Maybe 2024 will be better

Interesting. I didn’t know any of this. Makes me appreciate William Gibson’s prescient novel, Idoru (1996), even more.


I’d be surprised if the use of the word black in a negative sense is ever acceptable any more. E.g. “black market” is now called informal economy


For new words that would definitely be surprising. How consistently are old terms replaced though? Say blacklisting, black death, blackmailing …


Informal economy… That’s one of the most impressive euphemisms I’ve ever heard!

When applying for a research proposal (or was it submitting an article at a journal?), I had to read through ethics guidelines that told me to use inclusive language, with one of their examples being that “whitelist” and “blacklist” would not be acceptable anymore, and need to be replaced with “allowlist” and “denylist”.


I’ve never heard that term. I think the people who get up in arms about stuff like that are an extremely small minority of people; most people have an intuitive sense that usage determines meaning


I heard of that one before. It’s honestly kindof amusing how the people pushing this sort of thing don’t realize that if you manage to purge the words “black” and “white” from English, new words will be created or adapted to refer to those colors, and new metaphors will be made based on them, because they’re some of the most basic concepts of the human experience


I’m not sure, I think the problem isn’t with the association of “white” as good and “black” as bad, but rather with the association of “white” and “black” with skin colours. There’s no white or black skin, only various tints brown, orange and pink, when you go by colour.

Worse yet, it’s rarely the colour of the skin that matters in racist views, and the association of colours with races is a social construct anyways (as are “races”). There’s plenty of “white” people with darker skin than plenty of “black” people. Moreover, if you ask young children who grow up in mixed environments what the main distinction between them and their ethnically diverse friends are, things like skin colour rarely come up, it seems that it’s not naturally seen as a meaningful difference.

It’d be better if we could eradicate the whole idea of “race” or “ethnicity” altogether and forget such classifications.


Bar, exclude, veto

Bubonic plague


Certainly, there has been more discussion about the bubonic plague since COVID times and it’s never called the black death any more in print.

Also called underground economy

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Yeah, white people aren’t literally white (if you are, see a doctor), and black people aren’t literally black (again, if you are, see a doctor), so I figure the terminology is in a fair place of being equally inaccurate to everyone.

I think it’s pretty much inevitable that such basic concepts as “black” and “white” get overloaded with multiple metaphoric uses: context and absurdity (the ownace is on the person making an absurd claim to clarify it, otherwise you may assume the least absurd interpretation of a statement is the correct one) take care of disambiguation.

If I were to get technical, I believe there’s one human race, as we all descended from Adam through Noah, but in practice I tend to use the word “race” more or less how it’s commonly used, which is about as well defined as “language” (which for those who don’t know is best defined as “a dialect with an army and a navy”), and just accept that there will be fuzzy edges and it’s fine because it’s not like the distinction makes anyone more or less human or have more or less metaphysical value, so it’s ultimately semantic.

I genuinely think society would be better if we just focused on the equal metaphysical value of humans as made in the image of God, and avoided any sort of “positive discrimination”. I don’t think people are inherently saintly angels who if only allowed to develop without negative influence from society would fix society in a generation, but I also think that there are things society is doing which make it worst, and the best way to stop discrimination is to stop discriminating.

If you defined “race” as patrilinear ancestry back to first few generations after Noah, I’d say it was well-defined, and even useful for reconstructing early human migration and pieceing together history.

Although I’m not religious, and thus do not believe we all descend from Noah, how would you be able to find out which human descends from which son / grandson / etc. of Noah?

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I think the problem is that none of those mean “blacklist”. Blacklist is in many contexts a technical term which has a defined meaning.

Same issue, it doesn’t mean “blackmail”. Blackmail is a specific sort of extortion where you threaten something or someone that someone cares about in order to extort something else out of them.

Similar issue: does not have the clear meaning that “black market” does. A black market is an illegal market which springs up, propelled by free market forces, anytime any good is made illegal. “Underground economy” needs to be defined, because without context, it’s just two words which could refer to a black market, but could also refer more loosely to any shady market, even if not strictly illegal (which would be suggested by the very fact that the term “black market” was not used, which implies that something other than a black market is being discussed).

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I don’t think it really matters, the new terms take on the meanings of the old. As people use them in that context everyone comes to understand what they mean. Only older people have trouble really but that is a self correcting issue!


With certainty? I have no idea if that’s possible, but that’s distinct from rejecting it as a model for a taxonomic definition.

I don’t think we will ever reconstruct the original 70 languages of Babel, I still think the linguistic methods which produce hypotheses about Proto-Indo-European and other language families, and attempt to reconstruct their genetic relationship are not just pseudoscientific babbling, but actually are drawing reasonable conclusions based on the available evidence: while I’m sure they make mistakes all the time, I also think they get stuff right all the time, and with better success than random guessing.

That said, the basic idea, as I understand it, is to find some genetic marker, half of which is passed from father to son each generation, and reconstruct how relations based on how many generations would be necessary to explain the differences between the sequences of two people.

Such concepts are useful in medical research. Ignoring them would lead to people not receiving optimal treatment.


Yep. I’m not going to hardline never jump ship on words like that, but I see no benefit in being part of the change. So long as the new terms do a worse job of communicating than the old ones, I’ll generally stick with the old ones unless I take a particular shine to one. Once the old ones are doing the worse job of communicating, then it might be time to switch. But definitely not before for me

Certainly, but there are a lot of medical ways of classifying humans that lead to better treatment without those classifications being useful outside of medicine.

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There are several classifications but it doesn’t mean you should ignore one of those classifications if it provides useful information.


You shouldn’t ignore those classification in those contexts where it provides useful information. But why would you teach children that Tim is different from John, because Tim had great-great grandparents who came from various African countries, while John had great-great grandparents who hailed from Germany and Ireland?

We never divide our neighbourhoods into groups based on their lactose tolerancy, because why would we…


Completely agree. The difference is superficial, and should be treated as such, especially around children, who are impressionable, not brought up apropos of nothing, because that implicitly states that it is not superficial. Noone bothers to point out that having brown hair doesn’t make you better or worse than someone with blonde hair, because it’s obvious, and if someone disagrees, you can have the discussion then. That would be the dream scenario for race in my opinion.

George Orwell, call your office.