App Store Insists Ninjawords iPhone Dictionary Remove "Objectionable" Content, Still Classifies it 17+


Ninjawords [$1.99 - iTunes link], a delightfully crafted dictionary application, was rejected from the iTunes App Store no less than three times of "objectionable content" and still slapped with a 17+ rating before being approved in mutilated form in just the latest of Apple's stupefying, infuriating, frustrating, and ultimately disappointing blunders that haunt their mobile platform.

Daring Fireball casts a scathing light on the Ninjawords situation, and sums it up brilliantly:

The list of omitted words includes some which have utterly non-objectionable senses: ass, snatch, pussy, cock, and even screw. (Ass and cock appear throughout the King James Bible.)

Every time I think I’ve seen the most outrageous App Store rejection, I’m soon proven wrong. I can’t imagine what it will take to top this one.

Apple requires you to be 17 years or older to purchase a censored dictionary that omits half the words Steve Jobs uses every day.

Yes, you cannot find words for donkeys, cats, roosters, or hardware in this one dictionary on the App Store (though you can, of course, in Apple's own Mac OS X dictionary). Gruber also rightly points out that App Store reviewers would have had to deliberately search for words like f--k and c--t to find them, given the care taken by the apps developers in filtering results, which mirrors the rejection of e-book reader Eucalyptus when not one but two App Store reviewers deliberately searched for Kama Sutra, apparently just so they could reject an app. (Maybe because they duplicate functionality of Mobile Safari?)

Steve Jobs is back. Could we desperately suggest nothing, not Eric Schmidt, not iTablets, not AT&T should be higher on his priority list than forcing sanity upon the App Store and now? Or does Apple really want the influential, tech-savvy apperati to start considering competing platforms?

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 51 comments. Add yours.

sting7k says:

Someone HAS to think of the children and protect them from these terrible terrible words.

sting7k says:

Just fired up app on my iPhone. Guess what words I can look up in 2 seconds; ass, cock, pussy, snatch, screw, and yes even F***. And doesn't connect to the internet.
Nice "standards" Apple. Funny stuff.

Brad says:

Even though the words a$$ and c0ck are in the bible, I'm sure this dictoinary has taken them to different contexts. if their meanings are in any way vulgar, I don't blame Apple for refusing the app. Yea, yea, yea, free speech and hug a tree while holstering your pistol, whatever. There needs to be more decency in our society, otherwise we're going to continue down the path of moral collapse.

chrstphr.ross says:

What about Dictionaire and's app?
I can the expressed words, Carlin's 7, and even some others that I've picked up along the way, but it's not rated anything special, and it's been on for months...
Apple's "We Hate Developers" campaign probably needs to end soon.

Dexter says:

HEY! You leave the app out of this!!!! That is my favorite dictionary... Don't give Apple any ideas!!!

Unchewable says:

ninjawords is in the app store now fyi that was fast maybe because of Rene lol.

jasondeno says:

So what gives Apple the pedigree to determine the direction of our moral compass?
Churches have long established practices and usually pretty good reference material. The FCC has a very large group of people making much more consistent judgement calls and is a public entity.
Sounds like Apple has one or two guys on payroll with an F3 Find button on their computer and a handful of out of context references to use as a basis.
I'm not sure I really care about the filtering really. It's their method I take issue with.

Stephman says:

Like Rene said, what doesn't make sense is that in Apple's Mac OS X dictionary, they allow these words but they won't let them in an App Store app.

Anonymous says:

Brad, how is this for decency: you are a f$%king f$%ktard. It's because of m0rons like you that something like this is not dismissed as ludicrous by 100% of population. Although I am happy to see by the rest of the comments here that it is probably still about 95% of the population.
Go thump your bible elsewhere, while pretending that it gives you morality. That claim alone is ludicrous.
Pray tell, did you know that people use substitutes for those words, too? Like "kitty" as a substitute for "pu$$y." (why am I censoring this perfectly ok word?!) So what, not to preserve your sense of morality we should remove the word "kitty" from the dictionary.
You are absurd.
It's like Carlin said - it's not the words, it's the context. And no matter how hard you try, you will never, ever - ever - will be able to censor context in use.

