Brandeis’s revision of language: a mixed bag

June 28, 2021 • 9:15 am

Brandeis University’s Prevention, Advocacy, and Resource Center is recommending changes in many words and phrases to conform to the moral Zeitgeist. If you click on the page below, you’ll go to several categories of language containing phrases that the University recommends be revised, what those changes should be, and why they should be made. You can even suggest your own phrases and words at the bottom of the page.

I realize it’s useless to try to stop the evolution of language, but it’s interesting to see that terms once considered innocuous (sometimes out of thoughtlessness or ignorance) are being revised. I find the list, however, a mixed bag, though mostly useful. I’ll show you the categories and make a few comments on the revisions.

First the page, which shows that the changes are not policy or mandated by Brandeis.

And I’ll put up screenshots of the four categories.

VIOLENT LANGUAGE:

Of these, the first four seem overly Pecksniffian, while the last two should be replaced. As for “rule of thumb”, yes, its origin is odious, but nobody even remembers where it came from. Should phrases that obscure be eliminated? Weigh in below.

 

IDENTITY BASED LANGUAGE:

I can see the point of many of these suggested changes, though I’m not 100% on board with “you guys” (women use it all the time), or referring in the third person to “she” or “he” if you don’t KNOW their preferred pronouns (this can always be corrected, but, for example, referring to Putin, I don’t think the newspapers should say “they”). Words that end in “man”, like “congressman”, should be ditched, though “congressperson” is a mouthful.

I’m surprised that African-American is now passé, as I thought it was the most approved term for that group. I often use black and white or Black and White, but won’t capitalize Black without capitalizing White as I find journalistic justifications for that disparity insupportable.

“BIPOC” for generic “people of color” seems an awkward replacement, and the rationale is weak, for all “people of color” are already BIPOC. Most of the “ableist” language like “crazy” and “insane” are well ensconced in language, and it seems to me an overreaction to object that these stigmatize people with real mental illness. “Tranny” is odious and should never be used, but I don’t get the rationale for “transsexual”, though I’m happy to add “person”. Should words like “amputee” then be changed to “person with an amputated limb”? If so, so be it.

“Gypped” and “Jewed” are rightfully out; I’m not so sure about “Long time no see” and “no can do”, because even though they may have originated as aping the poor language of immigrants, they’re not used that way any longer and they’re quite expressive.

“Sold down the river” and “Indian giver” are rightfully out.

LANGUAGE THAT DOESN’T SAY WHAT WE MEAN.

The first phrase seems unobjectionable to me, and the rationale for changing it is weak. You can always clarify if your listener asks. I have no problem with “committed suicide”, but the terms “failed” and “successful” suicides  do rankle with me. The others I have little problem with.  I’d prefer “victim of” to “victim” and “survivor of” to “survivor” instead of the awkward suggested changes.

CULTURALLY APPROPRIATIVE LANGUAGE

I may be appropriative, but I don’t see these phrases as particularly demeaning to groups; rather, I see them as enriching English. “Tribe” is perhaps the most problematic, but I can’t see a strong case for its elimination because it supposedly oppresses people and enacts “violence” (remember, that’s the rationale for these changes). Finally, I don’t get at all the use of “person without housing” as a replacement for “homeless person”, since they both contain the word “person” and explicitly imply that the referent is a human being.

 

PERSON-FIRST LANGUAGE:

I understand the rationale for all of these, especially the use of “enslaved person” for “slave”, which seems sensible. But I do wonder if “person who has been incarcerated” will replace “prisoner.”  “Addict” or “drug addict” is used in a specific context, and to me doesn’t imply that there’s not a person involved in being addicted. Further the suggested alternative is awkward.

I don’t know if I’m mellowing, but I don’t have an issue with most of Brandeis’s suggested changes. What I would have an issue with are two things. First, these changes can be promulgated to make people think about how others might react to their language (if you don’t think “tranny” is offensive, you are clueless). But these changes should not be mandated, as doing so would violate free speech. Fortunately, Brandeis isn’t mandating them.

