1. Joey Y says

    Should dictionaries now not include the pejorative and slang/informal use of the word when it includes it for every other pejorative word? Sorry, but I’m not into book burning, no matter what someone wants to complain about. Facts are facts. Currently, it’s used in a certain way in certain contexts, and pretending that it isn’t or lying about that is a disservice to academia.

  2. says

    Cue everyone’s panties getting in a bunch over this, but the dictionary isnt making a judgment on the word, it is just accurately defining it. Right or wrong, “gay” is used in that informal context sometimes. Sorry word police and girl with sensitive lesbo parents.

  3. Clayton says

    Dictionaries are not prescriptive; they are descriptive. That is to say, they do not determine usages and meanings, they merely report what those usages and meanings are. Some people use “gay” to mean foolish and stupid, whether we like it or not. Therefore, that usage should be recorded. And I saying this as both a gay man and as an English teacher with roughly 30 years experience.

  4. Ken says

    Language is a living thing that changes over time – presently, “gay” does mean all the things listed by Apple. We have no more ownership of the word “gay” than did the people who originally used it to mean “happy.” In another 25 years, the word could have a new meaning or fall out of use altogether.

  5. cm says

    Apple wrote the dictionary app, but the dictionary itself is licensed from the Oxford University Press. I don’t think Apple has any control over the content – any changes to that probably have to come from the publisher.

  6. CC says

    So let me get this straight (as it were): you have 30 years of experience as an English teacher and have never used a dictionary prescriptively in your teaching by telling a student to look up a word they’ve used incorrectly or didn’t understand? I call shenanigans either on your assertion or on your pedagogy. Dictionaries ABSOLUTELY have a prescriptive component, when people are learning meanings of words from them. The lexicographer who created that entry (if indeed it was even someone with any training; the article suggests that sourcing was questionable) should be ashamed for having included that definition and designating it only as “informal.”

  7. Poe says

    But only teens and young people use gay in that context, well some of them do. If only a certain demographic uses gay like that, should it still be in a dictionary? It’s not like it’s universal.

    Also, why is it especially a man? Is that not prescriptive ???

    I think it should be taken out of the dictionary.

  8. Chitown Kev says

    But enough teens use it in that context to the extent that its’ usage is regular and , therefore, it should be in the dictionary.

    The dictionary should state, however, that using it in that way is a pejorative.

  9. anon says

    I have no problem with that usage being in the dictionary. Btu, it should be listed as “pejorative” and ALWAYS offensive as opposed to only “often” offensive.

  10. Lars says

    The dictionary SHOULD include that definition because it is, sadly, in common usage. Dictionaries are not arbiters of right and wrong and their definitions should not be seen as prescriptive. Rather, they (attempt to) stand at an objective distance and simply describe the English language as it exists now and has existed in the past.

    BUT: It should identify this particular definition as ‘offensive/pejorative’ rather than merely ‘informal.’ This is a no-brainer, people.

  11. Poe says

    Well, dictionaries identify the word breeder as an offensive slang word for heterosexual.

    If anything, they should at least call it offensive. Being foolish is NOT being gay ffs.

  12. endorisha says

    People, “gay” to mean homosexual or bisexual is slang. It’s popular and accepted slang, but it’s slang. Slang, by definition often has more than one meaning. I am curious though, to know what the dictionary says that “slant” or “nigqer” means.

  13. Lars says

    @CC: false. Clayton has it absolutely correct insofar as dictionaries are descriptive rather than prescriptive. Part of being a good English teacher is helping students understand this distinction. The only thing I would add to Clayton’s comment that, as mentioned above, this particular use of the word is blatantly offensive and the dictionary should say as much. But to scrub the third definition entirely, would be to ignore reality.

    By your reasoning, CC, kids should be free to throw around the n-word because, hey, it’s in the dictionary after all!

  14. David says

    The Dictionary app in Apple’s Mac OS is made up of several different resources: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Apple and Wikipedia. If you click on Apple and look up “gay” you get “No entries found.”

    However, If you click on Dictionary (which is the New Oxford American Dictionary) or All, you will find the definition that some people are objecting to and in Mac OS X 10.9 (the latest version of the Mac OS) the 3rd definition is:

    “3 informal, often offensive foolish, stupid, or unimpressive: making students wait for the light is kind of a gay rule.”

    I think any criticism should be directed at the source of the definition “New Oxford American Dictionary”, but then again, I have to wonder what a dictionary is supposed to do… I believe it is supposed to provide the definition of a word, whether we find it objectionable or not… People use the word “gay” in that manner, so the Dictionary is just reflecting life.

  15. Joey Y says

    One more thing, sorry, but it’s NOT just “teens” who use the word that way. It’s been thrown around for decades in that context, so some of the people using it that way are in their forties now. That’s a fact. Again, lying about it doesn’t accomplish anything, and since they are referring to a situation rather than a person, can it properly be labeled as “pejorative?” Usually for something to be pejorative you have to lack respect for something, but you can’t exactly “respect,” say, a slow stoplight.

