The University of Michigan has a “Words Matter Task Force.”
Seriously. Maybe that’s why out-of-state tuition costs more than $66,000 a year.
The WMTF, set up by the school’s Information and Technology Services (ITS) department, has declared that it finds more than two dozen words and phrases possibly offensive to people, including “picnic,” “brown bag” and “blacklist.”
“To effectively communicate with customers, it is important for ITS to evaluate the terms and language conventions that may hinder effective communication, harm morale, and deliberately or inadvertently exclude people from feeling accepted to foment a healthy and inclusive culture,” the task force said in a memo.
The WMTF offers alternative words to use, for instance urging people to say “gathering” instead of “picnic” and “lunch and learn” instead of “brown bag.”
“The word ‘picnic’ appears to be banned because of false suggestions on the internet that it originates from the racist, extrajudicial killings of African Americans,” the Daily Mail reported. “The word picnic actually comes from the 17th century French word ‘pique-nique,’ a term used to describe a social gathering in which attendees each contributed with a portion of food.”
In July, the Reuters News Agency published a piece headlined: “Fact check: The word picnic does not originate from racist lynchings.”
“Images circulating on social media make the claim that the word “picnic” originates from the racist, extrajudicial killings of African Americans. This claim is false.”
Among other banned words include “dummy,” which should be replaced by “sample,” and “crippled,” which should be replaced with “weakened.” And instead of saying “crazy,” staff are encouraged to say “unthinkable.”
The task force also said “off the reservation” should be replaced with “outside the norms” or “rogue.”
The language police have had a busy year in 2020. They killed the NFL team name of the Washington Redskins, which has so far been replaced only with “Washington Football Team”
Then they went after “low-hanging fruit,” which the Oxford Dictionary defines as “a thing or person that can be won, obtained, or persuaded with little effort.”
But a college professor said the term is racist.
“For African-Americans, if you say ‘low-hanging fruit,’ we think lynching,” said Mae Hicks-Jones, an adjunct faculty member of Elgin Community College in Illinois.
“Grandfathered” is also racist, she said, according to a report in the College Fix. To Hicks-Jones, the phrase is reminiscent of a grandfather clause, which privileged white people’s right to vote over that of black people during the Jim Crow South.
Then there was the “Masters” golf tournament. Rob Parker wrote a Deadspin headlined “We’ve Lived with ‘The Masters’ Name Long Enough.”
“Augusta National was built on grounds that were once a slave plantation and was the property of a slave owner. And according to a 2019 New Yorker piece about the course, it’s believed that enslaved Blacks were housed on the property,” he wrote.
Oh, there’s more. The largest cosmetics company in the world announced that it will remove words like “whitening,” “fair” and “lightening” from the packaging of its products.
“The L’Oreal Group has decided to remove the words white/whitening, fair/fairness, light/lightening from all its skin evening products,” the French cosmetics giant said in statement, according to The Associated Press.