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Marquette Wire

BURGESS: Seriously Stanford?
via Andreistanescu 3 5/

I love my grandfather. I call him papa for short but other kids call their grandfather “grandpa” or “gramps,” or even the original term “grandfather.” Well, Stanford University said no, “grandfather” is harmful word. “Grandfather” is one of many words and phrases they have compiled and banned. Seriously, Stanford?

Stanford University’s The Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative, in December 2020, was created to address words and phrases that could be considered harmful language. They said the purpose of this list is to educate people on the possible impact of words.

People have been reevaluating the different words that we use, Stanford did this, someone else did that. While we should speak about people respectfully some of these are going too far and don’t actually accomplish anything.

Let’s go down the list, shall we?

Let’s start with “grandfather.” We all know what a grandfather is, but Stanford University said not today, we’re going to ban it and switch it to ‘legacy.’ Their reasoning was because of its roots to the grandfather clause that was used way back when in the South to deny voting rights to Blacks.

But you know what the other name for a grandfather clause is? It’s legacy clause. Make it make sense. When my mom tells me to go call my grandfather I don’t think “Wow that reminds me of the grandfather clause where Black people weren’t able to vote.” Stanford, what in the world?

Next up is “brave.” What do you think about when you hear that word? I think of the movie, being courageous or ready to face what comes no matter what.

Stanford is actually wanted to get rid of the word entirely saying “do not use it.” Their reasoning is as follows: ‘This term perpetuates the stereotype of the “noble courageous savage,” equating the Indigenous male as being less than a man.

You know, “brave” has way more meaning and importance than this specific context.

It has many meanings, it’s something you want to be described as. Taking on what others might think is impossible, does not fear upcoming obstacles, etc.

It doesn’t make any sense to get rid of a powerful word.

Coming up at number three is “American.” Stanford is swapping it to “U.S. Citizen.” Their reasoning is that ‘American’ refers to only the U.S. and that the U.S. is the most important country in the Americas.

Of course it only refers to people from the US, what else would we call ourselves? The official name of this country is “The United States of America” so the word “America” is just derived from the official title of this country.

Let’s end with one of my favorites ‘Killing two birds with one stone.’ Stanford is switching this phrase with ‘accomplish(ing) two things at once.’ Their reason is that it normalizes violence against animals.

Stanford, do you not know what ‘figure of speech’ means? And what’s the fun in saying something boring like ‘We’re accomplishing two things at once.’ That’s what’s cool about the English language. We make up phrases that sound cool but also express what we are trying to do.

It was Thomas Hobbes, an English philosopher, who came up with the phrase in the 1600s.

After releasing this list, Stanford received quite a bit of backlash. Especially with the word American, normal person and many more in the list. Stephen Sills, who leads a conservative organization on Stanford campus expressed his disappointment saying that it’s more like George Orwell’s 1984 novel than from a prestigious American university.

Orwell’s novel is a dystopian fiction novel and its message was a warning against totalitarianism, which restricts freedom of speech.

Now with these common words, there are some terms that I agree on that should be swapped out. For example, “retard” or “retarded.” Overall that word is just rude. It’s a slur against those who have a cognitive disability. It was medical term originally, but because language changes and develops different connotations, it is no longer acceptable.

Language changes and so do we, but simple everyday terms like ‘American’ or ‘Grandfather’ do not negatively impact anyone.

The fact that Stanford University was serious is mind boggling. What I have mentioned is a fraction of what they compiled. Stanford removed the list from their website after backlash, but the impression remains. Stanford, you cannot denounce these terms.

This was written by Trinity Burgess. She can be reached at [email protected].

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Trinity Burgess
Trinity Burgess, Live Broadcast Director
Trinity is the Live Broadcast Director at the Wire. She is a sophomore from Hoffman Estates, IL studying journalism and political science. In her free time, Trinity enjoys painting and she has a twin brother. This year Trinity is looking forward to the people and the events at the Wire.

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