At 1:15 in the clip below Robin Williams grumbles about buying gribenes from a mohel (look it up and you will get the bad joke). “It was such a Schande,” he declares, masquerading as a Bubbe.
The German word Schande is one of the most judgmental terms around. It means “shame,” “disgrace,” or “scandal,” and you do not want that word in the same sentence as your name.
The recent revival of “disgrace” and “disgraceful” in our culture set me to thinking about the efflorescence of blaming and shaming in tweets, headlines, comments, and posts. I looked up the Google Ngram for “disgraceful” and found that use of the term spiked in 1805 and then again about 1820, and that usage has declined steadily since then, with a small move upward by 2008 (financial crisis?). [see link below]
Who is to blame for the return of “disgraceful”? Did it begin with Trump’s tweets calling the acquittal of Garcia Zarate in San Francisco “disgraceful” and a “travesty of justice”? Or his rant about Sessions instructing the Inspector General to conduct a federal investigation: “Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!” “Many other instances!” if I can resort to Trump’s twitter-style.
The other side has fought back with its own share of “disgraceful” volleys. Here’s Michelle Goldberg on March 16, 2018, in the NYT: “A collection of generals, New York finance types and institution-minded Republicans were said to be nobly sacrificing their reputations and serving a disgraceful president for the good of the country.” Or Maureen Dowd the next day, commenting, “Trump & Friends presented this dizzying White House purge as a twisted version of him growing into the job, even as everyone else felt he was going in the opposite direction, behaving disgracefully by 86-ing Rex Tillerson in a tweet and tormenting other staffers he finds annoying or uppity.” And remember John Brennan, erstwhile director of the CIA, tweeting that Trump will take his “rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history.” Close enough.