SoCal school district bans the dictionary

Southern California's Menifee Union school district has banned the Merriam Webster's 10th edition from use in fourth and fifth grade classes, over this salacious definition of "oral sex": "oral stimulation of the genitals".
"It's hard to sit and read the dictionary, but we'll be looking to find other things of a graphic nature," district spokeswoman Betti Cadmus told the paper.

While some parents have praised the move - "[it's] a prestigious dictionary that's used in the Riverside County spelling bee, but I also imagine there are words in there of concern," said Randy Freeman - others have raised concerns. "It is not such a bad thing for a kid to have the wherewithal to go and look up a word he may have even heard on the playground," father Jason Rogers told local press. "You have to draw the line somewhere. What are they going to do next, pull encyclopaedias because they list parts of the human anatomy like the penis and vagina?"

'Oral sex' definition prompts dictionary ban in US schools (via JWZ)


  1. What’s next? Ban the whole internet because… well because this paragraph contains the word oral sex?

    Somehow that Betti Cadmus quote sounds like something The Onion would write. Please don’t tell me that’s a real quote by a real district… ah she’s just a spokeswoman, so no one really in charge.

    Is there an idiocracy-themed blog yet, in the same vein as “There I Fixed It” or Fail Blog?

  2. When I was in high school I saw a student draw a naked figure. They might consider banning pencils as well.

  3. “small explosion between the legs”

    For some, looking that up is the only time they will use the dictionary. It must be saved.

  4. Made me think of this:

    A lady, who congratulated Dr. Johnson on his omission of all indecent words from the Dictionary, was met with the retort: ‘So, you have been looking for them, Madam?’

  5. You lewd, lewd dictionary, you.

    I, for one, am glad to know that the children are now kept safe from such “graphic” knowledge as long as possible. Because, you know, it’s a well known fact that pre-teens have no interest in such things, and no access to anything more graphic than a … dictionary.
    But mostly, I’m glad all of this is happening in a strange country far, far away, with a few thousands km between here and there. Ha ha.

    Seriously though, is anyone working on an antidote against bigotry ?
    It’s needed. Urgently.

  6. And this Rowan Atkinson routine, where a priest shares this with the congregation at a wedding:

    It was a couple of years ago, a young attractive bride to be came up to me after the service and asked me just that question. “Father, what is the church’s attitude towards fellatio?” And I replied, “Well, you know, Joanne, I’d like to tell you, but unfortunately, I don’t know what fellatio is.”

    And so she showed me.

    And ever since, whenever anyone has asked me the question “Father, what is the church’s attitude towards fellatio?” I always reply, “Well, you know, I’d like to tell you… but unfortunately, I don’t know what fellatio is.”

  7. Good idea, I say. Remove the dictionaries. Encourage the children to Google for “oral sex” instead. Much better.

  8. I recall a Betty & Veronica “Gag Bag” regarding this matter. Miss Lodge & Miss Cooper are strolling past the greens of Riverdale High, and Miss Cooper remarks “It’s absolutely unabridged!”, to which Ms. Lodge replies “He didn’t leave anything out!”. Mrs. Grundy, suspecting the girls may be in possession of some filth like “Huck Finn” or “Catcher in the Rye” pops out from beneath some hedges – AH-HAH! – and demands the book in question. However, Miss Cooper has the last laugh, replying “But…its the dictionary!”.

  9. What we have here is a problem and the problem as I see it is words. We have words for everything, hell I’m using them now I can’t stop using them! Some of these words have meanings that well gosh, they are bad for children. Words like breast, and penis, and beer and weed, these here words put other bad things in childrens heads, ideas. These ideas lead to bad things like Islam and Evolutions! (hushed murmurings) Guess what people all of those bad words are printed, PRINTED I tell you in one big book full of evil, the Webster Dictionary!!! This great book of evil needs to be burned, and burned fast! We can’t let little Jr. get ahold of this this great lexicon of evil! Do you want little Suzie to learn what a Cocksucker is Do You?!?!

  10. Wow. This sounds just as retared as it is.
    Congratulations SoCal school! you have won both the “Funnier than Made Up Headlines” and the “Severely Retarded Community or Organization” awards.

