The University of Michigan’s technology department is doing the important work of protecting students from the horrors of words like “picnic,” “girl,” “man,” “preferred pronouns,” and “honey,” even though the real horror would be finding these offensive. The list, created by the “Words Matter Task Force,” details words and phrases deemed anathema to an “inclusive” work and academic environment, offering awkward or non-specific replacements.
The strangest inclusion on the list would have to be “picnic,” which finds itself on the chopping block due to a false story about its origin. Rumors spread across social media contending that the word “picnic” developed in the context of lynching black people in the 19th and 20th centuries, but these claims have been debunked.
The word actually derives from the French “pique-nique,” which was coined in the 17th century to describe people coming together to eat as a group, with participants responsible for bringing different food. The university thus wishes to censor language based on an internet hoax.
Likewise, the common expression “long time no see” is derided for potentially being derogatory towards people from Asian descent. Or Native Americans. No one is quite sure. Due to the ubiquity of the phrase, it is virtually impossible to trace its origins, but it likely arose as a direct translation from Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, or a Native American dialect. Yet the leap from “may have started from direct translations from an undetermined language” to “harmful and exclusionary” is vast.
All words that include any reference to the sexes are now deemed incompatible with a comfortable working environment. Apparently, the student body, faculty, and staff are so delicate that they need to be protected from being referred to as a “girl” or “boy,” to avoid acknowledging that sex is binary. Further, addressing groups with “Hey, guys,” must be replaced with the far more practiced, un-casual “folks” or “everyone.”
Surprisingly, a phrase once beloved with the progressive crowd has suddenly become outdated and regressive: “preferred pronouns.” Now, prefacing pronoun with any description implies that people’s pronouns are a choice and not an immutable facet of their being, just as Justice Amy Coney Barrett was demonized for using the term “sexual preference” when the phrase was commonplace among the left just days before.
To save women from feeling patronized, the task force suggests limiting the use of affectionate monikers “sweetheart,” “sweetie,” or “honey.” While these phrases can be used to talk down to someone, they just as often are merely a way to demonstrate support and care. Any term can be condescending with the right tone, even, as is suggested, “the person’s name.”
At least the IT department is proposing to hold themselves to their own absurd standards by censoring typical tech jargon, such as “blacklist,” “dummy variable,” and “grandfathered,” a shift Twitter made this summer in an effort to be more “inclusive” and to avoid being labeled racist, ableist, or sexist.
At the top of the list, the task force assures readers that the list will continue to grow. One could hope that, going forward, pushes towards inclusive language will only focus on words and phrases that are legitimately offensive, but, more than likely, many more innocuous expressions will continue to be censored in the name of woke-ness.