ADC in the Associated Press
August 22, 2005
By JOHN CURRAN
Associated Press Writer
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.
An online thesaurus struck a listing Monday for the word “Arab” after Arab-American groups complained the entry listed derogatory synonyms.
The entry, which appeared on thesaurus.com, listed the word as a noun meaning “beggar,” and gave 16 pejorative synonyms including “homeless person” and “welfare bum.”
The American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee contacted the synonym book’s online publisher Friday to complain about the entry; the American Arab Forum also criticized the listing on Monday.
“I looked it up and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” said Aref Assaf, president of the American Arab Forum, which is based in Paterson.
Several hours after Roget’s Thesaurus was called by The Associated Press, all entries for “Arab” had been pulled from the site.
Barbara Ann Kipfer, editor of the third edition of Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus, said the entry had likely been on the site for years, but never made it into printed versions of the thesaurus.
“We’re simply going to take it out,” she said on Monday. “The last thing you want with a thesaurus is to offend anyone.”
Kipfer said an 18th-century term “street arab” had appeared in other thesauruses, referring to a homeless child who has been abandoned and roams through the streets.
The Internet publishing group that produces the thesaurus.com Web site also said it was surprised to learn of the entry.
“We got together and tried to resolve it as soon as possible,” said Jasper Chou, director for marketing for Lexico Group.
Assaf said he was satisfied that the listing had been removed.
“We look forward to working with them, should they need a proper definition of the word. The easier definition is ‘anyone who is Arabic,’ which would have been more than sufficient,” he said.
On the Web:
American Arab Forum: http://www.americanarabforum.org