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University: Avoid phrases such as ‘black sheep,’ ‘dark web’

A university in England recently encouraged employees to avoid using the terms “black sheep” and “dark web,” among other phrases deemed offensive.

The UK Sun obtained a copy of the guidance from the University of Surrey, and reported Aug. 6 that staff were encouraged to use “renegade” instead of the term “black sheep” and “unindexed web” instead of “dark web.”

Additional recommendations included saying “bruised” instead of “black and blue” and “late summer” instead of “Indian summer.”

The guidance was billed as “non-inclusive words and phrases to be aware of,” reported the Sun, which added that the suggestions originate from Mental Health First Aid England, which states: “One way to help eliminate bias is to change our language to no longer use ‘black’ and ‘dark’ to mean ‘bad.’”

A spokesperson for the university, which is located outside of London, told the Sun that the school includes a diverse and international community of students, and noted: “We are committed to freedom of speech and encourage colleagues to be courteous in their use of language and can see the Mental Health First Aid England guidance was shared at a department level in that spirit.”

MORE: Casting out ‘darkness’ — college ‘inclusive language’ guides propose absurd linguistic restrictions

The University of Surrey is not the first higher education institution in England or America to propose language guides that encourage students and staff to use so-called inclusive language and terms.

A University of Texas at Austin diversity, equity and inclusion glossary of terms that suggested the word “wimmin” as an alternate spelling of woman made headlines in May.

In December 2022, Stanford University was widely criticized for a 13-page language guide that warned against, among many things, using the word “Americans.”

Also in 2022, The College Fix reported on a University of California, Irvine language guide that stated the old adage that it’s better to “kill two birds with one stone” is an example of “violent language” that should be avoided. Instead, the guide suggested using “feed two birds with one scone.”

A language guide coming out of the University of Michigan in 2020 suggested avoiding terms such as “crack the whip” and “master/slave.” Even the term “picnic” was deemed offensive by the guide.

Additional terms that have been criticized in recent years at other universities include “husband and wife” and “ladies and gentlemen.”

MORE: University deems words ‘rape,’ ‘crazy’ hurtful and harmful

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.