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Give the Nazis What They Want

If you called Donald Trump a Nazi, he’d probably take offense, even though his nationalism is socialistic. If you called Bernie Sanders a Nazi, you’d be dismissed out of hand, though his socialism is avowedly nationalistic. But did you know that Adolf Hitler himself took offense when the word was applied to him and his political party?

“He would have considered himself a National Socialist,” writes word nerd Mark Forsyth in The Etymologicon.

Hitler himself took offense when the word “Nazi” was applied to him and his political party.

Sure, but as Steve Horwitz reminds us in “Why the Candidates Keep Giving Us Reasons to Use the ‘F’ Word” (Freeman, winter 2015), “Nazi is short for National Socialist German Workers Party [Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei].” So why would even Hitler be offended by the epithet?

Because “Nazi is, and always has been, an insult,” according to Forsyth.

Hitler’s “opponents realised that you could shorten Nationalsozialistische to Nazi. Why would they do this? Because Nazi was already an (utterly unrelated) term of abuse. It had been for years.”

The standard butt of German jokes at the beginning of the twentieth century were stupid Bavarian peasants. And just as Irish jokes always involve a man called Paddy, so Bavaria…

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