Oh Man! (or Woman)

Another blog about dictionaries. The Cambridge Dictionary, to be exact. This not very well known online dictionary is suddenly in the news for expanding its definition of a woman. Like all dictionaries it initially defines woman / women as adult female human being(s): Women first got the vote in 2018. Additionally, woman is used to describe a wife or sexual partner: Apparently, Jeff has a new woman.

But the CD is the first British dictionary to add the following definition – an adult who lives and identifies as female, though they may have been said to have a different sex at birth: Mary is a woman who was assigned male at birth.

The discussion about this latest definition of a woman has not just been a Twitter phenomenon; it has also reached the letter page of The Times where a joint letter, signed by 18 Ladies, Lords, lawyers and others, points out how the new definition creates potential confusion rather than clarity.

Heels – which Eddie Izzard says are removed when not in ‘girl-mode.’

“How is it possible,” they ask, “to ‘live as female’ if you are not female, or indeed if you ARE female? Is it doing the housework? Wearing high heels? The implication that there is a way to live ‘as female’ is a patronising, regressive and sexist trope that women have fought long to overcome. We should not expect to see it apparently endorsed by the publishers of the Cambridge Dictionary.”

The dictionary has also added a new definition of the noun – man – along similar lines. This has not caused a similar reaction, mainly because men do not feel the same level of threat from females and trans identifying females using male only spaces, as do a number of women if males and trans identifying males use female spaces (toilets, female prisons, sports competitions, etc.).

Safety issues aside (and there are Ministry of Justice statistics that show that trans identifying males, aka transwomen, commit crimes at the same rate across almost all categories of offence as all males*) the new definition, if adopted in medical circles, could have dangerous implications for the health of both sexes.

Actually, the CD reflects this – another example it offers for the use of the words man and woman is: more men than women suffer from high blood pressure. If a doctor doesn’t know from the medical records what natal sex they are dealing with, and just goes on the sex the patient says they live as, the wrong diagnosis and medication can easily be given, with perhaps fatal results.

The CD compilers no doubt intend to be kind, inclusive, and bang up to date with their new entry. But offering a definition that could potentially kill or seriously harm a member of either sex is just the opposite. Words – and their definitions – matter!

[*significantly more prisoners currently in the male estate who self identify as women are inside for sexual offences against women and children compared with male offenders as a whole. MoJ 2021]

I’m having break now till after Christmas. Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year – and if you are short of reading matter, here are the links to my books and social media.

You can find all my books and short stories on Amazon books, At least one story always free. ALL BOOKS FREE ON KINDLE UNLIMITED



Twitter: @meegrot

And Alex Still Has Acne – An adventure story for teens of all ages. £6.99, e-book £1.99. Free on Kindle Unlimited. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Alex-Still-Has-Acne/dp/B08LNFVRLY


CAST OFF – short stories about Shakespeare’s women. £6.99, e-book £1.99. Free on Kindle Unlimited. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08M8BKZKH


Saving Grace.

What kind of trouble has Grace got herself into? And can Courtney save her before it is too late? £6.99, e-book £1.99. Free on Kindle Unlimited. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08P9LFG7N


Silent Echoes. Loosely based on family memories. The Carters seem just like any other family. Apart, that is, from the life changing events nobody wants to talk about. Will history just keep repeating itself? Ebook-£1.99, Print-£7.99.