Webster Redefines Webster

Posted: 03/24/2009 by that's Elbert in bias, Christianity, culture, marriage, Politics

Merriam-Webster has taken a very controversial move in their recent printing of the English dictionary, tossing themselves and their dictionary into a political/religious debate surrounding marriage.

Daniel Webster’s 1828 dictionary gives this definition for marriage (website):

Marriage, n. [L.mas, maris.] The act of uniting a man and woman for life; wedlock; the legal union of a man and woman for life. Marriage is a contract both civil and religious, by which the parties engage to live together in mutual affection and fidelity, till death shall separate them. Marriage was instituted by God himself for the purpose of preventing the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, for promoting domestic felicity,and for securing the maintenance and education of children.

Marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled. Heb.13.

1. A feast made on the occasion of a marriage.

The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king, who made a marriage for his son. Matt.22.

2. In a scriptural sense, the union between Christ and his church by the covenant of grace. Rev.19.

The current incarnation of Daniel Webster’s dictionary, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, gives us a different spin on marriage (website):

the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law  (2): the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage <same-sex marriage> b: the mutual relation of married persons : wedlock c: the institution whereby individuals are joined in a marriage

Certainly this would appear to reveal a bias and attempt to change people’s minds regarding the highly charged political and religious discussion surrounding marriage. An email received today from Wallbuilders points out their possible Orwellian viewpoint:

In 1945, George Orwell wrote Animal Farm, and one of the characters in the book was the pig, Squealer, who arbitrarily redefined words so that they would mean what he wanted. As Orwell explained about Squealer, “he could turn black into white” as part of his attempt to get the other animals to accept his message; the same tactic is apparently being used in this modern dictionary.

To present their side of this controversial move, WorldNetDaily reprints Merriam-Webster’s response to the charge:

“We hear such criticism from all parts of the political spectrum. We’re genuinely sorry when an entry in – or an omission from – one of our dictionaries is found to be offensive or upsetting, but we can’t allow such considerations to deflect us from our primary job as lexicographers.”

I believe their actions speak louder than their words (no pun intended here). It would have been better to place this definition under a different heading, such as “same sex marriage”, rather than appear to take a side. Now you can’t even read a dictionary without having to filter the bias.


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