Times it makes sense to cite the dictionary as a source:
- You are in elementary school and need an opening sentence for your three paragraph essay on aardvarks.
- You are writing a commencement speech the night before it has to be handed in for approval and the bookstore is closed so you can’t get a copy of Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
- You are a motivational speaker and your speech about how you used to have nothing and then you got rich by being a motivational speaker needs to be padded out by things that aren’t anecdotes about how you started your first business painting lines in parking lots and “if you don’t like how I do it, you don’t have to pay me”.
- You are in junior high and have a teacher who just doesn’t care or high school and you have a teacher who really doesn’t care.
- You are playing Scrabble, Boggle, or a similar game, though you can pretty much dispense with actually checking the dictionary because it will probably turn out that any combination of letters you can think of is either a medieval garment or a type of fish or something.
Those are the contexts in which phrases like “Webster’s dictionary defines _____ as” belong in your pitch. Those are the places you won’t look entirely like a clueless shemp who is bombing into the conversation with the only reference they could think of because they can’t bear the thought of not having anything to contribute on the all-important topic of whatever the grown-ups are talking about in a way that makes you feel excluded.
If people are talking about racism, if people are talking about sexism, if people are talking about honest-to-goodness actual life altering/life changing/life ending issues that impact their lives, that they might have been talking about for the entirety of their lives, that they’ve certainly been thinking about for most of their lives… chances are that they’re not actually ignorant of what the dictionary says about it.
Chances are that they’ve moved past the dictionary, and you should make sure you can keep up before you think about chiming in.