1. Opinion

Ruth: The CDC's seven dirty words

Published Dec. 18, 2017

Do you suspect the paper-pushers who run the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were channeling their inner George Carlin? You're $@!^&$ right they were!

Years ago, the late comedian delivered a brilliant routine on the seven dirty words you're not allowed to utter in polite company, or on the airwaves, or in a family newspaper. If you've ever spent time on a golf course, you've probably heard them all before you got to the first green.

But what is considered profane has taken on a new twist, as the Washington Post reported, when officials at the CDC, presumably at the direction of their linguistic masters at the Department of Health and Human Services, decreed that henceforth an additional seven naughty words are forthwith banned within the halls of bureaucracy.

And what are these horrible, dreadful, disgusting words? We pause here so you can remove women and children from the room lest they be scandalized.

Here are the seven words that dare not be expressed: "vulnerable," "entitlement," "diversity," "transgender," "fetus," "evidence-based" and (oh, the Lenny Bruce of it all!) "science-based."

Sort of puts a new spin on swearing like a schoolmarm, doesn't it?

Just why an agency charged with doing stuff related to health, which unfortunately requires committing science, would be prohibited from using words and phrases that are an intrinsic part of the medical lexicon isn't entirely clear. But this is an administration that recoils in horror over a term like "climate change" as if it was a line of dialogue from Reservoir Dogs.

The Post suggested the ban was imposed on the CDC as part of the budget process when federal agencies are submitting their requests to the Office of Management and Budget, which wields great sway over how money will be allocated to various departments.

And so, the theory goes, if some bean-counter at the OMB were to read a budget line item from the CDC requesting funding to continue research into, say, how the opioid crisis afflicts "vulnerable" people, the money might vanish since the Trump administration has little use for folks who succumb to weakness.

The problem is particularly acute since the CDC is deeply involved in studies into HIV transmission among transgender people as well as birth defects found in developing fetuses caused by the Zika virus. What is the CDC to do? Start referring to the transgender as "those people," or fetuses as the "pre-pacifer" community?

Ever helpful, CDC officials offered some guidance to its scientists on how to get around the mandated seven icky words and terms. For example, instead of using "science-based" or "evidence-based," CDC employees could explain an agency policy is based "on science in consideration with community standards and wishes."

And thus, in this administration at least, "diversity" could be construed as what's left over after you eliminate everyone who is black, Hispanic, Muslim, gay, lesbian, a climate change believer, an evolutionist, poor, a public school student and a resident of a blue state.

In a sense, the CDC ban on workplace vocabulary has opened up a new, fertile field for creative cursing.

Miss a 3-foot putt to lose a $5 bet? "Why you no-good, dirty, rotten 'entitlement!'?"

Or how about, "Hey you miserable children! Get off of my 'evidence-based' lawn!"

The Bucs lose yet another game and you make your way to the car muttering, "Transgender!" Oh, you potty-mouth, you.

When the tenants upstairs start playing Led Zeppelin at 3 in the morning, will you feel emboldened to threaten to "beat the living 'diversity'?" out of them?

And if you want to expose your good-for-nothing brother-in-law for the ne'er-do-well that he is, you could sneer at him that he is a pathetic waste of "science-based climate change." Think of this as a two-for-one insult.

What is truly remarkable about the CDC censorship is that it was the (to put it loosely) brainchild of supposed adults who are charged with overseeing the health of the country who prevented scientists from speaking in scientific terms.

It's almost as if a massive federal bureaucracy has been taken over by Monty Python's knights who say "Ni!"


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