Crushing Of Dissent at

Long-time VodkaPundit readers will probably remember my buddy Lein Shory, or more likely Lein’s creation, the Irate Savant. For those who haven’t been around so long, the Savant blog was an experiment in blogging as a creative device–and a highly effective one. Based on the comments and emails Lein received, I’d guess at least half of his readership was convinced that the Savant was a real person.

Since wrapping up the blog in late 2005, Lein has been hard at work transforming the Savant’s story into a novel. I was fortunate enough to get to read an early draft, and I can say without prejudice that it is very likely to be considered the first landmark novel of the blog era–but that’s not the point right now.

As a quick glance back at the original Savant blog will tell you, Lein’s title character has a fondness for writing with a distinctly Buckley-esque vocabulary (don’t read any political content into that observation, as Lein and I occupy entirely different political hemispheres). In his seemingly-endless quest for additional obscure words with which to populate the Savant’s first-person prose, Lein has been using the popular site as a resource.

Then came last Monday. First, went down for a long stretch, and after it came back up, a remarkable number of words were gutted of synonym entries, and some were missing entries altogether. Nonplussed, Lein started to do a little Googling. Here’s what he found, as posted on April 9 at Jezebel:

An observant reader was pissed off enough at to tip us off to this, and we share her rage. If you search for synonyms for the word “weaker” two main entries come up: Female and lady.

Apparently the Jezebel post, as well as a similar rant at Feministing got the attention of’s corporate owner, Lexico. From a post on Lexico’s blog dated April 9, written by one Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD (whom I’m sorry to say is the editor and compiler of Roget’s New Millennium Thesaurus):

The synonym “weaker sex” appears in many thesauruses for terms like woman, lady, and female. It is considered an informal, possibly derogatory, synonym for those words. Due to the way our search technology works, a search for weaker appeared to suggest that it was a synonym for female and lady. This was incorrect and has been fixed.

We take your concerns about language and society seriously (this is, after all, our business) and after reading feedback on the entries for female and lady, we carefully reviewed our editorial decisions. In light of how our customers use on a daily basis, we chose to remove “weaker sex” as a informal/slang synonym from our site. The entries now describe current American English usage more accurately and we feel we’re providing more helpful suggestions for those seeking guidance on word choice from us.

A quick look at indicates that Dr. Kipfer did a lot more than just fix an ‘incorrect’ link in Lexico’s database. There’s a screen shot of the previous “weaker” entry at the Jezebel link above, and you’ll have to go there to see it for yourself, because if you go to today and enter in the word “weaker,” you get… nothing.

No entries at all. No synonyms, no antonyms, no Tiny Tims. There’s nothing at all listed under the word, except a query as to whether you’ve misspelled it (and you haven’t).

As Eddie Murphy once said in an entirely different context, “Well, that’s peculiar.” Let’s look around for a few other words, eh? How about… malefactor. Only three synonyms are listed today, and no other useful information, but if one goes looking in Google’s cache for the same word, one finds a multitude of options that have now vanished into the ether(net).

How about a few more? Try comparing today’s entry for, say, omnipotent (there’s nothing there, the word isn’t even recognized) to the Google cache version, where there’s a whole page full of stuff. You can see similar rather astonishing edits for reprobate (cached version here), inamorata (cached version here) and inimitable (cached version here).

So, what’s going on here?

I’m hesitant to jump right out and call this an outright Ministry Of Truth descent into Newspeak. Relational databases are very tricky beasts, and I’m perfectly willing to believe that Dr. Kipfer and/or her minions simply made mistakes in correcting word links within’s internal systems while they were ‘cleaning up’ this business of the “weaker sex.” I certainly hope that’s the case, as I really don’t want to live in a world where the editor of today’s Roget’s Thesaurus is in the business of sanitizing the language in the name of pacifying pressure groups.

With that understood, even if the intentional part of’s “cleanup” were limited to the “weaker” and “female” connection, this is still troubling stuff. I’d personally have no problem if references to “the weaker sex” were tagged as archaic (which is certainly true) or even “offensive,” which is also obviously the case to most modern eyes. I do have a problem with people who are supposed to be caretakers of our linguistic heritage taking it upon themselves to write words and definitions out of the English language.

