I was watching Paula Zahn Now on CNN and a legal case in New Hampshire was the subject of discussion. The New Hampshire Supreme Court, deciding on a case in which a man divorced his wife on the basis of her having committed adultery, turned to "Webster's dictionary" to clarify the meaning of "adultery." When the definition of "adultery" was shown onscreen, the dictionary was referred to in the caption as "Webster's Dictionary."

Naturally, I wondered which "Webster's dictionary" was meant. So I took a look at Google News search. Thinking that it might have been a Merriam-Webster dictionary, I searched for
http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&ie=ISO-8859-1&edition=us&q=hampshire+adultery+webster+merriam

This got no hits. I then dropped "merriam" from the search:

http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&ie=ISO-8859-1&edition=us&q=hampshire+adultery+Webster

This received 53 hits.
So then I decided to go to the Web site of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. The opinion on the case, *In the Matter of David G. Blanchflower and Sian E. Blanchflower,* is given at
http://www.courts.state.nh.us/supreme/opinions/2003/blanc150.htm

The following is quoted from that page:
(quote)
The plain and ordinary meaning of adultery is "voluntary sexual intercourse between a married man and someone other than his wife or between a married woman and someone other than her husband." Webster's Third New International Dictionary 30 (unabridged ed. 1961). Although the definition does not specifically state that the "someone" with whom one commits adultery must be of the opposite gender, it does require sexual intercourse.

(end quote)
So the dictionary is *Webster's Third New International Dictionary.* I went back to Google News and searched for
http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&ie=ISO-8859-1&edition=us&q=hampshire+adultery+webster+%22new+in...

This turned up just one article, for WorldNetDaily, at

http://worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE ID=35496

which gave the full name of the dictionary, "Webster's Third New International Dictionary." One out of 53, in other word 1.89 percent, specified what dictionary was used in the legal decision.

Now, any dictionary is allowed to call itself "Webster's dictionary," so that just saying "Webster's dictionary" doesn't tell the television or reading public even what company published the dictionary. But even if we were to assume that most people would take "Webster's" to be referring to a "Merriam-Webster" dictionary, that would not tell us what dictionary was used. I expect quite a few people are not even aware of the existence of Webster's Third.

Raymond S. Wise
Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
E-mail: mplsray @ yahoo . com
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"New Hampshire Supreme Court cites from 'Webster's Dictionary'"?

I'll "Oy!" myself here. The subject line should have been "New Hampshire Supreme Court cites definition from 'Webster's Dictionary" or some such, not "cites from 'Webster's Dictionary.'"

Raymond S. Wise
Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
E-mail: mplsray @ yahoo . com
The plain and ordinary meaning of adultery is "voluntary sexual intercourse between a married man and someone other than his wife or between a married woman and someone other than her husband."

Wow. So if Bill had said 'I did not commit adultery with that woman, Miss Lewinsky', he would been off the hook?

John Dean
Oxford
De-frag to reply
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"New Hampshire Supreme Court cites from 'Webster's Dictionary'"? I'll "Oy!" myself here. The subject line should have been "New Hampshire Supreme Court cites definition from 'Webster's Dictionary" or some such, not "cites from 'Webster's Dictionary.'"

Us attornies at lawr would say just "cites 'Webster's Dictionary.'"

Bob Lieblich
Lazy lawyer
The plain and ordinary meaning of adultery is "voluntary sexual ... between a married woman and someone other than her husband."

Wow. So if Bill had said 'I did not commit adultery with that woman, Miss Lewinsky', he would been off the hook?

You'd think so, wouldn't you? But then, what he actually said was "sexual relations," and a lot of good it did him. Legal niceties aside (easy for me to say), the man got a hummer from a White House intern. It's hard to put positive spin on that.(1)

(1) Although you have to wonder what would have happened if every man in Congress who had ever received a hummer, while married, from a woman not his wife had recused himself. Same for the women, mutatis mutandis.

Bob Lieblich
As to which, no comment
http://worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE ID=35496 which gave the full name of the dictionary, "Webster's Third New International Dictionary." One out of 53, in ... what dictionary was used. I expect quite a few people are not even aware of the existence of Webster's Third.

I am. And I think you'll find that quite a few laypeople are. I know it's a shocking admission to make, but I'd never heard of Merriam Webster until I started patronising this ng.
Adrian
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http://worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE ID=35496 which gave the full name of the dictionary, ... are not even aware of the existence of Webster's Third.

I am. And I think you'll find that quite a few laypeople are. I know it's a shocking admission to make, but I'd never heard of Merriam Webster until I started patronising this ng.

Was that her maiden name before she married Tom Stoppard?
John Dean
Oxford
De-frag to reply
I expect quite a few people are not even aware of the existence of Webster's Third.

I am. And I think you'll find that quite a few laypeople are. I know it's a shocking admission to make, but I'd never heard of Merriam Webster until I started patronising this ng.

I don't feel at all patronized (AmE spelling), nor does it surprise me that some people have heard of the dictionary but don't recall the name of the publisher.
Sometime around the end of the Eighties Merriam-Webster (note hyphen) began putting its full corporate name in the titles of its dictionaries. The Third, having been published in 1961, came out as "Webster's New International Dictionary (Third Edition)."(1). Below the title comes the notation "A Merriam-Webster," but it isn't part of the title. In the case of the Dictionary of English Usage, it was originally published as "Webster's" but in later editions is "Merriam-Webster's."
I haven't seen a recently printed copy of the Third, and for all I know the Third now bears the full name "Merriam-Webster." Or maybe it doesn't; I just don't know. Regardless of how things are now, I wouldn't consider it an error to call the Third just plain "Webster's Third."
(1) From memory. I may be slightly off.

Bob Lieblich
Not a Merriam-Lieblich
I know it's a shocking admission to make, but I'd never heard of Merriam Webster until I started patronising this ng.

I used to call it "talking down" until I discovered Merriam Webster.

Matti
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