The culture that is San Francisco

The words “felon,” “offender,” “convict,” “addict” and “juvenile delinquent” would be part of the past in official San Francisco parlance under new “person first” language guidelines adopted by the Board of Supervisors.

Going forward, what was once called a convicted felon or an offender released from jail will be a “formerly incarcerated person,” or a “justice-involved” person or simply a “returning resident.”

Parolees and people on criminal probation will be referred to as a “person on parole,” or “person under supervision.”

A juvenile “delinquent” will become a “young person with justice system involvement,” or a “young person impacted by the juvenile justice system.”

And drug addicts or substance abusers will become “a person with a history of substance use.”

“We don’t want people to be forever labeled for the worst things that they have done,” Supervisor Matt Haney said.

The resolution is non-binding, was not signed by the mayor, and it is not clear it will be implemented.  Here is the full article.

Some of those terms seem quite reasonable to me, such as “person on parole,” which for many people would be the natural term in any case.  But here is my worry.  It is we who decide how powerful language is going to be.  The more we regulate language, the more we communicate a social consensus that it has great power.  And in return the more actual power we grant to those linguistic “slips” and infelicities which remain.  It is better to use norms to regulate the very worst speech terms, but not all of them.  By regulating too many parts of speech, and injecting speech with too much power, we actually grant more influence to the people and ideas we are trying to stop.


Yeah, but that's legal stuff. Language and mannerisms are expected to be more formal in that setting. Piss off the judge? Go to jail, there's no absolute free speech in the courthouse. Lie during an FBI investigation, you'll do some time.

> Lie during an FBI investigation, you'll do some time.

Unless your a cop.

Unless you were in Trump's campaign. Oh no wait a dozen of them went to prison. LOL.

Not a single one of them for anything related to Trump. Ironically enough some of them were associated with the Clintonites when they committed the crimes they were charged with...

Liar. Gaslighter. Fool.

Please don't abuse the word "gaslighter". We don't need a synonym for "liar"

Yes. Trump at gunpoint made Cohen commit fraud in the NYC taxi industry.

According to the insane.

Or a former Secretary of State - "There was absolutely nothing in those emails."

This whole idea is simply inane. I saw it brought up at Volokh conspiracy one time and it was eviscerated. "Person on parole" and "parolee" mean exactly the same thing. There is no difference and nothing to gain by the change except annoying people and "shaming" them for using the correct language.

"Person who puts out fires"
"Person who sells goods at retail"
"Person who provides counsel on the law"
"Person who makes things out of wood"

And on and on

This sounds very Eskimo. Or at least Anthony Quinn as Eskimo.

That’s offensive to us, the Native American community. My grandparents almost couldn’t get married because my grandpappy was 1/1024th Cherokee.

I don't like the concept of regulating this, and would normally be against anything too PC, but I don't agree they have the same meaning - word construction matters - for example, kids have a tendency to label themselves - "I'm a bad golfer" or whatever - and I think using labels (nouns) like that increases the chance they define themselves as something and don't appreciate how changeable it is. I'm not saying this is exactly the same, but clearly the intent is to make it less definitional, which I think the constructions actually achieve.

Sorry, what's the difference between a "bad golfer" and a "person who is bad at golf"? I don't get it.

I focused on the "person first" aspect of this, but yes there is also the promulgation of new euphemisms that are less negative on their face. I have no problem with something that is more accurate, like "Beginner at golf" if that's the case, but less accurate or misleading euphemisms I would generally object to.

I'm a simple man. I just call them cucks.

"By regulating too many parts of speech, and injecting speech with too much power, we actually grant more influence to the people and ideas we are trying to stop."
it is probably more accurate to say that regulating speech gives way too much power to the Marxists&smith college church ladies.
a lotta their ideology is incoherent&absurd unless they can construct
a required speech code for the rest of us.

As many of the old commenters have lost interest, it’s nice to see that MR has picked up a new cast of lunatics.

"As many of the old commenters have lost interest"

Nothing of consequence was lost.