Looking at the missing words above, it looks to my eyes like most references to male or female characteristics of those words have been hacked out (along with many other references that presumably were lost in the database shuffle along the way). I should note here that has not bothered to make such changes that would affect other political points of view (check out the current entry for “unprogressive,” if you doubt me), but hey, I don’t want them to go editing those entries, either! I just want my language back.

UPDATE: Curiouser and curiouser. As commenter Scott discovered, the source of the pre-April 14 cached links is Roget’s New Millennium Thesaurus (of which the aforementioned Dr. Kipfer says she is the editor), while the current links (at least those that link to anything at all) are referenced to “Roget’s II: The New Thesaurus.”

(I am compelled to wonder if Wesley Crusher is a contributor to the latter, but never mind that.)

So, what’s the deal here? Lacking any actual announcement from Lexico, is this all due to a switch in databases? And if so, why? The “Roget’s II” appears to be singularly lacking compared to the previous version… could Lexico just be trying to move users to the pay-per-view version?

Inquiring minds want to know, but either way, I thank Scott for his detective work.


58 Responses to “Crushing Of Dissent at”

  1. Scott Says:

    Did anyone even see that the source for thesaurus has changed?

    Roget’s II: The New Thesaurus, Third Edition

    Apparently all us users are blind to this?

    This is a free service too right?

  2. Scott Says:

    check your facts:

    (whom I’m sorry to say is the editor and compiler of Roget’s New Millennium Thesaurus)

    This is not the source currently posted on <- creditability lost

  3. Will Collier Says:

    Check the link above. That’s how she identifies herself at Lexico’s blog.

  4. Scott Says:


    I’m referring only to the current source content. I went have noticed the slip in word count, however the editor only claims to have written contributed to the “Roget’s New Millennium Thesaurus”, however the site currently has “Roget’s II: The New Thesaurus, Third Edition”.

    These are 2 separate source. The blogs does state this, however the blog thread date, is dated prior to the thesaurus source change.

    pre April 14th:
    Roget’s New Millennium Thesaurus

    post April 14th:
    Roget’s II: The New Thesaurus, Third Edition

  5. Will Collier Says:

    Well, that’s interesting. Scott, can you post the link identifying when the change was made?

  6. Scott Says:

    Well last week, I cited the source in an instant message to a friend regarding the “weaker sex” issues.

    Cite #1 (April 10th)
    Roget’s New Millennium(TM) Thesaurus, First Edition (v 1.3.1)
    Copyright © 2006 by Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

    Cite #2 (April 14th)
    Roget’s II: The New Thesaurus, Third Edition
    by the Editors of the American Heritage® Dictionary.
    Copyright © 2003, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
    Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

    Blog from the Lexico Editor:
    Addressing Our Weaknesses
    Dated: April 9th, 2008

    It appears as though the “weaker sex” synonym was removed from the first source, but then that source was replaced all together sometime over the this range: (April 11-14).

  7. Will Collier Says:

    Very interesting. Thanks much, I’ll put up and update.

  8. Lein Shory Says:

    Whatever the reason for the change, what had been a great reference tool just got much less useful, at least for me. I might as well just use Word’s thesaurus now.

  9. rbj Says:

    Lein, ouch!

    I think this stinks and, ah, um, er, something else bad.

  10. Joan of Argghh! Says:

    Well, there’s always the trusty old paperback version.

    I used to get snared by the lovely and imperfect serendipity of looking for one word only to have my eyes latch onto another. 90 minutes later, after page-hopping through the fields of flowery effusions, I would remember why I picked up the book in the first place.

    The online version lacks that happenstance of the sensual abandon to the Fates of pagination and placement.

  11. David Says:

    Microsoft word doesn’t have anything either.

  12. Saturday Reading: 3 Great Posts [Dan Collins] Says:

    […] at Vodkapundit, Will Collier has a great post up about Newspeak censorship at–one involving our friends at […]

  13. James Says:

    Thanks for mentioning this. I did a Google blog search after finding that’s database had been…what’s the word…I’m looking for something like “reduced” but more dramatic….

