On “Anchor Baby” Being in the New American Heritage Dictionary

“Anchor Baby” Added to the New American Heritage Dictionary

I don’t know what the executives and editors were thinking when they decided that it was appropriate to add this term into their dictionary, but the way that I see it, “Anchor Baby” isn’t a word. It’s a term used to shame and insult millions of American citizens.

Fact of the matter is, when I see “anchor babies” somewhere on the internet or I hear it on television, it’s almost always directed as a racial epithet towards Latino youngsters, regardless of whether their parents migrated into the United States legally or not. For the editors of this publication to consider an “objective definition” of this politically-charged term without really researching what it implies or even if their definition was accurate is plain ignorant and reckless.

In the comments section, I saw that Steve Kleinedler (Executive Editor of the New American Heritage Dictionary) left a response which deflected any responsibility and plainly stated, “Thank you for bringing this to my attention. The editorial staff and I will be discussing these very valid points next week. A revision to this definition is in order.”

No, Steve. Your staff shouldn’t be meeting to come up with a revised definition for this term. “Anchor Baby” doesn’t belong in the dictionary. I don’t think there’s anything to discuss in your staff meeting, aside from drafting a written apology to the American people for even considering the term in the first place. Just drop it from the dictionary. Period. It doesn’t belong in the dictionary. If somebody wants to look it up, they can Google it and read it in an entry from all the right-wing xenophobic blogs that already exist.

But if you decide that “Anchor Baby” warrants a place in your publication, you should also include “Blumpkin”. This will ensure the integrity of your publication as a dictionary willing to record and publish  ALL terms tossed around in the popular American vernacular.

In solidarity,



3 Responses to “On “Anchor Baby” Being in the New American Heritage Dictionary”
  1. Victor Mateo says:

    “Anchor baby” is a pejorative term more appropriate for the Urban Dictionary Online than The American Heritage Dictionary. I request the elimination of this term from your Dictionary and an apology to the millions of U.S. Citizens who have grown under the stigma represented by this clearly racist term. Besides that, the definition is incorrect as it refers to children “born to a noncitizen mother” when there are millions of Legal Permanent Residents in this country, who are not U.S. citizens, and their children have not been referred to as “anchor babies” since their parents enjoy legal status in the U.S. already. Of course this may change now thanks to your decision to allow this term to be included in your new edition and the incorrect definition associating it to millions of U.S. citizen children born to Legal Permanent Residents. I Googled your name and among the first articles I found was one celebrating the election of a gay editor, you, for AHD. If this is true and you are in fact gay, I find it even more difficult to understand your decision to include this pejorative and hateful term. I would be outrage as well if I your dictionary decided to include one of the many hateful and discriminatory terms used against homosexuals in this country. An apology and the elimination of this term is expected by many.

  2. Steve Kleinedler says:

    Jesús (and Victor):

    Thank you for taking the time to discuss this issue.

    As you point out, the dictionary includes many pejorative terms. While, we don’t enter every possible obscenity, we do include terms that are or have been used on a wide basis across the country — “anchor baby” was used prominently in the news media. This is why it would be entered and something like “blumpkin” would not be.

    I have acknowledged that the current treatment is incorrect. It should not have been presented without an indication that it is a derogatory term used pejoratively.

    The dictionary represents the English language. The words of English can convey great beauty, and they also describe the dark side of humanity. There are many reprehensible words: genocide, rape, and so forth.

    A term would be less likely considered for inclusion if, every time it were used, the reporter had to explain what the term meant. When a term is used in the news without explanation, as was the case of “anchor baby,” it can be legitimately considered for inclusion, distasteful though it may be.

    We do have titles that do not include offensive slurs or derogatory terms for the customer who wishes to have a reference work that does not include them. The dictionary under discussion is our full 2,100-page volume, which does include such items. Since you correctly point out that I’m gay, I will point out that the book includes faggot and a whole number of offensive words regarding sexual orientation. (These words are not included in some of our other titles, but they are included in the full-length 2,100-page dictionary.)

    Although the entry won’t be removed, the treatment of the entry will change.

    – Steve

  3. J says:

    Is the word Nigger in the dictionary? Or Whore? Hipster- as a trust fund white kid who thinks they are cultural because they live in an area with people of color. Just wondering about different words.

    The normalization of words is a large responsibility but this isn’t cool. I’m tired of educating the supposed educators on recognizing that their privilege allows them the ability to justify themselves within a system that sustains their privilege.

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