Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Subject: FW: FW: MSN Encarta must delete "gay bowel syndrome"
Date: 3/29/2005 6:45:14 AM Pacific Standard Time

Hi Michael,

I just wanted to assure you that the wheels are in motion.


-----Original Message----
From: Kathy Rooney []
Sent: Tuesday, March 29, 2005 2:43 AM
Cc: Marian Brown; Sabrina Farber;; Kathy Rooney
Subject: WG: FW: MSN Encarta must delete "gay bowel syndrome"

Dear Craig and Julian

Could you look into this please? Our US office and Publicity Director Marian Brown have been approached by Michael Petrelis about the inclusion of the term 'gay bowel syndrome' in the Encarta Dictionary on MSN. See e-mail thread below.

As you both know I am now based in Berlin running Bloomsbury's German office, and so do not have access to the Encarta Dictionary database, but I will pass the query on to London. The term certainly does not appear in the UK print version which is the only edition I have here.

I would be grateful if you would reply to Mr Petrelis and keep me, Anne Soukhanov and Marian Brown copied in. Many thanks.

I hope all is well with you.

Best wishes, Kathy


Berlin Verlag
Greifswalderstraße 207
D-10405 Berlin
+ 49 30 443 845 18


Von: Marian Brown []
Gesendet: Freitag, 25. März 2005 17:19
An: ''
Cc: Sabrina Farber; Kathy Rooney
Betreff: RE: FW: MSN Encarta must delete "gay bowel syndrome"

Hi Anne, This is what I sent to Michael Petrelis. I think in order to get my name cleared from his blog, and from this mess in general, we need to get him a contact at MSN right away!


Dear Michael,

Thanks again for bringing this to our attention. We completely agree with you on this matter.

In answer to your concern, Bloomsbury is only responsible for the printed versions of the Encarta Dictionary. The term does not appear in the printed versions we have published. In order to address what is on the MSN website, you need to be in touch with someone there. Unfortunately because this is a licensing arrangement , we have no control over the content of their site. I'm working with our UK office to try to get a contact for you at MSN as quickly as possible in order for you to pursue further.

As soon as I get a contact name, I will forward to you.


-----Original Message-----
From: []
Sent: Friday, March 25, 2005 10:21 AM
To: Marian Brown
Subject: RE: FW: MSN Encarta must delete "gay bowel syndrome"

Hi, Marian--I Googled this term: there are about 28,300 references to it. The first 10 indicate that:

1. It is "an obsolete, potentially offensive term. . . " see General Practice Notebook,; see also, which has a story about how activists have succeeded in deleting the term from a UK/Canadian medical text by Jon Garbo. There are also refs to things written by this M. Petrelis, who indeed is an aggressive activist, perhaps the engine behind the movement to expunge the word from the medical/general language.

2. Some other refs indicate that it is an offensive variant for IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). This would be because by attaching "gay" to "bowel syndrome," users are limiting and restricting a syndrome affecting straights and gays alike to just gays, therefore impugning the gays' sexual practices/acts. I question this logic.

3. But--all this is reason enough to (a) have a science editor investigate the matter thoroughly (b) excise the word from our base if it is indeed obsolete and discredited in the scientific community or if that community has a neutral, non-inflammatory alternate term for it or (c) keep the word but add a strong usage note to the effect that it is obsolete and highly offensive.

4. All this should be done ASAP to avoid a blog/Internet war that could later spill over to cable TV/radio talk shows.

5. When a decision is taken, then this gentleman should be notifed right away. You can bet he will re-check the website.

I hope this follow-up is useful. Again, I hace CC'd Kathy on my findings.

I can understand exactly why he freaked you out! Hang in there.


-- Original message from Marian Brown :

Thanks Anne! This guy really freaked me out because my name is all over his blog and his sending it out to other people. I will send what you wrote. Marian

-----Original Message-----
From: []
Sent: Friday, March 25, 2005 9:37 AM
To: Marian Brown
Subject: Re: FW: MSN Encarta must delete "gay bowel syndrome"

Hi Marian--

1. This issue should be referred to Kathy Rooney, either at the Bloomsbury London office or at her Berlin Verlag office. I am doing this right now.

2. I had nothing to do with selection of the wordlist used on the website, and so I am mystified why/how the term "gay bowel syndrome" got in, unless it is a holdover from the original electronic version of the World English Dictionary. I am sure Kathy can refer the matter to the person who was involved in setting up the list and who can make changes if needed.

3. This term is not in the Encarta World English Dictionary, the Encarta Webster's Dictionary, or the MS Encarta College Dictionary (US Editions). I cannot find it in the UK edition of the Encarta World English Dictionary either.

4. I would get back to the writer as follows:

"Thank you for letting us know about your concerns regarding the term gay bowel syndrome. Your letter is reason enough for us to investigate the matter further, and take appropriate action once that investigation has been concluded. We certainly do appreciate your beinging this matter to our attention, because input from our users often helps us to improve our products. Sincerely, etc. "

5. Caution: The above reply is intentionally vague--we need the facts before committing ourselves to changing something at the behest of a person who probably represents a pressure group. The idea is to satisfy him that we're looking into the matter promptly, so that he will not start a letter-writing campaign--or worse. In addition, the term may in fact be spurious--and I suspect it is.

6. Meanwhile, I will myself try to check into the legitimacy of this term via the Internet, although it is in fact the responsibility of a science editor to decide if it stays or goes.


-- Original message from Marian Brown :

This guy wants us to take Gay Bowel Syndrome off of the Encarta website!

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