Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Word origins

A while ago, I did a post about my belief that the idea of the Holocaust is being grossly abused by the Europeans, the UN, etc. Now, over at Done With Mirrors, I found this elegant history of the word "Holocaust":

On Feb. 6, People around the world marked the 60th anniversary of the Allied armies overrunning the major Nazi concentration camps. The Nazi genocide of the European Jews has come to be called the Holocaust. Hitler's Jewish policies occasionally were referred to by that word in English newsper reports from as far back as 1942, but it didn't start to be used as a proper name for the extermination until about 1957. An earlier name among Jews for the genocide was the Hebrew word Shoah, which means literally 'catastrophe.' Holocaust itself has been in use in English since the Middle Ages, in the sense of 'sacrifice by fire, burnt offering.' Originally it was a Bible word for 'burnt offerings.' It comes from the ancient Greek word holokauston 'burned whole,' which breaks down into holos 'whole' (as in Modern English holistic) and kaustos, a verbal adjective from kaiein, which means 'to burn,' and which gives English also caustic and cauterize. Some modern writers have begun to turn away from the word as the specific term for the genocide of European Jews by the Nazis, in part because it has become a general synonym for 'genocide' (in Rwanda and Armenia, for instance), and in part because its origin as the translation of a Jewish religious ritual term makes its use in reference to the Nazi killings feel offensive.
UPDATE: Just to illustrate my point about the horrific abuse of the idea of the Holocaust, I am indebted to Little Green Footballs for this picture, which hangs on Ward Churchill's door. As you may recall, he is the professor who said that the victims of 9/11 deserved their fate because they are "little Eichmans," and who is wildly supported and applauded for both that viewpoint and his "principled" stand for academic freedom.