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February 02, 2010

Comments

If only the manufacturing of outrage counted toward GNP...

Um, really? That's just the way you roll?

Well, what about 'faggot this' and 'faggot that'? You roll that way, too?

Because some things are just, you know, totally gay and faggoty, and that's just the way we roll.

You, sir, are a wad.

But Slarti, the manufacture of outrage DOES count toward GDP. Rush Limbaugh is a biggish industry, no?

--TP

I'm curious -- precisely what purpose are you accomplishing by spelling "fucking" as "f-cking"? I can think of a few possibilities:

1) you are afraid of the word, and believe that by doing this you have disguised it sufficiently. I am here to tell you that you have not.

2) You are not afraid of the word, and believe that using it draws in the readers attention. Instead, you are afraid of the people who do not approve its use, and believe that you have disguised it so that they will not notice. I am sorrowed to tell you that this is not the case.

3) You like the word, but are also vaguely repelled by it. "Am I the sort of person who writes 'fucking' for all the world to see?" Yet its power draws you . . . To bleed off a little of this power, you spell it "f-cking". Congratulations! You have succeeded! Now instead of considering your post, I wonder why you can't write what you mean.

ObWi has a rule against obscenity, though honored as much in the breach as the observance.

I kind of like it even though I have a foul mouth. It forces me to avoid the most confrontational phrasing that I would otherwise jump to.

You can't walk five steps in these places without calling someone "f-cking retarded"

Actually, von, that would be "retahded".

To me, the most shocking part of this is Palin's appallingly late (tardy?) reaction. Rahm's name-calling occurred in August.

Wow. I am not in sync with the common wisdom here. I think what he said si wrong and should be admonished, some words should not be used casually and I think retarded is one of them.

What exactly is a "Martha-Coakley liberal"?

I hear retarded as well as many a swear word at my office, as just part of the day to day blather. Doesn't bother me.

And I also teach my kids not to say "shut up" and call people "idiot" too, even though those words won't raise a fuss by ObWi's standards or Palin's

This level of outrage is just so g*y!
(Sorry, that was just juvenile of me.)

Lets be normative here; How many other instances
of That Word have occurred in that context ?
Dick Cheney is the only one I recall, and he
had just been insulted.

Or reflective; What word could he use that would
get him justly thrown under the bus ?

This is not a word that can be used in decent company. He should apologize, and then say nothing disparaging about the President's supporters, priorities, or agenda.

"you do not want someone with a severe cognitive disability designing a healthcare plan"

Why not?

Maybe folks with severe cognitive disabilities who can't afford a decent healthcare plan could design better healthcare insurance coverage for all of us than the f*cking retards who run the joint now.

And I'm talking about the f*cking retards who dared compromise with the other f*cking retards who don't want to cover the uninsured.

Ms. Death Palin's only f*cking retarded contribution is private death palins.

Paul Ryan's only f*cking retarded contribution is privatizing Medicare for the f*cking retarded.

Good post, Von.

P.S. Palin's cheap trick is to play the "politically correct" card on Emanuel. Even though she hates political correctness. Back in the day, before political correctness ruined everything for conservatives, the retarded were f*cked, unless their families had money, and even then ..

von, I'm a former special education teacher. From my perspective I do not like terms like "retard" or "retarded" to be used as put downs. If you think someone is stupid, call them that. On the other hand I'm not really into being the word police. I just mention this because you wrote: "Still, maybe I have a cultural bias that's blinding me to the offensiveness of Emanuel's comment. (Help me out, here, readers.)"

I'm not sure it's a cultural bias exactly. On the other hand I don't think there are very many people who have disabled relatives or work with disabled people who use labels as insults.

Of course "retarded" is an out-of-date label, almost as out-of-date as "moron" or "idiot".

"You f++cking people have developmental disabilities!"

Hhmm

Idiot and especially moron have similar etymologies to retard, or retarded.

None of them are very nice, but there's nothing specially offensive about "retard".

It's also worth noting that unlike other slurs, the word "retarded" has a legitimate, objective negative meaning. The common anti-gay and anti-black slurs are purely slurs -- words that are intended to be demeaning specifically in reference to race or sexual orientation.

"To retard", on the other hand, or being "retarded", has a real, non-slur, negative meaning. I mean, not to put too fine a point on it, but all other things being equal, being retarded is worse than not being retarded, is it not?

"ObWi has a rule against obscenity, though honored as much in the breach as the observance."

