Politics, Moderate



Words that weren't banned and those that should be

Kathleen Parker on

WASHINGTON -- The recent excitement over an incredible story about the government trying to ban certain words -- that wasn't really quite true -- reminded me of all the words and phrases I despise and wish were banned.

For the sake of getting on with it, briefly: The Washington Post reported Friday that officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had been forbidden from using seven words as they prepared their 2019 budget documents. The words were: vulnerable, diversity, entitlement, fetus, transgender, science-based and evidence-based.

This didn't actually happen, at least not as originally described, but everybody went bonkers on cue.

Pro-choice activists insisted that such word changes were an attempt to thwart abortion rights. The CDC pushed back and denied the ban. Anonymous analysts continued to confuse everyone. CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald went straight to Twitter, writing: "I want to assure you there are no banned words at CDC. We will continue to talk about all our important public health programs."

What really happened? Apparently, the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC, issued a stylebook to departments for the preparation of budget documents. Included were three of the words mentioned above -- vulnerable, diversity and entitlement -- with the suggestion that they be used as little as possible because they were either used too often or incorrectly.

Now that you mention it, I think I'll add them to my list.

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Other, more intriguing words were mentioned in a meeting as possible "trigger" words that might so upset congressional Republicans that they'd slash funding. These were fetus, science-based, evidence-based and transgender. In some cases, alternatives were suggested, such as "unborn child" for "fetus." In other words, if you want those people -- congressional Republicans -- to fund us, don't use language they don't like.

One could call this either, "Oh, my God, they're trying to ban words!" Or, you could call it common sense. I'm not sure which is more discomfiting, however: CDC guys worried that "science-based" would so frighten Republicans that they'd kill their budget, or, that this could possibly be true.

So that happened.

Obviously, the government shouldn't ban words, which is probably why it didn't. But there's no reason a columnist, who gets to be queen for about 750 words, can't take a stab. In a gesture of democratic pandering, I even enlisted the help of my kingdom of Facebook "friends." Because they were self-selecting, this survey should not be construed as "science-based."


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