Webster's Dictionary

Any person who begins a speech, presentation, essay, or article with “Webster’s Dictionary defines /thing/ as…” should be summarily shot.

. . .er, why?


  1. There is no “Webster’s Dictionary” in popular use. G. & C. Merriam and Sons have the best claim to the term, but it’s a common domain term. You could publish “Andros’s Webster’s Dictionary” if you were so inclined. The original “A Dictionary of the American Language” written by Noah Webster is never used.

  2. Any modern dictionary, whether it lays claim to Websterhood or not, is descriptive rather than prescriptive. It tells how words are used in terms of the meaning(s) conveyed, rather than what they ought to mean. Whereby any reference to them as an authority to bolster one’s claim, refute someone else’s, etc., had better be to the generally accepted meaning of the term.

  3. Words change and grow, add and lose meanings, over the years. To tell you that that was a “nice objection” today would be praise, if a bit prissy; 250 years ago, it would mean “that’s a silly objection.” Or did you cursor through this post with “a small brown animal of the family Muridae”?

  4. One can intentionally construct new meanings for words, here on the SDMB or elsewhere, by clearly defining the sense in which you wish to use them. For example, I might be attempting to demonstrate God’s mercy in a religious dispute over on SD by telling you the restricted sense in which I use the word “damnation” as something you do to yourself by focusing in on some personal interest or pleasure to the exclusion of the greater person you might be. And some rectal orifice with adequately long hemorrhoids to press the keyboard will explain to me that “Webster’s Dictionary says that ‘damnation’ is the sending of souls by God to Hell for eternity as a punishment for their sins.” Hello? I knew that was a common usage – I’m trying to define a different one that fits better with a concept of God as all-loving.

  5. Having posted such a definition, what value to the argument is it anyway? There are a few in which the specific meaning of a term is in dispute – and in most of those, both sides can find something in the definition to hang one’s argument on. Otherwise, we have merely gotten a more precise specification for a word we were having no problems using anyway.

While I can see the occasional value of getting out a definition, I think labradorian has made a most cogent point.

Labradoran made a frustrated exclamation.

Polycarp made the cogent point.

Spiritus made the reply empty of necessary content.

You forgot to mention andros’ confused interrogative.
And now we have UncleBeer’s pedantic interjection.

and andros’ nod of confirmation and understanding.

I think I need a dictionary just to get through this thread.

And Cervaise evinces obsequiety by kowtowing to the foregoing respondents.

Subtly, Fenris (once again in second person) evinces a knowledge of the situation, and having ascertained it in good devices with UncleBeer, Cervaise, Polycarp (of course), Andros and Spiritus Mundi, absents himself from these quarters, to rectify a minor, yet precarious situation before the precarious situation becomes not only regrettable, but abhorrent, causing him to be ill-regarded by his cohorts.

Polycarp notes that a virulent outbreak of the dreaded Fatherjohn Syndrome has struck many of the best-known and -loved posters, including at least one moderator, and calls for prophylactic measures.

Nimune decries the forgoing verbosity of previous participents, and urges increased restraint in the here-to-fore egregious overuse of syllables.

Knock it off, assholes.

(Insert winking smiley.)

Seriously, though, I’ve thought about starting a similar thread for a while now. Some fuckers seem to think that the dictionary is an authority on something other than etymology. “Well, Webster’s dictionary defines ‘evil’ as: blah blah blah blah cock-sucking blah. Note the highlighted section. Therefore, so-and-so is clearly evil.”

Shit heads.

I like small words. Small words are good.

But Drummer Hoff, fired it off.

Well, Webster’s defines definition as, “1a. A statement conveying fundamen–”

*OW!! Jeez, who can throw a dictionary that hard?

Only because General Border gave the order, Major Scott brought the shot and Sargent Chowder brought the powder. Otherwise, nothing would have happened.

I don’t see how you can plausibly lay responsiblity on Drummer Hoff. If you persist in this line of attack on the character of Drummer Hoff, you can meet me in the Pi…oh…nevermind. :smiley:

And as an aside:
Magpies in the sky can cry
Pigeons on the grass, alas

Fenris in his house, the louse

Oh, so Hoff was just “following orders,” eh? Just like Hitler’s men? That doesn’t mean he’s not responsible! Hoff was at fault for becoming a tool of the machine. Would you lay it ALL on General Border or divide responsibility amongst his men?

Consequently, Webster’s has this to say about that:


I agree that Private Hoff bears some of the responsiblity, but he’s a low level flunky, and possibly not too bright. He should be held accountable for his actions, but I think the larger share of the culpability must be placed at the feet of the people who ordered Private Hoff to fire it off, but those who were equal particpants. Certainly Sgt. Chowder and Major Scott are accessories…or worse. They provided the weapon, General Border provided the means, motive and gave the direct orders.

We also need to consider the implications of genetics. Private Hoff is a male. Males like things that go “Bang!” (many women do as well, but it’s genetically programmed into males). Give a man something that can explode and he’s genetically predisposed to explode it. Can Private Hoff be blamed for that?

And really, what of society? We set in motion a system where young men, boys really, are given orders to “fire it off”. Without societal pressures to conform, would Private Hoff have even been in that position to begin with? Is it reasonable to expect a pimply-faced teen-ager, fresh out of high school to examine the moral nuances and consequences of “Fireing it off”? Especially given his genetic predisposition to do so? I think not.

Regarding your comments on the word “Hijack”, I don’t understand. What’s your point? How is this relevant to the discussion of Private Hoff’s actions vis-a-vis firing it off?

Fenris, “If the cannon goes “Bang”, he must not hang!”

Ahh, but does ignorance equal irresponsibility? If you’re unaware of the speed zone you’re flying through, are you any less guilty for speeding? I think not! Hoff was MORALLY obligated, and not obligated by INTELLIGENCE, to squash his biological drive to fire it off.


In this, we are in total agreement. The entire MACHINE is guilty, not just one gear. And perhaps Hoff should bear less of the culpability since he had the entire weight of the death machine on his shoulders.


We suppress our biological urges every day, I believe. Otherwise, many of us would be running around in loin clothes poking our naughty bits at unspuspecting victims. Genetics is no excuse for murder! And the act of firing it off can be seen as no less than murderous. Depending, of course, on what exactly this army was firing upon. We still do not have that information.


Perhaps not, but this reaks of the “twinkie defense.” Can we then, justify ANY behavior by such an individual as only the result of his environment? Nay, I say! I believe in the individual’s responsibility for his own actions. Only under conditions in which he’s mentally impaired or incapacitate in some way is he LESS than fully in charge of his own facilities.

I this particular case, judging by Exhibit A, the participants’ renditions of the battle scene were clearly created while under the influence of hallucinogenic substances. The wild, incongruous colors, the eery way the artists viewed themselves…the outlandish way the army was dressed. Perhaps Border gave the order for his men to all swallow a cup of koolaid laced with LSD before battle? In that case, these men are all less responsible for their own actions and Border should be held primarily responsible and JAILED!

Do we have any statistics on the casualties of this battle yet?


If the army was drugged, they must not be bugged!

Border gave the order, throw him in the larder!

Ahem. Or something like that.


Spooje makes mental note never to show his face around labradorian, and just to be safe, Polycarp.