description of activity

Step 1
Explain the idea of the card/word game Playing taboo (see MATERIALS). Play a short game so your group will understand the rules.

Step 2
Divide participants into pairs or small groups. Each group is asked to produce one TABOO playing card dealing with a specified minority term, i.e.:

  • Gay
  • Transgender
  • Migrant
  • Asylum seeker
  • Refugee
  • Muslim
  • Disabled
  • ettc…

The task is to come up with three to five correlating terms they think media would most likely use to describe the minority group. At this step, do not provide context or language restrictions. This should take about 20 minutes.

Step 3
Have the participants play the cards they don’t yet know: One person explains the main term without using the taboo words, everyone else may suggest possible answers.

Step 4
Ask the following questions:

  • What difficulties did you find when making the cards?
  • In the test round, which terms, if any, came up that you didn’t like or would be hesitant to use in every-day life and why? What would be alternative terms?

Discuss the terms used card by card, in the form of an editorial discussion:

  • Are the terms used appropriate or not and why?
  • What are the origins, meanings and possible intents of the terms?

During this discussion it might be helpful to introduce the terminology recommendations on the EMAC website.
You may also discuss how to solve the problem of not knowing which terms to use and which to avoid (asking members of the community itself or do research with advocacy groups).


Self-assessment: Ask participants what they may have learned from this exercise and what may help them in their editorial work.

In Step 4 participants may show their (new) awareness of how terms may often be used inconsiderately in everyday speech.

Ask participants how they felt creating the taboo card as well as discussing the matter of fair language in general. This may give the opportunity to take a stand against the “pc rant” or on the other side ease possible anxiety to inadvertently use the “wrong” words.

information on the activity

In this activity the trainer has participants make their own TABOO cards using minority terms and play the cards. The discussion will help introducing ideas of fair language use and the EMAC terminology recomendations.

Participants will understand

  • That language in itself can be discriminatory
  • That even if they don’t think they are acting discriminatory, their language might be offensive
  • The importance of discussing language about minorities with others
  • How to learn more about which terms to use and which to avoid


Rooms for small groups to work “in secret”.


Laptop and projector if not distributing the EMAC terminology document (see undermaterials) so it can be shown on the website.


A set of “normal” TABOO cards and a short description of the rules of TABOO (here)

blank Taboo Cards

A print out of EMAC Terminology document (optional)


60-120 minutes depending on the size of the group and the lenght of the discussion


4-10 (better 6-10)


As a possible follow-up you may discuss whether it is even appropriate to create a game like this and why or why not. This may go too far into a meta level though, depending on the participants and/or group dynamics.

Be aware of your group structure and the possibility that younger or less educated people might treat this as a joke. In that case, it is important to tackle this head on by inquiring why the participants consider it funny. It is up to the trainer to lead the discussion in a way that doesn’t brand participants less reflected as racist, sexist or stupid, but to cooperatively raise awareness for the points made or topics brought up.

Try to be aware of the composition of your group and offer the option to discuss problems, if participants identify with one of the terms and feel uncomfortable and/or offended.

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