Are you ‘brown bagging it?’ City warns you to watch your mouth

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SEATTLE — Do you often refer to the people of Seattle as “citizens” or your sack lunch as a “brown bag” affair?

Well, watch that harsh language, bub. You don’t want to insult anybody.

Elliot Bronstein of Seattle’s Office of Civil Rights recently sent an email to public information officers who work for the City of Seattle discouraging the terms “brown bag” and “citizen” from being used in informational releases.

According to Bronstein,  the term “brown bag” originally referred to a person’s skin color, and if they were light enough to be allowed admission to an event. The term citizen, Bronstein said in his email sent months ago, is often used as an incorrect synonym for “members of the public.” However, not all members of the public are necessarily citizens, he said.

“Language matters,” Bronstein said in the email. “And the city has entrusted us with the keyboards.”

Bronstein recommended the terms “sack lunch” and “residents” as appropriate replacement phrases. The email was not extended to all city employees, but just public information officers.

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18 comments

  • Dave

    For Australians and those from the U.K. a "sack lunch" is not one you would like to attend. Sack is a verb meaning to get fired!

  • Guest

    Grow some skin people… I only wish that we could drop political correctness and just be right some times…. And if you don't like it go crawl in a hole somewhere and hide from the world…

  • Curtis Woodard

    To even take such a letter seriously is absurd. Yes it's true, words do have meaning. And brown means the color of the bag. Trying to make some racial connotation out of that is a stretch of the imagination. Further, the word 'citizen' means a resident of a city, and is properly used when referring to the people of Seattle.

    I guess the recession has taken it's toll on the Civil Rights business, and they are looking for anything at which to grasp.

  • D.B.Evans

    I have no problem with replacing "citizens" with "residents".

    But for "brown bag", this seems absurd. Just as "Brown bear" is a descriptive color of a bear, a "brown bag" is a descriptive color of a paper bag. I've been searching, and can't locate anything linking a historical use of the term to skin color. The only actual negative associations I can locate that are documented for the term "brown bag" are in references to alcoholism (ie: using a brown paper bag to hide a bottle or can of alcohol) .

  • David

    This moron needs to pack up his brown bag and vacate his office. Maybe if he were to talk to real citizens of Seattle, he would find out no one but him find the terms offensive.

    I am sure Mayor McShwinn will try to make an issue out of this though. His numbers are already free falling.

  • Clark

    I suffer from a severe disability and look sorta like the "Hunchback of Notre Dame" I have been the subject of insults most of my life I learned to make a joke out of it and let it go, then sometimes feel sorry for the person over how they must truly feel about themselves, or that they are of very limited intelligence.
    When you have to put someone down for their age, race, sex, skin color, disability, sexual orientation, it only shows how Insecure you are.

  • LORI

    OMG give him some work to do or fire his ass- typical city employee wasting our money on something that does not matter in the least—- So happy that I live on the other side of the mountains where they really know how to work!! This was even on FOX news—– the City of Seattle should be embarrassed!!

  • Guest

    This guy appears to be so stupid and without real job responsibilities to fulfill that maybe he should be Mayor of Seattle.
    He certainly has all the qualifications for the job that the voters would clamor for.

  • Clark

    After looking at a picture of this guy …. I understand why I could see totally thought his skin, he looks like he someone who is offended by everything. I bet he was picked on in school and now looks for jobs where he can be the bully. All I can really say is get a life and worry about stuff that really matters not what people call their sack lunch. You are an idiot brown bagging it has been used to describe bringing your owne lunch forever. Quit wasting taxpayers money or better yet go get a real job. … Ok I am done ranting…lol

  • Todd

    I will concede that there are a few, very few, worthwhile people working in the civil rights arena. For the most part though, they are leeches and a drain on society living off of Government handouts and frivolous lawsuits. I wouldn't shed a single tear if they all mysteriously disappeared from the planet.