USC progressives: you can’t say “field” any longer

January 11, 2023 • 9:40 am

Every day the language policing gets more and more ludicrous, but this example, from the School of Social Work of the University of Southern California, takes the cake.  I can no longer say that “my field is evolutionary biology” because that is racist language. The connection, as outlined in the official letter below from the USC group, is that enslaved people went “into the field” in the antebellum South. That makes the word “field” off limits. But farmers were going into the field long before that!

Now the recommended verbiage is “my practicum is evolutionary biology.” At that point people will say “Whaaaat???” And, as several readers note below, the words “field work” for biologists are also unacceptable; I suppose the alternative is “ecological labor in the great outdoors”.

I don’t think people will buy this change. Note that USC’s stated goal is not just to change language but to “acknowledge inclusion and reject white supremacy, anti-immigrant, and anti-blacknesss ideologies.” I don’t think that this aim will come to mind when someone says “practicum.”

The thing that strikes me is that someone had to see the world “field” as racist, and then take action to expunge it from USC’s language. You have to be sniffing around very hard for offense to do something like that. And I suspect that their goal, in fact, isn’t any of the ones they state, but simply to assert power.  How bizarre that these initiatives actually work in today’s America!

If you think this is fake, it’s not: it’s been reported by quite a few venues. They’re mostly right-wing sites, of course, because the mainstream media would never highlight something like this, as it makes the progressive Left, as well as academia, look too crazy. It’s stuff like this that Republicans use to tar not just the “woke”, but all Democrats and left-centrists.

There are good cases to be made for changing some language, but this isn’t one of them.

104 thoughts on “USC progressives: you can’t say “field” any longer

    1. “Mag” is 3/4 of a MAGA! This invades my safe space and I can’t get any respect. (or something) I gotta work on my wokish jargon. That will give me peace because all speech and thought will be funnelled through a merciless grinder and simplified to total Kendiangelo-ish. Or perhaps a lobotomy. Hmmm. More decisions.

    2. Well, kinda gives a new meaning to He’s outstanding in his field dont’t it he’s out standing in his field

      1. ‘Practicum’ is latin. Do these fools not recognise that the Romans ran an entire empire based on slavery?

    1. Maybe USians can join the rest of the world and play our kind of Football, and baseball, on “pitches.” There would be Inpitchers, Outpitchers, and, on the mound, Something-Other-Than-In-or-Out Pitchers, as well as catchers (until someone decides that has racist connotations).

      1. I fear that U.S. baseball fans should be aware that the position of catcher is on the endangered words list. It connotes images of those people in the antebellum South that were commissioned to hunt and capture runaway slaves. To create less psychic harm, I suggest that the position be renamed “pitched ball receiver.”

        1. “Pitcher” and “catcher” have a whole ‘nother set of issues we needn’t go into. “Pitched ball receiver” is a turn of phrase that might actually cause the sort of harmonic multiple entendre convergence that can rend the very fabric of the woke linguistic universe.

  1. I guess the physics department will have no longer teach Quantum Field Theory, or the math department teach Mathematical Fields (a special type of Group).

    This nonsense is driving middle of the road people to the Republican side as who would want to be associated with some nonsense.

    1. It will go so low it will reach the core of Earth’s core. From there it will emanate outward with such force the effect on Earth’s magnetic fie— OOPS! OH MY GOSH! I’M SO SORRY! My intent was to say, “Earth’s magnetic practicum” — not the dreaded F-bomb! Can I ever be forgiven? It was my spellcheck -yeah that’s the ticket. Spellcheck is all messed up in my computer.

      1. I really need to stop reading comments from the bottom up (latest to first). I thought I had something original going there– until I scrolled up to the first comment 😐. Oh well, chalk this one up as “Great Minds Think Alike” -especially for science enthusiasts with interests in the same Fields.

  2. “… takes the cake.”

    Oh boy – looks like we inadvertently found ourselves a case of dessert-ism – … and is that a vegan cake?

    ^^^I kid I kid!

    More seriously, I wonder why the Suzanne
    Dworak-Pecksniff school isn’t concerned with their neighbors’ rampant use of “electric/magnetic/vector/football field” – I guess it’s ok!

    ^^^can’t resist the satire.

  3. Going back fifty or more years. I remember our English teacher saying using field as discipline is a bit superfluous. I work as a chemist is far more direct or perhaps I work in chemistry. Ditto for “nature of”.

    1. Maybe they do want the attention to bury all the unfortunate revelations deeper in search results?
      “The nonprofit school used its status-symbol image to attract students across the country, including low-income minority students it targeted for recruitment, often with aggressive tactics. Most students piled on debt to afford the tuition, which last year reached $115,000 for the two-year degree. The majority never set foot on the posh Los Angeles campus but paid the same rate for online classes as in-person students.”

