I can think of two scales this story falls on, right off the bat. Maybe three. Ok, four.
1. The sticks and stones scale
2. The overreaction theater scale
3. The lynch mob scale
4. The get a life scale
I’m just making this up while I type, so don’t take it too seriously. But the four scales have reference points: I’ll use 1-10 for convenience.
The Sticks and Stones scale used to be looser, because, well … we used to believe in it. The old adage was that words can never hurt. That was the pre-PC version. I think the scale is still the same as ever, and pretty basic:
1. Not offended by anything
10. Offended by everything
But the fulcrum used to be around 3-4; with PC sensibilities it’s more like 6-7 if you use 50 percent as the line (half of all people offended); if you used 30 percent offended, it would be as much as 8-9. What I mean is that 80-90 percent of words could potentially offend at least 30 percent of the population.
That’s not literally true (90 percent of all words don’t offend that high a percentage of people) but try it out. You’ll be surprised at how few words you can come up with that won’t push somebody’s buttons. Even a word like “the” might get some pushback.
You are laughing (as you should be) but look up the current arguments about the words “they” and “it.” I’ll give you a hint: the arguments over “they” and “it” are similar to this guy’s problem with the definition of “she.”
If Sticks and Stones is the how many scale, then the Overreaction Theater scale is the how much scale. How much does the perceived offense outrage you?
1. Barely registers. For example, you see a dog drinking out of a fountain and you notice, but it does not motivate you to do anything. You won’t even mention it to your spouse, other than to say that it was cute.
10. You lose your shit. You call the health department, the ASPCA, PETA and the parks department. You list your new ‘dog drinking out of a fountain’-related advocacy group (or protest group) on every platform of social media.
You work tirelessly until your cause is headline news on CNN (if you don’t build your dog a fountain you are a horrible person) and Fox News (typical snowflakes,. treating dogs better than they treat rednecks). You won’t stop until protesters all over the North America are burning Asian restaurants (or animal shelters).
If (1) is how many and (2) is how much, then the Lynch Mob scale measures how intense, how riled up the reaction. It’s more of a group dynamic; protests tend to spike this scale. A lynch individual is just some angry dude, like the one in this story. He did exhibit lynch mob mentality, though, by calling for others to carry out his lynchings, either with him or for him.
So the scale would be:
1. Get off my lawn, you torch-waving tools
10. Can I join your cult?
The Get a Life scale is the “how important?” or “how trivial?” scale:
10. Don’t mean shit
The guy in this story went all Falling Down on a dictionary because it printed a definition he didn’t agree with. The definition in the dictionary didn’t change anything; it merely described something that had changed. He might as well have threatened a weatherman because it rained.
Where does dictionary guy fall on the scale?
1. How many? So far it’s just the one dude with an outrage hard-on. But you know there will be a few million people reading that story who will think, “I agree with him.” There always are. The news outlets, using the story for clicks, are the only reason this story is on the scale at all. At a guess, I’d say it will be about a 4, matching the level of reflexive conservative grumbling we get about anything that sounds progressive.
If the news outlets didn’t whore the story out for clicks, though, it would be a zero. It would be a nutcase being a nutcase.
2. How much? My guess is that it’ll be a conversation topic for a day or two and then go into the bank of past-sin outrages that help bulk the masses when they are REALLY outraged. We all know how marriage arguments go, right? All the old stuff comes out when the argument gets heated. This will be part of that. It’s not as high as how many, because there are other outrages that will supersede this particular complaint. But it’ll be a 2-3.
3. How intense? I doubt it’s more than even a 2 on the scale, but it’s maybe a few more degrees of heat on the gender outrage hot stove.
4. How trivial? It’s a 10/10. Dictionaries do not judge, they document. Dude needs to get a life.
So, after 850 words, it comes down to “get a life, dude.” Thanks for reading.