"It has gotten to the point where students should carry around a dictionary of words they cannot say."


Administrators at Colorado State University have apparently deemed the saying "Long time, no see" to be non-inclusive language. 


Student Katrina Leibee ​reported in an op-ed for the campus newspaper that the common greeting appeared on a list of taboo phrases that she was shown by the student association's director of diversity and inclusion, Zahra Al-Saloom. 


According to Leibee, the phrase was included on the list because it was seen as "derogatory toward those of Asian descent" and thus contrary to the university's commitment to fostering inclusion. 


Leibee said that the university also instructs students to avoid gendering each other by using traditional pronouns, the word "freshman," or the phrase "you guys." "First year" and "y'all" are the preferred nomenclature, she explained. 


While Leibee averred that she and most of her classmates "actively respect people’s gender pronouns," she complained that the university was getting carried away. 


"A countless amount of words and phrases have been marked with a big, red X and defined as non-inclusive," she said. "It has gotten to the point where students should carry around a dictionary of words they cannot say."


Al-Saloom did not respond to a request for a comment.

The actual etymology of "Long time, no see" is unclear. But there are two leading theories. 


One is that the phrase came from the broken English of Chinese or Native American speakers. However, the earliest usages are by American writers describing the supposed speech of foreigners, and those descriptions could be inaccurate. 


The other main theory is that "Long time, no see," is a literal translation of a Mandarin phrase. 


In a 2012 ​investigation of the phrase, the Applied Applied Linguistics blog concluded that it was probably originally "a way to mock people for not speaking standard American English." However, the blog suggested, the phrase likely has real Chinese roots of some kind, which would explain why it seems to have been embraced by Chinese learners of English "as a kind of symbolic victory for Chinglish."


In other words, Chinese English speakers may have been proud that "Long time, no see" was adopted into common usage.


Is it really a good idea, then, to make what is now a characteristically American phrase racist again?


Some would no doubt argue that "Long time, no see" is essentially a lesser version of ​blackface, an artifact of America's racist past that is best discarded along with its oppressive baggage. 


But for others, it is the policing of ​language that is the problem. They could point to Jordan Peterson's ​concerns about free speech, Jonathan Haidt's ​warnings about the coddling of American youth, and Francis Fukuyama's ​manifesto against identity politics. 


As Leibee put it in her op-ed: "We should all consider the possibility that these words were not a problem until we made them a problem. These phrases were not exclusive until we decided they were."


Cover image: Students walk on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia, Missouri, on November 10, 2015. (Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)