A Developer with a Pencil

Offending Gem Names - Drawing the Line

In my “Being an asshole does not make you awesome” post I listed a few gems that caused some interesting discussions on Twitter.

Following those discussions (with the awesome Rein Henrichs and Jan Lehnardt) I felt the need to clarify most specifically what is wrong with some of the gem names. While some gem names seem completely innocent - It is important to remember a few things in mind

  1. This is a global community, always consider that the other side is not as good with the english language as you are.
  2. Being creative is by all means not a reason to dismiss groups, genders or anything else.
  3. Gem names should be descriptive and be related to what the gem or code is all about.
  4. README files don’t matter. Yes, they are important - but sometimes hearing the name is more than enough.

Drawing the line

So, where does this line strike? no immediate answer. Taking the “hoe” gem for example - it is a great gem that everyone uses and its name is actually a gardening tool - perfect match to the gem’s reference as a Rake (also a gardening tool) accessory.

Yes, “hoe” is a legitimate name in that case - but for people outside the world of native english speakers the immediate meaning when heard, is as a reference to a prostitue.

Again, yes - it is a legitimate name. But there are 200 other gardening tools and nouns related to “Rake” that don’t have the problem of double meaning, and in some circles - an immediate offending translation. Investing a bit more time in choosing a better name would probably be a better option that would have resolved this issue before it even existed.

Choosing the “hoe” gem for that post seemed very odd for some people but the reason behind it was not to dismiss that gem, its authors or its users, just to point out where people that don’t have the entire english gardening jargon in their minds, could probably be offended.

Under the same hood, the “Therapist” gem falls under the same fault. It is supposed to handle Github issues more easily, hence the Therapist reference. Some may read it “The Rapist” - which is not a good thing, but again I assume it is only relevant to non native speakers.


The purpose of that post was to put some focus on the possibly offending gem names around - and to bring the attention of the people that build, maintain and use these gems sometimes without giving the proper minimum attention required to resolve these issues. While some gem names are completely unacceptable in every aspect like “rape-me” and “bitch”, others like “hoe” just needs a little tweak - if only just to dismiss the double meaning issue.

We should be more caring to others in this community, doing open source is awesome all over, but being a valuable member of this community should also include being respectful and thoughtfull in our toolbelts.