I was originally going to write a post about stupid people called “Boobs Insult My Intelligence.” However, a funny thing happened on my way to the publish button.
I went to dictionary.com to make sure I was using the word “boob” correctly; I rarely, if ever, hear the word used with with its “stupid person” definition. It turns out that my usage was correct but I discovered that dictionaries have apparently gone through some inappropriate sensitivity training.
According to every dictionary on that website, the reference to female anatomy is listed as the second definition or lower. (Reminder: the first definition a dictionary lists is supposed to be the word’s most typical usage.) The first definition for “boob” is always something to the effect of “a stupid person.”
That can’t be right. If you ask 100 people to define “boob,” “stupid person” will not enter their minds immediately.
But there’s more!
Etymologically, “boob” originates from “booby.” Once again, the first definition given for booby is “stupid person.” In the dictionary based on the 2013 Random House, this other meaning also appears in the first entry for “booby” (and the anatomical slang doesn’t appear until the second entry):
a gannet of the genus Sula, having a bright bill, bright feet, or both: some are endangered.
The Collins English Dictionary tells us that “booby” can refer to a stupid person, but here are the other two definitions:
2- ( Brit ) the losing player in a game
3- Compare gannet any of several tropical marine birds of the genus Sula : family Sulidae, order Pelecaniformes (pelicans, cormorants, etc). They have a straight stout bill and the plumage is white with darker markings
Collins does not mention anatomy at all.
I realize that “boob” and “booby” are not appropriate terms to use in everyday conversation when referencing a woman’s body… and rightly so. Still, I find it odd that the most commonly used definition of these words is buried under much less prevalent meanings. And that’s when the anatomical reference didn’t completely disappear from the dictionary’s listings.
It’s now time for the moral of the story. Actually, I have three of them for you:
1- You can’t remove an offensive word from the language by removing it from the dictionary. The word becomes conspicuous through its absence and people will talk about it when they normally wouldn’t. For example: me, right now.
2- You can’t remove an offensive word from people’s minds by prohibiting its use in polite conversation. Although I’m writing this post as a serious observation about dictionaries, I’m sure my constant use of the word “boob” will attract substantial snickering… as will the first picture in this post.
3- Dictionaries can be fascinating even when they insult your intelligence… unless you’re a boob.