This site makes use of fortune cookies from the fortune-mod package. Quoting from the manpage, under the heading 'Bugs': 'The supplied fortune databases have been attacked, in order to correct orthographical and grammatical errors, and particularly to reduce redundancy and repetition and redundancy. But especially to avoid repetitiousness."

It appears that the script was first written in 1978, by a Ken Arnold. Over the years the fortune cookies were added to in an anarchic fashion, and nothing is sacred under anarchy. But there appears to have been, from the first version, some attempt at reserving the truly offensive stuff for those who really want it, and specifically ask for it.

In 1995 one Amy Lewis gave herself the task of categorizing all 16000 cookies, and her synopsis in the file "Offensive" is worth quoting in full:

An attempt has been made to restructure the fortune database. This has included, of necessity, a concatenation and redivision of the offensive and inoffensive fortunes. In the process, some fortunes may have gotten lost, and others may have moved from one category to another (or from both categories to one or the other, more commonly).

The following were the criteria I used to make the division:

Anything about sex is offensive. Welcome to America. *sigh*
Insults based on religion or ethnicity are offensive.
Generally, any criticism of anybody's religion is offensive.
"He really said that?" quotes from politicians are offensive.
Political bias is offensive.
Limericks are offensive even if they aren't.
Tastelessness is offensive (q.v. "The Snack").
Misogyny and misandry for the sake of themselves are offensive.
Vulgarity is offensive.
Violence for the sake of humor is offensive.

Surprisingly, given this rather broad definition, there are still more inoffensive quotations, quips, and quozzits than offensive ones. A peculiar, back-handed compliment to human nature (it surprised me).

In another file in this directory (Notes), the original author(s) of the fortune distribution state that "racist, mysogynist [sic] (sexist), or homophobic ideas" should never be included in the fortune database.

This was not the case when the database came into my possession, and I began attempting to divide it thematically. Misogyny and homophobia are both pretty well-represented; it is thus only a minor relief that racism isn't (nonetheless, it *is* a relief). Faced with two unpalatable alternatives, of including material that really deserves no wider publication or of acting the censor, I choose to pass on the responsibility, though I have attempted to make maintenance easier. Misogyny is sequestered in the file "misogyny," homophobia in "hphobia," and racism in "racism" (see the file 'cookie-files' in this directory for a discussion of the contents of the various files), all in the offensive directory. Those who respect women, gays, and people of color may prefer to either remove the .dat file (which keeps the strings, but makes them inaccessible via the fortune program), or to delete these files altogether.

I admit that I was strongly tempted to simply remove these fortunes, an action that I might have justified by pointing to the Notes of the original authors. However, it appears that over the course of time there have been those who find these sorts of prejudice amusing, and in America, at least, even Nazi rhetoric is a protected form of speech. So I include them, and leave the decision to individual system administrators.

I will add, as a final note, that reading through the offensive fortunes (I have been forced to read and reread every fortune in the database several times, in order to assign things to their proper places) has left me far less amused by fortune -o than previously. It is easy to overdose on insult.

Amy Lewis alewis@email.unc.edu September-October 1995.

Well said, Amy. The Debian package documentation refers also to the following people: Florian LaRoche, Karl Lehenbauer, Helmut Geyer, Brian Bassett, Mark Ng, David H. Silber, Pascal Hakim, Joshua Kwan, and Dennis L. Clark.

I have not included the offensive cookies. In fact i have made a meagre selection, as many of them require a fixed width font (ascii-art) and most of them adhere to the old 76-character line breaking.

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A fortune-cookie for you: It's getting uncommonly easy to kill people in large numbers, and the first thing a principle does -- if it really is a principle -- is to kill somebody. -- Dorothy L. Sayers, "Gaudy Night"