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Opening Arguments

The name game

The Associated Press on bad-word patrol:

The Associated Press has nixed "homophobia," "ethnic cleansing," and a number of other terms from its Style Book in recent months.

The online Style Book now says that "-phobia," "an irrational, uncontrollable fear, often a form of mental illness" should not be used "in political or social contexts," including "homophobia" and "Islamophobia." It also calls "ethnic cleansing" a "euphemism," and says the AP "does not use 'ethnic cleansing' on its own. It must be enclosed in quotes, attributed and explained."

"Ethnic cleansing is a euphemism for pretty violent activities, a phobia is a psychiatric or medical term for a severe mental disorder. Those terms have been used quite a bit in the past, and we don't feel that's quite accurate," AP Deputy Standards Editor Dave Minthorn told POLITICO.

With all due respect, the fact that AP has removed a word from it's Style Book doesn't mean if will be removed from our public vocabulary if people find it useful. I generally agree with AP that phrases have problems. "Ethnic cleansing" suggests something far less bloody and violent than what is going on. "Homophobia" is too strong a term and doesn't allow for mere dislike of or disagreement with the gay agenda.

But both terms have commonly understood meanings, thus allowing us to have a conversation without constant pauses to make sure the conversation is really about what we think it is. Their use has grown organically, and their death can only come the same way.


Wed, 11/28/2012 - 10:15am

The AP is always too late with changes. Obviously ethnic cleansing and homophobia are so well entrenched in the language that they're here to stay. Everyone understands what they mean.

Remember how long it took AP to stop hyphenating "teenager?" I hope most papers simply ignore the AP's latest advice.

Harl Delos
Wed, 11/28/2012 - 12:28pm

Homophobia strikes me as a useful term, because it indicates a fear and hatred of gays, unlike the attitude of well-adjusted straights, which is a "no skin off MY nose if two people love each other" or even a "good for them; a closet is a lousy place to live life."

They might want to eliminate the phrase "gay agenda" instead.  As best I can tell, the "gay agenda" consists of being treated like straights are treated.

A New Jersey "gay conversion" group is being sued for fraud, according to <a "http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-11-27/news/sns-rt-us-usa-court-gayconversionbre8aq16b-20121127_1_conversion-therapy-jonah-sam-wolfe">the Trib</a>  I've been wishing someone would sue all the weight loss clinics for fraud, as there is no diet that has even a 10% success rate at taking off 40 pounds and keeping it off for four years.  But is my wish an "agenda"?  I don't think so. 

Half a century ago, I had a poster with a picture of Dr.MLK,Jr on it, with the words "No man is free until all men are free."  Maybe morality is the agenda.