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US: Student asks Apple to change dictionary defining gay as ‘foolish and stupid’

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  1. While I support her passion, we should not be requesting the redefining of reality to support individual feelings. It is a fact, however disappointing, that the word gay was adopted by a younger generation as a pejorative term.

    Dictionaries are not a promotion of ideas or opinions. A dictionary is supposed to provide accurate information regarding the definition of English words, and their uses.

    Asking Apple to review this is like asking for the N word to be erased because of its use as a pejorative too, would we accept that? Where should Apple then draw the line? Should they then open up their dictionary to all asking which words in the English language should be removed or their definitions and uses censored?

    That would be the end of the dictionary, it would then become worthless.

    Like I said, I support her passion, but I think she needs to really think about what a dictionary is, and then place her energies somewhere more worthwhile.

    1. the problem with your rationalization is that no matter the context, the “N” word is ALWAYS a pejorative and has been since its inception.

      This is NOT true of the word “gay”. it is a word that has been co-opted to make it pejorative by homophobes.

      1. Dictionaries often have multiple definitions, not all of which are “nice”. Faggot, for example: meatball, kindling and gay (derog.)

      2. “… the word “gay” has been co-opted to make it pejorative by homophobes (to mean “foolish & stupid).”

        Something along those lines would make a great explanatory footnote to the dictionary entry.
        Though I thought it had been co-opted by homophobes to mean rubbish and useless, in that sense homophobia is so very gay.

        1. But then, if we require a footnote for this, where do we stop? Every word in the dictionary would then need a footnote, or two, or twenty, to trace back the various meanings of potentially thousands of derogatory terms.

          Once more, this seems to be a knee-jerk response to something that is actually inconsequential. Any attempt to “rectify” this would be an abuse of the entire notion of a dictionary.

      3. the “N” word is ALWAYS a pejorative and has been since its inception.

        Not sure I agree with you there – it was originally a straightforward corruption of the Spanish/Portuguese Negro and, offensive though it seems to us, was not always intended so well into the 20c – see Conrad’s The Nigger of the “Narcissus” for example, or Nigger the dog mascot of the squadron involved in the “Dam Busters” raid.

        (Apologies for going off at a tangent.)

      4. Actually, I believe that you are incorrect. The N word initially meant “ignorant” and was adopted for use as a pejorative to describe African Americans at the beginning of slavery.

        I could be wrong, but I’m quite certain its use was to mean ignorant previously.

        Regardless of that, a dictionary is an evolving document, tracking the use of English words far beyond their original meaning. Language is always evolving, much of ours is derived from other languages. So, the meanings and uses of words are forever changing.

        Spam used to mean a certain kind of low quality meat, it then became a word for a slap to the forehead, then it became used for junk email. Should we only mention the original use of this word in any dictionary?

    2. Mumbo Jumbo 12 Nov 2013, 1:33pm

      Would you say that “Jewish” could be fairly be defined as “mean”, or am I just being Irish?

  2. You can’t censor what is, sadly, a real use of of the word. What Apple could do is make it clear that it’s an offensive definition.

  3. As others have said, dictionaries are there principally to provide a record of usage. But they can easily put offensive or controversial in brackets alongside the entry.

  4. It’s easy to google the source:
    And there it is: “informal, often offensive”. So what’s the big deal?

  5. Edgar Carpenter 12 Nov 2013, 7:32pm

    Censoring dictionaries? I thought that was something only fundamentalist religious people or knee jerk conservatives did. I want no part of it.

    1. ya right. if anything, it would be the left, ultra-libs that would start censorship

      1. Spanner1960 13 Nov 2013, 7:24pm

        Actually, quite the opposite. American right-wing evangelical types demanded Merriam-Webster removed the mention of ‘oral sex’ from their dictionary because it may corrupt minors.

  6. Frank Boulton 13 Nov 2013, 10:17am

    This is the old debate about “prescriptive linguistics” versus “descriptive linguistics”. The old “prescriptive” school thought that dictionaries and grammar books were there to tell us how we should speak. Today most people side with the “descriptive” school and believe that dictionaries should describe how people really speak and write. Rewriting the dictionary will not change how people speak, nor make offensive comment wholesome. Removing an offensive usage of a word from the dictionary will not bring homophobia to an end. However, one would hope that this and any other dictionary clearly labelled this usage as pejorative.

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