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Word usage guidance and alternative terms (developers.google.com)
168 points by PurpleFoxy 28 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 371 comments

It's a good list, mostly. It's just nearly impossible to memorize.

I also think sometimes about terms like whitelist and blacklist. The problem isn't that they refer to race. The problem is that "white" and "black" refer to race. White and black are basic colors, and assigning meaning to colors is natural and unavoidable. However "white people" aren't "white", and "black people" aren't "black".

So IMHO the focus should be on dropping racial connotations from colors. If we're fine with not calling Asians "yellow" and Native Americans "red", we should be fine with that too.

Imagine if we couldn't have yellow and red traffic lights, because it'd be offensive to a race.

> It's just nearly impossible to memorize.

I think the idea is that you test your documentation just like you do your code. I found a couple linters for this:



> Imagine if we couldn't have yellow and red traffic lights, because it'd be offensive to a race.

I don't think this is a good comparison; the controversy of the "blacklist" term is a complex and polarising topic that depends heavily on context; I don't think it makes sense to look for an analogy here. For anyone looking for a summary, I like how wikipedia [1] describes the context and the current state.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blacklist_(computing)#Controve...

I'd be very curious to hear what are the objective reasons why "yellow" and "red" are considered offensive when they refer to race, and "white" and "black" are considered appropriate. If you dig into it... it's just happenstance and habit.

Colors are just colors. They're not emotionally charged. We do that through cultural context and association.

> I'd be very curious to hear what are the objective reasons why "yellow" and "red" are considered offensive when they refer to race, and "white" and "black" are considered appropriate. If you dig into it... it's just happenstance and habit.

All of them are artifacts of White racism, “Black” has been widely (but not universally, and many prefer other terms) adopted by the people it targets [0], as (perhaps less surprisingly) has “White” [1], the rest mainly have not. That’s pretty much the defining difference—the others are “viewed as offensive” because they are, in fact, broadly offensive to the people to whom the label is applied.

[0] largely, at least in the US, as a label of shared identity grounded in experience of White racism.

[1] among non-racists, its often not so much a strong identity (narrower ethnic identities often take that role) as acknowledgement as insofar as race os a thing, that’s a fine name for theirs.

> Colors are just colors.

The use of colors aa names of races (and the way some are also associated with subracial groups) is pretty arbitrary rather than descriptive, “red” Indians, “brown” latin@s, and “yellow" asian/pacific islanders aren’t particular different in skin color in any way that maps to the color names.

I guess they are offensive, because they are not used by their respective races. You don't have Chinese people calling themselves "yellow" and you don't have Native Americans calling themselves "red". But you will have Europeans referring to them as "white" and Africans referring to them as "black".

> You don't have Chinese people calling themselves "yellow"

Of course there are, e.g. the ones who wrote the Baidu Baike article on "yellow people": https://baike.baidu.com/item/%E9%BB%84%E8%89%B2%E4%BA%BA%E7%... But a term that groups them with Japanese, Mongolians and Indonesians doesn't have much relevance for most Chinese people anyway.

Chinese people refer to themselves as yellow.

Asking honestly... They do? I've never seen it happen in any Chinese media I've consumed, though not speaking Chinese that could have more to do with the translators. I've certainly never heard an American of Chinese decent refer to themselves this way.

Can we get more context on this?

I am not a Chinese person but I have came across "banana"[1] in multiple places, most famously in the movie "Crazy Rich Asians"

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana,_Coconut,_and_Twinkie

Americans of Chinese descent are not Chinese. My wife is Beijing born-and-bred and refers to (East) Asians as yellow people, as do many of her friends.

If you want a more objective source and can read Chinese, there's a Baidu Baike (think Chinese wiktionary) page for the term (黄种人):


They do, but it’s not as common as black and white in English (American) media. There’s even an old song, pretty well-known, that has 2 lines that can be translated as “Black eyes, black hair, and yellow skin, forever more shall be the descendants of the dragon” (descendants of the dragon means of Chinese descent in the context of the song).

I learned the Japanese word 黄色人種 (yellow race) from a Japanese women when I asked how to appropriately designate "asian people".

(But it's definitely not the most common expression)

Well there's terms like banana, egg and the like but yeah. Same with Oriental vs Caucasian/Asian/African/European etc.

It's not hard to point out exceptions, but let's not go there, I guess.

"Blacklist" also happens to not be a very good term for the thing it's describing. You have to kinda know what it means first compared to "deny list" which is somewhat more intuitive.

> It's just nearly impossible to memorize.

This can be trivially implemented in CI for code and docs and have links to this doc. No need to remember it.

Trivially? Have you ever tried to implement a text parser to enforce a style guide?

The low-hanging fruit is when there is a banned word with a defined replacement. For instance, in this Google style guide, all instances of "auto-scaling" should be replaced with "autoscaling."

But if you want to go much deeper than that, it gets very tricky very quickly.

For instance, how would you programmatically detect and correct text so it conforms to this style guide's Anthropomorphism guidelines? https://developers.google.com/style/anthropomorphism

I don't think they meant fully autonomous integration.

"PC sees" vs. "PC detects" is just B.S. honestly. Both are equally anthropocentric, if at all.

Computer communication protocols closely resemble other systems (including human and animal communication). Objects are literally modeled after how ecosystems and social structures work.

As trivial as cleaning up user names and in game chats without triggering a few million false positives. People have been working on this for decades, they have yet to succeed.

The implementation is left as an exercise to the reader.

A start is whenever you have the urge to make use of a race-based concept, ask yourself if an ethnic-based concept would not serve better.

Personal opinion of a copy-editor of 15 years: the popular understanding of race is so pervaded by racism that it is difficult to use race-based terms without either reinforcing some racist idea or another on the one hand or risk being seen as "too PC" on the other. Social scientists do need race-based concepts, but outside contexts with scholarly norms, they have many foot-gun affordances.

> Social scientists do need race-based concepts

Do they? There are places like France where the whole concept of race doesn't apply to humans. Race terminology is for things like dog breeds. Humans don't really have races in that sense.

This is exemplified by the fact that someone with a black and a white parents is said to be black, because of their skin color. Even if you are for example 1/8th black descent you are said to be of "race" black because of the resulting skin color. It doesn't make any sense as a scientific concept. Other countries have different classification, like South Africa.

We are one species with various ethnicities, usually mixed.

According to David Graeber, the concept of race conveniently appeared when would-be slavers in Europe were looking for justifications for enslaving Africans when the medieval Catholic church consistently held that slavery was wrong. The concept of race was helpful in arguing the position that while God's law applied to the peoples that the medieval church knew of, there might be human-seeming creatures to whom it doesn't.

The effects of race-justified practices were so far reaching that they can be said to shape our societies, just as decades after the abolition of Apartheid, most South Africans know exactly how they would have been classified. At this point, for social scientists to abandon race would mean we would live in a society with features that neo-fascists have ready explanations for and no systematic standard of evidence against which their claims could be exposed for the fantasies they really are. You need to have the concept of race before you can see why the reality does not support the claims of the racists.

The problem with whitelist and blacklist is that they don’t say what they mean. If you use more descriptive terms then your writing will be easier to understand.

If the problem is descriptiveness and ease of understanding, the same can be said about the words "white" or "black" when referring to people. Neither of them say what they mean.

In fact, I would argue that disagreements and ambiguities as to what makes a person "white" or "black" are astronomically more frequent than difficulties in understanding what is meant by the words "whitelist" or "blacklist".

> the same can be said about the words "white" or "black" when referring to people. Neither of them say what they mean.

Neither should be used to refer to people. “White” and “Black”, capitalized as proper nouns and proper adjectives are in English, to refer to particular identity groups and association with those identity groups are, OTOH, a different story.

allowlist and blocklist are clearer regardless

Are they? Are the terms "whitelist" and "blacklist" used only in the context of "allowing" and "blocking"? Who or what is the subject that is implied to be "allowing" and "blocking" the elements of each list? Is the process involved in "allowing" and/or "blocking" passive or active?

"Whitelist" and "blacklist" are abstract terms which are useful because they have general and non-specific meanings which can be adapted to many contexts. Artificially prescribed alternatives, introduced only to satisfy the current American cultural Zeitgeist, are not.

If you aren't using the list for allowing or blocking, then give it a name that describes what you are using it for.

It dismays me to see programmers arguing loudly and stubbornly for bad terminology, when a key skill for designing a good API is to choose good names.

