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Merriam-Webster Dictionary Trolls Sexist ‘Doctor Who’ Fans with Another Sassy Tweet

Jodie Whittaker as Doctor WhoJodie Whittaker as Doctor Who
Jodie Whittaker as Doctor Who - the first woman to play the iconic role.BBC One

When the BBC revealed on Sunday that the next doctor in its long-running Doctor Who drama would be played by British actress Jodie Whittaker, many cheered the decision to cast a female lead for the first time in the show’s 50 year history.

But there were—of course—detractors who saw the move as a departure from the show’s plot or an over-eager attempt to comply with political correctness.

Whittaker herself sought to comfort these critics during an interview with the BBC, in which she urged viewers to “not to be scared” by her gender.

“Because this is a really exciting time,” she said, “and Doctor Who represents everything that’s exciting about change.”

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Indeed, many fans have answered critics of the decision with a similar argument; that the fictional character of Doctor Who flouts all constraints of realism so certainly it shouldn’t be confined by gender.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary provided another response to those critical of the casting with a tweet on Monday, noting that in the English the word “doctor” is not gendered.

The sassy post continues the dictionary’s streak of tweets timed to serve as sharp interjections in the cultural or political debate of the day. In the early weeks of the Trump administration, it repeatedly weighed in on the day’s news. For instance, when senior advisor Kellyanne Conway argued the existence of “alternative facts,” the dictionary tweeted the definition of a fact—”a piece of information presented as having objective reality.”

In May, it pointed out that the term “pump priming” dates back to the 19th century after President Donald Trump told The Economist that he’d invented the phrase “prime the pump.”

In explaining some of Merriam-Webster’s quippy posts in January, Lauren Naturale—then Merriam-Webster’s content and social media manager—said many were prompted by the dictionary’s “trend watch” feature, launched in 2010, that tracks what people are looking up. Naturale left the company in May for the ACLU of New York, but the dictionary’s zingers continue.

Although, its “doctor” post on Monday didn’t seem to settle the matter of whether Doctor Who should be depicted as a woman. Responses to the tweet quickly devolved into a discussion of whether “lord”—as in Time Lord, the fictional species that the show’s protagonist belongs to—denoted the male sex.