A lot of hullaballoo has been, and continues to be, made about the R-word. And I've been right there, shaking my fist, demanding a change in attitude and vocabulary, demanding sensitivity and compassion for my son and people like him.
I have to admit, though, that there are other words that sting me personally (and I'm sure others in my shoes), thanks to Finn and his extra chromosomes. That's the thing about having a child like Finn - it changes your perspective about certain things. And I'm here to say that that's not a bad thing.
The other words I'm talking about are words like idiot, and moron, and imbecile. More words that we casually throw around to describe what we perceive to be stupid or substandard. And like retarded, they're all born out of what were once upon a time merely clinical terms used to describe individuals with developmental disabilities.
I admit it: I am guilty of being a long-time user of idiot - even since Finn was born. I have, however, found myself becoming very aware of my usage of the word, as well as other people's use of it (and the others mentioned above). And I've decided to eliminate those words from my lexicon. Because they do sting.
I'm not going to go on a big crusade to end the use of those words, because the truth is, as my friend Dan pointed out (I asked Dan his thoughts on all this a while back, being that he's taken on the language issue in such a big way):
"My personal opinion is that 'idiot' and 'moron' are sort of archaic.
You would never see a medical report that listed your son as an idiot
or moron. You could quite possibly see a report listing him as
retarded. And so 'retarded' and 'retard' are much more hateful, in my
I think this is a good point, although I do have to say that there is clearly a movement underway to eliminate "retarded" even from medical terminology. I don't believe I've ever seen anything in any paperwork, medical or otherwise, pertaining to Finn that included the word "retarded;" in fact, just today, I received a copy of something from his pediatrician that lists him as "dev. delayed," which, really made me feel very pleased with the progress that has been made in describing these individuals in non-offensive terms. That said, though, I think it may end up being a double-edged sword - if "retarded" is successfully eliminated as a clinical term, then eventually won't it be considered perfectly okay to use in a non-clinical manner, just like "idiot" and "moron" have evolved?
What I'd like to see is the elimination from our human vocabularies, in all of their varieties, of any and all slurs that in any way put down any class of people - be that cognitive ability, race, gender, sexual orientation, whatever.
That said, I fully acknowledge our need as a people for epithets, for words that emote and express frustration with life's little stupidities - yes, even stupid people (and by stupid, I am not referring to IQ, but rather a failing to exercise common sense or class). So I offer you here a list of alternative language:
(Try unbelievable with an exclamation point, and with extra emphasis on the third syllable: "UnbeLIEVable!" Very effective. Go ahead, try it. Also, "ridiculous" and "unbelievable" can be used to boost each other, as in "Ridiculously unbelievable!" or "UnbeLIEVably ridiculous!"
Nouns (Words to Describe People):
I'm sure I could go on an on. And perhaps you think I'm kidding. I'm not. Although I do hope you find these lists of alternative words entertaining, I'm serious about using them to replace idiot, moron, imbecile, and yes, retard.
Come on, people, really. It's really, really not too difficult to think before you speak, to exercise a little sensitivity and compassion for who your audience might be. And honestly, putting forth just that little effort will probably make you feel good.
Adieu - After more than two years and 555 posts (556 counting this one!), I'm saying goodbye to Adventures in Motherhood. I'm ready for a change, and I've started ...
6 years ago