Tuesday, February 11, 2003

The Language Police

The March 2003 (not available on-line yet) Atlantic Monthly excerpts a list of banned words and stereotypes compiled by Diane Ravitch from bias guidelines issued by major educational publishers and state agencies.

Some samples:

Adam and Eve (replace with “Eve and Adam,” to demonstrate that males do not take priority over females)

Bookworm (banned as offensive; replace with “intellectual”)

Craftmanship (banned as sexist)

Fairy (Banned because it suggests homosexuality; replace with “elf”)

Founding Fathers, the (banned as sexist; replace with “the Founders” or “the Framers”)

Huts (banned as ethnocentric; replace with “small houses”)

Junk bonds (banned as elitist)

Old (banned as an adjective that implies helplessness, dependency, or other negative qualities)

Polo (banned as elitist)

Straw man (banned as sexist; replace with “unreal issue” or “misrepresentation”)

Yacht (banned as elitist)

The article goes on to describe stereotypes and images to avoid in text. Some more samples:

African Americans who are baggage handlers.

Men playing sports or working with tools.

Women as passengers on a sailboat or sipping hot chocolate in a ski lodge.

Native Americans living in rural settings on reservations.

Asian-Americans having strong family ties.

Hispanics in urban settings.

Older people who are fishing, baking, knitting, whittling, reminiscing, rocking in chairs, or watching television.

The Language Police will be published in April by Knopf.

On a vaguely related note, one of my constant pet peeves is how my private school lamely tries to copy zero-tolerance policies of the public school. My child was not allowed to take off a sweatshirt during January’s 80-degree weather because she was wearing a t-shirt from a Route 66 car show—sponsored by Stater Brothers--with one car in the graphics that had a flame painted on the side. I guess the theory was that a picture of a hot rod would turn the four-year olds into baby boomers who refurbish old cars. Or maybe the flame represented gang symbolism or could be viewed as a weapon?

No comments: