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Etymologies

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Examples

  • Or perhaps she should read up on the porajmos and ponder why it is that the Gypsies are the only group who suffered genocide during the holocaust proportionally more Roma were murdered than Jews and towards whom it's OK to be racially prejudiced in today's caring, sharing Conservative party?

    Nadine on Gypsies and Smacks

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  • Me too--it's history written in language itself. (Even when the images are grisly.)

    November 20, 2008

  • I love this kind of stuff, especially the images, and traces of images, that reverberate through centuries in words.

    November 20, 2008

  • Understood, rolig. Your clarification and additional info is much appreciated!

    November 20, 2008

  • Just to clarify something about "pogrom": Vladimir Dahl points out in his seminal Explanatory Dictionary of the Living Great Russian Language (originally published in the 1860s) that the word "gromit'" means "to lay waste to the enemy" and that there also exists a dialectal use in the expression"gromit' rybu" (which I translate as "to thunder fish") for the kind of fishing I described. Dahl provides one example that combines both meanings: "Na voyne byval; rybu gromil" ("he was at war; he thundered fish"), which sounds to me like a line from a medieval Russian folk epic; the subject is not expressed, but it could be referring to one of the legendary Russian folk heroes like Ilya Muromets. In this line "fish" is clearly a metaphor for the enemy troops, whom the hero routs like peasants rouse fish by making a great noise. This is not banalizing the massacre of the enemy, but poeticizing it and, indeed, making it more vivid for the listeners by describing it with an image they can all relate to.

    The noun "pogrom" ("slaughter, destruction") comes from the word "gromit'", which itself comes from the word "grom" ("thunder"). By the late 19th century, when "pogrom" became the standard way to describe Russian raids on Jewish villages in Ukraine and Belarus, no one would have connected this word with "fishing", though the notion of "thunder" (as in the thunder of horses' hooves) would still have been very much present.

    November 20, 2008

  • It comes with a "hork alert" sticker, let me just warn you.

    November 20, 2008

  • It's on my list, c_b. :-)

    November 19, 2008

  • Well, I mean, using a word like pogrom, as rolig described its original meaning, to apply to scaring people out of their houses so they can be more easily shot... You could make the argument that the application of that mundane word for a horrific act makes it seem less horrifying by dehumanizing the victims, sure. Maybe the learning that there's a mundane meaning for a term that's taken on a terrible definition is horrifying only in retrospect.

    Edit: reesetee, have you read Hitler's Willing Executioners? Chilling indeed.

    This whole thing just sucks.

    November 19, 2008

  • Yes. Hannah Arendt's "banality of evil" springs to mind.

    The flip side of making them seem more acceptable is that if such atrocities were perpetrated by regular old janes and joes like us, then are we capable of the same type of behavior? Another horrifying concept.

    November 19, 2008

  • I suppose that, by applying mundane terms to horrible acts, we make them a little less horrifying. Giving them a name makes them more acceptable, somehow.

    It's so chilling to hear about terms like "spritzen." I think they make the act seem even more horrifying.

    November 19, 2008

  • Absolutely. But there's something particularly sickening about using words that describe pretty mundane stuff, for these horrific actions. It trivializes, even mocks, the horror by trying to make it sound like mundane activities, and does violence to the language as well.

    I recall many years ago a friend of mine was studying German, and reading a recent (at the time) scholarly article about how the Holocaust changed the German language--the verb "spritzen," for instance, which (I was told this second-hand so it could well be wrong or I've misremembered) now has a completely different connotation from its original, more mundane meaning, after being used in official documents to describe how blood exited the victims of the Einsatzgruppen.

    November 19, 2008

  • What's distressing isn't that we have so many words to describe violence toward each other, it's that we have so many ways of carrying it out.

    November 19, 2008

  • I'm going to be sick.

    Language is incredible: words adapted or coined to describe the indescribable... Can I ever look at "pogrom" again and not think of how someone thought it would be a good word to use to describe fleeing people in the same way they'd describe fish?

    November 18, 2008

  • The nineteenth-century Russian lexicographer Vladimir Dahl seems to suggest that the connection between destruction and noise comes from a traditional manner of winter fishing, whereby people would make lots of noise to rouse the fish from frozen pools and then pull them out with hooked poles – this was called "thundering the fish" (громить рыбу / gromit' rybu). A similar tactic was employed against the enemy in war (and later against Jews): attacking a village with a great noise to get people to run terrified from their homes and then slaughtering them.

