Final Word

Posted January 28, 2010 in News

Menifee Union School District temporarily yanked Merriam-Webster dictionaries from classroom shelves after an elementary student put the “Oh!” in the “O” section by looking up the definition for “oral sex.” 

Parents, teachers and administrators have since reviewed the dictionary to decide if it should be permanently banned because of the “sexually graphic” entry, district spokeswoman Betti Cadmus told The Press-Enterprise

“It’s hard to sit and read the dictionary,” said Cadmus, “but we’ll be looking to find other things of a graphic nature.”

Good to know Cadmus and her district cronies have nothing better to do than to thumb through 1,500 tissue-thin pages of 8-point-sized type looking for words they consider “graphic.” But if the Menifee School District is hiring, I’ll be happy to get paid by the hour to underline “naughty” words like “oral sex.” Hell, I’ll even draw Cadmus a few illustrations, free-of-charge.

On Tuesday, Superintendent Linda Callaway said in statement that two versions of dictionaries will be placed back in Menifee district classrooms: Dictionary Classic and the now-new Dictionary-Lite, with all the nouns, transitive verbs and phonetic spelling that kids have grown to love, without all that pesky “oral sex.”

According to the online website for Merriam-Webster, the definition for oral sex is—cue the Barry White music—“oral stimulation of the genitals.” Ooooooh yeah, baby. I can dig it! 

Actually wait, no. I take that back. I can’t dig it. In fact, that’s about the least graphic definition for a sex act I think I’ve ever heard. 

What’s even more disappointing, Merriam-Webster doesn’t even include an illustration for “oral sex.” And I think if a fifth-grader can get his cheap thrills from an antiseptic, picture-free dictionary definition like that, then there’s a kid in desperate need of an imaginary friend, or at the very least a Barry White album.

According to Merriam-Webster, “oral sex” has been included in its dictionaries ever since 1973. (I don’t think that’s the year oral sex was actually invented, but it would explain why nobody seems to smile in black and white photographs.)

Just imagine: For 37 years, innocent children have been attending elementary schools all over the world, mere feet away from the silent killer, aka lurking dictionaries containing the near-demonic phrase “oral stimulation of the genitals.” Heck, even you at some point were probably taught in a classroom that included a menacing dictionary that contained the words “oral stimulation of the genitals.” 

Yet miraculously, almost every single one of us has been able to overcome the seemingly insurmountable odds—just like a handicapped person or someone dying of a terminal disease or living in a crack-riddled ghetto—and do something productive with our lives by overcoming the incredible adversity inherent in even conjuring the idea of the “oral stimulation of the genitals.”

Now I’ll be the first to admit it’s a scary world out there full of all sorts of bad influences (some would say including this column). And I’m sure if people like Betti Cadmus had their way, we’d make kids run around inside those protective plastic hamster balls, cover them in bubble wrap and laminate their bikini areas until they turn 21. 

But realistically, as a parent, you’ve got to start letting the Big Bad World in one disappointingly un-sexy dictionary definition at a time, or your kid is going to grow up to be a sheltered weirdo. And, as everyone knows, we already have enough sheltered weirdoes serving in Congress.

Sure, you can take dictionaries out of the classrooms. You can also remove the Internet, computers, most of 19th and 20th century literature, and all of the naked art from the past 2,000 years (because if you’re going to be offended by a definition for “oral sex,” you’re sure as heck going to be offended by the bits and pieces doing all the oral sexin‘).

Or you can do what most responsible parents have always done: Love your children the best way you know how and treat them with the respect they deserve. And if your kids are curious enough to open a heavy dictionary and look up a definition for oral sex, talk to them about it. 

What you don’t do is toss the dictionary on a bonfire and start treating everyone like they’re suddenly Amish. Well, unless you’re the Menifee Union School District. (I doubt their board members do much smiling either.)



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