19
Mar
09

The Right Looks Up ‘Marriage’ and Finds ‘Revolution’

A right-wing Web site is fuming over their recent discovery that Merriam-Webster has added a secondary definition of marriage to its pages.

World Net Daily sarcastically reported Tuesday:

“One of the nation’s most prominent dictionary companies has resolved the argument over whether the term ‘marriage’ should apply to same-sex duos or be reserved for the institution that has held families together for millennia: by simply writing a new definition.”

The change occurred years before any states legalized gay marriage. It went unnoticed until now, apparently because writers at World Net Daily do not make frequent use of dictionaries.

(Personally, any publication that accepts written work from Ann Coulter, and that hawks “Where’s the birth certificate?” bumper stickers (attempting to call into question Barack Obama’s citizenship), doesn’t have much of value to say to the more thoughtful readers of the world. But I digress.)

Merriam-Webster editors are mystified by the fuss. From the story:

“Its inclusion was a simple matter of providing dictionary users with accurate information about all of the word’s current uses,” the company said, adding that it was surprised by the recent attention because it was “neither news nor unusual.”

“We were one of the last ones among the major dictionary publishers to do this,” said Merriam-Webster spokesman Arthur Bicknell.

Someone who commented on a YouTube video complaining about the definition says, “The word ‘marriage’ has never been synonymous with same sex relationships,” said the forum participant. “What is happening is the meaning is being changed to trigger it becoming synonymous, not the other way round.”

If he’d take his bible out of his ass long enough to concentrate, he’d realize that the definition does not make heterosexual marriage and same-sex marriage synonymous. What it signifies is merely that the term is used in that way. It is a figurative meaning.

Dictionaries include figurative and idiomatic meanings for a great many words. Note definition No. 6 of dig and definition No. 5 of bird.

The World Net Daily writer goes on to cite a 1913 dictionary definition that not only doesn’t mention same-sex marriage, but in fact adds biblical references to the traditional definition. In fact they are citations, meant to show context, not that Matthew, Mark, Luke, John or God himself are editors of dictionaries. It could have just as easily referenced a Jane Austen novel.

More importantly, should we be shocked that a word’s usage should change between 1913 and the year the Merriam-Webster change was apparently made? Of course not. Why would a 1913 publication of any sort refer to “same-sex marriage” when that concept wasn’t even part of the public consciousness? It would be like expecting Oscar Wilde to identify as “gay.” He never would have done so. Does it mean he wasn’t a big flaming queen? Certainly not.

Completely outside of the argument for or against gay marriage, consider the idiocy of World Net Daily’s complaint. I’m not thrilled that “ain’t” is in the dictionary, and that school students gleefully point to it to justify poor grammar. However, its legitimacy is determined not by whether you or I like it, but by whether or not it is used — and useful — by speakers of English. Whatever you think “ain’t” implies about its user, we all know its meaning. Ergo: ain’t.

Same-sex couples in long-term relationships have long thought of themselves — and referred to themselves — as being “married.” It’s a matter of convenience, being far less wordy than “partnered with a member of the same sex.” And until very recently on the scale of human history, we didn’t have a choice but to be figurative.

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