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What Exactly is a ‘Scapegoat’ Anyway?

TIER.TV, Flickr

Since today is “National Blame Someone Else Day,” we thought we’d take a look at the origins of the term “scapegoat.” No, a scapegoat isn’t a tricky goat that has busted out of his pen and fled the farm. A scapegoat is someone who shoulders the blame and is punished, unjustly or not, for the misdeeds of others.

The term actually comes from the Old Testament. In Leviticus 16:8, two goats are offered up for a ritual sacrifice to account for the sins of mankind. One unfortunate goat was destined to go under the knife, while the other lucky fellow was set free. The idea was for the “goat that departs” to carry away the sins of the people with it, far off into the wilderness.

So, the next time someone tries to use you as scapegoat, which is never a pleasant thing, be thankful that at least you’re not the goat who had to stay. He got his share of the blame too, plus the business end of a very long and sharp blade.

[Word Origins]

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