69 Words General Motors Didn’t Want Its Employees To Use When Describing GM Cars

“Rolling sarcophagus.” “Widow-maker.”

If you’re an employee at General Motors, you shouldn’t to refer to GM vehicles as rolling sarcophagi or the Hindenburg.

That’s according to new documents released as part of GM’s $35 million settlement over its faulty ignition switches, which instruct engineers how to describe problems in vehicles without using certain inflammatory language.

The confidential PowerPoint presentation containing the words is from 2008, and warns employees not to describe vehicles in ways that invoke emotion or that are speculative, opinionated, or vague. It also instructs them to think how it would look if everything they say or email wound up as a front-page headline.

Greg Martin, a spokesman for GM, told Reuters that company culture is different now than it was back in 2008.

“Today’s GM encourages employees to discuss safety issues, which is reinforced through GM’s recently announced Speak Up for Safety Program,” Martin said.

Here’s the full list:

1. Always
2. Annihilate
3. Apocalyptic
4. Asphyxiating
5. Bad
6. Band-Aid
7. Big time
8. Brakes like an “X” Car
9. Cataclysmic
10. Catastrophic

The Hindenburg was a German airship that famously exploded while trying to dock in New Jersey. GM instructed its employees not to liken its vehicles to the Hindenburg.

11. Challenger
12. Chaotic
13. Cobain
14. Condemns
15. Corvair-like
16. Crippling
17. Critical
18. Dangerous
19. Deathtrap
20. Debilitating

21. Decapitating
22. Defect
23. Defective
24. Detonate
25. Disemboweling
26. Enfeebling
27. Evil
28. Eviscerated
29. Explode
30. Failed


A sarcophagus is a stone coffin, sometimes covered with ornate designs. GM asked that its employees not refer to their vehicles as a “rolling sarcophagus.”

31. Failure
32. Flawed
33. Genocide
34. Ghastly
35. Grenadelike
36. Grisly
37. Gruesome
38. Hindenburg
39. Hobbling
40. Horrific
41. Impaling
42. Inferno
43. Kevorkianesque
44. Lacerating
45. Life-threatening
46. Maiming
47. Malicious
48. Mangling
49. Maniacal
50. Mutilating

The Titanic was a large ship that crashed into an iceberg resulting in the deaths of thousands onboard. GM employees were told they should not compare their vehicles to the Titanic.

51. Never
52. Potentially-disfiguring
53. Powder keg
54. Problem
55. Rolling Sarcophagus (tomb or coffin)
56. Safety
57. Safety related
58. Serious
59. Spontaneous combustion
60. Startling
61. Suffocating
62. Suicidal
63. Terrifying
64. Titanic
65. Tomblike
66. Unstable
67. Widow-maker
68. Words or phrases with biblical connotation
69. You’re toast

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