Apple dictionary definition of ‘gay’ includes ‘stupid,’ student alerts CEO Tim Cook

“Sometimes the dictionary definition of a word just doesn’t cut it,” Jon M. Chang reports for ABC News. “Ask Becca Gorman, a student at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School in Massachusetts, who was writing an essay about gay rights when she saw something that she found offensive on her MacBook. When looking up the definition of the word ‘gay’ on her laptop, she saw that Apple’s dictionary also included its informal definition, meaning foolish or stupid.”

“Gorman, whose parents are lesbians, wrote an email to Apple CEO Tim Cook, saying that she objected to the inclusion of gay’s informal definition. ‘I’m sure he did too, being [part of] a gay-friendly company,'” Chang reports. “She got a call from an Apple representative about an hour after she sent her email. ‘They told me it’s so hard to track the dictionaries they’re getting sources from,’ said Gorman. The representative was also shocked at the offensive definition, and that the company would look into the problem.”

Apple's current system-wide Dictionary definition of the word "gay"
Apple’s current system-wide Dictionary definition of the word “gay”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Dictionaries are collections of words. They are tools meant to accurately reflect the language they catalog. Some words are offensive. Some contain offensive definitions because they are, in fact, offensive. In Apple’s Dictionary (New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd Edition and Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus, 2nd Edition) the usage is already clearly labeled “offensive.”

Use Apple’s dictionary to look up the definitions for other hot-button offensive words. They’re all there, too.

We’re fairly sure that Jewish people aren’t thrilled with the dictionary definition of the verb “jew,” but it’s there:

Apple's current system-wide Dictionary definition of the word "jew"
Apple’s current system-wide Dictionary definition of the word “jew”

Do you want your dictionary to be accurate or do you want it to first be sanitized by The Ministry of Truth?

It’s a slippery slope. On the other side of the equation, iOS contains emoji glyphs that feature what some consider to be homosexual couples that might be offensive some. Do those who are offended get to remove those images, too?

Apple's iOS 7 emoji
Apple’s iOS 7 emoji

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Chris V.” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
Apple lauds U.S. Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage – June 26, 2013
Apple among 60 companies to back gay marriage in U.S. Supreme Court amicus brief – February 27, 2013
iOS 6 includes emojis featuring gay and lesbian couples – June 14, 2012
Apple pulls ‘ex-gay’ app from iTunes App Store – March 23, 2011
Gawker’s Valleywag outs Tim Cook as ‘most powerful gay man in Silicon Valley’ – January 21, 2011
Apple Computer gets perfect score for gay-friendliness – September 20, 2006


    1. Two of my best friends are a gay couple, and I have heard them often say something weak or uncalled-for is “gay”, with lighthearted humor and are not offended when people use it in that sense.

      Boys and girls call a fellow boy/girl “girly” or “such a girl” for not being “manly” enough in a given situation. Women often say a guy, or a girl, is such a “man”, meaning brutish, also in a lighthearted way.

      I suspect these informal meanings will never go a way, but are not offensive when used informally and playfully, while of course being very offensive when used in a bullying way or if they were used in formal communication.

    2. When I use the term in writing to comment that something is stupid or lame I always spell it as “ghey” so I don’t offend anyone feelings. I never use the word in talking because I find the word completely distasteful for so many reasons. I’m going to petition that it’s removed from all uses in speech. The word “queer” also needs to go away. I’ll write it as “kweer” meaning strange so as not to offend anyone.

  1. Except that is a way that the word is informally used, whether people find it offensive or not. Isn’t that the job of a dictionary to include all usages of a word, including those that some find to be offensive? Especially when it’s listed as “informal” as is the case here?

    1. As a gay man I haft to agree with you. The dictionary is used to find out information. Most words have several meanings, to not list them is wrong. Gay is also used as a first and last name. I’m sure they don’t like the use of that word as stupid, or even homosexual. This person is in school. I hope she learns that the dictionary can be used for history. To erase history is a dangerous.

      1. Or to erase the future.

        Imagine 40 years ago, if a confused kid couldn’t find the definition of ‘homosexual’ because its very definition offended other people.

        1. Yes and thats the critical point isn’t it, many people here in the UK are angry that the word has been appropriated by the gay community the way they have (not an argument I support but one has to acknowledge it). Now that usage has become the norm precisely through the same informal usage process that has now turned it again to mean foolish, disgusting etc how can that group suddenly object to dictionaries reflecting that fact. Its the way language has always worked and it cannot be stopped, though the Victorians tried and caused more harm than good.
          Fact is, as offensive as it may be, you can’t object to what you yourself did for your own purposes. What law could be framed to filter out that sort of prejudice and who decides what is and is not acceptable. Dictionaries have to reflect the fact of the change of usage for our own good educationally and politically, but it does not mean they condone it. Or do we go down the road of enforced editing to suit any said undemocratic pressure group who are simply better organisers of opinion and power than others to fit in with their own prejudices? The Nazis showed how that could work and gay people would likely be the first to suffer.

