The Use of Meds Yeghern – Schott’s Vocab

Schott’s Vocab, a New York Times blog on the “miscellany of modern words and phrases,” by Ben Schott recently posted about the use of the phrase “Meds Yeghern,” used by President Obama as he addressed and commemorated the Armenian Genocide on April 24, 2009:

Many Armenians in America, and elsewhere, were disappointed recently when President Obama shied away from using the word “genocide” to describe the 1915 massacre, Ali Bulaç reported in Today’s Zaman.

Despite Obama’s use of the word “genocide” during his presidential campaign, in a statement on April 24, he instead moderated his use of the word:

Ninety four years ago, one of the great atrocities of the 20th century began. Each year, we pause to remember the 1.5 million Armenians who were subsequently massacred or marched to their death in the final days of the Ottoman Empire. The Meds Yeghern must live on in our memories, just as it lives on in the hearts of the Armenian people.

The post on Schott’s Vocab received 15 comments creating an almost robust discussion on the literal translation on the word and highlighting opinions of it usage.

Commenter Giro Manoyan spoke of the difference of Armenians and non-Armenians using the phrase “Meds Yeghern.”

Armenians use “Medz Yeghern” interchangeably with “Armenian Genocide.” But when non-Armenians use “Medz Yeghern” to avoid saying “Armenian Genocide” then that becomes the expression of a political position, devoid of any respect to the memory of those who perished.

Webby-nominated political blog, The Stiletto, also added a few points.

My understanding of the term “Meds Yeghern” is that it is mostly used by elderly Armenians to describe the Armenian Genocide, for the simple reason that the word “genocide” was not coined by Polish-Jewish scholar Raphael Lemkin until 30 years after the Ottoman Empire’s state-sponsored mass murder. Lemkin drew upon what happened to Armenians in Ottoman Turkey to explain what was starting to happen to Jews in Nazi Germany.

Another commenter named Erdal Atrek took to the comments to dispute the claims of genocide.

Armenians have not shown one credible document that indicates government intent to “exterminate” the Armenians. Propaganda cannot stand in the face of truth, and one day when people will decide to have nothing but the truth, the truth will overcome.

The definition of “Meds Yeghern” as defined by Armenian dictionaries simply means “jard” which translated into English means “massacre.”



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