    Anyway, if you’re familiar with, you may know that you can use wildcards (“*” for any (or no) amount of letters, “?” for one letter) as well as reverse lookups (“*:weak” for anything related to “weak”). With no longer useful, I’ve found OneLook reverse searches to be the best alternative. Here are the results for weak.

  14. James Says:

    This may be a double-post. I don’t know if comments are held for review, or if my previous got killed because I tried to include a link, or what.

    Thanks for mentioning this. I did a Google blog search after finding that’s database had been…what’s the word…I’m looking for something like “reduced” but more dramatic….

    Anyway, if you’re familiar with OneLook(dot)com, you may know that you can use wildcards (“*” for any (or no) amount of letters, “?” for one letter) as well as reverse lookups (“*:weak” for anything related to “weak”). With no longer useful, I’ve found OneLook reverse searches to be the best alternative.

  15. James Says:

    By the way, reverse searches are good for more than a thesaurus substitute. For example, if you can’t remember what the word for the study of birds is, “*ology:birds” returns “ornithology.” Or, “*:study birds” does the same thing.

  16. virgil xenophon Says:

    Churchill warned of the possibility that mankind’s doom would be borne
    in “upon the gleaming wings of science.” Of course he was worrying
    about the atom, but his point about individuals (and entire societies)so mesmerized by the benefits of technological progress that they were blind (“she was blinded by science!” Sorry–I re- ally couldn’t resist the reference to pop culture) to the more malovent possibilities. Even earlier Britain’s Lord Palmerston, when Foreign Secretary, while listening to someone extolling the virtues and possibilities of the latest technology–the telegraph–replied: “yes, all that you say may be true, but just remember that one day Genghis Kahn will return–only this time he will
    have the telegraph.”

    The upshot of these vignettes is to
    make the point that to the extent individuals come to depend on supposedly “neutral” or “pro- gressive” technologies that are in reality controlled by people with an ideological ax to grind, we as a society (no less than the indivi- dual) lay ourselves open to a long walk off a short pier. Think the PRC, or here in the U.S. the FCC and those who salivate to restore the “Fairness Doctrine.”
    The subtle gradualism with which such reductions whittle down the ability of individuals to broach anything in public other than the “approved,” ideas or cultural “party-line,” is like air- pollution–it costs billions of dollars and millions of man-hours to eliminate–but it all gets up there for free. Once those who disagree with us have a choke-hold on our ability to freely express ourselves its a long road back.

  17. Mike Says:

    “Long-time VodkaPundit readers will probably remember my buddy Lein Shory, or more likely Lein’s creation, the Irate Savant.”
    Or not, reading since almost inception, what, 8 years or so?
    But, I’ll always thank you for your input during Stephen’s health absence.
    Remember, Amazon does, his birthday is 4/26! LoL.

  18. docweasel Says:

    Jane of Arrgh: I was enough of a wordnerd in school to read the dictionary and thesaurus for fun. Looking up a word would lead me to another until I would spend a couple hours reading the frickin’ dictionary.

    Now I do that with Wikipedia. But due to the left’s mind control of, etc. they will eventually turn us all.

  19. Ron Hardin Says:

    whom I’m sorry to say is the editor and compiler of Roget’s New Millennium Thesaurus

    It’s “who.”

    Imus’s Charles McCord does that all the time, too.

    Wm. Kerrigan has an amusing review of political correctness in the Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, “The Neurotic’s Dictionary” _Raritan_ XI:3 1992 p.98, which keeps all the words they can think of but grades them by offensiveness.

  20. Bilbo Says:

    Ron Hardin? Ron Hardin??!!! The very same Ron Hardin who does not even know what “to beg the question” means? What nerve, giving grammatical advice here, of all things!

  21. Kevin R.C. O'Brien Says:

    War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. Barbie Kipfer is a lexicographer.

    Wonder what her Ph.D. is in, and whether a drumming circle was involved.

  22. Sortelli Says:

    Last night I was looking up synonyms for radioactive on that site, which I had done before. Only this time, there were no synonyms for radioactive. . .

    Clearly, the mutants are crushing our dissent.