Anonymous says:

Bard - halfhearted apology needed - you weren't first to suggest that what appears in Bible is righteous - it was in the body of the article...

The real truth says:

@brad. And who shall we hold as a moral compass? Yourself? The invisible man in the sky? Morals are subjective. What's leading us down
"the path of moral collapse" is morons like you who who don't get that.

Grant says:

Yeah, having access to the definition of screw in an offline iPhone dictionary app is really inching us closer to complete moral collapse. Give me a break.

Chris Vitek says:

As great and the iPhone and the App store are, it appears the approval process is equally as bad.

ff11 says:

@brad: Sure, the Bible's "a$$" might be clean, but it's "knew" is not. Maybe we need to ban that word from the dictionary too. And for that matter, if I was going to filter on the basis of morality, I would get rid of references to theft, incest, and genocide before taking out "f***".

talkin73 says:

@All the people slamming Brad... It's interesting how comfortable folks feel bringing down their hammer of wrath and fury at someone for suggesting that it's reasonable to create or live by standards. I am perplexed at how angry, belligerent and downright nasty some people will stoop in their endless quest to defend their right to do and say whatever they want. So what if Apple censors the heck out of things??? Who cares if their app store selection policies are inconsistent??? You all aren't really defending freedom of speech and peoples' rights anyway. If you were, you'd support Brad's right to say whatever he wants. You dress up anger under your own moral canopy but it's thinly-veiled window dressing to distract from your real motives... you want what you want when you want it and you're pissed cuz someone won't give it to you! No one has "the right" to any application, software, hardware or whatever. Is it kinda dopey that Apple rejected or limited the app they way they did? Sure. Is it beyond sad that people curse someone on this forum for expressing their support of Apple's censorship? You betcha!

sting7k says:

@Brad, the problem is other apps have these words in them complete with "vulgar" definitions. Like I said the app as the F-bomb complete with pretty much every definition that could go with it.
Also no need to slam Brad everyone. As talkin73 said, he has the right to his opinions. The point isn't whether these words should be there or not. The point is Apple's completely random standards in approving apps.

only1jonarius says:

doesn't matter, the HTC HERO is dropN soon!!!!

only1jonarius says:

besides I have a FREE dictionary app from the AppStore tha. has every profane wrd imaginable plus it PRONOUNCES the wrds...alot of LOLs indeed

jonar1us says:

yay for HTC HERO!!!!HTC HERO!!!!HTC HERO!!!!

The real truth says:

@talkin73. Brad has the right to say whatever he wants of course. I have the right to call him what he is: a moron. He was the one who brought the question of morality into it. I'm just pointing out the fact that morals are subjective. Yeah apple can do what they want with their app store. That just didn't really seem to be what brad was getting at with his whole "moral collapse" scenerio.

jonar1us says:

recieved my GV mobile invitation 2day ....!!!! 

The real truth says:

@Jonar1us HTC hero? Can't wait to see the crowds for that one. You may care but realize you are in the minority. A very small minority at that.

jbrandonf says:

I hope this netflix app is free because I'm going on strike, I won't be giving them any more money. Even if the app is a full 3-D touch interactive porn app. Sorry Apple. I'm right on the edge of selling my 3GS for a Pre too.

mystic says:

I have to say, some of the posting here is really offensive and personal and the constant trolling is just tiresome.
Rene, someone needs to get a grip on this because it makes the site unpleasant to visit these days.

MSF says:

The iPhone is a great tool. My MacBook is a great tool. The Apple is starting to rot. They make it very difficult to support. Way worse than MS ever was.