  4. As long as DEI people have jobs, they will have to do something to justify their employment. So I expect things like making “field” verboten to continue and get increasingly absurd.

    1. I think this is 90% of it. If they stopped doing stuff like this, what would they do? It’s not like they are teaching or conducting research!

  5. This is just what you should expect from the University of Spoiled Children. Unfortunately, this stuff also happens at real universities.

  6. It makes sense if you realize how provincial America is. Of course “field” is racist because nothing in the world makes sense unless viewed through the lens of American history. USA! We’re Number One! And all that jazz.

  7. Jesus, I hope they don’t have a football field or soccer field. Seriously, they should be required to prove that the use of the term field is injurious. “It could be considered” isn’t really persuasive.

      1. You hit on my concern. Clothing will have to be referred to as made from “sheep-derived material.”

        Or will that be offensive to sheep?

        1. And how do we refer to cotton without using the word cotton?

          And back to sheep for a moment, does anyone know what pronouns they prefer?

          Finally, is the word “it” okay? If so, we could just replace all nouns with “it.”

          “I specialize in it.”

          “My shirt is made of it.”

          Oh, sure, it would be confusing at first, but at least chances of harming someone with our language would be minimized.

          It would, wouldn’t it?

  8. Trigger Warning – The next class will discuss materials used in the flow of electricity between two points.

    Topic – Properties of Metals. Metals are good conductors of electricity.

    Conductor – An individual who escorted or guided freedom seekers between Underground Railroad stations or safe houses.

    1. The term “trigger warning” is no longer acceptable, because triggers are found on guns and some people experience anxiety around firearms. Wait, “firearms” is ableist, as some people have no arms…

      “Topic” is unacceptable because the sound of the second syllable “pic” sounds like the word “pick”, as to pick cotton as a slave.

      “Conductor” is unacceptable because trains have conductors and trains were used to transport Jews to camps during the holocaust.

  9. Most of the comments above are about the stupidity of not using the word ‘field’, with which I agree. But there is another aspect. Practicum, as I understand it, means the practical part of a more general course. So you can talk about a ‘teaching practice’ or a ‘teaching practicum’. Using it in a more general sense to mean the equivalent of field would mean that a) there is no word for the practical part of a course and b) it would lead to idiocies like ‘My practicum is theoretical physics.’

  10. Besides electric field and all that, in optics we have field of view, angular field, and visual field, and probably more. I will gladly field suggestions for replacing them with something half as clear.

    1. In photography we have “depth of field”.

      I sincerely regret that I spend none of my time around these people. They have no power to influence my life, and I would dearly love the chance to offend the living sh#t out of them, over and over and over and over and over and …

      1. Yes, depth of field was a serious oversight. Also field glasses for binoculars. I am sure more will come to mind as we survey the practicum.

  11. Here’s the OED entry for field in this sense. As you can see, this usage goes back all the way to Old English, with multiple entries from centuries long before transatlantic slavery was a thing. What USC is trying to do is claim ownership of this usage, by asserting that the association *they* have with the word, or which they impute to (oh-so fragile) others, is the only possible way to view the word. Although it sounds snooty to say so, I’m afraid this is a typically American phenomenon, as evidenced also by the way “blackface” is *always* viewed by such people solely through the lens of 19th-century minstrelsy, with no awareness that it goes back millennia into the past in a wide variety of folk and ritual contexts.

    II. An area of operation or observation.
    a. An area or sphere of action, enquiry, or interest; a (wider or narrower) range of opportunities, or of objects, for activity or consideration; a theme, a subject. Frequently with of.

