People Should Not Take Offense to the Word Retarded
We live in a day and age where a lot of people take offense to many different ways we use certain words. Now, I am a firm believer that if we, as people, start limiting the words we are allowed to use, over time, we limit our very ability to communicate effectively. I live in Canada, a place famously known for freedom of speech. The thing is, when you allow freedom of speech, you allow the good that people can say along with the bad. Freedom of speech is letting people say what they want despite the fact you may strongly disagree with them. This, however, is not even my main argument. These are just a few facts I wanted to clarify before I start wading through the metaphorical shitstorm that this topic will, no doubt, cause.
When people get offended by the term “Retard” or “Retarded,” I firmly believe that it is because they are confused about a few things. The main argument seems to be that mentally retarded people take offense to the use of the word. Mental retardation is an illness of the mind. While a lot of things are still not known about mental retardation, it is defined as follows:
“Mental retardation (MR) is a condition diagnosed before age 18, usually in infancy or prior to birth, that includes below-average general intellectual function, and a lack of the skills necessary for daily living.”*
After the age of 18 it is called dementia, and is associated with infantile behaviour and decreased learning ability. It seems to me like mentally retarded people, and the overly sensitive people who speak on the behalf of mentally retarded people, are taking it personally whenever a person uses the word “Retarded” to describe things we think are stupid, or whenever someone takes an action we feel are stupid. Personally, I do not think that they should take it on such a personal level. The fact of the matter is, the words mental retardation and the word retard/retarded mean two very different things. Mental retardation was defined previously, but I should add that people with low IQ scores that can adapt to daily life are not considered mentally retarded. The word retard, however, comes from a French and Latin background derived from words that mean ‘Slow”.** A fact, that you may not be aware of, is there are devices used in baking called “Retarders”, which are still used today and are still called retarders. These devices are used in the proofing process to retard bread by slowing the activity of the yeast.***
The keyword here being slow. The point I am trying to make is that whenever I, or someone else, calls something or someone retarded, we are not demeaning mentally retard people the planet over, we are merely calling the target, of our words, slow. The word slow is another term used to call a person stupid, and the word retard has evolved to cover objects as well as people because of its connection to the word stupid. To this day, I have never heard anyone being upset or getting offended over someone calling an object stupid, and the only people who actually take offense to being called stupid are people who do not want to be viewed as unintelligent; therefore, I conclude that the words retard and retarded should not be taken offense to, but merely distinguished from the phrase mentally retarded as the word retarded is interchangeable with the word stupid in today’s society. Perhaps the real reason the mentally retarded take offense to the word, in the first place, is because their condition is a harsh fate. Maybe they do not want to be reminded that they are below the average human being because they cannot take care of themselves properly. Unfortunately, reality is cruel, and there is no possible way to ethically hide the fact that the mentally retarded are different than the average human being. If you just continue to change the medical term they will, in time, come to hate the new term just as much, and the new term will become just as offensive as the last term. The only difference is, we will have limited our word pool even more to cater to individuals that, for the most part, do not have the capacity to properly think.
If you go a step further and try to ban the words “slow” or “stupid” because you find them offensive, the ability to communicate will be effectively hindered because people would be banned from saying things like “slow down” or “that idea is stupid,” and I shouldn’t have to tell you the negative impact that would have on society. You might say that the word stupid is negative and ugly, and you would probably be right; however, we do not live in a perfect world, negative words are needed to communicate and some people are indeed stupid. Sometimes it would even be dangerous not to call people out on being stupid because of some unintelligent idea they are trying to bring about.
So, the next time you want to hate on a person, or get all offended because of a certain word choice they decide to use, think about the things I have said here today, and use it to decide if a person is really being offensive, or just using a word you do not like properly.
If you have any questions or comments feel free to email me. My contact information is listed under the contact section of this site, located on the menu bar to your left. Keep in mind I will respond at my leisure, and I will be sure to post any emails that I find hilarious along with my responses to them, just because I am a dick like that. Thanks for taking the time to read this and have a great day.