Thursday, March 14, 2013

"Don't say the word RETARDED"

The word "retard" is the new "black". There used to be a different term, (idiot & negro) then the new term (retard & black) was used to get rid of the less nice term, and eventually, because people who are rude are just GOING to be rude, and the INTENT gets married with the term, the new pc term is interpreted to be insulting, even though it's just a technical description.  Black is just a description of race, not an insult.  Retard means stunted, and it was around BEFORE people decided it was the new pc term for idiot.

It's 'lacking critical intellectual thought' to assign racism or debility intolerance to everyone who uses a word just because people who ARE like that use that word too.  Besides, any new term you choose to describe people WILL be used by rude people to be rude and intolerant, and eventually, your new word will be an "insult".  Say you pick “challenged” as your new ‘nice’ way to describe people whose mental growth is retarded.  Once it becomes common vernacular, rude people will just use the word challenged when they want to insult challenged people (though, more likely, when they want to insult non challenged people).  You can't win by policing the WORD people use, because you can’t take a person’s intent away.

This is especially important to recognize because, for some reason, people are suddenly not allowed to use the ‘not cool right now’ word for OTHER applicable things.  If you say “retarded” about some thing, idea, or circumstance you find to be stunted in intellect, or not matching your expectations of being well thought out, efficient, or productive, you’re interpreted as insulting challenged people, when you weren't even talking about them!  

The fact is, we have the right to find things to be personally undesirable.  Opinions are a right.  If having less mental capacity is undesirable, then that language is going to be automatic, and when I make a relationship with that word, and I use it to describe something that I find to be undesirable in the same manner, that does NOT mean that I hate people with lessened mental capacity or that I feel they deserve ridicule, disrespect, or any other bad treatment because of their situation; that would be retarded.

Now there's a subtle difference with other words and insults that I don’t want to be missed or misinterpreted.  Gay used to mean happy.  Then it meant homosexual, then, because it meant homosexual, and people are assholes, it started to mean ‘not cool’.  It never meant anything negative before the bigots got their hands on it.  If you use gay to mean not cool, you’re being insulting to people who still use the word gay as a valid description of their sexuality, but only if you meant it that way.  Plenty of people are just going with the flow of vernacular, and are not actually saying it’s not cool to be gay.  SO, saying “gay” to mean something bad CAN BE an insult, and saying retarded to mean retarded is JUST a description, unless someone is being mean TO a mentally challenged person.  It's the intent that makes it an insult, not the word.

Another subtle difference is that even though people have the right to have negative feelings about gayness, just as they have the right to have negative feelings about lessened mental capacity, there is an inappropriate moral judgment of other people's BEHAVIOR that comes with a negative association with homosexuality that does NOT accompany a negative association with a mental handicap.  No one is judging a handicapped person as being immoral or saying that they should not be that way because they are doing wrong.  In our zest for a world free of insults, we're forgetting to distinguish between an inappropriate moral judgment, and a simple recognition of an undesirable state.

In the end, think about what your words MEAN before you speak, and hear what the people you’re talking to MEAN instead of just the word. \ /,,


  1. that blog contradicts itself, on the one hand it says feel free to use the term 'retarded' in contexts where the literal definition applies (stunted, ex) on the other hand it says it is fine to use the word 'gay' to mean "not cool" as long as you don't think that homosexuality is a bad thing. Ummm... no. If you were to use 'gay' to mean happy, festive, or brightly colored... fine. If you were to use the word "retarded" in a proper technical context, like "the efforts of rescuers were retarded by inclement weather combined with treacherous terrain"... fine. Much like describing a crayon or a bookshelf as "black" is fine, while calling hip hop "black music", isn't.

    But 'retarded' being used as an insult is never ok, whether it is describing an idea or a person. It is offensive and ableist language

  2. Thanks for commenting. My goal is not to say that people should or should not use a particular word. I want people to be nice to each other, but I also believe in free speech (not yelling “fire” in a crowded theater or lying to gain unfair advantage). My intent, rather, is to provide a more thorough perspective of why people use the words they do to save people from being offended when no offense is intended, save people from being policed when it’s inappropriate, and encourage thoughtfulness in our communication.

    I personally don’t think it’s “fine” to use the word gay to mean ‘not cool’. I was simply pointing out that it’s not ALWAYS done with derision of homosexuality in mind, and that some people are not consciously deriding gays. Vernacular develops out of imitation often with little thought. It’s still an error as far as being politically correct is concerned once a person is AWARE that the reason the word is connected with negativity is because it stems from judgment of gay people as immoral. As far as the definition of the word, there is no legitimate negative association with the word “gay” without this judgment. Using it in a negative way came directly from the social derision of gays.

    The definition of the word retarded is directly associated with negativity WITHOUT derision of the handicapped population. There’s simply no way around the fact that many different things can be retarded, NOT just people, and the situation is usually negative or undesirable. This exists independent of the handicapped community being described as retarded and that was a fact long before people decided that the old term “idiot” wasn’t nice, and a new technical term “retard” was to be used.

    In no way do I intend to defend the insulting, mistreatment, or the disrespecting of rights of mentally handicapped people, no matter what terms are used to do it. What I’m saying is that due to the nature of the situation as undesirable, any accurate word selected to describe people with a handicap will also be fair game to describe other things in the same situation. Then sensitivities about the condition would become inflamed with use, and if we follow the same pattern, THAT word would become ‘off limits’ to describing something negative, and we’d be looking for a new word again. So it’s pointless to attack the word while disregarding its intent. However, if a unique word were coined for the mentally retarded population, then it would be fair game to attack the use of that word to describe something undesirable as it would have no other valid use according to its definition (just as “gay” has no actual ‘negative’ definition).

    It’s a noble desire to want a population that doesn’t judge inappropriately, but we can’t get there by confusing the use of words for describing a particular negative situation with insults or normalizing inappropriate moral judgment; they are not the same thing.