They Voted Them Out

wordsWords come and go.

Most words come into English – and other languages – rather quietly. One person uses a new word, then two, then a few. And when a large enough number of people use a word often enough in the same way, dictionary makers notice, and add it to their dictionaries. Early in 2015 one dictionary, the Merriam-Webster dictionary published a list of “Words We’re Watching.” One of the words on that list was “athleisure” – casual clothing, like hoodies and yoga pants, for exercising and for doing almost everything else. Athleisure didn’t get into (wasn’t part of) the Merriam-Webster in 2015, but it did in 2016.

You will find many new words labeled (described) as “informal” English or “slang.” Informal English is used in relaxed, friendly situations – like speaking, texting, and writing emails. Athleisure is an informal word.

Slang usually comes and goes. It begins with a particular group of people – like teenagers or surfers – as a kind of “inside” language for the group. Other people may pick up a few slang words and use them, but it is mostly what we might call “group-talk.”

Some informal words eventually (after a period of time) become part of standard English. Standard English is the “main” part of the language, in the sense that it’s understood and used in the same way by most people when speaking and writing. It is used in both formal and informal situations and is acceptable wherever English is used.

Some slang becomes part of informal English. “Grass,” used for marijuana, began as slang with marijuana users and is now used informally by many people. So is “bro,” used for brother or friend. But we probably wouldn’t use either grass or bro in a formal situation.

While some words come into English, others go out. They don’t actually disappear. But when enough people stop using a word very often, or if they stop using a particular meaning of a word, dictionaries label it as “outdated” or “archaic” – meaning old or old-fashioned.

A good example of an outdated word is “buck.” Buck used to refer to a fashionable and daring (new or unusual in a way that might shock people) young man. Today we’d probably call him a hipster. An example of an everyday word with an outdated meaning is “gentle.” It used to mean someone who was a member of the highest social class – the original idea of “gentleman.” Today we use gentle – and gentleman – to describe someone who is kind and careful how they do things and treat people.

The U.S. Congress recently found a new way to get rid of a group of words: it voted them out, or said they couldn’t be used in future government documents. These words, used to identify groups of people that live in the U.S., are considered offensive (insulting, upsetting) and filled with negative feelings or memories for the people they refer to. Many of these words are already labeled both “outdated” and “offensive” in dictionaries.

In the future, federal government documents must use the term African Americans instead of “Negroes,” Asian Americans instead of “Orientals,” Hispanics instead of “Spanish-speakers,” Native Americans instead of “Indians,” and Alaska Natives instead of “Eskimos” or “Aleuts.” They will also use Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.

Many – perhaps most – Americans had already been using the new words as a way to show respect for these groups of people. And I know that many government documents have already been changed. But now it’s official (the government says it must be done).

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English website.

Photo edited from an image found at


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19 Responses to They Voted Them Out

  1. Dan says:

    What’s going on everybody.

    Dan here. Thanks Warren.

    Good to keep those distinctions in mind. As a learner I always forget that different usage of the language/terms.

    Now, this has nothing to do with the post, but I don’t know where you live guys, here, with those yoga pants, I have seen things that we are not supposed to see from various specimens of females.
    There is nothing left to the imagination there. I am not complaining though.

    I do not know how many people outside of Italy are aware of the fact that here “Negroes or Negro” is actually a surname.
    A word that in the US is taboo here is a name.

    One of my coworkers’ surname is Negri which is the plural of Negro.
    But of course, due to its history I understand the word in the US has a different weight.

    I am from 100% free speech and sometimes I even find “taboo” words funny.
    Like, for instance derogatory terms for Italians. I am not offended by that, I laugh at it.

    Again, thanks.

  2. Marcos says:

    Hi everyone,

    My collaboration from Oxford dictionary.

    [WITH OBJECT] US informal
    Make or repair (an object) in an improvised or inventive way, making use of whatever items are at hand:
    “he MacGyvered a makeshift jack with a log”

    Thanks Warren


  3. Nele says:

    Oh, my children made big eyes when I talked of a Münzfernsprecher, here in Germany a public phone in a little house, where you have thrown coins in it. Coins = Münzen, Fernsprecher = telephone. The public yellow little houses with the phones in it are gone and also the word Münzfernsprecher.

