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  1. #1
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    Default Please help me correctly apply words from a dictionary

    Since I have posted here last I ran into a few issues with words that I hope someone would please help me understand the correct interpretation from a linguistics stand point.

    (I delve into history a lot and its imperative for me to correctly understand and apply the meanings of words)

    Ok.. I was browsing through ww2 history and noticed that the etymological origin and use of the word holocaust is completely different than the way it is applied in reference to ww2.

    The etymology is stated as a whole or complete burnt offering to God until 1944 where apparently Churchill used the term in his book to describe the event in the Nazi camps.

    Now in 1944 the dictionary changed or extended the meaning to a genocide. From the etymology I do not see the connection.

    Then to further complicate matters while looking into this a bit more, I found a Rabbi who claims that use of the word holocaust to describe a genocide is somewhat derogatory and the correct word to use is "Shoah" meaning catastrophe.

    (I will be happy to supply any further references needed, I provided snippets and left the long versions of them out for brevity. Please note the use of the word "destruction" because that comes up in my next question....)

    The Holocaust is the name applied to the systematic state-sponsored persecution and genocide of various ethnic, religious and political groups during World War II by Nazi Germany and its collaborators.
    snip
    The word holocaust originally derived from the Greek word holokauston, meaning "a completely (holos) burnt (kaustos) sacrificial offering", or "a burnt sacrifice offered to God".
    snip
    The biblical word Shoa (????), also spelled Shoah and Sho'ah, meaning "calamity" in Hebrew (and also used to refer to "destruction" since the Middle Ages)...........
    snip
    Shoa is preferred by many Jews and a growing number of Christians and other people due to the theologically offensive nature of the original meaning of the word holocaust as a reference to a sacrifice to God and also due to scholarly insistence that this largely archaic meaning somehow tilts the present meanings. There is also concern that the particular significance of the Holocaust would be lessened as use of the term becomes increasingly widespread in the latter half of the 20th century to refer generically to any mass killings such as the Rwandan Genocide and the actions of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia as 'holocausts'.


    Now I have taken the position of the Rabbi's on this on the sole basis that the word has been used for centuries to describe the ritual of a whole burned offering to God.

    So I view this as a form of slang or simply a misapplication of the word.

    Question:

    Is it linguistically proper to define a word with another that has completely unrelated etymology and reference it as the same thing?

    Would this be
    linguistically a form of slang?

    What are the general rules with regard to this sort of thing?


    =====================================


    Ok that was the first question.

    The second is somewhat similar.

    Another one I found very interesting is when digging into the speeches made in Germany during world war 2 by the nazis where they used the word "Vernichtung".

    The fundamental translation in english, Vernichtung, simply means "destruction" or to destroy.

    Look up destroy at Dictionary.com
    c.1225, from O.Fr. destruire, from V.L. *destrugerie (infl. by destructos), from L. destruere "tear down, demolish," lit. "un-build," from de- "un-, down" + struere "to pile, build" (see structure). A naval destroyer was originally a "torpedo boat destroyer," though the name comes specifically from the proper name given to one such ship in the U.S. Navy in 1882.
    de∑struc∑tion (di struk's?h?n)
    noun
    1. the act or process of destroying; demolition or slaughter
    2. the fact or state of being destroyed
    3. the cause or means of destroying
    Etymology: ME destruccioun < OFr destruction < L destructio < destructus, pp. of destruere: see destroy
    de∑stroy Listen to the pronunciation of destroy
    Etymology:
    Middle English, from Anglo-French destroy-, destrui-, stem of destrure, from Vulgar Latin *destrugere, alteration of Latin destruere, from de- + struere to build — more at structure
    Date: 13th century

    transitive verb1: to ruin the structure, organic existence, or condition of <destroyed the files> ; also : to ruin as if by tearing to shreds <their reputation was destroyed>2 a: to put out of existence : kill <destroy an injured horse> b: neutralize <the moon destroys the light of the stars> c: annihilate , vanquish <armies had been crippled but not destroyed — W. L. Shirer>intransitive verb: to cause destruction
    Now when we go to grims and grims and other sources the synonyms of destruction, are: extermination, and liquidation, then later annihilation.

    The reason I am having difficulty here is that the nazis used the word Vernichtung in their speeches.

    Translators use the words destruction, extermination, liquidation, and finally annihilation interchangeably.

    All these words "appear" to have the same ambiguous meaning starting at unbuilding, and get rid of on one side, to killing, slaugher and genocide on the other side.

    "It seems these words neutered and no longer have an unequivocal distinction and can carry any weight from "un-building" as it was in the roots to slaughter and killing on a genocidal level."

    Question:
    Is my above statement correct?

    Is this proper word evolution or am I just looking at this incorrectly? It seems to me that the use of language should clarify ones communication not create total confusion.

    So am I correctly interpreting these definitions as ambiguous with no possible way to specifically determine if Hitler meant "kill" or "unbuild"?

    I find this lack of distinction troubling so is it just me or have I made a proper assessment?


    =====================================

    Ok now the final word problem.
    (I have been saving them for you language wizards!! ha!)

    This one is regarding the use of the word "missile" to describe an airplane being flown into a building such as the world trade center.

    Once again going to the dictionary we find the following references.

