- The Macquarie Dictionary's decision to change its definition of misogyny after Prime Minister Julia Gillard's speech in Parliament last week has caused outrage and division on social media.
Some say the move to broaden the definition from a 'pathological hatred of women' to include an 'entrenched prejudice against women' is ludicrous.
They have accused Macquarie of lowering its standards, saying Ms Gillard simply misused the word when she described Opposition Leader Tony Abbott as a misogynist in her fiery speech.
Others say the decision is sensible, and it is about time the definition was changed.
There are even calls - for gender equality reasons - that the word misandry also be redefined.
See how the debate unfolded.
For the change
- Language evolves...and that evolution did not stop when dictionaries were written. New words and adjusted meanings are included in every edition. As I understand it, this is not 'a PM having the power to change a meaning' or anyone being 'forced to buy a new dictionary', it is simply a considered response to the evolution of language.
- liveonce 10:23 AM on 17/10/2012 Language evolves over time and should reflect current useage & context - otherwise we would still be grunting to each other or using the convoluted language of Chaucer or Shakespeare. Of course - it should be relevent to our current useage, so well done Maquarie for being on the ball.
Against the change
- WTF did I just read? Don't we already have a word for that? Changing one word's definition because people refuse to use the language properly is lazy. Call a sexist a sexist, a misoginist a misoginist, and a damn spade a spade!Or perhaps we should just call them all spades!? That would make it easier for the stupid people right?
- therealclownfish 10:15 AM on 17/10/2012 This is the very epitome of 'dumbing down'. Humpty-Dumpty would be proud. 'The English language ... becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts' - George Orwell.
- By diluting the meaning of the word misogyny to including the description of sexism (a term that already exists and is more accurate) Macquarie has diluted the impact of describing someone as a misogynist. Perhaps they should take it one step further and incorporate anyone that views any distinction between men and women. That way we can all be called misogynists. Will they also be updating the meaning of the term misandrist to reflect the changes they have made to the feminine form of this word? It is all just a little bit silly and semantic in my opinion.
- the professor 9:37 AM on 17/10/2012 So is the Macquarie Dictionary now the new Wikipedia...? Does relentless misuse of a word for political reasons mean that the deliberate misuse is cause enough for a re-definition? If I now unilaterally decide that "shoes" really means "socks" and if I say it out loud hard and long enough, will the Macquarie then go ahead and broaden its definition of shoes to include socks? Such loose adherence to standards is a poor look for a Dictionary; even if the person misusing the term had been an authority of some sort...how much worse it looks when the causal agent is merely a politician with a poor grasp of language. It's entirely the Macquarie's right to be whatever it chooses...however if it has now decided to simply be a reflecter of the latest language whim and error, perhaps it should go public and formally advise us that it now ceases to cling to any pretence to being a Dictionary.
- That would be right. When found to be so very wrong in her statement regarding Tony Abbott let's just change the whole meaning of the word. For goodness sake I know the English language is an evolving and growing language but hang on a minute now we have a word changed to accommodate the incorrect usage by our PM.
- spin sick 9:52 AM on 17/10/2012 What??? seriously??? You can't just change the meaning of words because people use the extreme (incorrectly) to make a point. It the PM had said "sexist" she may have been right ---- but misogynist means "hatred". Now a dictionary is retrospectively changing the definition to make its use now correct??? Then what does that mean for the other associated words that hang together? Does misandry now mean entrenched prejudice against men?
'Caught up in semantics'
- herr kaleun 11:09 AM on 17/10/2012 I find it worrying that meaning is dependent on how people people perceive a word or due to political spin. Racism and terrorism are two words grossly misapplied. Why can't sexism mean discrimination/prejudice, and mysogyny mean hatred of women? Heck, even the latin roots of the latter word are very explicit to its meaning.