  4. Nele says:

    Not only words go out of a language, also pictures go out. You know how the pictures of phones have changed in the last 100 years, look an iPhone today and the old phones at the wall, with a wire. Or the machines to make coffee, they have changed a lot the last few years. If you show the children such pictures they don’t know what the machine is for. Sometimes it is a funny game.

  5. Tania says:

    In my country all young girls wear “yoga pants”, but I have had no idea about this phrase.
    For offensive we say “ofensa”, and for official we say “oficial” with the same meanings.
    For outdated or archaic we use “arhaic” . We use the same “updated” but only in the computer field.
    We have started to use the word “millenials” , but only at the TV news.

  6. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    This issue about things change on time is a motive of concern. Where are men going to? Nobody knows. There will be one day in which nobody will not understand each other like in Babel Tower. The path men chose to live is becoming dangerous. Too much technology, too many ideas, to many opinions. I miss the time when this world was simpler, when kids played on the yard with a boll, with a kite, rolling a top, hide-and-seek and others. Old times! Good times!
    From Brazil

  7. Peter says:

    This is this crazy a.s wild fire devouring an area around 3555 hectors in the heart of Alberta close to a sprawling oil facility
    luckily ,They fire has not reached the facility yet but it is gonna. Already close to 2000 fire fighters has been deployed to the area to contain the fire since it started like two /three weeks ago
    There has been mandatory evacuation in place for the facility and a city near by.
    The fire burned through the city already and destroyed rather leveled 1600 houses.however fire fighters bravely managed to control the fire in the city.
    People of the city yet to come back to their homes as there must be some precautionary security measures in place first.
    The fire was slowing down over the past few days as the weather was cooling down and the wind had stopped.that gave fire fighters a window to respite.
    Alas the window slam shot yesterday for the dry heat and the wind has been back on causing the fire pick up pace towards the oil facility.
    The facility already evacuated. Still there is a lot of combustible materials and equipment has left behind there which ultimately will fule up the already wild fire.
    I know it is a sound like a Hollywood movie or sth
    But it is happening as we speak
    people all across Canada already donated a sizeable amount of money and our good government matched up the donation money .all the raised fund has gone towards accommodations and lodgings for people who had to left their homes in a hurry with just one back pack on their back.
    The weather condition is awful in the city ,it is not breathable as smoke has enveloped the city.
    The officials were trying to put back on the utility and gas services.
    I hear 60 percent of the service restored in the city for a speedy return of people to the city however there has been this explosion reported right in the city :One house exploded last night and inflicted damages to the 10 houses near buy. It is undetermined if the expel oxigon is gas us under investigation though.
    Well , the rapid growth of fire and the explosion has upended the speedy return plan.
    The weather condition is an ideal for the fire to spread even faster.
    Fire fighters are impatiently waiting for a drop of rain to tilt the scale towards their advantage but unfortunately the weather has been their foe from the get go.

    The fire experts suspect that the dry heat and climate change hand in hand are the culprits.
    As the excess dry heat has sucked the moisture out of the ground and leaves and caused the disaster.
    The area is heavy wooded.

    Guys , Let md tell u, the heros in this ghotic reality is fire fighters who has been fighting the beast 24/7.
    And , get that ,chances are the fire continues its path through the entire summer.

    People are unemployed and stranded from their homes for the fire that caused by today’s climate change trend.
    Big fear around officials is the fire will likely to connoting thorough out the entire summer.

    A learning guid member


    P.S. The fire is dubbed ” the beast ” by the media and people just follow suit
    But the name is totally spot on

