TIME migration

Which Word Should You Use: Refugee or Migrant?

Legally, there is a crucial distinction

(STOCKHOLM) — Day after day, images of soaked and exhausted parents clutching their glassy-eyed children as they arrive on Europe’s shores make their way around the world.

That they are desperate and vulnerable after a harrowing journey across the Mediterranean on rickety rafts or packed ships is beyond doubt. But does that make them refugees from war or oppression, with a right to protection under international law, or are they better described as migrants, a term that usually refers to people simply seeking a better life in another country?

The scenes of human suffering, resilience, hope and rejection playing out in the Mediterranean have sparked an emotional and politically charged debate about what to call the hundreds of thousands of people from Africa and the Middle East who are entering Europe.

Al-Jazeera last week announced that it will stop using the word migrants in its news coverage, saying it doesn’t describe the “horror unfolding in the Mediterranean,” where almost 2,500 people have died this year after leaving Turkey or North Africa on overcrowded boats.

The word “has evolved from its dictionary definitions into a tool that dehumanizes and distances, a blunt pejorative,” Al-Jazeera online editor Barry Malone said. Going forward, Al-Jazeera will instead say refugee “where appropriate.”

The move was applauded by some human rights advocates worried about a hardening of anti-immigrant attitudes in Europe but criticized by others, who said it implies that only refugees, not migrants, are worthy of compassion.

Legally, there is a crucial distinction.

The U.N. refugee agency says it boils down to whether the person is being pushed or pulled: A migrant is someone who seeks better living conditions in another country; a refugee is someone who flees persecution, conflict or war.

Only members of the latter group are likely to be granted asylum in Europe.

By and large, European leaders refer to the Mediterranean situation as a migrant crisis, not a refugee crisis. British Prime Minister David Cameron in July talked about “a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean seeking a better life, wanting to come to Britain because Britain has got jobs, it’s got a growing economy, it’s an incredible place to live.”

His choice of words was widely criticized by human rights advocates as offensive and misleading.

U.N. officials say a vast majority of the 137,000 people who crossed the Mediterranean into Europe in the first half of the year were fleeing war, conflict or persecution in countries including Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea.

“It’s simply inaccurate to talk about Syrian migrants when there’s a war going on in Syria,” said William Spindler, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. “People who flee war deserve sympathy. So by not calling them refugees, you’re depriving them of the sympathy and understanding that the European public has for refugees.”

Still, European officials say using refugees as a blanket term isn’t technically accurate either. Many of the West Africans arriving in Italy, for example, may not be fleeing for their lives but instead be seeking better ones in European countries with much higher standards of living.

“I can sympathize with Al-Jazeera’s approach; I guess what they want to do is put a human face on the situation,” said Fredrik Beijer, legal director of Sweden’s migration authority. “But from our point of view, it’s simple: People who are on the move across the globe but who haven’t yet applied for asylum, to us they are migrants.”

Once a migrant applies for asylum, he or she becomes an asylum-seeker, Beijer said. The agency uses the word refugee only when the claim has been approved and a person receives refugee status.

The Associated Press has no blanket policy governing when to use the terms, but strives to be as specific as possible in describing the circumstances of people included in stories.

The BBC said it judges each story on a case by case basis because “it is not always clear cut whether some migrant groups already have refugee status, are seeking asylum, looking for work, the stage of their journey, or whether they will try to enter a country illegally.”

National Public Radio tries to use “action words rather than labels,” said standards editor Mark Memmott. “But when we felt that a label would help tell the story, the general label of migrant will describe everyone in the group.”

Fusion, an English language TV network that targets Latinos in the U.S., also deals with the issue case-by-case, “just as we do with stories about people seeking to come into the United States,” said Laura Wides-Munoz, director of news practices.

Some experts note that using either term — migrant or refugee — in a blanket manner doesn’t capture the situation of people who don’t fit neatly into either category or who belong in both.

For example, many West Africans moved to Libya for work, but found themselves at the receiving end of violence, threats and extortion by militias, criminals and security forces as the security situation there deteriorated, said Ruben Andersson, an anthropologist at the London School of Economics.

“So how do we refer to people who may have left their country to look for work, but who end up in a country where they cannot go on living because they are facing all kinds of threats and even repression?” he said.

In the end, it’s important not to be blinded by terminology, he said. “We are talking about people. It astounds me how much time we spend on getting the terminology right, which obscures the fact that people are drowning on the borders of Europe.”

TIME language

Oxford Dictionaries Adds ‘Fat-Shame,’ ‘Butthurt’ and ‘Redditor’

Many terms reportedly 'butthurt' after not being included in the latest update

Oxford Dictionaries announced its latest additions on Wednesday, highlighting the things we were talking about in the summer of ’15—like angry Internet commenters, gender identity and what a sweet time of day “beer o’clock” is.

