After touching upon the word "scapegoat" in explaining "fall guy" in the previous column, I felt the job was incomplete without elaborating on the Scapegoat.
So here I am telling the story of the original scapegoat, which was a real goat.
In Jewish tradition of a long past, the Scapegoat referred to the Azazel goat, a sacrificial goat sent out to the desert (Azazel) to carry off the sins of men. That poor creature, translated scapegoat (meaning "goat that escapes"), was left to fend for his own in the wilderness, destitute of water and grass, only to wipe out whatever sins men had committed against men and other species (goats and sheep included, I'm sure).
Still, the Scapegoat was a lucky goat, or rather the luckier goat in comparison to the other for there were always two goats to be sacrificed on the Day of Atonement. While the Scapegoat was let to "escape", the other goat was killed outright.
This ceremony was described in the Christian Bible, thus:
"Then he shall take the two goats, and set them before The Lord at the door of the tent of meeting; and Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats, one lot for The Lord and the other lot for Azazel. And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for The Lord, and offer it as a sin offering; but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before The Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel." (Leviticus 16:7-10 RSV)
"And when he has made an end of atoning for The Holy Place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat; and Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins; and he shall put them upon the head of the goat, and send him away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. The goat shall bear all their iniquities upon him to a solitary land; and he shall let the goat go in the wilderness." (Leviticus 16:20-22 RSV)
The dead goat is a symbol of Jesus Christ, who was good and was crucified (nailed to the cross and left to bleed dry). The Scapegoat symbolizes the life of Satan, who was evil and was let live.
Quite consistent this is, you might say, with the old Chinese saying: "The good die young while the evil live a thousand years."
Anyways, it's a good thing that the Jewish goats, either the killed or the escaped, are a thing of the past. Good thing, that in modern use, the scapegoat comes to represent only men - the real goats are spared, for Christ's sakes and for heaven's snakes.
The scapegoat nowadays is someone who either by naivety or bad luck fall victim when they are blamed for some calamity happening - when in fact they are just a fall guy.
In other words, they are just patsies and whipping boys - they are (like the sacrificial goat and Jesus on the cross) left hung out to dry while the real culprits go sun-bathing, say, in the Caribbean.
In current Chinese, they are "倒霉蛋儿".