If you missed it on Friday, the venerable institution that is Oxford Dictionaries disappointed us all by responding to a fair question with some “lol banter” about feminists:
Followed by an explanation of why “rabid” is a totally good word you guys, what’s the big deal here:
Btw, 'rabid' isn't always negative, and our example sentences come from real-world use and aren't definitions: https://t.co/npaVgBahOM— Oxford Dictionaries (@OxfordWords) January 22, 2016
The example sentence was a very poor choice, but their response to the tweet was the real issue. The sentence was taken from real usage (however crappy), but their tweet was a deliberate effort to poke fun at feminists. That’s always a bad idea for a brand, and their social media managers should know better.
Unsurprisingly, the tweet inspired a load of gross misogyny from the eggs of the internet, which we won’t give publicity to. Michael Oman-Reagan (who posted the question), people who agreed with him, people tweeting Oxford Dictionaries and people writing about the issue (including us) all got it, and Oxford pointedly stayed out of the firestorm they caused, cheerfully tweeting about sheep while the man who asked a completely legitimate question was deluged.
Finally, more than a day later, someone with slightly more understanding of PR tweeted four semi-apologies that didn’t address most of the issue:
1/4 We were flippant in some of our tweets yesterday. Sorry.— Oxford Dictionaries (@OxfordWords) January 23, 2016
2/4 'rabid fan' now has the highest frequency in the Oxford Corpus & 'rabid supporter' also frequent.— Oxford Dictionaries (@OxfordWords) January 23, 2016
3/4 We'll review the primary example sentence used for 'rabid'.— Oxford Dictionaries (@OxfordWords) January 23, 2016
4/4 You can find out more about where our example sentences come from here: https://t.co/KotzmcYiaU— Oxford Dictionaries (@OxfordWords) January 23, 2016
Most of this is what they should have said in the first place. All they needed to do was reply thoughtfully and considerately to Michael, explaining that example sentences come from real usage and don’t represent the opinions of the dictionary company, but they could see how that one might be construed and would review it. The end. No story.
Instead they decided to have a good old laugh at those rabid feminist types, with their absurd requests for equality and their politely-phrased Twitter queries. And look how that went for them. Two days later, they’ve gained a load of fans from the – dare I say it – rabidly misogynist sector of the internet, and disappointed a lot of people who’ve respected them since primary school days. Good going.
Still, when was the last time you paid money for a paper dictionary? Guess they’ve got to get your attention somehow.
Main image: iStock/aga7ta