    [citations in chronological order:]
    OE tr. Theodulf of Orleans Capitula (Corpus Cambr.) xxi. 325 Mon on þam feldum þara haligra gewryta [L. per sanctarum scripturarum campos] swiðe eaðe þa wæpnu metan mæg, mid þam mon þa uncysta ofercuman mæg ond gode weorc fryðian [corrected to fyrðrian].
    1340 Ayenbite (1866) 240 Huanne oure lhord wolde by uonded of þe dyeule: he yede in-to desert. uor þe desert of religion: is ueld of uondinge.
    c1430 N. Love Mirror Blessed Life (Brasenose e.9) (1908) 161 That first it byhoueth they proue hem selfe by exercise of vertues in the felde of worchynge, that is to seie that thei knowe hem self besily.
    1529 T. Paynell in tr. Assaute & Conquest Heuen Ep. Ded. sig. A.iii For as vice is distroyer of all thinges, so vertue in this felde, as in al other causes is chiefe gouernour and maistres.
    1548 N. Udall et al. tr. Erasmus Paraphr. Newe Test. I. Luke xv. f. cxxxiii The Jewes neglecteth all the premisses dooyng nothyng but digge and beare burdens in the fielde of the lawe.
    a1586 Sir P. Sidney Arcadia (1590) i. v. sig. D6v A very good Orator might haue a fayre field to vse eloquence in, if [etc.].
    1626 F. Bacon Sylua Syluarum §228 As for the increase of Vertue is a large Field, and to be handled by it self.
    1661 W. Johnson Novelty Represt 432 Leave not you many books of Scripture out of the Canon, and use you not the large feild of Scripture to puzzle the weak?
    1695 J. Dryden tr. C. A. Du Fresnoy De Arte Graphica 11 A Subject..which..shall..afford..Art, an ample field of matter wherein to expatiate it self.
    1711 J. Addison Spectator No. 160. ¶4 This..Failure..opens a large Field of Raillery.
    1750 W. Beawes Lex Mercatoria (1752) 2 The wide field for trade that now lies before us.
    1807 T. Thomson Syst. Chem. (ed. 3) II. 143 A very interesting field of investigation.
    1880 Harper’s Mag. July 313/2 The titles of the ninth volume..cover a wide field of literary and scientific research in the departments of geography, geography [etc.].
    1939 Public Opinion Q. 3 562 Giving the home shopper television eyes opens a wide field in marketing.
    1950 Sci. News 15 124 The research worker may find blood group inheritance a convenient field for study.
    2004 Independent 17 June i. 39/1 Tony De La Rosa was a major innovator in the field of conjunto music.

    1. Nice writeup!

      No offense to mean people.

      Or people who choose to speak and do not choose to write.


      Nice v. mean… write… speak…

      Never mind.

        1. I wrote “nice writeup!” but the words “nice” and “writeup” could be offensive – offensive to “mean” people or those who do not write.

          1. Nope, still no closer to understanding what point you’re trying to make in relation to my comment.

  12. Surely the word ‘work’ should also be expunged from their departmental name as well as it invokes references to what was done in the field.

  13. I guess that saying that someone is “outstanding in their field” would not be politic under the new dispensation.

  14. It just occurred to me :

    If “field” is to be struck from the record, it would be safe to strike “dleif” as well – what if some people try to sneak harmful words into our language, under our very noses?!

    Let’s clean up a few of the worst ones right away and see what we get :


    … yep – this could get pretty harmful.

  15. This is just nuts. Force fields are at work everywhere in our universe – gravitational, magnetic, electrical, quantum fields. Gosh… I’m not sure what to do about them now! 😉

    1. I grew up in Chicago area and used to think the Field Museum was called that because of all the field trips.

      I suppose the term “field trip” is out, though I expect the term “field work” is what actually triggered the censors originally.

  16. “projects” should also go, by the letter’s dictum but especially as there is genuine racism today in the housing/mortgage industry – that is, if I follow, there is a better case to be made for “projects” than than “field”.

      1. Thanks. I’m familiar with this work. I don’t see it as persisting racism in the housing/mortgage industry as much as the resistance of individual home-buyers to invest their money and their children in the kind of neighbourhoods where black people congregate. I don’t think they even have to think about it, which is probably why they lie and say the opposite on opinion surveys.

        1. If i can paraphrase, I took it that in particular mortgage brokers or real estate agents can exert their own whims or hunches on prospective clients and the results suggest that added up to clear racism : clients named Shonequa get a “we’ll be in touch” when a client named Mike with similar income is on line 2,… sort of thing.

          It’s worth a few bucks to read it.

          1. I did read it, for free. Everyone knows where the black neighbourhoods in our city are — newcomers make it their business to find out — and we would think the real estate agent was jerking us around if she took us to one of those neighbourhoods to look at a house. Usually the budget you are talking about sorts the issue out without uncomfortable truths being ventilated. “Good schools” is another shibboleth. As I have said elsewhere, I don’t give uptake to accusations of racism against me.

            So if an HR person or banker or realtor avoids people with names like Shonequa — and they do, yes — they are making stereotypical judgements based on who is likely to be a better hire, credit risk, or prospective buyer. I don’t give uptake to accusations of “clear racism” against them, either. If the Shonequas of the world want to get ahead, they can fix the stereotypes.

  17. I for one an fully supportive and glad for USC’s move to finally remove this obviously racist and dehumanizing word from its language. Our work is done. Historical and structural racism has now been fully expunged, thanks to their quick action, and there is no need to work on messy things like unequal school funding, racialized drug policies, and all that other stuff that is actually hard.

    1. Is that true that school funding within a given state is unequal, Mark? Between states, yes, very much, but several people here have claimed that the states use state funds (raised of course from wealthier districts) to equalize per capita school funding. We do that in Canadian provinces and federally funded Native schools actually get far more per student than provincially funded public schools attended by everyone else. I don’t know how to find out for sure in the U.S. beyond reading reports like this, which depend on what Google serves up with the query, “do American states equalize school funding”:

      It appears that the state and the municipalities provide about equal shares of funding of K-12 education summing to ~92% with the feds kicking in 8%.

      It’s easy to find oid news articles decrying the $6000 per annum gap in per capita funding between rich towns and poor towns in Connecticut that seem to depend purely on the local tax base
      but is this typical, or cherry-picked to suit the Atlantic’s tastes? July 2022
      nicely illustrates the difference between equality and equity. Across the nation in 2017, the poorest quintile of school districts actually spent more per student ($13,000) than the other four quintiles including the wealthiest ($10,000 each.) But the authors of the report claim that in order to achieve equal educational outcomes, the poorest quintile should have had $18,000 to spend per capita and the richest only $8,000.* The justification for these “equity” figures is worked out in the report, which I’m not qualified to judge, but it is clearly not true that there is “unequal school funding” in the United States. Equitable funding is of course an exercise in moveable goal posts and is naturally bitterly contentious….and certainly messy.
      * There you have it: staying married and reading to your kids carries a penalty of $2000 a year per child.

      1. “… the poorest quintile of school districts actually spent more per student ($13,000) than the other four quintiles including the wealthiest ($10,000 each.) ”

        Come to think of it, that’s exactly what I would expect.

        All I’m saying is I’m only realizing now that an assumption is that the costs should be the same – buy there’s no reason to expect that.

  18. “I work in the ……..Field”
    I take that to mean that an individual has chosen a fertile ground (?).. in which to invest their time/labor etc… so that they may produce a marketable/socially beneficial product.
    The is anti-agrarianist!

  19. Wow, the use of the word “field” being racist is a HUGE stretch! I wonder if the people who came up with that pulled a muscle?

    There isn’t a single person alive today who has been enslaved by a white country, much less the US. There are, however, many survivors of the Holocaust still alive. Imagine if the Jewish people requested that “gas” and “chamber” be stricken from our language. Or “trains” or “camps.” If this grows legs, pretty soon, every word will offend someone, and we will not be allowed to speak or write.

  20. Synonyms are violence.
    Language is a clear form of oppression, and the English language especially harbours intrinsic Colonialism and Oppression.
    Despite silence also being violence, we must remove as many offending words as possible.
    And while replacing the offence with a synonym seems to be progress, the very fact that there ARE synonyms is testament to the variety of ways that language harms. The white overlord has the luxury to choose from among many many words, all taught within a school system that excludes the ‘other’.
    We gamed the system by having a nuanced complex language that expresses what we want it to express…and synonyms a merely a virtue signal to ourselves that we can replace words at will, and if these new ones become problematic, we can replace those as well, for our racist tongues know no bounds.
    We must let the harmed not only choose all words, but we must allow them to develop a new language entirely that we must learn…and never utter.
    I shall put out my eyes and cut out my tongue, that I might be purged of this original sin.
    Ah, if only the Freuds and Jungs and Humes and Descartes realised that the Id, the Self, the existential ‘I’ did in fact exist, but was inherently racist and oprressive.
    I think, therefore I oppress.

  21. “In the world’s great FIELD of battle,
    In the bivouac of Life,
    Be not like dumb, driven cattle,
    Be a hero in the strife.”

    – Longfellow

  22. Magnetic area of influence?

    Usefully, for all the fields I can think of, that is not materially different from the whole universe.
    Oh no – the QCD field, with it’s non-1/r^2 strength parameter – is effectively only present at quite small distances. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not present at indefinitely large distances from the particle under consideration.
    Whether the curvature of space-time is positive, zero or negative affects this a lot. If the curvature is positive, the universe is small enough to the value of the field to be non-zero at all points.
    Ohhhh, look at all those worms wriggling in the can they’ve opened!

  23. My fellow “field geologists” will probably treat this proposition with appropriate disdain, because when we leave the office to go out into the field, we literally go out into fields (and woods, cliffs, seas, and mud) to do our work. Getting rained on, sun-burned and every so often shot at.

  24. Being a non-native English speaker, I feel that changing/redefining/replacing words is putting me at a disadvantage and therefore is a form of discrimination against me. Ha.

  25. The Democrat party has always been the party of slavery; they owned slaves, literally fought a war for the right to own slaves, they started the KKK, they voted against civil rights laws, and they continue to enslave the poor through victim-hood policies. Clearly the word Democrat is the root of all offensive racist language. It must be banned and anyone who uses that horrible word is obviously a dedicated racist.

  26. Virtue signallers are competing to outdo each other in coming up with new words to prohibit that other didn’t think of yet!

  27. As one whose family has farmed (yes, “worked the fields”) for four generations, I am deeply offended that these intellectuals choose to look down from their ivory tower on my family’s livelihood. It is okay not to go to college, folks.

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