One Of The Leading Digital Dictionaries Just Became More Socially Conscious
The digital dictionary made the changes to reflect the evolution of the English language and culture adaptions.
July 20, 2020 at 5:45 pm
Update (September 2, 2020): Dictionary.com, one of the world's leading digital dictionaries, announced sweeping amendments to its database of words regarding race, gender and mental health in its biggest update yet.
In a press release issued Tuesday, the platform said it added 650 new words to its database and made changes to over 15,000 current entries which reflect a significant shift in how people identify and describe themselves.
"The work of a dictionary is more than just adding new words. It's an ongoing effort to ensure that how we define words reflects changes in language and life," John Kelly, Dictionary.com senior editor, said.
"Among our many new entries are thousands of deeper, dictionary-wide revisions that touch us on our most personal levels: how we talk about ourselves and our identities, from race to sexual orientation to mental health," he added.
One of its most notable changes was Dictionary.com’s decision to capitalize "Black," a recognition that is commonly uniform with capitalizing other ethnicities. It also announced a separate designation for "Black," as it pertains to a sole person.
With these changes, the digital database said it acknowledges “language entries have consequences and go beyond being simply an academic exercise.”
Other modifications to ethic entries include: Afro-Latina, Afro-Latino, Afro-Latinx, Filipina, Filipinx, Pinay, Pinoy and Pinxy, per the release.
Alterations made to terms referencing the LGTBQ+ community were instituted to bring the focus on people, and not to imply their identity as a medical condition. Dictionary.com changed instances of the word homosexual to gay, and homosexuality to gay sexual orientation.
The word database updated definitions of words with the suffix -sexual to better represent "the complexity and richness of the experiences of these identities.”
Following national unrest and a swell of social justice protest, the revisions also included new language to identify cultural issues, like the phrase "MeToo" and “emotional labor.”
In July, the Associated Press announced it would be upholding its decision to lowercase the word "white" and capitalize "Black," as Blavity previously reported. Despite the decision receiving some pushback, editors said the decision reflects the feedback they received and the commonality Black people feel of being discriminated against.
Original (July 20, 2020): The Associated Press will continue to lowercase the term “white” in cases of racial, ethnic and cultural reporting. The decision comes a month after the organization announced its decision to capitalize “Black.”
In a blog post, John Daniszewski, the company's vice president for standards, said editors consulted a number of people in making these decisions and that throughout the process there was a strong push to capitalize “Black” but not as much support for “white."
Daniszewski cited the cultural connection Black people share as well as a “shared experience of discrimination” as reasons for the capitalization.
“Most notably, people who are Black have strong historical and cultural commonalities, even if they are from different parts of the world," the post read.
In the announcement, Daniszewski said that white people do not share the same sentiment and touched on white supremacy groups as a reason for keeping the term lowercase.
“We agree that white people’s skin color plays into systemic inequalities and injustices, and we want our journalism to robustly explore those problems. But capitalizing the term white, as is done by white supremacists, risks subtly conveying legitimacy to such beliefs,” he said.
The AP denied claims that not capitalizing "white" is inconsistent and is prejudiced against white people.
A number of news outlets have announced they will observe the same guidelines, including Columbia Journalism Review, the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, NBC News and more, according to KTLA 5.
“White doesn’t represent a shared culture and history in the way Black does,” The New York Times said.
The National Association of Black Journalists has advised outlets to capitalize "white," saying any color used to describe a person's race should be capitalized. Some news organizations, such as CNN, Fox News and The San Diego Union-Tribune, have decided to follow suit and capitalize "white" to keep in accordance with its stylization of ethnic groups such as Asians and Latinos.
CBS News announced it will capitalize "white" except when speaking about white supremacists, white nationalists, or white privilege.
Daniszewski said the news agency will continue to avoid using the term “brown” to describe race, but will lowercase the term when its inclusion is necessary, such as in a quote.
The AP Style Guide suggests taking precautions when reporting a person’s race, as it is often unnecessary in a regular story.
“Consider carefully when deciding whether to identify people by race. Often, it is an irrelevant factor and drawing unnecessary attention to someone’s race or ethnicity can be interpreted as bigotry,” the guide states.
Daniszewski said the organization plans on frequently evaluating its usage of the two terms.