But beyond some of the language insulting some people, one has to ask whether creating these changes “perpetuate and perpetrate oppression.” Feeling offended and being oppressed are not the same thing, though I don’t think people should use language that will often offend people.  But Brandeis adds that the everyday use of these words creates “violence” are just wrong: there is no “violence” going on, but instead claimed offense. And so I offer my own revision in the spirit of inclusion, and recognizing that I think the Brandeis list IS useful:

Overblown language: “Your words perpetrate violence upon me.”

Alternative: “Your words offend me.”

Explanation: Being offended is not at all the same thing as being a victim of “violence”. This is hyperbole, and a definite attempt to suppress language and behaviors via rhetorical inflation. It is Orwellian language.

 

h/t: Jay, Paul

113 thoughts on “Brandeis’s revision of language: a mixed bag

  1. Related — Bari Weiss’s column on Amazon Studios’ new inclusion policy, “vaunted by the stenographers in the mainstream media.”

    Stenographers is a great snark!

    1. … and not original, heard it many times in left media critical circles, I think a guest on Jimmy Dore or Useful Idiots used it first.

  2. As someone brought up in England I would just like to say that a fag is a cigarette and a faggot is a pork meatball (I just love Brains faggots in a West Country sauce)

    1. The word “fag” may be derived from a bundle of sticks with an embedded axe which was a symbol of imperial power in ancient Rome.

        1. Yes you’re right. Curiously enough during the Baroque era a fagot was also another
          name for a bassoon.

      1. That was the fasces – with an obvious relation to both fascism, and the symbology chosen in several areas of US governmental heraldry. They seemed to be rather hung up on imagery of the Roman Republic, which displaced the rule of kings … and after several centuries of genocidal expansionist warfare was usurped by the family and friends of one of histories great populists and dictators. The Imperial rule (if not dynasty) lasted longer than the Republic.
        I’m not sure at exactly which point they want to drop the analogy.
        However, “fasces” is going the wrong way, sound wise, to be an origin for “faggot” (sense “pork product” and “bundle of sticks”). I suspect a Germanic origin myself.

  3. It appears this applies mostly to spoken conversation. As such, “Fire!” is one thing. Shouting “Fire!” in a crowded subway is quite different – as is shouting “Fire!” in a crowded subway with a fire in it.

  4. Re “rule of thumb”: the claim that it derives from being allowed to beat your wife with a stick thinner than your thumb is dubious and not supported by much evidence. More likely it derives from using a thumb as a rough measure of an inch, rather than a more-accurate ruler.

    1. In 2016, in Jacksonville, Florida, I was a member of a jury in a case involving a father who beat his 4 year old daughter to death with a rod for not eating her dinner. His defense was that he had a “religious right” to beat his daughter with the biblically-approved (as asserted by his minister friend) 1×2 rod. I was actually in the jury for the trial over his wife (and the child’s stepmother), charged with having aided & abetted in the murder — both were convicted. The beatings had occurred over several years, at least since the child was 2 years old, inflicted by both father & stepmother, for any infringement of their excessively strict rules. On the night in question, after the daughter would not eat her dinner, daddy commenced to beat her and she passed out. Then he notices she’s not breathing and calls down to his wife. They decide to call their minister friend, who happened to have recently moved to North Dakota. After several minutes of praying with their buddy, the minister asks when the ambulance will arrive. “Ambulance? Do you think we need to call paramedics?” (Daddy, by the way, was a public school teacher, at Andrew Jackson High School in Jacksonville). Minister counsels, yes, you really should call paramedics. Paramedics are finally called and arrive, but it’s far too late. They note the pattern of bruises on the child, some obviously recent, others much older but clear evidence of a pattern of systematic physical abuse. During jury selection, with over 100 prospective jurors, none with any idea as to the nature of the case we might be involved in, we were asked if any of us believed in the literal truth of the bible. I was pleasantly surprised that only about 4 people raised their hands — I would have been happier if none had, but given that this is part of the bible belt I would have thought more would. Still, I was intrigued as to why that particular question was asked of us. Became much clearer when I found out what the case was and the peculiar defense of the defendants.

