ROGER KIMBALL: Stanford’s Naughty and Nice List.

The scarifying bulletin offers advice on the language that you should—and, more to the point, language that you shouldn’t—use in several different situations. With respect to language that touches on prowess and disability, for example, it suggests that instead of saying “addict” one say “person with a substance use disorder” (not that the person mainlining heroin had any choice in the matter, you see). Instead of saying “basket case,” consider saying “nervous.” Instead of saying “committed suicide,” say “died by suicide”—as if it just happened; no agency or responsibility involved. And on and on through the usual lexicon of supposedly hypersensitive but really obtuse insanity. 

The website proceeds through all the usual politically correct categories, with entries on “ageist” language, 57 varieties of “gender identification” and, of course, endless handwringing entries dealing with race. Don’t say “bury the hatchet,” for heaven’s sake, say “call for peace, call a truce. ” Don’t say “low man on the totem pole,” say “lacking seniority, don’t have the power or prestige.” By the same token (is that permissible?), don’t say “balls to the wall” (I could have told you that), say “accelerate efforts,” don’t say “chairman” or “chairwoman,” say “chairperson, chair.” 

Naturally, you shouldn’t even think about using personal pronouns or the word “man” as a collective noun or as a verb. Don’t say “black hat,” “black mark,” “black sheep,” “blackballed,” “blackbox,” “blacklist.” Don’t even say “brown bag” because—well, you know. Grandfather, father, mother, daughter, son: they’re out, and so are most uses of the word “master”: “master list,” “master a subject,” “master plan.” You can’t say “rule of thumb” because, the document explains, “this phrase is attributed to an old British law that allowed men to beat their wives with sticks no wider than their thumb.” It actually has its source in Muslim practice, but they’re a protected group, so we’re not supposed to mention them. 

Note that the version of this pathetic document I link to exists on a server at the Wall Street Journal. Stanford, facing blowback (that word must certainly offend someone!) hid it from public scrutiny. As the Journal’s column put it, “without a password, you wouldn’t know that ‘stupid’ made the list.”

The Newspeak Dictionary doesn’t shrink itself, you know.