As a consequence of an online petition signed by 35.000 person, the Oxford dictionaries have seen many changes, some definitions were found to be offensive.

Are the Oxford dictionaries definitions really offensive?
Antiquarian copies of the English Dialect Dictionary(Photo by Richard Baker via Getty Images Images)

Earlier this week, Oxford University Press announced that it had changed some of the definitions in its dictionaries, deemed discriminatory and condescending, the Guardian reveals. The word “woman” and many other related terms were the subject of an online petition launched by women’s rights activist Maria Beatrice Giovanardi in 2019.

It turns out that the words “men” and “women” were treated differently as these very telling examples show. The expression “maid” is synonymous to the idiom “woman”. Offensive”, “pejorative” and “outdated” associations.

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The term is now defined as “a person’s wife, girlfriend or lover”. The definition of “man” is similar.

The petition points the finger at associations that may “reinforce negative stereotypes of women and put men at the center”. Indeed, “language has implications in everyday life, it influences perceptions and the way women are treated”.

There is still work to be done, since the term “maid” is still synonymous with “woman”… In February, it was the Larousse that was pinned for its offensive definitions.

Philip Wright
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