If only so much other "bad terminology" in IT that does not accurately reflect what it means, such as POST, PUT, cookie, bug, shell, etc. were also names of discriminated social groups in America... maybe then we could get people arguing loudly and stubbornly to replace them. One can only dream.


you didn’t even give a single counter example

The AP Style Guide is 600+ pages. They're usually more of a reference guide than something you're supposed to have memorized on day 1.

Sometimes avoiding those connotations are exceptionally hard, verging on impossible. In comparison, it seems a documentation change from whitelist to allowlist might just be a single find & replace away for a project.

>Sometimes avoiding those connotations are exceptionally hard, verging on impossible.

Is it? Two years ago if someone told me they think of certain races every time they hear about whitelists or black holes I'd find them a bit silly.

To be honest, I still find people a bit silly that think of certain races when reading those terms.

> Sometimes avoiding those connotations are exceptionally hard

That is 100% an anglo-saxon world problem since most European languages either differentiate between words for skin color and color name, or using the color name to describe skin color isn't considered racist at all.

I would stretch it even to mark it as an US-only problem.

Instead, European languages have a tendency to gender everything. I imagine that’s an untapped “problem” in some folks’ eyes that will boil over sooner or later.

I was recently in France and was told by a local this was actually an issue with the covid outbreak. There is a department that decides on the gender of new words and they determined covid (or some variant on that) to be feminine.

Presumably, the folk at the Académie Française¹.

Every couple of years they release a statement that causes a flurry of changes in the documentation of a few projects I've worked on. Always in really curious ways too, exchanging words that are common to French people in our industry with words uncommon to everyone.

I kind of appreciate the quirkiness of the whole thing.

¹ https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Académie_Française

> There is a department that decides on the gender of new words

TIL. Fascinating.

> covid (or some variant on that) to be feminine.

And here I was hoping that I was being too pessamistic.

Gramatical gender has very little to do with the words it describes. For example, in a particularly confusing twist: féminisme (feminism) is a masculine noun, wheras masculinité (masculinity) is feminine.

It's mostly due to the pronunciation and spelling of the word ending. Although in this case, the Académie Française decided feminine because COVID is an acronym, and the last word of that acronym is disease, and disease is a feminine word (la Maladie) because of how it is spelled.

The issue with Covid is that we all started to say LE covid for a few months until June/July or so, maybe because we say LE coronavirus, and then they come and tell us we must say LA Covid.

It's not that we gender everything, I am Italian and my language does not have the neutral pronoun. Everything is either masculine or feminine.

Single find & replace is exactly what this document tells you not to do, since that's how you get dumb^W suboptimal results like "denylisted" instead of sane^W more clear options like "denied".

African American and Caucasian?

Ah yes, all those African American people in Kenya

I live in Japan and visiting Americans do this all the time. Many people just did a find-and-replace on their speech years ago and never consider what it actually means.

What’s funny is when you have people call foreigners “outside country people” (if you’re a foreigner in East Asia) but there is a funny transition where if they visit the US they still refer to ex. an American in the US as an “outside country people.”

So, let me introduce you to my ‘waiguoren’ friend here in LA. Right, the local is the foreigner.

Or you know, all those African people in Kenya? Africans refer to themselves as Africans, not as Black.

Do they really refer to themselves as Africans and not Kenyans or whatever tribe they belong to? "African" isn't a race, the people from that continent are way too diverse for that.

And since it is a place and not a race there are plenty of white Africans out there, same as there are plenty of black Europeans out there. Calling people who have never been to Africa "African American" just because they skin is dark is just plain racism. They are dark skinned Americans and has nothing to do with Africa.

If they are in a place with a really small minority of their population, they band together as African. If they go to a place with relatively larger sizes, they tend to go by their nationality. Never have I met an African who goes by their race or by the colour of their skin.

But white people from Africa also call themselves African. People rarely refer to themselves by their race, anyone can see that they have dark skin, so they just say which region they are from.

If you think it is wrong for white Africans to call themselves Africans then how can white Americans call themselves Americans? Similarly when I talk to dark skinned people in Europe they call themselves Europeans and not Africans. When they talk about their "race" they say they are black or brown, because that is the only thing separating them from the other people.

Did you even read my last line? No African I've met goes by the colour of their skin as part of their identity. They go by nationality first, followed by ethnicity, which is often tied to their language, and even that tertiary identity is sparingly used.

Dark skinned people from Europe are Europeans for all means and purposes, just as white Africans are Africans for all purposes. The "race" that you mention is a very recent development, and is an American export that is mostly confined to Europe alone (and mostly Western Europe). The Africans I've met and worked with often fumed at the whole colour-based distinction. They would rather be identified by nationality, and then language-based ethnicity (Zulu, Xhosa, Amheri, etc). And no, it's not that "anyone can see that they have dark skin", there are pretty clear racial distinctions based on skintone too (light-brown vs dark brown, which was part of the basis for the Rwandan genocide).

Not to mention all the French-Canadians of Azeri stock.

There are black people not from Africa.

> So IMHO the focus should be on dropping racial connotations from colors.

Color identifies are generally bullshit. For example, what the heck is a white person? Are the Irish white? A 19th century WASP wouldn't think so. In fact, most Europeans who lived in their own ethnic communities in the US weren't white until about the mid-20th century. Incidentally, this is when the Great Migration began and these communities began to disintegrate. The WASPs began to feel threatened (though this is hardly unique to WASPs; cf. the Soviets, the Nazis, the CCP, etc), and so they engaged in bit of social engineering, identity theft, and deracinization. You were no longer Irish or German or Polish or Swedish or Lithuanian or whatever. You were now bland old generic "white". But wait a second. What is "white identity" and "white culture"? Do the Whites speak White? Of course not. This is what identity theft and imposed artificial identities are about. You are robbed of your identity and then told what your identity is by a ruling class that controls that identity. So you need to look to the ruling class to "know" who you are because they're no way to know or determine what whiteness is beyond what they make it mean. If you want to know what "whiteness" means, look no further than the organs and estates of power in this country. This is social engineering and control.

> Imagine if we couldn't have yellow and red traffic lights, because it'd be offensive to a race.

Exactly. Frankly, I don't think people associate "whitelist" with whiteness and "blacklist" with blackness. I don't, and people aren't monomaniacally stupid like that and that's not how we work. We can speak of the gorgeous black ebony of a piano or a raven-haired or a doe-eyed/black eyed beauty, or how handsome a shiny black tuxedo looks or how sleek a black Ferrari might look. Black tie formals appreciate the elegance that stark contrasts can have. We can also speak of someone looking pale as a ghost and sickly, whitewashing the truth, and so on. So it is patent nonsense that people think in these term. Maybe those people who believe this is the case are guilty of some kind of truly bizarre obsession where everything is racialized. Poor them. We judge things according to some normative understanding of what something ought or can be, not in abstraction.

(Some may allude to the historical use of dark colors to depict evil and white to depict good. This is, again, a highly selective reading and betrays the same inability to contextualize. The night is dark, darkness means inability to see, obscurity, concealment. Light reveals, makes things known. Is nature therefore racist? Should we accuse the sun, or light itself, of being racist? How parochial. Again, nobody of sound mind thinks this way and it is nothing less than the paranoia of insane academic bubble chamber ideologues.)

yea, maybe we could call people cream and chocolate. I'd be onboard with that.

We could call people ... people? Do they have to be black or white?

"People are at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency compared to people." Race is not something to necessarily hide.

"People with darker skin are at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency compared to people with lighter skin." This sentence is more accurate and useful than the alternative based on the socially constructed ideas of "black" or "white" people. There is no need to "hide" race, as there is no such thing.

"Darker" and "lighter" are relative terms said relative to no one, maybe some unknown average.

Also people with darker skin due to lots of UV exposure are at LOWER risk of vitamin D deficiency than your average pale skinned person.

So it comes down to genetics. Like it or not. Facts of life.

To say there's "no such thing" as race is incredibly, you know, post-factual. Might as well decide there's "no such thing as sex", just half of humanity is inexplicably infertile.

In medicine you don't get everyone's legs preventively amputated because maybe some people have problems with their legs. In the same way we can't just amputate our dictionary and minds of useful concepts and knowledge like the idea of race, just because some people have problematic interpretations of race.

