The Atlantic
December 7, 2012

Late last month, the Associated Press tried to clear something up about homophobia. Or, rather, about anti-gay bias: the word "homophobia" is no longer approved by the AP Stylebook, the resource many Americans newspapers use as the arbiter of how to write right. "It seems inaccurate," AP Deputy Standards Editor Dave Minthorn told Politico. "Instead, we would use something more neutral: anti-gay, or some such." But reactions to the AP's decision have only shown why and how the language of bias is likely to get far cloudier before it gets clear. At first, the decision—which also applies to other -phobia words, like Islamophobia—may have seemed straightforward enough, if surprising. The reasoning provided by the AP is that the -phobia suffix implies a DSM-certified pathological fear, which does not necessarily apply to so-called homophobes. As linguist extraordinaire Ben Zimmer told Voice of America, it's a weird choice considering we use -phobia in a non-clinical way all the time—what else would be the opposite of -phile?—but, sure, okay.