Oxford Dictionaries is the branch of the Oxford family that focuses on modern language—words that people are using now and how they’re using them—which makes their barriers to entry different than the venerable, historical Oxford English Dictionary. Their new words often arise from fresh technology and pop culture and might include Internet slang (like new entry pwnage) that would get laughed out of the OED’s admittance office.

As with every update, the additions reflect who English-speakers are. Sometimes we are microaggressive brain-farters. At other times we are butthurt pocket-dialers. At others still, we are simply hangry fat-shamers or rando Redditors.

Among the lessons about who we are right now: The addition of Mx., a gender-neutral honorific for those who do not want to be referred to as Mr. or Mrs., reflects today’s more thoughtful conversations about gender identity, spurred on by the likes of Caitlyn Jenner. Grexit, a term for referring to the possible exit of Greece from the European Union, points to how global our economy is becoming. And the addition of barbacoa illustrates how much people like Chipotle.

Here is a selection from this latest update, including definitions of all the italicized words above:

awesomesauce (adjective): extremely good; excellent

bants (noun): playfully teasing or mocking remarks exchanged with another person or group; banter

barbacoa (noun): (in Mexican cooking) beef, lamb, or other meat that has slowly been cooked with seasonings, typically shredded as a filling in tacos, burritos, etc.

beer o’clock (noun): an appropriate time of day for starting to drink beer

brain fart (noun): a temporary mental lapse or failure to reason correctly

Brexit (noun): a term for the potential or hypothetical departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union

bruh (noun): a male friend (often used as a form of address)

butt dial (verb): inadvertently call (someone) on a mobile phone in one’s rear trouser pocket

butthurt (adjective): overly or unjustifiably offended or resentful

cakeage (noun): a charge made by a restaurant for serving a cake they have not supplied themselves

cat cafe (noun): a café or similar establishment where people pay to interact with cats housed on the premises

cupcakery (noun): a bakery that specializes in cupcakes

deradicalization (noun): the action or process of causing a person with extreme views to adopt more moderate positions on political or social issues

fast-casual (adjective): denoting or relating to a type of high-quality self-service restaurant offering dishes that are prepared to order and more expensive than those available in a typical fast-food restaurant

fatberg (noun): a very large mass of solid waste in a sewerage system, consisting especially of congealed fat and personal hygiene products that have been flushed down toilets

fat-shame (verb): cause (someone judged to be fat or overweight) to feel humiliated by making mocking or critical comments about their size

fur baby (noun): a person’s dog, cat, or other furry pet animal

glanceable (adjective): denoting or relating to information, especially as displayed on an electronic screen, that can be read or understood very quickly and easily

Grexit (noun): a term for the potential withdrawal of Greece from the eurozone (the economic region formed by those countries in the European Union that use the euro as their national currency)

hangry (adjective): bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger

kayfabe (noun): (in professional wrestling) the fact or convention of presenting staged performances as genuine or authentic

MacGyver (verb): make or repair (an object) in an improvised or inventive way, making use of whatever items are at hand

manic pixie dream girl (noun): (especially in film) a type of female character depicted as vivacious and appealingly quirky, whose main purpose within the narrative is to inspire a greater appreciation for life in a male protagonist

manspreading (noun): the practice whereby a man, especially one travelling on public transport, adopts a sitting position with his legs wide apart, in such a way as to encroach on an adjacent seat or seats

meeple (noun): a small figure used as a playing piece in certain board games, having a stylized human form

mic drop (noun): an instance of deliberately dropping or tossing aside one’s microphone at the end of a performance or speech one considers to have been particularly impressive

microaggression (noun): a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority

mkay (exclamation): non-standard spelling of OK, representing an informal pronunciation (typically used at the end of a statement to invite agreement, approval, or confirmation)

Mx (noun): a title used before a person’s surname or full name by those who wish to avoid specifying their gender or by those who prefer not to identify themselves as male or female

pocket dial (verb): inadvertently call (someone) on a mobile phone in one’s pocket, as a result of pressure being accidentally applied to a button or buttons on the phone

pwnage (noun): (especially in video gaming) the action or fact of utterly defeating an opponent or rival

rando (noun): a person one does now know, especially one regarded as odd, suspicious, or engaging in socially inappropriate behaviour