The use of relative terms is clear when used in the same sentence, and there is no need for an implied average. Taller people are more likely to reach higher shelves than shorter people. Richer people are more likely to own a car than poorer people. Older people are more likely to have had children than younger people. None of those sentences need an artificial human category to make their meaning clear.

Also, I don't know what point you're trying to make by implying different base conditions. A "black" person who likes to sunbathe in their garden is also at lower risk of vitamin D deficiency than a "white" person who never leaves their basement. So what? And surely you're aware that at higher latitudes "white" people with darker skin are at greater risk than lighter-skinned "white" people? And "black" people with lighter skin are at lower risk than "black" people with darker skin?

Of course it's down to genetics—at no point have I implied otherwise. The variance in baseline melanin is of course genetic! But, like it or not, "a characteristic is genetic" does not mean "races are real". I suggest you catch up on the subject of human population genetics.

There is no such thing as human race in the biological consensus. Rather, it is an arbitrary social construct present mostly in Western and especially American society, which doesn't even have consistent interpretations across regions or populations.

> There is no such thing as human race in the biological consensus

There is. There is however no clear way to create a line saying "here one race ends and the other race begins", there is a continuous spectrum between Europeans and Africans and Asians. So the way USA tries to put you in discrete bins like "White", "Black", "Latino", "Asian" is unscientific, but the concept that humans whose ancestors came from different parts of the world are different enough for them to be considered separate races is not.

Technically there are more races of humans in Africa than outside Africa since it is so diverse, but USA still groups all of them as "black", its just pure nonsense what they are doing.

> But, like it or not, "a characteristic is genetic" does not mean "races are real". I suggest you catch up on the subject of human population genetics.

I mean, that's literally the definition of a race: "a population within a species that is distinct in some way, especially a subspecies".

I'm not sure arguing whether a concept is real or not real makes sense. If a concept can be clearly defined, it's "real".

Aladeen is at a higher risk of vitamin D compared to Aladeen.

> So IMHO the focus should be on dropping racial connotations from colors. If we're fine with not calling Asians "yellow" and Native Americans "red", we should be fine with that too.

I think that sounds like a very good solution, but it's opposite of the solution being touted by the current progressive regime.

They seem to think that to combat racial discrimination, to combat thinking in black and white, we first have to make everything black and white. They then assign different treatments/rights to the different segregations, to correct for some historical wrong-doing, to ensure everyone now gets treated, on overall, "equalish".

From my understanding this principle is even being taught in schools, and also applied to other areas in society (gender-equality, LGBTQ)? If so, we do have quite some way to go.

> Imagine if we couldn't have yellow and red traffic lights, because it'd be offensive to a race.

All these terrible things starts with someone making a comment like this, and then someone for whatever reason taking it seriously.

I'm not going to take it for granted that someone is not going to cause a hissy fit over this sometime in the future.

I'd call that 'first recognizing the current state of affairs'. Denial has been a long standing issue where some folks have denied that a problem exists.

When the problem is separate treatment of different races, then the problem statement has to talk about race.

> They then assign different treatments/rights to the different segregations

It's what Yuri Bezmenov refereed to as useful idiots. Divide and conquer has been used by those in power to rule over the constituents for centuries. They realized that the best way to prevent people from looking at the real enemy (establishment) was to keep them infighting and the best way to do that is to divide people into as many oppressor oppressed buckets as possible and let them fight each other. So now we have people not just fighting about rich vs poor, now it's based on race, sex, sexual preference, ethnicity etc. While we keep fighting each other, the corporations and establishment elites keep getting richer and more powerful, meanwhile our lives keep getting more and more miserable. This identity politics is also used by corporations and politicians to prevent and deflect blame. Want your $2000 stimulus? Want a minimum wage? Want wall Street, Robinhood accountability? Want universal health care? Want an end to forever wars? You won't get any of that and if you question it, you are being sexist for attacking the first secretary of the treasury (paid off by Wall Street and $800G by Robinhood hedge fund), first black secretary of defence (Raytheon board seat), first trans health minister (took out her own mother while forcing covid patients into nursing homes). It is evil yet genius identity politics and people are too afraid to speak up.

"Racism is not dead. But it is on life-support, kept alive mainly by the people who use it for an excuse or to keep minority communities fearful or resentful enough to turn out as a voting bloc on election day." - Thomas Sowell

Obligatory mention for relevant Ryan Long comedy skit:


> It's what Yuri Bezmenov refereed to as useful idiots

Apologies for derailing the interesting ideas, but my reaction to this was: Who? What? Surely this is the concept due to Lenin.

Wikipedia-depth research says this is probably a myth; that it likely originates from early Cold War journalism.


This reads like a hypothesis / creation fable. It's conceivable that some in power have intentionally leveraged identity politics to fracture an opposing voting bloc, but citation needed.

"The term man (from Proto-Germanic *mann- "person") and words derived from it can designate any or even all of the human race regardless of their sex or age." [1]

As with most things Google does this will set some kind of precedent that a non-trivial subset may follow on with. Where does this stop though? Human -> Huperson? What do we rename the `kill` command to? How will that affect scripts that use it? The result of that is to then have a shim to `kill` anyway so the net result is a tonne of stuff breaks and `kill` is still present?

I'm all for improving our use of language but a lot of these kinds of changes are virtue signals that don't enact any meaningful change at all [2][3]. There are lots of words taken out of context purposefully for instance, "my process is hung" has nothing to do with hanging of human beings.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_(word)

[2] https://mooseyanon.medium.com/github-f-ck-your-name-change-d...

[3] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26487854

I very much agree, that this is not really helping nor worth the effort in most cases. Like whats offensive with about a hanging process?

I can understand trying to remove some stigmatisations, like blacklist for bad and whitelist for good, even though they are hard as they are very commonly used. But maybe that is part of the problem, that our western culture has the colour encoding of white == good and black == bad.

Even in an ideal world, where people don't notice the skin color anymore, I can see how a person with a black skin might feel hurt about that encoding in general, so maybe it is good moving step by step away from that, despite that it causes inconvenience.

The connotation of black and white is not just a western one. It often derives from light vs absence of light (white vs black), where absence of light is often taken as something disadvantageous. It is also rather rarely used as good vs bad and more often denotes some vague characteristics (black/white plague for example).

I find it especially hard to think of good/bad or even race when using the term blacklist or whitelist tho.

There is some good reason to change black-/whitelists naming, but supposed racism is not one of them, because it is only due to some people feeling offended by a technical term. If you change words because some might feel offended, it will never stop. In the end you still have words to denote some characteristic and it will be taken as offensive if it is used at all (or by people of the "wrong" characteristic).

"If you change words because some might feel offended, it will never stop. "

Well, since we are evolving our culture our changing of words hopefully never stops. Languge is an ongoing process and much of our language was shaped in a patriarchal, racist and sexist environment, that existed for centuries if not millenias.

Now I might say, we advanced from that, so there are necessary language changes happening.

That much energy is wasted in that regard, I very much agree. And I'd like some sanity back in the debate.

I am also not sure about the black/white thing.

(ah btw. some racist indeed favor the blond over black haired people, which gave ways to a antinazi joke:

The Arier: Blond like Hitler, thin like Göring and tall like Himmler.)

But I am "white", so I am not sure if I can judge about about a black skinned persons feelings about the matter or just ignore them.

But that the very color linked to race scheme is stupid in the first place and that this should be the thing fighting against, I would agree.

There was a south park episode about that, Cartman hit the black kid (just out of being an asshole with anger problems). And the school was about to punish him as usual, but no, because he was black it was a hate crime and the higher institutions got involved, with big fuss and lots of saying black.

So I think Stan in the end said: if you treat people different because of their skin color, it means they are different. So it reinforces the race thinking.

So I do agree: when I see a blacklist, I never would associate that with a person. I just try to be a bit sensitive of people who do. Which yes, it is hard to draw the line.

>in an ideal world, where people don't notice the skin color anymore, I can see how a person with a black skin might feel hurt

In that ideal world, that person would be as likely to feel hurt as a person with black hair... that is, if you can even find a person with truly black skin.

> Human -> Huperson

Haha, that's good one, I love it! :-)

(Although 'human' comes from Latin and has nothing to do with Germanic 'man', but these details are never part of such a discussion, so let's ignore them.)

When do people realise that 'homo sapiens' is sexist (and maybe offensive to LGBT* people!!)? It must be renamed to 'persona sapiens'!


