Skip to comments.What's Wrong with using the word -- 'Retarded'?
Posted on 02/06/2010 12:28:34 PM PST by SeekAndFind
If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success. -Confucius, Analects
I admit that it's fun watching an adroit manipulator of political correctness get hoisted with his own petard and be forced to meekly eat his words. But to be fair, Rahm Emanuel's use of the word "retarded," and the general use of that word for someone who is (in P.C.-ese) "intellectually challenged," is inoffensive and honest.
First of all, the context shows that Emanuel used the word in a reasonable way. He was dismissing a proposal that the administration attack moderate Democrats in public ads. He was simply pointing out the stupidity of publicly offending people you want as future allies -- which is in fact a stupid thing to do. And he said it privately, not as a public insult. It took a backstairs gossip to make a public issue of it.
Next, his use of the "f-word" is lamentable but common in the debased milieu of politics, especially Chicago/White House politics. Nowadays, as someone once explained about the British use of "bloody," the f-word merely means that a noun or adjective will follow. I was brought up to believe that it should be avoided as being offensive to ladies. However, NOW does not seem to have complained -- perhaps because, as Judge Craig put it a century ago, they have ceased to be ladies but not yet learned to be gentlemen, and they probably use the word themselves. So let's give a reluctant pass to the f-word.
Now let's consider "retarded" carefully. According to my dictionary, it comes from the Latin word for "slow" and means "hindered from a typical or expected rate of change." For example, the term "retarded potential" is frequently used in physics, and no electromagnetic wave has ever complained about it.
This sounds pretty inoffensive. The connotation is that a "retarded" person will take a little longer to get where he is going, but that he will get there -- which sounds to me like a fair and hopeful statement of the situation. The alternative use of "slow," as uttered in hushed tones by teachers to parents, is a bit precious, but it really means the same thing. And so, from a logical point of view, there doesn't seem to any justification for complaining about the use of "retarded."
Unfortunately, reason has nothing to do with the decrees of P.C. Like the story of Al Smith at Sing Sing, P.C.ers have a ludicrous talent for replacing a fair term with a worse one. Consider "handicapped," a word once used for people with a deficiency in physical ability. It was a good word, honest and yet optimistic. As in its popular racetrack use, it implied that someone had a difficulty that others didn't have, but that with courage and perseverance, he could overcome it and win. But P.C. decreed that it could cause discrimination (another useful word that was exiled to verbal Siberia) and demanded that it be replaced by "disabled" -- a much more pejorative word that, as used in modern electronics, implies total incapacity. But then "disabled" was proscribed and replaced with "challenged," a condescendingly hypocritical euphemism that has become the butt of countless jokes.
In the same Pecksniffian spirit, "retarded" -- now called (I'm not making this up) "the r-word" -- is has been declared offensive. You may visit a website where you can sign a pledge to eliminate this word from your vocabulary. (A chastened Emanuel has already done so.) Attempts are being made to obliterate the word from all federal laws. I assume that this also means that thousands of physics and engineering texts will have to be recalled and reprinted.
What is the excuse for this idiotic lack of acumen? It's the fact that the word is used as a common insult. According to Special Olympics Chief Executive Tim Shriver:
Every day our community hears this word -- in schools and workplaces, in print and in movies, on radio and television. And every day they suffer its dehumanizing effects -- mockery, stigma, ridicule. This is a word that is incredibly damaging -- not only to the seven million people with intellectual disabilities in the United States, but also their friends, family and to all of us.
This distress is commendable but futile. I envy Mr. Shiver and his colleagues their miraculously sheltered childhoods. They seem to be blissfully unaware that we live in a harsh and unfair world in which any word they choose to use for the mentally handicapped will be used as a popular insult. If they insist on replacing the r-word with, say, "gungulous," then bullies will shout "gungulous" in schools and playgrounds and turn it into an insult.
This has already happened. Mr. Shiver's organization chose to replace the r-word with "special." This is an interesting choice because "special" is an auto-antonym that, like "sanction," has two opposite meanings. The term "special students" has been used for both ends of the I.Q. spectrum. But that ambiguity has not stopped "special" from becoming a nasty joke, used by the Church Lady in "Saturday Night Live" and, I fear, by many others. And Mr. Shiver himself has used "disabilities," which, as already mentioned, means something much worse than "retarded" or "handicapped."
The best you can do, Mr. Shiver, is follow the advice of Confucius and use the most honest and accurate word you can find -- perhaps a technical term. Above all, avoid circumlocutions, which make the user look silly, and euphemisms, which always smell of hypocrisy. You cannot stop bullies and louts from mocking your charges any more than we conservatives can stop liberals from unjustly jeering at us.
In any case, thank you for humbling Rahm Emanuel and making him grovel. You made my day.
