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On NYC Schools and ‘loaded words’: Enough, Let’s Just Go Mute

See how calm my cat is? That’s because he doesn’t have to worry about watching his language.

Over ten years ago, my friend Manzino said, “I really think that animals already went through a talking phase and they figured out it doesn’t make any difference. It only adds to confusion. So they decided not to talk anymore. They figured they were better off. So they run around naked with their tongues hanging out all day. But if you look at their faces and into their eyes they have a real Old World look about them, like they’re very wise.”

I thought this was funny. In fact, it inspired my short story “How I Learned to Stop Complaining and Love the Bunny,” about a man in a troubled marriage who essentially figures out his best companion is an inanimate plastic light-up Easter Bunny lawn ornament.

Recently, I read the article “New York city schools want to ban ‘loaded words’ from tests,” by CNN’s Brian Vitagliano. The word “dinosaur” is on this year’s list of banned words. Yes, you read correctly: “Dinosaur”; it might be offensive to creationists. Other words on the list include “birthday” because this might offend Jehovah’s Witnesses; “Halloween” because it implies paganism and “divorce” because it could spark emotional damage in children whose parents are in the middle of one.

If that’s not enough, there’s an “avoid” list as well. According to the article: “And not good news for Italians: the Department of Education also advised avoiding references to types of food, such as pepperoni, products they said ‘persons of some religions or cultures may not indulge in.’” Also on the “avoid” list: “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” although in the article it isn’t disclosed whom it might disturb (I bet it’s those damn Sticks ‘n’ Stones).

Seriously? At what point do we stop? At what point will we have only two words we can use without “hurting people?” I thought for awhile, and solved the problem: Perhaps the only word we’ll get around to using is “Yes.” Think about it: “No” could be hurtful to others. If we only had one word to use, it should be “yes.” We can “yes” each other all our lives. We can “yes” each other to death!

Then I realized my “yes” theory really won’t work. After all, to use the word “yes” and convey any emotion would require extensive training, and some inflections may become offensive over time as well.

This is when I remembered Manzino’s comment from all those years ago. It made total sense…one never hears about animals hurting each other’s feelings. I theorized about how it might have happened: After animals stopped talking, perhaps they went to sign language—for a little while, until virtually all of their gestures became offensive; then they had to bag that, too. Eventually, they became mute, and now they only express themselves with their eyes.

I encourage you to read the article and form your own opinion, but I’m with Manzino: Let’s just stop talking now and get it over with.

To purchase “How I Learned to Stop Complaining and Love the Bunny,” visit here:

A plastic Easter decoration similar to the one I had in mind when I wrote “How I Learned to Stop Complaining and Love the Bunny.”

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