Major Antedating of "Anti-Semitic"

Geoffrey Nunberg nunberg at ISCHOOL.BERKELEY.EDU
Tue Jan 17 05:27:48 UTC 2012

Wow, this is quite striking, Fred. The generally accepted story has it that "anti-Semitism" was coined by Wilhelm Marr in 1879 as Ger. Antisemitismus, by way of providing a genteel replacement for Judenhass, and that the early English occurrences were merely translations of that. If that was the case, then the OED's 1881 citation would be in line. This one might call for a radical revision of that assumption. I say "might" because it isn't clear to me, looking at the passage, exactly what Carlyle is referring to with the phrase. (It almost never is, with Carlyle.) Could this be merely a typically vivid Carlylean reference to some theological controversy (which in context would make sense) or to a philological one (there were plenty, involving Biblical translations.) And if not is there any reason to suppose that 'Semitic' here is restricted to Jews?

> ________________________________________
> From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of Shapiro, Fred [fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU]
> Sent: Monday, January 16, 2012 8:08 AM
> Subject: [ADS-L] Major Antedating of "Anti-Semitic"
> anti-Semitic (OED 1881)
> 1851 Thomas Carlyle _Life of John Sterling_ 6 (Google Books)  It was not as a ghastly phantasm, choked in Thirty-nine article controversies, or miserable Semitic, Anti-semitic street-riots, -- in scepticisms, agonized self-seekings, -- that this man appeared in life.
> Fred Shapiro

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