America Shocked by Discovery that Idiots Can Read
We’ve always been amused by the biblical authority of dictionaries in our culture, almost as much as we’re amused by the biblical authority of the Bible. Dictionaries, last we checked, are compiled by harmless drudges, and we consider our judgment as good as theirs. For that matter, most dictionary editors are observers of linguistic usage, not dictators of meaning. Their job is to follow the crowd, not lead it.
That, and provide 300-point solutions to Scrabble problems.
So we’re not surprised that the dictionary meaning of “marriage” has been evolving in recent years, much like the dictionary meaning of everything else. Webster notices that many folks use it to describe any couple in a committed relationship. And the OED sniffs that they’ve always called it “husband and wife”, not “man and woman”.
Even in 1992, American Heritage was hedging its bet: “The legal union of a man and woman as husband and wife.” And while that remains predominantly true, it’s also manifestly contingent: change the law, and American Heritage changes with it.
But none of that matters to Eric B., aka YouTube’s PropheticObserver, who was shocked! to discover recently that Webster has forsaken him: It now offers “the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage,” or for the attention-impaired, “same-sex marriage”.
We’re not sure the last time Eric consulted a dictionary, but it’s not news — the Washington Times broke the story about lefty lexicographers five years ago, including Merriam-Webster’s heresy.
Then again, we haven’t been paying attention either. The last time we found ourselves obsessively interested in what dictionaries see fit to print was a generation ago, when American Heritage broke the fuck barrier.