Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Word Nerd Asks: You banned what???

I just finished a new baby quilt, so I was thinking of putting pictures up, but then I came across this article and felt compelled to comment. I missed it when it came out a few weeks ago, but today I was perusing the very amusing, bitingly witty blog of The Rejectionist and saw this link:

It seems that a parent from a Southern California district was perturbed when they volunteered in their child's fifth-grade classroom and discovered that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary used there had a definition for oral sex. (Which, according to the M-W website, is "oral stimulation of the genitals.") Presumably the parent was concerned that Little Johnny might come home all confused and ask his mommy what "genitals" were, so they complained to the district. The district's response? Pulling all the dictionaries from their fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms.

Putting aside the questionable lessons in dictionary use this suggests—if my kid had come home asking what "genital" meant because he read it in the dictionary definition for oral sex, I would have told him to get his lazy ass back to the "G" section and look it up himself—you gotta wonder what kind of educators look at a dictionary definition and consider it "sexually graphic." The same people who then pull a book for one word, and then say "It's hard to sit and read the dictionary, but we'll be looking to find other things of a graphic nature," as a district spokeswoman did. (Hard to read the dictionary! Say it ain't so!)

The district eventually decided to reinstate the Merriam-Webster dictionary and provide an alternative one for fourth and fifth graders to use, according to the local paper, but still ... they have all kinds in California, including parents who use their spare time in their kids' class to look up dirty words in the dictionary rather than help a kid learn something.

As a side note: my version of M-W's dictionary, being older than most NFL running backs, does not have a definition for "oral sex." I did, however, look at the definition for "intercourse" and it was just filthy!


  1. I tried to read the dictionary once. I learned alot, but the plot was confusing.

  2. I'm with you: I'm always a big fan of taking all the fun out of "dirty" words by making them see their teacher/mother say them. "Genital? You want to know what a genital is? Go look it up. And now please read the definition to the class. Can you put that into your own words to show me you really understand? Good. Now, who else has a question?"

  3. Ah, Jacqui, you have the soul of a true teacher.