MINELRES: Dictionary.com removes offensive 'gypsy' definition

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Wed Sep 29 18:45:07 2004

Original sender: Advocacy Project <dcoffice@advocacynet.org>

News Bulletin - Number 29, September 23, 2004



Washington, DC: An offensive and racist definition of "gypsy" has been
removed from one of the most popular online dictionaries after an
international campaign by Roma rights groups and the Advocacy Project's
"Friends of Roma" initiative.

The definition described gypsies as "a vagabond race... living by theft,
fortune telling, horsejockeying, tinkering, etc." It was removed by
Dictionary.com after an online petition posted by AP elicited angry
responses from human rights advocates around the world.

Many signatories saw the issue as larger than a definition. "Any such
comments regarding any other ethnic group would result in lawsuits and
human rights groups out for blood," wrote one Roma online petitioner.
"But the stereotypes and slurs regarding our people remain intact."
Another petitioner wrote: "British newspapers are currently being sued
for using this kind of language about 'Gypsies.' Today, it's just plain

The campaign attracted the attention of several prominent international
Roma rights groups and the media.  The Czech edition of the BBC ran an
article about it on their web site. A prominent Roma web site,
www.Romea.cz, also featured the campaign.

The 207 signatories to the petition included the Roma Information
Project (RIP) (an AP partner), members of
The National Association of Gypsy Women (UK), the American Romani
Alliance, and the international All Gypsies Group, as well as the
Honorable Ian F. Hancock, of the University of Texas' Romani Archives
and Documentation Center.

Dictionary.com did not respond to initial requests from the Advocacy
Project and other signatories to remove
the definition, but after AP presented the petition and publicity, a
representative of Lexico Group, Dictionary.com's owner, eventually

The representative said that Dictionary.com had removed the offensive
entry and thanked AP for pointing out the oversight. She said that
Dictionary.com did not intend to offend any minority but had
automatically uploaded computerized dictionary databases, some of which
are evidently outdated. The offensive definition of "gypsy" dated from
an electronic database, created in 1998, of Webster's Dictionary's 1913

The petition drive was the first campaign initiated by AP's "Friends of
Roma" outreach group, a listserv for individuals and organizations
concerned about Roma issues, which is managed by Evelina Gueorguieva,
AP's outreach coordinator.

"This accomplishment was an example of ALL of us working together. Rom
of many different nations and clans, with our non-Rom friends, all
standing together to be counted," commented an organizer of the All
Gypsies Group.

* To subscribe to the Friends of Roma listserv, or read past
postings to the list, visit

* For more information on this or any other AP campaign,
contact Evelina Gueorguieva at evelina@advocacynet.org

* Read the petition at


The Advocacy Project is based in Washington D.C.
Phone: +1 202 332 3900; fax: +1 202 332 4600. Visit the AP
web site for information about current projects:
www.advocacynet.org. For more information please e-mail

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