OPINION | MASTERSON ONLINE: Language police


Apparently unfulfilled by offering often convoluted medical advice about the covid-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has taken to advising properly “woke” choices of our English language in its language guide.

The CDC’s “Inclusive Communications Guide” now takes “wokism” to a new level, by recommending against using such terms as “illegal immigrant or “illegal alien.” Instead, they say use woke terms like “foreign-born” or “non-U.S.-born,” except in technical documents or in specific reference to immigration law terminology.

I suppose the thinking among the agency’s academic types who obviously spend their work days in rarefied bureaucratic echo chambers is that its staff and plain-spoken Americans might dare to offend those who intentionally sneak into the U.S. without engaging in the well-defined legal process.

Headline USA reported that the CDC’s changes “discourage using an array of terms, offering wordy substitutes that reflect a ‘health equity lens’.” Are they referring to words or eyeglasses here?

Thank the Lord of Nonsensical Language we have these self-appointed experts (who have chronic problems communicating effectively to us about the ongoing pandemic) who apparently view their role as physicians and medical scientists to now offer unsolicited guidance on how best to speak in lengthy and obtuse ways.

Here’s other examples of how CDC authorities would have us speak. Rather than saying “drug users,”https://www.nwaonline.com/news/2021/sep/19/language-police/”addicts” or “drug abusers,” we now should say “people who use drugs or people who inject drugs.”

“Smokers” should become “people who smoke.” Brilliant!

“Alcoholics” should be referred to as “persons with alcohol use disorder.” Long but catchy, eh?

The “disabled” should be known as “people with disabilities or a disability.” Where I might write “afflicted,” the CDC now corrects me with “people with an intellectual or developmental disability.”

Those who “relapse” in an addiction are to be “persons who returned to use.” See how kind that sounds? Totally inoffensive for any addict.

Instead of being “poverty-stricken,” CDC’s linguists prefer “people with lower incomes.” That’s bound to make impoverished people feel so much better. And the “homeless” could not be offended by changing that reference to “persons experiencing unstable housing” or “persons who aren’t securely housed.”

And so the CDC’s guide yada-yadas on, apparently believing its latest job in serving Americans in matters of disease and pandemics includes lingual social engineering aimed at achieving “equity.” This naturally includes humans who naturally differ greatly in everything from empathy to compassion, greed, mental capacity, personality and personal responsibility.

And so today I’ve decided to create my very own “Mikey’s Language Guide,” patterned after the CDC’s “Health Equity Lens,” whatever such jargon means.

From now on, I’ll call criminals “persons with damaged attitudes and personalities who choose to violate local, state and national laws in efforts to enrich or somehow benefit themselves.” Yeah, perhaps a tad wordy. But it won’t be as offensive as “criminal.”

Rather than “looters,” Mikey’s guide advises, “largely unemployed persons who can’t afford to buy stuff and decide to steal whatever they desire from businesses in order to acquire more material possessions, much of which likely will be peddled on the black market.”

“Arsonists” can be offended by such a demoralizing and derogatory reference. How terrible! My guide advises: “Persons who choose to set homes, businesses and vehicles ablaze, likely due to a perfectly understandable personality or mental disorder, or to collect insurance. perhaps as a result of their substandard upbringing.”

I’m toying with the idea of changing use of the word “anarchists” to “antisocial persons who enjoy wreaking havoc and destruction in society more than order because they are so desperately unhappy with their lives and/or resentful of others who have worked to improve theirs.”

Mikey’s guide will encourage the word “tolerance” be altered to “acceptance of the views, words and actions of others only insomuch as they coincide strictly with their own.”

“Insane” will no longer work in this world catering to equity (regardless of reality). I’m likely to change that six-letter word to “those whose foggy brains become unavoidably tangled, unfortunately affecting their ability to properly reason and perceive reality from fantasy.”

A “terrorist” will become “a low-functioning purported human who enjoys inflicting pain, suffering and death on fellow humans because they don’t agree with their beliefs.”

Finally, those who consider themselves “woke” will be “persons who enjoy elevating publicly themselves as morally superior to others by repeatedly signaling their purported virtues, regardless of hypocritical actions to the contrary.”


Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master’s journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at [email protected]



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