  11. Did they freak out in years past over the definition of “evil?” I mean– if they are worried that once kids KNOW about oral sex they will attempt it, shouldn’t they find a dictionary without definitions of “murder” and “rape” and “theft?”

  12. i don’t think i’ve used a dictionary in the past ten years except on a plane playing travel scrabble. it’s too much work to “find” things hidden away in paper. does anyone even remember the order of the alphabet any more?

  13. yer_maw, you cracked me up – I couldn’t believe it when a friend showed that to me in grade school. Incredible.

    Naturally this is insane, but really, it’s not like ur kidz yooz a Ð1(710n4rÂ¥ 7h3$3 Ð4Â¥$ 4nÂ¥w4Â¥.

  14. This whole story is quite depressing. I wonder though, do these parents teach the Bible to their children? Because it contains much worse sexual references than the dictionary.

    Ezekiel 23:19-21 comes to mind…

  15. Let’s not hide from the real danger here, which is children finding out that they posses genitals.

  16. What a bunch of morons.

    They better go ahead and ban playground and locker room conversations where bad words are used, and that stash of porn magazines the kid down the street swiped from his dad.

  17. This is great. These kids won’t know what oral sex means but I bet they can all define the phrase “supersize that for me.”

    Remember: Learning is dangerous. It leads to thinking.

  18. Growing up, I didn’t need a dictionary to tell me what oral sex was; for that we had older brothers and friends with “bad” parents. Its silly really, if I had the choice I would rather have my kid learn from a dictionary than from what their friend’s brother’s girlfriend did last weekend.

  19. My first reaction was: Consider the source. They do not quote someone from the school, nor do they report trying. The story is therefore tabloid crap.

    However, the local paper got the reporting done:

    …and it’s as bad as it sounds. Worse, because this is getting seriously reviewed as a permanent district-wide ban. This is truly an ‘only in America’ wonderment.

  20. Are you kidding, guys? This is great! Ban the book, go for it! All the more likely that these kids will pick it up and give a look!

  21. All I can say is…. AHHHHHHHH!!!!! ……. AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! That is the sound of my brain dying.

    Also why is it that our society condones violence more than sex?

    1. Because violence is so much more ‘safer’ and ‘cleaner’ than that nasty sex stuff.

      Which makes me wonder, if we were created in the image of God as the Bible said, then would that mean that people who hate nudity and sex actually hate God?

  22. This both sucks and is normal. When a book is challenged, it’s better for all concerned if there’s a process in place before the parent or teacher comes in being all flipped out about a book. So, this school has a process. Part of the process is that the book is removed “pending review” I’m going to use my psychic powers to tell you that what is GOING to happen is that the book is going to be put right back where it is and someone’s going to get a crash course in talking to the media.

    This is a PR disaster, but realistically, it’s how the challenged book process works in schools and libraries. The dictionary will be back and maybe people will get some new insight into the nature of truly harmful phrases like “no you can’t read that, you don’t know those words yet”

  23. When are we going to get tired of allowing overzealous religious wack jobs to set the ground rules and do something about this shit? Why do we let this happen?

  24. Oh, come now, you know better. This is ‘Merrica! All of the violence you can’t handle and none of the sex!

    Seriously, though, WTF? Who bans the dictionary?!? I’m taking the pledge today to call shenanigans from now on with every one of these moronic “bans”. It’s not about protecting your own children. It’s about controlling what your neighbor’s children can have access to.

  25. I understand completely where the school board is coming from. Ever since I learned about murder I’ve had to murder someone once a day, and you don’t want to know what kind of experiments I was indulging in to create heart disease and HIV.

    Knowledge is eeeeeevil! Rock on, school!

  26. Since when was the phrase ‘oral sex’ a word? Why put any phrase in a dictionary? Then why not put all the phrases in the dictionary? Any then paragraphs? And pictures?

  27. Honestly, how do these people expect that their kids will learn about sex? Are they going to give them a huge info-dump the night before the wedding and expect them to assimilate it all? Or just blow the job off until they’re 18, and expect them then to figure it out for themselves?

  28. Well I certainly hope that the school board will take the next step and ban parents with disgusting lascivious names like “Randy” from coming near school grounds or commenting on school matters. What if children were to learn the meaning of the word “Randy”? They could be scarred for life.

  29. Why does this remind me of the case where some parent groups went up in arms over the word “sex” apparently showing up in a single frame of dust cloud in The Lion King?

