The Word “American” May Be Added to Stanford University’s Harmful Language List

In May, Stanford University developed the “Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative” to replace certain words and phrases on its website with approved alternatives.

The list of soon-to-be banned terms includes the label “American,” which Stanford argues is too US-centric and ignorant of the other forty-one countries that also exist in the region. The university suggests “US citizen” as an alternative.

Stanford grouped their list of words and phrases into eight categories, “Ableist, Ageism, Culturally Appropriative, Gender-based, Imprecise Language, Institutionalized Racism, Person-First, and Violent.”

The list, which was recently password protected following backlash, was widely shared and criticized on social media.

Author and ardent feminist Christina Hoff Sommers blasted the university over the terms included in the “Gender-Based” category.

“Don’t use ‘preferred pronouns’,” she tweeted, citing the list, “because ‘that suggests non-binary gender identity is a choice’.” 

Also included on that portion of the list is the phrase “balls to the wall,” which Stanford argues “attributes personality traits to anatomy.”

As one user pointed out, however, the “balls” in this case are not testicles, making the university’s suggestion laughable.

The phrase is widely acknowledged to have originated among fighter pilots, who when making their planes go faster would have to push the throttle levers, which were topped with balls, to the wall of the dashboard.

“Every few years, some college will publish an absurd guide like this one,” Hoff Sommers lamented. “They are widely ridiculed & one assumes they go away. But they don’t.The list of forbidden words only gets longer & the guides continue to circulate among an ever-growing number of academic administrators.”

Terms under other categories include “handicap parking,” “addict,” and “Karen,” which Stanford suggests should be replaced with “accessible parking,” “person with a substance abuse disorder,” and “demanding or entitled White woman,” respectively.

“It’s the iron law of academic writing,” the Wall Street Journal quipped. “Why use one word when four will do?”

According to Stanford, the list was compiled over an 18-month period in “collaboration with stakeholder groups,” and is encouraged to be utilized by all students and staff.

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