The Dictionary: An Archaic, Useless Tool
A couple of years back — give or take a month — I was surprised and somewhat taken aback when I stumbled on a blog where I happened to disagree with the ideas being expressed (by a man, about women), and as a woman, I made the idiotic mistake of voicing my opinion, instead of simply allowing men to tell me how I’m supposed to act and feel. Among a collection of strawman arguments large enough to build a house of bale, every other word lobbed my way was an insult. At that point, I asked that particular blogger and his horde of unquestioning supporters to stop the ad hominem attacks. Did the ad homs stop? Of course not; rather it was explained to me that ad homs are no longer ad homs when they’re coupled with strawmen. Then, of course, I was called an idiot for not knowing what an ad hom was.
First, let me clarify something: although ad homs used liberally in the course of an argument are not necessarily examples of the ad hominem fallacy (though I wasn’t exempt from that experience, either), they’re still ad homs; that is, they’re statements against the person and not the argument. So I pulled out the dictionary to show that the term ad hom, as used today, is broader than just an informal logical fallacy (e.g., your argument is wrong because you’re stupid). Never mind that that was obviously the implication. Also, the other reason that my arguments in that discussion were supposedly wrong was because I was somehow “privileged” (a classic example of argumentum ad hominem, the logically fallacial kind).
Now here’s that dictionary definition I spoke about earlier:
[ad hom-uh-nuh m ‐nem, ahd-] Show IPA
appealing to one’s prejudices, emotions, or special interests rather than to one’s intellect or reason.
attacking an opponent’s character rather than answering his argument.
Seems hard to argue with, right? Especially since all I asked is for the insults to stop. Instead, I was told, “Fuck the dictionary!” But seriously, if logical fallacies were what they wanted me to point out, then using every other word to tell someone how stupid they are (I think “idiot” was the word of choice) is an example of poisoning the well, yet another informal logical fallacy. Moreover, name-calling is what children do, and it’s an immature and pathetic way to argue. It shows the paucity of one’s intellectual position and little more.
Since that day, I’ve seen the dictionary abused in similar ways, so I thought I’d take a moment to put together a brief list of words and what they now mean in certain darker parts of the internet:
Dictionary Atheist — An atheist who goes by the dictionary definition of the term; a vile human being.
Libertarian — Someone who’s not religious and not liberal enough; a vile human being.
Feminism — A dogmatic stance on women’s issues promulgated by the likes of PZ Myers, who is notably not a woman.
Misogynist — Someone who disagrees with a feminist. See definition of feminism above. A vile human being.
Rape Enabler — Someone who disagrees with a feminist. See definition of feminism above. A vile human being.
Rape — Consensual sex with a woman after she’s been drinking. Also, actual rape.
Patriarchy — A nebulous conspiracy-like entity responsible for oppression of women in Western society.
Oppression — Being born with a vagina, even if you’re treated like a queen and allowed all the same opportunities as men.
Victim Blaming — The suggestion that women have some degree of control over their own behavior.
Slut Shaming — Pointing out that suggestive attire, inappropriate nudity, and sexual behavior are likely to get attention.
Rapist — Any man who’s had sex. Also any man who hasn’t. Synonym: man.
Rape Culture — A culture that glorifies rape. The one we live in. The same one that makes (actual) rape a criminal act.
Privilege — Something you say to get another party to shut up when you have no real argument, because clearly human beings are incapable of empathy. Existence of actual or even group privilege is irrelevant.
Schroedinger’s Rapist — See rapist, above.
Gender Traitor — A woman with her own opinions about feminism. (Also has been used to describe an internet-famous woman who scrawled the word “Pussy” on a man’s chest before signing her name.)
Chill Girl — A woman who believes that men are people too.
Sister Punisher — Synonymous with Gender Traitor and Chill Girl.
Parody — Something that only feminists are allowed to engage in.
Trigger Warning — This precedes something that might offend someone somewhere, unless you’re trying to offend them. Attempts to intentionally set off PTSD are excluded.
Sexism — Any type of bias for or against women (unless specifically approved by feminists, see definition of feminism above). Men are too privileged to experience it.
Man — A damaged woman.
Rape Switch — A bit like a light switch, except every man has one.
Evolutionary Psychology — A pseudoscience on par with psychic readings. After all, even a psychic makes a good guess every once in a while.
Please feel free to contribute your own…