Comedian George Carlin was most famous for his Seven Words You Can’t Say On Television routine (I won’t repeat them here but you can find them in a Supreme Court case). Now it looks like the Department of Energy might be looking to him for inspiration.
A supervisor at the Energy Department’s international climate office told staff this week not to use the phrases “climate change,” “emissions reduction” or “Paris Agreement” in written memos, briefings or other written communication, sources have told POLITICO.
Employees of DOE’s Office of International Climate and Clean Energy learned of the ban at a meeting Tuesday, the same day President Donald Trump signed an executive order at EPA headquarters to reverse most of former President Barack Obama’s climate regulatory initiatives. Officials at the State Department and in other DOE offices said they had not been given a banned words list, but they had started avoiding climate-related terms in their memos and briefings given the new administration’s direction on climate change.
The office has regular contact with officials from foreign countries, which may have led to the more aggressive action on language than in other offices, a source said. At the meeting, senior officials told staff the words would cause a “visceral reaction” with Energy Secretary Rick Perry, his immediate staff, and the cadre of White House advisers at the top of the department.
If you’ve been in any large organization you’ve seen this in action. There is a change in management and certain words and phrases are proscribed while new ones take their place. For a few years, the Army has been waging a guerrilla war on English by requiring Soldier, Family, and Civilian to be capitalized if they apply to the US Army. When I was a staff officer in the Pentagon we were forbidden to ever describe any Army program or exercise as having “failed.” We literally couldn’t use the word. You could say “achieved suboptimal success” but not “failed.”
While I applaud what they are doing, this kind of thing tends to lend itself to ridicule.