Is The Term Brainstorming Offensive?

Is Brainstorming an offensive term

  • Yes

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  • No

    Votes: 80 97.6%
  • Bit of both

    Votes: 2 2.4%

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Anders

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Heard a brilliant story from my dad the other day. He was at work with a group of guys from his department "brainstorming" on a whiteboard, when he was pulled to one side by an HR guy and told that he is not allowed to use the term "brainstorm" anymore, and must use "idea showers" instead. The reason? It’s offensive to people with epilepsy...

He actually phoned me up to ask me about this and if I found it offensive, I just laughed. I would never have made the connection between brainstorm and epilepsy if someone hadn't pointed it out to me, and if anything I found it offensive that he insists on changing a recognised term in business and singling out someone like me as the reason everyone else has to change the terminology they use.

anyway, I just wanted to get other people’s opinions on if this is actually offensive, or if there are any other terms they’ve come across that are offensive, or ones that people seem to think are?
 

CathyAnn31

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Weird! Not offensive to me at all. I grew up with the term.
 

Loopy Lou

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Lol that reminds me... the day after I was officially diagnosed I was on training for work, can't remember what for. The course tutor asked us for ideas for a brainstorm to which of course someone piped up "you can't say that, its offensive to epileptics!". I love how my friend and colleague then said to me "well, I know you're new to this, but is it offensive?" :p

I've never seen anything offensive in that term, myself.
 

Cint

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Brainstorming to me is when people get great ideas together and share them with others. I've had lots of seizures over the years and don't find "brainstorming" to be offensive. Who in the world ever came up with that idea? I find the word "epileptic" to be offensive.
 

CQ:)

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Brainstorming to me is when people get great ideas together and share them with others. I've had lots of seizures over the years and don't find "brainstorming" to be offensive. Who in the world ever came up with that idea? I find the word "epileptic" to be offensive.
:agree:

I don't find the term brainstorming offensive at all.

I also would've thought calling someone with epilepsy an 'epileptic' or saying they're having a 'fit' instead of seizure is more offensive.
 

CathyAnn31

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I never would have thought the term epileptic would be offensive. Is diabetic offensive to people with diabetes? I'll be more careful now.

I still am not fond of tonic clonic. Makes me think of an alcoholic drink.
 

CQ:)

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I guess terms like epileptic or diabetic can be offensive to some people & not to others.

I used to volunteer in the office at a place which did activities with people with disabilities & took them on trips & holidays.
I still remember my boss at this particular place telling me that he didn't think it was right to call people disabled & it was better to refer them as people with disabilities. He said that if you called a person disabled some people may assume disabled means you are in a wheelchair, whereas there are a variety of different disabilities (eg - a lot of the participants had intellectual disabilities or Acquired Brain Injuries).

This same boss had diabetes & he said he would much rather say that he was someone with diabetes instead of saying he was a diabetic.
 
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Cint

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I never would have thought the term epileptic would be offensive. Is diabetic offensive to people with diabetes? I'll be more careful now.
Well, I also have diabetes along with epilepsy and like CQ stated, I would rather be called a person with diabetes, not a diabetic. I don't like labels attached to me. I AM a person who has several different disorders: a brain disorder and a metabolic disorder. Type 1 diabetes used to be called juvenile diabetes.
 

Cint

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I still am not fond of tonic clonic. Makes me think of an alcoholic drink.
Tonic-clonic seizure:

This type is what most people think of when they hear the word "seizure." An older term for them is "grand mal." As implied by the name, they combine the characteristics of tonic seizures and clonic seizures. The tonic phase comes first: All the muscles stiffen. Air being forced past the vocal cords causes a cry or groan. The person loses consciousness and falls to the floor. The tongue or cheek may be bitten, so bloody saliva may come from the mouth. The person may turn a bit blue in the face. After the tonic phase comes the clonic phase: The arms and usually the legs begin to jerk rapidly and rhythmically, bending and relaxing at the elbows, hips, and knees. After a few minutes, the jerking slows and stops. Bladder or bowel control sometimes is lost as the body relaxes. Consciousness returns slowly, and the person may be drowsy, confused, agitated, or depressed.
Tonic definition:
marked by continued muscular tension:
a tonic spasm.
Clonic definition: (from the word clonus)
pertaining to increased reflex activity, as in upper motor neuron lesions when repetitive muscular contractions and relaxations in rapid succession.
 

