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Company Apologizes for Offensive Thesaurus Synonyms

July 6, 1996

REDMOND, Wash. (AP) _ Microsoft Corp. issued a public apology in Spain and Mexico on Friday for a Spanish-language version of a software product that offered ``savage″ and ``man-eater″ as synonyms for the word ``Indian.″

The problems popped up in the thesaurus for Microsoft Word 6.0.

``One month ago in Spain, it was discovered in Word 6.0 that when one was searching for a synonym for the word `Indian,′ there were some offensive terms that were given as options in the thesaurus,″ said Howard Barokas, a Microsoft spokesman in Bellevue.

Other synonyms included ``vicious″ and ``inverted″ for homosexual and ``vicious″ and ``pervert″ for lesbian.

``Lesbians caused trouble in Spain,″ said Claudia Ferron, a Microsoft spokeswoman in Mexico. ``We apologize ... and we are working on a new dictionary for synonyms. We have no other comment at this moment.″

Reports of the synonyms also caused a mini-uproar in Mexico, where local radio stations cited examples and debated them. Newspapers interviewed cultural figures who denounced them.

``Those who made this dictionary of synonyms are imbeciles and cretins,″ Fernando Benitez, a noted journalist and historian, told La Jornada.

``The synonyms that describe Indians as savages, cannibals, primitives _ these are falsehoods of a racist character,″ Benitez added.

Microsoft apologized in a press release in Mexico City Friday and also took out newspaper ads in Mexico and Spain promising to make new software available for free.

The corrected software should be ready for downloading within five weeks from the company’s World Wide Web page.

``Between now and the next five weeks, Microsoft will be searching every word in the Spanish version of the Word thesaurus to make sure there are no more offensive terms,″ Barokas said.

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