from "blood libel" to "pogrom"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat Jan 15 05:41:14 UTC 2011

At 11:42 PM -0500 1/14/11, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>Now, now. There you go again!  Was the "war" on poverty really a war? Of
>course not! When America's young people say the latest musical bebop number
>or something is "killer!" do they mean it really kills?  No again!
>So obviously any mean criticism of a political position is just as much a
>"blood libel" or a "pogrom" or "genocide" (good one!) as anything else.

i.e. "A pundit's reach must exceed his (or her) grasp, or what's a metaphor?"?


>As St. Humpty might have said to Alice: "Prove me wrong, O ye
>On Fri, Jan 14, 2011 at 10:02 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at>wrote:
>>  ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>  -----------------------
>>  Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>  Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>>  Subject:      Re: from "blood libel" to "pogrom"
>>  At 9:51 PM -0500 1/14/11, Wilson Gray wrote:
>>  >On Fri, Jan 14, 2011 at 5:43 PM, Victor Steinbok
>>  ><aardvark66 at> quoted:
>>  >
>>  >>  pogrom
>>  >
>>  >Clearly, this person has not the least idea of what a "pogrom" is - or
>>  >should that be, ... of what is a "pogrom"?. Well, that's not very
>>  >surprising, given that the one-volume edition of the Bol'shoi
>>  >russko-angliiskii slovar' / Comprehensive Russian-English Dictionary
>>  >gives the the meaning of _pogrom_ as "pogrom." I.e., there is really
>>  >no way of translating the horror contained in those two syllables into
>>  >English.
>>  >
>>  >Of course, from now on, every time that some right-winger has his
>>  >feelings hurt, it'll be described as the consequence of a "pogrom."
>>  >
>>  >It's almost enough to make you appreciate why The One True Faith
>>  >labored to keep the Bible out of the hands of the polloi for a
>>  >millennium and a half. That is to say, a person really ought to have
>>  >some idea of what a "pogrom" is before using the word to describe a
>>  >triviality. The writer would, no doubt, use "beheading" to describe a
>>  >cutting remark. :-(
>>  >
>>  If GWB and Obama can variously be seen as the new Hitler (by
>>  different seers, to be sure), then this isn't too surprising, given
>>  the usual semantic bleaching effects, although it is discouraging.
>>  Who was it who used to complain about "defining deviancy down"?  So
>>  now it's "blood libel" and "pogrom" being defined down.   :-( indeed.
>>  LH
>>  ------------------------------------------------------------
>>  The American Dialect Society -
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>The American Dialect Society -

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