Redditor (noun): a registered user of the website Reddit

social justice warrior (noun): (derogatory) a person who expresses or promotes socially progressive views

subreddit (noun): a forum dedicated to a specific topic on the website Reddit

swatting (noun): the action or practice of making a hoax call to the emergency services in an attempt to bring about the dispatch of a large number of armed police officers to a particular address

weak sauce (noun): something that is of a poor or disappointing standard or quality

wine o’clock (noun): an appropriate time of day for starting to drink wine

Read next: 15 Words You Need to Eliminate From Your Vocabulary

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TIME language

Why Dropping ‘Anchor Baby’ Is a Problem for Politicians

Dictionary
JGI/Jamie Grill—Getty Images/Blend Images

Language experts share their thoughts on how politicians and dictionaries have treated a heated term

Jeb Bush’s recent references to “anchor babies”—meaning certain children of undocumented immigrants, who are granted American citizenship by virtue of having been born within the nation’s borders—have landed the 2016 candidate in hot water, even after his attempt this week to clarify that was referring to isolated cases of Chinese “birth tourism” rather than to Hispanic immigrants. The outraged response was swift. “No matter which ethnic group you’re referring to, ‘anchor babies’ is a slur that stigmatizes children from birth,” California Rep. Judy Chu said in a press release.

Crucial to Bush’s defense of the term is the idea that it’s simply what you call the phenomenon he’s talking about. “You give me a better term and I’ll use it, I’m serious,” he told reporters. But, in fact, the phrase is a relatively recent coinage and, though it might seem cutesy—the type of thing that Stephen Colbert can use to make puns about children who steal microphones from newscasters on live TV—its history is anything but.

Many people trace the idea’s origins to the 1980s, when the term “anchor people” or “anchor children” was used as an epithet for Vietnamese youth whose families sent them to the U.S., with the hope that they could make money and then sponsor relatives back home for citizenship. (When these kids arrived in shabby vessels in Hong Kong, seeking asylum before traveling across the Pacific, locals called them “boat people.”) However, those early uses were not expressing the same idea that’s up for discussion today: the “anchor children” of that era were relatively older refugees, following in the footsteps of countless young people throughout American history who have set up homes in their new nation before helping their families immigrate.

It was years later that the new model of “anchor baby” started to take off, with a new meaning: infants conceived specifically so that their families could somehow benefit from their birthright citizenship. In the mid-2000s, proponents of strict immigration laws used the phrase to make arguments for keeping the doors closed tighter. Mainstream usage was spread by outlets like Newsmax and Fox News giving a larger platform to those voices, according to research documenting that spread. (The anchor baby’s more extreme cousin is the “terror baby,” the hypothetical kid who is birthed in America to more effectively carry out home-grown terrorism later on.)

The term really took hold in 2011, when the American Heritage dictionary sparked a controversy by adding an update with this definition:

anchor baby, n., A child born to a noncitizen mother in a country that grants automatic citizenship to children born on its soil, especially such a child born to parents seeking to secure eventual citizenship for themselves and often other members of the family.

The dictionary’s editor said on NPR that they had attempted to “objectively” define the phrase. And it’s true that the two words on their own are each innocuous. Being an anchor can even be a compliment. “There’s nothing specifically about the words themselves that makes them offensive,” says linguist Ben Zimmer, executive producer of Vocabulary.com, “but the idea that people are trying to find a devious way to get into the country by having children here basically dehumanizes everyone involved.” Advocates at places like D.C.-based Immigration Policy Center called the dictionary’s entry “poisonous and derogatory” for lacking the “offensive” label that is attached to definitions of taboo words.

In a few days, the definition was updated:

anchor baby, n. Offensive Used as a disparaging term for a child born to a noncitizen mother in a country that grants automatic citizenship to children born on its soil, especially when the child’s birthplace is thought to have been chosen in order to improve the mother’s or other relatives’ chances of securing eventual citizenship.

This about-face stirred debates about who should decide what’s offensive and who shouldn’t. Was an American institution kowtowing to liberals? Or was a dictionary being descriptive about how a word is truly perceived among English-speakers? When Oxford Dictionaries quietly added their definition after that controversy settled, they tagged it with a bright orange offensive label. Those signs are, Oxford editor Katherine Martin says, not chosen by lexicographers making emotional decrees but affixed as guidance for people who want to use the language intelligently.

Often when language gets accused of being offensive, public figures and media shift to more neutral ground, which can lead to some exhausting phrasing. (When the AP banned their journalists from using undocumented immigrant and illegal immigrant, for instance, standards editor Tom Kent suggested to TIME that a more precise description might be “foreigners in the United States in violation of the law.”) Martin says one problem with anchor baby is that there is no natural alternative, overwrought or otherwise—and not for the neutral reason suggested by Bush, whether or not he meant to insult anyone. “There is no neutral term for this because it is a term that is intended to be derogatory,” she says.

