THE WEBSTER LETTERS
by Dietrich Kalteis
Dear Mr. Webster:
Let me start by saying it is certainly not my intent to appear brazen, or to burden you, rather to humbly draw your attention, purely out of duty, to a grave and considerable error I found in your ninth edition. Although I do not recall why I delved into my volume, that is to say it is of no consequence which definition I was seeking, it was purely by chance that I came upon the word ‘foreplay’, which is defined as such: (1929): erotic stimulation preceding sexual intercourse. This is quite wrong.
Now, I concede the word may have had an assigned function in our language system as far back as 1929, but like other archaisms or dodos of our language from the horse-and-buggy days like betwixt, forsooth and fluey, it just doesn’t mean anything anymore.
Although I most certainly do not profess myself to be a language maven, I have been engaged in four marriages, serving fourteen years consequently, I assure you that revision is in order. May I suggest that the meaning might read something like this: erotic stimulation preceding sexual intercourse preceding marriage and other forms of cohabitation between the sexes.
Let me conclude that I hope you do not see me as a wet blanket, but merely as someone who appreciates the accuracy of your fine editions and all the help they provided during the years I was harassed by education.
Dear N. Withheld:
Firstly, allow me to extend my gratitude for your letter of April 12, 09. Foreplay is wrong (by definition). Bless your heart for coming forward; you are quite correct. Foreplay needs to be amended. Let me say it is a herculean task to bring about the revision and reprinting of our dictionaries, not as a justification, just to clarify.
Forthwith, the next printing shall see the word foreplay defined thusly: Foreplay (1929): 1a) erotic stimulation having once preceded sexual intercourse. 1b) the date indicates the earliest unit of meaning when foreplay can be linked to sexual intercourse. 1c) Nonexistent where related to present day coition replacing all transitive forms.
I have also taken the liberty (out of professional courtesy) to inform the good people at Oxford’s. They have in turn informed me that they have deleted the word entirely from their future editions.
In closing, I apologize for any inconvenience suffered by this inaccuracy.
Dietrich Kalteis is a writer living in West Vancouver, Canada.