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US: Apple currently removing offensive definition of ‘gay’ from dictionary service

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  1. But, it does mean that? Right or wrong, that is what the word is sometimes used to mean? Surely a dictionary’s job is to report the truth and history behind a word, not edit it?

    1. Totally agree. Dictionaries should be an observational record of the use of the word. We do not help anyone (non-English speakers or historians in 500 years time) by removing a genuine meaning of the word as it is used in everyday speech.

      I would however expect to read the entry marked with [offensive].

  2. I am a gay man, but this is ludicrous; I have a massive problem with the idea that a dictionary definition can be removed on the grounds that it is ‘offensive’. Compilers of dictionaries are not censors, and their job is to reflect general usage of words. Whether or not we find the usage of ‘gay’ in this manner to be offensive is frankly beside the point; people do, very frequently, use it in this manner, and it is a dictionary’s job to reflect that – not to prescribe how people should be using it. Apple’s definition is therefore entirely uncontroversial; indeed their decision to withdraw it is more worrying, in my view. If anyone is to prescribe how people use language, it is governments – and even they should be doing so very sparingly indeed. Meanwhile it is the role of schools, campaign groups and media outlets like Pink News to discourage the use of ‘gay’ in a pejorative sense, and I entirely support them in that aim. But excising definitions from the dictionary is not the way to change attitudes on this.

    This contradiction is implicit in Ms Gorman’s complaint: “Even with your addition of the word informal, this definition normalises the terrible derogatory twist that many people put on the word ‘gay.’”

    Yes, it’s normalised, but that’s because ‘many people’ use it in that manner – not because a dictionary says so.

  3. As a writer this makes me angry.
    A dictionary is not a popularity contest. Words should not be removed, censored or falsely presented to prevent someone from being offended.

    A dictionary is supposed to represent FACT, not the “wishes” of any group.

    And people wonder why we get a bad name as “loony liberal lefties”? This will now come back to bite us on the behind constantly, lauded over us as an example of political correctness gone bonkers.

    I almost feel inclined to start a petition demanding that Apple restore this definition to present FACT, reality, the genuine use of English language.

    Oh, and PN, I think you’ll find that this wannabe crusader with her priorities all wrong is NOT 5 years old as you suggest at the start of this piece.

  4. de Villiers 15 Nov 2013, 5:53pm

    I have checked on the online version of the American Oxford Dictionary.

    The definition for ‘gay’ stated:

    4. informal, often offensive foolish, stupid, or unimpressive: he thinks the obsession with celebrity is totally gay.

    The dictionary states that it is “often offensive”. It does not condone its use.

    I have looked on the internet at the American Oxford dictionary and found this:

    Jew
    Syllabification: (Jew)
    Pronunciation: /jo͞o/

    noun
    a member of the people and cultural community whose traditional religion is Judaism and who trace their origins through the ancient Hebrew people of Israel to Abraham.

    verb
    [with object] (jew someone down) offensive
    bargain with someone in a miserly or petty way.

    I wonder if this should also be deleted?

  5. E. Carpenter 15 Nov 2013, 7:40pm

    Seriously? Some of us are trying to censor dictionaries? We should make sure their entries are accurate, but deleting definitions is so MacCarthyite, so like the fundamentalist Christians. I want nothing to do with censoring or book burning.

  6. I have to suggest to those that defend the word’s improper use as a slur (even if they are in fact gay, they’re missing the point). Slang is not formal use of the word. Gay has a literal meaning to literate individuals, and it’s literal meaning is nothing to do with a derogatory meaning. Gay has other informal uses which have become more formalized by use to describe a sexual orientation or anyone who identifies as generqueer in any way. That meaning cannot be trumped by ignorant use.
    To explain what I mean, I’ll use other out of context but oft used slang words to exemplify what is wrong with accepting every commonly used but improper use of a word. I axed you a question, but you pro’lly can’t answer ’cause you can’t repudiate anything I just said.
    Some of those words are simply irrelevant additions to the lexicon, and some are nonsense words, or words used in incorrect but understandable ways.

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