In the NYT on May 21st, a front-page story by Leslie Kaufman, “For the Word on the Street, Courts Call Up an Online Witness”, beginning:
The wheels of justice move slowly sometimes, but not, apparently, as slowly as Webster’s New World Dictionary.
Slang has always been a challenge for the courts in cases that involve vulgar or insulting language. Conventional dictionaries lag the spoken word by design. That has lawyers and judges turning to a more fluid source of definitions: Urban Dictionary, a crowdsourced collection of slang words on the Internet.
The online site, created by a college freshman in 1999, has found itself in the thick of cases involving everything from sexual harassment to armed robbery to requests for personalized license plates, as courts look to discern meaning and intent in the modern lexicon.