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Parker: Words that weren't banned and those that should be

WASHINGTON

The recent excitement over an incredible story about the government trying to ban certain words reminded me of all the words and phrases I despise and wish were banned.

For the sake of getting on with it, briefly: The Washington Post reported last week that officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had been forbidden from using seven words as they prepared their 2019 budget documents. The words were: vulnerable, diversity, entitlement, fetus, transgender, science-based and evidence-based.

Everybody went bonkers on cue.

Pro-choice activists insisted that such word changes were an attempt to thwart abortion rights. The CDC pushed back and denied the ban. Anonymous analysts continued to confuse everyone. CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald went straight to Twitter, writing: “I want to assure you there are no banned words at CDC. We will continue to talk about all our important public health programs.”

What really happened? It’s hard to know for sure at this point. The Post sees a heavy-handed silencing, but the National Review’s Yuval Levin’s offers a different explanation.

According to Levin’s sources, theDepartment of Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC, issued a stylebook to departments for the preparation of budget documents. Included were three of the words mentioned above—vulnerable, diversity and entitlement—with the suggestion that they be used as little as possible because they were either used too often or incorrectly.

Now that you mention it, I think I’ll add them to my list.

Levin was also told that other, more intriguing words were mentioned in a meeting as possible “trigger” words that might so upset congressional Republicans that they’d slash funding. These were fetus, science-based, evidence-based and transgender. In some cases, alternatives were suggested, such as “unborn child” for “fetus.” In other words, if you want those people—congressional Republicans—to fund us, don’t use language they don’t like.

One could call this either, “Oh, my God, they’re trying to ban words!” Or, you could call it common sense. I’m not sure which is more discomfiting, however: CDC guys worried that “science-based” would so frighten Republicans that they’d kill their budget, or, that this could possibly be true.

So that happened.

Obviously, the government shouldn’t ban words, but there’s no reason a columnist, who gets to be queen for about 750 words, can’t take a stab. In a gesture of democratic pandering, I even enlisted the help of my kingdom of Facebook “friends.” Because they were self-selecting, this survey should not be construed as “science-based.”

But the evidence suggests that my friends are a peevish lot when it comes to mis- or over-used words, which makes me like them even more. My own personal list, the phrasing of which is rhythmically pleasing if obviously redundant, begins with nouns that have been “re-purposed” as verbs.

When a friend recently said to me that she hadn’t been “gifted” in a long while, I thought (to myself), “So I see.” Then, “lo and behold,” (a phrase that will be allowed at Christmastime), I was informed by a linguist that “to gift” has been a verb since 1550. He noted, however, that he would have interpreted my friend’s statement as meaning that she hadn’t been given (as a gift) in a while. That, too, I’m sure.

To put it bluntly, “awesome” isn’t anymore. “Snowflake” produces more ennui than insult. “Pivot,” “veritable,’ “in reality,” and “best practices” wear us down. As do: “reach out,” “share” and “think outside the box.” “Own” it, if you must, but I’d sell it on Ebay. Just sayin’.

“Breaking news” IS news. It’s devastated, not “decimated.” You don’t “effort,” for heaven’s sake. You make an effort. Or, maybe just try. Which apparently is a thing. No problem? You’re welcome. And I take back my thank you.

Literally, where is all this “low-hanging fruit,” if you don’t mind my asking. And, no, you’re not recording me “for quality and training purposes.” You’re collecting profane diatribes to read at the company holiday party. Nice try. Or just, “nice.” Sick. Stop it.

We’re not going to “unpack” anything, unless you’re my valet, or “drill down,” unless you’re the plumber. We’re sick of optics, mansplainin’, onboarding and THIS, as in “what she said.” We’ve had it with closure and ideating, as well as doubling down on the whole nine yards. No one is “woke.”

At the end of the day, when all is said and done, the fact of the matter is we were all vulnerable as fetuses, some of whom were surely bound to become transgender because evidence-based diversity is what it is.

But, no worries. It’s all good. Believe me. Bigly.


Our_views
Our Views: The sale should be GM's legacy

Remember that $25 million “legacy fund” city officials wanted General Motors to create as a parting gift?

It was a novel, if unrealistic, idea.

Last year, City Manager Mark Freitag invoked the past philanthropy of Parker Pen in asking GM to contribute money “in honor of the many generations of General Motors employees who served you over these more than nine decades.” The fund would have helped with economic development efforts.

But this week, the city got something far more valuable than a pot of money from GM: The sale of its shuttered automotive plant to a company with ambitious plans to redevelop the site starting next year.