One indication of that intention, as the Washington Post‘s Amber Phillips points out, is that the idea it describes doesn’t entirely make sense in practice. As TIME explained in 2011, “the law says the parents of such a child must wait till she is 21 for her to be allowed to sponsor them to live and work legally in the U.S., and research shows that the vast majority of children of illegal immigrants are born years after the mother and father have arrived in the U.S.”

Regardless, the phrase has stuck. And, while debate over its use can actually lead to discussion of important issues like candidates’ positions on birthright citizenship (Bush is for it; Donald Trump, who also uses the term, is against it), that stickiness is just one more reason for conscientious politicians to steer clear of it, says linguist Zimmer. “The difficulty is that those pithy words and phrases are much more memorable and work their way into the public consciousness,” he says. “And once they’re there, they are difficult to dislodge.”

TIME language

The Origins and Legacy of the Idea of the ‘Third World’

CHOU EN-LAI A LA CONFERENCE DE BANDUNG 1955
Gamma-Keystone / Getty Images Zhou En-Lai, chief of the Chinese government, arrives at the Non-Aligned Countries Conference, on April 17, 1955

Historian Jason Parker reflects on a term with a complicated past

This post is in collaboration with The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, which brings together scholars and researchers from around the world to use the Library’s rich collections. The article below was originally published on the Kluge Center blog with the title The Legacy of the Third World Project 60 Years Later.

Sixty years ago, representatives from 29 Asian and African nations gathered in Bandung, Indonesia, for the “Conference of Afro-Asian Peoples,” known more colloquially as the Bandung Conference. The conference discussed economic development, trans-racial unity and uplift among Third World nations in the wake of their emergence from colonial rule. Sixty years later, the term Third World has fallen out of favor, many of the nations that attended Bandung remain economically disadvantaged, and the unifying spirit of Bandung seems a distant memory in the face of conflicts in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Jason Steinhauer sat down with historian Jason Parker, associate professor at Texas A&M University and member of the faculty of the International Seminar on Decolonization, to reflect on Bandung 60 years later.

Hi, Jason. Thanks for joining me. Let’s jump right into it: the term “Third World” was born in the era of the Cold War and decolonization. Does the term still have relevance today?

There are those who find the term “third world” to have pejorative connotations, and in present-day usage many consider it an offensive term. As a historical term, however, it has a different story. As it was being conceived and constituted by actors from around the Global South in that era, they were using the term and speaking in terms of a Third World project. It was a project that attempted to transcend the Cold War and to build solidarity among recently independent nations.

Who originated the term “Third World”?

The term came first from a French demographer named Alfred Sauvy. In 1952, as the first wave of decolonization washed through the British and Dutch empires, Sauvy identified a disjuncture. The Cold War, he reasoned, claimed to split the world in two. But, in fact, there was another split and he had in mind the decolonizing parts of the world. Writing in a French publication, he coined the term “Tiers Monde.” The term had a special resonance with his Francophone audience because it recalled the third estate, “tiers-état,” of the French Revolution. The thought was that just as the peasants of 1789 were rising to claim their stake in a new organization of society, so too were the dispossessed of the wider world now rising in the wake of empire. So “Tiers Monde” is a play on “Tiers-état,” and translated into English it means Third World. Interestingly, it didn’t make its way into English usage until sometime after that, when Jean-Paul Sartre wrote an introduction to Frantz Fanon’s “Wretched of the Earth” that was translated into English.

It’s interesting the term is coined by a First World resident from a former colonial power. How did it become appropriated and embraced by Third World actors who were in the midst of decolonization?

It’s a tricky story. In its original conception, the Third World is not a place, it’s a project. It’s an attempt to build an imagined community. Scholars accept that version because it enables the geographic borders to be fluid and also has the virtue of enabling Third World actors to accommodate their various agendas underneath it. The Third World project takes its fullest shape by the early- to mid-60s. At that moment it has three intellectual pillars: economic development, racial solidarity, and non-alignment in the Cold War. Third World leaders come to use those terms in how they articulate to their people what they envision in a post-colonial world.

Let’s talk about the Bandung Conference and its role in the Third World project. What was the impetus for the meeting?

The triggering event was the formation of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), which was the Eisenhower Administration’s attempt to replicate NATO in the bubbling Asian cauldron. It was an odd alliance, and very much an intrusion of the Cold War alliance system into a region of newly decolonized countries. In response, the leaders of the so-called Colombo Powers, including India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) decided what was needed was a conference of Afro-Asian peoples in an attempt to assert a collective determination to keep the Cold War from spreading as it had violently in Korea, reorient the global economy toward modernity, and to find a common identity that would marry together the strands of Pan-Africanism and Pan-Arabism, and to a degree Pan-Asianism. The assertion was that the shared experience of imperial rule was enough of a common bond to form a collective agenda.

