).

THE VIEWS EXPRESSED IN THIS SECTION ARE NOT NECESSARILY THOSE OF NI.

©Copyright: New Internationalist 1995


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