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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Massachusetts Teen Asks Apple to Change Meaning of "Gay"

Posted By on Thu, Nov 7, 2013 at 7:00 AM

click to enlarge Becca Gorman (right) with one of her two moms.
  • Becca Gorman (right) with one of her two moms.

Most English dictionaries bear five definitions of the word "gay," the last of which is deemed disparaging and offensive: "awkward, stupid, bad, lame." As in: "This game is really gay."

According to one Massachusetts teen, that definition is really gay -- except that "gay" isn't part of her argot. Not as a term of derision, at least. Fifteen year-old Becca Gorman can't scrub the definition out of existence, but she hopes to persuade one Silicon Valley tech giant to refrain from using it.

In the dictionary application on its MacBook Pro computer, Apple features three meanings of gay, the third of which is "informal." Deployed as slang, "gay" applies to anything "foolish" or "stupid," according to Apple. Example: "Making students wait for the light is kind of a gay rule."

Anyone familiar with Apple's marketing credos -- particularly the "Think Different" ad campaign of the 1980s, which linked the company to pop culture idols like John Lennon and Mahatma Gandhi -- might be surprised by this rather cavalier insult. Gorman says she was horrified. In a letter addressed to the company's openly gay CEO Tim Cook, she points out that Apple doesn't include a similarly jeering slang definition for the term "retarded," and that other derogatory MacBook definitions came with a trigger warning -- "all of them had 'derogatory in the definition, as expected," she writes.


But Apple seemed content to shoehorn the lame meaning of gay into mainstream parlance, a decision that Gorman, whose two mothers are lesbians, found dispiriting. She appends a screenshot of the definition in her letter to Cook, and cajoles him to remove the third line.

"I assume you are a pro-gay company," Gorman writes, "and would never intend for any of your products to be as offensive as this definition was." She then points out that gay people probably account for a large swath of Apple's marketing demographic, so it might not be a good idea to alienate them.

Apple responded to Gorman within an hour, explaining that it feeds its dictionary from four sources, one of which sullied the gay entry. Marketing executive Brian Miller promised the company would try to cut the offending definition post-haste.

Apple brass have yet to return SF Weekly's requests for comment.

In the meantime, here's a "Think Different" ad from 1997:

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About The Author

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan was a staff writer at SF Weekly from 2013 to 2015. In previous lives she was a music editor, IP hack, and tutor of Cal athletes.


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