Linux Team Approved Neutral Language for Old Terminology

Linus Torvalds, the developer of the Linux kernel, has approved new terms that will replace the master/slave terminology, and the blacklist/whitelist terminology, ZDNet reported. The newly approved terms are neutral language.

The trend to clean-up insensitive language from source code, tools, and tech documentation began after Black Lives Matter protests erupted in the US, sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020.

The primary goal of these efforts is to make tech products and IT environments more welcoming to people of color.

This change comes after GitHub (which is owned by Microsoft) started working on replacing the term “master” with the term “main”. Gizmodo reported that GitHub was working on letting users choose their own default branch name.

Some of the alternatives proposed by the Linux team include:

  • primary/secondary
  • main/replica or subordinate
  • initiator/target
  • requester/responder
  • controller/device
  • leader/follower

In addition, there are proposed alternatives for blacklist/whitelist. These are outdated and racially insensitive terms that need a replacement. Techspot explained reported that blacklist is used to describe a list containing banned, disallowed, or undesirable elements, such as passwords, spam emails, websites, and applications. A whitelist contains everything that is allowed.

The problem with the color coding of these terms is that it associates “whitelist” with good, safe, desirable things, and “blacklist” with bad, unsafe, or undesirable things. The Linux Team proposed that people replace blacklist/whitelist with denylist/allowlist or blocklist/passlist.