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Random House Adjusts Nazi Definition

January 30, 1997
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The Anti-Defamation League has welcomed steps taken by the publisher of the “Random House Webster’s College Dictionary” to advise its readers against using the word “Nazi” in a jocular sense.

However, the dictionary will include the informal usage of the term in its definition.

“We applaud Random House for the steps it is taking that the usage of the word `Nazi’ in a jocular sense can be offensive to many people,” said Abraham Foxman, ADL national director.

Foxman had called on the publisher to “rethink your decision” after learning that the forthcoming edition of the dictionary would include the added definition of “Nazi” as a “person who is fanatically dedicated to or seeks to control a specified activity” or practice, as in “tobacco Nazis trying to ban smoking.”

The definition will now state that many feel that this usage of the word “trivializes the terrible crimes of the Nazis of Germany.”

“One will now have a deeper meaning of what the word signifies,” Foxman said.

He also commended the publisher’s inclusion in the dictionary of an essay on avoiding offensive language.

“It is clear that as language experts, the editors of the dictionary have recognized their responsibility as standard setters” and their responsibility to include “reports of common usage,” Foxman also said.

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