If you see something you disagree with in a product millions of people use, you should say something — even if you think the CEO of a huge company like Apple won’t pay attention. A high school girl decided she wasn’t too pleased with one of the Apple dictionary app’s definitions of the word “gay” and fired off a letter to CEO Tim Cook about it. Much to her surprise, the company replied within an hour.
The 15-year-old said she stumbled upon the offensive definition while working on a research project for work. In a screenshot on her MacBook Pro she captured a third informal definition for the word as “informal foolish; stupid: making students wait for the light is kind of a gay rule.”
That wasn’t okay with the girl, so she decided to write to Cook, reports the MetroWest Daily News.
“At first, I was kind of in disbelief,” the high school sophomore said, saying there were no other dictionaries she could find that used that definition, except those noting that it was offensive. She says she was hurt that such a big company would legitimize it by using it in its application.
“I felt like they had to take care of it,” she said.
So she wrote to Cook:
“I assume that you are a pro-gay company, and would never intend for any one of your products to be as offensive as this definition was. Even with your addition of the word informal, this definition normalizes the terrible derogatory twist that many people put on the word ‘gay.'”
An hour later, Apple was ringing her home phone, admitting that the company itself was shocked and would look into it.
“They told me it’s so hard to track the dictionaries they’re getting sources from, and that they were also shocked themselves,” the teen said.
As of this afternoon, the definition is still including in the Apple app, but now it has “often offensive” after “informal” as seen in the below screengrab. It might seem like a small distinction, but it’s an important one as that is one way people use the word, unfortunately.
We’ve also reached out to Apple to see if that’s where the story ends, and will let you know when we hear back.
Sudbury student asks Apple to change dictionary [MetroWest Daily News]