George Bush - clever speech writer? No, he has flunkies and monkeys to do those jobs for him. And I believe they have come up with a linguistic corker this time, in the State of the Union Address (and elsewhere - iheard on on TV yesterday when he was describing the Iraq elections)
Here's the quote, care of the Whitehouse:
As democracy takes hold in Iraq, the enemies of freedom will do all in their power to spread violence and fear. They are trying to shake the will of our country and our friends, but the United States of America will never be intimidated by thugs and assassins. (Applause.) The killers will fail, and the Iraqi people will live in freedom. (Applause.)
Thugs? Assassins? These are not words of English origin. they are not even French or Latin. Where do these words come from? What images do they evoke?
Let's see - thugs. See the BBC for some excellet info, but a summary is:
The original Thugs were bands of roving criminals in India who strangled and robbed travellers. Originally these gangs committed murder following precise religious rites to honour Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction.
The crime was known as Thuggee, and although it involved a Hindu goddess, there were Muslim Thugs as well.
What about assassins?
During the 17th and 18th centuries, the name Assassin received a good deal of attention from western scholars, who threw a flood of theories to explain its origin and significance. The mystery was finally seems to have solved by Silvestre de Sacy, who discovered that the word Assassin was Hashishiyya, i.e., the users of hashish.
Alien words to describe those whose values are alien to Bush's own. But also of interst as they originate from the very areas regarded as trouble spots by the West now. perhaps times haven't changed that much after all.
BTW In an act of serendipity, this issue is nicely dealt with in an article from Stanford U.