    I think this came from webster:
    mis∑sile (msl, -l)
    n.
    1. An object or weapon that is fired, thrown, dropped, or otherwise projected at a target; a projectile.
    2. A guided missile.
    3. A ballistic missile.
    This gives me the impression that its root meaning is a projectile. A projectile is something like a bullet in that it is launched like a bullet toward its target. Then the second category are the guided and ballistic all of which have warheads on them.

    Here is more definitions just quickly grabbed from a net search.


    • a rocket carrying a warhead of conventional or nuclear explosives; may be ballistic or directed by remote control
    • projectile: a weapon that is forcibly thrown or projected at a targets but is not self-propelled

    • A missile (see also pronunciation differences) is a self-propelled, explosive projectile used as a weapon towards a target.
    Question:
    So my question on this one is:
    Can a plane being steered by a human being be correctly labeled a "missile" in this case or is it simply a plane flown into a building?
    (or am I cutting it to thin on this one?)


    Sorry about the length but I think it was necessary to properly explain my problems with linguists and making a "correct" determination of circumstances and events.

    Any help on clarifying these issues would again be greatly appreciated.

    TIA!
    Last edited by kokomoj0; 14-Jan-2009 at 17:10.

  2. #2
    jlinger is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Please help me correctly apply words from a dictionary

    I'm not going to even attempt to answer all your very interesting and erudite questions here, simply because I don't have a week or more to spend researching and typing. And besides which, I believe you already know more on this subject than I.

    But I will point out one thing that I suspect (pardon me if I was skimming) you may have missed.

    There is only one Holocaust. There was only one Flood. There is only one Colosseum. There was only one Calvary. The difference is in the initial letter. It may change the meaning entirely. It certainly ignores any historical or entymological significance. If you lowercase the word (except Colosseum, which also requires then a change in spelling), you have a generic, often with a completely different meaning - related, obviously, but different.

    [It is interesting that there has been no Genocide yet.]

    This is not to enter into debate about Judea-Christian Fundamentalism (notice, capital F), but many religious events are thusly capped. You may debate whether the Flood occurred as described in the Bible (note the capital B), but when you see it written thus, then you know we're not talking about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

    Personally, to change Holocaust to Shoah would be to denigrate the significance of that event. I am quite surprised that Jewish scholars would even suggest that, as to me it looks like a type of denial.
    Last edited by jlinger; 14-Jan-2009 at 18:31.

  3. #3
    jlinger is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Please help me correctly apply words from a dictionary

    As for the missile question, I belive most of the descriptions are of "a plane being used as a missile" - not "the plane was a missile."

    After Katrina, for example, Carnival Cruise lines donated ships which were used as hostels for the evacuated. That is not to suggest their ships are hostels.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Please help me correctly apply words from a dictionary

    The Holocaust is the name applied to the systematic state-sponsored persecution and genocide of various ethnic, religious and political groups during World War II by Nazi Germany and its collaborators. Early elements of the Holocaust include the Kristallnacht pogrom and the T-4 Euthanasia Program,

    Shoa is preferred by many Jews and a growing number of Christians and other people due to the theologically offensive nature of the original meaning of the word holocaust as a reference to a sacrifice to God and also due to scholarly insistence that this largely archaic meaning somehow tilts the present meanings. There is also concern that the particular significance of the Holocaust would be lessened as use of the term becomes increasingly widespread in the latter half of the 20th century to refer generically to any mass killings such as the Rwandan Genocide and the actions of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia as 'holocausts'. The Armenians have long used the term in reference to their persecution by the Ottoman empire during World War I.
    Here is the link for you.
    JewishEncyclopedia.com - BURNT OFFERING.

    The Jewish people sort of frown on their sacred rituals being used as a label for an atrocity.

    Unfortunately I have to show you the words being used, I cant just use euphemisms or comparisons or I would have to avoid any possibility of this becoming personal since so many people have deep feelings and connections on many levels to the subject. The questions I am asking are purely to confirm what that I am or that I am not correctly reading and applying the grammar as put forth in the dictionaries correctly.

    I now look everything up as I found out when reading legal briefs its amazing what some words really mean and how they have been used just slightly out of context ot completely inaccurately, which I think is the case in all three of my questions.

    There really is not need for you to look anything up, I have lots of info on the subjects if you feel something is incorrect. However what I have supplied here is quite accurate to the best of my knowledge and I would hope that I can get answers just based on what is in my OP and here. I can doi the leg work and find any materials you need to correctly answer the problem.

    So with regard to the missile; The proper way then to communicate that is to say "plane as a missile" not just "a missile"?

    Can we use the data provided for some kind of determination on the "destruction" and all its synonyms issues too?

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Please help me correctly apply words from a dictionary

    Thank you for commenting on the missile and plane question. I noticed that you were from Canada, I dont think you are allowed to comment on the rest if I correctly understand the latest revisions to your Canadian Charter. Of coursse that is not the case here in America.


    I was really hoping someone would comment on the other 2 points as well though. Just from a grammar standpoint not an opinion on the event. Thats fair isnt it?

    What would be wrong with stating a disclaimer with the response pointing out that someone is using the data I have provided and restrict the comment narrowly on that data and strictly from a grammar standpoint, not an opinion on the event?

    Unfortunately I am not as well versed in grammar as the teachers here and this and other grammatic similarities where its hard to pin things down due to what appears the creation of a slang interpretation.

    Wont anyone clear this up for me?

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