These are new politically correct alternatives to your offensive speech, friends!
Please consider primarily changing your language to coddle the reality of those who need help, rather than educating them. You’ve heard the story – teach a man to fish and he’ll have fish for life, but if you do all the fishing for him, he’ll be mentally enslaved to you forever!
This language is brought to you by the prestigious Brandeis University. and in all honesty, I document it here for the absurdity of it and to place it all in one easily accessible location. Brandeis calls this an “Oppressive Language List.” It’s extremely important for our educational institutions to be held accountable – for public records to be kept of their behavior.
We’re actually having non-consensual language controls promulgated (Brandeis: “rape”) and we weren’t invited to the powwow to decide this. We’re then vilified for not agreeing with it. It’s an abusive relationship.
|Oppressive Language||Possible Alternatives|
|Victim / Survivor||Person who has experienced…Person who has been impacted by…|
|Disabled personWheelchair-bound||Person with a disabilityPerson who uses a wheelchair|
|Mentally ill||Person living with a mental health condition|
|Child prostitute, sex with underage personNon-consensual sex||Child who has been trafficked, rapeRape|
|Abusive relationships||Relationship with an abuser|
|Addict||Person with a substance use disorder|
|Homeless person||Person experiencing housing insecurity|
|Prostitute||Person who engages in sex work|
|Tribe||Friends, group, pals||The word tribe was historically used in a dehumanizing way to equate indigenous people with savages; in modern times, a member of an indigenous tribe can describe themself as such.|
|Powwow||Meeting, party, gathering||Using the word powwow erases the cultural roots, significance, and true meaning of the word.|
|Spirit animal||Favorite animal, animal I would most like to be||In some cultural and spiritual traditions, spirit animals refer to an animal spirit that helps guide and/or protect a person through a journey; equating this with an animal you like strips the term of its significance.|
|Oppressive Language||Possible Alternatives||Explanation|
|“Everything going on right now”||Police brutality, protests, BLM, COVID-19, etc. Name what you are referring to!||Being vague about important issues risks miscommunication and can also avoid accountability.|
|Committed suicide, failed/successful suicide, completed suicide||Died by suicide; suicided; killed themself||These verbs frame suicide as a crime (committed) or an achievement (fail, successful, completed), implying judgment about suicidality.|
|Child prostitute, sex with underage person|
|Child who has been trafficked, rapeRape||Sex with someone without their consent is rape; it is important to name this.|
|Abusive relationships||Relationship with an abuser||Relationships don’t perpetrate abuse; abusers do. It is important to name that someone is responsible.|
|VictimSurvivor||Person who has experienced…Person who has been impacted by…||These labels can make a person feel reduced to an experience. Person-first language is great here, unless the person identifies with either word. If they do, honor them by using that word!|
|Depending on who you mean:Women, including trans womenCisgender women, menAssigned female/male at birth||These terms imply that a person’s identity isn’t “real” or that their body defines them in a different way than they might identify.|
|“I’m going to kill myself” “Kill me”||“I’m really upset.” “I’m so overwhelmed” “I want to stop doing this.”||Joking about suicide is very harmful and belittles the problem as well as people who may be seriously considering suicide or have in the past.|
|Oppressive Language||Possible Alternatives||Explanation|
|Gender exclusive language|
You guys, Ladies and Gentlemen, Policeman, congressman, etc.
|Gender inclusive languageY’all, folks or folx, friends, loved ones, peoplePolice Officer, Congressperson, etc.First year studentThey or Ask their pronouns!||These examples either lump all people under masculine language or within the gender binary (man or woman), which doesn’t include everyone.|
(unless the person/people identify as such)
|Black (with a capital B)||Not all Black people are from Africa and/or America|
Crazy, Insane, Wild
|That’s bananasUncool, disappointingDrop-in||Ableist language can contribute to stigmas about and trivializes the experiences of people living mental health conditions.|
|Generic “people of color“||BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) – this term intentionally names Black and Indigenous folks who are disproportionately impacted by violence in the US, even more so than other people of color.||If you are talking about a specific racial group, name the group you are talking about.|
|Tranny, transsexual, hermaphrodite, f*g, or other slurs for LGBTQ+ people||LGBTQ+Trans and gender non-conforming folkQueer (consider your audience, not everyone receives this word positively)||Many of these terms have historically and continue to be used in a hateful way against LGBTQ+ folks. As with other in-group language, sometimes folks may refer to themselves with a word that someone outside of that group should not use.|
|Transgendered||Transgender||Transgender should not be past tense; drop the -ed!|
|Long time no see|
No can do
|I haven’t seen you in so long!|
Sorry, I can’t.
|These terms as well as other expressions using broken English originate from stereotypes making fun of non-native English speakers, particularly applied to indigenous people and Asians.|
|To get gypped|
To get Jewed
|To get ripped off|
To get haggled down unreasonably
|Gypped is derived from “gypsy,” connected to the racial stereotype that gypsies are swindlers.Similarly, Jewed is based on the stereotype that Jews are cheap and/or money hoarders.|
|Sold down the river||Betrayed||This expression refers to enslaved people who were sold as punishment, separating them from their families and loved ones.|
|Indian-giver||Take something back; rescind a gift||The term Indian-giver is said to have roots in misunderstandings about trade customs in early relationships between Indigenous people in the Americas and white settlers.|
One thing that particularly bothers me is when words like “Powwow” are deemed largely unusable, the word itself loses its relativity to our culture. I love having that word in our culture.
Powow Photo Credit