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Literally Erasing Lesbians from the Dictionary

Monday, April 29, 2019 - 07:00

This is an admission that I'm not going to manage to translate the French article on cross-dressing heroines in medieval romances for the foreseeable future...ironically, because I've been spending all my time on writing an article about medieval cross-dressing narratives including the ones covered in the article. Life is complicated. But enjoy this tidbit on the belated inclusion of lesbians in the Oxford English Dictionary.

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Examining the OED - Case Study: Terms for Lesbian(ism) - accessed 2019/04/28

This article examines the history of inclusion--or more to the point, deliberate exclusion--of vocabulary relating to lesbians and lesbianism in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the “reference of record” for the history of word usage in English. When publication after publication repeats the false statement that vocabulary for lesbians didn’t exist before the late 19th century, one of the reasons is that people are using the OED as if it were simply factual, and not part of the long tradition of erasing women’s same-sex sexuality. The article provides historic citations of some key words and phrases that point out these gaps in the OED’s word entries, as well as discussing the consequences of those omissions for the usefulness of the OED for sociological research.