language ‘content’

From the NYT yesterday, a story by Michael S. Schmidt and Charlie Savage, headlined:

Language Deemed Offensive Is Removed From F.B.I. Training Materials

No, not swearing or racial/ethnic slurs. Not any kind of rewording. Not actually language, in fact, but content; language comes into the matter only because content is conveyed via language.

The core of the story:

WASHINGTON — Training material used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation said agents had the “ability to bend or suspend the law and impinge on freedoms of others,” but that language has now been removed, according to a briefing the bureau recently provided to Congress.

… Also removed was the admonition that agents should never stare at or shake hands with an Asian, and the assertion that Arabs had “Jekyll and Hyde” personalities making them more likely to have “outbursts and loss of control” than even-keeled Westerners.

It’s not that the language was offensive, but that advice was being given that should not have (regardless of how the advice was formulated).

This is a use of language related to the one in

The text needs some language in the middle about the project schedule.

— meaning that the text needs to talk about the project schedule, so someone needs to put this content into words.

The headline made me expect some juicy scandal about FBI-talk, but instead the story’s about FBI-think. Still newsworthy, but not particularly relevant to linguistics.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: