Stanford wants to improve its — and by implication, our — language.
When the British say, “Can I have a word?,” that’s generally a request for a chat in private. Here, when a student is told, “The principal wants to have a word with you,” the kid knows he’s in trouble. In the current instance, Stanford is the principal.
I discuss this issue at greater length in an essay that just appeared on Minding The Campus:
Not Just Semantics: Stanford’s “Harmful Words” Problem Is Serious
P.S. Roger Clegg had an impressive look at this same issue back in 2007:
One can almost have some sympathy with the Left. It must constantly dream up and promulgate new euphemisms since sooner or later the old ones always wear gossamer thin and it becomes all too easy to see what it is trying to cover up.
You can call it “affirmative action” or you can celebrate “diversity” or you can set goals for “underrepresented minorities,” but when you consider a person’s skin color in deciding whether to award her an admissions slot, or a contract, or a job — then you are engaging in racial discrimination.
It’s spinach, and to hell with it.