In case United Airlines isn’t aware of how problematic its statement on the controversial removal of a passenger from an overbooked flight is, Merriam-Webster whipped out a definition to enlighten everyone.
On Monday, after videos showed a bloodied United passenger being dragged down the aisle of a plane, the airline attempted to calm the widespread outrage by releasing several statements, one of which claimed that before choosing a passenger to be removed they asked for "volunteers."
That’s great, United — except Merriam-Webster defines volunteer, quite simply, as "someone who does something without being forced to," which was clearly not the case here.
The video shows a man being forcibly removed from his seat and dragged down the aisle with blood on his face while nearby passengers can be heard shouting for him to be released.
@USAnonymous Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave ^MD
— United (@united) April 10, 2017
What actually happened seems extremely removed from the "voluntary" actions United appeared to be concerned with before choosing a passenger to removed, so it makes sense that people flocked to their trusty dictionary to double check the definition.
Along with tweeting the definition, Merriam-Webster explained that on April 10, following the incident, lookups for the word "volunteer" spiked 1900 percent.
📈’Volunteer’ means “someone who does something without being forced to do it.” https://t.co/qNAcMyplhZ
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) April 11, 2017
In response, Twitter followers dismayed by the situation began to create words they felt more accurately described the actions of the officers.
Merriam-Webster also took note that United repeatedly states the flight was "overbooked." However, because the word was used adjectivally to modify a noun, the dictionary doesn’t have a proper definition for it.
The dictionary is your friend, United. Use it.
Video credit: Tyler Bridges via Storyful.