The good folks over at Merriam-Webster know that they’ve got to keep up with the ever-evolving nature of the English language. The amazing thing about them too is their inclusion of certain words and concepts in their new rosters is their way of signaling to the world that “Hey look, world, this new word and concept? It’s a thing now. This is the 21st century, and we’re not looking back.”
Take, for example, that time when they formally included the words “cisgender” and genderqueer”, as well as the gender-neutral title “Mx.” (pronounced “Mix” or”Mux”.) Didn’t know this happened? Well, neither did I. This apparently happened a few months ago, but nonetheless needs acknowledgement. Isn’t it great? Yay for inclusivity and diversity!
This certainly is a big step in the progressive direction, considering the fracas over “bathroom bills” and gender-neutral bathrooms. Any kind of help from language certainly goes a long way.
However a number of nay-sayers raised questions about why this was such a necessary move. C’mon, it’s easy to see these were really just thinly-veiled attempts to criticize the decision.
Merriam-Webster has having none of that. this tweet came out for all the haters on Twitter:
1) saying they don’t know what ‘genderqueer’ means
2) asking why we added it to the dictionary pic.twitter.com/wsGZ7Y6XB8
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) April 25, 2016
“It’s certainly very interesting to see people criticizing us for including the words but then asking what they mean,” Merriam-Webster lexicographer Emily Brewster told ABC News. “They end up proving exactly why we needed to add them.”
Aside from the above words, the publisher also not only introduced “genderfluid” and “transphobia”, but also updated the definitions for existing words such as “non-binary”, “gender expression”, and “gender identity“.
So, does these new steps suddenly make everything better? No, not really, but it definitely helps.
Gender Spectrum, a national organization that “helps to create gender sensitive and inclusive environment for all children and teens”, wholeheartedly supports this decision. “Just because these terms are now in the dictionary doesn’t suddenly make them real, but their additions do provide important affirmation and validation at an institutional level,” said Joel Baum, senior director for professional development.
“The fact is, there is literally a difficult convincing process that many non-binary people have to go through to ‘prove’ their existence or experiences are real,” Baum continued. “This is just another arrow in the quiver to help the general public understand their experiences. Not everyone identifies as male, female or transgender.”