    November 18, 2008

  • Thanks, rolig. I hadn't known the etymology of "pogrom." Interesting that noise is directly connected to destruction in the term.

    November 18, 2008

  • Rt, your excellent expression"total consuming" suggests the root meaning of the term Holocaust: holo- = "whole, total"; -caust = "consumed by fire". The sense of "devouring" in the word porajmos is also powerful. The other word that needs to be mentioned in this list is pogrom, which comes from the Russian word громить / gromit', meaning something like "utterly destroy with great noise" – the idea of "noise" is an essential part of it: гром / grom means "thunder" and громкий / gromkiy means "loud".

    November 18, 2008

  • That's what struck me too, c_b--the use of a word that infers a total consuming, if you will, of an entire people. Very powerful.

    November 18, 2008

  • "Gypsies" is a traditional, but derogatory, term for the Roma. The term comes from the erroneous belief that they came from Egypt. They are not Romanians either; they came from central India, originally, many centuries ago. They've been considered an outcast minority in many European regions for hundreds of years, just as Jewish people have. It's no surprise, seen as part of a historical continuum, that they were targeted by Hitler and his cronies.

    This Wikipedia page has more information, though basic, on these people.

    The thing that struck me about this term used to describe the murder of a people was that "devouring" equates what happened to this ethnic with what happens to prey animals. It's hard for me to imagine trying to come up with a word to describe such an experience as the Holocaust; even "Shoah" means "disaster," which is correct but doesn't seem to do it justice. "Genocide" was a term coined around 1944 to try to describe what was happening in Europe. Imagine: there wasn't a word for this crime, though there had been what we would term genocides before Hitler (particularly the Armenian genocide in Turkey comes to mind).

    I actually thought about making a list of terms that different peoples use to describe genocide, but I quailed at the thought of the research. (Not the research per se, but how I'd sleep at night after having done it.)

    Rolig: yes, there were a lot of people the Nazis didn't like. All the ones you mentioned, plus disabled people or anyone with visible defects.

    November 18, 2008

  • I understood that next to Hitler's fear of Jewish people, was his fear of "Gypsies." (Romanians or other Eastern Europeans as I understood it). I lived in Germany for several years in the early '70s and the disdain for "Gypsies" was still prevalent. I had a hard time putting my mind's finger on "Gypsies," because to me, they looked just like all the other Germans, and I had to be "schooled" on several occasions by my German "friends."

    November 18, 2008

  • My understanding is that the basic targets of the Nazi regime's extermination efforts were Jews, Gypsies (Roma), homosexuals, and Communists, and if I'm not mistaken, each group was given its own symbol: the yellow Star of David for Jews, the pink triangle for male homosexuals, a black triangle for lesbians, or "antisocial women" (I'm not sure about the rest). I seem to remember this partly from my reading and partly from a visit to the Holocaust Museum in Washington. I am pretty sure that the extermination of the Roma was an intrinsic part of Hitler's master plan for Europe and not merely the decision of his lieutenants.

    Hitler also was not too keen on Slavs in general. During the occupation of Slovenia, for example, hundreds of Slovene intellectuals were interned (at Dachau and elsewhere) because they refused to accept the theory that Slovenes were really Germans who just happened to speak a Slavic language.

    November 18, 2008

  • They were killed during the Nazi regime; I don't think the estimated 500,000 were rounded up and murdered in one go, so the ultimate order was the same order that created the Final Solution. Sorry if I was unclear.

    Edit: also, the Roma don't have any specific homeland that could have been invaded.

    November 18, 2008

  • Bear I am aware of the final solution but was wondering if it was simply an invasion in which "said army officer in charge" ussued the order. So they were instructed to kill the 500,000 by Hitler himself?

    November 18, 2008

  • The Nazis exterminated an awful lot of people who were not Jews. The next-largest group they targeted, I believe, was the Roma. I assumed (perhaps wrongly) that that is common knowledge, but I had never seen this word before. (I have seen others, such as Shoah.)

    Shadowkeir, it was part of Hitler's "Final Solution," to rid the world of all races but the Aryan "master" race. You didn't have to be Jewish to be targeted, rounded up, and murdered by the Nazis.

    November 18, 2008

  • How many words?


    This is simply horrific. Does anyone know where these orders came from, maybe even Hitler himself?

    November 18, 2008

  • Wow.

    November 18, 2008

  • "... the Nazis exterminated as many as 500,000 Roma in what in Romany is called porajmos, or 'devouring.'" (Seen in WorldArk, Nov/Dec 2008)

    November 17, 2008