    2. Yes I don’t think “rule of thumb” is what they say it means. And if we don’t even recognize its origins how are we going to be upset?

      1. If we can be taught to recognise its made-up origins, then those doing the making-up can insert themselves into our consciousness every time we say it, or think of saying it. Which is a kind of power-grab. A colonisation of our thoughts.

    3. Yes, and ‘a rule of the thumb’ is not just a ‘general rule’, it is a simplified guide of what to do, a mental shortcut, a heuristic.

  5. I remember when African-American first entered the lexicon, and people pointed out that it was imprecise because there were black people in America who weren’t African. With regard to Congressman, the correct replacement is Representative. And whenever I see BIPOC, I always see it as bi people of color. In any case it suffers from the same problem as LGBT&c, in that it lumps together groups of people more for what they aren’t than what they are. Finally, homeless has never been a useful term, since it implies that the person’s only problem is that they don’t have a place to live, rather than at why that is so. The suggested alternative makes this even worse. Overall, though, isn’t one of the rules of good writing not to use many words when one will do?

    1. BIPOC is very odd to my ears. As a white Brit living in the UK I feel pretty indigenous.

      Of course my ancestors would have come over in one of the many waves of invasion/immigration, but the same is true for any set of people arriving in any place except for Africans.

      1. Though Africa is a big place, and many tribes invaded/migrated to other African regions, just as European tribes did in Europe.

        1. “If I were Roy Rogers
          I’d sure enough be single
          I couldn’t bring myself to marrying old Dale
          Well, it’d just be me and Trigger…

          …The mystery masked man was smart
          He got himself a Tonto
          ‘Cause Tonto did the dirty work for free
          But Tonto he was smarter
          And one day said kemo sabe
          Well, kiss my ass, I bought a boat
          I’m going out to sea.

          – Lyle Lovett – “If I Had a Boat”

          Amazing where these verbal triggers can take us.

    1. Yes, and eventually shall those words too, and those, and those, and those….

      As, I think McWhorter has commented, the Woke can have no endgame, because, were they to have one, they would eventually cease to be enraged, and their identities would crumble.

  6. I wonder what novelists think of this. Most fiction uses language in specific ways to increase reader attention. Adherence to these euphemized terms will put many readers to sleep.

    1. Yes, I suggest that “anything colorful is forbidden” might be a good rule of thumb. Go for bland.

  7. Within this hyper-sensitive framework, isn’t there an obvious peculiarity in referring to the effects of offensive speech as “violence”?

    I mean, there are people who have actually experienced brutal violence in their lives. Some live with that trauma every day. Others didn’t survive it. To me, getting offended—or even deeply hurt—by words should not be conflated with violence, for doing so trivializes the experience of people who have had unusually horrific experiences.

    Lumping all the interpersonal unpleasantness of life under the umbrella of “violence” strikes me as a move that could be pretty offensive to people who have experienced real violence.

  8. Does hip-hop and rap count? As played through speakers that push the second-hand sound waves into unwilling listeners?

    If so, they can easily process the song files and replace “offensive” words with the Correct Word that Will Not Offend.

    Or maybe Apple has some expensive headphones.

  9. And rather than “your words offend me”, I would suggest “I feel offended by your words”. That put the emphasis on the person feeling that, not the words per se.

  10. It’s great that “oppressed” minorities do so tremendously well in the USA that an elite university now finds it important to dictate a few new words. All is well. It reminds of the Nike pride month, Guilette’s toxic masculinity ad and the diversity and empowerment ad from the friends of humanity and democracy at the much-beloved CIA.

    Almost brings a tear to my eye that radical, far left politics have taken over US society that much, and in an instant, solved all problems that you’re now dealing with some “oppressive” language.

    I’m not making an “as bad as” argument, i.e. that one could not care about minor issues so long major ones are still to do. I am saying US society does absolutely nothing of substance, but lots of energy goes to such initiatives so that I’m forced to conclude that the US is now a social justice utopia where only some language is left to fix.

