Apple Calls Teen An Hour After She Wrote CEO Tim Cook About Dictionary’s “Gay” Entry

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]

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  1. Raekwon says:

    Crude or not, isn’t this still a valid definition of the word?

    • SingleMaltGeek says:

      Actually, the girl who was doing the research project claimed “that she couldn’t find any other dictionary’s definition that framed ‘gay’ within the same context”, according to the Huffington Post. And I believe it, because it’s just a slang derogatory, and not a universally used or specific one at that.

      • Raekwon says:

        She must not have looked really hard. 2nd dictionary on a Google search ( has a similar definition. The Oxford Dictionary (the one Apple probably uses) has the exact same definition. I’m also guessing any slang dictionary (most basic dictionaries do not cover slang) has the definition. I’m not agreeing with its use in this manner but it is a legitimate definition for the word.

        • SingleMaltGeek says:

          Yeah, I didn’t have time to try to verify her claim, but I remembered her making it when I saw your comment, so I found the HuffPo article in my history and threw it in there for context. I wish dictionaries would stop adding malapropisms and other mangling of the language, but you’re right, it does exist in reputable dictionaries.

    • CommonC3nts says:

      Yes, that is probably the most used definition of the word in 2013.

  2. Naskarrkid says:

    I know more people who say something is gay than describing someone who is actually gay or happy.

  3. CommonC3nts says:

    “foolish, stupid, or unimpressive” is an acceptable definition of the word “gay”.
    That is how most people use the word in 2013.
    I think that kid needs to grow up before commenting on universal slang.

  4. MarkyMark says:

    I don’t even understand the example sentence that illustrates how the word is used in a sentence. The rule is foolish is the part I get but I want to know what game the students are playing that requires waiting for the light.