The usual worst part of a blog is its commenters, and the usual worst blogs are those that treat all commenters equally. The median commenter detracts from a blog.

otoh google "fuck the draft"
a very famous & funny supreme court case

The negative meaning or connotation will migrate to the euphemism, as invariably happens (well known in historical linguistics, maybe news to econ nerds). Why? Speakers want to be able to express negativity and disapproval (etc.) and will do so either by inventing new words, or by moving the old negative meaning to the officially approved word. My guess is that is designed to declare that the policy-maker (etc.) or political wannabe has the right thoughts and doesn't want to alienate anyone.

I think I read an article by Pinker where he called this the "euphemism treadmill." It's why there's been like 3 or 4 iterations of terms for someone of really low intelligence in the past 100-150 years, all of them originally euphemisms (imbecile, idiot, moron, feeble-minded, retarded, intellectually disabled, etc.).

You can also see the euphemism treadmill spinning nowadays in reference to people who enter the country without going through the proper channels. Apparently, some people think if we stop calling them illegal immigrants or illegal aliens but simply undocumented that'll make Americans happy about their presence. Whatever your feelings about immigration, I can guarantee that almost no one's opinion is going to be changed simply by using a different term.

This is extremely offensive to my community, The differently mentally abled. Strom Thurmond and I stood shoulder to shoulder against discrimination towards us and our fellow mentally disabled citizens and imbeciles.

Send me to

'The resolution is non-binding, was not signed by the mayor, and it is not clear it will be implemented. '

But apparently worth the effort to post here.

'It is we who decide how powerful language is going to be.'

One really wonders about that 'we.'

'we actually grant more influence to the people and ideas we are trying to stop'

Again, who is the 'we'?

Why, our unelected (and unlicensed) Public Discourse Managers, with all of their working tacit narrative assumptions and narrative framing schemes and with all of their implicit editorial biases, generously shared with screen addicts across all times zones.

Our corrupt and corrupting Media Establishment, that is.

("Journalism" as practiced in the US once merited this helpful definition: "the practice of corrupting language to engender slovenly thought about contemporary circumstance": but these functions are now fulfilled jointly by journalists, academics, and all other entertainment providers, including those in and out of government.)

if marxist sociologists are gonna successfully inculcate circular reasoning into the academy they are gonna need a very funny speech code!
how about if we rebrand that human turd treat on the san francisco sidewalk as a maccluhan after the canadian sociologist marshal media is the message maccluhan

Note for people like me who didn't know otherwise, the Board of Supervisors is the legislative branch of the SF government.

The resolution notes that 1 in 5 California residents has a criminal record. At that rate you might as well just call your criminals "citizens".

A lot of those are minor drug offenses that will hopefully be expunged one day.

The bigger issue for me is that it means nothing in the fight to combat any of the problems that lead to the need for these words yet gives the illusion of progressive idealism. I walk by ‘persons with s history of drug abuse’ in SF every day (I’m the literal sense, since 16th and Mission is an open air drug market). And it is just another part of life. Cops don’t care, commuters don’t care, residents don’t care. And by ‘care’ I mean act to do something about it. We’ve given up on action, so we pass resolutions to make us feel better about the tragedy we permit at our doorstep.

Maybe if you advise the cops, commuters, and residents what they should do to act to do something they will accordingly act, and then something will get "done" (is that the plan?)

My theory: No one is acting because there isn't anything that can be done that will make the situation better rather than worse or the same but different.
Also there is a conflict in philosophy between (1) people should be left alone to enjoy their constitutional right to pursuit of happiness (whatever ever that is), provided it doesn't prevent others from enjoying the same constitutional right, and (2) people should be forced to do what is in the own best interest whether they want to or not, whether they know what is in their own interest or not, and whether they want to do what is in their own interest.

What is it that you want them to do? I suspect whatever action you ask your city to take, it will cost a lot of money and little of consequence will actually happen.

In response to both comments above, we could start by looking to the numerous promising approaches of other cities such as New Orleans and Salt Lake City, which begin by trying to provide more permanent/long-term housing for the homeless. While homelessness is not the only contributor to the issues I address (and probably fewer of those in the original article), it is a place to start. San Francisco spends looks like a lot per homeless person, and I'm not equipped to say whether that is the right amount spent poorly or not enough. Either way, focusing dramatically more energy on this issue would be a good way to try things out and find a way forward.

