Mighty Red Pen

January 22, 2010

Websterogenous zones

Filed under: Lit review — mighty red pen @ 8:27 pm
Tags: ,

When I first read about the California school distract that removed copies of the Merriam-Webster dictionary in fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms because it contains an entry for oral sex, it seemed kind of snicker-worthy. But the more I thought about it, the more annoyed I became. According to The Press Enterprise:

After a parent complained about an elementary school student stumbling across “oral sex” in a classroom dictionary, Menifee Union School District officials decided to pull Merriam Webster’s 10th edition from all school shelves earlier this week.

School officials will review the dictionary to decide if it should be permanently banned because of the “sexually graphic” entry, said district spokeswoman Betti Cadmus. The dictionaries were initially purchased a few years ago for fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms districtwide, according to a memo to the superintendent.

“It’s hard to sit and read the dictionary, but we’ll be looking to find other things of a graphic nature,” Cadmus said. She explained that other dictionary entries defining human anatomy would probably not be cause for alarm.

“It’s just not age appropriate,” said Cadmus, adding that this is the first time a book has been removed from classrooms throughout the district.

Well, apparently the dictionary is bringing sexy back these days. I immediately went to Merriam-Webster to see what this racy entry was all about.

It turns out the aforementioned graphic description is “oral stimulation of the genitals” and further refers you to (avert your eyes!) cunnilingus and fellatio. Well, gee whiz, sounds downright pornographic, doesn’t it?

I don’t want to downplay the panic in Menifee but okay, well, I do. I find it kind of hilarious that they think that kids (or anyone for that matter) are being corrupted by reading the Merriam-Webster dictionary. The dictionary. Heaven forfend that a parent of a 9 or 10 year old should use it as a teachable moment if their kid comes across a term such as oral sex when they are searching the dictionary for the definitions between oracular and ornamental

I hardly think we should be standing in the way of kids getting proper information about s-e-x, and any youngster who is intrepid enough to look in the dictionary to find out what it’s all about shouldn’t be dissuaded from educating themselves. It’s not as though Merriam-Webster is some kind of gateway porn. Today the dictionary, tomorrow Penthouse Forum!

H/t @EditorMark and @emckean.



  1. This story made http://detentionslip.org ! Check it out for all the crazy headlines from our schools.

    Comment by Hall Monitor — January 23, 2010 @ 8:56 pm | Reply

  2. If oral sex encourages kids to read the dictionary, I’m all for it.

    That sounds wrong – but you know what I mean!

    Comment by JD (The Engine Room) — January 24, 2010 @ 12:36 pm | Reply

  3. […] nation: Dictionaries Posted on January 26th, 2010 at 4:07 pm by Neil Verma Hat tip to the Mighty Red Pen for this gem: in California, the Menifee Union School District has removed Merriam-Webster’s […]

    Pingback by When Falls the Coliseum » Exaggeration nation: Dictionaries — January 26, 2010 @ 4:07 pm | Reply

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