On Sunday I was following (and participating in) a Facebook conversation about code-switching. Someone made the claim that it is a term used only for the way Black American people have to alter their speech to fit in with white folks. There was an immediate backlash against this, with plenty of people chiming in about how their own ethnic groups also code-switch when communicating with people outside their group.
A few of the people who piped up with this information said they were of Romani heritage, which got me wondering exactly where the Roma people came from. Google and Wikipedia had the answer to that: Northern India. Wow. I had no idea. I had assumed the Roma were one of many tribal cultures originating in Europe. Nope.
Somewhere in one of the articles I read, there was mention of Ashkenazi Jews (peripherally, not directly related to the Roma in any way); my brain jumped to the genetic studies of where Ashkenazim came from. As you know, where my brain jumps, my internet browser soon follows. It occurred to me that it would be really cool to see how far back I could trace my family history.
So I tried. I didn’t get very far, possibly because I can’t read Polish or Romanian and also because I wasn’t ready to plunk down money to access some of those websites. What I really wanted was just to find records of births and marriages and keep on working backwards from there. Maybe that was naïve of me. I’m sure I’ll attempt it again, but for now I’ll have to shelve it in favour of more immediate concerns.
But if I couldn’t find official records of my ancestors, maybe I could understand a bit more of their migration route. So I looked up the history of the town my grandfather was from, and then the history of Jews in Poland more broadly. And then there was an article about Jewish merchants and trade routes that went all the way from France to China in the eleventh century, which was interesting, and led me to read up on Khazars, which led me to Mountain Jews and the language they speak—Judeo Tat. And all because someone mentioned the Roma.
Come to think of it, this is how my mind works pretty much all the time. It jumps from one thing to another in a matter of seconds, so that I can be talking with Mr. December about summer camp and then say, “I just realized that trepidation and intrepid are from the same word! Why have I only just realized it now?” Admittedly, my conversation can be hard to follow.
But oh, my brain—and the hyperlinked internet world—takes me to so many interesting places. Thank God for the internet.