University language guide says ‘grandpa’, ‘housekeeping’, ‘spirit animal’ are ‘problematic’ words

A University of Washington language guide calls everyday words used by Americans “problematic”.

The University of Washington’s Department of Information Technology has released an “inclusive language guide” that lists a number of “problem words” that are “racist”, “sexist”, “ageist” or “homophobic”.

According to the guide, words such as “grandpa”, “household”, “minority”, “ninja” and “lame” are considered “problem words”.

For example, the language guide indicates that the word “lame” is considered problematic because it is “capable”.

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“This word is offensive, even when used in slang for uncool, because it uses a handicap in a negative way to imply that the opposite, which would not be lame, is superior,” the guide states.

The guide also states that the term “minority” implies an “less than” attitude towards a certain community.

“When ‘minority’ is used to refer to other races or abilities, it is used as a general term for ‘the other’ and implies an ‘less than’ attitude towards the community or communities from which it is question,” the guide says.

The guide considers “grandfather” to be a “problematic word” because the term has been “used as a means of exempting some people from a change due to conditions that existed before the change”.

“The ‘Grandfather Clause’ originated in the American South in the 1890s as a way to challenge the 15th Amendment and prevent black Americans from voting,” the guide explains.

“Housekeeping” is another “problematic” word that the guide recommends other people working in the IT industry avoid, as it can “seem gendered”.

Expressions with “man” such as “labor”, “working hours” or “man in the middle” are considered “non-inclusive” and “therefore sexist”.

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The language guide also considers “preferred pronouns” to be “problematic” because the term “preferred” suggests that “a person’s pronoun is optional”.

Language such as “what I can’t”, “spirit animal”, and separating groups based on certain colors is “racist” or culturally appropriate.

According to the language guide, the use of “red”, white or “yellow” to separate different teams is based on “racist tropes”.

“Using colors based on racist tropes – labeling [sic] ‘white’ as good, ‘black’ as bad, ‘red’ as attackers or ‘yellow’ as excluded third – is offensive,” the guide states.

The term “spirit animal” is also “problematic” because it uses “cultural appropriation”, according to the guide.

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FILE - In this April 3, 2019, file photo, students walk between classes on the University of Washington campus in Seattle.  (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

FILE – In this April 3, 2019, file photo, students walk between classes on the University of Washington campus in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

University of Washington Department of Information Technology employees are also encouraged to contact vendors who use “problem words and phrases” and ask them to avoid terms that have “racist, ableist, and /or sexist”.

The webpage also provides a sample prompt that employees can use when emailing vendors regarding this issue.

“Unfortunately, while working with your product/service, we have identified language that may be considered offensive due to its racist, ableist, and/or sexist origins,” the email prompt reads. “Can you tell us what efforts you are undertaking to move away from this language to create a more inclusive product/service?”

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