It was meant to be an idyllic game of virtual children’s Scrabble. Unfortunately, Irishman Zachary McAdam’s and his 7-year old daughter’s lives may have been ruined when an anagram read “lesbo”.
That’s right – the makers of Scrabble included a slang word for lesbian in their collection of premeditated words. Sound the alarm! McAdam explains his reaction after lesbo took over his screen:
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.
French software company Ubisoft, which distributed the game, released a statement apologizing for the offense, but also pointed out that an official Scrabble dictionary includes “lesbo”:
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.
Irish gay activist PA MagLochlainn joined McAdam in criticizing Ubisoft, saying, “The correct term is lesbian.” And that’s more points than “lesbo”.