Oct. 3, 2012 -- On Monday, an influential opinion maker at The New York Times took a stand in favor of the newspaper's ongoing use of the controversial term "illegal immigrant."
Margaret Sullivan, the public editor, defended her position by saying the phrase was "clear and accurate." She did not, however, address the concern that many of those referred to as "illegal" find the term dehumanizing, or that the country's leading linguists say it's not neutral. In addition, nearly half of Hispanic voters (who are U.S. citizens) find "illegal immigrant" offensive, according to an unvetted Fox News Latino poll.
Certainly, the Times is not alone in the use of this word, but it is considered a leader in the industry, and it sets a tone. If it does decide to retire the phrase, as undocumented journalist Jose Antonio Vargas is advocating, "illegal" will join a host of other terms that the paper has dropped during its (mostly) storied 161-year history.
A quick search through the Times archive turned up a gaggle of present-day aspersions that were once considered acceptable by the paper. As you would expect from any institution with the longevity and stature of the Times, the style guide has changed throughout the years, dropping a host of terms that readers -- often minority groups -- found offensive.
Published Nov. 4, 1951
AMERICA'S NEGRO PROBLEM.; London Spectator Thinks the Whites and Blacks Should Avowedly Form Separate Castes.
Published Oct. 26, 1901
Published July 23, 1884
Published Feb. 21, 1943
Published May 30, 1956
Published June 25, 1944
Published September 27, 1851
Published June 22, 1909
Published Oct. 26, 1969
Published July 10, 1900