Sunday, December 7, 2008

From the "How Words Happen" Department

See? And you thought Latin was a waste of time! From the CNN website, and I encourage you to go there and follow the excellent related links:

Sixty years ago this month, the U.N. voted unanimously to adopt the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It was ambitious, serious, far-reaching -- and largely the result of Lemkin's lifetime of effort.

A Pole and a Jew, Lemkin had watched in horror as Hitler nearly succeeded in his plan to exterminate the Jews. Six million Jews -- including 40 members of Lemkin's family -- died at the hands of the Nazis.

Today, we call what happened at Auschwitz and the other death camps "genocide." But at the time, there was no name for the Nazis' crimes. The word "genocide" did not exist.

In 1944, Lemkin wrote a book about the Nazis. In it, he combined the Greek "genos" for race with the Latin "-cide" for killing: Genocide. Lemkin had named the crime he spent a lifetime trying to prevent.
So? So if you can't name a thing, can you communicate about it? If you can't communicate about it, can you alter or affect it?

"The limits of my language are the limits of my world."