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Race, tech, animals, and social media prompt 15,000 Dictionary.com edits

Dictionary.com capitalizes the word “Black” and has made more than 15,000 other changes to its website, the company announced today.

Race, tech, animals, and social media prompt 15,000 Dictionary.com edits
[Photo: Snapwire/Pexels]

Dictionary.com capitalizes the word “Black” in regard to racial identity and has made more than 15,000 other changes to its website, the company announced today.

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The site’s largest overhaul to date includes the addition of 650 new entries.

Other new race-related and ethnicity-related words on the site include Afro-Latino, brownface, and Pinxy.

Throughout the site, “homosexual” was changed to “gay” and “homosexuality” to “gay sexual orientation,” while words with a “sexual” suffix—such as bisexual—had their definitions changed to include “emotionally,” as in “romantically, emotionally, or sexually attracted to.”

“Among our many new entries are thousands of deeper, dictionary-wide revisions that touch us on our most personal levels: how we talk about ourselves and our identities, from race to sexual orientation to mental health,” senior editor John Kelly said in a written statement. “Our revisions are putting people, in all their rich humanity, first, and we’re extremely proud of that.”

Other additions include:

  • af
  • GOAT
  • jabroni
  • janky
  • zhuzh
  • dead white male
  • sharent
  • Twitch
  • emotional support animal
  • extinct in the wild
  • cap and trade
  • conservation dependent

Another big area of change is how Dictionary.com deals with suicide and addiction to strip definitions of any judgment; for example, “commit suicide” was replaced with “die by suicide” and “end one’s life,” and “addict” is now “person addicted to or habitual user of.”

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This summer saw numerous news organizations, including the Associated Press, CNN, The New York Times, and BuzzFeed News, start to capitalize the word “Black.”

When the Trans Journalists Association was founded two months ago, the group created a stylebook with up-to-date definitions and usage guidelines with sensitivity to the trans community.

“It’s long overdue, frankly. Dictionaries aim to account for changes in the language. They haven’t always been so nimble when they were in print,” says Lindsay Rose Russell, an associate professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the author of Women and Dictionary-Making: Gender, Genre, and English Language Lexicography. “Language is infinite and always changing . . . Dictionary makers aren’t in charge of the English language any more than any English speaker is in charge of the English language. We all contribute to its use and its change.”

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