One of the things we try to teach our kids is to be proud of who they are. Tall or short, extrovert or introvert, lover of sports or music or math or computers—we want our kids to discover their true selves and not to be ashamed of what they find.
So I’m going to set a good example here and proclaim to everyone that I am officially a geek. Specifically, I’m a word geek.
Recently, I found myself in need of a dictionary definition of the phrase, “blended family.” I checked both online and in a dictionary made of actual paper, and here is what I found:
a family composed of a couple and their children from previous marriages
While not inaccurate, to my mind this definition omitted a rather important alternative definition of the term “blended family”—that of a family that includes both biological and adopted children.
So I did what any word-obsessed parent in a blended family would do. “Honey,” I told my husband, “I’m going to contact Merriam-Webster.”
“You do that,” he replied.
“I’m so excited. I’ve never emailed the dictionary before!”
As I recall, my husband laughed at me, then left the room.
Undeterred, I sent my email to Merriam-Webster that evening:
Both your online dictionary and your Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, list only one meaning for the term, “blended family: a family that includes children of a previous marriage of one spouse or both.” While this meaning is correct, it is not the only correct definition. “Blended family” can also mean—and is often used to refer to—a family that includes at least one biological child and at least one adoptive child. The term is commonly employed in this manner in the adoptive community. Would you look into including this additional definition in future editions of your dictionaries?
A couple of days later, I heard back:
Thank you for writing and for your comments about “blended family.” We have made a note of them for our citation file and will keep them in mind toward possible future revision of the entry.
We appreciate your interest in Merriam-Webster.
Neil S. Serven
Okay, so I got the form, “Thank you for sharing your concerns with me” response. (Hey, I used to write letters like this. I can identify them when I see them!) But dictionary definitions do change as the usage of words and phrases alters over time. If the word-mavens at Merriam-Webster hear the term “blended family” enough in the context of families formed by both biology and adoption, they could be swayed to include us in the definition. If you want to contribute to the momentum to recognize our families, you can send a quick email by going to Merriam-Webster online and filling out their form. It could have an effect and then you would be accomplishing something—even if you don’t get as jazzed up about the prospect of emailing the dictionary as I did.
And if you do get a kick out of writing to the dictionary, don’t be ashamed to tell your kids. Let them see that it’s okay to be whoever you are—even if that person is a word-geek!