On our new podcast, Gracefully and Frankly, Erin Davis and I talked about some words that are no longer appropriate. There are obvious ones of course, but in just the last week I’ve learned about others I never, ever would have imagined. And there was beaucoup confusion on Twitter.
Associated Press tweeted an update to its style book. If you’re not aware, AP Style and CP Style (Canadian Press) are the authorities that write guidelines for journalists to follow. Here’s an example that non-writers might not have noticed. Only the numbers one to nine are written as words. Anything 10 and over is in its numerical form unless the number starts a sentence. Then it’s always written.
In its Twitter update, AP alerted journalists to avoid calling groups of people “the” as in “the mentally ill”. But see if you can spot the problem with their tweet.
The French – oops – French people were not amused! They wondered what was stigmatizing about being called the French?. France’s US Embassy responded with a joke by saying it had changed its name to The Embassy of Frenchness in the United States.
AP apologized and issued a new tweet that omitted people of French-like origin. But can anybody tell me why being “the college-educated” is dehumanizing? Anybody???
The Mummy of all Words
I also read an article about how managers of the British Museum have stopped using the word “mummy” for their ancient, wrapped bodies. You might wonder how it’s possible to offend someone who’s been dead for thousands of years. Well, you can’t. But museum curators have changed signage and language to better reflect that “mummies” were once living people and not just artifacts. If the names are known the signs will refer oy “The Mummified Remains of….” And to be fair, they’re not eliminating the word entirely.
I’m a word nerd and proud of it. But it’s difficult to keep up with what’s okay and what’s not. Language evolves but we all learn at our own pace.
Eluding the Censors
I saw a headline about a woman who’s famous for being famous. She apparently responded to a TikTok post that used the word mascara thinking it was about, you know, a tube of mascara. But the woke users of TikTok quickly schooled her. Mascara is code for sexual assault. Who. Knew. They use mascara as a substitute word to avoid censorship on the social media site. So kids can continue to discuss these things without The Man locking them out. That’s how sex became seggs and suicide became unalive.
Conversation is healthy. They need to discuss these things and try to keep each other safe.
But there’s one more I learned that made my eyes bug out. It’s not just a word but a symbol that has meaning to a segment of society.
A young woman decided to get a goofy tattoo of an upside down pineapple. Well, people of earth, that fruit with its crown upside down has an implication. It means: a swinger who’s on the hunt for new partners.
I came very close to buying my husband a shirt with pineapples on it before our trip to Mexico last year. I’m glad I resisted because the last thing I’d want to do is send him out into the world with an unintentional swingers signal on his torso.
Apparently there’s a list of fruit-related codes that singles use in supermarkets, according to the podcast, Life Uncut. A bunch of bananas in a cart with the curve facing up means the shopper is looking for a hook-up. Placing them curve down means you’re not. And if you want to be absolutely sure you’re not misinterpreted, don’t buy bananas or pineapples. Best avoid fruit altogether. And probably veggies like carrots and parsnips too, just to be safe! 😉