Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Question for Those who want to Ban "The R-Word"

What would you replace it with?

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Blogger Arby said...

"Retch?" "Raindrops?" "Retarded?" "Rutabaga?" What is the "r" word?

March 3, 2011 at 7:49 AM  
Blogger Papa Bear said...

The third one. Some people find its use in the technical sense offensive because some other people use it as an insult.

March 3, 2011 at 8:52 AM  
Blogger Mama Bear said...

We have been asked to use the term intellectual disability at work. I wonder how much difference it makes. If someone wants to use a term as an insult it doesn’t matter how many times you change the terms it won’t change those people.

March 3, 2011 at 9:30 AM  
Blogger Arby said...

"Retarded," is a perfectly acceptable word when used properly. Our overly PC conscious society needs to grow up.

March 3, 2011 at 10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree, Arby. "Retarded" is an antiquated word that no longer applies. There have been many words in our language that have been fazed out as being derrogatory and hurtful. I don't think I need to mention some of them to get my point across here, so I won't. These words were used to help make someone feel inferior, less than, not quite human. Our special needs children and just that, special. Not less than. I for one, will teach my family to use appropriate terminology. There doesn't need to be a replacement word. If the medical term is Autism, for example, then the person is Autistic, or has Autism. Down's Syndrome is Down's syndrome etc. No hate here, just stating my opinion.

March 3, 2011 at 12:23 PM  
Blogger Papa Bear said...

What about a person who has a low IQ score, but no further diagnosis yet? What word should be used in a scientific paper, for instance, to describe this condition as a feature of Down's, autism, etc.? "Special" is too vague. We need a technical term.

March 3, 2011 at 1:24 PM  
Blogger Arby said...

Hatesocks, if your understanding of the word “retard” or “retardation” is limited to applications in regards to human beings, please be so kind as to look up the word “retard” in the dictionary. Consult a complete and unabridged dictionary of the English language. You will find that the word “retard” and its variations have applications outside of references to human intellectual and emotional development. We use fire retardants every day in this country. We may apply chemicals in our homes that will retard the growth of molds and other bacteria. It is completely unnecessary to restrict the use of a perfectly good word simply because some people misuse it in one of its applications. Now, if you feel like I’ve just played a game of “Gotchya,” please allow me to tell you that I have. I did it on purpose. I knew someone would respond in the manner that you did. My purpose for doing this is point out the fact that as a society we need to learn to think about what is being said rather than simply react to what is being said. When people react without taking into consideration context and purpose, we end up with people losing their jobs for using the word “niggardly” when it has absolutely nothing to do with its derogatory cousin. Political correctness and the politics of language does far more harm than good.

March 3, 2011 at 5:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG you have got to be kidding me. My whole comment just got erased. Here is the condensed version.

Arby, While I am not of amazing intellect, I am not a slouch either. I believe I am aware of the textbook definition of the word. In addition, You did not "get" me. This is merely a discussion between peers. I replied in the spirit in which I believe the question was intended. This word, when used as a negative term referring to an individual of decreased mental capacity is hurtful and unnecessary. I am not looking to eradicate a word entirely, jut looking to teach others how to use them appropriate and with respect. I am coming from a place of love and concern for my children. Surely, you can't fault a mother, and a woman, for her opinion.

PapaBear, such a good qustion really. I am sure they come up with something on the insurance papers, but we all know how unreliable and unhelpful those "somethings" can be. In the situation you mentioned... perhaps "Intellectually Challenged?"

March 4, 2011 at 10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Arby, I could not disagree with you more. Making an academic argument to continue the use of the word retard is disingenuous, at best. We're discussing the use of slang to subjugate broad and vulnerable segments of our population. And frankly, whenever someone makes the 'political correctness' argument, that person is almost always in the class doing the discriminating. Asking people to change their language and making certain slang words taboo is the first effective step toward changing attitudes.

