LINGUIST List 8.251

Fri Feb 21 1997

Sum: Dictionaries and anti-semitism

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1. REISDOERFER, SUM: Dictionaries and anti-semitism

Message 1: SUM: Dictionaries and anti-semitism

Date: Wed, 19 Feb 97 00:15:34 +0100
Subject: SUM: Dictionaries and anti-semitism

- ----
1) Initial query:

On November 16th 1996 I posted the following query on Linguist-List:

>* Not long ago a French editor withdrew a dictionary containing
>antisemitic and racist definitions.
>* As we have a similar case in Luxembourg, I am gathering informations
>- precise date; names of the dictionary and of the editor, criticised
>definitions - about the events in France.

2) Answers:

* I was contacted by:
- <> (Sandra Golstein)
- Raphael Salkie <>
- Philippe ALCOUFFE <>
- gladney frank y <>
- Laszlo Cseresnyesi <>
- (Jean-Claude Boulanger)

- I thank all those people who sent material on this case or showed
any interest in the issue.

* Sensitive Words in Dictionaries:

Raphael Salkie <> drew my attention to an
interesting article by Robert Burchfield: The turn of the screw:
ethnic vocabulary and dictionaries. The Listener, 13 April 1978,
pp. 454-6. Reprinted in R. Burchfield, Unlocking the English
Language, London, Faber & Faber 1989. (Paperback edition published by
Hill and Wang, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 19 Union
Square West, New York, 10003, 1992, pp. 109-115.)

R.B's. position can be summarised by the two following quotations:
1) Dictionary editors are now at last aware that they must give
maximum a ttention to sensitive words, like Palestinian, Moluccan, and
so on. Poltically sensitive words like Palestine and Kashmir can be
entered only as geographical and not as poltical entries, unless there
is adequate space to describe the claims and counter-claims and there
are facilities for th e frequent updating of the entries. 2) In the
end, in their function as =8Cmarshallers of words, lexicographers must
set them all down as objectively as possible to form a permanent
record of the language of our time, the useful and the neutral, those
that are decorus and well-formed, beside those that are controversial,
tasteless or worse. [Burchfield (1992), 115 ]

* Le Dictionnaire des synonymes et contraires:

- Philippe ALCOUFFE <> and
<Jean-Claude.Boulange> (Jean-Claude Boulanger)
informed me that the banned dictionary was the "Dictionnaire des
Synonymes et contraires", by Henri Berta ud du Chazaud; Edition Le
Robert 1994.

- The problematic words were three synonyms given - among others - for
the French word avare, "avaricious": juif, youpin youtre.

- About youde, youtre, youpin LE ROBERT, Dictionnaire historique de la
la ngue francaise, 2 vol, Paris 1992 2, 2299b says: Ces mots ont ete
surtou t en usage dans les periodes de fort antisemitisme, de 1889 a
1900 (affai re Dreyfus) et de 1930 a 1940-1944, alors liees a la
propagande nazie.

- The Consistoire central israelite de France through its president
Jean KAHN ("On ne peut maintenir dans un dictionnaire des termes qui,
il y a c inquante ans, ont eu un effet meurtrier") protested against
the use of th ese synonyms and the dictionary was finally withdrawn by
the editor-LE RO BERT/NATHAN, a measure which originated a loss of
1.000.000 FF.

- Two articles published in LE MONDE (7 XI 95, p. 2 and 12-13 XI 95,
p. 2 0) deal with the Dictionnaire des synonymes et contraires-case.
(information provided by <>)

* The Luxemburger Woerterbuch

- In Luxembourg, we have a rather complex situation.

- The Luxemburger Woerterbuch, 5 vol. Luxembourg 1950-1977 (with material
 collected in the twenties and thirties), the official dictionary of
Luxe mbourgish, has a quite offensive Jew-article filled up with
antisemitic s ayings. Most of the proverbs given are no longer in use
in modern Luxembourgish.

- This dictionary has been reprinted in 1995 without any changes.

- Faced with the protest of the Jewish community against this reprint (P.
 CERF: La Section linguistique de l'Institut grand-ducal patronne un
 ouvrage antisemite, anticlerical, xenophobe et obscne, Tageb latt
84 Jhg. (7 XI 96-Nr. 256) 10) the government decided to withdraw the
dictionary, a decision quite difficult to implement as the ownership o
f the volumes is not clearly established.



Dr Joseph REISDOERFER, Professeur, LCD & ISERP.
* TEL.: 352-55 20 04; FAX: 352-55 20 01.
* SNAIL-MAIL: 17, rue Emile Mayrisch, L-4240 ESCH / ALZETTE, Grand-Duche=
 de Luxembourg.
 * Site WWW du CunLux:
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