The real truth says:

@truth. Why are you on an apple related website saying f you apple? Seems like you got a bit too much rime on your hands. If I feel strongly enough about someone to say F you I'm pretty much done with that person. You got a real hard on for apple, huh?

The real truth says:

@jbrandonf. Please go get your pre and leave the rest of us alone. I don't think apple really needs your business. Something tells me they'll survive.....

Unchewable says:

does anyone have a copy of the original ninjawords because i think it was probably how they wrote the definitions not the actual words. the probably were a little to satirical look at the words instead of just giving the definition.

icebike says:

Is it just me, or are even the perpetual Apple Fanboys following this blog starting to show signs of being mad as hell and not going to take it any more....
ASSD is becoming pandemic.
ASSD, acronym, App Store Stress Disorder, an affliction of fanboys caused by chronic exposure risk averse lawyer work product. Characterized by symptoms of outrage, indignation, and early symptoms of BORS (Blush is Off the Rose Syndrome (which see). Advanced cases may lead to early suppression of their insatiable adoration and love of all things Apple, which threatens their entire world view.

icebike says:

@The real truth:
People older than 15 usually figure out it is possible to like a product/company and still criticize it.
It is not a black and white world.

Earless puppy says:

Should the app store also remove safari browser sense the same questionable content can be view on many websites.

The real truth says:

@icebike. People over 15 figure out alot of things I'm sure. Exactly what that has to do with anything is beyond me. Criticism is a serious examination of something. "fk you" is simply....well "fk you". Doesn't exactly add much to the conversation, does it? "not a black and white world"? Maybe not, but there is such thing as fact and the fact is that was a retarded comment.

The real truth says:

safari is not on the app store.

icebike says:

Does no one else see the humor in the fact that this blog censors the very words this blog posting is complaining about?
et tu, Rene?

earless puppy says:

@the real truth
I understand that I think most people above the age of 12 get that actually, I was making a point that the above questionable content can be retrieved via safari, and Apple should remove that also then...

Grant says:

talkin73, I don't see any comments on here telling Brad that he shouldn't be able to say whatever he wants. I see comments on here disagreeing with him. There is a HUGE DIFFERENCE between the two, but people conflate them all the time, and it's tiring. I think it's pretty telling that you consider people getting passionate about their desire to be able to do and say what they want to be a BAD thing.

Grant says:

And suggesting that Brad simply was "suggesting that it’s reasonable to create or live by standards" is such laughable spin of his statements. As if anyone who opposes this kind of censorship thinks there should be NO STANDARDS whatsoever. What a straw man argument.

parsec says:

To quote Robot Chicken, "I could just yell out 'Homonym!' But I prefer the homo spin. I'm teaching the world 'bout homo-nyms."

The real truth says:

@earless puppy
safari is apples application so it takes precedence over third party apps. That's right. I said it. Apple is a huge company that makes lots of money and looks out for themselves above all else. So what. Isn't capitalism about making investors money? If apple caters more to developers will that make them more significantly more money? If that were the case don't you think they'd be doing it by now?

jwriherd says:

Apple is just retarded with this shit :)
it's funny also this fukin website censors shit too

SpiceRak2 says:

Isn't the real point that a company is making decisions about what customers can see, read, do? I don't think anyone here would really defend a "moral collapse" as it was termed, but when did the average person forfeit their right to choose what they see, read or do?
Additionally, Apple has entered the preverbial "slippery slope" in censoring applications like they are. The inconsistency is a symptom, for sure, but honestly, where is the line drawn? Public organizations have tripped over this kind of controversy for years and years...I really don't think the reviewers of the app store applications have solved this one. How do you say that "this" is acceptable and something else is not?
IMHO, I think they should stick with the current federal snuff, no child porn, no threat of harm to others, no viruses. The rest, as objectionable as it can be to some (or most) is really up to the consumer.
We are grown-ups. We can handle it from here. And, the grown-ups should be handling these censorship issues for their children.
(Maybe if some people were not so quick to sue a company for allowing their customers the choice, we wouldn't have uptight, restrictive, CYOA management.)

