Christine pointed out last week that all of UrbanDictionary’s definitions of feminism are pretty wretched. I navigated over to check and, sure enough, it’s some kind of travesty. It’s a rather well-cloaked travesty, don’t get me wrong – all sorts of intellectual shit like “if feminism were really about equality, it would be called humanism.”1 It’s the same sort of shit you see every Martin Luther King, Jr. day in conservative magazines and weblogs, when neocons argue that the Reverend Doctor would have opposed Affirmative Action – because King was about color-blindness, not color-preference.2
Anyhow, while noting with approval that each definition had more DOWN votes than UP votes by a factor of 300% or more, I saw a link to Urban Dictionary: Fularious Street Slang Defined. It’s a book that you can buy on Amazon which compiles definitions of some of the terms you find on UrbanDictionary. Hopefully the author picked some less controversial ones, like “crunk” or “upper decking.”
- What a delightful regression in medium! If UrbanDictionary has any value at all – still in debate – it’s that anyone in the world can update entries. This may not produce the most useful results (see “feminism”), but crowd-sourcing has certain advantages. Especially for a slang dictionary. So the smartest course, obvi, is to freeze a current view of the palimpsest and embed it in unchanging text. What if someone comes up with a hep new definition? Why, then we totes issue a new book! Who needs hypertext when you have crippletext?
- Aaron Peckham, the “compiler” of these books, has found a sweet scam that I want in on. UrbanDictionary is 99% user-generated content with a smattering of HTML, CSS and maybe some PHP. In other words, a few million people just put money in Peckham’s pocket. Maybe they’ll get contributor cred (this entry for “John Blaze” comes to us courtesy of Dat Nicca D, although DRM took objection). I want a million people to do work – for free, of course – that I can get paid for. See also: the PostSecret book.
Way to go, Internet!
1 Which, of course, Gloria Steinem actually called it. Oops!
2 And maybe the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr would have been opposed to affirmative action. Who knows? That’s still a pretty disingenuous argument for a white guy to make.