  23. John Blake Says:

    Completing a literary project in three volumes, since last week I have found completely neutered. “Weapon”, for example, returns no synonyms; an amazing proportion of similarly non-PCBS vocabulary returns either “no result” or at most a circular reference, completely useless for composition purposes.

    This is about as Orwellian/Stalinist as possible, the purposeful censorship of basic English reference-works in favor of an extraordinarily benighted ideological bias, arrogant and bigoted to the nth degree. If this spuriously-credentialed editrix, this absurd feministical Thing, thinks he/she/it disposes the language of Shakespeare, Milton, King James, (horsehit) has snapped a synapse.

    What an opportunity to post online a real Thesaurus, and let Mde. (Horsehit) lift her tail elsewhere.

  24. Lileks Says:

    For what it’s worth, the current “word of the day” is “lambaste.” Since it doesn’t mean “a cooking procedure for tasty innocent animals,” I assume it’ll be around for a while.

  25. ASL Says:

    So, if “weaker sex” is archaic then when did women become the “stronger sex” or “equally strong sex” for that matter? I missed that whole evolutionary jump.

    It might be rude to say it but in the most literal sense it is certainly factually correct to say that women are the weaker sex. The job of a thesaurus is to list all possible synonyms. It is the writer’s job to pick which he will use. Maybe an author is writing dialog for a character who is a misogynist or is just plain antagonistic to PC doubletalk etc…

    I assume they also removed “fairer sex” from the list of alternate words for female. They did, didn’t they?

  26. Chris Christner Says:

    Apple’s Leopard OS has a built-in Thesaurus function. Looking up “weaker” returns a “no entries found.”

    But the Dictionary listing includes:

    **the weaker sex** [treated as sing. or pl. ] dated derogatory women regarded collectively.
    weak in the knees helpless with emotion.
    the weak link the point at which a system, sequence, or organization is most vulnerable; the least dependable element or member.

    “dated derogatory women regarded collectively.” That works pretty well, much better than deleting an obsolete term. I hope rethinks their new policy.

  27. James Says:

    Just as a demonstration, on OneLook, the first 50 out of hundreds of results on a reverse dictionary query of “weapon” are:

    1. shoot
    2. lance
    3. sword
    4. aim
    5. spear
    6. arm
    7. artillery
    8. sten
    9. weapon system
    10. weaponing
    11. gun
    12. missile
    13. tomahawk
    14. knife
    15. pike
    16. stab
    17. blade
    18. bow
    19. club
    20. shaft
    21. level
    22. present
    23. projectile
    24. quarterstaff
    25. range
    26. bill
    27. cosh
    28. dagger
    29. shot
    30. steel
    31. bludgeon
    32. burst
    33. cudgel
    34. draw
    35. fire
    36. firearm
    37. flail
    38. flamethrower
    39. nuclear weapon
    40. ammunition
    41. atomic bomb
    42. bow and arrow
    43. brand
    44. brass knuckles
    45. brass knucks
    46. brickbat
    47. crossbow
    48. discharge
    49. fire ship
    50. foil

    It’s not a perfect replacement for a thesaurus, but it’s the best thing on the Internet right now.

    What we could really use is a Wiktionary-like thesaurus/word menu project.

  28. Michael Buckley Says:

    This is disgusting. Sadder still, I can imagine how easy it would be for the folks to cook up a bland, innocuous explanation for the pruning.

  29. TomCom Says:

    Don’t know what was there pre April 10th, but I don’t find “paddy wagon” as a synonym for “patrol wagon” in as it is in my dead tree Thesaurus (Crowell)& in my Webster’s Ninth.

    Erin Go Bragh

  30. Thomas Collins Says:

    The post on thesaurus artifice is a pointed reminder that the preservation of old books is just as important, if not more important, than ever. I hope the Soroses, Buffets and Gateses of the world see fit to spend some of their billions on the preservation of old books (assuming they don’t spend it all on PC causes and PC foundations). If not, I hope the monks and nuns are paying attention. It may be time for the nuns and monks to once again serve as the preservers of civilization in an age of degradation and ghastliness.

  31. Joan of Argghh! Says:

    I tend to believe the censoring angle to all this. About 15 years ago, a very distinguished gentleman would come into my print shop to make copies. He was a retired English professor now working for a medical publisher.