To answer papa bear's question, I'd suggest 'cognitively impared' be used to represent individiuals with low IQ but no formal diagnosis.

March 4, 2011 at 11:11 AM  
Blogger Papa Bear said...

So you agree we need a technical term? Everything I've read about this campaign says we should ban every use of the word "retarded". That only hurts special-needs kids and their families without helping anyone.

As for its use as an insult, mean people who are looking to insult someone will find a word. Campaigns and rules against using a particular word as an insult have only made that word more powerful, and therefore attractive to these people. Replacing an old technical term with a new technical term makes the new term an insult as soon as these people learn what it means. And since they're mean rule-breakers anyway, they won't stop using the old word. So you've only given them more stones to throw. Yes, rules against insulting and abusive language can be enforced up to a point, and I believe those rules already cover using "retarded" as an insult. That means kids use it when the teacher can't hear. It doesn't stop them from using it any more than it stops them from using "fat".

I need a technical term to discuss my son's issues. If I just say "autism" which he has, people either think he's nonverbal or can count cards. I'm not opposed to someone proposing a new technical term, just please let us know what it is. If you say we can't use one word for a thing without giving us a replacement word, you are basically telling us to shut up. If you want us to use "cognitively impaired", say so, but if you think it won't go the way of feeble-minded, cretin, idiot, imbecile, moron, retarded and special, you're more optimistic than I am.

March 4, 2011 at 12:07 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Ah. This question takes on a different context now. Again, I agree we do need a technical term, for the family if nothing else. I also agree that any terminology can be used as hurtful. While I have not taken any sides in this campaign against the word, I still think we should try to teach others a more appropriate way to express their feelings. I refer mostly to those who use "retarded" in ignorance. Those who the word typically refers to, do not have the social ability to discern the speaking individual's lack of harmful intent. Therefore, we, as caretakers, must speak up for their needs and feelings, as you, Papabear are surely accustomed to doing for your boys.
There will most certainly always been those bullies who will use whatever word is chosen to inflict pain. That can't be helped. No one runs around using "nigger" anymore, and those who do suffer untoward consequences. It proves that we can make the change for the general population.

"Cognitively impaired" works, so does "decreased mental capacity," "Intellectually or "cognitively Challenged." All of these are would work for your purposes. Socially delayed, if referring to Autistic characteristics, perhaps might also work. I guess it all depends on what you are going for, and your personal feelings on the matter.
Thank you PapaBear for allowing such a wonderful open dialogue. I hope no one has taken my comments in any other way then the best of intentions.

Suddenly, my wordpress account won't let me post comments. This is HateSocks.

March 4, 2011 at 1:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If you want us to use "cognitively impaired", say so, but if you think it won't go the way of feeble-minded, cretin, idiot, imbecile, moron, retarded and special, you're more optimistic than I am."

I did say so, didn't I? ;) And I really do think it won't go the way of the other words, because there are too many syllables for it to have the quick playground punch that bullies are looking for. And 'impaired' usually means drunk.

I also think this discussion has finally reached the critical mass it needs to make it harder to find a replacement word. After the big n-word blowup, there's never really been another quick, easy word that has been as hatefully provocative. Racism is still something that needs to be worked against, but I'd argue that the discussion over common use of the word marked the last of the truly institutionalized bigotry in larger society. Now when people use the word, there is a backlash that includes shock and condemnation instead of a wink and a nudge. Although there will always be those who defend their choice of words with the first amendment and talk of political correctness run amok.

My hope is that with this passionate discussion, awareness of the marginalization of our family members will be raised and it will become more unacceptable in society as a whole, not just pockets on the internet.

March 4, 2011 at 2:35 PM  
Blogger Papa Bear said...

There are two main purposes for words: to communicate and obfuscate. I prefer to communicate.

HateSocks: "Cognitively impaired" works, so does "decreased mental capacity," "Intellectually or "cognitively Challenged." All of these are would work for your purposes.

