March 21st, 2010

530nm330Hz

Whorf or no Whorf, words matter

There's a sign on the side of a house that I sometimes pass on my way to work. The sign reads "Mandatory Charity is a Contradiction in Terms."

Every time I see it, I wonder how you'd translate that into Hebrew. Because in Hebrew, the act of giving money to someone in need is not called "charity" (whose root is caritas, which can mean either "love" or "expensive"), it's called "justice" (i.e., tzedakah.)

And somehow, "Mandatory Justice" seems much less of a contradiction in terms than "Optional Justice" would be.