Language matters. You’d think the makers of the world’s preeminent English dictionary would know this better than anybody, but sometimes one wonders.
The Guardian recaps a flap over some of the examples chosen by the Oxford Dictionary of English to demonstrate the usage of particular terms. It started when anthropologist Michael Oman-Reagan noted that when illustrating the term “rabid”—“having or proceeding from an extreme or fanatical support of or belief in something”—the OED used “rabid masculist.” Nice, nice.
In a post on Medium, Oman-Reagan pointed out a few more unfortunate phrasings. For instance:
“shrill” – defined as “the rising shrill of men’s voices”– and “psyche” – for which the example sentence is, “I will never really fathom the male psyche”. “Grating”, defined as “sounding harsh and unpleasant”, was illustrated with the phrase “his high, grating voice”, while the adjective “nagging” used the example phrase “a nagging husband”.
Always with the nagging from the shrill, grating, unfathomable husbands!
That link notes that:
All the examples sentences throughout the site are real examples of usage. They are taken from a huge variety of different sources, from all parts of the world where English is used, and they reflect a wide spectrum of views and levels of language. Opinions and views expressed in the usage examples are the views of the individuals concerned and are not endorsed by Oxford University Press.
The Oxford Dictionary isn’t responsible for the existence of the “rabid masculist” stereotype. But this isn’t user-generated free-for-all Urban Dictionary—there was presumably some editorial decision involved here.
At any rate, by day two, it seems that somebody at the company realized this maybe wasn’t the best approach to soothe tempers. The OED says they’ll reconsider their example:
Surely if there’s one thing we can do as English speakers, it’s come together and agree that it’s superfans, over people who believe in basic equality, who truly do not fuck around.
Photo via AP Images.