While ‘cancel culture’ has given us many things, it also taketh stuff away. Consider the words below as an indication of how far we’ve come.
Good morning! Here is today’s fresh crop of purged words, the latest and greatest words it is no longer acceptable to use. Enjoy! And as you do so, pat yourself on the dorsal surface for all the progress we’ve made together. As of this month, we’ve slimmed down Acceptable English to a nimble 154,328 words, and that includes a steady 12% quarterly increase in euphemisms. Keep up the good specialfun!
Today’s A-word—well, this is awkward—is “acceptable”. Though once a tolerable, even satisfactory word, too many of us have been damned—sorry, counterblessed—by its faint praise. The new word is “perfect”. And what was once (barbaric times!) “Acceptable English” is now “Perfect English”, or PE.
“Bunion”. Ew. Use “toebuddy”.
We’ve been through some C-words, haven’t we? Ha ha! Yeah. Today’s is “Cappadocia”, the historical region in Turkey. Let’s show some respect and restore the Old Persian name, “Haspaduya”.
“Decency.” Sure, it looks innocent. Who doesn’t like basic human decency, right? Wrong. “Decency” belongs to an insidious class of Trojan horse words: they seem harmless, but buried in their etymological past is a deep, dark secret. These verbal backstabbers corrupt our basic human, um, virtue from the inside. Unthinkingly, we use them to communicate what we “mean”, unaware that they evolved from words which, in some other time and culture, were different. And bad. It’s like thinking songbirds are cute when actually they evolved 120 million years ago from dinosaurs. They will always be giant, two-faced, scheming lizards and no amount of melodiousness or lack of teeth will ever change that. “Decency” is just such a monster. It evolved from the Latin decentia, meaning among other things “comeliness, attractiveness”, typically applied to women. In other words, “decency” is basically the male gaze on an objectifying phallic rampage. Worse yet, decentia itself comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *dek- meaning “to accept, take”. As in, “Accept your inferior status” or “Take my wife, please”. So, do you get a pardon for having used “decency” for years without knowing its sordid actual meaning? No, you do not, you remorseless crypto-fascist. Now, get out of here and start using the term “okayness”.
“Egg”. This sexist word denotes the result of heteronormative fertilisation of an ovum. From now on, use “subomelette”.
“Fellatio”. Isn’t it just like a patriarch to hide behind Latin, the language of Nero, Caligula, and countless ordained pederasts? We prefer the unfussy “blowjob”, which honours the work and service involved.
“Goose”. Are they silly? Is that fair? Too late. Reputation besmirched. Use “dignityfowl”.
“Horse”. Too often used hurtfully to remind this noble animal that it is not as cool as a zebra. Replace with “proudzebra” and use hashtag #stripesontheinside.
It’s been a long time coming, but today’s I-word is the word “I”. So narcissistic. So auto-colonial. So pronominal. From now on refer to yourself as “Denise”.
“Jerk”. This amiableist epithet is so disrespectful to the contemptibly obnoxious, a marginalised community with a rich and storied heritage. Plus, “jerk” is also a way to cook meat, and people are not meat. Well, I suppose. Technically. But still. Use “affability-challenged” or “differently barbecued”. Or “dickvisage”.
“Klan”. The correct term is now “Kloaca”.
“Lesbos”. This idyllic Greek island, home to the ancient lyric poet Sappho, is now called Bikurious Island (Βικυριος).
“Maybe”. Come on: yes or no? Ones or zeros? “Maybe” is for Schrödinger’s cat, bro. If you find yourself in an awkward state of quantum superposition, use the equation H|ψ(t)\ = ih(δ/δt)|ψ(t)\.
How about that Mark Twain? Quintessential American writer and such a fine fellow. Or was he?
Whew, deep breath! The original N-word was so toxic that even to name it dispassionately in an adult discussion of, say, language, or racism, was strictly verboten. (Okay, that’s maybe an odd choice.) It was so toxic that even its proxy, the phrase “the N-wore”, soon became too hot to handle outside of certain educational contexts in fortified deep-sea bunkers. Replace both terms, and indeed all words beginning with “N”, with the following full text: “How about that Mark Twain? Quintessential American writer and such a fine fellow. Or was he?”
“Otolaryngology”. How many brave Americans have we already sent to the ear, nose and throat ward for injuries incurred while trying to articulate this word? Substitute any word for this one. Go on, knock yourself out.
“Planet”. Has not this word wreaked enough havoc in our solar system, propping up a hurtful celestial class hierarchy and banishing hardworking, single-income Pluto from the community of “real planets” to the disgraced ghetto—sorry, happyhood—of littleperson planets? Enough is enough. Use “spaceball”.
“Quirt”. If any word needed to be let go because of overuse, it’s “quirt”. Enough, already. Let’s just use, I don’t know, “spinf”.
“Retarred”. Oh boy. Where to start? Periodically, a road or airport runway needs to be resurfaced to restore it to its original condition. To imply that all it takes is a simple retarring is to enact deep disrespect for the rainbow of diverse road surfacing techniques and materials in the world, including but not limited to tar-grouted macadam, bituminous surface treatments and modern asphalt concrete (collectively identified as TGMBSTMAC). Please, people, the proper and sensitive technical term for a resurfaced road is “infrastructurally blackfaced”.
Shit! Sorry, no, we just spilled our coffee. Okay…today’s delinquent S-word is “sex”. Yup. Just too dang much trouble that word has caused us ever since Adam and Eve first filed taxes, am I right? Oh yeah, for that to work you need to know that the new word for sex is “accounting”. Amortisation of intangible assets? I don’t even know her!
“Transatlantic”. While many of us in the TWA community proudly identify as Pan-Am, the label “transatlantic” has taken on too much pejorative baggage to fit in our collective overhead compartment. Time to jettison it in favour of intercontinental-positive terms such as “alt-lantic”, “Lucky Lindy”, and, when referring to the accent, “bettedavist”.
“Uranus”. Please. No matter who says it, it sounds like they’re saying it’s yours. In the interest of a communitarian vision of shared resources we’re bringing back the original Greek name, “Ouranos” (Οὐρανός). Because it’s not just your spaceball, it’s all of ours.
“Very”. Ouch, so judgemental. If context requires an intensifier, use “hella” or, better yet, the gender-neutral “totes”.
“Warming”. We face an unprecedented global crisis. Our society is tearing itself asunder with disagreement and hatred. The only way to avert catastrophe is to turn the screws on language until it says what we want to hear. That innocuous-looking word “warming” privileges elitist objective measurements of temperature over people’s feelings and deeply-held profits—which are what make us hupersons after all. Replace “warming” with “improvement” and buckle up for a speedy zero-emissions ride to Ecotopia!
“Xylophone”. Oh, for Pete’s sake. We ban this word every month. Can’t anyone think of another X-word? Anyway, the new word for xylophone is “xanthoderm”. Context should be enough to indicate whether you mean a person with yellow skin. Which you are never allowed to do.
“Yrbggqnybk”. What? Alright, whatever, quit saying that word. Use a different one.
“Zebra”. With the recent cultural appropriation of zebra identity by horses, the equid formerly known as zebra now requires that you call it the “disco space unicorn”. Don’t bring up the thing about how unicorns have a horn. Hashtag #neverdomesticated, foal!