Webster’s Dictionary and Wild Conspiracy Theories

Sometimes it can be difficult to look at the internet without thinking that a sizeable fraction of humanity has succumbed to a kind of mass stupidity. Gaze upon the latest atrocity to be committed against the moral majority of America:

One of the nation’s most prominent dictionary companies has resolved the argument over whether the term “marriage” should apply to same-sex duos or be reserved for the institution that has held families together for millennia: by simply writing a new definition.

“I was shocked to see that Merriam-Webster changed their definition of the word ‘marriage,’ a word which has referred exclusively to a contract between a man and a woman for centuries. It has now added same sex,” YouTube user Eric B. noted to WND.

“The 1992 Webster’s Dictionary does not mention same sex at all,” he wrote. (Source)

Why does anybody go to WND for their news? If you had a choice between drinking a glass of water and drinking a glass of sulphuric acid, why would you go for the sulphuric acid?


While it’s entirely possible that this is either a sinister homo-conspiracy or a show of solidarity by whoever decides what ends up in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, I seriously doubt that it’s either. More likely, someone decided to add same-sex marriage to the definition of ‘marriage’ but, despite what the writers at WingNutDaily would have you believe, same-sex marriage exists. As a concept or as an institution (in some places), it exists. The Religious Right might not like the fact that ‘marriage’ does in some places refer to a legally recognised union between two people, or that the idea of such a union is commonly discussed, but that reality (thankfully) does not warp in accordance with their whims.

There will no doubt be many people bemoaning the ‘politicisation of dictionaries’ because of this, yet not including a definition for ‘same-sex marriage’ would be far more political than including it. A dictionary lists definitions, and it should refrain from defining a term just because doing so will make some people angry.

UPDATE: The dictionary people have responded:

“We hear such criticism from all parts of the political spectrum. We’re genuinely sorry when an entry in – or an omission from – one of our dictionaries is found to be offensive or upsetting, but we can’t allow such considerations to deflect us from our primary job as lexicographers.”

…”In recent years, this new sense of ‘marriage’ has appeared frequently and consistently throughout a broad spectrum of carefully edited publications, and is often used in phrases such as ‘same-sex marriage’ and ‘gay marriage’ by proponents and opponents alike. Its inclusion was a simple matter of providing our readers with accurate information about all of the word’s current uses,” Stamper wrote. (Source)

Wahey, I was right.


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