A dictionary fight

Here’s an interesting new development. Australia’s Macquarie Dictionary has expanded its definition of “misogyny” in response to Gillard’s speech on the subject last week.

The dictionary currently defines misogyny as “hatred of women”, but will now add a second definition to include “entrenched prejudice against women”, suggesting Abbott discriminated against women with his sexist views.

“The language community is using the word in a slightly different way,” dictionary editor Sue Butler told Reuters.

In her parliamentary speech, Gillard attacked Abbott, a conservative Catholic, for once suggesting men were better adapted to exercise authority, and for once saying that abortion was “the easy way out”. He also stood in front of anti-Gillard protesters with posters saying “ditch the witch”.

Out comes the sarcasm.

Long recognised as a “hatred of women”, misogyny will now encompass “entrenched prejudices of [sic] women”, even though there already existed a word that included this concept, “sexism”.

He (Patrick Carlyon) means prejudices about women, not of women; der. But what about the substance?

I’ve often found myself having to decide which word to use, in these recent [cough] discussions. I often do opt for “sexism,” but not always, and there’s a reason for that. Sexism doesn’t necessarily include hatred. Then again misogyny doesn’t necessarily include sexism, so neither word says everything. But – really, there are times when you need to make clear that what we’re talking about is not just habits or prejudices, it’s hatred and contempt.

But Patrick Carylon seems to think that sexism is not merely not identical to misogyny, but a different thing altogether, even the opposite.

Given the ever-changing flow of words and their meaning, Macquarie has announced a raft of further definition shadings to reflect recent political events and current affairs:

Dog: To be known also as “cat”, after a two-year-old boy at an East Brighton childcare centre pointed at a chihuahua and meowed.

Yes: To be known also as “no”, after a recent Tony Abbott bumble, when he said in a TV interview that he had not read a BHP statement and the next day declared he had read it before the interview.

No: To be known also as “yes”, given Julia Gillard’s election promise that there would be no carbon tax under her Government, soon before her Government announced plans for a carbon tax.

Uh huh. When’s the last time Patrick Carylon was called a witch?

There are letters to The Australian.

MACQUARIE dictionary editor Sue Butler is applying the logic of Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. Are we to accept that the word misogyny is what some feminists choose it to mean, neither more nor less?

The idea that the Macquarie would change a word’s meaning to lend credence to the Prime Minister’s incorrect and hypocritical use in parliament last week and the feminist views of an isolated few is extraordinary.

The evolution of language should enable users to communicate with greater semantic precision, not less. How do we now differentiate between those who demonstrate prejudice against women and those who have a genuine hatred for them? Or has the intellectual Left mandated that there shall no longer be a difference?

I am alarmed that the editors of the dictionary are more concerned with taking a political stance than with safeguarding the English language.

Carina Dellinger, Broadbeach, Qld

I think the reaction is political too. (Point out the obvious much? Yes, I do.) I think it comes from people who don’t want their casual breezy indifferent sexism called misogyny. “It’s not misogyny unless I explicitly say that I hate all women!” Yeh, see that misconception is why it’s a good idea to tweak the definition. Because yes it is – it is misogyny if you call the women you dislike “bitches” and the rest of the vocabulary. It is. If you can’t quarrel with a woman without letting the epithets fly, then you are a misogynist.