I also thought the use of f--- and sh-- was done here for the benefit of bloggers who are using their machines at work, and whatever those implications may carry.

To echo wonkie -- hi, wonkie; hope you and the dogs are well! -- I'm not much for acting as a word policeman. Cursing is cursing, but racial and other slurs only serve to offend (and bog down an argument or debate).

Some people agree with me:

"The Special Olympics said in a statement: "The meeting will be a face-to-face discussion with Rahm Emanuel about the suffering and pain of people with intellectual disabilities that is perpetuated by the use of the terms 'retard' and 'retarded' as well as the damage that can be done by the casual use of the R-word – even if it is not directed toward people with intellectual disabilities."

The group said it will "invite Emanuel to take the R-word pledge at www.r-word.org and to join in the March 3, 2010 Spread the Word to End the Word campaign, as well as invite him to be a leader of change surrounding the pervasive and damaging use of the R-word."

there's nothing specially offensive about "retard".

I believe it's the prerogative of the folks whose collective description is being used as a pejorative to decide if it's offensive, or not.

Also, having just read the posting rules, I note that there *is* a rule against profanity, whether disguised or not. My comments may be somewhat shorter going forward.

I'm with wonkie. Whenever I hear someone use "retarded" as a slur, I assume they're just a dick. And then I try and give them the benefit of the doubt by assuming that they don't have anyone in their family who is mentally retarded. I do, and I find it offensive.

Obviously, I don't think Rahm should resign. Being a dick isn't grounds for firing.

von, I'm a former special education teacher. From my perspective I do not like terms like "retard" or "retarded" to be used as put downs. If you think someone is stupid, call them that. On the other hand I'm not really into being the word police. I just mention this because you wrote: "Still, maybe I have a cultural bias that's blinding me to the offensiveness of Emanuel's comment. (Help me out, here, readers.)"

I agree with this, in general. I don't use the term "retarded" -- although, candidly, it really doesn't offend me.

At the same time, I have a very hard time understanding why "retarded" is offensive but "moron" not. Both have the same basic history in mental health; heck, both were in clinical use at approximately the same time. Yet, one can call someone else a moron without the tut-tut. Why? I don't think anyone has a good answer to that. ... other than, well, that's the way it went.

Note, too, that retarded is not a slur, no matter how hard one tries to make it one. Yes, it's offensive (and offensive to be called one). But a slur is a derogatory term that, in some way, accurately describes the intended target. A word like retarded, or moron, is only offensively applied when it inaccurately describes the target. But maybe that's changing, too: I suspect that Palin would be equally outraged if someone called Trig retarded.

At the same time, I have a very hard time understanding why "retarded" is offensive but "moron" not. Both have the same basic history in mental health; heck, both were in clinical use at approximately the same time. Yet, one can call someone else a moron without the tut-tut. Why? I don't think anyone has a good answer to that. ... other than, well, that's the way it went.

Regardless of the history, they are not used the same way now. Right now, today, retarded is a clinical term that describes lots of people in this country. We have an Association of Retarded Citizens (which does absolutely wonderful work by the way). Moron is not a recognized medical term right now. The word moron does not appear prominently in any disabled child's individual education plan. The word retarded does.

That means that when you say retarded, I think about my brother. When you say moron, I do not. Since your intended use is clearly negative, and since the mental retardation has absolutely nothing to do with the subject at hand, I further conclude that you think calling to mind the image of retarded children and adults struggling is somehow funny or clever -- and I think that makes you an ass.

There are lots of phrases that seem cute or harmless as long as you have no personal experience with them. I knew lots of people back in the day who didn't see the problem with talking about how a test raped them but changed their tune after they spent a night or two talking down a rape survivor from her PTSD.

I'm going to defend Von on this, much to his regret.

Look, I think gay and lesbian Americans should be able to serve in the military in all roles, including combat.

I also believe those who deny gay and lesbian Americans the opportunity to serve their country are a bunch of b*llying, c*cksu*king, fa**ots, who can k*ss my swe*t heterose*ual as* in the street, where aster*****isks go to die.

You know why? Because it's the latter who can't handle it when I'm unpolitically correct. For God's sake, stop that lovemaking on the battlefield, don't you realize we're trying to kill each other!

Further, I believe Americans who are born with severe cognitive disabilities should be awarded a generous, socialist, government stipend at birth, and their families should be afforded, at taxpayer com*ie expense, whatever it takes to nurture and care for them throughout their lives.

Those who don't believe that, and we know who they are, are the f888888 retards.