What they are doing now is clearly not working; in fact (measured by the number of people on the street and the sanitary conditions of the public spaces) its objectively getting worse.

People aren't (yet) willing to do the things that would address the problem. Perhaps when things get bad enough, or the public health impact gets bad enough, people will become willing.

You want the cops, commuters, and residents to look at promising approaches?

"“We don’t want people to be forever labeled for the worst things that they have done,”
Rightwingers hate it when I call them racists or Nazis for supporting a President that has singlehandedly brought back white nationalism and anti-semitic terrorism to a level we haven't seen since the last century. I refuse to bow down to political correctness. Call these scumbag terrorists by their true name.

It would be reasonable to expect that there will be more violent white supremacists going to prison as their prevalence increases...felons aren't always Democrats.

I don't know the President personally but haven't seen any evidence that he has singlehandedly brought back white nationalism and anti-semitic terrorism to a level we haven't seen since the last century. How has this been manifested?

I think maybe the original comment was about hypocrisy: for a certain type of Bay Area resident, you don't call Pedro The MS-13 Gangbanger a felon no matter how many people's skulls he's bashed in, because that's stigmatizing, but it's perfectly acceptable to go on a rant about these ****ing Nazi white supremacist terrorist KKK'ers who, like, vote Republican and stuff.

Not every Republican is a KKK member, but almost all of them agree with the ideology. And every Trump supporter is a closeted member of the KKK whether they own the physical robes or not. When we outlaw hate speech they’ll have to ban the Republican national convention.

I'm not a Republican, and my family has black and Hispanic members, plus a more recent Native American than Elizabeth Warren can claim. My friends include immigrants (okay, legal ones, but still) from Asia and Africa.

If you and your friends outlaw "hate speech," whatever that means, I'm moving somewhere else.

** "a President that has singlehandedly brought back white nationalism and anti-semitic terrorism"

** " to a level we haven't seen since the last century"

Drama Club, am I right?

** " to a level we haven't seen since the last century"
... almost 19 years ago now

He should have gone with "since the last millennium".

"By regulating too many parts of speech, and injecting speech with too much power, we actually grant more influence to the people and ideas we are trying to stop."

I'll have to disagree. Time to pass hate speech laws like every other sensible modern democracy does like Germany, UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. Pragmatic Singapore, which libertarians have the biggest hard on for, also has such laws on the books and even goes further with their Racial Harmony Day.

'Time to pass hate speech laws like every other sensible modern democracy does like Germany, UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.'

Thankfully, the 1st Amendment of the Constitution prevents such a stupid idea from becoming law in the U.S.

And while Germany, a nation that killed millions under the rule of a genocidal ideology, actually has grounds for such laws (no slippery slope argument here - the death of millions due to that genocidal ideology is historical fact), I have never understood why nations such as the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand have such laws at all. Of course, the American Constitution does represent the sort of revolutionary political development that none of those nations ever experienced.

France went revolutionary the same time the Americans did yet they have hate speech laws:

France is a bit of a strange one. At least according to German language reports, when the Nazis began shipping out French Jews, the Germans in charge were shocked when the French also rounded up children and handed them over too, as at the time, the Germans were not interested in shipping out Jewish children. Basically, France was the only West European nation which can be compared to East European ones in terms of apparently enthusiastic participation in the Holocaust.

And since the original comment did not mention France, it seemed best to not bring it up. It is not Germany, but it is not the UK either.

Here is some information - 'The fate of France’s Jews during World War II has long been a sensitive issue in the country, where for decades after the war officials kept quiet over the role played by the Nazi-allied Vichy regime during the Holocaust.

Far from being passive bystanders, French police and officials carried out the vast majority of round-ups of Jews for deportation during the Second World War.

One of the most notorious incidents was the “Vel' d'Hiv Round-up” of 1942, when some 13,152 Jews, most of them women and children, were arrested and brought to the Vélodrome d'Hiver cycle track in Paris, before being transported to internment camps in France and finally to the gas chambers of Auschwitz.'

