Watch your mouth -- everyday phrases like "hold down the fort" and "rule of thumb" are potentially offensive bombshells.
At least according to the State Department.
Chief Diversity Officer John Robinson penned a column in the department's latest edition of "State Magazine" advising readers on some rather obscure Ps and Qs.
Robinson ticked off several common phrases and went on to explain why their roots are racially or culturally insensitive. The result was a list of no-nos that could easily result in some tongue-tied U.S. diplomats, particularly in an administration that swaps "war on terror" for "overseas contingency operation" and once shied away from using the word "terrorism."
For instance, Robinson warned, "hold down the fort" is a potentially insulting reference to American Indian stereotypes.
"How many times have you or a colleague asked if someone could 'hold down the fort?'" he wrote. "You were likely asking someone to watch the office while you go and do something else, but the phrase's historical connotation to some is negative and racially offensive."
He explained: "To 'hold down the fort' originally meant to watch and protect against the vicious Native American intruders. In the territories of the West, Army soldiers or settlers saw the 'fort' as their refuge from their perceived 'enemy,' the stereotypical 'savage' Native American tribes."