  11. I’ll go out on the limb here. I’m not a fan of replacing “slave” by “enslaved person” for various reasons. I think I understand the thinking behind it. Somehow “slave” is supposed to indicate the identity of the person more than “enslaved person” does. The former makes it the main property of the person to which it is applied where the latter makes it only one property of supposedly many. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    Neither word/phrase says enslavement is the only property attributed to a person or the main one. If I say someone is “wet”, it doesn’t mean they aren’t also smart, embarrassed, tall, etc. It also doesn’t imply that it’s a permanent condition. The proponents of this change are the ones who insist that the race/sex/gender identity of a person is all that matters and colors everything else about the person and what they have to say. I see no reason to play into that bad way of thinking.

    The proponents of this change are attempting to draw attention to an issue, slavery, by simply replacing common language with something new and different. They also hope to use the change to virtue signal and to bully others. While I’m all in favor of a language evolving, this kind of forced change bothers me a lot. At a minimum, it doesn’t scale. What if everyone used this kind of replacement to draw attention to their favorite subject? Will we see ten-pin aficionados wanting to replace the boring “bowlers” with “those who bowl”? It also seems lazy. Instead of using powerful words to make their case, they resort to language manipulation. It seems more about bullying their audience than making a strong point.

  12. The “wife beater” entry reminds me of a Louis C K routine (ironic!) in which he professed amazement that the term was still in use, considering it comparable to wearing “child molester pants”.

    1. I believe they are also called “Dago Ts,” which was the term I’d heard long before I heard of “wife beater.” I suppose that’s not OK now.

  13. I’m sure everyone is so much safer from guns now that using the word “trigger” warning is forbidden.

  14. I’m sorry –well, not really — but I can’t approve of using a plural pronoun to refer to a single individual, other than perhaps to the likes of Norman Bates. I’d happily use any new, gender-neutral or inclusive neologism, but “they” refers to more than one person, and has done so for a long time…and frankly, using THAT term to refer to an individual seems potentially offensive, as if indicating that someone has multiple personalities, or some other form of dissociative disorder, or a splintered, wishy-washy character.

    1. Even if they are an ancient giant tortoise in a swamp? Whatever. We don’t even care whether or not we care.

      Or what if We have parasites? 😬

      1. That last point is quite interesting. I suppose we could all be plural, especially if you consider all the species of bacteria in our guts and on our skin. And, of course, the brain/mind is modular in many ways, so…maybe it’s not so bad to use “they”.

    2. One of my go-to sources of advice on written English, Sir Ernest Gowers’ “Plain Words” (originally a guide to good writing for Civil Servants after the last war) points out that the plural pronoun has a long history, eg:

      ‘Nobody prevents you, do they?’ (Thackeray, ‘Pendennis’).

      ‘God send everyone their heart’s desire’ (Shakespeare, ‘Much Ado about Nothing’).

      So I don’t really see a problem.

      1. For some reason, and I’m not saying it’s logical, I find it easier to use “they” and similar in nonspecific references that are singular in general, like your first example. But it feels just WRONG to me to use it in reference to a specific person. Possibly it’s a psychopathology of mine.

        1. Yes, fair enough. Gowers does say that the plural pronoun is OK where the gender of the person referred to is unknown or irrelevant. But it is irritating to see it applied where the gender is perfectly clear and unambiguous. You wouldn’t see President Biden or the Queen referred to as ‘they’.

          1. That’s interesting about the Queen, though, since traditionally royals have referred to themselves as “We,” which I assumed referred to themselves as the representative of the people of their nation, but which apparently referred to the King/Queen and God, which is much less supportable in my opinion.

  15. As a “person who has been incarcerated”, I’m perfectly happy to be referred to as an EX-convict. And I can’t think of a single person with whom I shared that involuntary vacation who would feel “harmed” by being referred to as “prisoner” or “convict”. It’s the actual imprisonment that’s harmful. Worrying about the words is a bit of a joke, and is frankly a bit infantilizing. Prisoners and convicts have more pressing matters to worry about.

