December 16th, 2017

CDC Receives List of Additional Forbidden Words and Phrases

Right on the heels of prohibiting certain words or phrases in the Centers for Disease Control’s budget documents, the President’s Office of Financial Services has issued a second list.

Now, not only must CDC officials avoid using words such as “vulnerable”, “diversity”, “fetus”, “transgender”, and “evidence-based”, they also have to steer clear of several other words or phrases.

These include the following, which were issued along with the stated rationale and, at times, proposals for alternate or cautionary language:

  • “Scientific studies”Please replace with “Dr. Oz says …”
  • “Data”Delete — it is too difficult for us to know whether this word should be singular or plural.
  • “Susceptible”We propose the following wording — “at risk due to weakness in character or upbringing or both.”
  • “Funding”We prefer the term, “market forces”.
  • “Autochthonous transmission” — When cited, please include a note that it may cause blindness and/or hairy palms.
  • “Transparent”Replace with “allows light to pass through so objects can be distinctly seen.”

Certain other words — including “balanced”, “cautionary”, “inclusive”, “thoughtful”, “measured”, and “kumquat” — are also on the forbidden list, without any explanation.

CDC officials have yet to respond to these requests publically, but several have noted off the record that this is the first time they have received comments from the President’s office hand-written in crayon.

Disclaimer:  In case kumquat jokes aren’t your thing, this is satire.

9 Responses to “CDC Receives List of Additional Forbidden Words and Phrases”

  1. Denis B. Hart MD says:

    Sadly, the near future may show that the above is less sarcastic than intended.

  2. Peter Berman says:

    How can we fight this? The absurdity of this is beyond words

  3. omar sued says:

    You are not alone
    Argentina is following the same promising path.
    We could be able to change words like:

    -Young people friend of people in the government (or relatives) changed to “young promising entrepreneur who qualify for a entrepreneur grant”

    -High focused basic researcher changed to “people who continue scoring at the edge and is not doing something disruptive” http://www.lanacion.com.ar/2091133-lino-baranao-si-queremos-destacarnos-en-ciencia-tenemos-que-apostar-a-la-originalidad

    -Retired people: now are the terrorist that are destroying the Congress streets and squares to avoid to help the country to reduce the deficit> http://www.eldestapeweb.com/jubilados-y-trabajadores-explotaron-bronca-diputados-la-reforma-previsional-n36997

    We promise will keep trying to emulate Trump Administration Global Leadership

  4. Loretta S says:

    Your parody is spot-on, Paul. But I am having a tough time laughing about any of this. (OK, the kumquat line did make me chuckle.) “Horrified” is the only word that can adequately describe my reaction when I read the story a couple of days ago. I emailed the link to several people, with the subject line “1984 is here”.

    This must put CDC scientists in a terrible bind: Comply, even though it violates all their training and knowledge of public health. But they get to keep their jobs and hope they can somehow get through the next 3 years. Or refuse to comply, lose their jobs and be replaced by someone more compliant and probably a whole lot less smart and/or educated.

    In the words of John Lennon, strange days indeed.

  5. Mimi Breed says:

    other words and acronyms to avoid:
    -science
    -ignorance
    -illness
    -transmissible
    -sex and its forms such as sexually, sexual
    -HIV

    e.g., just shut down the NIH and all the universities, pull a blanket over the head, hear not, speak not, see not.

  6. Sanford Kimmel says:

    The first amendment protects “Freedom of Speech” but apparently the gun-toting members of the right wing who always cite the second amendment like to forget about the first amendment. Shades of “1984”

  7. Dorabella says:

    I will bankroll, and then affix in my driveway on a pedestal, a twice life-size bronze statue of the first Republican to stand up to Trump. Greed is autochthonously transmissed, it seems.

  8. Maryellen says:

    The depressing pronouncements out of this badministration are becoming the norm. At our HD are working very hard to educate providers and provide outreach to communities at highest risk for syphilis. We are most worried about congenital syphilis, since we had five cases in our community this year. So we tossed around a few replacement words for ‘fetus’–“‘li’l guy” was an option. We manage to keep our sense of humor, like anyone who is passionate about public health, but it’s not as easy as it used to be as things are increasingly and alarmingly grim for poor people.

    note to Dr. Sax: no need to print this–honestly. maybe people would not appreciate even light joking when it comes to CS. I really appreciate your column and it is a highlight for our entire STD team. mostly wanted to say thanks for providing your column with its great HIV and STD info and the wonderful humor. it helps, it really does.

  9. Maria says:

    I agree with Loretta that the only word to describe this is “horrifying.” Although, I can’t help but add “depressing.” The censoring of science is a sure path to the destruction of the role of the United States as a leader and the demoralization of higher education, which is the future of the country.

Leave a Reply

Note: This is a moderated forum. By clicking on the "Submit Comment" button below, you agree to abide by the NEJM Journal Watch Terms of Use.

Our physician bloggers cannot respond to requests for personal medical advice, and recommend patients discuss health issues with their individual physicians.

HIV Information: Author Paul Sax, M.D.

Paul E. Sax, MD

Contributing Editor

NEJM Journal Watch
Infectious Diseases

Biography | Disclosures | Summaries

Learn more about HIV and ID Observations.