Major Antedating of "Anti-Semitic"

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Tue Jan 17 11:13:19 UTC 2012

Above on the same page (available at Hathi Trust*) a correspondent to Carlyle quotes Carlyle's earlier-published phrase "Hebrew old clothes," a phrase that may help clarify Carlyle's usage.
In an 1852 review** of Carlyle's 1851 text, both phrases are quoted and parenthetically glossed by the (theologically-involved Free Church Magazine) reviewer:

...'Hebrew Old-clothes' (by which elegant phrase of Mr. Carlyle's, his correspondent means the Scriptures)....
....or miserable Semitic , Anti-semitic street riots (the writer means such 'miserable' disputes as, whether the Bible be worthy of our faith, or but an old wives' fable)....


Carlyle could reasonably be called anti-Semitic.
Maybe this discussion could help with the collocation previously discussed on this list, Browning's "Semitic guess."

Stephen Goranson
From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of Geoffrey Nunberg [nunberg at ISCHOOL.BERKELEY.EDU]
Sent: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 12:27 AM
Subject: Re: [ADS-L] Major Antedating of "Anti-Semitic"

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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