          Far better that parents and schools explain it and discourage its use through intelligent discussion because many of our kids use the term in that way without realising it is inherently rooted in the anti gay attitudes of those who originated that usage, who were only to keen to associate being gay as bad, degenerate and disgusting.

  2. Languages change all the time. It means happy, homosexual, dumb, or one day something else. We shouldn’t PC words and have one group claim them so the word can never change again.

    1. I’m glad this has come up again!

      I’m a “happy” person and back in the ’70’s I wrote letters to Oxford, Webster’s, et al. complaining that my favorite word now also meant “homosexual”. Still no response…

    1. It resides primarily in teen populations. (Anyone who is a teacher will hear it–or “overhear” it–frequently, though not necessarily constantly). It’s grip even in adolescent dialect is far from assured any permanence (“lame” may have already crowded it out of most vocabularies).

      One can suppress expressions (and the ideas and attitudes that accompany or underlie them) from books, but never entirely from actual language use, or more deeply, individual thought. The notion to do so is itself a poison one.

      Consider this description of Orwell’s 1984 in light of the pervasive spread in our day of political correctness as a social value:

      “The book is a warning of the possibilities of the police state brought to perfection, where power is the only thing that counts, where the past is constantly being modified to fit the present, where the official language, ‘Newspeak’, progressively narrows the range of ideas and independent thought, and where Doublethink becomes a necessary habit of mind. It is a society dominated by slogans….”

      All Orwell got wrong was the date.

  3. Although controversial for its inclusion, the informal definition is accurate for how many people still use the word. For someone reading something that included this informal use, that definition would provide the clarity necessary to properly understand the author. As for the appropriateness of its inclusion, that’s another matter.

  4. Just because you don’t like the meaning of a word does not mean it should not be removed from the dictionary. I hate the word irregardless. But guess what, it’s not going anywhere. When does being PC go too far?

    Everyone is a special snowflake! Now get back to work.

    1. I abhor that meaning of the word, don’t use it, and criticize anyone I hear actually using it that way. But people keep using it anyway, so it belongs in the dictionary. That’s the job of dictionary – not to mandate how words should be used, but document how they actually are used. You can’t remove a definition from the dictionary until it actually falls out of popular use (and even then it usually stays in, but at least it gets marked as “dated”).

      I think South Park had a big role in popularizing this definition of gay – one of the few things I dislike about the show.

      My latest word peeve is “literally” – which is now also means the exact opposite of literally – as in, “Poor word choices literally makes my head explode.” This very annoying informal definition is already in Apple’s and Google’s dictionaries and probably most dictionaries printed this year. It’s so hard to fight stupid – have to the appreciate the small victories to not lose heart.

      1. I agree I think it was announced last month that the Oxford are going to accept that change in usage. I must admit that will make the word pretty much useless other than to fill a space in a sentence it will have no ‘literal’ meaning at all any more.

      2. “Literally” when used in non-literal contexts isn’t reversing the meaning, but using it as an exaggeration of its original meaning.

        For instance, “I am seriously going to kill myself if I don’t pass that test.” Obviously this is not a serious statement – but “seriously” is being used to exaggerate the semi-serious situation of needing to pass a test.

        So “Poor word choices literally make your head explode” does not use literally to mean non-literally, it uses literally to exaggerate the fact that you really do feel some psychological pain when you misinterpret an informal use of “literal” to mean “non-literal” when it really is exaggerating “literal psychological pain” to “head explode”.


        1. I like the Urban Dictionary’s take on it… 😆
          1. irregardless
          Used by people who ignorantly mean to say regardless.
          2. irregardless
          A word used by uneducated people intending to sound intelligent. Often, the defendant will use this word in court in an attempt to impress the judge and jury. Educated people notice and those who use this word instantly identify themselves to educated people as being uneducated. Educated people rarely correct them because it helps educated people more easily identify them if they are well groomed.

  5. Just asked Google to define “gay”. The 4th meaning is:

    informal offensive

    foolish, stupid, or unimpressive.

    “he thinks the obsession with celebrity is totally gay”

    Where is the manufactured outrage? Oh, right, it’s not Apple.

  6. That is a completely reasonable definition of the modern usage of the word, “gay.” As MDN points out, a dictionary is there to provide definitions of how words are used. In this instance, the dictionary has labeled the usage as offensive, and has defined the term as it is used by many many people of my children’s generation (and as made quite popular by South Park among other shows). That definition should absolutely stay in the dictionary, or it will be a disservice to people researching the usage of the word.

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