    As with all these kinds of things go, though, I repeat my frequent statement: Just because you inferred something doesn’t mean it was implied.

    Also, ALL people are people of color. We’re just various different shades.

    1. Oh, and at least from the point of view of someone attempting suicide, “failed” can be a legitimate characterization. That’s not a good thing, obviously, but as I said above, there are more urgent matters to address than convoluted, sanctimonious terminology. It’s just “thoughts and prayers” in another form.

    2. Can’t use “Prisoner” anymore. Guess we have to cancel Iron Maiden, and Patrick McGoohan too. But then “maiden” might be problematic anyway, as is rock and rock, which was a cultural fusion of music and therefore appropriation, where does it end?!

      1. where does it end?!

        With an overcrowding problem in the iron maiden?
        I feel a Soylent Green reference coming on. Or the Floyd’s cartoon of “The Wall” and the sausage machine.

        1. I just notice “rock and rock” which is either a really lame autocorrect or I really need to cut back on my coffee intake.

          1. Your inner geologist is preparing to …

            Remember John “Hurt” – a most serendipitous name – in Alien? Same thing, building up, at tectonic speeds.

  16. It may be useless to resist the evolution of language but it is also useless and possibly counterproductive to try and force the evolution of language, not that the Control Left cares. Language evolves as more people adopt novel words or usage, but it happens organically, unless you are a totalitarian regime, of course. You want to change words, fine, go for it. If it makes sense or has that certain something, it will catch on. No need to make commandments from on high. (Gawddamn elect jackass muthaf…he mutters under his breath) and for the record, not all groups mentioned above use the terms mentioned above, or do so erratically. Life and language is messy. The point of language is to transmit the idea from your little gray cells to those of another. Some words and phrases are better than others. Be like the Dude. Abide, man. (Even if you’re a woman, man) and save your angst for other things and stop trying to force Orwellian wokeness on everyone.

    1. So if language naturally evolves, can Woke Speak be seen as artificial manipulation of the process? Linguistic GMOs, if you will. I propose that all documents or institutions utilizing such artificially manipulated language be required to carry warning labels regarding the untested and potentially toxic effects of its use.

      1. I think distinctions must be drawn between true language “evolution” and creation of propaganda, preference change, adaptation of new words by desire or by force…

        The new propaganda language of the left, drawing heavily from scientific jargon to achieve the intimidating effects (compare e.g. antiparallel to antiracism), is entirely by design – rather than a change in language simply because it renders conversation/writing easier (I cannot think of examples).

      2. Also was going to add three letter acronyms – like GMO. Compare, for example, DNA. They sound to be from the same epistemology, but only one is used by force – DNA, because for working scientists to say it every five words is simply inhibitory to the scientific work.

        GMO by comparison is not used by force, because saying it every five words makes conversation awkward.

        DNA is also so well established going back in the research literature that it has become common parlance. But that does not mean GMO has the same supporting background.

  17. I’m all in for removing ethnic and racial stereotyping and slurs from language, and I favor using gender-neutral terms (when it can be done without incurring untoward awkwardness). But some of the Brandeis suggestions would rob the English language of vitality and concision. Though I may end up on the wrong side of history here, that I cannot abide.

  18. 1, I dislike “assigned X at birth”. It evokes the image of the midwife tossing a coin; sex is an observed biological phenonemon.

    2. Not all “Blacks” are particularly dark. African-American at least has the advantage of implying African roots.

  19. The Brandeis recommendations missed many offending words. For one, the word “worker” perpetuates the oppression of the wage-enslaved-person class, “Worker” should therefore be replaced by “person who works for a salary”, and the Communist Manifesto should call on “Persons who work for a salary of the world, you have nothing to lose but your chains”. [On the other hand, maybe “chains” is too redolent of prison, slavery, and sadomasochism, and should also be replaced.]

    Come to think of it, “person” is also problematic, since it contains the sexist syllable “son”. The terms “son” and “daughter”, which cause so much harm and oppression to the transgender community, will obviously have to be replaced.

