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Putting the Dick in Dicktionary

Pretty much everyone has, at one time or another, enjoyed the pastime of looking up dirty words in the dictionary.

One of my favorite discoveries in the 2nd grade (word was getting around the whole school, I’m pretty sure) was that the definition for fart in the library’s dictionary read, “An explosion between the legs.” Even at age seven, this sounded like an outlandish and ridiculous definition for fart. I wasn’t literate enough in those days to know what the definition would be, but that just didn’t seem right to me.

So like any good student, I looked it up. Sure enough, under fart: “An explosion between the legs.” It was simultaneously hilarious and worrying, because even though it was in a book, it just didn’t seem right.

Here it is thirty years later, and when I look up fart in my American Heritage Dictionary, the definition reads as follows:

fart (färt) Vulgar Slang intr.v. fart•ed, fart•ing, farts To expel intestinal gas through the anus; break wind. • n. 1. An often audible discharge of intestinal gas. 2. An annoying or fooling person.

There’s still plenty in there to cause giggling, and it seems like a pretty accurate definition of fart.

So yes, I suppose I still enjoy looking up irreverent (maybe even dirty) words in the dictionary. It has a long history. When Samuel Johnson wrote the first dictionary and asked for royal patronage, he discovered that silly Prince George was only interested in looking up the rude words. (Black Adder is historically accurate, right?)

Still, some parents would rather that children look up nothing, rather than have the option to look up dirty words. A California school district has removed the Merriam-Webster dictionary from public school classrooms because one child looked up oral sex. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary has the definition as, “Oral stimulation of the genitals.” My American Heritage Dictionary reads, “Sexual activity involving oral stimulation of one’s partner’s sex organs.”

Those seem like perfectly good, accurate, to-the-point, if somewhat clinical, definitions of oral sex to me. But I guess accuracy doesn’t necessarily keep something from being banned.

I am rather fond of one particular quote from the article linked above. A spokeswoman for the school district says, “It’s hard to sit and read the dictionary, but we’ll be looking to find other things of a graphic nature.”

That is a job for which I’m truly qualified. Indeed, I’m probably over-qualified.

In researching this posting, I read definitions for fart and oral sex (of course), and also fellatio, and cunnilingus, just because. While in the C’s, I was thrilled to find that my dictionary also has crack baby as an entry.

Gosh, dictionaries are fun.

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