“The best legacy we could leave is to make sure we have the right partner here,” said John Blanchard, head of GM’s government relations division, referring to the site’s buyer during a news conference Thursday.

Not that we’re warming up to the vehicle manufacturer that put hundreds of people out of work when it closed its Janesville plant in 2009, but Blanchard makes a good point.

Redeveloping the GM site, even if that means razing the buildings on the property, would mean more to Janesville than anything else GM could do (short of reopening the plant itself). Not even a $100 million legacy fund would be worth having the site sit vacant and overgrown with weeds.

If the site’s buyer, Commercial Development Company, turn outs to be the responsible partner portrayed by Blanchard and Commercial Development CEO Randall Jostes, Janesville residents have every reason to feel optimistic about the sale.

Jostes called the site’s infrastructure—complete with two railway spurs and industrial power supply— “incredible” and predicted work likely would begin in the spring. He didn’t provide many details about the types of businesses expected to locate there but noted a “truck manufacturer” has expressed some interest.

We had previously criticized Commercial Development for its refusal to respond to The Gazette’s requests for comment while the site’s sale was pending, but Jostes put those concerns to rest with his willingness to field questions for nearly a half hour at Thursday’s news conference.

He also showed empathy and understanding for the community’s attachment to the former GM plant, which opened in 1919 and at its peak in the late 1970s had more than 7,000 employees. It was more than an employer. It was the working-class soul of Janesville.

“As you see the old structure go down, you might have a tear in your eye. You’re going to think of the memories. You’re going to think of the great jobs. You’re going to think, ‘I had an uncle, a grandma, a grandpa work there,’” Jostes said.

“But once it’s down, you’re really going to get a sense of what the future could be. And the future will be very bright. And we’re going to be committed to it.”

Jostes struck the right tone and said the right things at the news conference. Residents should give Commercial Development an opportunity to deliver on this “bright” future, one that will hopefully make GM’s departure feel like a distant memory.


Letters
Your Views: Furious over treatment of family with rescued horses

I am not in the habit of writing to you, but I am so furious on the article in your paper this morning ("Town of Janesville sues residents over extra horses," Sunday, Page 2A) I am compelled to write.

What is wrong with the Janesville Town Board? Do they not have a heart or a brain?

The Kettelhuts are running a horse sanctuary! What difference does a couple more horses make? When someone does such good deeds, they should be praised, not sued!

Drop the lawsuit against them and all the fines.

Just let them care for the horses and leave them alone.

NANCY PITT

Beloit


Letters
Your Views: Town of Janesville should get off its high horse

In the case of the two extra horses kept within the town of Janesville, how about a little compassion here?! The town cannot be expected to bend ordinances left and right at every request, but in this instance Porsche Kettelhut did try to get a conditional use permit and, later, a variance. I’m guessing the two horses came before the legalities were addressed. Maybe the rescue opportunity was limited and urgent.

I cannot think two more horses on over six acres of land could make that much of a difference to the neighbors. What are their feelings? If the neighbors have no objections, why can’t the town get off its own high horse and grant the ordinance?

JOANNE O. ANDERSON

Janesville


Letters
Your Views: Sadly, environmental stewardship no longer a state priority

As a lifelong conservationist and business owner, I believe that seeking prosperity and practicing sound natural resources management have created jobs, reduced pollution, and improved air/water quality in Wisconsin.

Unfortunately, as Lee Bergquist said in a recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, our state leadership and Legislature have used their positions “to engineer the biggest shift in natural resource management in decades by easing regulations and promoting business-friendly policies.”

Wisconsin residents, farmers and manufacturers proved humans can prosper while enforcing science-based conservation/environmental practices. Conserving our state’s resources and maintaining clean air/water quality, which directly impacts the survival of humans, have been replaced by state and federal actions that no longer support this balanced perspective.

Money is an inanimate concept and only meets temporary needs. Based on our massive national and state debt, we will simply print more money when the current supply disappears! On the other hand, polluted water cannot be replaced in such a fashion. Polluted air quality can take decades to improve. When a species of animal, reptile, fish or plant disappears, it cannot be replaced.

Remember, our elected officials work for ALL citizens. Get educated on these issues, write letters and emails to your representatives and attend public hearings! Elect people who respect a balance between prosperity and natural resource conservation. Do this for our children and our grandchildren.

All the money in the world will not matter if our planet is devoid of life. Who will work at the FoxConn plant when this happens?!

LARRY LAEHN

Milton