American Heritage Dictionary Adds "Anchor Baby" to Latest Edition, Fails to Mention That It's, Um, Highly Offensive

Categories: WTF
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The wordsmiths over at New American Heritage Dictionary usually point out when a word or phrase is offensive or disparaging, particularly when it comes to terms loaded with racist sentiments.

You know them: the n-word, "spic," "white trash."

When you look up those words you get a little extra -- and useful -- information. It makes it clear that the word is unfriendly, to say the least. For instance:

spic [spik]
noun Slang: Disparaging and Offensive
a Spanish-American person.

white trash
noun Slang: Disparaging and Offensive
1. a member of the class of poor whites, especially in the southern U.S.

But the almighty definers at American Heritage don't seem to grasp the volatile nature of the term "anchor baby," a disparaging remark that aims to dehumanize the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants.
Instead of the treatment they give to the previously mentioned slurs, they define the phrase just as the nativists would have them define it:

anchor baby n. A child born to a noncitizen mother in a country that grants automatic citizenship to children born on its soil, especially such a child born to parents seeking to secure eventual citizenship for themselves and often other members of their family.

During an NPR interview in November, Steve Kleinedler, the dictionary's executive editor, said of their definition: "The trick is to define them objectively without taking sides and just presenting what it is. And, in some cases up, you know, anchor baby is definitely a very charged, politically charged word."

Mary Giovagnoli, director of the Immigration Policy Center, aptly writes:

The trouble with this philosophy is that "anchor baby" is not a neutral term, nor from what we have been able to find, has it ever been. First, it appears to be a wholly American term, one mired in the politics of anti-immigrant rhetoric. Those who use it are not in the business of clinically describing some sort of sociological phenomena. They are instead intent on suggesting that people come to the country illegally and deliberately have babies in order to use their children's citizenship to acquire legal status of their own.

Second, the New American Heritage Dictionary's definition ignores the very specific intent of the term and, in fact, gives it more credibility by treating it as some sort of universal description of children who acquire citizenship at birth. This masks the poisonous and derogatory nature of the term, a term which demeans both parent and child and in the process suggests that it is acceptable to call a child born in the U.S--i.e. an American citizen--an "anchor baby."

 And, besides being offensive, the term is just wrong -- implying that a child will "anchor" its undocumented mother or father to the United States. 

According to a 2009 article in the New York Times:

Of nearly 2.2 million immigrants deported in the decade ended 2007, more than 100,000 were the parents of children who, having been born in the United States, were American citizens, according to a report issued Friday by the Department of Homeland Security.

But the department lacks data that might have addressed questions left unanswered by the report, like the number of American children who were left behind in the United States or, alternatively, exited the country with their deported parents. Nor could the report say in how many instances both parents of such children were deported.



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33 comments
lakawak
lakawak

It is not highly offensive. It is accurate. It is not the dictionary's fault that reality is offensive to criminals.

Tortillas
Tortillas

Gingrich: A corporate historian with a six digit salary and a half-mil credit account at Tiffany's

Caining: (As in "His wife really took a caining.") Having a husband that sexually harasses several women while also maintaining a decade-plus extramarital affair. 

Sandra Bernhard
Sandra Bernhard

"Anchor Baby...appears to be a wholly American term".Yes, that would be because the US is one of only a handful of countries in the entire world that grant citizenship based on a baby coincidentally being born on the soil here. Ireland got rid of automatic citizenship for newborns a couple years ago. The majority of countries on earth do not have this ridiculous law. It should be done away with, and it should be retroactive for the last 30 years.

Native Guns
Native Guns

They should have listed "nativists", as a derogatory and offensive pejorative to the racist enemy on the far right. Same with the politically incorrect: "Lunatic fringe". Right there with the abhorrent terms: "white supremacist", "neo-Nazi". Since nativist is also a politically charged word in describing the dim folks within the paranoid Tea Pottier movement.

SteveKI
SteveKI

Hi. I'm the Executive Editor of the American Heritage Dictionary. I've been in contact with the author of the original blog post to discuss her very invalid points. A revision to the definition is not in order, and in fact we will be added the word Mexican to the definition.

Steve KleinedlerExecutive EditorAmerican Heritage Dictionary.     

PedroForJustice
PedroForJustice

It's about time this very accurate term was added. La Raza members and supporters of La Cause don't like the term because it's like shining a flashlight on cockroaches in the pantry of a bad Mexican restaurant.

Walter Concrete
Walter Concrete

To demand a politcally correct definition for every word that you don't like would turn a dictionary into a subjective blog like New Times...just someone's opinion.   The definition of anchor baby is correct.   If you don't like it then the media which you are a member of shouldn't have invented it.    How about all the other terms the media has invented over the years?   Do you want your definitions to supercede the correct definitions or do you want to now change the idea behind the phrases you've invented?    Where do you think all these catchy phrases come from?    Society?    What's that?    The media drives the phraseology of society.   Does your grandmother sit around inventing phrases and then they spread from there?    She must have a way to speak to millions of people in one day then.   The media which is the lack dog of the PTB invents a phrase and then comes back later and says it's offensive.    Of course it is, you invented it and made it popular by continually using it.    It's a classic dialectic ploy.   You create a problem and then you perpetuate it and now you blame someone else.    Next you'll offer a solution to fix a problem that you say exists and you are the ones who created it in the first place.  Doh!

