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Saturday, March 13, 2010

The R Word

There's this PR campaign going on to rid the use of the word "retarded" in everyday speech. You know, it's that casual use of the word when we want to describe something "stupid" or "senseless" even though we also know that the word has a very clinical, serious definition.

My hilarious Twitter friend, Tanis, posted her first serious blog post on this topic, which is what really opened my eyes. And another friend--Christie, a fellow mother of twins--regularly posts on this topic (and incidentally, she regularly pimps out the SMA cause and the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation for us on her blog).

Two out of my three children are physically disabled, but nobody has ever labeled them as retarded--because for all their physically disabilities, they have no cognitive delay. For parents of kids with cognitive delays, this is not the case. Using the word "retarded" in a humorous manner or as a punchline must stop. Wouldn't you agree? And even if you're unaffected and ambivalent, how could you disagree?

When we use the word in this casual manner, it's not funny (think about it--is it funny to you?) and it doesn't make us sound intelligent. It's not a clever adjective at all--oh heavens, people, we are far too clever to use such a term in a humorous fashion. The bottom line is that it is offensive, and for general purposes, it's not creative at all. There really is no reason to throw around the word "retarded", for most of us.

But here's what's odd: I didn't realize how often I refer to things and people as "retarded" until I recently tried to (consciously) avoid the word. The word spills off my tongue daily, as it turns out. Well, that is, it used to. It doesn't anymore. I'm embarrassed now and apologize to anyone I may have offended when using it previously.

And here's the crazy thing: Now when I find myself wanting to use the term "retarded" out of habit, I tend to substitute the word "lame". You know, the person whose children can't walk is substituting the word "lame" in a derogatory manner. I really do feel like that should bother me, but it doesn't. It's only ironic.

But if anyone else needs to say "lame" instead of a more offensive word, please know that I'm totally cool with that. Just don't say "retarded". Because now? That word offends me, too.


  1. The word RETARD is french. Tard means later, retard means again late, plus tard means much later. Just another word the English and slang got so wrong. Never used for people, only trains.

  2. Yep, this is one serious pet peeve for me and I've callled people on it point blank. Good job for recognizing it and changing it in your vocabulary.