Occasional musings, Geistesblitze, photos, drawings etc. by a "resident alien", who has landed on American soil from a far-away planet called "Germany".

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Word of the Month: Sündenbock

Word of the Month: Index

Sünden means "sins," and a Bock is a male goat in this context. Sündenbock is used in German in exactly the same way in which "scapegoat" is used in English: It denotes a person who has been falsely accused of a misdeed and subsequently ostracized within a group, with the intent to turn suspicion away from the real culprits.

That these terms have the same meaning in the respective languages is not surprising because both have their origin in a ritual described in the Old Testament. On the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the High Priest puts his hands on a goat in order to transfer the sins of the people of Israel onto the animal and then has it, and with it the sins of the congregation, chased into the wilderness. [Leviticus 16, 21-22]

[Source: Wild Things in the German Language: Kindle/paperback version | iBooks version]


Heika said...

Interesting that it's a male goat, so often sin gets associated with females. As always great drawing. Are these words you know--the animal themed ones--or do you search them out.

Ulrich said...

It's male because the scapegoat in the Old Testament is male. But in metaphorical usage today, it can, and has been, applied to persons of either gender.

BTW I'm basically appalled by the ritual, in which an innocent animal gets maltreated for the sake of some religious belief. I read that in practice, the scapegoat was not just chased into the wilderness, but thrown from a cliff (and thereby killed) in order to prevent it from returning with the sins of the congregation.