This is from wikipedia, and seems to provide at least some support to that (admittedly self-serving) German narrative - 'Although the police have been blamed for rounding up children of less than 16—the age was set to preserve a fiction that workers were needed in the east—the order was given by Pétain's minister, Pierre Laval, supposedly as a "humanitarian" measure to keep families together. This too was a fiction given that the parents of these children had already been deported; documents of the period have revealed that the anti-Semitic Laval's principal concern was what to do with Jewish children once their parents had been deported. The youngest child sent to Auschwitz under Laval's orders was 18 months old.''_d'Hiv_Roundup#Police_complicity

'the French also rounded up children and handed them over': by "the French" do you mean the Vichy regime, or just the homme in the rue?

Well, maybe someone agrees with Le Pen about France, or is overly sensitive to the idea that the sort of people who vote for her might not be committed to full cultural diversity in La Grande Nation, now or 75 years ago.

So, we will just go with Macron - 'In July 2017, also in commemoration of the victims of the roundup at the Vélodrome d'Hiver, President Emmanuel Macron denounced his country's role in the Holocaust and the historical revisionism that denied France's responsibility for 1942 roundup and subsequent deportation of 13,000 Jews. "It was indeed France that organised this [roundup]", he said, French police collaborating with the Nazis. "Not a single German took part," he added. Neither Chirac nor Hollande had specifically stated that the Vichy government, in power during WW II, actually represented the French State. Macron on the other hand, made it clear that the Government during the War was indeed the French State. "It is convenient to see the Vichy regime as born of nothingness, returned to nothingness. Yes, it's convenient, but it is false. We cannot build pride upon a lie."

Macron did make a subtle reference to Chirac's 1995 apology when he added, "I say it again here. It was indeed France that organized the roundup, the deportation, and thus, for almost all, death.'

Marine Le Pen is one of those revisionists, by the way, as can be seen in the fuller text of the earlier reply.

And since that reply was removed, you can draw your own conclusions regarding the first sentence - 'Well, there is surprisingly sparse information concerning how the French acted during the Holocaust, which just might be a hint.'

The final sentence remains valid - France is a complicated picture, certainly in contrast to the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

But was it "the French", in the sense of their regime, that did it, or did "the French", in the sense of the populace, join in? Given the French weakness for delation it seems quite conceivable to me that the population joined in, but all I ask is that you write English that is sufficiently good that it is clear what you mean.

For example, would you say "the Americans" locked up Japanese in concentration camps, or would you say the American government did so? They seem to me to be quite different statements.

'But was it "the French", in the sense of their regime, that did it, or did "the French"'

Well, Marine Le Pen denies it was the 'French' at all, blaming it all on something that is not 'France.' Which is fascinating, considering how her father looks at subject.

'but all I ask is that you write English that is sufficiently good that it is clear what you mean.'

Unfortunately, the original reply was removed, which is ironic considering the subject. Basically, a significiant number of French citizens today, just like in the past, are clearly anti-Jewish. Though I suppose mentioning who they vote for is beyond the pale here.

'would you say "the Americans" locked up Japanese in concentration camps'

Of course I would, but then, like a French citizen, I consider my nation to represent all of its citizens. Having a monarch is a bit different that way, one assumes.

'or would you say the American government did so'

Well, there is this belief, at least taught in Virginia schoolrooms in the past, that the American government is actually the representative of Americans, so both are essentially interchangeable, in a broad sense. Saying Americans bombed Vietnam, for example, is no different than saying tjhe American government bombed Vietnam. Admittedly, I grew up with a number of people (carrier pilots, for example) who were actually the ones dropping those bombs, so my perspective may be a bit different. They weren't the 'government,' after all, just the people doing the bombing.

Another productive exchange. You've used your time on this earth wisely.

