Main | Monday, November 26, 2012

AP Bans Usage Of "Homophobia"

In an update to their style guide for reporters, today the Associated Press officially discouraged the usage of the word "homophobia."  The update reads:
An irrational, uncontrollable fear, often a form of mental illness. Examples: acrophobia, a fear of heights, and claustrophobia, a fear of being in small, enclosed spaces. Do not use in political or social contexts: homophobia, Islamophobia.
The AP made no suggestion for a replacement term. You have to wonder if our enemies, who detest the word, pressured the AP to take this move.

UPDATE: Politico has interviewed the head of the AP's standards department, who also mentions their new ban on "ethnic cleansing."
"Ethnic cleansing is a euphemism for pretty violent activities, a phobia is a psychiatric or medical term for a severe mental disorder. Those terms have been used quite a bit in the past, and we don't feel that's quite accurate," AP Deputy Standards Editor Dave Minthorn told POLITICO.  "When you break down 'ethnic cleansing,' it's a cover for terrible violent activities. It's a term we certainly don't want to propgate," Minthorn continued. "Homophobia especially -- it's just off the mark. It's ascribing a mental disability to someone, and suggests a knowledge that we don't have. It seems inaccurate. Instead, we would use something more neutral: anti-gay, or some such, if we had reason to believe that was the case."
UPDATE II: George Weinberg, who coined the word "homophobia" in his 1972 book, Society and the Healthy Homosexual, does not approve.
"I just want to go on record as disagreeing with the AP's decision not to use 'homophobia,' the word. I am a psychologist and author who coined the word a long time ago. It made all the difference to City Councils and other people I spoke to. It encapsulates a whole point of view and of feeling. It was a hard-won word, as you can imagine. It brought me some death threats. Is homophobia always based on fear? I thought so and still think so. Maybe envy in some cases. But that's a psychological question. Is every snarling dog afraid? Probably yes. But here it shouldn't matter. We have no other word for what we're talking about, and this one is well established. We use 'freelance' for writers who don't throw lances anymore and who want to get paid for their work. Fowler even allows us to mix what he called dead metaphors. It seems curious that this word is getting such scrutiny while words like triskaidekaphobia (the fear of the number 13) hangs around."

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