Dori: How far will the University of Washington’s ‘word police’ go?

Jan 24, 2022, 12:12 PM | Updated: Jan 25, 2022, 12:03 pm
UW, word police...
A statue in front of the Husky Union Building on the University of Washington's Seattle campus. (MyNorthwest photo)
(MyNorthwest photo)

Most of us are aware of words and phrases from the past that are blatantly hurtful to others. But apparently, we’re not aware enough.

That’s why the University of Washington’s Information Technology Department has released an “Inclusive Language Guide.” It reflects their stated goal of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

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But when that word list continues to grow – and colleges, including the UW, post them in so-called “do not use” guides — does it make you wonder what other speech the “word police” might be putting in its crosshairs? (Oops. Crosshairs might be on the next list.)

“Webmaster” is out. It’s racist. “Web product owner” is in.

“Blind spot” is out. It’s ableist. “Choosing to ignore” is better.

Want to bring leftovers for a lunch meeting? You can’t “brown bag” it. That’s racist, too. Why? According to the UW guide, “Brown bags trace back to the ‘brown paper bag test,’ which was traditionally used to judge skin color by certain African-American sororities and fraternities.” You’re advised to use “lunch and learn” instead.

Also out: “cakewalk,” “no can do,” and an airplane’s flight data recording “black box.”

Dozens of other words and phrases are on this list – many of them already considered offensive by most of today’s norms. But the guide goes even further than internal use.

“If the name for something or a word in documentation is among those in the problematic words and phrases list and comes from a vendor, and changing the word may create more confusion, it is recommended that you contact the vendor and urge the vendor change the word(s),” the document reads.

It sounds as if the UW believes it is the university’s responsibility to tell airlines, hotels, ski resorts, travel agents and restaurants that they can’t use the word “blackout” – as in dates when travel rewards and other special discounts or promotions are not available. Is it the UW’s role to tell them to use “blocked days” instead?

Do you see what I mean? Darn. Even the word “see” is on the list.

This is the kind of crazy stuff our kids have to deal with in 2022. Sorry, that was ableist.

This is the kind of goofy stuff our kids have to deal with in 2022.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Dori: How far will the University of Washington’s ‘word police’ go?