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Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary has changed the definition of “preference” to include a definition of “offensive” when referring to sexual preference.
Last week’s confirmation hearing for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett featured a bombshell: Apparently, the term “sexual preference” is now offensive and anyone using that term is anti-LGBTQ.
During questioning by Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Judge Barrett stated that she had never discriminated against anyone based on their “sexual preference.” Sen. Hirono took issue with Barrett’s use of that term, stating that it is offensive because sexual orientation is not a choice. Democrats rallied around Hirono’s claim and tried to portray Judge Barrett as bigoted and offensive. Rather than being happy to learn that Judge Barrett does not discriminate against the LGBTQ population, Democrats were angry with her phraseology.
The bigger story is that the same day that Democrats decided that Barrett’s statement was offensive, Merriam-Webster altered its official definition of the word “preference,” a word that has been in use within the English language since 1673.
The online site for the dictionary now states that “preference” is “offensive” when used in the context of someone’s sexuality. Under the usage section of that entry, Webster’s further explains: “The term preference as used to refer to sexual orientation is widely considered offensive in its implied suggestion that a person can choose who they are sexually or romantically attracted to.”
Why did they make this change?
According to the dictionary’s editor-at-large, Peter Sokolowski, this change was indeed related to the hearings:
“…we released the update for sexual preference when we noticed that the entries for preference and sexual preference were being consulted in connection with the SCOTUS hearings. A revision made in response to an entry’s increased attention differs only in celerity – as always, all revisions reflect evidence of use.”
Hirono’s hostile response to Barrett’s use of the term “preference” was the only time Judge Barrett seemed to be confused during her confirmation hearing. In fact, she appeared to be genuinely perplexed as seen in her response to Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., when he also picked up on Hirono’s accusation. “Senator, I really — in using that word, I did not mean to imply that I think that, you know…that it is not an immutable characteristic, or that it’s solely a matter of preference. I honestly did not mean any offense, or to make any statement by that,” Barrett said.
On his Wednesday night show, Fox News host Tucker Carlson challenged this notion that the term “sexual preference” is an “offensive and outdated” slur and that Judge Barrett knew better. Carlson showed video clips of Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden repeatedly using the term “sexual preference” this year. Carlson also showed a clip of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg using the term in 2017.
Not only was the term recently used by Democrats, but as the Washington Examiner pointed out, even LGBTQ media outlets use the term, citing a tweet by Robby Soave showing that one such outlet used the term on September 25, 2020.
And Cambridge Dictionary Online uses the term “sexual preference” to actually explain how to use the term “preference” in a sentence, as in “It would be wrong to discriminate against a candidate because of their sexual preference (= the sex of the people they are sexually attracted to)”.
Moreover, if “sexual preference” is widely considered offensive, why did Merriam-Webster, which dubs itself America’s most trusted online dictionary, wait to include this fact until after a Democrat politician instructed Barrett that the term is, in fact, offensive?
The answer is because it is not widely considered offensive nor was it in the days, weeks, or years leading up to this confirmation hearing. What Sen. Hirono and the Democrats did is extremely dangerous. Changing the plain understanding of a term for political reasons and instructing people that they should be offended by its use is not only supremely arrogant, but it also allows Democrats to move the goalposts at any given moment in order to damage someone they disagree with.
What is even more concerning than the Democrats’ predictable rhetorical gymnastics and faux outrage is that Merriam-Webster, a resource that Americans rely on for clarity of word definition and usage, changed the meaning of the word the very day that the Democrats made this play. Once Merriam-Webster fell in line with the Democrats’ word usage, everyone else followed suit, including tech companies. This has allowed Democrat politicians to define words and determine what — and who — is offensive and bigoted.
Anyone Hirono says is a bigot is now definitively a bigot because Merriam-Webster will change the meaning of words to make sure she is correct. There is nothing more Orwellian and more frightening than government elites having the power to change the English language at their whim.
Hirono previously said that Democrats “know so much” that they need to tell everyone how smart they are and that they have a hard time communicating this with people who are not as smart as they are. That statement was a telling declaration that members of the Democratic party think they are highly intelligent, too intelligent, in fact, for the American people. It is this elitist mindset that makes them think they can define words for Americans and tell people which words they should be offended by.
While this relationship between Merriam-Webster and the Democrats is disturbing, it also reveals something encouraging. The Democrats have nothing substantive with which to oppose Judge Barrett. By resorting to this tactic, Democrats have shown that Barrett is so qualified and so above reproach that they have to redefine common terms in order to criticize her.