Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Slang word shock on Scrabble video game

Ulster dad's outrage over 'homophobic' term

An Ulster father yesterday called for a video Scrabble game to be recalled after discovering the slang word "lesbo" in its anagram section.

Zachary McAdam, from Co Down, was shocked to find the term, which he considers homophobic, included in the Nintendo DS console Junior Scrabble 2007 game.

Mr McAdam, an IT project manager from Holywood, was playing the game with his seven-year-old daughter Ellen, but was forced to stop when the word appeared.

He said: "We were stuck trying to find the last five-letter anagram so I hit the give-up option and the term 'lesbo' appeared on the screen. I nearly fell off my chair.

"The term 'lesbo' is a slang name intentionally meant to cause offence. I looked it up on the website dictionary.com just to make sure I wasn't over- reacting and it described the word as a noun, slang, disparaging and offensive."

Scrabble 2007 is manufactured by French software giant Ubisoft and uses words listed in the Chambers Official Scrabble Dictionary. A Chambers definition for 'lesbo' reads: "Derogatory slang short form of lesbian. Although lesbo did not become current until 1940s: previously used by heterosexuals as derisive insults to gay women, though it seems that gay women are now using the words to describe themselves in positive terms."

In a statement, Ubisoft apologised for any offence caused to Mr McAdam.

It read: "We are sorry if Scrabble 2007 for the DS has caused concern to any of our customers. Ubisoft develops games for entertainment, with the goal of bringing enjoyment to the players, and it is of course never our intention to upset them.

"In the case of Scrabble 2007, the game uses a word list based on the Chambers Official Scrabble Dictionary and all approved words contained in this dictionary are playable in the game. There are over 277,000 approved words in the dictionary.

"The dictionary includes words used in the English language, but that may be considered unusual or offensive. It is for this reason that the game includes a 'junior' option which will prevent the player and computer using these 'unusual' or 'offensive' words in playing. However, 'lesbo' is not considered as offensive by the official dictionary and therefore is playable in both options."

Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association spokesman PA MagLochlainn said: " I would never use the word. The correct term is lesbian. I am not in the least bit surprised it is included because the young men who design these games are not taught by schools that these words can be used as a form of homophobic bullying."

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