Typical says:

Actually, I don't see the humor in it. Hypocrisy is what Rene is all about.
Ever notice people are chastised for defending themselves against umpteen rude commenters (like "antonioj, etc, etc) and other Twitter buddies of Rene's who constantly attack people by calling them morons, idiots, retards, etc? And what response do those people receive from Rene? "Thanks to [insert name here] for sending in the tip!"
Now he's criticizing Apple for not allowing words he himself disallows (although they CAN appear in his articles)?
Nope... nothing humorous about it. Just sad.

earless puppy says:

Watch out for that silent running black helicopter

The King says:

First I jus want to say reading this blog has made my day!! :-) you guys are funny.
As far as the app goes, I am completely against there approval process. Why make an app edit there content when I can get right on safri and find somethin 10x worst. For those of you who have a problem with apps being vulgar, DONT BUY IT!!!! and if your concerned about kids gettin a hold of them, DONT LET THEM BUY IT!! I thought apple added the parental controls for a reason...

SpiceRak2 says:

Just a thought: Do you think a blog may have censors to try to circumvent verbal abuses? Vulgar language in a blog or forum is more likely to be used "in context" to something...well...vulgar and abusive, over a dictionary which simple defines those words. IDK...just throwing that out there.

talkin73 says:

@Grant, ironic you would use the expression "straw man argument". The implication that I think it's BAD for people to get "passionate about their desire to be able to do and say what they want" is quite silly. Unless you define "getting passionate" as cursing, insulting, and degrading another person. It seems your capacity for conflating two ideas appears to exceeds even mine ;-) But it appears we do agree on one thing... it is tiring.
Your reference to this "censorship" is actually more disturbing than most of the other commentary. The base at which I am currently deployed in Afghanistan is surrounded by a local village with a few thousand inhabitants. In particular, the female members have lived most of their lives being threatened with death, torture and the killing of their families if they attempt to read or obtain education of any kind. Whether you agree with military occupation here is another issue and not intended as a derailment. Rather, in the context of the censorship experienced by Afghan women and people in many other parts of the world, your "passionate" indignation about Apple denying a dictionary app seems more than trite. An application which, ultimately, does not prevent a single person in our entire country from actually having access to any piece of information whatsoever. This is the "censorship" that raises your ire? Seriously?

The real truth says:

you make a great point. This my sole reason for even posting on here. It so ridiculous that with all the shit happening in the world, truely bad, fucked up shit, this is the kind of thing people are all up in arms about. If you hate the way apple conducts itself don't buy their products. That's simple isn't it. Apparently not. It's as if people think that apple or any company should somehow be about "the people" and for "the people". Apple or any other corporation is about making money. If what they are doing is making them money they will keep doing it. Apple rejecting apps from their store IS NOT censorship for Christ sake. It's the way they choose to do business. Censorship is something mandated buy the government which effects a persons rights to say and do things. Get another fucking cell phone, realize that there's shit happening in the world that should piss off and that this isn't it, and get a fucking life

Matt Sawyers says:

I am going to very mad if my Unabridged dictionary becomes an abridged version. If apple follows through, they've gone to far.

SpiceRak2 says:

@ The Real Truth
Dial it back about three notches. You are vehemently complaining that people are complaining...
Not every issue is about life, death and the fall of man...but that doesn't mean it's not a valid issue, worthy of discussion and hopes for improvement.

The real truth says:

sure not every issue disscused needs to be about Life and death to be important. It's frusterating however when a person purchases a product, keeps said product, and continuly pisses and moans about it. Buy a pre....a blackberry.....whatever. People love to bitch and complain. And I don't think I'm just complaining about people complaining. What I am doing is making a valid point wich is more than I can say for most of the geniuses on here.