Should Dictionaries Include Common Confusions?

Barbara Need bhneed at GMAIL.COM
Mon Dec 20 03:20:17 UTC 2010

I finally realized that the Immaculate Conception could not refer to
the conception of Jesus when I did the math (Dec 25 - Dec 8 ≠ 9

Barbara (not Catholic)

Barbara Need

On 19 Dec 2010, at 9:53 AM, Paul Frank wrote:

> On Sun, 19 Dec 2010 07:34 -0500, "Shapiro, Fred" <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
> >
> wrote:
>> 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
> As you know, many dictionaries include such information under a rubric
> called "usage note" or somesuch. Years ago, I assumed that the Encarta
> World English Dictionary was as bad as other Microshaft products. But
> I've recently come to grudgingly admit to myself that it's a pretty
> good
> dictionary. Here is the Encarta definition of "immaculate conception":
> "noun
> Definition:
> 1. Virgin Mary's sinlessness: in the Roman Catholic Church, the
> doctrine
> that the Virgin Mary's soul was free from the stain of original sin
> from
> the moment of her soul's conception. The term does not, contrary to
> popular belief, refer to the conception of Jesus Christ.
> 2. feast of Immaculate Conception: in the Roman Catholic Church, the
> feast of the Immaculate Conception.December 8."

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