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Language really matters

Language really matters
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Language really matters

Dictionary, being the best guide for meanings, synonyms and definitions gained dependable status from educated societies in all over the world. People usually prefer to search a dictionary as a useful tool to discover proper meaning of unknown words or any terms that seem new to them and it has been happening for decades. Among varieties of dictionaries, the most top rated are Oxford, Webster, Cambridge etc. However, Oxford University Press has played a great role by changing the definition of ‘woman’ in the Oxford Dictionary upon an online petition.

The previous definition of ‘woman’ in the Oxford Dictionary contained terms which were quite offensive. Prior to the modification, the Oxford Dictionary explained ‘woman’ as a man’s wife, girlfriend or lover.

It indicates females not having any individual identity and can be considered similar to things or substances in possession of male. Furthermore, it also reflects that a woman is someone related to man and her identity only depends on her relation to a male. On the other hand, the online version of this dictionary showed terms like bitch, besom, piece, bit, mare, baggage, wench, petticoat, frail, bird, bint, biddy, filly, etc as synonyms of ‘woman’.

Such terms left a full negative image toward females in the societies. But it’s good to know that Oxford University Press has taken this matter into consideration and modified the definition. It will help women to stand up in the societies. The definition of ‘man’ has also been altered considering the thoughts of modern readers.

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How does it impact societies?

‘Gender’ has always been a focused issue of campaign and discussion since many years. Some of the concepts of gender roles are nothing but stereotype thoughts.

Where do the stereotype thoughts come from? These definitely arrive from the information that people acquire from all around like books, newspapers, magazines, films, web series, social media etc.

These factors indirectly create a social structure. From this sense, it can be said that definitions in a dictionary have huge impacts in society. An example can be provided with a brief discussion regarding a national legislation. Think about ‘The Forest Act, 1927’ which is criticized by concerned authorities with the fact that the Act provides the definition of ‘Forest’ only by including the areas that are the properties of Government and other facts are completely ignored.

The reason behind such criticism is that whenever any discussion regarding protection of forests take place, authorities concerned first observe what is actually meant by ‘Forest’ under the relevant existing laws. The role of a dictionary is also like that. It can be considered as an important tool while having any international discussion.

 

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Nazia Amin
Nazia Amin
The author is a lawyer and also a columnist. email: aminnazia@gmail.com

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