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A fail-free lexicon

Los Angeles, Nov. 18 (Reuters): In 2005, some people wanted the word “brainstorming” replaced by “thought shower” so as not to offend people with brain disorders, and they also wanted “deferred success” to replace “failure” so as not to embarrass those who don’t succeed.

Both phrases appear on a tongue-in-cheek list released yesterday of the year’s most politically correct words and phrases issued by Global Language Monitor, a group that tracks language use.

The phrase that topped this year’s list was “misguided criminals”, one of several terms the BBC used to avoid the word “terrorist” in describing those who carried out the July 7 bombings, said Paul J.J. Payack, the head of Global Language Monitor.

“The BBC attempts to strip away all emotion by using what it considers ‘neutral’ descriptions when describing those who carried out the blasts.”

Second on the list was “Intrinsic Aptitude”, a phrase by Harvard University president Lawrence Summers to explain why women might be underrepresented in engineering and science. It met with “deferred success” and Summers had to fight to keep to his job.

“Thought shower” was third and a French word for riff-raff or scum, “la racaille”, was fourth thanks to being used to describe rioters of Muslim and North African descent.

“Out of the mainstream”, which Payack said referred to the ideology of a political opponent, was fifth and sixth was “deferred success” the euphemism for “fail” that the UK’s Professional Association of Teachers thought using to bolster students’ “self-esteem”.

Seventh was “womyn” for women to distance the word from men and eighth was using CE (Common Era) for AD (Latin for “Year of Our Lord”) to be more neutral in dates.

Ninth on the top 10 list was words and phrases that either de-Christianise the Christian holidays or neuter their genders. For example “God Rest Ye Merry Persons” replaces “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “Seasons Greetings” for “Merry Christmas”.

In 10th place was a move aimed at the heart of Australian culture when the word “mate” used to address members of Parliament was banned.

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