Friday, April 20, 2012

That's Retarded!

I have written before about the power of words.

I guess being a writer, that makes sense.

In fact, this post is not going to have any pictures on purpose. Let's focus on the words.

And I am guessing that the title of this post may have gotten your attention.

Well good.

That's the point.

Have you ever said that? "That's retarded!"?

I know I have. In fact, I shudder when I admit that I know I have said it recently.

Hence this post. is not just the fact that I know I have said it. I caught one of my bright, thoughtful, lovely boys saying it.

And I knew then that it was time for a conversation.

And then I knew it was time for a blog post.

While I assume they heard it from someone in the school yard, or perhaps in the hockey dressing room, it is quite possible that they heard it from me.

And that makes me angry.

Angry at myself for letting myself slip.

Frankly, I would rather them hear me say "shit" or even less attractive language than hear me say something like "that's retarded".

Let me explain further.

Certain things that we say...sometimes without even realizing incredibly derogatory and downright wrong. This is not about political correctness - although that is part of it I suppose. This is really about respect.

Respect for all human beings as equals.

Does anyone reading this ever use the term "handicapped"?

I used to.

Then, back in University I did my final paper on "accessibility in an urban setting" as the topper for my Sociology degree at The University of Guelph.

As part of my research, I interviewed a number of people with physical disabilities - particularly those that used a wheelchair.

One young man shared something with me that I will never forget. He taught me the roots of the term "handicapped".

I did not know this before I met this person, but the word "handicapped" refers to when people with disabilities had no other options in society than to beg for money - with cap in hand held out hoping for spare change. And there the term "handicapped" was born.

Not a very complimentary - or humane - word all of a sudden.

Ever since then, I have not used this word. I have also shared this little piece of history with a number of people.

The same goes for the terms "retard" or "retarded" when speaking of people with mental disabilities.

I put them up there with derogatory terms used to refer to other minority groups. The "n" word for people of colour. The "f" word for homosexuals. I can't even type the words.

I can relate some of this back to a common saying "rule of thumb". We all have said it...but do you know where that one originated?

The "rule of thumb" actually refers to the diameter of the stick that a man could use...according to the "rule of thumb" beat his wife with once upon a time. It could "only" be up to as wide as his own thumb.

Interesting how certain words and phrases get mixed into our every day language and use.

So the point of this is to just be more aware of the words that you say...and where they came from.

I am still are we all. And we all slip.

But remember that our children are listening.

And on that note, my son just asked me "what the frick" I was writing about.

I wonder where the frick he got that from?

Time for a chat.




  1. Another thought provoking post that will be shared.Very interesting on the orgins of words,I learned a few things.I think many children do not even know what the words actually mean and we as parents and role models need to educate so it stops in the school yard etc.

    1. Exactly Becky. Thanks so much for sharing and for your thoughtful comment. :)

  2. A word is like a bullet. Once it is fired, it can not be withdrawn. Good that we think about them before we aim them.

  3. Nice post - Couldn't agree more. I too use these words when I've given explicit instruction to myself and children not too specifically the word retarded; it's such an awful word really and we don't often mean them in the true context when they are used; having said that using them keeps the words alive...anyways...thanks for sharing

  4. This is something that has always rolled around in my mind. The R word is pretty common and almost everyone I know uses it. Great post Lora.