The reshaping of the English language to make it live up to the “woke” era is happening in earnest, particularly online, but the site dictionary.com seems to have outdone itself.
In a somewhat condescending tone, dictionary.com explains why its visitors should stop using certain words that they may have learned from their parents as children, but that are now considered as misspoken or misused. And it’s okay to make mistakes – but now that dictionary.com tells you not to, there’ll be no more excuses.
Other words that these days may cause offense, said the site – which is for some reason owned by Rock Holdings, a Michigan-based mortgage lending service provider – people may have absorbed from TV, movies, or social media.
So, that’s a lot of words. And dictionary.com advises thinking through their origins or how others may be hurt before uttering them.
The notion of misusing a word used to be straight-forward and scientific: but now it includes words with the potential to offend, which is broad enough that it could really mean anything. It’s not far-fetched to think the word “English” itself might become one of them.
For now, the extensive list is clearly geared towards (re)enforcing cultural sensitivity and avoiding what’s become to be known as “cultural appropriation” (the same concept that may soon come to mean you will not be able to, in good conscience, eat a pizza unless you’re from southern Italy.)
Here’s some of what the site’s guide is nudging users not to be saying any longer: spirit animal, as something you identify with (but it’s now bad since the expression is a part of some cultures’, well, spiritual system); guru, sherpa (dictionary.com says you can only refer to yourself in these terms if you’re Buddhist or Hindu, or hail from the Himalayas.)
Another “problematic” word is ninja, used to express expertise – but unless you’re a member of a Japanese society of mercenary agents, just don’t use it. Same goes for “Nazi”- you’re not really a grammar Nazi, unless you’re an actual Nazi.
And before saying you “binge-watch” something- think of the people with eating disorders and how you may make them feel, the site said.