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Misogyny – a conspiracy theory

Bernard Keane this morning noted that as far as conspiracy theories go, this example is rather lame. The story goes that the chardonnay swilling lefties at Macquarie Dictionary partook in a spot of linguistic engineering by changing the definition of misogyny, just to indemnify the Prime Minister against calls of hyperbole.

What’s behind this is a gross misunderstanding of firstly, what dictionaries actually do, and secondly, the actual reasons behind the dictionary’s decision. For a discussion of those points, see here. Another interesting point about this case is that if you look at Macquarie’s editor, Sue Butler’s actual comment and its gradual morphing into the story that it is today, you can literally see political spin happening at the smallest level.

Here’s what Sue Butler said:

Since the 1980s, misogyny has come to be used as a synonym for sexism, a synonym with bite, but nevertheless with the meaning of entrenched prejudice against women rather than pathological hatred.

This would ordinarily be a good enough reason to update a dictionary definition, to bring it up to speed with the last 30 years of common Australian usage, but sometimes a word among tens of thousands just gets lost in amongst the ones needing to be brought up-to-date.

The important thing to remember is this: ‘Misogyny’ has been used to mean ‘prejudice against women’ for decades. The Oxford, and other dictionaries, have had this as a part of the definition for quite some time. Macquarie is merely catching up to usage. Gillard’s usage was just a catalyst, not the cause.

The headlines, perhaps justifiably, read like this:

Gillard’s speech prompts misogyny definition rethink

Or, perhaps less justifiably, like this:

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech forces Macquarie Dictionary to update its definition

From there, it only takes an opinion writer to skim-read the headlines before they get the impression that Macquarie has bent over backwards to change the meaning of a word and therefore, retrospectively justify the Prime Minister’s use of language, thus protecting her against the heinous charge of exaggeration.

Enter Andrew Bolt:

Macquarie to publish dictionary of Gillard English 
Macquarie Dictionary’s editors change the meaning of a word to suit Julia Gillard.
If Gillard’s misuse of language inspires Macquarie to redefine words, here’s a few more changes it should make:

  • Intercept – to now mean to act as a taxi. Alternative meaning: to welcome.
  • Promise – now to mean what you say you’ll do until it suits you to do the opposite.

The last of these has over 200 comments, largely critical of Macquarie, labelling it a political tool of the Labor Party or that it has become manipulated by the left. In amongst it all, several commenters publicise email addresses for the dictionary and call for others to voice their disapproval of this entirely justified and frankly, rather late update.

I’m not writing this to defend Gillard necessarily, nor Abbott, by any means. I’m writing this to defend lexicography from charges that it is a political enterprise. Of course words and their meanings can be used for political expedience, as George Orwell famously pointed out, but lexicographers are not politicians; they’re closer to scientists. They sift through historic and contemporary sources observing words in their natural environment, looking for anything out of the ordinary, and when necessary, refining or updating definitions.

Language changes. Sometimes at a glacial pace and sometimes exceedingly fast. The job of the lexicographer is made all the more difficult when there are people in this world who cling to the familiarity of the meaning of words and quixotically resist change. The wrath of these people, seen in letters pages and the Column 8s of the world, is unfairly lumped onto the lexicographers who are just trying to do their job in methodically and meticulously cataloguing the variation and gradual changes in language.

I will say however, that Sue Butler could have potentially phrased (or timed) her response better to avoid the charge that Macquarie is bending the semantic knee to the whims of the Prime Minister, as it were.


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  • 1
    Draco Houston
    Posted October 18, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    After watching people on Q&A argue semantics over a dictionary definition of misogyny that clearly did not describe current usage I am really glad that Macquarie updated the definition. What’s next? An argument that homophobia doesn’t exist because that only means a fear of homosexuals?

  • 2
    sara stanley
    Posted October 18, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    So, the Macquarie has just caught up with the Oxford. Good to remember when the diatribe of anti-julia people start harping on.

  • 3
    The Old Bill
    Posted October 18, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    Bolt is just being a real girl about this.

  • 4
    Posted October 19, 2012 at 12:32 am | Permalink

    What’s next? An argument that homophobia doesn’t exist because that only means a fear of homosexuals?

    Brilliant point!

  • 5
    Holden Back
    Posted October 19, 2012 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    PC gone mad I tells ya!

  • 6
    Adam K
    Posted October 19, 2012 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    @The Old Bill – I see what you did there

  • 7
    Norman Hanscombe
    Posted October 19, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Our species is prone to ‘explaining’ events with imagined conspiracies which comfort our varied ‘true beliefs’. Senior journalists, for example, can be accused of selling their principles to curry favour with the Evil Emperor owning the medium, ignoring the strong possibility that it’s the process of promotion which has selected those who happen to hold (or take on) those views. Whether card carrying members of the Chattering Classes, or merely devoted Fellow travellers, you don’t need a conspiracy to not be surprised Macquarie is caught up in the postmodern zeitgeist which (in terms of language as a living language) sees the language equivalent of cancer cells as a positive sign of growth in the language.
    I realise such comments will aggravate (in its rapidly disappearing sense) many readers, but hopefully there are still some out there who know they’re only being irritated? If so, in a world where impact has lost its impact (due in no small part to the problem many who must now be given ‘qualifications’ without first being asked to cope with the moderate complexities of language once handled by even mediocre students who could distinguish between affect and effect?) they’ll possibly sympathise with my despondency in a world where mediocrity has somehow become the new elitism.

  • 8
    Hamis Hill
    Posted October 19, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    “Mediocrity is excellence to the mediocre”
    Jules Joubert. 19th century
    New definition of mediocrity- Rule by the middle class.
    Achieved by throwing tantrums at election time to maintain entitlements to which they had become accustomed during the mythical Howard/Costello Golden Era of Middle Class handouts.
    Medio(cracy)crity; excellence to the middle class?
    Why Abbott just doesn’t need to try; eleven years of Howard sewed up the votes of a whole generation conditioned to an expectation of unearned reward.
    As in Abbott PM?
    Just don’t call it democracy.
    More like right wing black magic-voodoo economics.

  • 9
    Edward James
    Posted October 19, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    The Prime Minister Gillard used a word which identified the leader of the opposition Tony Abbott as a woman hater. Changing the meaning of the word misogynist afterward won’t change what she done! Edward James

  • 10
    Suzanne Blake
    Posted October 19, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Misogyne is defined as a man who hates women. I have never met any man who hates women. Yes disagreements, and one man may ‘dislike’ a women of an issues like family breakdown, but not all women.

    Its a coverup to hide things like this.

    This week the Senate’s Estimates Committees held hearings into current Government expenditure.
    Given Labor’s budget deficit last year was $43.7 billion and their record of waste and mismanagement, Coalition Senators this week forensically questioned Labor Ministers on their spending.
    Further examples of Labor’s continuing wasteful spending were uncovered by Coalition Senators.
    Among the worst examples uncovered:
    • Nineteen lawyers worked on the Government’s defence of the Slipper / Ashby case at a cost of more than $700,000. A portrait of Peter Slipper has been commissioned for $30,000.
    • The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry spent $21,000 on a single dinner.
    • The Department of Industry spent $75,000 on just five coffee machines.
    • Fair Work Australia has so far spent more than $1.8 million on external legal and accounting advice for its investigation into the rorting of HSU funds.
    • $79,700 was spent building three fake kitchens for the Government’s Carbon Tax advertising campaigns. Using real kitchens would have cost $5,000 a day.

    Asylum seeker numbers & costs explode
    More than 7,200 asylum seekers arrived by boat in the first three months of this financial year – five times as many as Wayne Swan estimated when framing his Budget.
    The budget estimate of $1.1 billion was based on an average of 450 arrivals per month but actual arrivals are running at an average of 2,400 per month.
    While departmental officials refused to be drawn on the cost of the Budget blow-out we do know that in 2011/12 every boat that arrived cost taxpayers $12.8 million, or more than $172,700 for every person on board.

