The Vocabula Review

January 2009, Vol. 11, No. 1 Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Mock Merriam
Web version
 

The eleventh edition of "America's Best-Selling Dictionary," Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (Frederick C. Mish, editor in chief), does as much as, if not more than, the famously derided Webster's Third International Dictionary to discourage people from taking lexicographers seriously. "Laxicographers" all, the Merriam-Webster staff reminds us that dictionaries merely record how people use the language, not how people ought to use the language. Some dictionaries, and certainly this edition of Merriam-Webster, actually promote illiteracy.

Consider the following entry from the 11th edition of Merriam-Webster's, and perhaps you, too, will mock Merriam:

flaunt
Pronunciation: \'flont, 'flänt\
Function: verb
Etymology: perhaps of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse flana to rush around
Date: 1566

intransitive verb 1: to display or obtrude oneself to public notice <a great flaunting crowd — Charles Dickens>

2: to wave or flutter showily <the flag flaunts in the breeze>

transitive verb 1: to display ostentatiously or impudently : PARADE <flaunting his superiority>

2: to treat contemptuously <flaunted the rules — Louis Untermeyer>

usage Although transitive sense 2 of flaunt undoubtedly arose from confusion with flout, the contexts in which it appears cannot be called substandard <meting out punishment to the occasional mavericks who operate rigged games, tolerate rowdyism, or otherwise flaunt the law — Oscar Lewis> <observed with horror the flaunting of their authority in the suburbs, where men…put up buildings that had no place at all in a Christian commonwealth — Marchette Chute> <in our profession…very rarely do we publicly chastise a colleague who has flaunted our most basic principles — R. T. Blackburn, AAUP Bulletin>. If you use it, however, you should be aware that many people will consider it a mistake. Use of flout in the sense of flaunt 1 is found occasionally < “The proper pronunciation,” the blonde said, flouting her refined upbringing, “is pree feeks” — Mike Royko>.

The use of flaunt to mean flout obviously is substandard. What nonsense these laxicographers at Merriam-Webster spout.

This usage note, like other Merriam-Webster usage notes, is largely otiose. In virtually every instance, the editors at Merriam-Webster use these notes to underscore their descriptive bent and to rebut those who believe in observing distinctions between words and maintaining standards of language use.

Merriam-Webster's promotes the misuse of flaunt, but it does not include the far more interesting and useful nosopoetic.

Merriam-Webster: no longer "your assurance of quality and authority."

Mock Merriam.

More Mock Merriam

Do you find fault with an entry in the 11th edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary? Tell us what it is.

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