online dating sites baby boomers - Webster dictionary sexism

by  |  29-Nov-2015 03:14

Oman-Reagan says that his detractors started at least two online forums devoted to harassing him, while the head of content creation at Oxford Dictionaries, Katherine Connor Martin, told me that watching men’s-rights activists defend the dictionary was, for her, “not a proud moment.” Oxford ultimately tweeted an apology, with a promise to review the “rabid” example sentence, but made no public mention of “shrill,” “psyche,” or the other problem entries.Feminists and linguists have been talking about the sexism that lurks beneath the surface of dictionaries since at least the nineteen-sixties.

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As the University of Oxford linguist Deborah Cameron puts it, when Oxford Dictionaries says its examples “come from real-world use,” it’s suggesting that “the sexism is in the world, and we just describe it.” This reasoning turns out not to hold up in the case of “rabid feminist,” though: Oxford tweeted that when its lexicographers searched their corpus—the archive of linguistic data, drawn from books, newspapers, and other writing, from which most dictionaries select example sentences—they found that combinations like “rabid fan” and “rabid supporter” were more commonly used; therefore, linguists told me, the entry might warrant adjusting for reasons of accuracy as well as sensitivity.

The solution isn’t so obvious when it comes to words such as “housework” and “shrill,” or in other cases where Oxford’s corpus may confirm that the most representative usage is, indeed, a sexist one.

To address these larger patterns, dictionary editors—and readers—must decide whether it’s possible to hold up a mirror to language without sanctioning its ugly side.

In “Websters’ First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language,” a feminist dictionary published in 1987, the radical philosopher and activist Mary Daly wrote an entry for a word of her own coinage: “Dick-tionary, : any patriarchal dictionary: a derivative, tamed and muted lexicon compiled by dicks.” Rooting out the sexism in dictionaries was a priority for feminism’s second wave. is Oxford’s “historic” dictionary, intended to reflect the entire evolution of language, whereas the New Oxford American Dictionary, which appears on Apple products in North America, is a “synchronic” dictionary that aspires to provide a snapshot of usage at the time of publication.) When “lesbian” finally was added, the entry included as an example sentence a quote from the writer Cecil Day-Lewis: “I shall never write real poetry.

After a recent controversy over dictionary entries containing examples like “rabid feminist” and “nagging wife,” lexicographers must decide whether it’s possible to describe the language without sanctioning its ugly side.

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