Seattle City Hall Considers Banning ‘Offensive’ Words

By Gillian Mohney

Aug 4, 2013 7:00am

City Officials in Seattle are defending an internal memo that questions the use of certain terms such as “brown bag” (as in “brown-bag lunch”) or “citizen” in a government setting.

According to the Seattle Office of Civil Rights, those terms can be deemed offensive or have a history of being offensive and therefore should not be used.

“Luckily, we’ve got options,” Elliott Bronstein of the Office for Civil Rights wrote in the memo. “For ‘citizens,’ how about ‘residents?’”

Banning Offensive Words in Government

The Office for Civil Rights contends that city government serves all residents of Seattle whether or not they are citizens.

In addition, the use of “brown bag” could unintentionally bring up racist connotations, according to Bronstein.

“It used to be a way people could judge skin color,” Bronstein said in a phone interview with ABC News affiliate KOMO-TV in Seattle. According to the memo, other options are available to city employees such as “sack lunch” or “lunch-and-learn.

The memo comes after the state legislature voted to remove gender specific words from official records, meaning words such as “freshman” and “journeymen” will be replaced by “first-year” and “journey-level” respectively.

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