I just got chapter 6 of Exchange 2013 Inside Out: Clients, Connectivity, and Unified Messaging back from Microsoft Press. Like most other major publishers, Microsoft Press has a strict process to try to catch potentially offensive, libelous, slanderous, or sensitive terms before they appear in print. In this particular chapter, the editors requested many changes because of the odd vocabulary associated with message hygiene. For example, it’s OK to say “spam” to mean “an unwanted commercial e-mail message,” but it’s not OK to say “ham” to mean “a legitimate or desired commercial e-mail message” because in some book markets, ham is either unheard of or regarded as offensive.
However, they also busted me for using “blacklist,” as in “real-time blacklist.” This is the accepted term of art for a DNS-based system that allows an e-mail server to look up IP addresses of senders in real time to decide if they appear on a list of known or suspected spammers. Apparently “blacklist” is an offensive word in some contexts, although I’m having a hard time figuring out where or why.
Imagine my surprise when I fired up my Xbox tonight and saw this:
Now, to be clear, I get it– Microsoft Press is not the same as IEB, Microsoft’s behemoth of a business unit. I’m sure they have different rules or something. And my editor, bless her heart, is only enforcing the rules forced on her by some clique of zampolits…but seriously?! Xbox LIVE has tens of millions of worldwide customers who are seeing this forbidden word. On the other hand, my book, if I am very lucky, may sell as many as 25,000 copies (that would make it a runaway hit by computer book standards), and yet I can’t use a well-known and commonly accepted term in context.
3 responses to “Blacklist blacklist blacklist: the forbidden word”
Well that’s just silly.
Indeed it is. Like I said, I know why MS Press has to do this kind of thing; there are many local laws, regulations, and customs that make international publishing a thicket of potential civil and criminal liability. But still.
I think it’s strange how people have moved toward vilifying words when it’s ideas and meaning that can be used to harm. Context is important. Blacklist is not a bad word; perhaps people can find a way to use it maliciously, but the word itself is not bad, and in the context of your book is surely isn’t bad, either. It’s only when we all agree to hate a word that we give it any kind of negative power, and then we’re only doing so for the sake of doing so.