You say prostitute, I say female coworker.
DITORS AT Merriam-Webster have announced that a new, special-edition dictionary contains politically specific definitions of everyday words and phrases such as "fidelity," "ethical," "sexual relations," and "prostitute" in order to keep pace with the ever-evolving usage of such words in political circles.
Webster's received funding for the new edition by way of a congressional subsidy that had been added at the eleventh hour to an agriculture bill. The dictionary's Senior Editor, Mason Aubrey, denied that the money had exerted any influence over Merriam-Webster's editorial board.
"We are quite simply responding to the changeable nature of the English language and the variety of cultural norms," stated Mr. Aubrey. "Take the word 'lesbian,' for example. It used to be defined in terms of perversion, but nowadays we define 'lesbian' as a natural, alternative lifestyle, and one that some men kind of enjoy thinking about. Not me, but certain friends of mine."
Readers will discover that the Political Edition defines "fidelity" as:
"1a: the state of remaining faithful to a spouse or partner when not otherwise engaged in sex with a prostitute, videographer, or bathroom stall mate.
1b: the state of remaining faithful to a prostitute, videographer, or bathroom stall mate when not otherwise engaged in sex with a spouse or partner.
1c: the state of being perceived as faithful until witnessed by the National Enquirer running like a guilty fool through of the halls of a hotel at 2:30 in the morning and hiding in the bathroom until Security gets there."
A "prostitute" in the new edition is now:
"1. a female friend or acquaintance. (I really enjoyed coffee with my prostitute Alice this morning.)
2. a female coworker with whom one works late to accomplish meaningful legislation for constituents. (Janet is the only prostitute on my team who understands the needs of my voters.)"
Under the listing for "sex," readers will find the term "sexual relations," defined in the Political Edition as, "conversations or written correspondence intended to communicate important legislative matters, such as an upcoming bill or committee posting. (I really prefer having sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky in person, because I hate writing letters.)"
Mr. Aubrey also wished to alert readers to be on the lookout for Webster's companion "Spouse-of-Politician Edition," coincidentally funded by the Elizabeth Edwards and Silda Spitzer Foundation. The limited-edition volume contains new definitions of its own for words and phrases such as "private detective," "blackmail," "revenge," and "cement shoes."
© 2008 Kate Heidel