Insensitive Idioms

In 2018, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) published a list of animal friendly idioms as an attempt to rid the English language of discriminatory or aggressive language.

While no harm was done with said attempt, they did open a really overdue conversation: replacing insensitive idioms.

The English language, like any language, has it’s fair share of seriously unfortunate phrases. All of the terms/phrases listed are ignorant. They are offensive. This is not a complete list. The terms are categorized by whom they are ignorant against. I have decided to do so as a means of understanding where the terms come from, what they mean, who they offend & how to replace them.

Native Peoples Community

  • Indian Summer
  • Can Do
  • Long Time No See
  • Indian Giver
  • Powwow
  • Headdresses, costume
  • Squaw
  • Tipis
  • Washington Redskins
  • Sage wands
  • Spirit Animal / Name
  • War paint
  • Peace Pipe
  • Vision Quests
  • Tribe
  • Pocahontas
  • Peyote, recreationally

Romani Community

  • Gypsy
  • Jipped

Black Community

  • Sold down the river
  • Thug
  • Grandfather clause
  • Shuck & jive
  • The peanut gallery
  • Uppity
  • Blackmail
  • Black market
  • Black listed

Disability Community

  • Spaz/Moron/Geek
  • Disabled
  • Retarded
  • You’re an inspiration
  • Be normal
  • You don’t look disabled
  • That’s not a real disability
  • Others’ problems are worse
  • Don’t be a burden
  • You’ll never be able to…
  • You can do…?
  • Is there a cure?

LGBTQIA+ Community

  • That’s gay
  • No homo
  • Queer/Gay, as insult
  • Faggot/Fag/Lezzo/Dyke
  • Hipstersexual
  • Tranny
  • Transvestite
  • HeShe/shemale
  • Hermaphrodite

Low Income / Working Class

  • Welfare queen
  • No/Low class
  • Trashy
  • That’s ghetto
  • You need college
  • That’s not a real job
  • Work harder
  • No pain, no gain

The English language is in bed with [prejudice], even though most of us are usually unaware of that fact...Words can injure, even if the wound isn’t immediately evident” (source).

These ignorant phrases have established their own commonplace status in the English language & are protected solely by the institutionalized discrimination we allow the fester. Letting any form of discrimination to exist unchallenged is why so many people feel (& are) marginalized. It sometimes seems like that everyone is part of some minority. So, how powerful could this oppresive majority be? Very. As a person with privilege, I have to be a vocal ally for those I love & don’t have such privilege.

Your cannot simply remove insensitive language, it has to be replaced, or some people will continue to use what they know. All of the terms listed can be replaced easily with the slightest effort.


War Paint ➡️ Face Paint

Thug ➡️ Person of Interest

Be normal ➡️ Be yourself

That’s gay ➡️ That’s stupid

Ghetto ➡️ Dilapidated