Actually, he was “detained.” “Retarded” would have been more correct than “deterred.”
Of course he meant to use it in an insulting manner! What else? But NOT to insult the 'mentally handicapped' (...just regular idiots). THAT is the point IMO, and his use of the term is nothing to get excited about in the context of the general degeneration (if one dislikes foul language) of modern speech. (The delicacy of Charles Dickens' use of the English language is long gone and lost it seems. Oh, btw, he (Dickens) correctly used the term 'sex' to distinguish men and women, not the retarded term 'gender'...;-))
I propose the addition of the word “RAHM” to our vocabulary. It’s a noun that means offensive, effeminate, thugish piece of trash.” I guess it could also be used as a verb as in..”go rahm yourself”.
Retard: noun - one who is retarded.
Get over it already.
It is a word to which extreme damage has been attached; by people like you, Tinkerbell.
To be objectionable, two things must be both present :
The intent to be hurtful.
And it must be directed at someone who is actually retarded.
The opinion and feelings of bystanders is irrelevant and presumptuous.
Calling the idiot who insists on using his cell phone in a darkened theater a "retard" is totally appropriate. And barring any suspicions that the retard is armed, I could be known to actually use the word.
If it damages your sensitivities, it's your problem, not mine.
How am I supposed to know that asking you for the time might be a supreme insult (because you never learned how to tell time)?
Self appointed word police are the most arrogant of retards!
Only because she was ambushed into answering a truly stupid question, and her "gaydar" was off at the time...
I am a watchmaker. Countless MILLIONS of older mechanical watches have regulator bars on bridges marked “A” and “R”. They are European terms indicating “Advance” or “RETARD” when regulating the timing of the watch. “Retard” is one of hundreds of words, spelled and pronounced alike that have vastly different meanings in different languages.
The Chevrolet NOVA induced hysterical laughter in some countries where NOVA meant “Won’t run”.
good one; and good on ya
I hate it when I do that.
Rahm is in a high governmental (aka ‘professional’) office and should be expected to act professional.
The use of his phrase would not be tolerated here on FR. It would be considered a personal attack.
In addition, I was always taught that those who repeatedly resort to profanity do so because of a lack of vocabulary.
So, Rahm embarrassed himself (and does so often), rather than anyone else. (IMHO)
what is so difficult to understand about why using RETARDED (or RETARD) as a term of contempt, an insult
It is demeaning to people who WERE BORN RETARDED. If “retarded” is an insult then it makes RETARDED citizens objects of contempt.
Sarah Palin gets it. You shouild not have to have a retarded child brother or sister to “get it”
Ditto with using skin color (N-word) or hair texture (”nappy headed”) as a terms of contempt or insult
If you see nothing wrong with using a birth condition as an insult, then why not skin color and hair texture?
“Negro” and (the derivative “n-gger) were not dropped because someone was just too sensitive - the words were dropped because they became common slurs for an ugly stereotype, based on nothing more than skin color
that is the problem with “retarded” and the derivative “retard” - too many people using it as an insult, not a clinical mental condition one is born with or develops from injury or disease. Teenagers seem to be among the worst offenders. Mine will never use this term loosely.
The term “retarded” as a mental condition needs to go back to being a medical term, not a term of contempt
That's so gay.
Exactly. I listened to Rush backpedal about this with a woman whose kid was retarded. Guess what? Your kid is mentally SLOW. Not worthless. But mentally SLOW. It may hurt to hear the word used to describe others who are similarly SLOW, but that doesn't change the fact that it is a perfectly valid word and only offensive because YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE OFFENSE. If FR and the world accept that any listener who takes offense is able to claim the speaker is somehow wrong--even in light of reality and accepted definition of the word in recent history--then we are simply accepting the application of PC to the people we don't like and not accepting it for people we do. That makes us as bad as the left. I think the whole damn thing is retarded. And I'm ashamed to have to pussyfoot around the English language ever day because our country is run by a bunch of limpwrists.
BTTT, and amen...er...aperson.
The issue is in using the word as a pejorative. I use the term “retarded” or “mentally retarded” to describe people with a certain handicap. I also use the term “gel retardation assay” (or “GRA”) to describe a specific kind of laboratory experiment. I will never use the word as a pejorative.
The problem is, when a word to describe the retarded develops a pejorative context, then another word has to be coined to describe the clinical condition. It will always be a race to find another word that is non-offensive, because as long as we allow the current term for “retarded” to be used as a pejorative, there never will be an acceptable clinical term for the condition.
I’d rather see people take a stand against using whatever the current term is as a pejorative. There are plenty of other words that work perfectly fine as insults. Personally, I like calling people acting stupidly “fruitcakes.”
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