"the American government is actually the representative of Americans, so both are essentially interchangeable, in a broad sense"

Not a logical statement

It would be a mistake to compare the French Revolution with the American Revolution simply because they are contemporary or even because they shared the same nominal ideals. There was never an American Reign of Terror, for example (at least not one then). It's pretty clear that the French culture is different from the American culture and their embrace of hate speech laws, among other things, is an example of the differences in their national values.

mercifully government can't regulate thought...that won't stop their minions trying though

+1good point
but we think some of these creative (fictional?) brain scan narratives
might fall into the category of trying to regulate thoughts

“returning resident.” could be adapted to illegal immigrants as "incoming non-documented residents"

And we can call the deportees “future returning residents.”

Where I saw this article linked yesterday, someone mentioned that "undocumented citizens" is gaining currency.

"“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name”, attributed to Confucius.

They are not undocumented. They are citizens of some other country, and usually have plenty of documentation to that effect, unless they have intentionally destroyed it.

Mexico, for example, has gone to considerable effort to issue such documentation of Mexican nationality to their citizens illegally present in the United States.

They’re undocumented citizens of the United States. They’re as American as anyone else. The only reason they would possibly be deported or suffer violence from the Federal government is because they lack A Birth Certificate.

Since they will be deported based on a lack of documentation, they’re undocumented citizens.

Make sense?

" they’re undocumented citizens. Make sense?"

No, you're pretty much completely wrong.

Citizen: a legally recognized subject or national of a state or commonwealth, either native or naturalized.

They clearly aren't citizens of the US. By any rational perspective your argument is flawed.

Furthermore, they don't lack a birth certificate. They can contact their embassy and get a birth certificate from their home country. It's possible that some don't actually have a birth certificate but even then it's irrelevant. You can have not have a birth certificate and still become a naturalized citizen. The US naturalizes 750K foreigners per year.

In Trumpspeak, "very fine people" means white nationalists.

"I'm not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally – but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly."

Whoa there, buddy. Here we choose truth over facts. And the truth is that Trump is a white nationalist no matter what he says or does.

It’s funny that the guy who said something like he fine with “let them all in if they’re legal” is accused of being a white supremist.

There must be an election coming and vested interests must keep certain people in their boxes.

"Justice-involved" implies that a person can only be "involved" with the Justice System if s/he is found guilty (and exhausted all appeals? (but how about pardons??)). Is a person found not guilty not "involved"? The problem is that the actions (and inactions, and thoughts) that qualify as felonies in 2019 are far too broad. I watched the Ohio Supreme Court argument (by the State) that *any* detectable amount of (illegal) Schedule I drug justifies a trial. The Court seemed ok with that asinine idea. [If you carry cash, most likely there's detectable S1 drugs on it.] It was interesting to watch the proponents (several prosecutors) lie to the Court, claiming that if it was detectable then it was pharmacologically significant.

Great point. By attempting to remove the stigma from those convicted of a crime, they risk impugning people who have not been convicted.

Looks like you are on the same side of these crazy psychos, waging a war against the imaginary reactionary conservative enemy, even if you don't always agree with the tactics

"It is better to use norms to regulate the very worst speech terms, but not all of them. "

Does this mean 'name and shame'? I hate call out culture.

'Some of those terms seem quite reasonable to me, such as “person on parole,” which for many people would be the natural term in any case': for many people in a verbose culture such as the USA's.

But would it have seemed natural in the days when many Americans spoke terse English?

So when is a rose not a rose by a different name anyhow?

What would Strunk and White do? Clarity in communication was their lodestar; and it ought to be ours. I oppose regulation of offensive speech. Why? To more easily identify the ignoramuses. Clarity can serve many purposes. For example, the clarity of the speech of the supporters of the Dark Enlightenment is helpful, as is the clarity of the speech of white nationalists. Let them speak in the clearest possible terms so we know who they are and the ideas they support. The alternative would be language with hidden meaning. Then what would we do? Regulate (ban) hidden meaning? Think of the wasted time spent trying to decipher the hidden meaning in what appears to be ordinary speech. What would literature professors do if not challenging their students to find the hidden meaning in great works of literature. What would readers of this blog do if not deciphering the Straussian meaning of Cowen's blog posts. Is that clear enough?

"Clarity in communication" championed by a man who produces ranting block paragraphs of questionable and unclear relevance to topics under discussions, filled with strange allusion and gnomic references.