Didn't you people learn anything from Frank Luntz? Elections are won and policy in America is instituted by the names you call the enemy.

What amazes me in all of this is that Palin's complaint is the sort of thing that generally draws howls of derision and complaints about political correctness. From the Right. It's us over here on the Left who are supposed to be big crybabies who can't stand name-calling. Who knew it would be Sarah Palin that would step up to teach us all about tolerance?

Idiot and especially moron have similar etymologies to retard, or retarded.

None of them are very nice, but there's nothing specially offensive about "retard".

This.

Look, I get PC. I get the whole "slur" angle--I fight against people dropping "fag" or "gay" in online games all the time. There are places where I think that kind of pushback is warranted and common usage has to give way to decency.

The difference is that calling something "gay", or someone a "faggot"--in common American parlance--has no imaginable sane connection to what the words actually represent, other than to unfairly disparage homosexuality. The implication by association--that something is undesirable or out of bounds by being in some way comparable to homosexuality--is offensive primarily because it is untrue.

Calling something "retarded"--be it a person, an idea, or event--has a direct semantic relationship to the word's categorical meaning. Speaking strictly descriptively--not disparagingly--referring to someone as "retarded" in a medical sense refers specifically to a subset of medical conditions which render someone mentally impaired in some way. It need not have any relationship to their day-to-day competence; I use "impaired" here in a strictly technical sense. I say this not to be unkind, but to point out that the concept conveyed by the modern use of "retarded"--that something makes no sense or a person made a mentally impaired choice--has a direct semantic relationship to the sort of condition described by the original word. "Fag" and "gay" have no such connection; the purpose is to disparage homosexuality.

I think the difference between "retarded" and "moron" is time. "Moron" is no longer used as a clinical term and it's association with disability has faded considerably. ON the other hand "retarded" is in current use in reference to people with developmental disabilities. The word itself is not a slur but to use it as a putdown of someone makes it into one.

Maybe in fifty years the connotations on "retarded" will change.
The evolution of words is interesting to me. Many of the words devised to describe disabled people have turned into slurs. So new non-slur words have been devised to describe disabled people to replace the degraded terms which in time become slurs and are replaced. After enough time goes by the words lose all connection to disabled people but remains slurs.

Take "dumb", for example. It used to mean mute. For awhile it meant both a mute person and a stupid person as if mute people were stupid. Now it means a stupid person and the link to deafness is mostly forgotten.

"Idiot" has gone through the same evolution.

What exactly is a "Martha-Coakley liberal"?

Martha Coakley.

Try the veal!

Wait, I thought the whole point of calling someone a retard was to imply that the person in question did do or say or demonstrate the intent thereof, something so stupid, that with some artful exaggeration, and the poetic use of metaphor, you can compare said person to someone who is intellectually disabled.

All in all retarded doesn't seem that offensive, and seems akin to calling someone blind (when he doesn't watch where he is going etc.) or deaf (when a person fails to follow verbal instructions)

If you want really offensive, try Mongoloid on for size. That is actually more insulting (probably because of the racial connotations as well)

And if you want to be really cerebral, you could call someone anencephalic.

I'm from New England, too. I'm from Boston, in fact. I have friends who (with humorous intention) have referred to things or people as "gaytarded." Did I laugh? Well, yes, but that also has to do with my knowledge of these particular friends and my expectations of them. Also, I was fifteen.

That doesn't mean I don't think people should avoid using "retarded" as a derogatory term. It's not the same as saying something is stupid. It has a particular association with developmental disabilities. Stupid can be a moment (a smart person can do something stupid); mentally disabled is a state of being. To use "retarded" as an insult is an insult to the mentally disabled, not only to whatever one is trying to denigrate.

I'm not particularly offended at what Rahm said, because the discourse of political people behind closed doors is not and will never be a perfect example of respect for human beings. I don't give a damn about throwing "fuck" around--I use it in place of "um" half the time. But if you're asking the question, then yes, I think we should try to train ourselves away from "retarded."

The f-word can trigger filters, as do some other words, so it can lead to either alarms or blocking. More creative filters replace offensive words with innocent ones. My experience with one of those makes me type 'prawn' almost automatically when referring to descriptions/depictions of sexual activity for the purpose of entertainment.
'Idiot' has an interesting history and originally was a political not a clinical term. It referred to full citizens that did not take part in policy/politics in ancient Greek city states.
May I propose 'hysteresics'http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hysteresis>* as a replacement for 'retarded persons' when used as an insult ;-)

What Turbulence and Hartmurt said.

