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Not sacred prophecy
8:30am Thursday 10th May 2012 in Letters
Sir – The term gay marriage, instead of same sex partnership, may bother Dr Anthony Cheke (Letters, May 3) but it has been widely used in the press for quite a long time and arguing for the purity of dictionary definitions now makes as much sense as pouring holy water over a duck’s back.
Lexicographers are presumably concerned with exactness within a limited frame of reference, but in a wider context the plasticity of language is an essential dynamic in the evolution of thought and culture and you don’t need to know about the etymology of gay marriage to realise that it has been accepted into general use because people hear and respond to the message — that gays want to sit down on the same bus as everyone else.
Dictionaries are a guide to the meaning of words as they existed at a particular time, they exist as after-thought rather than sacred prophecy.
Susan Heeks, Oxford