Feces in the streets, disease outbreaks, rampant drug abuse, homelessness in epidemic proportions due to skyrocketing housing costs; but let's make sure no one gets offended by language. This is your future under the r-strategists.

So the end state of republican strategists is to make everyone live like democrat controlled san fransisco?

American politics sure are complicated...

r-strategists as in r/K-selection, although to your point, forcing the leftists to stay in their self-created ghettos (as opposed to fleeing the problems they created only to enact the same policies that created the problems in red states) would go a long way towards deprogramming them. Or it'd kill them outright, in which case either way, mission accomplished.

If you think how we address someone,

Or how we identify ourselves

Doesn't matter

Just look at the names commenters on this site choose to give themselves.

It seems diplospeak/legalese/eduspeak is trying to be enforced to obfuscate the situation.

It’s also another barrier between them and us.

Parolee is short and sweet. Still clear and concise.

Recall George Carlin's discussion of the history of terms related to the psychological trauma of war.

No but I enjoyed his observation that tumors are always described as "grapefruit-sized" while hail is always described as "softball-" or "golfball-sized."

I can’t decide whether the intent is to turn language into a thesis or hide something.

Maybe I’ll just embrace the healing power of “and”?

I make it a point to say "homosexual" rather than "gay", because "gay" is a propaganda term. Homosexuals are less happy, not more happy, than others on average. I don't misuse the word "gender" in place of "sex" either.

So, someone out there can forever be known as a "person formerly involved in the illegal importation of Danish pig semen."

Got it.

In shampoo bottles. I think "purveyor of hog spoodge dippity-do" has a better ring on the resumé.

I know Tyler does a great deal of writing, and has his famous production function, but I still think it would be a good workout for him to occasionally elaborate a bit: here, on precisely what "ideas we are trying to stop" with this mandated verbiage.

One cannot argue that these are interesting times, really, but they at least afford some small amusement. Maybe the resolution doesn't go far enough - it should be more complimentary - the offenders (sorry, the victims?) designated "experts in the law." Just a lot of warmhearted Mr. Micawbers, perhaps future magistrates!

The intent is to distort reality. There is no reason to use “person on parole" rather than "parolee", or “formerly incarcerated person” rather than "felon". To paraphrase Churchill, short words are better.

The petty bureaucrats who propose this sort of nonsense, however, probably view the convoluted language as more sophisticated, and status enhancing for them.

Of course, it also makes it just that bit more difficult for the poorly educated and those with limited command of English to understand what's going on, but that's not really the point in San Francisco is it?

"“We don’t want people to be forever labeled for the worst things that they have done,” Supervisor Matt Haney said." Too bad Charles Manson died before he would become better known for his musical talents.

Orwell's essay "Politics and the English Language" could be rewritten profitably to include some of the ugly, false, and/or useless locutions that have accumulated and have been foisted uncritically on both sides of all warming ponds since Orwell's essay appeared. (By Orwell's reckoning [c. 1950], e. g.: "The word 'Fascism' has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies 'something not desirable'.")

Meanwhile, poets and writers of English prose can hew all the more to Orwell's sage advice to become well-acquainted with native Anglo-Saxon diction: the glossary I compiled numbers almost eleven hundred words.

the euphemistic sanitization of language is more important in SF than the sanitization of the streets

Why? What problem is this intended to solve?

These changes in the language,

And how we address each other,

Are designed to

Make America Great Again!

We will have fewer parolees, felons, convicts, addicts and juvenile delinquents under this Administration than

Under Obama.

forget Nirvana.. we have Newspeak

Big Brother is smiling... if you can't get rid of the idea, change the language...

Newspapers are already doing all this. Criminals are now merely people who have become "entangled in the justice system" -- as if it was a purely random occurrence like tripping over a curb

New terms that attempt to change social attitudes don't change much. Eventually the new term will become imbued with what the language users feel about the class of persons. Then the new term will be seen as the problem. They only help if we change how the society feels about that class of persons. What are we doing about that, besides changing the dictionary?

Drives me nuts when I hear the media report on an "Officer involved shooting" rather than just say "A cop shot someone"

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