Merriam-Webster Updates 'Dated, Offensive' Term

It has to do with MSG in Chinese restaurants
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 23, 2020 5:00 PM CDT
Merriam-Webster Updates 'Dated, Offensive' Term
A waitress of the Chinese restaurant Hot Pot wearing a face mask, serves customers in London, Thursday, March 5, 2020.   (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Merriam-Webster has updated its entry on "Chinese restaurant syndrome," a term many Asian Americans saw as antiquated and even racist. The phrase was previously defined as a legitimate illness brought on by food seasoned with monosodium glutamate but "especially Chinese food." said symptoms include numbness of the neck, arms and back as well as headaches and dizziness. Now, the definition has a detailed disclaimer noting the term as "dated" and "offensive," the AP reports. It also states research conducted since the so-called syndrome was reported in the 1960s has not found any link between MSG and those symptoms. It also contains a link to another entry—the more clinical term, "MSG symptom complex."

Peter Sokolowski, editor at large at Merriam-Webster, confirmed the changes. "This process is always ongoing, and includes the gathering of evidence and drafting of revisions to be reviewed by specialized and senior editors before being added to a scheduled release of changes," he said. The issue gained attention in January when Ajinomoto, a longtime Japanese producer of MSG seasonings, called on Merriam-Webster to alter its entry. The company hired restaurateur Eddie Huang and The Real TV co-host Jeannie Mai for a social media campaign. MSG comes from glutamate, a common amino acid or protein building block found in food. The Food and Drug Administration says MSG is generally recognized as a safe addition to food.

(More Chinese food stories.)

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