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Offensive synonyms draw fire

Microsoft apologizes for derogatory entries in its Spanish-language Word thesaurus.

A Spanish-language version of a software product that offered "savage" and "man-eater" as synonyms for the word "Indian" has drawn a public apology in Spain and Mexico from Microsoft.

The words were contained in the thesaurus for Word 6.0, according to a report by the Associated Press.

"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 Microsoft spokesman Howard Barokas.

Other synonyms included "vicious" and "inverted" for homosexual and "vicious" and "pervert" for lesbian.

"We apologize...and we are working on a new dictionary for synonyms," said Claudia Ferron, a Microsoft spokeswoman in Mexico.

Reports of the synonyms 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.

Microsoft apologized in a press release in Mexico City 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 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.