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These are some terms I avoid using, with explanations of why I reject them.
There is another similar list in gnu.org containing software-related terms that we should avoid using.
Age of Trump: Let's not magnify the troll/cheater/bully by designating this age as being about him.
Children: Humans up to age 12 or 13 are children. After that, they become adolescents or teenagers. Let's resist the practice of infantilizing teenagers, by not calling them "children".
Custody: refers primarily to the legal relationship parents have to their children. To apply the same word to the relationship between prison guards and prisoners is a euphemistis cover for cruelty.
Detained: I am frequently detained on the street, in train stations, and in airports. The people that detain me typically ask, "Are you Richard Stallman?" Then they say they appreciate my work, though often they are misinformed about what the Free Software Movement really stands for.
Being thus detained is not a painful experience. When people call the GNU system "Linux" and think I advocate "open source", that disappoints me, but there is a positive side: it gives me a chance to educate them about those differences, and ask them to help GNU and free software.
By contrast, being taken away by thugs who might hold you prisoner for a short time or a long time is a pain in the neck, or worse. It can be stressful, harmful, and even dangerous.
To describe that occurrence by a passionless word such as "detained", which is used for events far less grave and perhaps even pleasant, is to deny the essence of what is happening. For those occurrences, I say "arrested" or "jailed", according to the specifics.
Dreamers: I support the DREAM Act, which would allow unauthorized childhood immigrants, those who have been in the US for many years, to remain and apply for citizenship. However, I do not call them "dreamers", because the term seems corny to me.
First daughter: This silly and pointless term promotes treating the president's family as a royal family. The founders of the US decided to address the president as "Mr President" precisely to avoid this danger.
First nations: I don't use the term "First Nations" to refer to indigenous peoples of the Americas.
The first problem with "First Nations" is that it presumes that the concept of "nation" was applicable to all peoples in the Americas ever since the humans first migrated there. The concept of "nation" is a bad fit for some places and times. The concept is European, and refers to a kind of self-conception that in the past was not found everywhere. (Not today either.)
Ancient Greeks thought of themselves as a nation (though they had never been politically united). Ancient Egypt seems to fit the concept of nationhood. But can we describe the Etruscans as a nation? Did they ever think of themselves in such a way?
Mesopotamia, Syria and Anatolia had empires that conquered various ethnic groups, some of the time. Does it make sense to call those ethnic groups "nations"?
In some places, where ethnic groups blend into neighboring ones and boundaries of states keep changing, it is hard to claim that any specific nations exist. In Europe in 1600, England was a nation; so were France, Spain, and Poland. But what nations existed in what we now call Germany and Italy? It is imponderable.
Turning to the Americas, the classic Maya's warring city-states resembled the earlier Greek warring city-states, and had a common mythology and writing, so maybe they were one nation. At the same period, Teotihuacan was the seat of an empire that dominated various ethnic groups; later the Aztecs did likewise. I'm not sure how to apply the concept of "nations" there.
Elsewhere there were hunter-gatherer bands that intermarried with other nearby bands. They could be classified into ethnic groups, but were those "nations"?
The word "first" is also problematical. If we stretch the word "nation" enough to fit all the peoples of 6,000 years ago in the Americas, it would fit equally well for the peoples of the other continents. None of those putative nations was "first".
I think the term "first immigrants" would fit better fit the indigenous peoples of the Americans, since their ancestors made up the first wave of immigration to the American continents.
However, what bothers me most about "First Nations" is visible in the capital letters habitually used for the expression. It is the slogan of a PR campaign to which I have not decided to give blanket support.
So I generally call those peoples "indigenous peoples" (of the Americas).
Homophobia: see phobia
Honor killing: Patriarchal murder.
Inappropriate: The vaguest possible word for criticizing a action. It means "not suitable for circumstances, according to my judgment." Nothing concrete or substantial.
Such vague criticism can never justify the conclusion that the person criticized has done wrong. After all, any act might be frowned upon by someone.
If you want to demand that someone be fired or prosecuted for some action, or punished or censured in any way, it behooves you to make an accusation that is concrete, not vague like "inappropriate". You need to say what the alleged wrong was, so we can judge not only whether it really occurred, but also whether it was a serious wrong if it did occur. If you can't allege something more specific than "inappropriateness", we must presume it wasn't bad enough to take action about — except perhaps to compare our views about it.
Men now face being fired for vaguely sexual conversations that were not sexual harassment and that no one complained about. The accusation made against these actions is that they were "inappropriate", because there is no concrete criticism to make.
See also this example.
Islamophobia: see phobia
Latinx: Please don't write that pseudo-word unless you are prepared to pronounce it too. In English, it is silly. In Spanish, it impossible. Linguistically, it stinx.
If you want a gender-neutral English noun to refer to people from Hispanic America, how about "Latin" and "Latins"? "Latin" is already used this way as an adjective.
Using the convention I proposed for gender neutrality in Spanish, the word would be "latinis", but my proposal has not been adopted much yet.
