Last year at Zandperl’s Halloween party we were playing “The Coachride to the Devil’s Castle” (aka Die Kutschfahrt zur Teufelsburg), and we spontaneously came up with the following definition of “Pearl Harborer”:
In the Card Game “Die Kutschfahrt zur Teufelsburg” (“The Coachride to the Devil’s Castle”), a Pearl Harborer is someone who is surreptitiously hiding the “Schwarze Perle” (a.k.a. “Black Pearl”) card.
Brian’s going to declare victory this turn, unless he’s a pearl harborer…
It was rejected. Superficially, that’s not a big surprise, nor do I care.
What surprised me, initially, was that it took so long for them to get back to me. I submitted the entry on October 27, 2008, and received my “entry not published” email three days ago.
Peer review is known to take ages, but still I could not imagine why the rejection would be so slow (compared to Wikipedia rejections, which can happen within minutes). But the real surprise here is that Urban Dictionary has standards at all. The rejection letter came with a link to Urban Dictionary’s publishing guidelines (you may need to sign up to see the link):
As an editor, you decide what gets published. Use these guidelines while you make your decisions.
- 1. Publish celebrity names but reject friends’ names.
- 2. Publish racial and sexual slurs but reject racist and sexist entries.
- 3. Publish opinions.
- 4. Publish place names.
- 5. Publish non-slang words. Ignore misspellings and swearing.
- 6. Publish jokes.
- 7. Reject sexual violence.
- 8. Reject nonsense. Be consistent on duplicates.
- 9. Reject ads for web sites.
- 10. Publish if it looks plausible.
So anybody can sign up to be an editor, and some consensus of arbitary/random editors decides which entries get accepted and which get rejected. According to these guidelines, my entry should have been published. However, whichever editors saw it disagreed, probably because they didn’t “get” the definition, so now it’s lost to the world forever.
The sad part is that this isn’t so far off from academic peer review. Sometimes you discover or create knowledge that you know is right, and you try to put it out there but the people reading it don’t think it should be seen, and they reject it, often with little or no explanation why. If it’s this hard to publish in the haphazard, anything goes environment of Urban Dictionary, imagine how hard it must be to publish in a journal, where entries theoretically have consequences.