    Finally, Brandeis missed noting that some words can just be spelled differently rather than replaced altogether, as in such new usages as “womxn”. Thus “Mandarin” and “mantle” are to be re-spelled as
    as Mxndarin and mxntle. But respelling mango as mxngo is insufficient, because the “o” ending in Spanish is masculine, perpetuating sexism. Hence, mango will have to become: mxngx.

    1. It is even worse than that. Salaries are usually paid to white collar, middle or lower middle class employees whereas a genuine worker would get a wage..

  20. So, for ‘Killing it’, the explanation is…

    “If someone is doing well, there are other ways to say so without equating it
    to murder.”

    …and in turn, there are other ways to point out what you perceive wrong with it without equating ‘killing it’ with ‘murder’ !

  21. Brandeis University’s Prevention, Advocacy, and Resource Center is

    … where you go to get your condoms?

  22. “Tranny” is odious and should never be used,

    Not even for “transistor radio” – or am I showing my age of having used (and repaired) non-transistor radios?

    1. I was watching a video of someone re-paring a forklift and he used ‘Tranny’ all the time. He was referring to the forklifts transmition which he needed to fix…

      1. Ummm, wasn’t “Transmission” a Lou Reed album? Pardon my ignoramity while I wiki … sorry, nope : Joy Division single. Paragons of upstanding heterosexuality that they weren’t, if my memory serves even slightly adequately.

    2. There is brand of automatic transmission stop leak available in US auto parts stores that is called “Tranny Honey” , written right across the front of the bottle. I must warn you not to do a google search for the product at work or around sensitive eyes…

      1. Thanks for the warning.
        I have an email address at goatse.cx – I use it solely for communicating with educational institutions. Torturing “Web-nanny” programs is much more fun than pulling the wings off flies, and ethically more acceptable.

    3. Ah, that takes me back. When I were a lad, transistor radios designed for the masses were small, highly distorting, and always breaking down. The adjective ‘tranny’, especially in the north of England, was applied to anything that was cheap, nasty and unreliable. Plus ca change….

  23. I have no problem with “committed suicide”, […] I’d prefer “victim of” to “victim” and “survivor of” to “survivor” instead of the awkward suggested changes.

    This may be a US/ UK difference, but here, the average suicide has multiple victims, regardless of whether or not the person attempting to end their life succeeds.

  24. I’m surprised that Pow Wow is on the list. It is the term used by indigenous groups in my community. Last week I was at a visitor’s center run by an indigenous group. I was offered free postcards from the Pow Wow (which is how they were described to me). If I wanted to know the date for this year’s pow wow, I certainly wouldn’t ask for the date of the meeting. People would probably think I meant the next tribal council meeting. Gathering is OK, I guess, but why not suggest using words from the indigenous language if pow wow is objectionable. I think this would be my preference. And I shudder to think of what suggestions would be offered to replace the ubiquitous Indian Tacos.

    Overall, I think paying attention to language is a good thing. I don’t usually have a problem with, for example, saying I need people to staff the event rather than man the event. I think it only respectful to address people as they wish, or to eliminate pejorative terms, or avoid violent language or euphamisms.

    1. I don’t think the intent is to have indigenous people stop using the word to refer to actual powwows.

  25. I’m the husband of a woman born in China, and I’ve studied Hanyu both formally (in college) and informally (talking with my wife and in-laws) for decades. I had to facepalm when I read that “long time no see” is now on the forbidden list. Like our host, I’ve always found this to be a succinct, useful phrase. It is the word-for-word translation of háo jiǔ bú jiàn, 好久不见, and I, for one, don’t get any sense that it’s making fun of immigrants trying to learn English.

