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Does the Board on Geographic Names (BGN) decide what is derogatory or offensive?

The BGN’s Principles, Policies, and Procedures document includes a Policy on Derogatory and Offensive Names. As of 2023, three words are declared derogatory in all occurrences:

  1. In 1963, the BGN, at the request of the Secretary of the Interior, mandated that the pejorative form of the word “Negro” be eliminated from all federal maps and publications. The word was replaced with “Negro” for all geographic features.  
  2. In 1974, the BGN mandated that the pejorative word for “Japanese” be changed in all occurrences to “Japanese.”  
  3. In 2021, Secretary’s Order 3404 declared the word “sq___” derogatory, and replacement names were approved following a process outlined in the Order.