  30. I have this dim memory of kids lining up to read the definitions of dirty words when my sixth grade classroom (or more likely the school library) acquired the first edition of The American Heritage Dictionary in 1969–just seeing the word “fuck” in print was enormously stimulating.

  31. In third grade, my teacher caught me and some other kids giggling over the dictionary page for “urine”. She quickly scanned the page to find which word we were giggling at, sighed, and made us all copy out the entire page by hand, including the offending word.

    That was a teacher with her head on straight. Instead of reinforcing the exotic giggle-worthiness of the word by banning the dictionary, she just made it seem mundane (and taught us about urchins and ursine in the process).

  32. Complete with comments from Randy Freeman, possibly the most inappropriate possible name given the nature of the article.

    For US residents: the name “Randy” has rather lewd connotations outside the US. Mind you, given the way the US is going, I’ll also have to explain the concept of a “Free man” in about ten years.

    1. Within the US, too.

      I’ll just leave it at that, since the complete idiocy of this move has been expounded upon enough by others.

  33. I’d like to see a wag push through a policy that bans the Merriam-Webster dictionary from Menifee classrooms and require that the full OED be mandatory in them.

    Thinking about how long it would take the would-be censors to plow through all volumes fills me with mirth.

  34. There’s something unbelievably sad and absurd about the idea that, with grade school kids being able to see things on the internet that I literally could not have imagined at their age, some adults are banning the dictionary.

  35. This is school right? Have they ever heard the phrase;”Cut off your nose to spite your face”? Who is the dumb ass who let these people have children to begin with?

  36. The taboo of a sex in this country is ridiculous. You have games like Fallout where you can go blow peoples limbs off and do drugs, and at least in this country there was no controversy about that; But yet Mass Effect shows a side boob in a cut scene and it makes it on CNN!

    That’s kind of more a matter of parents heeding the rating on video games, but it does emphasize how offended people get at the smallest hint of healthy human sexuality.

  37. Orâ‹…wellâ‹…iâ‹…an  /É”rˈwÉ›liÉ™n/ [awr-wel-ee-uhn] adjective – of, pertaining to, characteristic of, or resembling the literary work of George Orwell or the totalitarian future described in his distopian novel 1984.

  38. ah, for f***’s sake.

    for record, that’s pretty much exactly how i learned about sex. In elementary school, a kid asked me if i knew about it, which i did not. So, i went home and looked it up in the encyclopedia. Thanks to the filthy filthy encyclopedia, i had a more thorough and practical understanding of the process at age 7 or 8 than most adults in my town.

    i think this complete censure of the facts of life is what breeds baby-men and -women, sheltered and in arrested development, unable to deal with the world, and with all kinds of misconceptions about how the human organism is supposed to work.

  39. When I was in grade school, my friends & I used to look up the National Geographic books just to look @ the African tribes women with their droopy boobies & long necks & the men with their penises hanging out. We were only in second & third grade. But being little kids we used too laugh @ the pictures. We looked at the pictures for awhile then just got bored.

  40. “”[it’s] a prestigious dictionary that’s used in the Riverside County spelling bee, but I also imagine there are words in there of concern,” said Randy Freeman'”

    Good lord, this doesn’t even come close to passing the giggle test. It’s laugh-out-loud ridiculous.

  41. D@mn right! Children must have their lives rigorously structured so that they don’t accidentally inhale any objective information that may contradict their parents’ prejudices. Oh, and sex is dirty.

  42. How sad, banning a dictonary? No, no, no, let’s have them find it on the web, where images and things far more horrible pop up, that’s genius!! Honestly, are we supposed to create a dictionary made special for the immature? They’re children, children here these words, children decide to look them up when they’re bored, it’s no big deal, you can’t expect them to all stay “little Saints.” Think about it, 3rd and 4th graders don’t retain much anyway, one day they’re giggling about the word “genitals” the next day they’ll be giggling because some kid said “fart” or something lame. …I blame that damn Rock ‘n’ Roll!

  43. Dear Bong Boing,

    Please don’t complain about the dumbing-down of American Schools by dumbing-down the subject in your article. “Ban” really isn’t the right word and you did a good job of scaring us. Yours is a third-hand article. Read this:

    This is not to say that some parents in this school district aren’t complete idiots, though.