"Retarded" is both a widely used clinical term ("Your daughter is likely to be mildly to moderately mentally retarded") and a widely used, insulting way to say "stupid" ("Oh my god, how retarded was that?" and "Don't be such a retard").

Calling something "retarded"--be it a person, an idea, or event--has a direct semantic relationship to the word's categorical meaning.

Just to be clear Catsy: if you were in a restaurant and a waitress dropped a big tray of heavy dishes and some other patron pointed at her, laughed and said "Ha ha! Her Parkinson's must be acting up!" would you conclude that person was an ass? If so, what is the difference? I mean, Parkinson's has a direct semantic relationship to whole class of motor nerve failures associated with clumsiness and lurching. Sure, Parkinson's is a specific medical condition, but so is mental retardation.

Speaking strictly descriptively--not disparagingly--referring to someone as "retarded" in a medical sense refers specifically to a subset of medical conditions which render someone mentally impaired in some way.

In my experience, the vast majority of cases where a physician uses the word retarded will be when talking specifically about mental retardation, not some general "delay" or some random little "impairment". Families tend to freak out when they hear that word which is why physicians are loathe to use it to describe Johnny being a year late with his reading or fine motor control.

As with von, you seem to be basing arguments on a very abstract dictionary definition of words, or perhaps how you imagine they're used in doctor's offices. That's fine, except so far as it ignores the reality of how words are used.

Ms. Palin is very sensitive to this issue. There's a joke that asks, "What's the difference between Sarah Palin's mouth and vagina?" The answer is, "Only one retarded thing ever came out of her vagina."

What bothers her is that her son isn't the target of the joke. It's not the greatest joke in the world, but it's not mean-spirited toward the developmentally disabled, only the one who chooses to be an ignorant ass. Prideful idiots deserve a comeuppance, and she'll be getting a lot of it for many years.

"Retard" used to mean someone with marked mental limitations. Today, rightly, referring to someone with Downs Syndrome as a 'retard' is impolite, to say the least. Not because 'retard' in and of itself is a derogatory term but because, at least since I was a kid (I'm 55), 'retard' has been used as a synonym for dumbass or idiot (also a word that once meant the same thing as 'retard'). Used to refer to otherwise mentally functional people, 'retard' is much less offensive to me than any number of other epithets. I am pretty sure that was Emanuel's context and intent.

Palin's an idiot (anyone offended by this?) and gets far more attention than she deserves.

He should step down for the simple reason that such strong and derogative language is unacceptable for a person in his position - end of story.

Look, I have no interest in defending Palin in particular. Her reaction was hyperbolic, and there should be no presumption that she was acting in good faith.

But there are lots of people who are mentally retarded, or who have friends or family members who are mentally retarded, who dislike the use of "retarded" as an insulting way of saying "stupid" and "retard" as "dumbass." Is this so hard to understand?

It's far from the biggest problem in the world, but discouraging that usage is (IMHO) quite reasonable.

I'm originally from Chicago and like your New England background this is normal and typical language and "No Big F-cking Deal".
I remember a few years ago a bunch of old friends and school mates from Chicago had a get together and after listening to what we considered normal banter a new friend not from Chicago pulled me aside and quizzically asked. "you guys are friends?".

I'd say generally that if a word offends enough people (for real) it is offensive. Most of the discourse beyond that about whether or not something should be offensive is meaningless. Now, maybe you don't care if your words offend people, but don't be surprised if they don't like you over it.

Emanuel has a filthy mouth, and a filthy mouth deserves a rebuke in this situation.
Why?

"To retard", on the other hand, or being "retarded", has a real, non-slur, negative meaning.

I teach music to kids under 10, and when I explain to them what 'ritard' (short for 'ritardando') means - to slow down - some snicker (albeit a little surreptitiously) and some don't bat an eye. I therefore think the term may be on its way out as an insult or term of derision.

The problem here is that we really need forceful terms for describing stupidity, since we are inundated with it (thanks for doing your part, Sarah). 'Dumb-ass' and its variants are ok, but a little too gentle; 'chowderhead' is too specific for general use; 'stupid ape' is a disastrously apt insult for a human, so...a wee bit uncomfortable (and possibly an insult to apes); 'mouth-breather', 'idiot', and 'moron' might have medical roots or meanings, but I think they're divorced enough from them to be acceptable.

