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News you can use: Obama signs bill modernizing terms referring to minorities in two sections of the U.S. Code

Seal_of_the_United_States_Congress.svgYou know you’re a librarian geek when you read the headlines telling you that Obama has signed a bill that will strike “oriental” and “negro” from two sections of the U.S. Code and think “What a good reminder that  full text searching through government documents is tricky.” And yes, that was me when I read those headlines on Friday.

And here’s the language from the bill itself.

(a) Office Of Minority Economic Impact.—Section 211(f)(1) of the Department of Energy Organization Act (42 U.S.C. 7141(f)(1)) is amended by striking “a Negro, Puerto Rican, American Indian, Eskimo, Oriental, or Aleut or is a Spanish speaking individual of Spanish descent” and inserting “Asian American, Native Hawaiian, a Pacific Islander, African American, Hispanic, Puerto Rican, Native American, or an Alaska Native”.

(b) Minority Business Enterprises.—Section 106(f)(2) of the Local Public Works Capital Development and Investment Act of 1976 (42 U.S.C. 6705(f)(2)) is amended by striking “Negroes, Spanish-speaking, Orientals, Indians, Eskimos, and Aleuts” and inserting “Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islanders, African American, Hispanic, Native American, or Alaska Natives”.

First, I’m somewhat horrified to find the periods on the “wrong” side of final quotation marks — I guess Congress doesn’t go by standard U.S. style guides.

But more importantly, this means that if you’re full-text searching the U.S. Code, and you know to be careful to use outdated language when searching through historic documents, you should now OR in modern language if you’re searching through the Local Public Works Capital Development and Investment Act of 1976 and the Department of Energy Organization Act.

Here ends your communique from a librarian geek interested in search language.

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