"Illegal Immigrant" Isn't the Only Controversial Term the Times Has Endorsed

A rundown of some of the words the paper has found "fit to print."

ByABC News
October 2, 2012, 8:41 PM

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

Eloped Mulatto

Published July 23, 1884


Published Feb. 21, 1943

Redskin Joins Redskins

Published May 30, 1956


Published June 25, 1944

The Colored Race

Published September 27, 1851

PLOT AGAINST WHITE WOMEN.; Startling Disclosures in Letter Sent to Ling in Washington.

Published June 22, 1909

For Homos and Heteros Alike, A Swindle; For Homos and Heteros Alike, a Swindle

Published Oct. 26, 1969

CHINATOWN IS RESTLESS; Local Orientals Fear Mobs May Do Them Violence.

Published July 10, 1900