… just after one of its trustees, Bernard Madoff, hit the headlines. It’s from the University of New Hampshire.

The top of the page announces a Bias-Free Language Guide, while the rest of the page is blank. Eloquently, poignantly, totally blank. As blank as all the YU Madoff pages suddenly became.

Where’s the Guide?

What story lies behind this latest weird visual outcome?

No, don’t try clicking on Bias-Free Language Guide. Won’t take you anywhere. It’s been scrubbed.

Wha’ happened?


We don’t know enough yet to figure out exactly how the thing got written – I mean, we need to know precisely what group of people (students? faculty?) wrote it – but it takes the Orwellian business of replacing short clear simple descriptive words with long pretentious empty euphemisms to new heights.

One section warns against the terms “older people, elders, seniors, senior citizens.” It suggests “people of advanced age” as preferable, though it notes that some have “reclaimed” the term “old people.” Other preferred terms include “person of material wealth” instead of rich, “person who lacks advantages that others have” instead of poor and “people of size” to replace the word overweight.

I think they fell down on that last one. It doesn’t have enough words. People of larger size than other people, no?


When David Ortiz called Jacoby Ellsbury a rich bitch, he managed to squeeze out only two words. Person of material wealth bitch is so much… richer.


Instant Update: Wow. In the few minutes during which I’ve been writing this post, UNH disappeared Bias-Free Language Guide and replaced it with Page Not Found. Quick work!


And again.

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7 Responses to “Here’s a university webpage to rival the Yeshiva University webpage that popped up…”

  1. Jack/OH Says:

    I recently read “person of pallor”, which, I guess, is meant to jocosely parallel the regally clunky “person of color”. I think the intention was jocose . . . .

  2. theprofessor Says:

    Even the slender and shorter-than-she-claims-to-be Mrs. TP is a “person of size.”

    It’s interesting that Orwell envisioned Newspeak as a kind of agglutinative language that boiled away secondary meanings of words in favor of exactitude. What we are getting instead are circumlocutions that are maddeningly vague when you start thinking about them, “person of color” being a good example.

  3. anon Says:

    In the original there was a list of people who created, which appeared to be a small group of faculty and staff.

    “People first” language (people of color, people with hearing loss, etc.) has been around for at least 20 years. I can remember getting articles reviewed in the 1990s asking for my language to be changed to “people first”. I understand the sentiment of focusing on them as people and not as a condition, disability; but, damn is it bad writing.

  4. Margaret Soltan Says:

    anon: The irony of these new forms is that they seem to do the opposite; I mean, the effect is reductive of people’s humanity.

  5. Anon Says:

    I started reading the guide before it was taken down, and I thought some of it was pretty reasonable. But then I read that saying “Dogs smell funny” to a blind person was a micro-assault. Assault, not not even aggression. And my eyes rolled so hard I nearly fell out of my chair.

    Also, dogs stink.

  6. Anon Says:

    Actually, it was saying “Your dog smells funny” to a blind person about their guide dog. When I was growing up, we just called that being rude. My mom or dad might give you a swift slap and a “Mind your manners”. I don’t think we need to invent new terms like micro aggressions.

  7. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Anon and Anon: All of this inevitably reminds me of one of my favorite Onion articles, which I guess is about micro aggressions:


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