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Dictionary.Com Removes Example Sentences Deemed Offensive to Homeschoolers

Is this typical? Does Dictionary.com often include an editorial point of view in its examples?

by
Bryan Preston

Bio

August 11, 2014 - 6:41 pm

I saw this flash by on Twitter, and decided to take a look for myself.

 

So I went to Dictionary.com and looked up “homeschool” in the search window.

Here’s what comes up.

And if you look over on the right, it’s not an exact match for the tweet above. But two of the sentences she noticed showed up for me too — the two worst ones.

dictionary-homeschool

 

The middle two examples are strongly editorial, and critical of homeschooling.

That got me to wondering — is this typical? Does Dictionary.com often include an editorial point of view in its examples?

So I looked up Barack Obama.

The output delivers nothing editorial, pro or con.

How about something less personal, but possibly political, like “church”?

The output delivers a couple of questionable examples.

dictionary-church

 

A sentence about “narrowness,” and a sentence about a scandal.

How about “Christian”?

Hm.

dictionary-christian

 

Muslims don’t come out unscathed.

dictionary-muslim

 

Most would be offended by being compared to Woody Allen.

Overall, though, an inconclusive result. So I emailed Dictionary.com and asked them about the offending sentences in the “homeschool” definition.

Here’s the reply I received.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We value the homeschooling community and education in all forms. These example sentences have been removed because they do not meet our editorial standards. Our 1,605,969 example sentences have been pulled programmatically from reputable publications online over the course of the last ten years, and our lexicographers are constantly reviewing them to ensure that our site is a reference source of the highest quality. As a small team, we appreciate you bringing this issue to our attention so that we could quickly fix this situation.

Would you be able to share with us where you first discovered this issue? We would like to inform them of this change also.

Sincerely,

Evelyn
Community Support
Dictionary.com

 

Bryan Preston has been a leading conservative blogger and opinionator since founding his first blog in 2001. Bryan is a military veteran, worked for NASA, was a founding blogger and producer at Hot Air, was producer of the Laura Ingraham Show and, most recently before joining PJM, was Communications Director of the Republican Party of Texas.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
"A sentence about “narrowness,” "


That sounds like it was a sentence about the construction of the building. Let's not go off the deep end, here.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
About your lookup for "church" and getting a result that includes "narrowness", which you consider to be an editorial comment. Have you considered that it might be referring to the building's architecture? To the relative length and width of the design?

Do please try to keep your own biases out of your reporting, else I might have to come up to Austin and Gibbs-slap you with my Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary... all thirty pounds of it. :)

Rusty Bill in San Antonio
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Other than the fact that Woody Allen is a Jew, why would he be dead by now? It certainly wouldn't be because of his pederast lifestyle. That's completely cool in the muslim world from what I can tell.

Oh. And the spell checker wants me to capitalize muslim.

I will not.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (20)
All Comments   (20)
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Their definition of "Second Amendment" is pretty dodgy, too:

"an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights, guaranteeing the right to keep and bear arms as necessary to maintain a state militia."

That's precisely the sort of revisionism the Supreme Court shot down in two recent decisions. There's not a single reference to "state militia" in the Second Amendment or elsewhere in the Constitution. The term "militia" as used by George Mason (who led the movement to withhold ratification of the Constitution until it had been amended to include the Bill of Rights, as adapted from Virginia's constitution) means "those men of arms-bearing age who are subject to being called up in defense of the State" - "state" used to denote "nation," not a political subdivision of a nation.

Also, the subtle implication is that this reference to the need for a right to keep and bear arms also limits its application to the members of state militias (in modern usage, National Guards). That misconception was cleared up by the Supreme Court of the United States of America recently.

The people who are opposed to the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms are finding themselves in the position of segregationists in the 1960s of cursing that damn Suoreme Court!

Must suck to be on the wrong side of law and order.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
The homeschool sentences are more than just "strongly editorial" - they're offensive. I would suggest that replacing "homeschool" in the third one with "public school" would turn it into a true sentence.

"... have been pulled programmatically from reputable publications online ..."

Does anyone remember how the Oxford English Dictionary was assembled? People all over England (and perhaps the British Empire) sent in words in context, on little pieces of paper, to the editors.

It tool longer, but then the OED has lasted a very long time.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
If you had hit the "Expand" button on the church definition, you would have seen this:

Example sentences for church
The cloister and monastic buildings lie to the south side of the church .
This church is remarkable for its exceeding narrowness in proportion to its length.
The pastor resigned and the ousted church members were allowed to return.
They are a literary agency without any connection to the church .
The law also permitted the confiscation of church property without compensation.
The issue of evolution has been a point of controversy for some members of the church .
Upon the fundamental doctrines of the church we are all agreed.
A dichotomy of opinion exists among some church members today.
These influences awoke within the church a new selfconsciousness.
The church could no longer rest quietly upon its fundamentals and history.

Narrowness was indeed specific to the dimensions of the physical building.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
All I can say about Dictionary.com is that you get what you pay for, and you should pay for a dictionary in print. Here are some more questionable examples:

They use this as an example with the attribution unknown author:
"Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. "

They also use this quote as example of how to use Christian in a sentence:
"Captain Bligh: Mr. Christian, I give you your last chance to return to duty.
Fletcher Christian: I'll take my chance against ... "


18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
If indeed they are automatically pulling lines of texts from published works, this would make sense. It's highly popular, but the software probably has a difficult time with context.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
I agree that it appears to be text pulled by software, but it in this case some human editing and judgment are in order. Even if software is picking and choosing from published works, the editors are ultimately responsible for the sources chosen. In the case of Dictionary.com, they probably have no choice in the matter since it is a free web resource.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
As usual in these concerns, no one was disciplined, suspended, or fired.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
For what? If indeed the sentences are pulled automatically and there's a lot of printed materials on the web with a bias against homeschooling, you're going to get that result.

Fire the software, because it's bad at picking up context?
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sentences are still there.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Pulled"? Not yet!
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
"A sentence about “narrowness,” "


That sounds like it was a sentence about the construction of the building. Let's not go off the deep end, here.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Identity politics grievance mongering converts no one. Crybabies don't even love themselves.

The appropriate complaint would have been that the example sentences are overwhelmingly useless for the purpose of clarifying the meaning of the word and distinguishing it from similar terms.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Good job. We need to speak up, and it could be innocent - due to the nature of the sources. Many years ago, the "Palestine" article in the Britannica was toned down due to people speaking up - and that's a much more hardened target. Wikipedia is more difficult, because the rules cause a left-wing skew, but if more of us got involved there, it would really help.

The Left (and their Muslim allies) is busy with co-ordinated efforts that result in things like getting peoples' Facebook pages shut down, and Google having an "attack Israel" app ("attack Gaza" was taken down (refused?) even though the goal was to avoid hitting civilians). We can't leave the field open to them.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
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