Thursday, January 27, 2011

Trivializing the Diaspora

A new social-networking Web site adopts a tasteless and sophomoric name.

I have just learned that some enterprising morons have produced a new social-networking Web site on which they have conferred the name “Diaspora.” Do these boobs or their audience have any idea what the word means and what it refers to? Here is the entry for the word from the Oxford English Dictionary:
diaspora, n.

Pronunciation: /daɪˈæspərə/

Etymology:  < Greek διασπορά dispersion, < διασπείρ-ειν to disperse, < διά through + σπείρειν to sow, scatter

The Dispersion; i.e. (among the Hellenistic Jews) the whole body of Jews living dispersed among the Gentiles after the Captivity (John vii. 35); (among the early Jewish Christians) the body of Jewish Christians outside of Palestine (Jas. i. 1, 1 Pet. i. 1). Hence transf.: see quots.

(Originating in Deut. xxviii. 25 (Septuagint), ἔση διασπορὰ ἐν πάσαις βασιλείαις τῆς γῆς, thou shalt be a diaspora (or dispersion) in all kingdoms of the earth.)
To call your social-networking business “Diaspora” is as grotesque a trivialization of history as coming up with a new brand of lighter fluid and calling it “Holocaust.”


  1. And here's the Wikipedia entry:

    The term's long been used in a more general sense.

    In this case, the software's meant to support a migration (can I say an exodus?) from the "walled garden" of Facebook to a more open (source) refuge (can I say promised land?).

    It's worth noting that many historical diasporas suffered Jewish-style persecutions (e.g., Indian shopkeepers in Africa, Chinese merchants in Indonesia).

    The nation of Singapore only exists because that particular part of the Chinese diaspora feared Malaysian sovereignty.

    (I usually enjoy your articles. This one seems very uncharacteristic.)

  2. Yes, the term has been used by other groups, including the descendants of the people who were taken from Africa to be slaves. NOT ONE of those uses of the term conjure up an image of carefree social interaction. It's a stupid name and you have to wonder if the people who came up with it even bothered to google the name to see what connotations it has. (Cruise forbid they actually use a dictionary. That's soooo last millenium.)


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