Of course 'fool' doesn't work, because being a fool doesn't require a lack of either native intelligence or education - in fact, foolishness isn't in full flower *without* them.

I feel squeamish saying 'retard', so I just don't do it. Rahm is an asshole and a bit of a jackass, but he shouldn't be fired for saying 'retard'. I wouldn't mind his being fired for other reasons, though.

Rants against language and political correctness aside, von, what exactly DO you suggest that people do when one of the politicians in their party has done more damage to their goal than the opposition party could have, since apparently running against thm is "f-cking stupid"?

That's the real reason he should step down, constantly attacking and insulting a large portion of your voting base is "f-cking stupid", as you put it.

Obviously, I don't think Rahm should resign. Being a dick isn't grounds for firing.


As someone who has family members named Richard, and with penises, I take offense to that remark.

This is from something called the "IQ comparison site":

"Mental deficiency used to be more finely classified using the following technical terms that later began to be abused by the rest of society (5):


IQ Range Classification
70-80 Borderline deficiency
50-69 Moron
20-49 Imbecile
below 20 Idiot "

According to an online dictionary "idiot" originally meant an ignorant person.

So the term has evolved from its orignal meaning, through a period as a clinical label, to a slur, and back to the orignal meaning!

Just to be clear Catsy: if you were in a restaurant and a waitress dropped a big tray of heavy dishes and some other patron pointed at her, laughed and said "Ha ha! Her Parkinson's must be acting up!" would you conclude that person was an ass? If so, what is the difference?

I would conclude the person is an ass, but likely not for the same reasons as you. The difference is twofold.

First, that publicly humiliating and mocking an employee who made a clumsy mistake like that is unequivocally a dick move, regardless of what name you call them. Decent human beings don't act like that, and if someone did that in a restaurant where I was eating I'd probably loudly tell them to stop being a f*cking douchebag.

Second, and more on point, that "Parkinson's" does not have an idiomatic usage distinct from the clinical usage of the word. To use it in that manner, you have to go out of your way to be offensive. As someone pointed out above, it is generally uncontroversial to colloquially refer to someone as "blind" or "deaf" when they're not paying attention. Having interacted quite a bit with the deaf community over the years, I know that there are individuals who take exception to the term "deaf" in any usage--but in my experience they're a minority, and in any event the solution is simple: avoid the term when talking to people bothered by it.

Look, I'm sympathetic to people who have a personal stake in this. I don't use "retarded" in mixed or uncertain company for the same reason I don't use f*ck or any other expletive in said company: not because I think using the words is inherently wrong, but because I'm aware that some people don't like hearing it and I try not to unnecessarily offend people.

It's different when you're writing on the internet than it is in person. In person, you know your audience; you can adjust your language to who's around you. On the internet, anyone can read what you've written--and for every sentence you write, there is a person somewhere in the world who will find some part of it offensive.

I'm not going to throttle my vernacular in general, but I don't have a problem tempering my language within reason when I know specific people will take exception to it. I'll do my best to avoid using the term on ObWi--but you're not going to persuade me that there's anything objectively offensive about the term other than the intended offense to the person against whom it's being employed as an insult.

"Retard" has one uncontestedly socially acceptable meaning - the clinical one. The vernacular "retard" is rude and hurtful because it denigrates (which is arguably itself an offensive word) a specific group of people. I try not to use it because it's hurtful. I have in fact called someone "fucking retarded" in front of the parent of a teenage boy with Down syndrome, and I felt awful.

"Moron" offends fewer people because fewer people even know that it once referred to clinical retardation. You can argue that it ought to offend more people, and that people who are offended by "retard" but not by "moron" are hypocrites, but it won't do much good. Turbulence offered himself as an example. This strikes me as another in a long line of "things we did not used to think about." Racial, sexual identity, gender sensitivity do not come any more naturally than other kinds of considerateness, but our society has much more enforcement and incentivizing of the latter. If being sensitive to the feelings of minorities seems like an undue burden to you, consider the fact that you might be part of a privileged group and that the right thing to do will tend to seem
out of the norm because the norm is stilted and wrong.

I think I probably repeated what other people have said, but I am still posting because I like chatting!

"Retard" has one uncontestedly socially acceptable meaning - the clinical one.