  26. Where else would one do fancy dancing but at a powwow? But I suppose non-Indigenous people are the ones who are supposed to stop using the word. And Indian tacos, I know them as Tewa tacos but same difference. Of course Indian is problematic but certainly one cannot use “injun”, except that would ruin that great old bumper sticker on the back of old crapped out Rez cars that said “this car is held together by injun-nuity”. Obviously the answer according to the zeitgeist is a group can use a word if it is about them, as with the n-word argument but isn’t the real issue one of intent? You can change the words “cripple” to “disabled” to “handicapped” to “handicapable” to “differently able” or whatever and still be an insulting prick. It’s how you use it and what you mean that matters. This was pointed out to me in a very well run work training with the phrase “ I didn’t say you were stupid”. For example, I didn’t SAY you were stupid, (but I think it all the time) or I didn’t say YOU were stupid, (just everyone like you) or I didn’t say you were STUPID (I said you were a moron). Intent matters. And really, we should all just be trying to be kind to each other rather than running around finding faults faster than an overexcited seismologist.

  27. Does this list of the bad words mean you can’t use them? Maybe I want to joke about suicide! Why can’t I joke about suicide? Maybe it helps me cope with suicide. What happens when people say “fuck me!”. That’s rapey isn’t it? And really “impacted by”. No, victimized! I’m impacted by heavy traffic, I’m victimized by a mugger.

    1. “Does this list of the bad words mean you can’t use them? Maybe I want to joke about suicide! Why can’t I joke about suicide? Maybe it helps me cope with suicide.”

      RIGHT?!? If you can’t use them, you sure as hell can’t joke about them! As someone who has suffered from suicidal depression and many other things that this list uses as a rationale to “protect” and “keep safe” people like me who have experienced traumas (among other people who need their fainting hearts “protected” by their elite overlords), this is extremely patronizing and oppressive. You know what one of my best fucking coping mechanisms is for depression and an overall morbid view of the human condition? Joking about it. Joking about suicide. Joking about the Holocaust. Joking about babies getting cancer.

      As someone who has known a lot of people who have gone through the worst traumas you can in life, I’ve found that some people clam up about it, but a very significant portion joke about everything — especially the most terrible things — partly as a way to cope. NOBODY is going to take that from me.

      Sorry, this reads like it’s directed at you because it’s a reply to your comment, but I know you were getting at the same thing. I’m just making a general statement because what you’ve touched on really boils my blood. These sorry activists and bureaucrats are constantly making decrees, policies, and protests that are supposedly on behalf of enormous groups of people, many of whom don’t want the Woke brand of help and don’t like the horseshit the Woke say they’re doing to help. For all the talking of “listening” and “educating” that “privileged” people need to undergo, the people at the forefront of so many Woke initiatives sure don’t seem to ask for or listen to input from the everyday people in the groups they purport to be protecting, or even the more prominent ones who happen to disagree with them.

      1. Yeah you said it much more eloquently than I. How dare these people tell me 1) how to cope 2) how to joke 3) how to interact with my fellow humans.

        1. These are diverse thoughts on the use of language, and should be included in discussion.

          I couldn’t come up with something to say about equity though – because policing language is not about equity, really.

  28. I think African-American is very appropriate as a cultural label. African-American culture — that is, the culture that was developed by formerly enslaved Africans (and their descendants) in America — is unique among black populations elsewhere in the world.

    As a racial description, not so much.

  29. There are a few decent suggestions on Brandeis’s social engineering list (though I don’t want to live in a society where “y’all” and “folkx” are ubiquitous), but lots of the suggestions are doomed to fail because instead of streamlining language they encumber it with verbiage. Wordiness rarely catches on. Our language would be duller and uglier if most of these suggestions were followed.

    1. I quite agree.

      I always liked “Long time no see” and “No can do”. To me, they have a somewhat humourous quality.

      It seems to me that the relation with insulting non native speakers is far fetched. Even if we grant the connection, is this such a deadly insult that the expression should be outlawed? Gimme a break (I suppose that’s wrong too. How about ‘Ain’t no sunshine” ?) .

      Come to think of it, suppose that some Native American had first coined the phrase “Long time no see”. We could see the use of the phrase as honouring him: whether intentionally or not, he invented a great phrase that caught on worldwide!

      The problem with most suggestions is that they’re just so dull.

