Who’s writing your dictionaries?

It occurred to me as I was reading assorted periodicals and newspapers that I might be reading propaganda. Propaganda comes from the root word “propagate.” In my Webster’s New World Dictionary (2nd College Edition) edited by David B. Guralnik, the word propaganda is defined as follows: 1. a committee of cardinals, the Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith, in charge of the foreign missions. 2. any systematic, widespread dissemination or promotion of particular ideas, doctrines, practices, etc., to further one’s own cause or to damage an opposing one. 3. ideas, doctrines, or allegations so spread: now often used disparagingly to connote deception or distortion.

Let’s get it straight, Mr. Guralnik. First off, most of the world is not going to use definition number 1. You got the whole thing backwards. Definition number 3 should switch places with the first one. And why use so many belaboring words to describe meaning #2? It’s as if this guy is digging in his heels and dragging his feet to keep from defining this word. He puts the real meaning down on number 3. Makes me want to shout “out with it!” He’s doing everything he can to dissuade the reader from getting to the bottom of the word by using decoys and wearisome twaddle. Listen-here fella, the truth has a flavor. Just put it out there and live with it. No need for a flourish of superfluity.

By this “new world” dictionary, even the definition of propaganda is propaganda.


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