Should Dictionaries Include Common Confusions?

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Sun Dec 19 12:34:00 UTC 2010

On another listserv, there is a heated debate going on between someone who is insistently confusing the "Immaculate Conception" and the "Virgin Birth" and others trying to correct him.  This is a fairly common confusion among people who don't pay too much attention to dogmatic details.  Should a semi-encyclopedic dictionary such as the OED have a subentry under "Immaculate Conception" with a definition such as "Sometimes used to refer to the virgin birth of Jesus by those unfamiliar with Catholic doctrine"?  The original OED does sometimes label catachrestic uses of words, but I am suggesting something more thoroughgoing, and more difficult in an age of widespread confusion.

Fred Shapiro

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list