    His task?

    Go thru medical journals and articles and take out any sexist language to describe female ailments. One C-section example described a case of a small woman unable to give birth to her large child. Her physical body was noted as, “inadequate,” and the professor deemed the term derogatory.

    This sort of thing has been around for longer than you think.

  32. gets PC makeover Says:

    […] of synonyms removed after feminists complained that “female” was listed as a synonym for […]

  33. Flatlander Says:

    “Hysterical” has no entries, either. Beware feminists with agendas.

  34. John Blake Says:

    Thanks for recent E-mails… as an author, I have relied on Roget’s synonyms for years. Whether some horrible little femmer has problems with the magnificent English Language is immaterial. To brutally censor –“edit”– this great instrument of communication represents an assault on bedrock principles of civilization.

    Who doubts that dictionaries, encyclopedias, bibliographies, whole libraries will soon enough fall victim to Femyap’s doltish exponents? Don’t think that any personal posts will not also be subject to these arrogant, asinine Miss Grundys, swarming like locusts to leave deserts behind.

    American Heritage may publish a version of Roget’s, but the original work dates from mid-1800s, well past copyright protection. Anyone who wants to scoop up ads by scanning in the 19th Century original is fully entitled to the enterprise.

  35. SMF Says:

    Mentioned this to my daughter, a lover of words. Her first thought was that the first synonym for weaker should be

  36. Joe Says:

    Sadly, weaker and weapon seem to have no synonyms here either.

  37. XLiberal Says:


    “Hysterical” has no entries, either. Beware feminists with agendas.

    It might be said that a hysterectomy was performed on hysterical.

  38. coggieguy Says:

    I think the honor of first blog centric novel might go to Waiter Rant. I think his book is coming out soon. Perhaps it is amemoir rather than novel. O well, the names are changed to protect the guilty.

  39. James Says:

    Ok, this is no reason to start being misogynistic (“horrible little femmers”) or deriding feminism (equal rights of the sexes). It’s not even clear if this was caused by the protest, or if this is incidental. It’s an enormous change for what could have been fixed by simply plucking out the term “weaker sex.”

    Also, who looks up comparatives and superlatives in a thesaurus, anyway? Anyone familiar with a thesaurus knows the root word (“weak”) gets the entry.

  40. tehag Says:

    Roll over, go back to sleep. The deed’s done. The language sanitized. No future search of the thesaurus will uncover the ancient meanings. Unless, of course, someone with time and money and inclination sets up a competing thesaurus both online and in print.

  41. James Says:

    Folks, “Roget” isn’t trademarked. Anyone can use it. The fact that one source is called Roget’s II and another is called Roget’s New Millennium doesn’t mean they’re related, or that one has supplanted the other. Roget’s New Millennium doesn’t even appear to be a print publication, and is copyrighted by Lexico, the owner of Roget’s II is from American Heritage. likely had to pay American Heritage, but doesn’t have to pay itself. Free market forces and all that.

  42. ZZMike Says:

    There’s a very simple explanation. While Webster’s, The OED &c are continually adding new words to their lexicon, is simply removing words from current usage.

    After “unprogressive”, I checked “progressive”:

    Definition: Ahead of current trends or customs.
    Synonyms: forward, precocious, progressive
    Definition: Favoring civil liberties and social progress.

    This led naturally to “conservative”:

    Definition: Strongly favoring retention of the existing order.
    Synonyms: orthodox, right, rightist, right-wing, Tory, traditionalist, traditionalistic

    Definition: Clinging to obsolete ideas.
    Synonyms: backward, reactionary, conservative

    (By one of Euclid’s principles – if A=B and B=C, then A=C – we are led inexorably to


    In all cases, we see:

    Source: Roget’s II: The New Thesaurus, Third Edition
    by the Editors of the American Heritage® Dictionary.

    Mr Blake’s observation is understated. Here’s what you’ll find for “weapon”:

    No results found for weapon.
    Did you mean weeping?

    That alone is cause for condemnation. OneLook has links to about 25 other dictionaries. But maybe Thesaurus has moved all the “interesting” content to the premium site.’s superiority to is unmeasurable.