> guys, you guys: When referring to a group of people use non-gendered language, such as everyone or folks.

Isn't the plural form "guys" already explicitly inclusive?

Not when you use language like, "I've kissed four guys in the past year."

If I had to try to nail down when it is and isn't inclusive, I would say that when it is used in the second-person, where a speaker is directly addressing a group, it is the most likely to be gender-neutral: "Do you guys like this idea? Can I get you guys anything?"

When it is used in a first- or third-person perspective, it's less likely to be used in a gender-neutral way. "I know some guys who work there" tends to be used only if you're talking about men. If you're talking about women only or a mixed group, it's more common to say, "I know some women who work there" or "I know some people who work there."

Some of this is so colloquial. Where I live, 'guys' is even used by women, when speaking to a group of other women.

People assuming how they use language, is right, assumes that there is one language, eg, one english, not many.

Very 'centre of the universe' thinking.

While this is true isn't it helpful to make people feel included.

I grew up in Toronto, Canada where "guys" was widely used as a gender-neutral term in most contexts (admittedly there are some phrases where a gender is heavily implied). However when I was working at a tech company in Dublin, Ireland I noticed that if I addressed a room with "guys" women in the room would often feel excluded. This is not unreasonable given the different dialects and the minority of women in this setting. So sure, we could say that she is wrong for feeling excluded but when many minorities already feel excluded it seems wrong to use language that reaffirms that nagging feeling constantly whispering to them from the back of their mind.

And avoiding the term "guys" is a simple case even though "Y'all" and "folks" sound really odd to me, I agree that there is a huge spectrum here and the line of what is reasonable and what isn't is incredibly fuzzy.

While this is true isn't it helpful to make people feel included.

In some cases, I found it the opposite. I've discussed this with a woman or two, as I was curious, and didn't want to offend. And they felt it includes them. Nothing is changed because they are there, they're just "one of the guys". Not a woman, or a man. Just another person in the group.

You cite Dublin, and that's valid. And yet, that was me point. Here was have a world spanning company, Google, which should be as "metropolitan' as they come, blathering on about setting world-wide language policy, from the viewpoint of a small little US state.

Seems very, very colloquial to me.

If you're going to work in a world-spanning company, thinking your culture, in your little, tiny corner of the world, is "right" all the time is absurd.

It's inclusive in some idiolects and exclusive in others.

Only in the second person. “(You) guys” versus “(those) guys.”

No "guys" is not inclusive in many situations. Guys is males first, female second.

How did you come to this conclusion? I have never seen a definition that implied a precedence.

There are plenty of examples, from titles of things (eg. " Guys and Dolls"), to expressions that are clearly understood to be gendered. (Eg, "I only date guys." Or "if the guys will please leave the room for a moment.")

Yes, there are are colloquial uses where it is gender neutral, but those are not universal internationally.

I'm not asking about whether guys can refer to both men and women. I'm asking explicitly about precedence. Is gentleman similarly problematic because of the phrase, 'ladies and gentleman'?

This seems like a completely made up problem.

The phrase ladies and gentlemen does have it's own problems, mostly because it fails to address non binary people.

> This seems like a completely made up problem.

Only because it doesn't impact you. Consider developing more empathy. Surely you know some folks who gave challenges in their lives that others callously dismiss as not a big deal.

If you're basing your argument of the gender precedence of 'guys' on 'Guys and Dolls', I think I'm comfortable in my opinion that this is a made up problem.

> Surely you know some folks who gave challenges in their lives that others callously dismiss as not a big deal.

Sure do. And they recognised that those problems were their own that they needed to overcome. Not insist that everyone else change to accommodate them.

Ask a man how many guys he has dated. What is the more common connotation? Which is why it is about men first and women second in likelihood. Not about precedence of importance but precedence of likelihood about the genders of the people spoken about.

So for some people guys has a touch of the ladies not being explicitly asked for feedback to questions like "hi guys, where should we go today". Now this is not universal but language rarely is and context matters a whole lot.

> context matters a whole lot

Well yes, which undermines your example. When I see women use the term 'hey guys', they are normally addressing a mixed group, with no precedence implied or inferred. In a 1-on-1 conversation, I would find it weird asking someone their dating history if I didn't know what their sexual orientation was. Different context, different connotations.

And 'master' is from Latin and Old English, that predates the USA by over 1500 years. Mr is an abbreviation of master. I wonder if anyone takes offense at that yet.


You're missing the point, which is to create clear documentation that is understandable by non-native speakers and is inclusive of all readers. The etymology of the words isn't really relevant to those goals.

> man-in-the-middle (MITM) Avoid using gendered terms. Instead use terms like on-path attacker, person-in-the-middle (PITM).

This one got me. You can’t just replace “MITM” with “PITM” and expect anyone to know what you’re talking about. I know what MITM means. I have no idea what PITM means at first glance. I suspect that nobody does.

So my main question is, who wrote that? Because I can’t imagine any technical person seriously suggesting that replacement.

I am mainly onboard in renaming things in order to be a bit more inclusive, even though I recognize the firction that this causes. But this is a GREATLY missed opportunity of renaming


Mallory was the villain who invented MITM-attacks and it is a unisex name.

I am really disapointed...

Names can become gendered, so this is not future proof.

What word or symbol really is future proof?

The biohazard symbol comes to mind as it is meant to be "memorable but meaningless"[0] as a symbol. I imagine it will be in use a century from now, if not longer, since it was created specifically to convey a hazardous condition.

[0] https://web.archive.org/web/20110716160837/http://www.hms.ha...

Man has also the meaning of "human being", gender neutral, why is the concept of context dead? I imagine a quite useless manager who has fun in being offended, and trying to put a guilt on the other people shoulders. IMHO

"Girl" used to be gender-neutral too. How a language is used evolves.

Language evolves, yes, but lot of people (the majority I suppose) still use and understand "man" in the neutral meaning too; there is a set of people that has "evolved" and tries to impose their evolution with dishonest speaking practices (shame, economic pressure, cancel culture..). This is not language evolution, it is the same as the fascists in Italy in the 19twenties that have pushed/banned the use of specific words in the Italian language (was it evolution? I think you agree it is not). So I don't buy this one, "language evolution" supporters in this case have the same behaviour of religious fundamentalists, they have lot of uncontestable axioms, like a religion, and this is not good. Not good at all.

How are economic pressure and "cancel culture"[1] dishonest? Moralizing your opinion and perceiving people who don't share your opinion as dishonest is fighting a culture war - not a way to find common ground or a comfortable coexistence.

1. "Cancel culture" a new shibboleth of an old non-violent tactic that already had a name: boycotts. A set of people who utilize boycotts is ξ

In the past it was quite different and not so effective, also the target is not usually a company but a single person. It is a war towards the weak. Now you can destroy the people life for really futile reasons, so cancel culture acts differently from old-style boycott for technological and sociological reasons. I don't think that the mob assaulting people for old style opinions is the majority of population, the mob is simply organized, funded and have the advantage of being supported by the media. And I don't think that having a mob destroying a person, and his family too, for a different opinion.. is a good way to shape the world, or a shiny path towards a better future. That is the "Gulag method", ah yes sorry, you call it "Language evolution", I forgot it. Finally, for lot of people this is a "culture WAR", in the sense that casualities don't matters, and is the proof that this mob is moved by violence and not compassion.

> "Girl" used to be gender-neutral too.

Yeah, its interesting how “girl” went from meaning child to meaning female child while “boy” went from meaning “male servant” (which is the origin of its use for “employee" in several compounds that are less outdated, like “pool boy”, and which is also the origin of its use as a racial slur) to meaning “male child”.

Seems that it was a Google VP?


But yea, changing terms like that is not very helpful, unless everyone is onboard

The funny thing is that his own name is not even gender neutral: "Kleidermacher" means Clothes maker, but it's the male version of it. The female version would be "Kleidermacherin". It's interesting because if he has a wife then his own wife has a male version of the last name. Interestingly in Polish we always had gender versioned names. My name is Gorski, which is the male version for "Man from the mountains", but my mum and sister are "Gorska" which means "Women from the mountain". It was always like this. My grandpa was Gorski and my grandma was Gorska. This does not exist in German, there is no "Kleidermacherin" as a last name.

Just wanted to point this out as an interesting thing I noticed.

