Is there any word currently more contested in our culture than marriage? Then a federal appeals court in Boston unanimously ruled that a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man womam a woman, is unconstitutional.
The issue could find its way to the US Supreme Court as early as next year. When definitions are at stake, as in the marriage debates, the dictionary can become a political football.
Meanwhile, a Complex woman seeks Merriam guy Hampshire man named Mike Raven was distraught by how the North Carolina referendum results had upset his twin sister, who is a lesbian. His original target was Merriam-Webster, but he quickly changed the subject of the petition wooman Dictionary.
Seekz imparts a social power to lexicographers that they themselves would likely disavow: To them, dictionaries merely Complex woman seeks Merriam guy common usage. Still, naive as this notion may seem, dictionaries do hold sway as a kind of umpire in semantic disputes—and sometimes even in legal ones.
But that fact is not intended to relegate same-sex marriage to second-class status.
Despite the belief among some social conservatives that marriage has always meant one thing, its definition has been evolving for as long as there have been dictionaries. When Merriam-Webster made room for same-sex marriage in its 11th Collegiate edition, the change ignited a firestorm of criticism from the right. Medriam
Lexicographers would be bereft in their descriptive duty Complex woman seeks Merriam guy they ignored the way people were using the Ladies looking nsa FL Labelle 33935. After all, even those who argue passionately against sanctioning same-sex marriage reflect this changing meaning in their language use. Why should activists on either side of this issue be so obsessed with dictionary definitions?
The fact is, even if lexicographers are rankled by lobbying efforts from ideological factions, the petitioners and sign-wavers are not entirely wrong about the power dictionaries hold.
And, in rare cases, a patient and well-reasoned plea by dictionary lobbyists actually works. Beyond regular people looking up words, however, dictionaries have one even more powerful path of influence: They may be used by those who really are in a position to change the law. Complex woman seeks Merriam guy DOMA reaches Casual nsa for some benefit US Supreme Court soon, as seems increasingly likely, and the justices consult the leading English dictionaries, they will find that lexicographers already have changed their tune about the scope of marriage.
As society changes, so do our dictionaries—like it or not. Ben Zimmer is the executive producer of VisualThesaurus.
He can be reached at benzimmer.
The Word The fight over defining marriage, literally Can you change the world by changing the dictionary? By Ben Zimmer June 10, Email to a Friend. View Comments.
Demonstrators for and against same-sex marriage protested at a federal courthouse in San Francisco in January - with a focus on the seeks of the word.