University of NH: Don't Use Words Like 'Rich,' 'American'

Go with 'person of material wealth' who is a 'resident of the US'
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 29, 2015 2:10 PM CDT
University of NH: Don't Use Words Like 'Rich,' 'American'
Screenshot of a portion of the Bias-Free Language Guide.   (Univesity of New Hampshire)

The University of New Hampshire has created a "Bias-Free Language Guide," which it says "is not a means to censor but ... presents practical revisions in our common usage that can ... break barriers relating to diversity." It includes a long list of "problematic/outdated" words, along with a "preferred" alternative. A search suggests the guide was posted in late May, but it's just today grabbing headlines. Why the interest? For one, as Jonathan Chait puts it at New York, the guide "indicates that the list of terms that can give offense has grown quite long indeed." A sampling:

Preferred: people of advanced age, old people*
Problematic/Outdated: older people, elders, seniors, senior citizen
*Old people has been reclaimed by some older activists who believe the standard wording of old people lacks the stigma of the term “advanced age”. Old people also halts the euphemizing of age. Euphemizing automatically positions age as a negative.

Preferred: person who lacks advantages that others have, low economic status related to a person’s education, occupation and income
Problematic: poor person, person from the ghetto
Note: Some people choose to live a life that is not connected to the consumer world of material possessions. They do not identify as “poor”.

Preferred: person of material wealth
Problematic: rich
Being rich gets conflated with a sort of omnipotence; hence, immunity from customs and the law. People without material wealth could be wealthy or rich of spirit, kindness, etc.

Preferred: people of size
Problematic/Outdated: obese*, overweight people
"Obese" is the medicalization of size, and "overweight" is arbitrary; for example, standards differ from one culture to another.
Note: "Fat", a historically derogatory term, is increasingly being reclaimed by people of size and their allies, yet for some, it is a term that comes from pain.

Preferred: US citizen or Resident of the US
Problematic: American
Note: North Americans often use “American” which usually, depending on the context, fails to recognize South America

Preferred: First-year students
Problematic/Outdated: freshmen

Preferred: Other Sex
Problematic/Outdated: Opposite Sex

See the guide in full here; and yes, it includes this. (Read more language stories.)

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