  8. Peter says:

    Hey Warren,
    Actually it has been changing in such a fast pace that it is almost impossible to catch up with the latest stands ,terns , and made up words entering the language.
    U know , i think , the trick is just to go with the flow. By that I mean,according to my experience , some new arrival words ,slangs ,trend or such catch on the second they enter the language. Accordingly ,u here then here or there and a free a while they will become a permanent part of your lexicon. But some are just a fad the disappear as fast as they appear.honest, I never bother with them. Some times I hear them in passing and for no appearing reason they stick in my head. But , I never go out of my way to memorize them.
    U know what I mean.
    Well , let me add here ,once thing I love about Eslpod is he dies stay with the current of the language.
    I mean I hear things and then I realize that our prof team in eslpod covered it already or they will come up in later episodes. I must say ,It is comes very handy to me for the minute I hear them in eslpod I remembered that I had heard them before and the reminder moves the term from my short term memory to long term memory. It works the other way around too.i mean out the motion in reverse.
    However ,for the life of me ,I don’t remember I ever heard of the word the Warren mentions in the post.
    Well ,in my defence , I don’t think it is the kind of word typically gear in the main stream.
    I must say ,I like the word though , sounds cool

    Thanks Warren
    Very interesting topic
    U have a flair for choosing cool topics


    A learning guide member


  9. emiliano says:

    Warren, in my country as time goes on language is more poor till the point that new generations is forgettting lot of words and expressions. Why for?
    It is easy, each year people read less, write less and cultural level is going down.
    I know some persons that along their live has read not any book once they are out from school, never writes (except some little words in the whasap)
    and so forth.
    If you don´t use the language lot of words are unknow anw what is even worst new generations have lack of culture because it is a big problem for
    them how to express their ideas writing.

    When I was young one of the first exams it was necessary of doing to get a job it was “redaction” and if you have any ortographic mistakes you´ll not
    What about now?
    Even I may add more, along my life I have met friends that never write a simple letter so without any practice language and words are disappearing. My daughter
    Laura told me several years ago that the problem with her fellows at the institute when they have to make and mathematic exams or another about
    science it is not mathematic, it was the language as they don´t undertand the text of the problems.
    So yes, I agree with you about words slang that change from time to time, but the culture words are fogotten because lack of culture, lot of people don´t
    read anything and even less could write a simple properly letter.

    Thank you Warren, I do think it is good subject to write about.


  10. Peter says:

    The beast roaring

    Just to give u an update , the fire burned down one oil sand camp already and heading towrd another one its path.
    Good thing , the oil sand camps emptied out already but the emergency people are in there.
    A bit of rain could make a huge difference and ultimately would extinguish the wild fire.
    Sadly , The weather forcast not reporting even a rain drop in the region for days to come.
    Guys ,
    The consensus is : climate change is to blame
    Extream dry heat has soaked moister out of the leaves and the ground which means just one thing more fule for the fire.

    U know , it has had an impact on already a shaky economy.

    The fire is still raging ,it is still out of control and everybody is pointing finger at ” climate change.”

    It is of climate change making , I m telling you
    The wild fire is ravaging a very vast area
    The fir rampaged city is still a ghost town
    All the plans to get people move back to their homes is postponed dire to the windy ,dry weather which is the best combination for an already raging fire.

    It is overwhelming guys
    You should see it fist hand.
    Guess what ,I did

    A learning guide member


  11. Dan says:

    Hello guys.

    I think I have expressed my dislike or doubts about terms such as “African American”

    I do know, maybe it’s just me, but what if I am a black man, American from various generations, and I do NOT want to be called “African American”?
    I just feel like I am American, period.

    I mean, I understand referring to someone like that if they have just arrived in the country, but after generations it sounds wrong to me.

    I understand that for certain instances, like for example the police hunting down a criminal they have to describe the subject, but in that case you can simply use the skin color.

    I don’t know, what do you guys think?
    Are my observations just stupid?


  12. emiliano says:

    A man or a woman, a girl or a boy, a baby or a children, that would be enough, why is the reason to specify the color of the skin, the country you have be born
    or the language that you speak.
    Just a human being as we all are similar it has to be enough if we could talk about or mention some one, just a person “baby, children, boy, girl, man, woman” nothing
    A human being with a name, Dan or Emiliano that´s all.
    That could be the good form to me Dan.

    A person called emiliano.