Guest
Guest

Hi. I'm the Executive Editor of the American Heritage Dictionary. I've been in contact with the author of the original blog post to discuss her very valid points. A revision to the definition is in order, and the editorial staff an I are working on this.

Steve KleinedlerExecutive EditorAmerican Heritage Dictionary.

Victor
Victor

"Anchor baby" is a pejorative term more appropriate for the Urban Dictionary Online than The American Heritage Dictionary. The term should be eliminated or at the very least a description of the term as pejorative must be included. 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. In fact the idea behind this term is incorrect as a Us citizen child can't petition for a parent until the age of 21, and if the parent entered without authorization, such process would require that the parent leave the country to do consular processing and wait an additional 10 years as punishment for their unlawful presence in the US. That's a 31 year wait time! The only other way it may help to have a US citizen child is if the parent is in removal proceedings before the Immigration Court and the parent can convince the court that his/her removal would cause "exceptional and extremely unusual hardship" to his/her US citizen child. Anyone somewhat familiar with immigration law will agree that meeting the "exceptional and extremely unusual threshold is almost impossible. Therefore, the believe that simply having a baby in US soil will result in some sort of legal status is a fallacy. An apology and the elimination of this term is expected by many.

Dave
Dave

The definition is so broad that it could reasonably apply to any baby of any immigrant, including legal immigrants, and even if the father is a citizen. I suppose thats because if they defined it more specifically it would be obvious that nobody really falls into that category. It's really just an evocative image with little basis in reality, much like "welfare queen".

Raul Ramos y Sanchez
Raul Ramos y Sanchez

Including this inaccurate and derogatory term in the dictionary as a legitimate word is simply outrageous. 

Johnny Skee Mask
Johnny Skee Mask

Of course it's an American term. Why do you think it was added in the American Heritage Dictionary? The main gist of the term, is solely based on this alarming Latino/Hispanic illegal alien immigration. Who are here illegally and criminally and then breed. Its the whole concept regarding a racist stereotype:

Anchor Babies=Latino/HispanicTea Bagger=white rabid racist inbred.

Same thing.

SteveKl
SteveKl

Someone is masquerading as me. I did not write the above post immediately preceding this.

Steve KleinedlerExecutive EditorAmerican Heritage Dictionary

Walter Concrete
Walter Concrete

Why not publish all the definitions of the term just like words sometimes have several definitions instead of bowing to pressure or to the planned objections of the media as if you all of a sudden have come to your senses and realized the error of your definition and how hurtful it could be?    It's a load of crap to play with term definiton and then bring it to the forefront at the time the subject of illegal immigration has been pushed on us endlessly by the media who invented the term in the first place.   You earned your check this week Steve.

PTCGAZ
PTCGAZ

I should hope so. It seems to me that the only people who use "anchor baby(or babies)" are white rich republicans, most of whom were immigrants to this country at one point, so one of their ancestors was also an anchor baby.(or are they not included because they are better then those of us who do not agree with their teabagger principles?)

Restitutiontouscitizensfirst
Restitutiontouscitizensfirst

"Anchor baby" is a well-used term that has reached the common vernacular also used by  media, not like other slang found in other publications.  Therefore it is worthy of inclusion.  I am not sure if "Victor" is correct or not but the term is a short one, useful to convey meaning as opposed to the longer PC terms that do not fit in headline spaces so easily.  As far as the pejorative aspect of it - I never knew it was like the N-word until I came here and read as much and honestly, I'm not feelin' it.  We need a term for the phenomenon, or at least the concept of the phenomenon until such time as the truth of it is known and the term can be retired as a label for something that does not exist.  If it does exist then perhaps the complainers can come up with a term that they do not find "pejorative?"  If this phenomenon truly does not exist then why do I see that politicians have been trying to make laws against it for decades? 

Vern
Vern

No terms should be eliminated. Say whatever you like. Only liberals like to suppress speach.

lakawak
lakawak

So is illegally entering and staying in a country.

Except the definition is not inaccurate at all.

Sorry that reality is so offensive to criminals like you.

PTCGAZ
PTCGAZ

wonder if we can add Teabagger into the dictionary then?

wonder how much those asshats would like that?

PTCGAZ
PTCGAZ

I would suggest you ask a Hispanic who is a legal citizen what they feel about that. I don't know either because I haven't asked one.

lakawak
lakawak

Thanks for showing the world you are 12 years old.

StanDaMan
StanDaMan

I like the term Teabagger you asshat. It is a great term which describes how I squat over your face laying my balls on your face and in your mouth while you are sleeping.

PTCGAZ
PTCGAZ

we do not lack a law on the issue, we HAVE a very specific law.

Restitutiontouscitizensfirst
Restitutiontouscitizensfirst

Huh?  I know plenty "Hispanics" who have absolutely no problem with the term "anchor baby" since they know that it also applies to Chinese and anybody else who takes advantage of our lack of a law on this issue.  My family for starters . . . . or would you take THAT from me too since you do not like my position? 

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