I find this interesting. In my own anecdotal experience, it has never been acceptable to refer to someone who actually does have a developmental disability as "a retard"--as opposed to "retarded". There's something about "retard" that is just jarring when used as a clinical term. It may also be a relic of growing up in the South and always hearing it pronounced as "REE-tard", with heavy emphasis on the first syllable. It might be aesthetic, but were I to guess, I'd say it's because when you call someone a "retard", you are making a statement about what kind of thing they are--what defines them. Saying they're "retarded" is a description of a condition.

Personally I don't use either term when referring to someone who actually does have a disability. But it's an interesting linguistic note.

What Turbulence (2/2 10:39 PM) and Tim O'Keefe (2/3 09:35 AM) said.

McKinneyTexas speaks for others, saying, "Used to refer to otherwise mentally functional people, 'retard' is much less offensive to me than any number of other epithets." I say, if you don't have retardation, then whether you are offended by the term is almost irrelevant.

My daughter, with mental retardation, is sad when people call her "retard" or "retarded". It's not a description, it's a slam. And it's still a slam on her when someone *else* is the target.

I'd say it's because when you call someone a "retard", you are making a statement about what kind of thing they are--what defines them. Saying they're "retarded" is a description of a condition.

But the condition defines who they are to a large extent. It defines, literally, what they're capable of, how much they'll have to struggle, how lonely they'll be. To the extent that clinicians use retarded as a shorthand for Trisomy-21, it literally describes the structure of their genes and every single cell in their body. Maybe you don't see how describing the genes and cell structures of a person "defines them", but, um, I find that a little ridiculous. We are "defined" by all sorts of things, including medical conditions that shape every single aspect of our lives.

But the condition defines who they are to a large extent. It defines, literally, what they're capable of, how much they'll have to struggle, how lonely they'll be.

You misunderstand. In this you are using "define" in the general sense of the word. I am using it to describe a distinction between two different kinds of words.

This is a minor nit, since I was only making an observation about a linguistic point of interest. When you refer to someone as "a something"--where something is a categorical noun--you are making a statement about what they are. What category, what box they fit into. My experience with disabled persons of any stripe is that they tend to resent being boxed in like that, of being referred to in a way which makes their disability the sum of who and what they are.

To refer to someone as "somethinged", semantically you are make a statement about that which has happened to or affects them. Referring to someone as having been "crippled" by an injury, for example, may bother some individuals, but is otherwise simply a factual statement about a condition that has affected them. Referring to that same person as "a cripple" is offensive in a way that having been "crippled" is not. It contains an implicit judgment about their value and limitations, and describes them as a thing rather than describing what has affected them.

They may be cognates that refer to similar concepts, but there is a nontrivial semantic difference.

And it's still a slam on her when someone *else* is the target.

No. It's really not.

You say that "if you don't have retardation, then whether you are offended by the term is almost irrelevant." I don't disagree in principle--these things are highly subjective. But that perspective cuts both ways: if I'm not referring to you--whether individually or categorically--whether or not you are offended by the the term is also irrelevant unless I'm interacting with you directly.

As I said above, I try to avoid intentionally offending people and I avoid using language--regardless of its nature--in the presence of people whom I know dislike it. It's simply a matter of courtesy. But I refuse to allow my vocabulary to be governed by the fact that someone, somewhere, might be bothered by finding it on the Internet.

Time will tell whether or not I'm wrong about this. Perhaps Turb and others are right in that cultural norms will change to where the use of the term is widely understood to be socially unacceptable--language evolves like that. But we're not there yet and it's not clear to me that we're going in that direction.

In my experience, the kind of people who say things like "that's retarded" are just as likely to say "you're such a retard". So while in some vague academic sense, I find your linguistic distinction marginally interesting, in practice, I find it irrelevant.

But I refuse to allow my vocabulary to be governed by the fact that someone, somewhere, might be bothered by finding it on the Internet.

It is not a question of being bothered. It is a question of what kind of impression you make on people like me. Obviously, you have no reason to change your vocabulary at all. I would not dream of asking you to modify your word choices. By the same token though, I have every right to assume that you're a dick if you use the word retard or retarded to casually denigrate ignorant people. If you don't care what I think of you or if you are confident enough in your overall awesomeness to believe that you'll quickly change my mind, then there's no problem.

In my experience, the kind of people who say things like "that's retarded" are just as likely to say "you're such a retard". So while in some vague academic sense, I find your linguistic distinction marginally interesting, in practice, I find it irrelevant.

Actually, I was making an observation about the proper use of the term, not the idiomatic use: I would find it jarring to hear a doctor refer to someone as a "retard" where I would not to hear them describe a person's condition as "retarded". But again, it was an aside, and not really germane to our core disagreement.

