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Op-Ed: What? Woke Stanford University’s List of Harmful Words Includes “American”

The end of the Sanford list asks: “Do you have feedback on the current list or have a term you would like to suggest? Please fill out our suggestion form. Your suggestion will be reviewed and added to the list accordingly. Email [email protected]. File photo: Jejim,, licensed.

PORTSMOUTH, OH –  Stanford University in California put out a new list of words called “The Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative.” “The goal of the Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative is to eliminate many forms of harmful language, including racist, violent, and biased (e.g., disability bias, ethnic bias, ethnic slurs, gender bias, implicit bias, sexual bias) language in Stanford websites and code.” 

Under a section called “Imprecise Language,” the guide suggests replacing the word “American” with “U.S. citizen.” Please tell me what is wrong with referring to yourself or others as an American?  

Stanford’s logic: “This term often refers to people from the United States only, thereby insinuating that the US is the most important country in the Americas (which is actually made up of 42 countries).” 

Huh? That’s sounds a lot like pot logic. What is pot logic? you ask. “The logic of a person who is under the influence of a “pot” (cannabis); What someone would say if a person did something stupid. Their logic would be similar to a person who is buzzed or drunk,” as noted in the Urban Dictionary. 

Does Sanford expect Lee Greenburg to change the words of his patriotic song? I’m proud to be a U.S. citizen, instead of an American, where at least I know I’m free.  

Bye – Bye Miss U.S. Citizen Pie by Don McLean.

The American University in Washington, D.C., would become The U.S. Citizen University. 

Larry Elder, best-selling author, radio/TV talk show host and columnist at BPR commented, “But there is good news. After Stanford put out its language guide, the university immediately became the object of attack and ridicule. It now says the language guide is under review. The school recently issued the following statement: “We have particularly heard concerns about the guide’s treatment of the term ‘American.’ We understand and appreciate those concerns. To be very clear, not only is the use of the term ‘American’ not banned at Stanford, it is absolutely welcomed.”  

Here’s the takeaway: When a group of citizens stand up and speak out about an issue – things can change. The Sanford University culture cancel cult backed down.  

In all fairness to the language list, I agree that using person-first language helps to not define people by just one of their characteristics, but the language squad can go too far into the land of wacky wokeness.   

Here are a few examples from the list that I found to be absurd.  


“Instead of addicted – considering using hooked, devoted because addicted trivializes the experiences of people who deal with substance abuse issues.” 

Hmmm. So, a person is hooked on crack cocaine and devoted to fentanyl. 


“Instead of gray beard use the person’s name because it calls out an older, and presumably more experienced, IT or cybersecurity person by referring to their age instead of their name.” 

Okay, but I’ve never known anyone at the workplace to refer to an IT employee as a gray beard. 

Hmmm. What if someone referred to me as a ‘gray hair’ when I’m in between hair-coloring appointments or because I’m in the older-age category. Thems fightin words. 


“Instead of Philippine Islands use Philippines or the Republic of the Philippines. The term is politically incorrect and denotes colonialism. Some people of Filipino heritage might use the term, though.” 

Hmmm. So, we can’t say Caribbean Islands, Virgins Islands or Jeffrey Epstein’s Island. 

Culturally Appropriative: 

“Instead of guru use expert, subject matter expert (SME), primary, leader, teacher, guide. In the Buddhist and Hindu traditions, the word is a sign of respect. Using it casually negates its original value.” 

Oh no. I have sinned by writing ‘guru gardening gal’ in a past article. Argh. I will put myself in a corner for discipline. Oh, I mean that I will put myself between two walls that come together. But what if an individual lives in a round house without walls? Am I offending her/him/they/them?  


“Instead of guys consider using folks, people, everyone. This term reinforces male-dominated language.” 

Interesting. When individuals say ‘guys,’ in mixed company, they are usually referring to both males and females. The word has evolved to include everyone. Uhm, can we say ‘mixed’ company?’ Unsure. 

