War of words

Amidst accusations of sexism, Oxford Dictionaries will review definitions

(REUTERS/Tim Wimborne)

Oxford Dictionaries has said it will review the language used in its definitions due to allegations of sexism. The backlash started after Canadian anthropologist Michael Oman-Reagan tweeted at Oxford University Press, which publishes the Dictionaries, with a suggestion that they change the example associated with the word “rabid.” Defined as “having or proceeding from an extreme or fanatical support of or belief in something,” Oxford used the phrase “rabid feminist” to illustrate proper use of the adjective. Oman-Reagan has pointed out other instances of what he deemed “explicitly sexist usage examples.” The word “psyche,” for example, is explained with the phrase “I will never really fathom the female spirit,” while the word “nagging” is accompanied by the usage example “a nagging wife.”  While words like “research” and “doctor” use the male pronoun in their example phrases (“He was made a Doctor of Divinity”), the word “housework” is illustrated with the female pronoun (“She still does all the housework”).

Oxford Dictionaries initially gave a flippant response to Oman-Reagan’s criticism, but when “rabid” became the most popular search term on the Dictionaries’ website, a spokesperson for Oxford University Press said that the publishers would review the examples brought to light by Oman-Reagan. “We apologise for the offence that these comments caused,” the statement read. “The example sentences we use are taken from a huge variety of different sources and do not represent the views or opinions of Oxford University Press. That said, we are now reviewing the example sentence for ‘rabid’ to ensure that it reflects current usage.”

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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