By the same token though, I have every right to assume that you're a dick if you use the word retard or retarded to casually denigrate ignorant people. If you don't care what I think of you or if you are confident enough in your overall awesomeness to believe that you'll quickly change my mind, then there's no problem.

Neither is true, actually--the feelings of those I interact with factor into my use of language around them, which is why I noted that I would try to avoid using it here, around people I know are offended by it. It has nothing to do with whether or not I think there's anything objectively wrong with using the term, and everything to do with basic courtesy to those with which you interact. It certainly has nothing to do with "awesomeness" or ego.

But if you're inclined to think I'm a dick by virtue of the fact that I use the term at all, rather than by whether or not I use it around strangers or people I know it will offend... then no, I don't care what you think of me, because I think your reaction is presumptuous and irrational: you've stepped beyond asserting that you are bothered by a word--a subjective reaction that can be duly respected by refraining from saying it in your presence--and moved into the realm of asserting that the word is so objectively wrong that I'm a dick for saying it even if no one is around to be offended by it. That's arrogant and I feel no more inclined to accept it as a valid criticism than I do, say, the opinion of someone who thinks I'm a dick because they know I say "f*ck" at all--even if I don't do it around them because I know they hate it and respect that.

What's the difference between using a word when there's no one around to be offended by it and thinking the word without saying it?

@Turb 2:50 -- Catsy's "overall awesomeness" has never been in question.

My brother has an acquired brain injury from a heart attack he suffered 30 years ago when he was in his teens. He is like a stroke victim, and had to learn how to walk and talk again. He suffers permanent cognitive and physical deficits.

Despite this adversity, he volunteers two days a week at a hospital to spend time providing companionship to patients in stroke recovery. He also is a member of a brain injury speakers bureau. He and his colleagues speak to the disabled, to health care professionals, and to the community, and they have received civic volunteer awards.

And there are many war vets with traumatic brain injury whose stories and struggles are much like my brother's.

My brother is a very brave person with a lot of fight in him. But when my brother hears the word "retard", his shoulders slump, he gets quiet and he puts his head down. Because that word is a slur that degrades and cheapens his humanity, that disrespects his bravery, that diminishes his personhood, that he hears as the sound of society laughing at him.

When the President laughs at special olympians and the chief of staff laughs at struggling, stricken human beings he calls retards, the most powerful and fortunate of our citizens are slurring and diminishing the weakest and the most vulnerable. And I say this as a big supporter of the President (so might I add is my brother).

It is, pure and simple, the public humiliation of people who are perceived as too weak to fight back. It's ok to gig on the retards, because retards don't go to high dollar fundraisers, they don't run corporations or political parties, they don't appear on talk shows or run think tanks or host exclusive Washington parties, and people like the President and his Chief of Staff probably don't know any.

Kinda like it used to be for blacks and Jews. And just as shameful.

But if you're inclined to think I'm a dick by virtue of the fact that I use the term at all, rather than by whether or not I use it around strangers or people I know it will offend

Um, I'm not so inclined. I read your comment about changing your writing online as saying that you had no intention of changing what you write in forums like this one where you know there are people present that find it offensive. From your most recent comment, it seems like I misinterpreted you. I hope it is obvious that I don't really care what people say (or think) that I don't hear.

Um, I'm not so inclined. I read your comment about changing your writing online as saying that you had no intention of changing what you write in forums like this one where you know there are people present that find it offensive. From your most recent comment, it seems like I misinterpreted you.

It does seem. What I said about not changing my writing online was a general statement--that is, I don't feel compelled to cease using the word on the internet for the benefit of potential random strangers with whom I don't interact, who might simply happen across something I've written somewhere. My feelings are different when it comes to specific places and specific people with whom I do interact: I don't know you, but we've both been regulars here for a long time, and the comments section at ObWi has always been much more... personal, say, than at other blogs. That's why I originally wrote:

I'm not going to throttle my vernacular in general, but I don't have a problem tempering my language within reason when I know specific people will take exception to it. I'll do my best to avoid using the term on ObWi

So when you wrote:

By the same token though, I have every right to assume that you're a dick if you use the word retard or retarded to casually denigrate ignorant people

I took that as a sweeping statement, rather than one that implicitly meant "in my presence".

Sounds like we're good. We don't have to agree on the offensiveness of the word itself, but hopefully we can agree on the basic courtesy of not knowingly offending people.

Catsy's "overall awesomeness" has never been in question.