    Airfare to Nauru – $7,692
    Immigration officials have revealed that about $2 million has been spent flying 260 asylum seekers from Christmas Island to Nauru – an average airfare of more than $7,600 per asylum seeker.
    By contrast, QANTAS are advertising return Sydney to London flights for less than $1,800.
    Worth remembering that every boat that arrived in 2011/12 cost taxpayers $12.8 million, or more than $172,700 for every person on board.

    How many lawyers does it take to …
    The Australian Government Solicitor (AGS) admitted at Estimates that 17 of its own lawyers worked on the James Ashby / Peter Slipper case at various timers over the past six months, three of them full time.
    In addition, two barristers were engaged, one of them paid at $4,800 per day.
    The Commonwealth’s legal bill exceeded $700,000. All of this for a case which the Commonwealth finally abandoned and settled for $50,000.

    Former Speaker’s $30,000 portrait
    Peter Slipper may be gone as Speaker but he’s still a burden to taxpayers.
    Senate Estimates heard that a $30,000 portrait of the former Speaker will be commissioned to hang in Parliament’s Kings Hall.
    Mr Slipper gets to choose the artist. Given his liking for the trappings of office, taxpayers will be waiting breathlessly to see how he is robed when he is ‘immortalised’.

    Dinner is served
    The Federal Government may be $147.3 billion in debt but that didn’t stop it spending $21,000 on just one dinner.
    The dinner at a Fremantle hotel was held during meetings of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission.
    More than 170 delegates, advisers and bureaucrats from around the country attended the conference but it is not known how many of them attended the dinner.
    Even if they all turned up the cost would have been $135 per head.
    The dinner was listed as a ‘business cost’, not ‘hospitality’ in departmental accounts.

    Coffee machines & the wine cabinet
    Climate change must be thirsty work.
    Presumably that’s why the Clean Energy Regulator has installed eight Nespresso coffee machines at a cost of $20,175, one for each of its eight staff kitchens.
    And the Department of Climate has issued a tender to purchase a stainless steel wine cabinet as part of the $20.5 million fit-out costs for its plush new building in Canberra.
    Unlike the coffee machines, the wine cabinet is solely for the use those staff lucky enough to have access to the executive dining room.
    That may be galling to non-executive staff, but not nearly as galling as it will be to taxpayers contemplating the effect of the carbon tax on their electricity bills.

    Costly kitchens for a costly tax
    Three fully-equipped fake kitchens costing $79,700 were specially built as props for the Government’s carbon tax television commercials – the one’s that didn’t mention the Carbon Tax.
    The cost of using real kitchens in the commercials was just $5,000.
    The cost of shooting the first round of Carbon Tax commercials was $350,000 and $340,000 for the second round. That’s before buying any airtime.
    Estimates also heard that the Government is planning another round of advertising to sell the Carbon Tax Labor promised not to introduce. And in anticipation of that the creative advertising agency involved has had its contract increased by 50% to $3 million.

    Cost of HSU investigation
    Fair Work Australia (FWA) has so far spent more than $1.8 million on outside legal and accounting advice for its investigation into the rorting of HSU funds
    • $1.3 million on external legal advice
    • $100,000 on external accounting advice
    • $430,000 on KPMG’s review of the investigation
    The $1.8 million does not include the cost to taxpayers of launching FWA’s court action against Labor MP, Craig Thomson.
    The court action followed FWA’s findings that Mr Thomson had used HSU funds to pay for escort services and other improper purposes.

    The real hit is on the taxpayer
    Another Government agency has played the productivity card in a bid to defend its spending on top-of-the-line coffee machines.
    The Department of Industry admitted to buying five $15,000 Melitta coffee machines – a total cost of $75,000.
    This follows revelations that the Clean Energy Regulator purchased eight Nespresso coffee machines at a cost of $20,175, one for each of its eight staff kitchens.
    In each case the bureaucrats claimed it was better for staff to get their caffeine hits in-house rather than walk across the road to the local (private sector) coffee shop.

    Transparency & ‘open government’?
    The Department of Industry spent $156,348.36 in just 25 days trying to prevent The Australian Financial Review from publishing details of Government subsidies to the auto industry.

    Shambolic Centenary of ANZAC planning
    The Coalition is committed to maintaining its bipartisan support for the Centenary of ANZAC commemorations but that won’t stop it from highlighting poor management.
    The Government plans to spend $350,000 on 39 public ‘consultation forums’.
    The first forum held in Sydney last week and $15,700. Only six days notice was given so it’s not surprising only 15 people turned up. Three of the 15 were paid departmental officials and another two were paid consultants.

    Ambassadorial Caesar’s Palace
    Taxpayers are paying more than $300,000 a year to rent a palatial apartment for the Australian Ambassador to Rome whilst the official residence undergoes repairs.
    Taxpayers are being slugged $30,000 a month for the apartment in a 3 year deal which will ultimately cost taxpayers more than $1,000,000.

    In brief
    • The Future Fund, which has around 80 full-time staff, spent $78,284 on taxis in the ten months to April 2012.
    • Australia Post spent $280,000 on airfares and accommodation for the CEO and ten staff to attend the London Olympics.
    • Delaying the completion of the Pacific Highway duplication from 2016 to 2020 would add at least $800 million to the cost of the project.

  • 11
    Posted October 19, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    Sorry for staying off topic, but it is good to see Suzanne Blank advocating a return to onshore processing of asylum seekers.
    I won’t hijack the comments to respond to the rest of her beat up – most of those expenses occur under a lib/nats coalition government too.

    As for dictionaries, they record the usage of words, and the Macquarie has just caught up with the Oxford dict. and the common use of misogyny.
    Andrew Bolt could attribute the sun rising as another leftist conspiracy, doesn’t make him any less of an irrational, vitriolic hate blogger.

  • 12
    Posted October 19, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    But the outrageous cost of jailing refugees is not their fault.

  • 13
    Posted October 19, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    Suzanne – assuming that those figures are credible, I’m sure a trawl through the Howard Government’s financal records would have come up with as many similar examples. Lists like these prove nothing.

    On the subject of definitions, at the risk of adding to your list, here’s an Abbottism:

    Definition – ‘Many, many’ – 2.5, as in Abbott banging on about the cost of our bid for a seat on the UN Security Council costing ‘Many, many tens of millions’ Or perhaps is just another Liberal lye.

  • 14
    Posted October 19, 2012 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    Interesting to hear the libs bleat about Macquarie updating its definition , better late than never . The english language is constantly evolving which is why its still here and vibrant . If a mysogynist is a hater of women then look up hate in a dictionary and take your pick of the various definitions of hate .
    What I find curious is that the PM is set upon for misusing the word yet it is its common usage . The point everyone seems to be missing is that it was Abbott who accused the PM of protecting a mysogynist yet the Slipper texts provide no evidence of hatred or even dislike . It was a crude possibly juvenile description of women and their private parts . So anyone being critical of the government or in particular the PM must also direct their fire at the instigator , Abbott . Won,t happen of course because the anger is confected anyway and the Oxford dictionary added to the definition years ago . Centuries ago a girl was the word used for a boy , Chaucer ? Anyway long ago .

  • 15
    Posted October 19, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    Suzanne – “A portrait of Peter Slipper has been commissioned for $30,000”. How much did David Peter Maxwell Hawker’s portrait cost (in 2012 dollars)? What about John Neil Andrew’s?
    How much did the AWB investigation cost?
    How much did supporting the invasion of Iraq cost?
    How much did the GST advertising campaign cost (remember Joe Cocker ‘Unchain my Heart’)?
    How much did it cost to send out the ‘Be alert, not alarmed’ fridge magnets and associated guff to every household in Australia, a purely political exercise that did not do one whit to combat terrorism?
    What was the additional cost to the taxpayer of John Howard’s choice to live in Sydney rather than Canberra?
    How much did John Howard’s celebration of the results of the republic referendum for invited guests at Kirribilli House cost the taxpayer?
    How much has been paid to millionaires to subsidise their private health insurance premiums? What about the amounts paid to millionaires in baby bonuses? I have nothing against millionaires, I just don’t think they need subsidies and welfare.

    I could go on but couldn’t be bothered. Come up with some constructive arguments and suggestions for improvements, not lists of trivia.

  • 16
    Hamis Hill
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    So the overentitled middle class debt junkies are feeling the pain and hyperventilating over government “waste”.
    Money that should, by the conventions of the Howeird golden era, be going to them!
    How about a law denying the vote to those with “many, many” hundreds of thousands of dollars of personal housing debt?
    They are so desperate for a “Capital Gains” fix that they’ll only ever vote conservative.
    Now is there a word for hating the truth? Oh yes- Conservative.
    Now come on, the right to vote used to be restricted to property owners so why should the cretins riding a $1.3 Trillion morgage debt bandwaggon to a national fiscal hell be allowed to vote?
    Such fearful mortgage slaves only vote as their masters dictate.
    A sad travesty of democracy, eh Suzanne?

  • 17
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 10:17 am | Permalink


    “Dictionaries define misogyny as ‘hatred of women'[5][6][7] and as:
    “hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women”.[8]”

    Reference [8] is:
    “Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary (N.Y.: Random House, 2d ed. 2001”
    Note the date.

    Looks like “The Australian can’t even consult Wiki.

  • 18
    Leah Maria
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    I appreciate words change over time but changing ‘misogynist’ just to mean ‘sexist’ when we already have ‘sexist’ seems pointless. ‘Misogynist’ meant something specific on top of just ‘sexism’. Now where is our word for that??

    And the Macquarie is not just catching up with the rest of the world as a few commenters have suggested. Merriam-Webster, Cambridge, Macmillan and the Oxford I found all define it as the hatred of women. That is not what Macquarie is suggesting they change their definition to.

    And Draco if you’re going to bring up homophobia, then yes, I would quite like people to stop abusing that word too. Phobias are serious psychological conditions where someone has a genuine and illogical fear of something. That is NOT what most people refer to as ‘homophobia’.

  • 19
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    fredex – that is part of the Socialist Labour international conspiracy. Back in 2001 Kim Beazley and his mates got together with the commie socialistas at Random House to strategically change the definitions of a number of words. ‘Misogyny’ was included so that when a future female Labor Prime Minister of Australia was installed she could use the term to unfairly denigrate a boofhead Opposition Leader.

  • 20
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Suzanne, I’m not even going to start. To everyone else, can you stop feeding the troll and stay on topic?

    Leah, just because a word means a second thing doesn’t stop it from having its first meaning still. We’re quite capable of using words that mean more than one thing and very rarely do we get caught out.

    The oxford that’s available online hasn’t been updated; this is odd, because the full OED got updated 10 years ago to include ‘prejudice against women’. See here for a comment from the editor of the OED, John Simpson.

    But this is still all just semantics, as it were. Most reasonable Australian English speakers recognise that misogyny is used to refer to more than simply the pathological hatred of women; that’s just common usage. The role of the dictionary is to reflect this common usage, not prevent it by only recognising one meaning.

    As for homophobia, well if you want to deny that it means prejudice against homosexuality then I suspect you’ll encounter much resistance. However, if you want to argue a completely semantic determinist position, then you’d have to concede that homophobia really only means ‘fear of sameness’.

    The more reasonable argument is that words mean what we want them to mean, or can collectively agree on them meaning. This is clearly fluid and can change from generation to generation, but also within individuals over time. Some words don’t mean the same to me as they did ten years ago; most words in my lexicon have undergone gradual refinement and slight change each time I hear them in a new context. I could go on, but it gets very theoretical and cognitive psyche from here on in.

  • 21
    barnett malcolm
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    What an illogical justification you put forward Aidan Wilson. The word misogyny has traditionally meant an intense dislike or hatred or even pathological hatred of women, girls or the female sex. To change or ‘water down’ the definition of the word to a softer definition, more in line with a simple dislike of, resentment of and a more sexist attitude to women and the female sex is perverting the language! WHY?….Because if you change the meaning of the word misogyny to mean a moderate dislike of, or simple antipathy toward, or a negative sexist attitude towards women, what word are you then going to use to describe an intense dislike or hatred of women???….Maybe ‘SUPERMISOGYNY’ or perhaps ‘ULTRAMISOGYNY’?….This reflects the absurdity of arbitrarily changing the definition of words to suit the fashion of the day. Instead of the ‘feminist lexicographers’ of the country wanting to change the specific and fundamental meaning of the word misogyny they should come up with another word that reflects the circumstance they wish to describe. This is the reason why the ‘mickworie dikshunary’ is not worth the paper it’s printed on!

  • 22
    barnett malcolm
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    P.S. The very same principle applies to the word marriage. If the homosexual community wants to participate in what they describe as ‘marriage’ they must come up with another word describing another institution because the word marriage and it’s ‘specific’ definition is already taken.

  • 23
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Barnett malcolm.
    Perhaps we could use the phrase “irrational hatred and distrust of women”. It works pretty well.

    And as to the “meaning of marriage” I am pretty sure it is not the word, but the system of legal privilege built around it that is being sought.

    Finally, if there is one thing that has been truly ironic about the past week (and in the original meaning), it has been the sight of innumerable males clamouring to explain to a woman (of considerably greater distinction than them), precisely what sexism is, and why what she experiences is not it – for surely if there was any sexism around, all those men would have noticed it.

  • 24
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    barnett malcolm
    Marriage is already taken ? It was a marriage of the old culture with new technology . It was marriage of old and new ideas . It was a marriage between socialism and capitalism that merged into one economy strategy .
    I take it you also think that Abbott was correct in describing Slipper as a misogynist . Could you explain how the texts displayed an intense dislike or hatred towards women because I cannot see any . Crude , uncouth or juvenile description of genitalia but no hatred or even a suggestion of dislike .

  • 25
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    barnett malcolm – words evolve over the years and the job of a dictionary is to document usage. There is no official body to determine correct usage nor would we want one. In Shakespeare’s time, ‘naughty’ meant wicked, now it mainly refers to childish misbehaviour. Other words broaden or narrow in meaning over time, others become more or less intense. Think ‘terrible’ and ‘terrific’ . Julia’s use of ‘mysogyny’ was entirely in line with current usage otherwise she would not have been understood. ‘

  • 26
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Language is a living thing……if it isn’t evolving it dies.The expansion of the dictionary definition of misogyny is well overdue

  • 27
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    zebbidie – last para…exactly it!!

    The whole charade shows how ownership of the issue is hijacked and transformed into something else, by someone else, for someone else ie away from women’s authentic experiences of the many and subtle ways sexist behaviour, interaction and treatment is displayed towards them (in this case Julia’s exact experiences in her vocation), and onto how others prefer experiences and communication be defined.

  • 28
    barnett malcolm
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    I think those ‘dudes’ who would like to criticize my comments should look at what is recognized as the difference between the ‘FORMAL’ English language and the ever-changing ‘COMMON’, superficial English language, which some might even call ‘slang’, if that’s ‘cool’ with you, man or ‘whatever’…..There are formal, fundermental, foundation or cornerstone words in the language which simply can’t be changed. Words like life or death. One can’t be partially alive or dead. They describe fixed and unchangable realities. It means what it means. And to those who might like to obfuscate, birth is birth and death is death. Although these words might be ‘casually’ or ‘commonly’ used in other contexts the original and ‘formal’ meaning remains the same, even though the common/casual/slang meaning might change regularly. People who suggest the language is continually ‘evolving’ should realize it’s only ‘common’ English that keeps ‘changing’ to suit the times, (and ‘evolving’ is entirely the wrong word to use and is completely out of context)but the ongoing changes in the common language are still defined by and reflect the original formal meaning, otherwise any communication at all would be impossible, language would be reduced to ‘babble’ of different meanings and we would all be back in caves grunting at each other.

  • 29
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    This originally meant ‘full of artistic or technical skill’. Now its meaning has a very different slant.

    This comes from the Latin ‘not to know’. Originally a ‘nice person’ was someone who was ignorant or unaware.
    This meant ‘full of awe’ i.e. something wonderful, delightful, amazing. However, over time it has evolved to mean exactly the opposite.
    This once was used to signify cowardice. Indeed, its old meaning lives on in the word ‘bravado’.
    From the Latin meaning ‘to make by hand’ this originally signified things that were created by craftsmen. Now the opposite, made by machines, is its meaning.
    This once meant a perfect copy. Now it means anything but.

  • 30
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Another one – ‘silly’ meant ‘happy’ or ‘blessed’.

  • 31
    barnett malcolm
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    @ geomac62..That you’re comparing the difference between the ‘formal or real’ definitions of words and how they relate and compare to todays ‘common’ usage suggests we’re on the same page….But, as an example. To be ‘full of awe’ has never meant something wonderful, delightful or amazing as you suggest. To be full of awe, is a potentially powerful, fearful experience of anxiety or dread, which today might well be described as an ‘awful’ experience. So essentially todays common meaning is the same as the original formal definition, it is not the opposite as you suggest….What Gillard + Co. want to do is pluck the word misogyny out of the language and give it a different definition and meaning, leaving the original definition without a word to define, which is not the same as what you call the ‘evolution’ of the language.(ref.my first post).

  • 32
    Acau Sal
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    @ barnett malcolm

    All of your ideas about language are wrong.

    There are no fixed words.

    If you want “Real English”, go to England and talk to people.

  • 33
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    perhaps within the context of the current posts misogyny could mean – “taking the serious subject of abusive, negative attitudes and behaviour towards women and turning it into a debate about what words mean in English contemporary time contrasted with other times past.”

  • 34
    barnett malcolm
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    @ Acau Sal. The language we speak has nothing to do with the English people per se, but has to do with the original classical Latin and Greek etc.from which it originated. Like I said earlier, why don’t you give me the new definition of the word ‘death’, or ‘water’ or even words like ‘over’ or ‘under’ for that matter. Even looking at different European languages there are many words that are the same as, or almost the same as ‘English’ because they have exactly the same origin.

  • 35
    justin cotton
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    This is ridiculous. Why doesn’t Gillard and her followers complain about the pop music videos you see at the gym showing women in flimsy underwear cavorting around? If that’s not sexist demeaning of women, and heterosexist to boot, what is?

    This outrage about mysogyny is all very selective and hypocritical. Why don’t we ever hear the term “misandry”? Probably because no-one’s heard of it, not because it doesn’t exist.

  • 36
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    barnett malcolm, spræcest þu treowlic. Þe Ænglisc tonge fram Latin anlic is, ond ne fageteð oðer forscippeþ.

    Oh, wait:

    barnett malcolm, þou speakst trewlic, for the Englissh tongge is fram onlie Latin, and it fadeþ not nor chaungeþ eiþer.

    Oh, wait…

    I’ve forgotten the point you were trying to make.

  • 37
    barnett malcolm
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Well, that was certainly a mouthfull Catsidhe. I hope you’re feeling justified….”a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”etc.etc.

  • 38
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    You really don’t know what you’re talking about, do you.

  • 39
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    justin cotton
    Why doesn’t Gillard and her followers complain about the pop music videos you see at the gym showing women in flimsy underwear cavorting around
    I may as well ask why dont you question Abbott using mysogynist in relation to Slipper and Ashby ? After all he kicked off the whole thing specifically using that word . I read no hatred or dislike . If you did please elaborate .

  • 40
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    People please! Keep it above the belt.

    Malcolm, you’re position is indefensible. Language changes. Nothing is black and white. Meaning is not fixed; it is merely a convention that’s agreed upon and as such, can change dramatically within a community of practice (say, within feminist literature) and can spread from there. Additional meanings do not displace older meanings. Most words have more than one sense and it’s never ever been a problem. Moreover, dictionaries have only existed for a couple of hundred years if that. They don’t have any power over the language or its speakers except for the fictitious power that people believe them to have; that they tightly regulate usage. It’s nonsense.

  • 41
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    barnett malcolm
    What Gillard + Co. want to do is pluck the word misogyny out of the language and give it a different definition and meaning
    Your talking about something kicked off by Abbott and the response by the PM last week . The Oxford dictionary added/amended its description a decade ago . If we are to accept your view which is impossible because of the time gap then it is Abbott not the govt that is wishing to change the definition . A person or group cannot seek to change a meaning when its already happened . Rocky Horror Lets do the time warp again is playing in my mind but thats a musical .

  • 42
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    Aidan Wilson
    The only words that are rigidly set are probably chemical compounds because they define the chemicals merged to result in something like bicarbonate of soda or salt . Whats English but greek , latin , germanic , norse , french and smatterings of lots of other languages .

  • 43
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    there are plenty of words that have specific meanings, nuances and underlying values when used in certain professional or academic situations, this often happens in sociology and psychology where words in common usage take on extra meanings and significance. As Aidan hints at in ointing to feminist discourse and word meanings passing into common everyday language. The danger is that such important words become cliches…losing all real meaning and power in communicating important messages. This is happening with misogyny…who knows what it might end up meaning!

  • 44
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    geomac62. I am not talking about the ‘word’ but the definition of the word. For example the English word ‘death’, the French word ‘mort’ the Maori word ‘mate’ or the Russian word ‘smyertch’ are all spelled differently but have exactly the same ongoing and ‘fixed’ definition and meaning. The word ‘death’ means ‘the state of being dead’ and no matter how much you would like to ‘evolve’ the word it will never mean ‘giraffe’. If the definitions of words could be arbitrarily changed, no-one would know what the hell anyone else was talking about.

  • 45
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    Done to death , the death of democracy . Dead end which is what the conversation has become . If you want further discussion on the definition , take it up with Abbott who has a different definition than yours .

  • 46
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    Are you Barnett , cotton or SB ? You have no previous posts under zac so can I assume you have changed ID ?

  • 47
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    If it quacks like a duck. My post for Global voices looks at some net reactions:
    Australia: PM Julia Gillard’s Misogyny Speech Sparks a War of Words

    Glad that History of the English Language in 1967 at Monash wasn’t a waste of time.

    Best of luck to the dissemblers and spinners like Barnaby Joyce and Christopher Pyne (and their ilk on all sides of politics) who craftily re-craft the language everyday for their narrow purposes.

    Pyne infamously and incorrectly shared this gem about the PM earlier in the year: “This is the greatest political betrayal since Edward the Fifth murdered his two nephews in the tower of London” He’s a standup comic who wants to be taken seriously.

  • 48
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Welcome to the brave new world/day of literary excellence. A precedent set by arguably the highest institution in the land and sanctioned by our reigning leader Julia Gillard. My opinion of Miss Gillard is, a malicious(mildly mischievous), spitefull(marginally mean), treacherous(benignly tricky), shamefull(innocently immodest), bitch(man’s best friend) and a particularly nasty piece of work, leading a government of spivs(benign illusionists), shysters(charming and underpaid lawyers) and out of work used car salesmen(leisured purveyors of pre-owned automobiles).

  • 49
    El Nino
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    Love your conspiracy theory there Suzanne Blake (at 10)

    Let’s for a moment entertain the notion that your numbers are in fact not doctored and actually have some sort of factual basis.

    Let’s take the first on your list of “worst examples”, because clearly if your first one the list doesn’t make any kind of sense, then the rest of your argument is just self indulgent mental M8sterbation.

    The $700,000 spent on the Slipper case (that is, according to you) – represents 0.001% of the supposed $43.7b deficit. If that is the “worst example” – where has the other 99.999% gone?

    That and the $43.7b is obviously not the deficit figure when looking at the CFS.

  • 50
    Posted October 21, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    There have been 1/2 Million views in 4 days on the youtube video of Gillard going ar5e over t1t in India.

    According to the ABC who covered how many views the misogyny video got this means that the online community support the PM going face first into the dirt.

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