You probably knew by middle school English that the literal meaning of a word isn't always the way it gets used in conversation. It's why describing a group as "rabid" — literally "having fanatical support" — isn't wrong, even if it tends to be a bad idea to associate people with fatally ill, dangerous animals. But negative connotations didn't stop the Oxford Dictionary from using "rabid feminists" in an example sentence on the word's entry.
On January 20, Michael Oman-Reagan, whose Twitter bio says he is a PhD student at Memorial University, suggested that "feminist" might not be the best word to pair with "rabid" in the dictionary's examples. He tweeted, "Hey @OxfordWords, why is 'rabid feminist' the usage example of 'rabid' in your dictionary — maybe change that?"
A reasonable suggestion, but one that was quickly shot down by the Press, which tweeted back, "If only there were a word to describe how strongly you felt about feminism…"
Oxford University Press went on to explain, "Btw, 'rabid' isn't always negative, and our example sentences come from real-world use and aren't definitions."
But now the Press is backtracking, first apologizing through Twitter on January 23, writing, "We were flippant in some of our tweets yesterday. Sorry. 'Rabid fan' now has the highest frequency in the Oxford Corpus & 'rabid supporter' also frequent. We'll review the primary example sentence used for 'rabid.'"
Oxford added in a statement to The Daily Dot, "The example sentences we use are taken from a huge variety of different sources and do not represent the views or opinions of Oxford University Press. That said, we are now reviewing the example sentence for 'rabid' to ensure that it reflects current usage.”
What we associate with certain words is imporant — and the word "feminist" already has enough bagage without the dictionary adding on.