“The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms,” said Socrates, and the wise people who watch over the definitions contained in the Merriam-Webster unabridged dictionary have revealed a playful minx hiding behind those librarian glasses.
And she’s clearly either one of us or a really great ally.
Back in April, Merriam-Webster — the nation’s oldest and most widely used dictionary — added some words to its unabridged collection, including cisgender, Mx. and genderqueer.
Cisgender, Mx., and genderqueer are all new additions to the Unabridged today. Here's our article on 'cisgender'. https://t.co/9fvlhnlIPv
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) April 20, 2016
Human Rights Campaign hailed the additions, writing in an online blog post, “The move helps broadens public understanding of the increasing diversity of words that people within the LGBTQ community use to describe their identities.”
Yeah, well, you’d think so. Merriam-Webster’s tongue-in-cheek Twitter account responded to some flak about “genderqueer,” a term in use since the 1990s.
1) saying they don't know what 'genderqueer' means
2) asking why we added it to the dictionary pic.twitter.com/wsGZ7Y6XB8
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) April 25, 2016
The company’s come a long way since 1999, when its editors, red-faced, took action to remove some antigay definitions of “homosexual.” The New York Times reported on the controversy, noting Merriam-Webster and America Online “temporarily removed an on-line thesaurus on Friday that contained a word list for ”homosexual” that included references to ”faggot,” ”fruit” and ”pederast.'”
The dictionary’s website and Twitter account welcome interaction with its readers, last month soliciting opinions on a word for sexual orientation with the intelligentsia:
Is it time to add 'sapiosexual' to the dictionary? https://t.co/PL1asS3BMD
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) November 28, 2016
And in true form, when the dictionary was knocked for its inclusionary question, the Huffington Post reports it responded boldly and confidently: