Dictionaries are seldom headline news, but the Macquarie dictionary is at the centre of political debate today after deciding to revise its definition of the word “misogyny” in the wake of recent political events.
Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop do not approve. In their opinion, words do not change on a Prime Ministerial whim.
Perhaps they should have a word with Humpty-Dumpty, aka Lewis Caroll:
‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’
Lewis Carroll was clearly not shooting for gender-neutral language there, but I’ll forgive him for that because Alice comes out ahead on that encounter:
Alice waited a minute to see if he would speak again, but, as he never opened his eyes or took any further notice of her, she said ‘Good-bye!’ once more, and, getting no answer to this, she quietly walked away: but she couldn’t help saying to herself, as she went, ‘of all the unsatisfactory —’ (she repeated this aloud, as it was a great comfort to have such a long word to say) ‘of all the unsatisfactory people I ever met —’