Merriam-Webster goes troll level ‘expert,’ rocks Twitter after clarifying one word for United Airlines

United Airlines took another hit for its treatment of a passenger on an overbooked flight, but this time it was over its choice of words.

A statement issued by the airline was trolled by Merriam-Webster Dictionary on Monday, questioning its use of the word “volunteer” to describe the incident.

“Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate,” a United spokesman said in a statement. “We apologize for the overbook situation.”

That passenger was reportedly a doctor who refused to give up his seat and was literally dragged off the plane while other passengers looked on in shock. The airline company was blasted on social media after video of the incident was posted online.

Merriam-Webster noted on its website that searches for the word “volunteer” spiked 1,900 percent on Monday following the video’s release.

“Some of the interest in the definition of volunteer may come from the wording of the statement from United, since a person who did not volunteer to leave was then described as refusing ‘to leave the aircraft voluntarily’—and subsequently being forced to do it,” Merriam-Webster wrote, adding its definition of the word as “someone who does something without being forced to do it.”

The dictionary’s website took an additional poke at United by focusing on another word in its statement.

“News accounts of the incident made mention of the fact that the flight was overbooked, but, as dictionary people, we also notice that the airline’s statement used overbook adjectivally to modify a noun, a definition that we don’t yet include,” Merriam-Webster wrote.

Twitter users applauded the dictionary’s shade-throwing and offered up some alternate word choices of their own.

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Frieda Powers


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