Actually "Kleidermacher" is a genderless word in German. Source: I'm German. :D

But historically this has been a complicated topic. Basically about a hundred years ago the genus and sexus of words started to get separated. Thanks to that you can say "Katze" to both male and female cats. Historically you had to say "Kater" to a male cat.

But of course there were people in the 90s (it started earlier than that) who considered the generic masculinum uninclusive for women, since why is the male genus allowed to be the generic form of the language? Everything had to be gendered explicitly again! Awesome! /s Instead of rolling back the split of genus and sexus of the past decades, they instead opted for just sticking the already existing, but less popular -in suffix to everything and anything. A generic word like "Student" now had it's proper sexus again as "Student und Studentin".

But as you might already know that's uninclusive for nonbinary people and thus we're now at a point where we say "Studierende" or "Studentx" or "Student:in" instead, which linguistically really doesn’t make much sense at all anymore. Awesome! /s

One step forward, two steps backwards. But again, as explained above, the "Kleidermacher" can be of any genus, because...

Genus and sexus are two different things in German.

Is Kleidermacher genderless though or do you mean that the male version has been historically also applied as the genderless term which is kind of the whole problem of the last few years? Macher is male and Macherin is female. Same as Bäcker and Bäckerin, Polizist and Polizistin, Programmierer and Programmiererin. That's why in German people have to say things like "Liebe Bekannte und Bekanntinnen" now.

Kleidermacher is in my understanding the (current) male version which was historically the gender/ sex inclusive word. Interestingly Bäcker (the male term) used to be inclusive too (a long time ago) because the ending -er simply implied that there‘s a person who does something. For Bäcker that means that that’s someone who bakes.

Item_Boring already clarified what I meant better than I could ever express it.

But yeah basically "Kleidermacher" was historically a genderless term for quite a long time (potentially always) and was then gendered again, by people who seemingly misunderstood the generic masculinum. The people who made this worse misunderstood that sexus and genus are two different things.

As I explained before, this is quite ironic given that the -in suffix is now being said to be not inclusive.

People like that need to learn some American/European language/culture/history.

White/light/warm/day = good, Black/dark/cold/night = bad is pretty universal association that only the truly sheltered and privleged could miss.

Just because a word is widely understood doesn't make it inoffensive. I'm sure we can all think of many historical examples of words that were once common but are now almost never used because they are understood to be offensive.

> pretty universal association that only the truly sheltered and privileged could miss.

uhhhh, is this gaslighting?

it is considered privileged to never have introspection on these universal associations

No, that's not what gaslighting is. Gaslighting is when you deny an obvious truth. To attempt to convince someone that what they saw or experienced did not happen as they saw or experienced it.

To me, the thing I was replying to is a reinterpretation of privilege and denying a common reality. I know a lot of people that try to address how white/black terminology exacerbates disproportional civil rights abuses by race based on the unrelated good/bad association and would say it is privilege to not notice that or consider reconciling it.

Assuming that was intentional, perhaps there is a better word. Assuming it was not intentional, then its just odd.

Please don't use "onboard". That would imply that I like boats and I might suffer from naviphobia.....

As a man I just realised I should have been offended by this given that it implies that the bad person in the middle is a man.

It's not about helping technical people do their jobs better, it's about being a social justice warrior.

It’s a bad term because it’s ambiguous. It’s better to talk about passive interception attacks or active interception attacks.

PITM sounds like “pain in the minge” which isn’t a good connotation.

Machine in the Middle or Malice in the Middle are better options imho

Pain In The M?

You should always define your acronyms on first use anyway. Sure most of your audience will know MITM means Man-In-The-Middle but the ones who don't will be completely lost.


Actually, it's probably much, much simpler than that.

There is a demand right now for companies and industries to be seen addressing problems of systemic racism. You can look deep into your internal processes, identify how unconscious and conscious biases are undermining the acquisition or advancement of underprivileged minorities, and modify them to create more equitable outcomes. Or you can tweak some jargon to be more linguistically inclusive, a problem that (as far as I'm aware) no one has actually complained about.

In other words, it's an attempt to be inclusive by claiming very loudly that you're inclusive while doing absolutely nothing to actually help change that.

I am a googler and I am ashamed.

"Language makes thought possible. When the words disappear, so does our ability to think about the ideas the words represent. When they prevent you from saying the obvious, overtime it becomes impossible to see the obvious.... those who control your words control your mind."

Huh. This quote appears to come from Tucker Carlson, not who I expected at all. If even the American right believes this stuff, that might explain why it's become so prevalent in Valley culture. What's interesting is, although the idea is attractive and sounds superficially right, it's been investigated heavily in the past and is wrong. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis comes in two flavours:

- The "strong" version, that says effectively language controls thought and you cannot think things you cannot express in words.

- The "weak" version that says language influences thought.

It was realised that the strong version was wrong before World War 2. The weak version is probably also wrong, because viewed through modern eyes a lot of this research is exactly the sort of stuff that's unlikely to replicate. The claims that seem like they might replicate are about trivial and arbitrary differences e.g. Swedish speakers using "a long time" vs Spanish speakers saying "a lot of time".

For example: one major problem with Sapir-Whorf research is that a lot of it is based on anthropologist's claims about obscure languages, often the languages of isolated tribes. These are inherently difficult to replicate because often these tribes disappear or their language changes (supposedly) after contact with western civilization. Additionally the field is plagued with bad research that should have immediately raised suspicion, for example, the 1981 claim that Chinese people have difficulty reasoning about counterfactuals because of grammatical differences in their language, which turned out to be simply due to bad translations [1]. Many other studies are very weak conflations of correlation/causation, for example, this field is littered with claims of the form: speakers of languages with feature X go to college more often/are richer/are more or less confrontational. This sort of thing is ripe for all the classic ills of social science research, like P-hacking.

Outside of academia the most famous example of belief in strong Sapir-Whorf is surely communism and their insistence on calling each other "comrade". This ubiquitous term didn't make them behave in comradely ways as assassinations, executions and widespread corruption were all common in Soviet societies.

It's probably not a surprise that the left has difficulty letting go of Sapir-Whorf. This is partly because it's easy to mix up cause and effect with language control. Being in a position to severely punish people for something trivial, like use of a previously acceptable phrase, indicates to all observers that you have total power, that you can do whatever you like regardless of how unreasonable or extreme it is. Those observers may incorrectly conclude that language control is the actual source of those people's power, when in reality, it is the public punishment for arbitrary and harmless acts of disobedience that is the real source of power. Language is just a highly visible way to achieve that.

[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/001002...

Perhaps this sentence comes from Jordan Peterson not Tucker Carlson

The only source I can find for those words is this article:


ok, my fault, JP has a very similar sentence.

How much longer will we have to tolerate this culture that hates us?

I'm tired of thinking and thinking and thinking about these ideas that always terminate in foundational disagreement. I expect to encounter disagreement, and I'm fine coexisting with it, but I need the ability to isolate myself and those I care about from the effects of it.

Just ignore it. These people only know how to destroy things. The way to beat them is to continue building.

The first step is organize ourselves.

I see the benefit of standardizing some language across documentation, but I feel a lot of politically charged items were also taken out which ironically make some things harder to understand, as they are just so commonplace.

> fat client : don't use fat

> the process is hanging : don't use hang/hung

> dummy variable : don't use dumb

> we treat this client as a first-class citizen : don't use first-class citizen

> DMZ : use a more precise term like perimeter network.

> DLQ : use unprocessed messages queue

> whitelist/blacklist : use deny list or allow list

> blackbox : use opaque-box

> sanity check : use coherence check

> kebab case : use dash case

So I once had an overweight, non-secondary client with a stuck process within the perimeter network. Initial coherence checks quickly foreshadowed that this would turn out to be quite an opaque-box thing to debug. Unfortunately, they had removed kill and killall for some reason.

actually "kill" is also impermissible

It's a reference to the kill and killall commands from *NIX, so it would be allowed if formatted as code.

Yes, similarly to their recommended example for allowlist: 'Add a user to the allowlist (whitelist) by entering the following: whitelist adduser EMAIL_ADDRESS.'

I feel enlightened.

A hung jury, or a deadlocked jury, is that not proper to say according to Google?

Blackbox is just insane — sorry I mean incoherent. Sanity check? Dummy variable? Writing documentation without these words would make it hard to read.

Yes, I hung a picture on the wall once. A violent act indeed!

I hope you didn't use a nail because

1) some religious groups may be sensitive to this word since Jesus was nailed to the cross

2) some might interpret it as a sexual innuendo

Also I certainly hope there was no frame, because some ethnic groups have been framed for crimes in the past.

In fact, if your painting builds on the heritage of colonial culture, it is inherently racist and problematic.

The only progressive option, really, is to tear down the wall.

Some of those really scream "double standards" to me.

> the process is hanging

So are my clothes and the bells in the tower, but I haven't heard a complaint about those.

> whitelist/blacklist

Interestingly nobody seems to bat an eye when yet another video or article talks about vantablack("the blackest black"), white noise or a whitepaper.

It's so hard for me to support such attempts to choose better words when it always comes with other additions that simply do not make any sense.

White/black refers to allow/deny in this case, so your white paper and vantablack examples wouldn't work here as they have no good or bad connotation. Better examples maybe would be "black ice" or "white dress = purity for weddings", but those aren't related to computing.

> your white paper and vantablack examples wouldn't work here

Note my example was not about bleached paper but the actual term white paper used in business and other contexts.

> but those aren't related to computing.

Skin color isn't related to computing either, but here we are.

The 'white' part of 'white paper' does not refer to positive or negative, hence why it is not a good example.

Blackbox testing doesn't have a positive or negative connotation either but activists still want it to be changed.

Also e.g. "white" isn't seen as positive because of skin color, it's more a cleanliness/innocence thing. In my native language we have a phrase roughly meaning "wearing a white shirt" which indicates someone doesn't figuratively have blood on their hands/clothes. You could associate this word with white teeth or clouds just as much as with skin color.

That's the problem with this whole debate: people pushing for changes with the same precision as word filters failing at "Scunthorpe", without care for context or details. Sure, it's easier that way. But also harder to justify.

In the black or in the red for financials

This reminds me of an apocryphal story from development economics. Someone's working paper gets read by an academic from a more qualitative discipline, and they get a furious email: "how dare you say Africans are dummies, and live in log houses?"

Kebab case is controversial?

Yeah I feel like this document forbids a lot of fun language for no good reason. Kebab case and hamburger menu for example.

Today's "fun" is tomorrow's microaggression. In the dynamic modern society, the only way to be respectful of future marginalised societies is to prohibit "fun". In case of doubt, if any word you used felt like something that could be construed as playful, please sign up for diversity and inclusion office hours and seek legal approval.

Edit: my joke is not not endorsed as an official mandatory non-negotiable community code of conduct by my employer (who happens to be pictured in TFA), pinky swear!

Problematic. Missing the mark. lrem "has some growing to do". lrem "identified ways they can do better".

I have your canned criticism and responses ready for you if you need them.

To those who don't touch pork/ham, touching a hamburger menu isn't great...


    > The term hamburger originally derives from Hamburg,
    > Germany's second-largest city. Hamburger in German is
    > the demonym of Hamburg, similar to frankfurter and wiener,
    > names for other meat-based foods and demonyms of the cities 
    > of Frankfurt and Vienna (in German Wien) respectively.

A Google search for Wiener suggests it isn't something one really wants to touch either!

I don't eat pork, and the work hamburger is not offensive to me. Plus, it comes from Hamburg.

I'm tired of virtue signallers telling others what to be offended about and what not to be offended about.

Just because it has the prefix “ham”? Can muslims use ham radio or hamming codes or hammers or hammocks or visit Hamburg?

I see nothing in the document that suggests that "kebab case" is on there for being controversial. Most of the items on the list are perfectly uncontroversial, and are there because there are clearer alternatives or because they want to standardize on one among equally good alternatives.

It is probably on there because "dash case" will be more easily understood by more people.

I guess you can use "sashlic case" then...

Yes, to vegans and vegetarians.

I'm vegetarian and this is ridiculous. Naming food with meat in it isn't a microaggression.

I’m sorry, but you can’t speak for all vegetarians in the world. Some may find it offensive so we must err on the side of caution.

After all, it’s just one word. /s

I'm vegan and I think it's important to avoid using oppressive language.

Like “kebab”? Are words like “steak” oppressive? “Egg”?

Can you explain your perspective here? I’m genuinely confused and curious about your point of view.

Yea, sure.

Say we're talking about someone's leg. If we use words like "muscles" and "flesh" to refer to their leg, then that's different than using the words "steak" or "meat", because those last two words are used to legitimize eating the leg in question.

If a friend of yours referred to your skin as "bacon", perhaps you'd laugh because it's an absurd idea that your friend would want to fry and eat your skin for breakfast. But sometimes we use the word "bacon" for real about eating someone's skin, mostly if they're a pig. Those, who don't view it as ethical to commit violence towards others and then eat their bodies, would therefore avoid talking about the skin of others as "bacon" and their muscles as "meat" (unless they were joking, perhaps).

I wouldn't consider "egg" is an oppressive word as such, because it doesn't imply eating per-se. Vegans would still say that a chicken is laying eggs. But "fishing", even though it's just the noun "fish" turned into a verb, is violent because it means "to hunt fish, often for eating". Imagine if the verb "dogging" was used for hunting and killing dogs? "Childing"? "Womaning"?

Sometimes this carnistic language bias is hidden for us. If you're more curious, please check out Melanie Joy's video, The Secret Reason We Eat Meat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ao2GL3NAWQU

You can make veggie kebabs.

Some people use "kebab" as a pejorative term for Muslims: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remove_Kebab

I think the kebab case rename has some merit beyond political

what kebab case is:


what kebab case should actually have been:


What's the problem with using a word like fat in a way that has no negative connotation (as in fat client)?

Same as "sanity check". It seems people with severe anxiety or similar issues prefer to change their surrounding environment to not be reminded of their possible perceived shortcomings instead of getting professional help.

It's sad that this happens in the first place, but also in the same breath as change proposals in the name of fighting racism and other discrimination.

I don't want to sound insensitive, but people who struggle with encountering terms like "fat" or "sanity" in their everyday life could achieve a significantly better quality of life by improving themselves. I know that from first-hand experience and from professionals who actually have patients with fear of flying and all kinds of other ailments, and I think being so accomodating actually hurts the affected people more in the long term than it helps.

I think those people just want to impose their will on others and engage in attention seeking by constantly being offended about anything and everything. People with anxiety usually want to do the opposite: Stay in the background and not attract any attention to themselves.

True, that's definitely a big reason. There are enough public examples where people were outraged in the name of other groups that they didn't even ask or talk with about the issue beforehand.

A deadletter queue contains messages that couldn’t be dispatched. It’s my preferred term, but if I had to censor it at gunpoint and pick a euphemism, it’d probably be “exception file” because that’s where batch processes traditionally copy input records that failed.

Personally, I think the alternatives for whitelist/blacklist and blackbox are just better in actually transporting more of the intended meaning.

They also don't roll off the tongue as well, which is, whether we like it or not, one of the main deciding factors for how language evolves. Imho attempts to replace established terms could be much more successful in wider adoption if they took this into account.

For example I don't know why most try to push "denylist" instead of the more obvious "blocklist".

Slang exists for a reason, and going the opposite way just makes everything harder.

I work a bit on translation of terminology w.r.t new terms, and my pet theory is that the key factor for predicting whether a proposed translation will catch on and get used is the syllable count; proposed terms that are short to use get used, but proposed longish terms get abandoned whenever there is a shorter alternative - perhaps they get used in official documentation, but in practice everyone tends to use the shorter alternative even if it's worse in all other aspects.

From that perspective; allowlist and denylist are three syllables each; blacklist, blocklist and whitelist are two - so my experience suggests that in the end the latter will be used instead of the former whenever possible.

What does "political" mean in this context?

Hmm. Some highlights.

So you can't say a process has "hung" or "hanged".

You can't say you've "killed" a process.

Can't say "Sanity check". That isn't allowed. Can't even say "Sane".

Can't use "Dummy variable".

Can't say "Manpower", "Manned", "Manmade". You also can't use "Male/Female Adapter".

Can't say "Dumb down".

To be far these restrictions operate in a fairly narrow domain (Developer documentation) where some restrictions on idiomatic usage are probably warranted to maximise the number of people that can fully comprehend the docs (for example not all languages refer to adapters as 'male' or 'female' and the meaning may not be obvious to a non native speaker.)

Secondly, "This guide contains guidelines, not rules. Depart from it when doing so improves your content."

> the meaning may not be obvious to a non native speaker

In Russian you’d say “mom-dad” adapter. I mean, the principle it refers to is universal.

