If you’re at Brandeis University and want to tell someone they’re “killing it” or to follow a “rule of thumb,” you better bite your tongue.

The phrases, among many others, are considered violent according to a recently expanded “suggested language list” put together by the Prevention, Advocacy and Resource Center at the Waltham university.

Instead of “killing it,” the group recommends saying “great job” because, “If someone is doing well, there are other ways to say so without equating it to murder.”

The phrase “rule of thumb” should be replaced with “general rule,” because the saying allegedly comes from an old British law allowing men to beat their wives with sticks no wider than their thumb.

But even Brandeis concedes that “no written record of this law exists today.”

The Prevention, Advocacy and Resource Center serves members of the Brandeis community who have been impacted by violence, according to the center’s website.

The suggested language list is described as a compilation of alternatives to words and phrases with “roots, histories, and/or current usage that can serve to reinforce systems of oppression.”

The list is always growing, according to the PARC, which even corrected itself recently. The suggested language list was changed this month from its original name of “oppressive language list.”

“We did this in an attempt to center the suggested alternatives rather than the words and phrases that may cause harm,” read a footnote on the PARC website.

Even a “trigger warning” can be too triggering for some, according to the list of more than 50 words and phrases.

Trigger warning “can signify that something is imminent or guaranteed to happen, which may cause additional stress about the content to be covered,” so it’s best to just call it a content note.

If you have a white ribbed tank top, call it an “undershirt” instead of a “wife beater,” and instead of saying “you guys” just say “folks” to include all genders, the list suggests.

The list also flags the words “victim” and “survivor” and sayings such as “killing two birds with one stone” or “long time no see.”

A Brandeis spokesman said in a statement, “The list is not a list of prohibited language. Brandeis is firmly committed to principles of free expression. The list is simply a resource that can be accessed by anyone who wants to consider their own language in an effort to be respectful of others who may have different reactions to certain terms and phrases.”

The elite university charges $76,000 a year for tuition plus room and board. The fall semester at Brandeis kicked off this week.


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