Was Bandung successful in achieving Third World unity?

Twenty-nine nations attended, most from Asia and South Asia as well as three African countries. The wild card was the People’s Republic of China, which was of interest to U.S. policymakers. China was the only one of the Cold War powers which is a Third World state. The Soviet Union and the U.S. were not invited to Bandung, but China was because it has a claim on Third World identity. For the U.S., Bandung was a success because China at the conference seemed more interested in calming Cold War tensions than leading a revolutionary Third World. China’s revolutionary ambitions would come later. As for the other nations, if you ask the leaders of the various nations–Sukarno of Indonesia, Nehru of India, Nasser of Egypt–they would all claim some level of victory and some level of dissatisfaction. That is a pattern that haunts the Third World project; its achievements never match its rhetoric. It has a romantic identity and a concrete agenda, neither of which it has the power to fully achieve. As time went on, it lived on more symbolically and rhetorically than in actual contemporary significance.

Sixty years later, should we see Bandung as a sort of historical artifact, or does it have lasting resonance?

It did have a lasting impact. Sukarno’s opening address, which to paraphrase, stated that, “We the 1.4 billion strong who are speaking with one voice can mobilize in favor of peace,”–that rhetoric, the spirit of Bandung, the idea that non-white solidarity could achieve something that empire for centuries had denied, to enable the third world to jump up a few steps into parity with the first world–it was not a crazy notion at the time. In 1960, freshly independent Ghana’s GDP was the same as Korea’s. The thought was that all that was needed was to apply the right formula and economic modernization would take off. In reality economic modernization happened in some places and not in others. As such, the disappointments of the Third World project make it difficult to look at Bandung as anything but a romantic moment. Still, that moment has had a lasting resonance. One interesting anecdote: scholars have referred to the stirring speech that Kwame Nkrumah, President of Ghana, gave at Bandung, and how this was a moment of lift-off for racial togetherness of the Global South. Except as historian Bob Vitalis has pointed out, Kwame Nkrumah didn’t go to Bandung. He was not in attendance! So there is a mythos around Bandung that remains. Anyone looking for the practical impact of Bandung will be disappointed. But its mythology and cultural resonance is still with us.

Jason Parker is an Associate Professor of History at Texas A&M University and author of “Brother’s Keeper: The United States, Race, and Empire in the British Caribbean, 1937-1962.” The International Seminar on Decolonization was a project of the National History Center of the American Historical Association, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and hosted annually by The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress.

TIME Television

Why China Is Going Crazy Over NBC’s New Crime Drama, Blindspot

The show features a western woman speaking a notoriously difficult Chinese dialect

The trailer for upcoming tech-thriller Blindspot, which will premiere on NBC in September, is attracting eager attention from an unexpected audience — Chinese social media users.

That’s not to say that Chinese netizens don’t appreciate a good mystery when they see one, but in this case their interest stems from one plot element in particular: the story’s hero, an unknown western woman found covered in tattoos and zipped in a duffel bag in Times Square with her memory wiped, speaks Chinese.

And not just any Chinese; this Jane Doe speaks Wenzhounese, a dialect hailing from southeast China (and also spoken in parts of Queens and Brooklyn) that is so notoriously complex and opaque that it was even used as the basis for military code in World War II. A popular Mandarin couplet warns, “Do not fear the Heavens, do not fear the Earth, but fear the Wenzhou man speaking Wenzhounese.”

Both Chinese media and users on Twitter and Weibo seem deeply amused by the show’s treatment of what some in China call the “Devil Language.”

“Wenzhounese! Hahahahaha!” wrote one Twitter user, aggregating screenshots from an apparently pirated episode of the show.

“Ultimately, how hard is [Wenzhounese]? In Blindspot‘s pilot, it even manages to baffle the FBI!” China Daily posted on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblogging service.

And elsewhere on Weibo, user Huangyuanlu wrote: “Blindspot‘s tattooed girl can speak Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, and can even understand Wenzhounese — a lot better than mine.”

TIME Apple watch

Microsoft Just Gave the Apple Watch an Amazing New Feature

Apple Watch Available at Apple Retail Locations
Eric Thayer—Getty Images A customer with a newly purchased Apple Watch.

The device just keeps getting better

Quick and easy translation is right at your fingertips — or, more accurately, on your wrist — with the new Microsoft Translator for Apple Watch.

Almost all early adopters of the Apple Watch were satisfied with the product, and this feature only makes it better. All you have to do is speak into your watch and you’ll have access to translations in 50 different languages. The translator can speak any translated phrases for you that you can’t figure out how to pronounce. The app also allows you to save your most commonly used translations and recently used phrases for even quicker access.

