Rumor: Washington state bans more than 40,000 words

Did Washington state ban the use of gender-specific words?

Did the state really outlaw words with any mention of gender? The First Amendment clearly states that the people can't be restricted on what they write or say.

TRUE: But the ban only applies to state statutes

Earlier this week, as Yahoo and others have reported, a new Washington state law that bans more than 40,000 words went into effect. OK, so that deserves a caveat. The ban only applies to state statutes — as the First Amendment makes clear, you can't ban everyday citizens from writing or saying words — and only to a specific type of word. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed the bill into law in April.

Gender-specific language is the kind you use every day without realizing. Like "freshman" (now "first-year student") or "penmanship" (now "handwriting"). Anything, basically, that denotes a man or a woman.

Reuters reports that Washington is the fourth state to enact such a bill, after North Carolina, Florida, and Illinois. It also says that the biggest obstacle facing gender-bias scrubbers were pronouns: adding "she" and "her" where before there was only "he" and "his."

Washington's Office of the Code Reviser, which Reuters says employs 40 people, is apparently having the most trouble, though, with words that don't offer an easy alternative. Words like "man hole." MSN reached out to the office with its own suggestion ("person hole") but so far has yet to hear back.



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