How Do You Spell Absurd? School District Quarantines All Copies of Merrian Webster Dictionary

The good people of Menifee Union School District have taken a stand against indecency. Across the district in every school library Merriam Webster’s 10th edition dictionary has been locked away because one parent complained that it contained a definition of “oral sex.”

District spokeswoman Betti Cadmus says that the dictionary may now be permanently banned. She added that they are carefully going through it to find anything else that is “just not age appropriate.” She added “It’s hard to sit and read the dictionary, but we’ll be looking to find other things of a graphic nature.” Apparently, not quite as hard as banning books. (BTW, wasn’t the original Cadmus credited with the introduction of the first alphabet? He would be spinning in his sarcophagus).

Board member and teacher Randy Freeman agrees with the decision to put the book into quarantine, noting “a prestigious dictionary that’s used in the Riverside County spelling bee, but I also imagine there are words in there of concern.” Somehow I doubt that cunnilingus is likely to be chosen at the Spelling Bee.

Here is the definition from the online version:

Main Entry: oral sex
Function: noun
Date: 1973
: oral stimulation of the genitals : cunnilingus, fellatio

Just for the record, here is the definition for intolerant:

Main Entry: in·tol·er·ant
Pronunciation: \-rənt\
Function: adjective
Date: circa 1735
1 : unable or unwilling to endure
2 a : unwilling to grant equal freedom of expression especially in religious matters b : unwilling to grant or share social, political, or professional rights : bigoted
3 : exhibiting physiological intolerance

For the full story, click here.

29 thoughts on “How Do You Spell Absurd? School District Quarantines All Copies of Merrian Webster Dictionary”

  1. Here are a few words that I’d like the self-appointed censor to ponder:

    Eat. Me.

  2. From the New York Times Book Review, October 30, 1966, “The Latest Word” by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.:

    When Mario Pei reviewed the savagely-bopped third revised edition of the “Merriam- Webster” for The Times in 1961, he complained of the “residual prudishness” which saw excluded certain four-letter words, “despite their copious appearance in numerous works of contemporary ‘literature’ as well as on restroom walls.” Random House has satisfied this complaint somewhat. They haven’t included enough of the words to allow a Pakistani to decode “Last Exit to Brooklyn,” or “Ulysses,” either–but they have made brave beginnings, dealing, wisely I think, with the alimentary canal. I found only one abrupt verb for sexually congressing a woman, and we surely have Edward Albee to thank for its currency, though he gets no credit for it. The verb is hump, as in “hump the hostess.”

    If my emphasis on dirty words so early in this review seems childish, I can only replay that I, as a child, would never have started going through unabridged dictionaries if I hadn’t suspected that there were dirty words hidden in there, where only grownups were supposed to find them. I always ended the searches feeling hot and stuffy inside, and looking at the queer illustrations–at the trammel wheel, the arbalest, and the dugong.

  3. They’ve semi-backed down. Have to wonder if any parent actually did complain.

    Banned dictionary to return to Riverside County school
    Parents will get the option to determine if they want their children to have access to Merriam Webster’s 10th Collegiate Edition, which was pulled over references to oral sex.

    By David Kelly
    January 27, 2010

    After being pulled from the shelves for what some saw as racy content, Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary may have the last word in Menifee.

    A committee of parents, teachers and administrators decided Tuesday to return the dictionaries to the fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms at Oak Meadows Elementary School just days after they were removed over complaints about entries detailing references to various types of oral sex.

    “The dictionary will go back to the classroom but the parents will be given the option to determine if they want their kids to have access to that dictionary,” said Betti Cadmus, a spokeswoman for the Menifee Union School District in southwest Riverside County. Students will take permission slips home and parents who don’t want them to use Webster’s 10th Collegiate Edition can opt for alternative dictionaries.

    The controversy began last week when a parent complained to the school principal about what she believed was explicit sexual content in the dictionary. The books were ordered off the shelves until a committee could determine if they were “age appropriate” for fourth- and fifth-graders.

    The move immediately set off cries of censorship among many, including the president of the local school board, who warned that banning one book would inevitably lead to the banning of more and more.

    Cadmus said that despite complaints about the dictionary, no parents showed up at Tuesday’s meeting to express any concerns. “The bottom line is the district followed the road map laid out for it in board policy,” she said.

  4. Come now people, it is called a DIC-tionary after all. Can’t you see the perverse sexual reference placed there by the Devil himself. Ban it and every other conceivable transgression or affront to the tender sensibilities of the fundie religious. They run things you know…and what a bang up job they do. I think we have to expand the list: “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” sure sounds like a poultry-ized f-bomb in the making if you merely transpose a few first letters (and God forbid you do the same with the phonics of the first letters of a couple of the main words in “A Tale of Two Cities”); those lewd paintings, The Rape of the Sabine Women,” by Picasso and Schönfeld, et als obviously have to go; and horror or horrors, that Cockatoo bird must be re-named immediately. Amen.

  5. yankee:

    “The stupid leading the ignorant.”


    It’s usually the other way ’round.

  6. Censoring a dictionary is so sad… What about entries such as “screw” and “ass”? They’re perfectly valid words, too…

    Reminds me of the Apple Store policies, censoring a dictionary because of such entries…

  7. Have y’all been keeping up with what’s going on in Texas?????

    Texas Social Studies Curriculum: Out With Civil Rights Leaders, In With Phyllis Schlafly And Joseph McCarthy
    (Think Progress, 1/19/2010)

    For months, the Texas State Board of Education has been hearing from “experts” about the direction of the state’s social studies curriculum and textbook standards. The advice to the 15-member board — which is composed of 10 Republicans — has included more references to Christianity, fewer mentions of civil rights leaders, George Wasington, and Abraham Lincoln.

    On Thursday and Friday last week, the State Board of Education took up these recommendations in a lengthy, heated debate. Some highlights of what the Republican-leaning board ended up deciding, and the debates that went on:

    — On a 7-6 vote, the board decided to add “causes and key organizations and individuals of the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schafly, the Contract with America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority, and the National Rifle Association” to the curriculum.

    – The Republican majority voted against requiring Texas textbooks and teachers to cover the Democratic late senator Edward Kennedy, the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and leading Hispanic civil rights groups such as LULAC and MALDEF. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Thurgood Marshall, the country’s first African-American Supreme Court justice, will be taught.


    I’m sure many of you are familiar with two of the most subversive children’s books written by that lefty Bill Martin Jr.: “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” and “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.”

    Well, read the following:

    Right-wing Texas Education Board accidentally bans popular children’s book author.
    (Think Progress, 1/26/2010)

    Last week, ThinkProgress reported on the Texas Board of Education’s push to change the state’s social studies curriculum to marginalize progressives. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reveals that the latest to be nixed is actually popular children’s author Bill Martin Jr.:

    In its haste to sort out the state’s social studies curriculum standards this month, the State Board of Education tossed children’s author Martin, who died in 2004, from a proposal for the third-grade section. Board member Pat Hardy, R-Weatherford, who made the motion, cited books he had written for adults that contain “very strong critiques of capitalism and the American system.”

    Trouble is, the Bill Martin Jr. who wrote the Brown Bear series never wrote anything political, unless you count a book that taught kids how to say the Pledge of Allegiance, his friends said. The book on Marxism was written by Bill Martin, a philosophy professor at DePaul University in Chicago.

    What next?

    I don’t know whether to LOL or slap myself upside the head!

  8. Of course, my kids hardly use a physicial dictionary. If they need to look up something, they are far more likely to do so in one of the many on-line dictionaries. I assume they will ban access to on-line dictionaries frm school computers.

  9. Calling Focus on the Family! I see a dire need for a “family-friendly” dictionary that can be approved for school use and that people wouldn’t be ashamed to have on their bookshelves. Once you take out all of the naughty bits and other unapproved words (e.g., “atheism”), it will be kid-safe and also lots skinnier for filing on the shelf.

  10. I believe hese people are “out of order”. That is the most rediculous thing I ever heard. A dictionary is a learning tool. If a student needs to know what a definition is he/she goes to a dictionary. “Age appropiate”- Huh. These people aught to grow up themselves. Will they explain to their kids what it means? heck no. Dictioarys are written for everyone. Pretty son they will be burning books like they did in Germany! History repeats itself. Tell them to look up “gay” he he he
    A simple few probably the christian right is behind all of this BULL.

  11. The person who complained about the definition for oral sex being included in the dictionary must have been going through the dictionary just looking for something to complain about. And she must have started in the middle of the book – look at the number of definitions she would have had to overlook that reside in A-N! Either that or she caught her kid looking up “dirty” definitions in the dictionary. Apparently when she was a child there was no dictionary in her house with which to play this time-honored children’s game.

  12. stu·pid
    Pronunciation: \ˈstü-pəd, ˈstyü-\
    Function: adjective
    Etymology: Middle French stupide, from Latin stupidus, from stupēre to be numb, be astonished — more at type
    Date: 1541

    1 a : slow of mind : obtuse b : given to unintelligent decisions or acts : acting in an unintelligent or careless manner c : lacking intelligence or reason : brutish

    2 : dulled in feeling or sensation : torpid

    3 : marked by or resulting from unreasoned thinking or acting : senseless

  13. I suppose when they do indeed learn to read they will find knowledge important. Ask Sarah about her take on planned parenting. It did not work too well.

    Until then I leave you with the word for the day.

    The Word of the Day for January 26, 2010 is:

    bolide • \BOH-lyde\ • noun

    : a large meteor : fireball; especially : one that explodes

    Though probably no more than a foot in diameter, the bolide offered a brief and spectacular light show as it streaked across the sky.

    Makes one wonder if Elizabethan Prose or even Victorian England could take the example above to mean some form of Oral Sex. But as the GOP has proved on many occasions. Just because you deny its does not mean that it is not necessarily so….

Comments are closed.