University demands people stop saying 'trigger warning' because it's too triggering

Brandeis University has issued new language that they suggest be used because the previous terms were too offensive, oppressive, and violent. Among those terms to obliterate is the phrase "trigger warning."

Libby Emmons Brooklyn NY

Brandeis University has issued new language that they suggest be used because the previous terms were too offensive, oppressive, and violent. Among those terms to obliterate is the phrase "trigger warning."

As alternatives to "trigger warning," which is itself a term that was invented to make college students feel safe in class, Brandeis suggests the phrases "content note" or "drop-in" be used. "The word 'trigger,'" they write, "has connections to guns for many people; we can give the same head's up using language less connected to violence."

In addition to "trigger warning," the Prevention, Advocacy and Resource Center has made a list of "violent language" that they suggest be removed utterly from a person's vocabulary. The phrase Orwellian comes to mind, and likely they would say that, too, is an oppressive descriptor of their "oppressive language list."

The write: "Violent language in this list may be explicitly or implicitly violent expressions and metaphors that are used casually and unintentionally. These examples can be easily replaced by saying something more direct."

"Killing it," they note, is not okay because "If someone is doing well, we don't need to equate that to murder!" Brandeis suggests that "great job" or "awesome" be used instead.

Both "take a shot at" and "take a stab at" are no good either, because "These expressions needlessly use imagery of hurting someone or something." Instead, try "give it a go," or simply "try."

Among the other metaphors and creative language that Brandeis wants to simplify, dumb-down, and make less offensive to whoever is actually offended or oppressed by these phrases, are "rule of thumb," because they say that "This expression comes from an old British law allowing men to beat their wives with sticks no wider than their thumb." Of course, barely anyone alive even knew that until Brandeis pointed it out. They suggest "general rule," instead.

"Picnic" is not good either, and Brandeis wants people to say "outdoor eating," because picnics are racist. They write: "The term picnic is often associated with lynchings of Black people in the United States, during which white spectators were said to have watched while eating, referring to them as picnics or other terms involving racial slurs against Black people."

The final addition to Brandeis' ongoing "oppressive language list" is "go off the reservation." This one has a big no-no because "This phrase has a harmful history rooted in the violent removal of indigenous people from their land and the horrible consequences for someone that left the reservation." Try "disagree with the group" or "defect from the group," Brandeis writes.

Brandeis' "oppressive language list" has five categories of oppression that need to be eradicated from discourse. They are "violent language," "identity-based language," "language that doesn't say what we mean," language that is "culturally appropriative," and "person-first alternatives."

Under the category of "identity-based language," they recommend no gendered language at all. Instead of "you guys," or "ladies and gentleman," they suggest "y'all, folks, friends, loves ones," or simply "people." Gendered terms, they say, "lump all people under masculine language or within the gender binary (man or woman), which doesn't include everyone."

"African-American," for Brandeis, is officially outmoded. "Black (with a capital B)," is now the preferred term. "Ableist language" is no good either. Don't say "crazy, wild, insane," or use the terms "lame" or "walk-in," since not everyone can walk. Instead, say "that's bananas," say "uncool" or "disappointing," and use "drop-in," instead. "Ableist language contributes to stigmas about and trivializes the experiences of people living mental health conditions."

"People of color" is out and "BIPOC" is in. Terms about LGBTQIA+ folks must be specified as well, so only say "LGBTQ+," "trans and gender non-conforming folk," or "queer," maybe. They note that in the case of "queer," you must "consider your audience, not everyone receives this word positively."

Even "long time no see" and "no can do" are out, because "These terms as well as other expressions using broken English originate from stereotypes making fun of non-native English speakers, particularly applied to indigenous people and Asians."

"Culturally appropriative language" is all about making sure terms like "tribe," "powwow," and "spirit animal," are not used by non-BIPOC. Instead of these terms derived from the indigenous people of the west, words that have secured a cultural place in language and in thought, they want to erase them in favor of anglophone words, like "friends, group, pals," "meeting, party, gathering," and "favorite animal, animal I would most like to be."

Brandeis doesn't want Americans to recognize the linguistic and conceptual contributions of the Native American "friends, group, pals," that once lived on the land.

Under the rather presumptive category of "language that doesn't say what we mean," Brandeis suggests "possible alternatives" for "oppressive language" such as "everything going on right now."

Many of the terms Brandeis condemns to the linguistic dust-bin, however, were themselves the kinder, gentler alternative. They state that "committed suicide" is not a good phrase, and it should be replaced by "died by suicide," or "killed themself," even though the phrase "killed themself" was replaced by "committed suicide" when it was believed to be kinder to say the latter than the former. This is literally a reversal.

They state that "Language that doesn't say what we mean can often serve to avoid directly addressing what we really need to say. Using euphemisms, vagueness, and inaccurate words can get in the way of meaningful dialogue; PARC encourages you to be transparent around what you mean." What they are really saying is to speak with terms that are precise to what they want you to mean, regardless of what you actually are meaning to say.

"Person-first language," Brandeis explains, "frames people's activities, attributes, and more as a part of the person rather than the whole person. Person-first language helps us resist defining people by just one thing about them. It is important to note that some people do claim these identities and labels, in which case we suggest mirroring their language."

Instead of identifying a person as a "victim," or "survivor," which progressive linguistics authoritarians have previously told us are the appropriate terms, Brandeis wants us now to be more specific, and to say "person who has experienced" a given thing, as opposed to identifying a person by their trauma or other status.

Language rules and dictates have emerged from the progressive left over the past several decades, with nearly every new term then found to be faulty and new terms crafted to eradicate the offense caused by the old term. If the list Brandeis provides isn't complete in your eyes, you can suggest more terms to be added to the "oppressive language list," as well as alternatives.


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