They have a companion app for the iPhone for times when you would prefer to type phrases into your phone or manage your settings on a larger screen. All settings and translations are synchronized between your iPhone and Apple Watch.

This is especially good news for spies who can now go unnoticed as they talk into their watches and just blend in with the rest of us trying to figure out how to say “Where’s the bathroom?” in Chinese.

TIME privacy

These Companies Have the Best (And Worst) Privacy Policies

TIME teamed up with the Center for Plain Language to rank privacy policies from readable to ridiculous

Only the most diligent among us actually read technology companies’ privacy policies, though we all should. They lay out what the companies that we interact with daily are collecting and sharing about us—not to mention, in some cases, about our families and friends and everyone else we happen to correspond with.

But it’s not just on us, the users, to make an effort. Companies can package this information in a place that’s easy to find and in way that’s easy to understand and act on, or they can bury it beneath mounds of tedious legalese in some cobweb-strewn corner of their website.

In an effort to assess, exalt and shame some of the world’s leading tech companies for how they’ve presented privacy information to millions of users, TIME reached out to the Center for Plain Language. Every year, this non-profit grades government agencies on how well they’re following the spirit and letter of the Plain Writing Act—a 2010 law designed to eliminate bureaucratic gobbledygook. The Center also works with businesses, with the mission of teaching the powerful among us about how important it is to communicate in clear, comprehensible English.

We asked the Center’s experts to judge and rank the privacy policies of seven tech companies that most consumers know. They did this on several levels, assessing everything from design and tone to how many words writers tried to pack into each sentence. They also examined the more subjective “spirit” of their policies. Does the policy, for instance, make it easy for people to limit the ways in which the company collects their personal information? Or are instructions about opting out obscured in the policy’s hinterlands with no hyperlinks?

Here are their results, ranked from the company with the best-presented privacy policy to the worst, according to the Center for Plain Language:

  1. Google
  2. Facebook
  3. LinkedIn
  4. Apple
  5. Uber
  6. Twitter
  7. Lyft

To be clear, this is not an assessment of what data these companies have decided to collect from users or what they’ve decided to do with that data. Instead, it’s about how obvious they have made those decisions to the users affected by them. The companies who did this the best avoided jargon and confusing sentence structure, clearly organized their information and used a lively tone. The policies that did not rank highly contained 100-word-long sentences, obtuse explanations and little sense of design.

“A privacy policy that consumers are unlikely to read or understand provides no protection whatsoever,” the Center’s experts write in their report. “The results of our study are quite consistent, especially at the top and bottom of the rankings: Google and Facebook do a good job of communicating their privacy policies in a way that allows consumers to understand and make decisions—at least motivated consumers. And Lyft and Twitter do a poor job of communicating those policies. The remaining companies—LinkedIn, Uber, and Apple—do better in some areas than others.”

The Center used both expert judges to assess policies at a high level and software to evaluate the policies at the sentence level. Here are some telling comments about each company’s policy from judges Deborah Bosley, Meghan Codd Walker and Jeff Greer—all members of the Center for Plain Language Board. You can read the full version of their report at the bottom of this post.

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.16.04 PM

#1. Google: No privacy notice is perfect, but Google has created a good model for a clear, plain language approach. I’m at times skeptical/concerned about how much access Google has to my personal information, but this notice’s audience-focused approach actually increased my trust in them.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.20.34 PM

#2. Facebook: “I think we should note the difference between the Apple and Facebook policies. Apple [simply] points out how they minimally store customer data. Facebook, in the “What kinds of information” section, documents just about every interaction a customer has, and then talks about how those interactions are collected and stored. I’m marking this as above average not because I agree with Facebook’s practices, but because they’ve clearly communicated those practices.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.21.40 PM

#3: LinkedIn: “I appreciate LinkedIn’s obvious efforts to make their privacy policy easier to understand . . . But when you dive deeper into the more thorough policy, I think the language and structure leave something to be desired. The sentences should often be shorter, and the lack of headers and bullets within sections make wading through the content harder—even if it mostly avoids jargon. I would use this privacy policy as a ‘good intentions but not quite there’ example of plain language.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.27.40 PM

#4: Apple: The notice seems to have some respect for the audience and feels credible. But I don’t think they genuinely want people to read the notice, given how they’ve hidden the paths for adjusting how you share your information.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.30.34 PM

#5: Uber:Outside of the short introduction, there’s nothing here that distinguishes the tone. It feels and reads like a document written by lawyers for people who don’t really read this kind of document. This could be softened with the use of contractions, or better yet, a plain language translation of the legalese.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.32.24 PM

#6: Twitter: There are occasional moments of clarity, but many of the sentences and paragraphs are long and hard to read . . . this is mostly a black and white wall of text.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.34.57 PM

#7: Lyft:The only decent parts of this notice are the clear headings they provide for each section. Readers can tell what should be in that section, but then the writing is so unclear, they likely won’t find the information they need . . . Everything about this notice screams, ‘We don’t want you to read this!'”

