Lesson of the week? Words matter. Over the past few days, an array of vocabulary has prompted spats, showdowns, and a Jeopardy! question, because life is weird like that. Let’s take a look back:
Editors of the Oxford English Dictionary have disregarded a petition to remove “Essex girl,” defined as a “contemptuous term applied to … [an] unintelligent, promiscuous, and materialistic” woman, from its pages. Natasha Sawkins and Juliet Thomas, each of whom hails from the English county of Essex, launched the petition because they felt that the term reflects an “appalling stereotype.” The OED’s publishers noted in response that they do not “exclude offensive or vulgar terms from our dictionaries as they are as much a part of the language as any other words.” What do we need Urban Dictionary for, then?
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich went off on Megyn Kelly after the Fox News host suggested that Donald Trump might be a “sexual predator.” During a heated exchange, Gingrich repeatedly shouted over Kelly while accusing her of neglecting to cover the Clinton ticket’s ties to Bill Clinton, whose history with women has once again become a matter of national scrutiny (“We on The Kelly File have covered that story as well, sir,” Kelly responded). Gingrich also took it upon himself to proclaim that Kelly doesn’t “care” about policy because she is too “fascinated with sex.” People who live in glass houses …
Best-selling novelist Nova Riyanti Yusuf has become a tireless advocate for the mentally ill in Indonesia. Because the country’s psychiatric institutions are chronically underfunded, patients are crowded into cells and sometimes chained to the bars. Yusuf has written two successful books: Gods and Goddesses and Libido Junkie: A Memoir for the Radicals. In 2009, she decided to run for parliament and successfully authored a mental health law that expanded training for nurses and community health workers. Yusuf is currently pursing a Ph.D. in public health at the University of Indonesia and continues to lobby for government reform.
“Mansplaining” was the answer to a recent Jeopardy! question, thereby bestowing the portmanteau with the Trebek Seal of Approval™, a.k.a. the most coveted acknowledgement in all the land. “This 21st century word happens when a male patronizingly tells a female about a topic she already understands” was the $600 answer in a category titled “That Explains It.” Contestant Shannon gave the correct response, and quipped “I never do that!” “You didn’t have to explain that,” host Alex Trebek replied, because Alex Trebek has no time for mansplainers. Or nerdcore hip hop fans.