(Bugs Bunny voice): He don't know me very well, do he?

:)

I will bet money that people will clean up their language with regard to the r-word once we get our TBI-ed veterans back from the wars.

Folks might be interested that the potential equivalent of the word retard in Japanese is considered really beyond the pale, hakuchi, so much so that I can't get the kanji combination, but have to get the two individual kanji and put them together. I've seen the word on ni-chaneru (a sort of post apocalypse Japanese usenet) but never anywhere where someone's name is attached to the post.

^ I wonder if ni-chaneru is intended to be a reference to 4chan? (at least, I'm assuming that the ni here is 2 and chaneru is the romanization of how a Japanese person says "channel")

Warning: don't actually search for 4chan until you have read the wiki article.

Eh, 4chan's pretty tame nowadays, once you get past the teenage bravura. I'm betting, though, that LJ is referring to 2chan, aka Futaba, on which 4chan was originally based.

I do want Emanuel to step down. But that's mostly because I disagree with him on a bunch of policy issues.

You're a Republican, and you want a Democrat to step down because you disagree with him on policy issues?

Sorry, von, but your party does not control the White House. *Everyone* in the White House disagrees with you on policy issues. If you want people who agree with you in the White House, your party has to win one of those things called an "election", which are held every four years.

While I certainly thought that many Bush administration officials were scoundrels, criminals, and madmen, the mere fact that *I*, a liberal Democrat, disagreed with them on policy issues constituted no reason whatsoever for any of them to step down.

I'd say generally that if a word offends enough people (for real) it is offensive. Most of the discourse beyond that about whether or not something should be offensive is meaningless. Now, maybe you don't care if your words offend people, but don't be surprised if they don't like you over it.

Just thought this comment from hairshirt bore repeating.

I doubt Emanuel intended any slight toward people who are, in fact, clinically retarded. I think it's also quite clear that Emanuel is a d*ck. In fact, being a d*ck is kind of what he does for a living.

I'm sure Palin is, correctly, sensitive to slights against people who suffer with mental retardation. I'm equally sure she's quite happy to pimp her concern in order to seize yet another opportunity to fire up the mighty wurlitzer. Opportunism is kind of what she does for a living.

She can save her breath, because Emanuel isn't going anywhere. Then again, I doubt she cares whether Emanuel stays or goes.

You're a Republican, and you want a Democrat to step down because you disagree with him on policy issues?

That sounds pretty reasonable. What would be unreasonable would be for von to ask, or even demand, that Emmanuel step down because of policy differences.

But I don't think von has done that. Wanting something to happen and requesting it to happen aren't interchangeable.

Does von suppose that Rahm Emmanuel's likely replacement (if he did step down) would have policy preferences more in line with his own?

That seems unlikely. I don't think President Obama would nominate Joshua Bolton or Andrew Card to be his chief of staff.

I stand by my claim: von's merely *wanting* an opposition Emmanuel to step down because of policy disagreements is unreasonable.

It might be reasonable for von to want Emmanuel to step down because this would embarrass the White House, or because Emmanuel's replacement would be less effective, but that was not von's stated reason.

Satire follows, with serious racism, sexism, &c.--scroll down to the second line of dashes to skip.
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Man, isn't it crazy when hysterical feminazi bitches spaz out over normal speech because of faggoty ideas like political correctness? It's like, they don't like it when you call Obama or whoever a nigger (but not in a black way! In a "people who are lazy and stupid" sort of way. Look, it's not like anyone calls all black people niggers anymore. And anyway, I don't say it around people I know who actually know black people. Besides, it's an objective fact that, all other things being equal, it's better to be white than to be black... I mean, a nigger.), but if you say that when Obama did something generous "that's awfully white of him", they go postal on you! So it's not like you can jew them down to just getting offended at the negative words, either. ("Jew down" isn't negative, it's an expression of the impressive thriftiness and bargaining capabilities of the Jewish people!) It's, like, a total rape of the English language!

Oh, wait, this is Sarah Palin, who is not a hysterical feminazi bitch. I feel kinda gypped, now.
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Now that I'm done channeling Gene Hunt, et al., and cleansed the vomit out of my mouth--how's the cultural bias doing? And yes, I'm perfectly capable of "defending" any of the words used above using the arguments I've seen so far in the comment thread. But hopefully I can just leave it at "when you're insulting your enemies, try not to insult your friends and innocent bystanders."

I find your ideas intriguing, Gwen, and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

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