The report ends with the Center noting that all the policies show room for improvement, though they realize only a certain amount of candor is likely to come from such tech companies.

It seems unlikely that a business would give its customers this very plain message: “By reading this policy, you agree to let us keep track of you, your email and photos, where you go, your devices, the Internet providers you use, and possibly the same information for everyone in your social network. And if we decide we want more information, we will let you know—in some way—maybe before we start tracking that, too.”

On the other hand, the use of plain language tends to build trust between a company and its customers . . . the market will likely dictate when and the extent to which the companies improve.

Here’s the full report from the Center for Plain Language:

Center for Plain Language Privacy Policy Analysis

TIME Google

Google Translate Just Got Way Better

Google Opens New Berlin Office
Adam Berry—Getty Images

It now works for Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish and Romanian

Google Translate is now even more useful for those last-minute translation needs.

The app now has the ability to instantly translate 27 languages from text. The way it works is simple, too: Just point your smartphone’s camera at the text you don’t understand and have the app translate it in real time.

TechCrunch reports that the app has recently expanded from translating seven languages to 27 languages, including Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, and Romanian. The update is available for both iOS and Android devices. TechCrunch spoke with Julie Cattiau, the product manager for Google Translate, who said:

Our mission is to help overcome language barriers. Whenever someone faces an obstacle due to encountering a second language, we want to be there to help solve the problem. Within that mission, our most important project is improving the quality of machine translation. But part of that is also the overall user experience, which is why we also invest in things like instant camera translation and multi-language conversation.

TIME Culture

A Dying Language Is Making a Comeback

The story of the language’s decline, loss and rebirth is a remarkable example of cultural survival

In the summer of 1930, at the dawn of the Great Depression, a 21-year-old linguist named Morris Swadesh set out for Louisiana to record the area’s Native American languages, which were disappearing rapidly.

Morris and his peers were in a race against time to document them, and in the small town of Charenton on the Bayou Teche, he encountered Benjamin Paul and Delphine Ducloux, members of a small tribe called Chitimacha – and the last two speakers of their language.

But today, if you visited the Chitimacha reservation, you’d never know that their language went unspoken for half a century.

Over the past several decades, many Native American tribes have participated in what has become a robust language revitalization movement. As their populations of fluent speakers dwindle and age, tribes want to ensure that their heritage languages are passed on to the next generation – before it’s too late.

But because the Chitimacha tribe had no living speakers for a number of decades, it made the challenge that much greater. In the end, the story of the language’s decline, loss and rebirth is a remarkable example of cultural survival.

Why document a language?

Unlike some other cultural legacies, languages leave no trace in the archaeological record. There’s often no trace in the written record, either.

Only a small portion of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages are well-documented in places like dictionaries and grammar books. Those that are least well-documented are the most endangered.

Many dead or dying languages contain exotic features of verbal and written communication. Chitimacha, for example, doesn’t use a word “be” in phrases like “she is reading.” Instead, speakers must use a verb of position, such as “she sits reading” or “she stands reading.” These are things that challenge linguists’ understanding of how language works.

By working with Ben and Delphine, Morris was trying to capture a small piece of that linguistic diversity before it vanished.

One day, with Morris sitting on Ben’s porch dutifully scribbling down his every word in a composition notebook, Ben finished a story (a riveting tale of how the Chitimacha first acquired fire by stealing it from a mythical old blind man in the west). He then went on to tell Morris:

There were very many stories about the west. I believe I am doing well. I have not forgotten everything yet. When I die, you will not hear that sort of thing again. I am the only one here who knows the stories.

Ben passed away three years later, and Delphine not long thereafter. After their deaths, it seemed the Chitimacha language was doomed to silence.

Why do languages die?

How does a language come to have only two speakers? Why have so many Native American languages become endangered? The causes are manifold, but there are two main ones: sharp reductions in the population of the community that speaks the language, and interruptions in the traditional means of transferring the language from one generation to the next.

In the past, the former caused the most damage. Native American peoples were decimated by European diseases and subject to outright warfare.

Prior to European contact, the Chitimacha were lords of the bayou, with a territory stretching from Vermillion Bay in the west to present-day New Orleans in the east. They were expert canoe-makers and wielded extensive knowledge of the region’s labyrinthian network of waterways.

