I was delighted to learn this week that you can make up a new definition for a word and all of a sudden the dictionary will change it for you.
It was of course the Workplace Minister Bill Shorten who explained on the ABC show Q&A that “misogyny” didn’t mean what the dictionary said it did but in fact what the Prime Minister said it did and so a couple of days later the chastened editors of Macquarie Dictionary said they would change the definition accordingly.
This was a tremendously liberating development and so I now have for the dictionary some other words that urgently need redefining.
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As editor of the Macquarie Dictionary, I picture myself as the woman with the mop and broom and bucket cleaning the language off the floor after the party is over. And in this case it was quite a party.
But what it left on the floor was misogyny – with a new meaning. The established meaning of misogyny is ‘hatred of women” but this is a rarefied term that goes back to the 1600s in English that acquired the status of a psychological term in the late 1800s when its counterpart misandry was coined. Both terms refer to pathological hatreds.
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 of women’.
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We come into this world naked and squalling. Red in the neck, uncouth. Unsophisticated. Obsessed with boobs, loud, annoying, a bit farty. Not much interest in literature.
We are all born bogans, and life is just a matter of accreting varying levels of sophistication.
Today, as we bathe in The Voice winner Karise Eden’s victory proclamation of “I love youse all”, we can also joyfully splash about in the fact that the word ‘bogan’ has finally made it into the Oxford English Dictionary.
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When I got 618 in a game of online Scrabble on the weekend, I immediately bleated the fact to the world via Facebook. As you do. Then I got this cheap, dirty feeling deep inside.
I’m not the worst Scrabbler going around. I know how to play the game. But I’m no 618 man, and it’s fair to say I had a little cyber-assistance in compiling such a big score.
The problem with online Scrabble, circa 2010, is that even mug players have access to dictionaries of several hundred thousand words. You might not know what the words mean, but if the computer approves them, hey presto! You’re on your way to 618. Or more.
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Next time you update your Facebook status or send off an email without checking for spelling errors, think of the children and pick up a hard cover dictionary.
A recent study by the University of Manchester has found that thanks to our predilection for communicating online, we’re raising an entire generation of bad spellers:
“The increasing use of variant spellings on the internet has been brought about by people typing at speed in chatrooms and on social networking sites where the general attitude is that there isn’t a need to correct typos or conform to spelling rules, “ said Lucy Jones, the author of the study.
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