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'Wordscapes' App Uses Disability Slur 'Mongol' in Crossword Puzzle

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A popular word game app uses a disability slur in one of its puzzles, according to screenshots shared on Twitter Saturday. “Wordscapes,” which currently occupies the sixth spot in top free games in the iOS app store, used the offensive word in one of its crosswords.

Twitter user Erika Shira shared the screenshots and requested the company, PeopleFun, remove the slur from its game.

Though the term “Mongol” can also describe someone from Mongolia, the game’s dictionary defined the word as a “person with Down syndrome.” The game also notes it’s “considered extremely offensive.”

The company apologized on Tuesday and said it will remove the word. “We are very sorry that occurred and that puzzle will be removed/replaced in the next app update,” John Boog-Scott, the company’s chief operating officer, told The Mighty. “We would do it quicker if we technically could.”

Boog-Scott said the game uses valid Scrabble words from public lists and then eliminate words from public lists of “bad words.” The puzzles are generated without human involvement. The company removes additional words based on reports from testers and players, Boog-Scott added. The in-game definitions come from a third party dictionary service, Wordnik.

Mongol was first used by John Langdon Down in the late 19th century to refer to people with Down syndrome, Uuganaa Ramsay, a Mongolian author whose son had Down syndrome, wrote for BBC.

It was used to describe people with Down syndrome because some of the physical characteristics of the condition resemble features of East Asian people, specifically Mongolians. “It wasn’t until 1965 that the People’s Republic of Mongolia complained to the World Health Organization that the term was derogatory towards them, and it was replaced with Down’s syndrome,” Ramsay wrote.

Mongol has also been used as another word for “idiot,” harming both those with Down syndrome and people from Mongolia. The term is now considered unacceptable and offensive.

Ramsay said she wants people to know they can use “Mongol” to refer to people like you would a “Scot, Turk or Pole.” It’s the negative connotations that need to be unlearned.

Photo via Wordscapes on iOS

Originally published: January 15, 2019
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