Not woke, just literati

Kurt Mahlburg at MercatorNet is complaining about woke dictionaries.

In 2020, Merriam-Webster infamously updated its entry for female to include “having a gender identity that is the opposite of male”. Now the online edition of the Cambridge Dictionary has gone one better: in addition to being “an adult female human being”, a woman is now “an adult who lives and identifies as female though they may have been said to have a different sex at birth”.

The new “trans-friendly” addition to Cambridge’s entry for woman was quietly added sometime in October, “after editors studied how the words were being used throughout society.” How words were being used by whom? Out-of-touch activists?

It’s a damn good question but it’s NOT a new problem. Dictionaries have always favored the class that writes and edits “literature”. Real words used by real people have never been properly represented in dictionaries. At the moment, somewhere between 200000% and 30000000000% of the “literature” class uses the bizarre anti-scientific pseudodefinition of woman, so this is not out of touch by the traditions of dictionaries.

I first noticed this tendency when I started working real jobs in the ’70s. I was trying to master new skills, and I hoped dictionaries would help with the jargon. They were useless. Even the jargon of printing, which is closely allied with “literature”, was either absent or wrong.

When I started bookkeeping for a construction company, I was writing up estimates and contracts which always specified a turnkey project. The meaning was fairly clear from context. We will install and connect and adjust all the equipment needed to accomplish the purpose specified in the contract, and we will test it to be sure it works properly. The customer only needs to flip the switch (turn the key) and adjust the controls.

Being a pedantic fussbudget, I wanted to be sure I was using all terms honestly, so I checked Webster and American Heritage. Their only meaning for turnkey was a jail warden. I knew from experience that jail guards were actually called hacks or screws, not turnkeys. So the dictionary was wrong by omission and commission.

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