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Inclusive Naming Initiative limps towards release of dangerous digital dictionary

Proposes a mere ten terms it feels should disappear from tech vocabularies

The Inclusive Naming Initiative (INI) – an industry effort to promote and facilitate replacing harmful and exclusionary language in information technology – has developed its first recommendation lists, but has struggled to sign off on the announcement of the document.

Version 1.0 of the Inclusive Naming Word Lists offers three categories of lousy language worth losing:

  • Tier 1 – Replace Immediately
  • Tier 2 – Strongly Consider Replacing
  • Tier 3 – Recommendations to Replace

The words and terms in Tier 1 are:

  • Abort
  • Blackhat/whitehat
  • Cripple
  • Master
  • Master/slave
  • Tribe
  • Whitelist

As The Register has previously reported, several vendors have stopped using most of the terms in Tier 1 because of their racial connotations, or references to slavery.

We've not seen "tribe" on this sort of language list before. The INI wants it gone on grounds it "is a term that can be associated with colonialism or can be considered cultural appropriation" and "has a history of being used to describe division along ethnic or racial lines."

The INI suggests using other words to describe groups of people.

Hands with clenched fists breaking bonds or fetters

Linus Torvalds banishes masters, slaves and blacklists from the Linux kernel, starting now


Only one term is listed in Tier 2: Sanity check. It earned its place on grounds it "might be derogatory to neurodiverse people." INI liked Twitter's preferred alternatives "confidence check" and "coherence check."

The INI's Tier 3 language list has just two entries, one of which is "Man-in-the-middle" because it is needlessly gendered and "implies that women do not have the skills to perpetrate this type of hacking."

The other Tier 3 term is "segregate." It's recommended for replacement on grounds that it "is almost exclusively associated with the segregation of Black people from White people, an extremely racist context."

INI has also defined some "Tier 0" terms that it discussed, but chose not to recommend for exclusion. Among the Tier 0 terms are "parent/child" which was felt not to describe an intentionally abusive relationship, "red team" because it's not a reference to indigenous people, and "fair hiring practice" which INI folk decided could not be construed as indicating a preference for light-skinned people.

"Blackbox" and "blackout" are also Tier 0 because they are "not based on a good/bad binary where white is represented as good or black is represented as bad."

While the v.1.0 list has been complete for some weeks, the INI's attempts to launch it formally appear to have stalled: the group's lightly trafficked forum contains a late May post asking for signoff of a draft announcement. At the time of writing no feedback had been added for almost four weeks, and one poster prodded the group to advance its release.

It's not the first attempt at cleaning the tech vocabulary of potential offence. Other initiatives have recommended discontinuing use of certain terms, with the likes of "hanging" and "killing" and "hit" stricken from some style guides. Others exclude "biting the bullet," "jumping the gun," and "taking a stab."

Cisco made the strangest recommendation we've found, suggesting you replace "kill two birds with one stone" with "feed two birds with one scone." Please note that it is inadvisable to feed most birds scones.

The INI's leaders include reps from IBM, Microsoft, Dell, Intel, Red Hat, Cisco, Extreme Networks, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, and GitLab. ®

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