Robinson ticked off several common phrases and went on to explain why their roots are racially or culturally insensitive. The result was a list of no-nos that could easily result in some tongue-tied U.S. diplomats, particularly in an administration that swaps "war on terror" for "overseas contingency operation" and once shied away from using the word "terrorism."I'd call this retarded, except that the mentally disabled might be offended...
For instance, Robinson warned, "hold down the fort" is a potentially insulting reference to American Indian stereotypes.
"How many times have you or a colleague asked if someone could 'hold down the fort?'" he wrote. "You were likely asking someone to watch the office while you go and do something else, but the phrase's historical connotation to some is negative and racially offensive."
He explained: "To 'hold down the fort' originally meant to watch and protect against the vicious Native American intruders. In the territories of the West, Army soldiers or settlers saw the 'fort' as their refuge from their perceived 'enemy,' the stereotypical 'savage' Native American tribes."
He singled out another phrase, "Going Dutch," as a "negative stereotype portraying the Dutch as cheap."
And "rule of thumb," he wrote, can according to women's activists refer "to an antiquated law, whereby the width of a husband's thumb was the legal size of a switch or rod allowed to beat his wife."
Further, he explained, "If her bruises were not larger than the width of his thumb, the husband could not be brought to court to answer for his behavior because he had not violated the 'rule of thumb.'"
Thursday, August 30, 2012
How stupid do you have to be to work for the State Department? Ask the State Department's diversity officer: