Originally created 01/19/99

AOL pulls thesaurus over synonyms for 'homosexual'



DULLES, Va. -- America Online and Merriam-Webster Inc. pulled an online thesaurus after gay rights organizations complained about the synonyms given for "homosexual."

The thesaurus listed the slurs "fruit," "homo" and "[filtered word]."

The thesaurus was taken offline Friday, and the slurs will probably be removed when the feature returns in about a week, said Deborah Burns, marketing director for Merriam-Webster.

"But first, we're making an apology about this. We were in error in a couple of ways and we're glad someone has brought it to our attention," she said.

Gay rights groups had asked not that the words be removed but that they be flagged as derogatory, said Cathy Renna, a spokeswoman for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

"It's not that they are words that people don't know and don't use, but in 1999, they are words that should be presented in some sort of context," she said.