I also think this is the first step towards aggressively policing the language, even though it starts as a guideline.

It says the metaphor isn't universal. Russian having a similar metaphor doesn't disprove that.

> I also think this is the first step towards aggressively policing the language, even though it starts as a guideline.

Language changes over time, as easy as that. Sometimes change comes in gradually over decades or centuries, sometimes change comes revolutionary (e.g. rap music lingo establishing itself in mainstream culture).

Especially in the example case of music, "policing" has been a constant reality (e.g. "bleeping out" of words or outright refusal to air content on TV/radio or parents forbidding their children to listen to rap or metal music because of "satanism" fears), yet no one complained there while now there is constant complaining about replacing of actually racially charged words?!

> Especially in the example case of music, "policing" has been a constant reality [...], yet no one complained

Ummm. Did you somehow grow to adulthood without being a teenager? Did you grow up somewhere other than the United States? The notion that nobody has ever complained about censorship in music is so hilariously wrong, it makes me want to send you CAPTCHAs to see how well the bots are doing nowadays.

Seriously, go listen to every top selling rap album from the first twenty years. The majority of them complain about censorship.

> Seriously, go listen to every top selling rap album from the first twenty years

Well, what Wikipedia calls the “Golden Age” as opposed to “Old School” period, sure; anything just after the PMRC decided sex, drugs, and the occult in music were problems requiring government action in the absence of industry self-censorship.

The thing is, the ones who complained were the rappers. The mainstream didn't care about censorship in music, to the contrary - the (WASP) mainstream wanted censorship. And it is exactly this social group that is now crying about not being allowed to use actually offensive words.

Spoiler - WASP kids listen to rap. Artists like Eminem were the mainstream when they were complaining about censorship.

> yet no one complained

I constantly complain about Eminem’s music videos cutting the words out.

> replacing actually racially charged words

You said it yourself, language changes. Just don’t charge the words, simple as that. Words are sound waves, or pixels on the screen. And it’s people who give them meaning. It seems to me that the ideas behind the words won’t get anywhere if you just ban words.

Departure from this list probably means very difficult political navigation.

This kind of assault on language is really hostile to newcomers. Open docs, Ctrl + F for "blacklist" to figure out how to quickly stop a nefarious user, can't find it, look somewhere else.

How much economic damage will it cause to deliberately muddy the waters of terminology?

Not sure why you are getting downvoted. You make a very valid point and this type of political correctness nonsense will get some people get in some dangerous situations. It's like I am living in the twilight zone.

Not all PC is nonsense. Language is indeed sometimes used as a weapon, and disadvantaged groups are often the least able to defend themselves.

Asserting that all PC is nonsense is just the kind of violation of the curious-not-dogmatic ethos that prevails here that will attract downvotes. If you have difficulties understanding why some might consider the GP post on the edge, you maybe don't understand this culture and should perhaps spend some time reading dang's moderation comments.

So you also can't say "First class". Guess that rules out "First class concept"

You can't say it, but you can fly it? :-)

> Male/Female Adapter

I dunno. I don't care about any of the other terms, but describing plugs and receptacles in terms of penetrative heterosexual intercourse has always made me a little uncomfortable.

I will never forget the embarrassment of visiting the electronics store as a kid, and naively asking for a DB-9 sex changer :D

It's the perfect analogy. Most people will understand it without an explanation.

It's great too because it has no bias.

Terms like man-in-the-middle, master-slave, whitelist/blacklist, abort which I barely learned 5 years ago in University are now being cancelled. Even first-class isn't to be used according to Google. But "premium, or platinum-level" is okay. I guess the people making these political decisions must be elites with "premium platinum level" control over Google.

If this wasn't HN, I would have posted some super obscene comment on how absolutely "slowed, invalid and insensible" some of these political ones are.

Are we going to change traffic lights from yellow and red to something else too now? How long before terminal commands need to be renamed from kill, man, fat32 to something else?

We'll change traffic light colors if some white people with Ph.D.s in Silicon Valley decide they're racist and need do their daily virtue signalling so they can pat themselves on the back and say "we did it! we fixed racism!".

- AM, PM

To be consistent with Material Design, use all-caps, no periods, and a space before.

Recommended: 9:00 AM

I'm gonna be snarky and say to just use 24h time in developer documentation.

- APIs; not API's

This isn't a style decision. It's basic grammar

- authN, authZ

Don't use. Instead, use authentication or authorization.

But i18n and a11y is fine it seems?

-manmade, man made

Avoid using gendered terms. Instead use a word like artificial, manufactured, or synthetic.

"Man" refers to a person, or specifically an individual of the human species in this context.


Use with caution. Never use in conjunction with slave.

Finally, a rational decision.

As an European I find use of AM and PM anywhere at all offensive. It's a symbol of American imperialism. Google should immediately update this style guide and promote the use of international standards as default.

Hah. But seriously — I really find it offensive how many apps and features, especially those coming from Google are hardcoded to use °F, AM/PM, DD/MM/YYYY, weekdays starting on Sundays, and imperial measurement units.

I have all my devices set to British English, since I can't deal with broken Croatian translations, but I'm trying to get away from these ass-backwards formats that only 4% of the world's population uses. Sadly, that 4% is responsible for almost all of the media and core software we consume, so I guess we're stuck with it.

Seriously. The Google Search console is hardcoded to display graphs with the time axis like 4/3/21 4/8/21 4/13/21 and I always need to stare at them a while to tell what sort of timeframe I am looking at. The same issue is present on so many Google products. Groups is especially bad because I find an old message with a date like 3/12/8 and have absolutely no idea when it is from.


Did you mean to write MM/DD/YYYY?

Yes. It's so wrong that I can't even write it properly.

I find MM/DD/YYYY offensive, not because it's American, but because it's so damn illogical.

That's really the amazing condescension in all of this that they're too self centered to see. Silicon Valley is trying to redefine global terms and symbols because it makes them feel better about a bad American political situation and history. They can't see the forest for the trees and they don't care, because at the end of the day they get to pat themselves on the back and virtue signal.

How dare you? What's next, the metric system?

One thing that particularly annoyed me about their en-gb vs en-us spelling example was "tonne" vs "ton". They are different!

I do wonder if America will _ever_ make the switch to the metric system. The French managed it in 1799; backwards Britain had mostly managed it by 1972; and yet working with US engineers means that I occasionally find myself converting units like slugs or "circular mils" into SI units for FEM modelling. Wolfram alpha is a godsend. I just really, really hate the US unit system with a passion!

As someone who is pretty indifferent about metric and US customary units on a day to day basis, the one area as a onetime mechanical engineer I think is pretty annoying is US mass/force units in engineering calculations.

Technically, America is metric in that our units are based on metric units now. So 1 yard is defined as 0.9144 meter and 1 pound (avoirdupois) is 0.45359237 kg[0].

0: https://www.ngs.noaa.gov/PUBS_LIB/FedRegister/FRdoc59-5442.p...

For developer docs as a bare minimum.

Replacing "Man" with "Person" definitely feels more inclusive, and costs nothing. And using the same word to mean "Half of the human race" and "All of the human race" definitely feels like one of those things where the other half are going to feel like they're not full members...

Ah yes. Huperson. Woperson. Personned. Persondate. Personual. Personscript. Personufacture.

“manual”, “manuscript”, and “manufacture” use a different root, from Latin “manus” ~ “hand”. Handbook, handwriting, and handmade, more or less, though of course the modern compounds have somewhat different meanings from those.

What about people who don't have hands?

Exactly. This is pure ableist repression.

I prefer to acknowledge that tradeoffs are inherent, and that there is some cost to e.g. replacing "man" with "person", and that the benefit (inclusivity) is worth the cost (breaking "backwards compatibility", upsetting some people) and hopefully the risk (these kinds of changes may not really grow inclusivity in a material way, and may take attention away from more substantial and radical efforts).

Who is actively upset by this?

I understand some people don't like change, but if changing "man" to "person" upsets someone then it rather feels like they don't like sharing.

Teaching people to change their language is super expensive. Instead of just writing down the words that comes to mind, they now have to run every word in a hash table to see if it is good, and then if it comes up bad they have to invent a new term or look up what the new term ought to be. Multiply this with however many people has to learn the new terms and you understand why there is so much pushback to changing language. Changing one word is fine, but if there is no pushback people just continue asking for more and more changes as can be seen in the document we are talking about.