Dutch mom

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Not at all. Brainstorming is an accepted word and technique for exploring and developing ideas, alone or in a team.
Even in other languages like in Dutch we use the words brainstorming and mindmapping, these foreign loan words are in the Dutch dictionary, there are no Dutch equivalents.
Storm in the brain is an anology used for epilepsy.
There is nothing offensive about brainstorming, IMO the association with epilepsy is farfetched
 
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CathyAnn31

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Cint-

I'm full aware of the definition of tonic clonic. It still doesn't change how I feel or associate the word any more then how you feel about the term epileptic. Thanks for trying to educate tho.

And yep, last I checked, we were people. We are all persons. ;-)
 

Rag

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I've heard this idea a few times before and it sounded ridiculous then. I think it's nothing more or less than a misguided cultural meme - something that people by saying repeatedly to each other have perpetuated, and filled with a life of its own that bears no relation to reality. I get the impression that it was invented, somewhere, by someone, because it seemed plausible (or just because they wanted to find something to be offended about, probably on someone else's behalf rather than their own). It continues to be perpetuated because most people don't have epilepsy themselves, therefore tend to take on trust the assertion that since epilepsy IS essentially a storm in the brain, brainstorm is a word that can refer to it. Thus, the presumption goes, it would be reasonable for people who had epilepsy to feel think that their condition was being made light of, and so feel offended by the word being used in another context.

This belief is undermined, however, by the simple fact that "brainstorm" simply isn't used to refer to seizures, by anyone, and so far as I know never has been. The only time I have ever heard of the word "brainstorm" being in any way associated with seizures is in the context of this particular myth, which I think says it all. "Brainstorm" has a clear meaning already, which epilepsy sufferers are just as aware of as anyone else, and know it has nothing to do with them - so why in the world WOULD anyone feel offended by it?

Personally, I find the only insulting thing here to be the implication that Epilepsy sufferers do not share everyone else's understanding of the English language, or alternatively are so paranoid and defensive that they have nothing better to do than go round getting upset at things that are not directed at them. Now that is rude, albeit probably due to ignorance more than an intent to patronise. Maybe if it bothers your dad's HR manager so much he needs to find out what actual epilepsy sufferers think, instead of assuming he has the right to speak for them.

Since the subject came up in this thread, I thought I'd address the use of "Epileptic", "Diabetic" etc to refer to people with those conditions. I'm actually opposed to these terms because of what they imply. They tend not usually to be used as an adjective but in their noun form, with the unfortunate effect not of explaining, but defining the person.

There's a big difference between saying "Sam sufferers from epilepsy" and "Sam IS an Epileptic". In the latter case epilepsy, which is simply an illness Sam suffers from, has become elevated to the defining feature of Sam's existence, and reduces him from an individual human being who happens to have a sickness to a generalisation of sickness that happens to have a human form. This linguistic sleight of hand by which an adjective that describes a little of someone is transformed into a noun that is taken as representative of the whole of them (which incidentally is known as synecdoche, if you happen to be interested) always tends to dehumanise and devalue the individual towards whom it's directed.

Just to be clear, "Epileptic," "Diabetic", "Paraplegic", etc are perfectly valid as straight adjectives. It's perfectly reasonable to speak of an Epileptic Seizure, or a Diabetic Coma. I just think they communicate a subtle disrespect when they sneakily assume their noun forms, and this usage should be avoided if possible.
 

Anders

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Glad to see its pretty unanimous that theres nothing offensive about the term brainstorming, and although being called epileptic has never offended me and I didn't even think about it at the time, I can easily see how it is offensive as are the other synecdoches (thanks for the new word Rag ;) ) and will definatley discourage their use.

On a side note, I found an artical from the telegraph about brainstorming being banned by the tunbridge wells council, its a few years old, but made me laugh at the lengths this psuedo political correctness goes to.
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council in Kent was accused of taking political correctness to extremes after instructing staff to make the change.
The move came as council chiefs feared the word brainstorming might offend mentally ill people and those with epilepsy.
The buzz term is often used by executives to generate ideas among their staff.
But memos have been sent to staff asking them not to use it and some have been given training which encouraged them to use the alternative of thought showers.
Even charities representing epileptics said the ban was taking political correctness too far.
Margaret Thomas, of the National Society for Epilepsy, said: "Brainstorming is a clear and descriptive phrase.
"Alternatives such as thought shower or blue-sky thinking are ambiguous to say the least.
"Any implication that the word brainstorming is offensive to epileptics takes political correctness too far."
Richard Colwill, of mental health charity SANE, said: "This ban goes too far. Few would be genuinely offended by the word brainstorming in the context of council meetings."
A spokesman for Tunbridge Wells Borough Council in Kent said: "We take diversity awareness very seriously.
"The majority of staff have taken part in training and been asked to use the term thought showers."

telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/2162568/Council-bans-brainstorming.html

The fact that someone has actually been forced to undergo training to not use the term made me laugh, until I thought about it and realised this is paid for out of my taxes :(
 

DayDreamer

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I do find the word brainstorm/ing offensive in or on the this thread, nor have I in my memory.
I can imagine most any neutral or otherwise lovely words being offensive when used with sarcasm, the wrong tone or with an offensive facial expresion.

