The language guide, titled the Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative, says Stanford hopes to “eliminate many forms of harmful language, including racist, violent, and biased … language in Stanford websites and code.” The prohibited terms are listed under 10 categories, including racism, homophobia and ableism.
Under a section titled “Imprecise Language,” the guide advises students and staff to stop using the word “American” and instead say “U.S. citizen.”
“[‘American’] often refers to people from the United States only, thereby insinuating that the US is the most important country in the Americas,” the guide says, pointing out that there are 42 countries in North, Central and South Americas.
Other words to avoid include “immigrant,” which the guide says to replace with “person who has immigrated” or “non-citizen.” “Walk-in hours” was deemed ableist and swapped out for “open hours.” The phrase “beating a dead horse” was also cautioned against, since it could “normalize violence against animals.”
“The purpose of this website is to educate people about the possible impact of the words we use,” Stanford said. “Language affects different people in different ways. We are not attempting to assign levels of harm to the terms on this site. We also are not attempting to address all informal uses of language.”
Conservatives blasted Stanford, calling the language guide “insane.”
“My God. Scroll through this list of ‘potentially harmful’ words that @Stanford IT administrators wish to eliminate. ‘Blind Review’ & ‘tone deaf’ are ableist. ‘Guru’ & ‘bury the hatchet’ —culturally insensitive. Term ‘trigger warning’—stress-inducing,” American Enterprise Institute senior fellow Christina Sommers tweeted.
Conservative commentator Gabriella Hoffman pointed out that Stanford’s own founder wouldn’t have approved of the language guide.
“Leland Stanford would be ashamed of the institution he cofounded. It just forbid ‘harmful’ language such as calling yourself an American and/or an immigrant. Guess my naturalized legal immigrant American parents and relatives are harmful now!”
Even Elon Musk chimed in, tweeting, “Stanford disapproves of saying you’re proud to be an American? Whoa.”