  13. Peter says:

    The latest episods ,the expression ” make it stick ” is awfully common!!
    U gonna hear like a lot in movies Tv shows and in the mainstream.
    I will rate it among the best and the most common expression eslpod -and by eslpod ,I mean Lucy- has come up.
    Thanks Lucy for the job well done!!
    U know Lucy ,
    I hahe heart to heart for you. I have been living in the stretch of land for god knows how long and I have been attending your scripts in this cyber world of us for ,oh boy , 7 -8 years still u and ur striped never stopped to amaze me.
    U know ,I m still trying to get my groove in English language, and u guys has been helping me to that end.
    Thanks for that

    My dear proffs
    U never stopped to amaze me
    And in every episode over the past 7/8 u guys always had pockets of knowledge and experience for me.
    U know ,in my book , It is all about experience!!

    Thanks chief for starting the whole thing
    And Lucy without you Eslpod never became ” the eslpod.”

    My way of life here owes a grate debt of gratitude to you guys

    A learning guid member

    My favorit eslpod line in recent memory is :
    “Preempt questions they gonna answer ”
    This line alone blew my mind right on the spot.
    Lucy ,
    Everyday you remind me of how little i know.thanks for that :)))
    U r aces !!!!!

  14. Peter says:

    Dear Lucy,

    Awsome !!!

    Way beyond my level grade
    I took away a lot
    I really enjoyed the episodes

    Thanks plenty

    A learning guid member


  15. Peter says:

    My dear cyber class mates ,
    In the learning guid of the episod 1209, in the ” what else does it mean ” section, Lucy explores Some sharp -related expressions.
    I find one of them so cool that I couldn’t ressist not sharing it with u.
    Hope our good people at eslpod don’t mind it.
    It is so slick folks!!!

    I admittedly was not familiar with the term my self.

    I m just copying and pase here. The example of it is so slick !!

    ” Someone who is “sharp-eyed” is very observant and able to see
    well: “Sharp-eyed viewers have found a lot of inconsistencies in movies, such as
    when the level of liquid in a character’s cup changes abruptly between shots.”

    Is it awsome or what !!!?

    Oh , I m gonna use it on my friends like it is nobody’s business
    My poor friends
    Every time I learn something new here
    My friends are the first in line who get an earful of it. :)))

    A learning guid member


  16. Dan says:

    Hey Pete.

    I was thinking something,
    How are black people referred to in Canada?

    I mean Canadian African sounds really bad also African Canadian is cringe worthy.

    At least African American sounds well at my hears.


  17. Peter says:

    Hey Dan ,
    I m trying hard to avoid the term “black people” per say.
    But I can’t think of any alternative.
    I personally don’t appriciate the term.

    Funny u should ask , I never though of it that way. The truth of the matter is , nobody calls anybody anything around here. By that I mean , everybody goes by Canadians. U know , it is a faux pau to ask about other people origin ,back ground if u will , around here. Sure in a relax environment somebody might ask in passing about ur nationality. But , typically it is don’t in a very polite and indirect manner.
    U know , sometimes it happens that u r required to write in what part of the world u r coming from in some government forms or sth.
    However , most black people dweling in Canada , at least The ones I know of ,or the most I heard of coming from not Africa but Jamaica.
    Sure u meet people from Africa here and there but mostly they are from Jamaica.

    Well , u know u here in the news or some other official capacities , they may be refered to as Jamaican -Canadians
    I know people from ur part of the world too. A very good friend of mine and my hair dresser are both Italian by origin. they were born and raised here though. They are Italian -Canadian but they speak little Italian.
    People who are not born here sometimes refered to hyphenated Canadians
    But ,
    Asking about people nationalities here is drawn upon.
    typically u don’t see people do that
    It is not socially acceptable!!

    U know ,around here , everybody is from somewhere.

    A learning guide member


  18. emiliano says:

    Nights in Silence

    At night the desire to keep awake
    So late ..What´s the reason to be up
    Alone with myself I am
    Quite at this hour I think

    Asleep you are close to me
    Early in the morning I am
    Enough time to meditate in silence
    but I feel little noises of the house

    Your breath, the rain´s drops
    a voice that far breaks the morning
    So, without any witnessess
    finally I take the pen and start to write

    Love you so much my dear
    than I don´t want to make any noise
    Listening your breath I know your presence
    that bright me every moment of my life.


  19. emiliano says:

    Lost (always lost…..again and again)

    Lost I am without your happiness
    It gives me strength to continue this path

    Followed together since so long time
    Can´t remember waking up without your lap.


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