People may not like the word brainstorm being used as a metophor for seizure, similar to a neuron acting with the electrical discharge as lightning.

Language and its evolution is a weird thing. So many terms that are no longer accetable mean exactly the same thing that acceptalbe terms today do, they just do not yet have the acquired bad baggage they soon will.
 

Cint

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This belief is undermined, however, by the simple fact that "brainstorm" simply isn't used to refer to seizures, by anyone, and so far as I know never has been. The only time I have ever heard of the word "brainstorm" being in any way associated with seizures is in the context of this particular myth, which I think says it all. "Brainstorm" has a clear meaning already, which epilepsy sufferers are just as aware of as anyone else, and know it has nothing to do with them - so why in the world WOULD anyone feel offended by it?
There are books written by neurologists & patients with epilepsy with the word "Brainstorms" in the title.

Just a few:
http://astore.amazon.com/projectmana0a-20/detail/0881679984

http://astore.amazon.com/projectmana0a-20/detail/0781702305

http://astore.amazon.com/projectmana0a-20/detail/0781732689

Just to be clear, "Epileptic," "Diabetic", "Paraplegic", etc are perfectly valid as straight adjectives. It's perfectly reasonable to speak of an Epileptic Seizure, or a Diabetic Coma. I just think they communicate a subtle disrespect when they sneakily assume their noun forms, and this usage should be avoided if possible.
:agree:
 

Cint

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Cint-

Thanks for trying to educate tho.

And yep, last I checked, we were people. We are all persons. ;-)
Your welcome. Yes, we are all people, some with more problems than others, therefore we've learned to tolerate the insensitive. ;)
 
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Terminology

What is offensive can change over time, and it can be difficult to know what is correct: what is offensive to one person can be fine with another. The idea that calling someone "diabetic", "disabled" or "epilleptic" is offensive, is the idea that you are "objectifying" the person. In other words, you are identifying them AS the disease/impairment instead of as a person WITH the disease/disorder/impairment. While I concede the point, I find it is splitting hairs. Changing the terminology doesn't really change the perception, it only makes the speaker more self-concious and in my opnion widens the divide between "us" and "them". I have multiple disabilities, some visible and some not. It is ridiculous for me to get offended because someone says I'm disabled. It's true and while it doesn't define me as a person it does certainly affect my life in sometimes profound ways. No, I have to change that: I cannot seperate my disabilities from who I am today. They HAVE shaped who I am. So is it really wrong to define me as disabled? I guess it depends on the context and I guess it would be more accurate to say that I am not JUST disabled, but am an individual with disabilities--which is the point behind changing the terminology. Still, would I be or should I be offended? No. I think this whole thing can just get ridiculous. On the other hand, calling someone handicapped is more problematic: A perfectly "normal" person can be handicapped by something (such as poverty) but not disabled, while a "disabled" person can live life unhandicapped by their disability depending on how well they've adapted to the life they are living. For example, many deaf people do not consider themselves disabled, and in deaf society they are not. (There is a huge debate surrounding this whole issue today). I would definitly be offended if someone said I was "crippled", but then again if it was said by a very elderly person I wouldn't allow myself to be offended as it was a perfectly accepted term in their day. It is not my job to educate every person out there. Sometimes I will if the occasion is appropriate--for example, the person is young or meaning to be offensive, but sometimes you just have to let it go.
 
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As far as "Brainstorming"

As far as the use of the term "brainstorm" goes, it has NEVER been associated with epilepsy and it's ridiculous to use the term "thought showers" instead. That is much more offensive in my opinion. Who came up with that stupid alternative? Brainstorm is a perfectly legitimate term and should continue to be used as it has always been used.

Maybe epileptics as a group should send these people a letter?
 

CathyAnn31

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This is a very enlightening thread. I'm enjoying hearing everyone's perspective. :)
 

knothing

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Glad they don't call a surge protector an electric surge protector..... I might get offended or try plugging one into my ears.
Brainstorming is only offensive when the room it is being done in has just enough clouds for a sprinkle.
As for having Epilepsy or being an epileptic. You can say either but I would prefer not to say I am 'suffering from Epilepsy'. And yes tonic-clonic sounds like drink to me.
 
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