Millennium Verboten

Millennium Verboten

Millennium Verboten

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Aug. 2 1998 3:30 AM

Millennium Verboten

An exchange of Cabinet-level e-mail in response to the latest White House directive.

"The language of the Millennium, and the logo (until we hear otherwise), is for millennium use only. ... It is very important to the overall strength and infrastructure of the millennium project [for it to remain distinct] from our day-to-day messages and words that we use."

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--Memo from the White House communications office to speechwriters and other officials, banning the use of certain words reserved for the Hillary Clinton-led effort to welcome the next century. Quoted in the New York Times, Thursday, July 30, 1998

From: rodney@dot.gov

To: secretaries@cabinet.gov

Subject: Yesterday's Millennium Project Directive

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D. of Transportation speechwriters implored me to write in protest of yesterday's directive. We're putting together congressional testimony on next year's budget and having a devil of a time finding substitutes for the prohibited words. Specifically, we had trouble dancing around the ban of the words "bridge," "road," and "highway." We appreciate their metaphorical importance for welcoming the millennium, but could you suggest alternatives?

Rodney Slater

Secretary of Transportation

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From: clintonspeak@whitehouse.gov

To: secretaries@cabinet.gov

Subject: RE: Yesterday's Millennium Project Directive

Anyone have a synonym for "future"? It seems this word has been banned, along with all references to specific dates (day, month, or year) beyond two weeks hence. The standard phraseology I am leaning toward for discussing future events is "an event to occur on a day subsequent to the several other days that shall proceed duly in the natural course of time forward from the present moment, eventually accruing into units characterized as months and, much later, years." Too wordy?

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L. Herbert Smith III

White House speechwriter

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From: lexi@lab.gov

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To: secretaries@cabinet.gov

Subject: RE: Yesterday's Millennium Project Directive

And what, may I ask, shall I say we are training America's young workers for? The Industrial Revolution? How about 1999?

Alexis Herman

Secretary of Labor

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From: trustbuster@doj.gov

To: secretaries@cabinet.gov; lexi@lab.gov

Subject: RE: Yesterday's Millennium Project Directive

Alexis, lay off the '99 for the moment. We hear Microsoft is trying to trademark it for their next Windows release (though we're working on that).

Joel Klein

Asst. attorney general for antitrust

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From: stonewall@whitehouse.gov

To: secretaries@cabinet.gov

Subject: RE: Yesterday's Millennium Project Directive

The White House Counsel's Office endorses Communications' effort to control rhetoric. Let's use this occasion to remind ourselves of other verboten words. In speeches and official communications, please refrain from using the following:

"trip"

"harmonica"

"knees"

"kneepads"

"blows"

"lipstick"

"dress"

"stain"

Use good judgment. Avoid potentially evocative terms. For an example of careful word choice, take note of the Pentagon Public Affairs Office's suggestion that all references to "seamen" be changed to "sailors." As always, we appreciate your help.

FC "Charles" Ruff

White House counsel