Oxford Dictionary issued an apology for a "flippant" tweet and promised to review its example sentences after a Canadian anthropologist cited examples of sexism in their text.
Michael Oman-Reagan slammed the publication on Twitter last week for its example sentence for the word "rabid," which, according to the dictionary means, "having or proceeding from an extreme or fanatical support of or belief in something." The example phrase for the definition? "A rabid feminist."
The Newfoundland-based PhD candidate suggested that Oxford review its listing, and also cited several other examples that he said produced "sexist stereotypes," in a Medium blog post.
"Obviously when they include 'rabid feminist' they are actually choosing that example sentence from possible sentences, so why that one?" Oman-Reagan wrote.
The dictionary responded jokingly to Oman-Reagan's request on Twitter:
If only there were a word to describe how strongly you felt about feminism… https://t.co/mAsmjUBoOs— Oxford Dictionaries (@OxfordWords) January 22, 2016
Which backfired when other users took note of the debate.
@OxfordWords Snide, smug, sarcastic misogyny. I dunno who you are, intern, but you gravely need to reassess your suitability for this role.— Phil McArthur (@pyrotyger) January 22, 2016
A day later, Oxford Dictionary apologized for the tweet, saying they would review their example sentence for the word rabid.
1/4 We were flippant in some of our tweets yesterday. Sorry.— Oxford Dictionaries (@OxfordWords) January 23, 2016
3/4 We'll review the primary example sentence used for 'rabid'.— Oxford Dictionaries (@OxfordWords) January 23, 2016
The dictionary didn't acknowledge other sexist example sentences Oman-Reagan pointed out, such as "a nagging wife" and "she still does all the housework."
They did, however, post a link on their Twitter account seeking to clarify how example sentences are selected, explaining that choosing them is just as difficult as deciding on the actual definition.
"Needless to say, as in any human enterprise, the selection of example sentences sometimes falls short of the idea."
The post went on to accept that "rabid feminist" was a "poorly chosen example" and a more generic example such as "rabid extremist" would have sufficed.
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