Monday, April 21, 2014

R is for Retarded

I have mixed feelings regarding the use of the word "retard" as slang. I've used it myself on occasion. To me, the word doesn't have anything to do with people who have actual mental disabilities. Its use in slang phrases has changed its connotation.

The word itself, as defined in the dictionary, means slow, or to slow down. That is what we mean when we say something is retarded--we mean that it's stupid (i.e., slow). We don't mean that people with mental disabilities are stupid, and we're not saying "retarded" to insult them.

Downs Syndrome runs in my family. My cousin, C., now 20 years old, has it, and I have never treated her any differently than I treated the rest of my cousins. I've seen how other people react, so I know the difficulties she'll have to face for the rest of her life. She lives life as normally as she can. She's in a theater club (and is apparently a very good actress!), loves to watch TV (especially Coronation Street), works at a daycare center and is very good with small children, and wants to one day be a midwife. She actually goes down the pub now with her friends and with Anorexic Auntie (her mum).

A couple years ago, when a school counselor somehow brought up the fact that she has Downs, C came home in tears and asked Anorexic Auntie, "is there really something wrong with me!??"

If that counselor survived Anorexic Auntie's wrath, I would be very surprised.

Why do we need politically correct words for things that make us uncomfortable? Remember when it was still ok to call someone "handicapped?" But then that changed to "disabled." "Handicapped" used to be ok, though--it replaced "crippled," which was not ok. So how long before "disabled" becomes a bad word, and we come up with another term? We used to also refer to crippled people as "lame" way back when until someone decided that was offensive and so now it's generally only used for animals. We still use "lame" as slang and no one seems to care.

It's retarded.  


  1. If a word describes a condition that society considers to be negative, the word becomes negative and eventually it is offensive and a new word needs to be used. Last I heard, "Retarded" is now "Special." Today, If you call someone a Retard you will be chastised. It is OK to call some one an Idiot, but not Retarded, yet Retarded is the word invented to replace the very offensive word "Idiot."

    I think people are just stupid. I suspect you do treat your cousin differently from other cousins, you just do not treat her offensively and you show her the same love and respect that you have for others...which is how it should be.

  2. When I was I child, somewhere BC, the word used for calling someone stupid in Sweden was "mongo," which is short for mongoloid, which is the old word for Downs Syndrome. Today we understand that it is an offensive word, so we found another word for calling someone a numb nut: retard. Yes, we have turned to English to fling insults.

    Unfortunately we, the Swedes, still use the word CP (Cerebral Pares) quite freely to denote someone or something especially stupid, such as the current (right-leaning) government. As if people with Cerebral Pares were of low IQ, which they aren't. The Swedish government however...

  3. I thought "disabled" was already on it's way to being a bad thing? I thought we were supposed to refer to disabled people as "differently abled". I share your opinion really, but I don't have any close relatives that have any form of syndrome. Two of my nephews are autistic but I'm hardly close to them. The official definition of retarded is something that's slowed down, as retard means slow. It's just one of the many ways words change their meaning. Unfortunately people only seem to accept words changing for the worst. It seems to me a lot of the younger generation are using words like faggot and "the N word" in ways that aren't meant how people think they are. Maybe that'll change. Maybe not.

  4. When I was a psychiatric nurse in the 1980s we referred to wards with patients suffering from dementia as the psycho Geri wards
    We thought nothing of it and didn't use the phrase in a derogatory way
    Now we know better
    Every generation does this

  5. Replies
    1. There was no Q. It is an unnecessary letter. ;)

  6. Political correctness is the bane of today's existence. It isn't the words people use, it's the intent. That's what matters.

    To be mad at a word, or the mere use of a word, is (dare I say it?) moronic. It's akin to being mad at, say, heroin. OK, many people are irredeemably fucked up via the use of heroin, but it has also been a useful and efficient medical tool. It has even been somewhere between the two! It is usually not the thing that causes harm; it is the way it is used. A fluffy stuffed bunny is not considered dangerous, but if a child swallows the stuffing? Yup. Nothing is, in and of itself, either dangerous or safe until it is interacted with.

    The same with words. If the intent is to hurt, ANY set of words can be used. Delivered with enough force and/or sarcasm, telling someone that you love him can be a weapon. If said with a smile, "I hate you!" can be a bonding experience.

    I abhor knee-jerk reaction to words. If evil intent is easily discernible, sure, then excoriate the person using hurtful words, but don't automatically set your defenses to crucify someone because they offended sensibilities you set too low to begin with.

  7. I could go on for pages. I'm especially annoyed by people with no senses of humor trying to dictate what is or isn't funny; that somehow humor must be within acceptable boundaries to be considered funny. Fuck them. Funny is in the mind on the beholder. You can say, "I don't find that funny", but anyone who says "That's not funny", when the intent was clearly humorous, deserves scorn.

  8. Joeh partly beat me to it. Moron and idiot started out as names specifying specific ranges of IQ points. Far more offensive than the general term retarded, if you ask me.

    You cannot change people's attitudes by policing their words.

    You. Cannot. Change. Attitudes. By. Policing. Words.


  9. We've already got the next level on from 'Disabled' here. It went to 'Special Needs' about a decade ago and now it's changing to 'Differently Abled'

    So now people here use the word 'special' as in insult to mean stupid/backwards/slow/retarded/handicapped.

    PC police don't change the underlying problem, they just keep shifting the language onwards.


We say whatever we want to whomever we want, at all times.