Everyone already knows that "manmade" is an inclusive term, if women or children makes something it is still "manmade" so there is no need to update the term. If you say that wording matters, then you also should be against the term "toxic masculinity" since it is a very aggravating term, there are so many less aggravating terms that could be used for that phenomena.

Edit: If you don't understand how expensive these things are try to think about why USA still uses AM/PM and the imperial measuring systems. It is trivial to switch on all new products, right? Well, of course that isn't true, changing language is as I said super expensive which is why it isn't done often.

Virtue signallers working in tech, and Twitter.

There's a huge overlap there.

What bothers me is how much this is an VERY regional issue, specifically, USA-based, yet it's being imported wholesale across the entire Western world, when it doesn't make any sense.

It's sad seeing locals making BLM protests when we have <10 black people in the entire country, or German bloggers who suddenly find themselves questioning if noun articles are the cause of toxic patriarchy.

> What bothers me is how much this is an VERY regional issue, specifically, USA-based, yet it's being imported wholesale across the entire Western world, when it doesn't make any sense.

The empire defines the rules, the provinces follow. I find it positive because it makes these relationships very obvious, nothing is hidden.

Probably no one really "minds" or is "upset" about this. As if they are now upset that their gender or race is now being slighted by the fact that we don't want to use male words for common-day things.

What we are upset about is that this is being "forced" on people (Soon, watch. Probably already happening in schools, though). And likewise, that it's being done under the guise of some sort of greater-good when it seems rather petty and won't really change the day to day issues facing women and black people.

We're also upset that this is effectively taking a step in the opposite direction to real equality.

Additionally, I could care less that we stop using "man" and "white" etc. What does bother me is that there is this nagging feeling that this is being done purposefully to upset certain groups (which we can then turn around and say "look, see, they don't like their white/male power being dismantled, they are race/sex-ist and look how much we're defeating sex/race-ism!").

A better title would be Google Developer Style Guide, as most of these are just suggestions to be more precise and standardize names for things.

For the bits that want to be culture war flashpoints, I mean yeah, it’s dumb, but I’m just so tired of this.

Can we just put all the speech police in a corner so they can argue with each other about the most perfectly inoffensive way to say things while everyone else does real work?

Aside from the obvious ones, whose debate is polarized, there are some that would actually make things harder to understand (especially if one didn't know this list existed)

I assume this is for writing documentation/code for Google products, so if internal only, then I guess everyone is on-board and would get used to it. If it is for external consumption as well, then it potentially just make things harder to grok.

A "full-featured client" is not the same as a "fat client" to me. "opaque-box" when reading would make me stop, think 'oh, do I need to look that up?' then realise it just means that it is blackbox and I should just not bother with it.

Reminds me of those people who like to use much longer and fancy words for something that does not need it.

> If it is for external consumption as well, then it potentially just make things harder to grok.

On the other side, what megacorps such as Google or Facebook adopt influences everyone else. While some of the terms on this list tend to be a bit nit-picky, it's not a bad thing to replace stuff such as master/slave or blacklist/whitelist... and having big-name influencers commit to that is a huge step forward.

From a political view: ideally this whole debate should have been done in the open, in democratic discourse, but unfortunately Congress has been gridlocked for the most part of the last decades, and mass media these days more serves to outrage and click-baiting (for the sake of ad money) instead of hosting civilized debate.

You think Congress should compel using certain terms?

Congress could certainly mandate that linguistic history (= how language is formed, including the history and connotations of words such as master/slave) or anti-discrimination lessons be taught in schools.

I have zero problem with "master/slave or blacklist/whitelist.." stuff, I just didn't mention it because everyone has their own view, and had been discussed to the nth.

"megacorps such as Google or Facebook adopt influences everyone else" I don't really agree with this, they try and push their own agenda, but ultimately the community decides what it wants to do

Most of these are perfectly reasonable, a lot to do with helping clarity of writing. Abbreviations definitely do not help clarity and should be avoided. Colloquialisms also do not help clarity if it is meant to be understood by a large audience (international even).

As for the ones that hacker news by and large seems to think are controversial, I agree with the style guide, there are only historical arguments for keeping gendered/race based language. Why not remove it. Language is dynamic, it can evolve.

Apart from the slippery slope problem, which is absolutely a factor in the evolving lanscape of social justice, these changes usually require cognitive overhead and engineering effort to switch to.

Ultimately, the positive impact is totally unproven. I think it ought to be up to advocates of these changes to prove that they provide any benefits to minorities. I've heard as much talk from members of minority groups saying that they find it infantilizing and performative as I have from those who approve of the change.

Changes like these aren't something you make in an instant. You practice using the right language over time. I'm sure that other engineers have a few braincells left over to think before they speak/type.

The idea with this guide is to give a comprehensive look at clean language that people should be investing a bit of thought to

Yeah, but the thing is, microaggression like most of psychological research hasn't been proven.

Even things like the delayed gratification experiment fall under a more intense scrutiny.

> Ultimately, the positive impact is totally unproven.

It definitely succeeds at imitating real change.

Removing words will not change much. As you say languages are dynamic and they will evolve to fit the speakers requirements[1].

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euphemism#Euphemism_treadmill

By 2050—earlier, probably—all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron—they'll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually contradictory of what they used to be. Even the literature of The Party will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like Freedom is Slavery when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact, there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking—not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness. (Gorge Orwell - 1984)

Blacklist and similar are not race based.

Ironically "grandfathering" unambiguously derived from Jim Crow, and unambiguously white supremacist in origin but you'll hear nothing of it.


I've heard people question whether we should use "grandfather" as a verb in that context, specifically due to its racist origin. I think the fact that you have to explain how terrible people were every time someone learns the term would increase awareness of racial bias, and on the whole be a positive thing.

The point is to remove the positive connotation for "white" and negative for "black." Nobody's implying your blacklist-turned-blocklist has anything to do with race.

It feels like it would be easier to stop calling people black and white rather than purge all light-based metaphors from the language.

How would Google make the rest of the English-speaking world change their use of these words?

Maybe it shouldn’t even try? I mean, since when is an internet ad company qualified to tell me what language to use?

That is my point. They can decide how they use language in their own documentation and communication, they can't decide how everyone else uses it. So they they can't change that people use black or white to refer to skin color, as the comment suggested.

Actually given their extreme reach and near monopoly over information they could probably try to change how people use black and white to refer to skin color which would certainly be a far more noble cause than bikeshedding these weird internal language standards to make themselves look good.

I don't find it particularly noble. When it comes to human communication I believe in Postels law: Be strict in what you send, be lenient in what you accept.

You suggest there is no point in changing your own communication if you cant force the whole to change in the same way. I disagree.

They could block references to dark skin color in Gmail and Google search? Just to name two products of theirs that have enough reach. Of course that would make (racist) people unhappy with Google, which isn't within its business interest. So they keep on posturing in ineffective ways that don't harm their business model.

I hope you are trolling.

In such case why don’t they stop trying to retire the word “blacklist” too?

Presumably because they don't want people reading their developer documentation to get distracted from what the documentation is trying to communicate?

It is quite common to have company policy for communication. That does not mean you want to change how everybody else in the world communicates.

>Presumably because they don't want people reading their developer documentation to get distracted from what the documentation is trying to communicate?

If that's the goal, they should use estabilished terms of art.

>It is quite common to have company policy for communication. That does not mean you want to change how everybody else in the world communicates.

Yeah, so I don't get why what I proposed is any different from that.

Maybe I misunderstood you, but I thought you meant they should get other people to stop using black and white for humans in other contexts. I presumed Google themselves does not talk about black or white people in their developer documentation.

Right, so my solution wouldn’t even require them to change any documentation. Double win.

> The point is to remove the positive connotation for "white" and negative for "black."

Man, USA is such a weird place to live. I’m happy color is just a color where I’m from.

You're just unaware of the issues, the USA is at the forefront of making people waste time sed-ing all their code^W^W^W^W^W^W aware of the issues.

This gets confusing fast. Having an account in the black is good.

That's black vs red, not really the same thing.

Red black trees got caught in the mess in some projects.

But what if your account in the black got blacklisted???

Careful, you'll be blackballed.

(The logic is that uses where "black" has a negative connotation and "white" has a positive connotation are to be avoided, regardless of etymology. But I guess I'm telling you something you already know, there).

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