But by the time the French arrived in present-day Louisiana in 1699, the tribe’s numbers had dwindled to around 4,000, their communities gutted by European diseases that spread faster than the Europeans themselves.

After a protracted war with the French, they retreated deep into the bayou, where the their reservation at Charenton sits today. The 1910 census recorded just 69 people living there.

Only later did the second cause of language decline occur, when children on the reservation were sent to the infamous Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, which interrupted the transmission of the language to the next generation.

Ben and Delphine, born in the latter half of the 1800s, were part of the last generation to learn the language at home. Eventually their parents and many of their peers passed away, leaving them as the last two speakers of the language.

Renaissance on the bayou

Ben probably never imagined that the efforts of him and Delphine would spark the tribe’s linguistic renaissance, awakening their language from 60 years of silence.

In the early 1990s, cultural director for the tribe Kim Walden received a call from the American Philosophical Society Library informing her that they had all of Morris’ notebooks, and even his drafts for a grammar manual and dictionary, which totaled hundreds of pages in all. Thus began the herculean effort to revive the language.

The tribe put together a small-but-dedicated team of language experts, who set out to learn their language as quickly as possible. They began to produce storybooks based on Ben and Delphine’s stories, and word lists from the dictionary manuscript.

In 2008, the tribe partnered with the software company Rosetta Stone on a two-year project to create computer software for learning the language, which today every registered tribal member has a copy of. This is where I came in, serving as editor and linguist consultant for the project, a monumental collaborative effort involving thousands of hours of translating, editing, recording and photographing. We’re now hard at work finishing a complete dictionary and learner’s reference grammar for the language.

Today, if you stroll through the reservation’s school, you’ll hear kids speaking Chitimacha in language classes, or using it with their friends in the hall. At home they practice with the Chitimacha version of Rosetta Stone, and this past year the tribe even launched a preschool immersion program.

The kids even make up slang that baffles adult ears, a sure sign that the language is doing well – and hopefully will continue to thrive, into the next generation and beyond.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Food & Drink

How Sliced Bread Became the ‘Greatest Thing’

Sliced white bread, 2006.
Jennie Hills—Science & Society Picture Library / Getty Images

July 7, 1928: Sliced bread is sold for the first time

When sliced bread hit the market, American consumers weren’t sure just how great it was. On this day, July 7, in 1928, a bakery in Chillicothe, Mo., was the first to sell pre-cut bread using Otto Frederick Rohwedder’s invention: the automatic bread-slicing machine.

While an advertisement touted it as “the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped,” customers were wary. According to the author of Why Do Donuts Have Holes?: Fascinating Facts About What We Eat And Drink, the loaves failed to fly off the shelves, partly “because they were sloppy looking.”

Aesthetics aside, sliced bread in the pre-preservative era also went stale faster than its intact counterpart. Rohwedder came up with a solution: U-shaped pins that held the loaf together, making it appear whole inside its packaging, according to the New York Times.

Still, some people were bewildered by the concept itself, according to the Smithsonian Museum, where Rohwedder’s second bread slicer resides. (The first fell apart after six months of heavy use.) “The idea of sliced bread may be startling to some people,” a 1928 story in the Chillicothe newspaper acknowledged. “Certainly it represents a definite departure from the usual manner of supplying the consumer with baked loaves.”

Another ad offered instructions for the confounded, per the Times: 1) “Open wrapper at one end,” 2) “Pull out pin,” 3) “Remove as many slices as desired.”

But, after a few improvements to the slicing machine, loaves became less sloppy-looking and sliced bread earned its place in hearts and homes across the country. By World War II, Americans were so hooked on the convenience that its disappearance—a wartime conservation measure meant to save the hundred tons of steel that went into slicing machines each year—created a nationwide crisis. According to TIME’s 1943 account, the ban on sliced bread provoked as much ire as gas rationing did. Per TIME:

U.S. housewives… vainly searched for grandmother’s serrated bread knife, routed sleepy husbands out of bed, held dawn conferences over bakery handouts which read like a golf lesson: “Keep your head down. Keep your eye on the loaf. And don’t bear down.” Then came grief, cussing, lopsided slices which even the toaster refused, often a mad dash to the corner bakery for rolls.

In fact, the unpopular ban was lifted just two months after it went into effect. The New York Times heralded its removal with the headline, “Sliced Bread Put Back on Sale; Housewives’ Thumbs Safe Again.” It’s wasn’t long before Americans were using sliced bread as a point of comparison for greatness.

Read more from 1943, here in the TIME archives: U.S. At War: Trouble on the Bread Line

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