University warns against using 'oppressive' language such as ‘picnic,' ‘killing it,’ 'rule of thumb,' and ‘walk-in’

·3 min read

A Massachusetts university compiled a growing list of words and phrases it considers “oppressive” and discouraged people from using them.

The phrase “killing it,” for example, is language Brandeis University wants people to stop using.

"If someone is doing well, we don’t need to equate that to murder," Brandeis’s Prevention, Advocacy, and Resource Center wrote in a new "oppressive language list."

The list is divided into five categories: violent language, identity-based language, language that doesn’t say what we mean, culturally appropriative language, and person-first alternatives.


“Take a shot/stab at,” “trigger warning,” and “go off the reservation” are all on the “violent language” list because they “needlessly use imagery of hurting someone or something.”

People should also stop using “rule of thumb,” another phrase on the list, as the “expression allegedly comes from an old British law allowing men to beat their wives with sticks no wider than their thumb.”

The “identity-based language” list includes terms that are masculine-dominant, such as “you guys,” “policeman,” “congressman,” and "freshman.”

“Ladies and gentlemen,” a phrase often used to address a crowd of mixed genders, should also not be used, as it is “within the gender binary, which doesn’t include everyone.”

The term “African American” should also stop being used. “Black” is listed as a “possible alternative” as “not all Black people are from Africa and/or America.”

Even a more generic term such as “people of color” is considered “oppressive,” as the center said: “If you are talking about a specific racial group, name the group you are talking about.”

Similarly, “transsexual” is a word people “outside of that group should not use.” Instead, the school recommends people simply refer to them as “trans and gender non-conforming folk.”

The word "picnic" also made the list because it 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 university also encourages people to stop using words such as “crazy," "insane," "wild," "lame," or "walk-in,” as in a walk-in appointment, because they are “ableist.”

Brandeis’s PARC discouraged the use of euphemisms, vagueness, or any “language that doesn't say what we mean.”

The “oppressive” list also discourages the use of “victim,” “survivor,” “addict,” “prostitute,” or “homeless person.”

In April 2015, Brandeis University launched an effort to raise awareness of microaggressions against Asian students. At the time, the school installed a display that recognized microaggressive phrases, including, “Aren’t you supposed to be good at math?” and “I’m colorblind! I don’t see race.”


The display was controversial, and after backlash from the Asian students it attempted to help, who said the display was a microaggression, it was removed.

The association and its president apologized to the student body and to anyone who was “triggered or hurt by the content of the microaggressions.”

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Tags: Brandeis University, woke, oppression, Higher Education

Original Author: Lawrence Richard

Original Location: University warns against using 'oppressive' language such as ‘picnic,' ‘killing it,’ 'rule of thumb,' and ‘walk-in’

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