This post was originally made on my MySpace on April 8, 2007:
I was reading "Dear Abby" today. Yes, I read that withering old bat "Dear Abby". Whenever I get my hands on a newspaper, advice columns are the first place I go. I'm well aware that I'm the worst kind of news reader. I just dump everything and go for the advice columns, only going through the rest when I'm just that bored. This one was from this past Tuesday. It was about people writing in to comment on use of the word "retarded". You can find it here. Anyway, it annoyed the crap outta me. Yes, yes, I realize this makes me a horrid person but for crying out loud, these people want to whine about the usage of a word. I would've thought this would've been more up the napkin-up-the-ass, fork-on-the-right-sideness avenue of Miss Manners but whatever, right?
Firstly, this pink blogness is not about the people addressing its usage as a "derogatory insult" towards their mentally retarded loved ones. This is about the complaints and subsequent bitching-ware party about people calling other people and things "retarded" as an insult. I mean, that one lady writing in that people would "stare and talk" about her and her sister? What kind of ass do you have to be to go around whispering behind people's backs like they can't hear you? I think it goes without saying that sort of thing is deplorable. I don't call a mentally retarded person "mentally retarded" under the so-called "unabusive" manner, whatever the hell that's suppose to be mean. (Because I get the distinct feeling it means about hundred different things depending on who you're talking to, so it's just better not to use it.) Speaking from a completely unassociated and bystander point-of-view, why would you call any "mentally retarded" person "retarded"? I don't care if that's what they actually are or whatever, it's totally rude.
But these people are just nitpicking. I mean, check this one person out: "I am the sister of a mentally retarded individual, and my heart breaks every day when I see her struggle, her triumphs and her innocence." What the hell does that have to do with one person calling a thing or another person "retarded"? "Surely those teens and adults who use the term 'retarded' in an abusive manner are not personally acquainted with an individual who is truly retarded." No kidding they aren't. Everyone knows people only care when it happens to them. I think you should build a giant retardo ray and teach them all a lesson.
"I am the parent of a daughter with developmental disabilities, and it is painful when I hear a friend or colleague use the term as an insult"? WTF? Did it ever occur to you that "retarded" is not your word exclusively? Why do I have a feeling that this person doesn't tell their friend or colleague to knock it off? Seriously, you're allowed to do that. What kind of friends are these if you can't tell them to shut-up about the "retarded" business? As for the colleagues, there's a reason HR is there. Not everyone finds it as offensive as you do and when this happens, you need to let people know that you're not one of them.
Or from the Feb. 11th column they were responding to: "I am a special education teacher who works with people who have mental retardation. Everywhere I go, I hear teenagers and young adults calling each other 'retarded.'" You gotta be kidding. I would K-I-L-L to be able to go somewhere and have teenagers and young adults calling each other "retarded" because at least it would be one less use of the f- and s-words they're so fond of instead.
Bottom Line: If you're taking someone else's conversation as insult or personal pain when it has nothing whatsoever to do with you or is in direct context to your situation, I think you have some issues to address.
I use plenty of words and "retarded" is one of 'em. I call tests retarded. I call policies retarded. I call my sister retarded. I call my cats retarded. I call half the things on tv retarded. I call those dancing penguins retarded. And how do I sleep at night? Because this has nothing, nothing whatsoever to do with any actual people that could qualify for the medical usage of the word. It has nothing to do with their personal pain or struggles or whatever's going on in the lives of people I do not know and thusly have no emotional investment in.
The word's long been adopted into the lexicon of slang, it's in the dictionary as such. It conveys a meaning "that's stupid" just can not manage. Just where do they think words like "lame" and "moron" came from anyway? Wasn't "dumb" used for mute people? Go look it up. Etymology is a grand thing. Thousands of words have left their intended meanings behind. By their convoluted logic, just because you're not gonna meet Teddy Roosevelt is no reason to use the word "lame". That's stupid. This idea that people can have ownership of words is, well, I won't even say it.