  43. Tui Says:

    Surely the motivation is financial rather than political? My guess is that they’re trying to drive users into paying for “Premium Content”. I found your blog because I noticed a sudden deterioration in and wanted to see if anyone shared my frustration. I’m a food writer and have been looking up synonyms for strictly apolitical words like “juicy” and “pungent”, but few of the synonyms are now listed, if the word appears at all. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve become so reliant on that I’m actually thinking of subscribing. It’s so much easier to use than a dead tree edition.

  44. Lein Shory Says:


    I’d be careful about subscribing until Lexico gives some indication about whether they’re offering the “old” thesaurus as premium content.

  45. Dan Allen Says:

    Wow, I was wondering what the heck happened to all the good entries I consistently got back from a search. A quick search in Google revealed that I was not just seeing things (or all of a sudden searching for very obscure words). I guess I will have to find a new source of inspiration 😦

  46. Cz_Kc Says:

    The Wayback Machine has kept records of practically every search, so you may find this of use:

    And clicking the embedded links will actually take you to another cached page, not the Thesaurus in its current state. To search, however, you have to type:*/

    And then click the most recent archive. Not extremely convenient, I realize, but it’s better than nothing.

  47. Andrew P. Witt Says:

    I’m so glad someone else noticed this. In recent weeks I’ve found myself trying words that I knew HAD had more synonyms. I thought I’d gone crazy! But alas, that happened long ago.

    It all seems just a little too deliberate.

  48. John Borland » Word up to the past, or where to find a decent thesaurus Says:

    […] only one who’s noticed this, although the roars of outrage online seem to be muted. Comments in this blog  seem to indicate that the company has switched reference tools, from Roget’s New Millenium […]

  49. Clay Says:

    I too found this post as a result of my disappointment with the “new” I’ve made my feeling clear with feedback on their site. Meanwhile, after deleting from my browser toolbar, I did find this wonderful site:

    It has more synonyms than the “original” Sooo… Out with old. In with the new.

  50. ashley Says:

    Thank you to this post and all the comments for suggestions on other thesaurus sources. I have been so frustrated with this month — I never realized how much I rely on it in my writing!

    So we still don’t know quite why is suddenly lacking everything that made it great before?

  51. Tui Says:

    Thanks for the tips on freethesaurus and OneLook, wordsmiths. Both are worth exploring. And so long,, you’re no longer among my Favorites.

  52. Giovanni Says:

    I used this website DAILY, and can’t figure out which bothers me more; the fact that they’ve completely lobotomized their reference site, or the fact that they did it without any explanation to their users. Anyone out there looking for a comprehensive replacement try “”.

  53. Clay Says:

    I didn’t realize they’d been acquired last summer…

  54. Kelli Says:

    The truncated is lousy. On my job as an editor, I’ve relied heavily on that site.

    I appreciate the alternative offered above.

  55. Marc Says:

    The website indicates that they have taken Roget’s Millennium Edition off the site. This would explain the problem, if not excuse it. I too depended very heavily on what was the most comprehensive and aesthetically useful synonym site on the Web.
    Worst of all, they’ve even taken down the Internet Archive caches from the old! Until today these were available by entering “” and replacing the last word with your chosen lookup. Now they’ve even blocked that!

  56. Jacob Rus Says:

    Apparently is being sued for plagiarism, which would explain why they took the content down.

    Here’s a link to the complaint, filed May 7 in CA:

  57. Cz_Kc Says:

    Thank you Jacob Rus, that elucidates things considerably. Perhaps removing the entries under the pretext of feminist complaints was simply a ruse to save face? Very interesting.

  58. Kate Says:

    Like everyone else, I am sorely disappointed in the change (downfall, ruination, demise!) of one of the best resources. In my quest for a real answer –as opposed to their non-speak offering, “Due to reasons beyond our control, we are unable to provide the thesaurus that was previously available on at this time.”– I found they are being acquired by

    Link to the press release:

    Could be another piece to the puzzle. Let’s hope somewhere, sometime soon, there will be a resurrection.

    BTW, isn’t it curious that this has “escaped” media attention? Hmmm…

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