No Offense, These Words Used To Be Inoffensive

Times have changed, and words have, too

It's easier than ever to offend because, as a whole, we have become more socially aware of the way words can negatively affect people. That being said, we are all likely to put our foot in our mouth sometimes, because as times change, many words also change in their level of acceptability. Spoiler alert: shoe leather tastes bad.

So, make your mother proud ... steer clear of these words that used to be inoffensive but can now do more harm than good.

housewife

Speaking of moms, they all deserve respect, especially those with the difficult task of staying home and managing the messes the rest of us create. So, avoid the word housewife when referring to a stay-at-home mom. It's out of date (first recorded in 1175!) and out of touch. And, it implies a status lower than a spouse working out of the home.

Remember, stay-at-home moms are selflessresponsibleand altruistic. And, if you're still looking for a term to call them, try just saying, "thank you."

broad

Was this ever a good idea? Definitely not. The word broad is slang for "woman," (and sometimes "promiscuous woman") and was popular from the 1910s until the early 1960s. Then again, so was smoking.

Like smoking, the term broad is outdated and unfashionable, not to mention demeaning. So, do yourself a favor. Remember that a female is also a professional and somebody's daughter, mother, or partner. Also, easily enough, you can call a woman just that. No slang needed.

elderly

Hey, we all age. It's a fact. So, when using the word elderly to refer to somebody getting up there in years, all you're really doing is being cruel. The word was once commonplace (first recorded around 1605) for people of advanced age. However, elderly has come to be frowned upon because it implies an older individual is frail or weak.

Instead, consider treating your grandparents as the mentors they are. The words accomplished, well-versed, or wise come to mind. Also, important to remember: getting old is going to happen to you, too.

dumb

We all have friends who don't make any sense, right? Don't call them dumb, though. This is an old word, a really old word (originated before the year 1000). It was once accepted to mean lacking intelligence or logic. It still does. However, it has also become pejoratively associated with people with disabilities, and picking on disabilities isn't funny.

So, when your friends continue to spout absurd arguments, call them what they are—illogicaland prove them silly using your razor-sharp wit (while simultaneously displaying class, because you knew to steer clear of terms that might hurt others).

fat

Unacceptable on all levels. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when commenting on people's weight was fair game. Thankfully, we've become a more enlightened society since then.

The word fat is another really old word (originated before the year 1000) that should probably stay in the history books. It has the ability to cause shame and ... worse. Never use it when describing others. Instead, try something body positive: pulchritudinous will do.

 

Many of the other oldest words in English are still in everyday practice today.

hot

It's true, we all want to be thought of as attractive. Nowadays, however, referring to an individual as strictly hot dismisses other positive attributes like altruismacumen, or a sense of humorTry to look past the aesthetics.

ethnic

Ethnic food, right? Wrong. The word ethnic (dating back to 1325) was once used to describe a group of people sharing a distinctive culture. Not anymore.

Now, when calling somebody ethnic, you're actually referring to him or her as racially different and, in some way, out of the mainstream. Everyone is the same: blood, guts, and all. Next time, why not just be more specific? He isn't ethnic, he's Chinese-American.

urban

Urban means the city, doesn't it? Well, yes, it does. And, in fact, when talking mundane statistics like population density, the term is still applicable.

On the other hand, when referring to people, urban is a big no-no. The word has come to be known as a reference to Black people living in the inner city ... and not in a good way. Like ethnic, using the term urban highlights the differences between people instead of their similarities. No need for alternate suggestions on this one. Inclusivity for all!

ghetto

Please ... just don't. The word ghetto (dating back to 1605) used to refer to a thickly-populated section of a city where Jews were forced to reside.

Like urban, ghetto is now understood as code for referencing underprivileged people of color. Nothing about coded language is good. It's ignorant and condescending, and since you've read this whole slideshow, we know that you're better than that now!

On the flip side, there are plenty of English words that seem innocuous but come from offensive origins. It might be time to reevaluate using them ...