“Instead of you guys use folks, people, everyone. Lumps a group of people using masculine language and/or into gender binary groups, which don’t include everyone.” 

Wow. The word ‘guy’ is really taking a beating. Ouch. ‘Beating’ is a violent word. The word ‘guy’ is being kicked out of the language category. Ouch again. ‘Kicked out’ is a violent phrase.  

“Instead of seminal use leading, groundbreaking. This term reinforces male-dominated language.” 

Hmmm. I looked it up in The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition. Seminal: adjective. Of, relating to, containing, or conveying semen or seed. Of, relating to, or having the power to originate; creative. Highly influential in an original way; constituting or providing a basis for further development. 

My question: Can males use the word ‘seminal’ when talking to a group of males with no females around? But, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” 

Imprecise Language:

“Instead of abort use cancel/end. This term can unintentionally raise religious/moral concerns over abortion.” 

Abort the mission. Can’t say that anymore.  

“Instead of user considering using client. While often associated with one who uses (software, systems, services), it can also negatively be associated with those who suffer from substance abuse issues or those who exploit others for their own gain.” 

Excuse me, but you also need to understand the context. The users of the computers – nothing wrong with saying that.  

Institutionalized Racism:

You cannot use black hat, black mark, blackballed, blackbox, blacklisted, white paper, whitebox, whitelist, whitespace, white hat hacker, gray hat hacker.  

“Instead of black sheep (referring to a person) use outcast. Assigns negative connotations to the color black, racializing the term.” 

Black sheep no more.

“To call a spade a spade / calling a spade a spade. To call something what it is / calling something what it is. Although the term has its origins in Greek literature, the subsequent negative connotations with the word “spade” means that the phrase should be used with caution or not at all.” 

Huh? I’m confused over the ‘spade’ controversy.  

NPR says: “What happens when a perfectly innocuous phrase takes on a more sinister meaning over time?Case in point, the expression “to call a spade a spade.” For almost half a millennium, the phrase has served as a demand to “tell it like it is.” It is only in the past century that the phrase began to acquire a negative, racial overtone.” 

More from NPR: “To be clear, the “spade” in the Erasmus translation has nothing to do with a deck of cards, but rather the gardening tool. In fact, one form of the expression that emerged later was “to call a spade a bloody shovel.” The early usages of the word “spade” did not refer to either race or skin color.” 

Who knew a spade could be so controversial?  

Additional Considerations:

“Instead of submit use process. Depending on the context, the term can imply allowing others to have power over you.” 

Please submit your paperwork. Oh, you can’t say that anymore or the language Gestapo will knock on your door. Oh no, I used ‘Gestapo’ and that’s probably a no-no. Argh. I used ‘no-no’ and that’s probably another no-no.  

Citizen: Please don’t arrest me and throw me into Language Jail (aka Jargon Jail Cell). 

Language Squad: Ignorance of the Language Law is no excuse. 

I’m going to put myself in a round space until I change all the words and phrases on the language list. Then I’ll take a hot bath. Eek. ‘Hot’ is sometimes used to describe a sexy body. Instead, I’m going to take a temperature-controlled bath. Eek. ‘Sexy’ could be construed as disrespectful to the human anatomy.  

My brain is throbbing from trying to figure out the woke word list from the cancel culture crew.  

The end of the Sanford list asks: “Do you have feedback on the current list or have a term you would like to suggest? Please fill out our suggestion form. Your suggestion will be reviewed and added to the list accordingly. Email [email protected]

Excuse me, while I reflect and offer feedback. Hmmm. ‘Feedback’ uses the word ‘feed.’  

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition. Feed. intransitive verb. To give food to; supply with nourishment. To provide as food or nourishment. To serve as food for. 

Perhaps, ‘feedback’ needs to be replaced with ‘returning information’ or ‘giving of viewpoint.’ 

I’m just saying.  

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