Everyone understands the weight that certain words can carry. Think of all the incendiary, derisive and offensive slurs that you can, and just try to keep your cool while repeating “sticks and stones may break my bones …”
With that in mind, I’m thankful that there are some laws in place to forbid terms of discrimination and protect our rights and civil liberties.
One such well-intentioned law was the Fair Housing Act of 1968 that prohibits discrimination in the sale and rental of residences based on race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, familial status and disability. But recently enforcers of this law have produced violators from unlikely places: adjectives in real estate listings.
I found this story in the New York Post—‘Dirty’ Words in Ads—that talks about the extremes that Real Estate brokerages are taking to avoid discrimination, and more accurately, the lawsuits that would follow. New York-based The Corcoran Group recently issued a memo prohibiting more than 200 potentially “offensive” words from appearing in real estate listings, including:
With a case against each seemingly innocuous phrase (the term “exclusive” may be interpreted as meaning racially exclusive; terms such as “bachelor pad,” may discriminate against couples; and the terms “couples” and “family-friendly,” may offend singles), it’s hard to believe any word is safe anymore.
Can you say family room? Or what about TV room?—that might discriminate against people who can’t afford to buy a TV …
Since when did we become afraid of the power of our words and how people react to them? Think of the biting, critical language on the editorial page—but parts of speech in the Property section generate investigations from the ACLU? How have people become so sensitive to our language that they’re deriving meaning and opinions out of simple words in real estate advertisements?
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But please… keep it clean.