Brazil sues Houaiss for publishing “pejorative and prejudiced” definitions of gypsy

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Brazil's Federal Public Ministry is suing Houaiss dictionaries and its publishing company, reported Brazilian news site UOL.

The ministry wants to immediately pull the dictionaries from circulation, according to Brazilian news site iG, because they include "pejorative and prejudiced" definitions of gypsy after other dictionary companies have agreed to alter their outdated texts.

Brazilian magazine Veja also reported that the ministry is requesting Houaiss pay R$200,000 (just over $117,000) in damages. The Federal Court has not yet spoken on the matter.

Houaiss lists gypsy as "relating to or characteristic of Roma; zingaro," according to Veja, but it also defines the word as "he who bargains and is attached to money; money-lender, miser." iG also reported the dictionary definition includes "he who cheats; rogue, trickster."

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The case started in 2009, when the Attorney General's Office received complaints from a person who identified as a gypsy claiming that there was bias in Brazilian dictionaries in regards to ethnicity, reported UOL. The ministry then sent recommendations to various dictionary publishers requesting they change their entry for gypsy. Publishers Globo and Melhoramentos agreed.

When iG contacted Objetiva Publishing and the Antônio Houaiss Institute, both said they were surprised by the lawsuit and plan on discussing the issue.

According to iG and UOL, there are around 600,000 gypsies living in Brazil.

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