As far as I can tell, critics have them dead to rights on this.
As recently as last month, Webster’s Dictionary included a definition of “preference” as “orientation” or “sexual preference.” TODAY they changed it and added the word “offensive."
Insane – I just checked through Wayback Machine and it’s real.
— Steve Krakauer (@SteveKrak) October 14, 2020
Check the Wayback Machine and you’ll find that Merriam-Webster’s definition of “preference” said nothing about the term being offensive as of September 28, the last time the page was archived. Today the label “offensive” has been attached, with this note about usage:
Usage of Preference
The term preference as used to refer to sexual orientation is widely considered offensive in its implied suggestion that a person can choose who they are sexually or romantically attracted to.
It’s … strange that the alleged offensiveness of the term came to M-W’s attention only recently if it’s “widely considered” to be taboo.
As for when, precisely, the definition was altered, presumably only the editors know. But there is this:
Looks like the page was updated on the very same day that Mazie Hirono went after Barrett for using the term “sexual preference” at her confirmation hearing. Fancy that.
There are two possibilities here, one bad, the other sinister. The bad one is that M-W noticed a number of people whining yesterday after the hearing that Barrett had offended them by using the term, and so they simply adjusted the definition accordingly. If a critical mass of Americans believe that a word is offensive then it should be designated offensive, without rendering any judgment as to whether that belief is fair or not. It’s a dictionary, not a moral umpire. If in fact “preference” is “widely considered” inappropriate then it’s proper to note it.
Although that gets us back to the question of what sort of critical mass needs to be reached before the “widely considered” threshold is met. If 50 Very Online progressives tweet that they’re offended, is that enough? How about 500? How about 26,000, the number who’ve retweeted this tweet? If Trump gets 26,000 people to retweet that they’re offended by the term “mail-in ballot,” will that phrase also be deemed offensive? If this is all just a numbers game, it should be.
The sinister possibility is that M-W took it upon itself to change the definition in order to provide cover for Hirono and the left in demagoging Barrett. It had nothing to do with how “widely” the term is deemed inappropriate. The editors are just liberal hacks who scrambled to retcon the meaning because it suited Democrats’ political interests for them to do so. Which would be absolutely textbook Orwell.
I look forward to a full public accounting from the company as to which explanation is accurate. And that accounting had better explain why, if the term is “widely considered” offensive, politicians and beloved judicial icons from the allegedly enlightened left have used it with impunity in the recent past. Watch the Free Beacon highlight reel below. John McCormack has other examples of gay-rights supporters referring to “sexual preference” as well.
The dumbest aspect of this nontroversy is that preferences often *aren’t* conscious decisions. Liberals are objecting to the term because it ostensibly treats sexual orientation as a choice rather than a predisposition, but consider all of the various preferences you have and how few of them derive from deliberation. I have a strong preference for certain types of foods over others; at no point in my life did I “decide” to prefer those foods. Barrett’s being smeared here for using the term not because there’s something inherently objectionable about it but because she has the wrong politics and, more pertinently, the wrong religious values. Simple as that. And the dictionary’s going along with it.