No they don't. As Lynnes noted, "impaired" already means "drunk". "Decreased" is going to offend anyone who insists on "different, but not less than," and "challenged" was already an insult when it was used (and parodied) extensively in "Politically Correct Bedtime Stories" in 1994. There's no getting around third-grade logic: stupid is bad. If someone comes up with a new word for stupid, that word is bad, too.

Lynnes: I did say so, didn't I? ;) And I really do think it won't go the way of the other words, because there are too many syllables for it to have the quick playground punch that bullies are looking for.

Which is exactly why it will never catch on as a universal technical term. Each speciality will come up with its own term (see the above list for examples) and its own definition, no two of which will line up exactly. With no agreement on terminology, each will be frequently changed. This will not only impede communication between specialties, but will serve the other main function of technical jargon: to enforce the dominance of the professionals over the laity. The professionals will use it to make themselves feel more important by obstructing communication between each specialty, those they serve, and their caregivers, who don't have time to keep up with the flavor of the week. (Last time I had to talk to a government agency over the phone, they wanted to know my racial group for statistical purposes. I answered, "Whatever they're calling white these days." And I have family members for whom that question is a lot more complicated.)

To communicate effectively, a few professionals will settle on a short, punchy word, abbreviation, or acronym, and the others will follow suit. Emotionally disturbed became ED. Hyperactive became attention deficit disorder became ADD became Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder became ADHD. I've heard them all as playground insults, not to mention a few nonmedical shortened variants.

Children call other children names. So do some adults, who should know better. If you want to prevent that, work on teaching them to consider and respect other people's feelings rather than glorifying one bad word. And please don't replace one word everyone understands with a dozen that no one is exactly sure of.

I'm always a bit put off by anyone "doing good" because they tend to assume that no one who disagrees could have anything but evil motives. I won't oppose your campaign, even though in the long run, I suspect it will do more harm than good. I'll just sit here chuckling quietly. If I get the urge to pour time and energy into a cause, rather than into individual people I can actually help, I'll pick a more useful one, like banning cursive:

March 4, 2011 at 5:27 PM  
Blogger kathleen said...

Yeah..I'm with you..lets ban cursive!! My kids have worked really hard to have the words that they do. I tell them that words can't be bad-intentions can. That HOW you use a word is important. If we ban the "R" word-then we need to ban "special" as know?

March 4, 2011 at 6:09 PM  
Blogger Papa Bear said...

I can't hear the word "special" without thinking of Church Lady.

March 4, 2011 at 6:53 PM  
Blogger Mama Bear said...

I work with many people with intellectual disabilities, many of which hate the word "special". One told me it's the world's way of saying "your dumb." She knows it's a put down. No matter what you call it, an insult is an insult.

March 5, 2011 at 12:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that was mainly my point, Papabear. First of all, I am not part of any campaign. I simply thought I was answering a question asked by a blogger I respect in a situation remotely similar to my own. I DO know that if someone calls my son a retard, I will take offense and react accordingly (however that might be). As for eradicating a word or something? That's not my deal. I have enough in my own home to deal with at the moment. I'm not about to start taking on anyone else's battles while I am still fighting my own.
I am really confused by this entire conversation. It seemed to have started with you asking for suggestions for alternatives. We provided those. If you disagree with what we provided, then don't use them. I just don't understand why our response to your question caused such a disproportionate response.
As for people trying to "do good," Maybe that is what is motivating others, I can't speak for them. I am selfishly trying to protect my own. I am being a Mama Bear, guarding my cubs. Something I think you can relate to. If that makes me a bad person, or part of their (whoever THEY are) campaign, I just don't have the time or the amount of sleep to care.
Naturally, I am not going to say something foolish about not reading your blog. We are not children and can each hold our own opinions. I take comfort in reading your blog. It shows me some hope for my future and that of my son. It makes me laugh, cry and FEEL. Which God knows, I need right now.

March 7, 2011 at 3:08 PM  

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