  16. Unicorn says

    @Clayton I understand that the dictionary is just doing its job, but this girl still has every reason to be concerned about the definition’s inclusion because of the potential consequences. People cite the dictionary to justify all sorts of definitions, as if it was completely infallible and the absolute authority on the English language. For instance: MRA’s claiming sexism against men exists because the dictionary said so, which completely ignores and contradicts the definition in social justice circles (ism = prejudice + power). When there is a conflict in definitions like this, people tend to side with the dictionary because it’s “academic”. Now imagine what would happen the next time someone used gay as a pejorative and you called them out on it. They could cite the dictionary to justify and perpetuate the usage of the word. Also notice how the definition says “usually offensive”, implying that the burden falls on people to be offended vs. just using gay in that context is “offensive”. Full stop. I’m dreading the consequences because when people use the dictionary like this it’s honestly no different from people citing Bible verses to condemn gays.

  17. Ken says

    Unfortunately, “stupid” has become one meaning of the word gay. Dictionaries reflect reality. I don’t know what the solution is, but it isn’t to censor dictionaries.

  18. danswon says

    I find this unacceptable. I also find the new definition of “literally” which means the exact opposite unacceptable. And yes, I accept language does change over time, but that doesn’t mean you should just give in to the idiots. THE IDIOTS ARE WINNING.

  19. JackFknTwist says

    No,it’s not in common usage; just in usage by homophobes, bigots and linguistically challenged dunces. Thankfully that’s not ‘common usage’.
    To assert it’s in general usage is absurd; I have NEVER heard it in general usage as a pejorative term.

    Sure list the word, but only as aggressive, insulting, demeaning, adolescent and mean.

  20. GregV says

    Saying that “gay” is an “informal” way to say “foolish or stupid” is akin to saying that “Jewish” is “informal” for “cheapskate” or that “liberal” is an informal synonym for “nincompoop” or that “woman” is a synonym for “over-reactive idiot.”

    Yes, there are insensitive people with poor vocabulary skills who misuse words to belittle others’ identities in that way, but it should not appear in a dictionary as “informal.”

  21. Fenrox says

    Hijack! If you hate these terrible comments that undermine all efforts on this site, it’s time to complain to Andy directly! If you want to help FIX THIS, please email/tweet/FB Andy and ask him to upgrade these comments. At the very least lets get a post that starts a discussion on it!

  22. Zlick says

    Yep, I’m in my FIFTIES and still use it. I’ve cut down on it in sensitivity to people who are offended, but I still find it more particularly descriptive of things I find “foolish” than any other English word. It’s a bell that can’t be unrung with me, and it would be like telling an Eskimo he has to stop using one of his 20 words for snow. WE may think snow is snow, but Eskimos apparently have many ways of describing it more particularly.

  23. Poe says


    Nothing worse than an old imbecile…Saying things are gay when they you should say foolish only makes you look like a moron. Eskimo? Oh you mean Inuit-Yupik you effin dickbomb.

  24. Francis #1 says

    Look, at the end of the day, the word gay is used as an insult, it’s very common, and the dictionary at the end of the day should include the word gay used in this way because it’s factual. Nothing more, nothing less. Yes, it should be noted that gay used in this way is a pejorative. But it shouldn’t be erased. There is no real reason to do so.

  25. Fox says

    Is the #3 definition supposed to reflect the use of the word in the phrase, “That’s so gay!” ?? If so, I’ve never understood it to mean “foolish” or “stupid.” More like “flamboyant” to the point of “flaming.” Is “flaming” in this dictionary?

  26. Francis #1 says

    It is pretty common usage. I mean, let’s get real and not act like the world is a gay bubble. A lot of straight people, in particular, straight men, use gay slurs and gay as an insult on a regular basis. 90% of LGBTQ teens in school hear these terms. Almost 60% of LGBTQ workers hear these terms at work. Over 70% of college students do. Straight people use gay as an insult, many think it *is* an insult. That’s the reality of the world we live in. Most people have the sense to bite their tongues and use less divisive language when in less private settings but when the cover is off, gay is used in this way on a regular basis. What utility does not acknowledging that do?

  27. Paul Brownsey says

    CC is confused about what is prescriptive about the definitions given in a dictionary.

    Plainly, it *is* prescribing in respect of giving the correct spelling and definition of the word.

    But it is not prescribing that it is a good thing for people to go around speaking abusively about homosexuals.

    By CC’s argument, newspapers should never mention gay-bashings so as to create a nice picture of everything in the garden being rosy.

  28. gregorybrown says

    The word is there because it’s in use, though that particular definition is a bit odd. The OED customarily cites a printed source for it’s definitions. The entry ought to include a note that the usage is generally offensive.

    I admire the young woman’s willingness to challenge the inclusion but she shows he kind of well-intentioned ignorance that moved people a few years ago to try to eliminate “kill” in place names such as Fish Kill–which simply means Fish Stream.

  29. RexT says

    Reading through the comments and having checked, sitting here on my Mac, the improved ‘offensive’ being added does more appropriately reflect reality. Checking the ‘N’ word (as many have wondered) as a comparable word, quite a difference. The two words are very different, gay is commonly used (without offense) and has several meanings. The ‘N’word, includes some interesting ‘usage history’ also comparing use of the term ‘queer’ within the LGBT community etc. But otherwise,

    Noun Offensive
    a contemptuous term for a black or dark-skinned person.

    (The screen shot above does not include the ‘usage’ details for ‘gay’)

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