  30. Yesterday at the ballgame I eavesdropped on some Swarthmore students sitting behind me talking about wokeness on campus. They said they hate it so much they were thinking about not going back in the fall.

    It was very interesting as I don’t know any college students. I wanted to turn around and ask them if they spoke up or kept quiet, but I was with a very woke friend myself and so I kept my own mouth shut.

  31. Omissions (not checked carefully)

    Avoid like the plague
    Wouldn’t touch it with a 10 foot pole
    A cancer [describing something eating away]
    Viral

    … I note all these entries require the premise that victims are behind the “microaggressions”. Yet, as we all – everyone on Earth – are victims of religion, there are no words to ban such as

    “vi vs emacs is a religious war”
    “I religiously wash my hands”

    1. “On fire!” : Referring to a great performance. Victim : those who lost family in a fire.

      “Smokin’!” Referring to a particularly focused part of a performance. Victim : persons traumatized by smoke in a fire they escaped.

      1. You’ve nailed it, Thyroid (oops, apologies to Jimmy Jesus for the trauma…) But then he falls into a very special category of child abuse victim given that it was all part of his Dad’s big plan…)

    2. I personally was bothered, in a mild enough way, by a boss who was fond of the phrase <b? "a come-to-Jesus moment" for the point in a negociation or discussion where some party was expected to commit to some course of action.

  32. “Tribe” is an interesting one, at least in terms of etymology and Roman history.
    Additionally, the set of people who can be traced back to one or more tribes is a set of all people.

    It is a poor decision to let the least rational people make rules governing subjects where the strength of their opinions have an inverse relationship to the level of knowledge they hold on the matter.

  33. There was never any British law allowing men to beat their wives. No sticks, no hands no nothing.

    Just another lie.

  34. We humans use language to distinguish between good and bad people, this list suggests academics are good and non-academics are bad. That could be true, but I’m a bit skeptic.

    For men lightly offended we can simply quote Epictus:

    Men are disturbed not by events but by their opinion about events.

  35. A carpenter or other person living by measurement sometimes lacks a ruler. For thousands of years, such persons have memorized the dimensions of parts of their bodies to obtain quick approximation of the size of things. For instance, the distal thumb phalange of an adult human approximates an inch in length, and thus provides a convenient rule(r) for gauging lumber on the fly.
    Geez. You watch. Someone will whine about “on the fly.”

  36. Similarly, in boys’ boarding-schools of centuries past, dorm rooms were heated by wood, and upperclassmen often conscripted younger boys to obtain faggots of bundled wood for heat, among other less savory tasks. The “faggot-boy” was an accepted institution in such restricted institutions.
    Nothing to do with the Roman symbol of judicial power, the rods (corporal punishment) bundled around the “capital” headsman’s axe.

  37. I have literally never associated “take a stab at”, “take a shot at” or the word “trigger” (used in the context of triggering something) with guns. Now that it’s been pointed out I’m aware of the connection but this can’t be an actually issue for anyone.

  38. As our culture is obsessed with emojis and acronyms to replace frequently used phrases, I can’t see these long-winded solutions gaining popularity.

    These are from a social-media acronym site: AFAIK AMA ASL b/c B4 BAE bc BFF BRB BTAIM BTW CC DAE DFTBA DGAF ELI5 EM EML F2F FaTH FBF FBO FFS FOMO FTFY FUTAB FYI G2G GG Gr8 GTG GTR HBD HMB HMU HTH IANAD IANAL ICYMI IDC IDK IKR ILY IMHO IMO IRL JK L8 LMAO LMK LMS LOL LOLz MCM MM MT MTFBWY NM NSFL NSFW NVM OAN OH OMG OMW OOTD OP ORLY OTP POTD PPL QOTD ROFL ROFLMAO SFW SMH TBH TBT TGIF Thx TIL TL;DR TLDR TMI TTYL TTYN TTYS Tx Txt w/ WBU WCW WDYMBT WOTD YMMV YOLO YSK YT

    Of these, I knew only 33, AMA and ASL have been repurposed, and I knew one that wasn’t even on this list: AITA (am I the a$$hole)

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