Thursday, March 13, 2014


Get the bonfire ready!
Until yesterday, I had no idea that the word "bossy" was so foul that there was currently a movement out to ban its use. In fact, I don't think I've heard anyone use the word in about 40 years.

According to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, "When a little boy asserts himself, he's called a 'leader'. Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded 'bossy'." While she has a point, there's an irony in Ms. Sandberg -- a best-selling author -- encouraging the banning of words.

Ms. Sandberg's movement didn't really take off until this week, when Beyonce jumped aboard the "Ban Bossy" train. The words "strong" and "self-confident" are often used to describe Beyonce; "bossy," on the other hand, would be considered by her friends as completely out of line.

However, there are other words associated with Beyonce that could be banned "Singer," for one, since she's an unabashed lip-syncher, whether it's at President Obama's inaugural, the Grammy Awards or full-blown concerts. (This video is an excellent place to start, even if the person who posted it blames Beyonce's unborn child.) "Composer" is another word that Beyonce might want to reconsider, as this piece relates. And while we're at it, the New York Times believes "Choreographer" might be stretching things, too, as you can see here. But bossy? Never!

I'm not a believer in banning words because you never know where it's going to end. First they came for "bossy" and I said nothing. Then they came for "moron" and I said nothing. Finally they came for "wiseass," and there's was no one left to speak for me.

Now banning certain phrases from the news -- that's different. Since the Russian invasion of Crimea, "saber-rattling" has been getting way too much airplay. I don't think sabers have been rattled since the Franco-Prussian War. And unless you're doing a piece about plastic surgery, can we please put a stop to lazy reporters intoning "eyebrows were raised"? Not only is it a cliche, it sounds like the eyebrows were raised by somebody else, maybe with fishhooks. 

I'd have changed my name, too, if I had
written the most boring novel in

Too, let's give parents a little leeway in choosing what words their kids are exposed to. My wife and I, for instance, have allowed our daughter to read countless words that have been banned by libraries and schools across America, like The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, 1984, The Lord of the Flies, To Kill a Mockingbird and, currently, A Clockwork Orange.

Our kid has turned out OK -- strong, smart, confident. In high school, I was forced to read Silas Marner, Siddhartha and something or other by Jane Austen. Look how I turned out.

No, instead of "Ban Bossy," why not "Encourage Strength"? It isn't as punchy -- certainly nowhere near as alliterative -- but it puts a positive spin on the idea without censorship.

Anyway, there are worse things to be called than "bossy." I bet $100 that, in private moments, Ms. Sandberg and all the women on her "Ban Bossy" team have used the word "bitch" to describe women who are equally competitive. You know, the same way powerful men refer to each other "assholes." Frankly, I'd rather be called "bossy."


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