Libertarians: The right-wing opponents of government programs that help non-rich people like to call themselves "Libertarians", but that name misrepresents their views. Human rights are only a secondary issue for them, so they do not deserve that name. I call them Antisocialists.
For true Libertarians, look at the ACLU.
Native Americans: Anyone who was born in America is a native American. That includes me.
As regards the indigenous peoples of the US, I call them "indigenous peoples", the same term I use for all the rest of the world.
Obamacare: I don't use this term because it disparages Obama's medical insurance law. While that system doesn't go far enough — the main flaw being that it is based on private insurance companies — it was a substantial advance. I do not want disparage it. Rather, I advocate the further advance of adopting a single-payer universal system, also known as Medicare for All.
Partner: This word means someone you are business with. To use it in regard to a love relationship is, in effect, to model your idea of love on the idea of business. I think it is misguided to model important areas of life in terms of mere business.
Passing: When I was younger, I passed many times. I was good at studying and scored well on tests. I don't think that death is much like answering questions, and I don't believe people get graded on it. The euphemism, "passing", does not fit it very well.
Our society habitually refuses to confront the fact of death. The term "passing" enables that refusal. It also encourages the belief that a person who dies goes somewhere else, or changes into a specific other sort of thing, as distinguished from decaying.
Therefore, I reject all forms of the verb "pass" when referring to death, dying, and the state of having died.
…phobia: A phobia is a form of anxiety disorder. Prejudice against a demographic is a form of bigotry. Those two are totally different in their nature.
They are also different morally: bigotry is morally reprehensible, but you can't blame someone for having a phobia.
For these reasons, I reject terms such as "homophobia" for prejudice against homosexuals and "islamophobia" for prejudice against Muslims. I call them "bigotry" or "prejudice".
People of color: The term "people of color" endorses a racist outlook towards humanity by treating "color" as a matter of essence, as if it were a substance a person is made of, rather than as the superficial detail it really is.
The distinctions we call "racial" are grab-bags of various details of appearance, which may correlate more or less with certain ancestral groups. They are real differences, but not inherently significant; they have no importance except to the extent that racism gives it to them. Let's avoid using essentialist language to refer to them.
Aside from that, it twists the English language, because a characteristic such as "color" is not something you can be "of".
What next? Will we be asked to say "people of whiteness", "people of blackness", "people of tallness", "people of shortness", "people of blondness"?
If the idea is to refer to racial groups that face discrimination, I recommend "disprivileged racial groups". Or, to include all groups that face bigotry, we could say "disprivileged groups".
Pro-choice: A way to support the right to an abortion while failing to challenge condemnation of abortion.
I support abortion rights, not "choice".
Pro-life: People who assert that fetuses are human beings, and that their lives are sacred but only until they are born, use the term "pro-life" to pass themselves off as supporters of human rights. Let's not promote their pretense.
Giving birth kills some women. The US now has the highest rate of maternal death among wealthy countries, partly due to abortion-restricting policies that force some women to give birth. So we could call the supporters of those policies "pro-death".
Rendition: I've often enjoyed listening to renditions of music, in concerts and recordings. Not all renditions are good, however. Sometimes I have the impression of hearing notes that are out of tune.
Snooty connoisseurs sometimes say that listening to a bad musical rendition is torture, but they exaggerate. The worst rendition is nowhere near as bad as kidnaping people and handing them over to countries that will truly torture them. Calling that practice "rendition" is propaganda designed to disconnect our feelings from the crimes it refers to.
Let's save "rendition" for artistic performances, by rejecting its use in regard to prisoners.
Sexual assault: The term is applied to a broad range of actions, ranging from stealing a kiss to rape, as well as other things in between. It acts as propaganda for treating them the same.
There seems to be an exception for TSA agents, however.
The term is further stretched to include sexual harassment, which is not a specific act, but rather a pattern of acts that amounts to a form of gender bias. Gender bias is rightly prohibited in certain situations for the sake of equal opportunity.
I don't think that rape should be treated like stealing a kiss, so I reject the term "sexual assault" completely.
they: I reject the use of "they" and "them" for singular antecedents. Violating the English grammatical rule of agreement of number feels wrong and jarring to me. In addition, the failure to distinguish number makes some sentences hard or even impossible to interpret properly.
I implement gender neutrality by means of the genderless singular third-person pronouns: "perse", "per" and "pers".
Sex trafficking: This term is gravely ambiguous. It usually means trafficking people for sex (enslavement of people as prostitutes), but I've seen it apparently used to mean trafficking in sex (all prostitution, including voluntary prostitution). Such an ambiguous term is an invitation to bad thinking.
STEM: I think it is fun to learn math, science, and technology, and good to teach them—to students that want to learn them.
I think it is sad when someone feels compelled to study those fields.
In any case, I won't call them by the chic buzzword "STEM". We already have perfectly fine names for those fields.
Water protectors: I support the movement that tries to block construction of new pipelines for fossil fuels, but calling the protesters "water protectors" focuses attention on the local danger of the pipeline (spills might contaminate water supplies) rather than the global danger of global heating, that threatens the survival of civilization.
Let's call them "climate protectors".
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