Travellers are a subgroup of Irish who had traditionally chosen a more itinerant lifestyle than the rest of Ireland, and can be found in Ireland and parts of the United Kingdom.

There are also two schools of thought about them, both are included for historical context (and exaggerated to make a point): the first is that they are an oppressed minority, a distinct ethnic group who have faced persecution and prejudice, glorious and noble culture, and so on and so forth. They were actually recognized by British and Irish law as an ethnic group, as such meaning they cannot be discriminated against, spoken badly of, etc. etc. etc. The other is that they are basically a few degenerate families who interbred and chose a life of hanging around long enough to do cowboy shoddy work and various bits of thieving and petty crime and then taking off before the pitchforks and torches arrived. They would no more be an "ethnic group" than white, Anglo Saxon Protestants would be in the US if the various biker gangs decided to interbreed and form a specific offshoot. At least, not from the perspectives of crying about being a new population coming in to a country and dealing with unwarranted prejudice. 

One argument for them being an ethnic group is a distinct language, called Shelta, which like pollari is a cant, and also like pollari was designed to obscure what the speaker was saying to cover up criminality. It's a mixture of Irish and English, with letter, syllable substitution and some words spoken backwards and is therefore incomprehensible to outsiders

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. As a British joke goes, "what's the only kind of key that opens any lock? A pikey."

In between running various building-related con jobs for cash (which is tax free) they like to soak their hands in gasoline to toughen them up and get involved in the sport of bare knuckle boxing. If this is sounding a lot like the people Brad Pitt played in that movie with the gravelly voiced bald action movie guy - it's because the "pikeys" are actually real people.

And therefore every now and then a few of them will get out of one car (from one family) and a few will get out of another one (from another family) and there'll be about fifty minutes of two guys standing there ducking their heads slightly back and forth, occasionaly throwing a punch in the approximate direction of the other man's head. Older guys running in and "breaking it up" every 30 seconds to provide some action is a constant, as is seeing the back of some gypsy's head because it's captured on a grainy cellphone with both guys' families crowded around stepping into shot.

But before this exercise in general non-pugilism, there's a "DEE VEE DEE". That's pikey slang for a YouTube video in which, like pro wrestlers hyping the next match at the Saddledome Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! they do the equivalent of addressing the camera with a "You know, Mean Gene..." speech. In a backyard that's more depressing than New Jersey.

It's a call-out, and as with all call-outs, there's colorful language (very little swearing though), colorful insults, assertions that the coming combat will be like watching Superman and Doomsday batter each other to a bloody pulp with them as a victor, and so forth. Having seen the actual fights, no, no my friend, you're not going to light the guy up with a few punches and send him to hospital: you're both going to stand there in the Notre Dame Mascot stance, throwing the occasional "distance gauge" jab.

But even though they're rather unimaginative and repetitive, they're in pikey.

"Ye call ye'self de king o' de Travellers, king a de DOG SHITE, dat's what eye calls yah!" "Ye say yer nat jompin the queue ta coom foight me, de only queue ye'll be jompin is de queue to de HOSPITAL afer oi'll be dan wit yee." "Shoite in a bucket, that's what oi calls ye, ye hav that mam a yours that can mekkit to the toilet and wunna ye's haldin her one leg loike this an de odder de odder leg loike dis an dey gotta empty dat bucket foive, six toimes a day, shoite in a bucket."

And of course there's the slanders against the other person's manhood: "Ye coom to me, croyin loik a child, sayin' ya couldn' foight na mair, ye'd had dat rupture. Well next ting ya know yer onna DEE VEE DEE wit dat Internet shoite sayin ye'r ganna beat me doon, but dehrs torty witnesses doon the bar seein ye croy loik a little croyin child ye coward ye."

Keeping in mind that these are but a few families, what you have here is kind of a drunken alley brawl Hatfields and the McCoys type of situation, argued out on DEM DEE VEE DEES and in the comments section of YouTube. And if half of the insult going back and forward is true, what a truly depressing life these guys lead. One's a junkie. ("Dem drogs ye're takin cam out of a black man's arse!") One was convicted of fiddling with children. One has a sick matriarch who's not all there and incontinent. And all the while they're standing there, in track suits and their flabby aging bodies showing nothing but the war wounds of poverty and self-abuse with alcohol and cigarettes, prematurely aged and breaking down. One admits he's in his 30s in the video and I'd have put him late 40s at the earliest.

Interesting to watch the younger generation. Oh, they step forward and address the camera, "Ye've nivver boxed a real man, when oi hit ye ye'll hav lomps loik tennis baaaals on de soide a yer head" but their heart doesn't seem to be in it. They're just going through the motions, saying the same old insults to the camera "ye dirty old tramp, ye. Ya dirty junkie."

Occasionally a fight will start that has genuine bad blood. One video shows two pikeys simply duking it out for real in the middle of the road, one busted wide open and bleeding everywhere. Cars honk but ain't nobody getting out of their car to try and intervene and with good reason.

These things have a cult following, which of course feeds the downward spiral of insult, fight with no real conclusion, argument over who really won, rematch. But like soap operas or Hershey's, they're addicting little things you can't tear yourself away from.

An example here




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