Roxanne Trujillo began teaching children the English language in 1973, more than two decades before Merriam-Webster offered its first online dictionary. She is admittedly “old school” and still prefers students define words from the oldest hard copy dictionary they can find. Now, more than ever, Trujillo has “serious concerns” about students casually looking up definitions for words online.
This month, Merriam-Webster, which describes itself as “America’s leading and most-trusted provider of language information,” updated its definitions for the words “male” and “female” to include people of the opposite sex who identify as transgender. Notably, its official definitions for the words use the qualifier “typically” before the biological descriptions of each sex, so someone described as female “typically has the capacity to bear young or produce eggs”—but not always.
Gender politics and the LGBT ideology have steadily altered the way society perceives words and their meanings. Trujillo noted the word “gay” in her 1963 edition of the American College Dictionary meant “happy” and “carefree,” with no reference to homosexuality.
In July, Merriam-Webster changed its dictionary definition of “transgender woman” to “a woman who was identified as a male at birth” and a “transgender man” as “a man who was identified as a female at birth.” The publisher also declared “they” its word of the year for 2019. The word was picked on the basis of a 313 percent increase in searches on its website. Interest might have stemmed from the dictionary’s expansion of the definition in September 2019 to include four subsenses, one of which reads “in reference to an individual person whose gender identity is nonbinary.” The dictionary defines “gender identity” as “a person’s internal sense of being male, female, some combination of male and female, or neither male nor female.”
In its “biggest update ever,” Dictionary.com, which draws much of its content from the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, announced it will replace references to homosexuality with the word “gay.” The website said it wanted to characterize same-sex relationships as “a normal way of being” instead of a pathology or mental illness.
“The effect is to deprive people of the ability to think properly by gutting words of their real meanings and replacing them with false, politicized alternatives,” said Simon Calvert of the British Christian Institute. He said Christians must speak up for truth as defined in Scripture and link arms with others who acknowledge self-evident truths such as what it means to be male and female: “These are words with real meanings which must be protected from powerful and dangerous ideologues.”
Feminist activists have also spoken out against efforts to erase biological womanhood. “Everyone knows what women are and that we aren’t defined by a state of mind that a man can have,” Natasha Chart of the Women’s Liberation Front told Breitbart News. “I don’t have a ‘gender identity.’ I bore a child by means of my female body, not a state of mind, and it disrespects every mother and child to suggest otherwise.”
Trujillo said words and their meanings hold power to influence society. A culture that forgets the truths of Scripture—that God made man and women distinctly, in his image—only produces “mayhem and confusion,” she said. “I have always taken the responsibility seriously to raise a standard for children.”