    1. You have a point, but I’m not sure I agree with you.
      The original news article may not use the word “ban” but the idea is there. To quote it : “the dictionaries (in question) are still on site, but are temporarily not in use.”
      A temporary measure, yes, and they haven’t bonfired the lot of them already, but if it’s not a ban it’s close enough. Let’s just hope it doesn’t last and someone corrects this nonsense.

      Though in all honesty, the best part of the article was the fact that – to quote it once again – “the explicit term, which it turns out was not contained in the dictionary”.
      Ha !
      Those crazy americans :p

      Oh, and that Ottawan “no ball” thing is … interesting, too.
      The more I see, the happier I am that my school days are long gone.

  44. Ha! Urban Dictionary made ‘oral sex’ the Word of the Day with the following dedication:

    dedicated to menifee union school district, who removed merriam-webster’s from the classroom for defining “oral sex”

  45. The bible references in very specific ways, parts of the body, multiple partners, multiple wives, and many other detailed descriptions of fornication and frolicking. Makes burning man look like a Baptist social.

    Build a bonfire?

  46. Yeah and while these noodle-brained, risk averse, fake christian nutjobs are at it, why don’t they ban sex education as well, because that contains nothing BUT references to penises, vaginas, sex acts, venereal disease and yes fellatio.

    And instead of educating kids we could also just put them in a sterile plastic bubble so that life, other kids, adults and anything else potentially dangerous like being part of the rest of the human race for the love of Christ… can not touch them.

    In fact these people should not be allowed anywhere NEAR kids because they are torturing them and trying to brainwash them.

    I’m with that other person. Dang I really hate people right now…

    1. Maybe I missed it. Does the article say any of these people are Christians? Or that these are Christian schools?

  47. this has to be one of the stupidest things i’ve ever heard.
    remove dictionaries because of a definition using words?

    dictionaries have defined sex, ejaculation, breasts, and all sorts of other perfectly natural things for many, many years now that these same people would find objectionable.

    are they going to ban calculators because you can use them to spell BOOBS?

    have they even heard of the internet?

  48. We all know how successful negative campaigns are – how banning “bad words” (whatever those are) will stop kids from swearing, how sexual ignorance prevents pregnancy, how the “just say no” campaign virtually eliminated drug use – at least in the dreamland that some people live in.

    These people WILL, unfortunately, succeed at raising another generation to be as twisted and delusional as themselves.

  49. At first I thought, oh God no. Then I thought, well, so what?

    If my kids want to know what oral sex is, and they have the wherewithal to look it up in a dictionary, then they can use one of the several we have at home.

    And I’m not worried about them not learning about sex in general, either. I figure it’s my job to teach them.

    On the one hand, it’s sad that a healthy (though adult) activity like sex is so taboo. On the other hand, it’s not the end of the world. Teach your kids about sex at home and leave geography to the schools.

  50. not sex in the ear!?! please tell me they are not reading about sex in the ear!!! it could damage their ear drums…. omg

  51. Watching your movies, reading your books, even visiting you on occasion, I sometimes forget what a strange and far away country the US really are.

  52. Hey kids, you know what’s a great way to learn what a word you don’t know means ? Google Image !

    Actually, I did that in college for a spanish translation. My teacher liked strange texts, and one time he gave us one with the word “pene”, along with that advice. Hilarity ensued.
    I guess in the USA he’d have been burned at the stake or something.

  53. Dear BoingBoing,

    Please accept my heartfelt gratitude for having separate “channels” available. In order to keep from having my head explode more than a couple times a day (it’s starting to leave a mark), I need to protect myself from this type of news for a while.

  54. I can imagine this kind of lunacy in the 50s might have made some kind of sense when the avenues for “filth” into young minds was more limited, but these days probably the safest way to prevent a kid from seeing something is to put it into a book, and every other tv show including the news talks about rainbow parties.

  55. In high school I once told someone to fuck off while in class. My teacher made me write out the meaning of “fuck” 20 times as punishment.

    No real point, I just wanted to share.

    But still, don’t all young kids look up “naughty” words in the dictionary for a laugh? What the hell is wrong with that? Isn’t it better they understand the meaning of the words along with the right time and place to use those words, rather than being sheltered from them altogether?

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