Changing definitions

I was interviewed for PM yesterday about the Macquarie Dictionary’s decision to extend the definition of the word ‘misogyny’. I was surprised that the story made it into the short version of the show, but today I see that the story even has international attention. I am once again astonished (haven’t I learned yet?) by how many people think that dictionary definitions establish the precise limits of usage, rather than being a reflection of what is (or more realistically was) being done in practice. In the wonderful phrase of the Macquarie’s Sue Butler, the lexicographers come round with mop and bucket and clean up some verbal mess. In this case, she admits that the clean up is a little delayed and has been triggered by a specific event, but normal lexicographic practice is being followed. Which is why I didn’t think it was such a big deal – but I guess my understanding of newsworthiness is poor!

(Cross posted at my Monash profile)



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