The term "rabid" has two definitions in the Oxford Dictionary: "Having or proceeding from an extreme or fanatical support of or belief in something" and "(Of an animal) affected with rabies." The example they give for the first definition is "a rabid feminist." Not the most flattering term to pair with feminism.
Anthropologist Michael Oman-Reagan explained in a blog post on Medium.com (opens in new tab) that this is particularly problematic because, "This is default dictionary on Apple's Mac OS X operating system. Anyone using a Mac, an iPad, or iPhone will get definitions from this dictionary."
Oman-Reagan called out Oxford for this choice on Twitter last week:
Oxford then got a little snarky in response:
If only there were a word to describe how strongly you felt about feminism… https://t.co/mAsmjUBoOsJanuary 22, 2016
Btw, 'rabid' isn't always negative, and our example sentences come from real-world use and aren't definitions: https://t.co/npaVgBahOMJanuary 22, 2016
But then backtracked, saying that they'll review their use of the phrase.
1/4 We were flippant in some of our tweets yesterday. Sorry.January 23, 2016
2/4 'rabid fan' now has the highest frequency in the Oxford Corpus & 'rabid supporter' also frequent.January 23, 2016
3/4 We'll review the primary example sentence used for 'rabid'.January 23, 2016
4/4 You can find out more about where our example sentences come from here: https://t.co/KotzmcYiaUJanuary 23, 2016
A spokesperson then clarified to The Daily Dot (opens in new tab) saying, "We apologize for the offense that these comments caused. The example sentences we use are taken from a huge variety of different sources and do not represent the views or opinions of Oxford University Press. That said, we are now reviewing the example sentence for 'rabid' to ensure that it reflects current usage."
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Kate Storey is a contributing editor at Marie Claire and writer-at-large at Esquire magazine, where she covers culture and politics. Kate's writing has appeared in ELLE, Harper's BAZAAR, Town & Country, and Cosmopolitan, and her first book comes out in summer 2023.
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