Newspeak is Retarded

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I have a big fat mushy soft spot for anyone who didn’t get a fair shake in life. I’m especially protective of the mentally disabled. I grew up with a family who had a kid with Down’s syndrome, and I learned that having Down’s doesn’t make you stupid, unproductive, nor does it mean that you can’t be “one of the guys.” This guy was the middle child. For most of our youth, his two “normal” brothers were unemployed, lived with their mom, and didn’t have jobs. The one with Down’s had a girlfriend, an apartment of his own, and was gainfully employed. Some people with Downs are downright smart, witty, and a hell of a lot of fun to be around (not to mention, this particular guy could drink me under the table).

I’m down with the Down’s.

I absolutely adore the Special Olympics. That organization is one of the most well-meaning, make-the-world-a-better-place collections of souls that the world has ever seen. They even have a sense of humor, as they not only endorsed, but helped in a technical advisory way to make the movie, The Ringer, with Johnny Knoxville.

But, today, I must give the finger to the Special Olympics and their campaign to try and stop people from using “the r-word.” (retarded) To their credit, nobody is talking about legislation. They are throwing their view out into the marketplace of ideas and hoping that someone buys it. I’m throwing mine out there too. The Special Olympics’ attempt to get us to purge this word from the vernacular is, in the words of my people, wicked fahkin’ retaahded. (subtitle: Wicked. Fucking. Retarded.)

Don’t get me wrong. I accept any group’s wishes when they say “don’t call me that.” African Americans seem to change their name every 20 years. Once “negro,” was the term of choice… then it changed to “colored.” (Hence the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People or NAACP). When I was in high school, it turned to “black,.” When I was a freshman in college, I was informed that the proper terminology was Afro-American. By the time I graduated, it was “African American.” It seems to be back to “black” again. That doesn’t bother me. If I wake up tomorrow and there is an announcement from the NAACP that they prefer to be called “The Knights Who Say Nee,” I’ll respect the decision and call them that until they change their mind again.

The same goes for the “developmentally disabled.” As long as it doesn’t get Orwellian (I’m never using “handi-capable”), they can be whatever they want. In fact, I think it is sort of uncool to lump all “handicapped” people under one label. I think it is far more respectful to refer to the actual individual condition that affects the person (if it is relevant at all to the conversation), and that’s why I agree that referring to someone who is “developmentally disabled” as “retarded” is disrespectful and uncool.

So we agree, don’t call anyone with Down’s a “retard.”

But, that doesn’t mean that we need to cleanse the language of all uses of the word. I love the word “retard.” “Retard” is a completely accurate way to describe Marion Barry, Rhonda Storms, George W. Bush, Gail Dines, Larry Craig, Andrea Dworkin, and Kevin Federline. It is not the right thing to call Corky. Allow me to demonstrate where the line is drawn:

Sarah Palin’s son, Trig, is retarded: Formerly correct, now incorrect
Sarah Palin’s son, Trig, is a retard: Incorrect
Trig Palin has Down’s sydrome: Correct
Sarah Palin is a fucking retard: Correct

I’m sick of P.C. police trying to strip the language of words that are, well, colorful — even if they can be nasty and mean if used that way. On one hand, it makes the language just a little more grey. On the other hand, it counter-productively adds power to the negativity. As Lenny Bruce said:

it’s the suppression of the word that gives it the power, the violence, the viciousness. Dig: if President Kennedy would just go on television, and say, “I would like to introduce you to all the niggers in my cabinet,” and if he’d just say “nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger” to every nigger he saw, “boogie boogie boogie boogie boogie,” “nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger” ’til nigger didn’t mean anything anymore, then you could never make some six-year-old black kid cry because somebody called him a nigger at school.

These efforts to create a politically and socially correct “Newspeak,” have always pissed me off. In the Appendix to 1984, Orwell wrote:

The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought—that is, a thought diverging from the principles of Ingsoc—should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words. (source)

redneckI understand that the developmentally disabled have a problem gaining the respect they deserve. I feel for them and I wouldn’t stand by as anyone abused or mocked the developmentally disabled. However, if the Special Olympics thinks that I’m prepared to let them start taking words out of common usage, because those words facilitate what they consider to be “bad thoughts,” then they really are a bunch of ‘tards.

This kind of thing gives critical crybaby theorists and every other kind of “victim studies” blowhard a raging boner. But, for those of us who actually contribute anything to society, all it does is get us to a place where the message gets lost in endless quibbling over words. The Newspeak police are so damned hypersensitive that innocent use of the word “niggardly,” a word derived from Old Norse (which means “cheap” or “miserly” can create a national freak out, and even “Water Buffalo” (a Hebrew translation) can be perceived as racist, thus labeling the user as a thinker of racist thoughts, ergo someone who needs re-education sensitivity training.

“Retarded” no longer means “developmentally disabled.” Therefore, the developmentally disabled don’t get to own the word anymore.

And if they do, then I want the guinea pig and the nation of New Guinea to be renamed. Italian pride demands it.

17 Responses to Newspeak is Retarded

  1. hawkhead says:

    George Carlin once said that he called people what they wanted to be called.

    If he met a woman of Italian descent who was wheelchair-bound and a lesbian, he would call that woman a differently-abled person of Southern European descent with a same-sex gender preference, if that’s what she wanted.

    But, if she asked, he’d also have no problem calling her a crippled guinea bull dyke.

  2. Well, far be it for me to disagree with Saint George Carlin! He was, as usual, absolutely right.

    And if the mentally disabled want to be called “differently-abled,” I suppose I can live with that. (I do, however find handicapable to just be absurd). But, the differently abled don’t have any right to dictate what I may call K-Fed.

  3. Atticus says:

    Great post.

    The PC thing has gotten out of hand. Nobody should insist that words that were not offensive suddenly are, or that those words should be replaced with verbose and cumbersome alternatives.

    If people want to be called black, Asian, or Latino, so be it. Those are great, descriptive words. Developmentally disabled and differently-abled are pushing it. African American is just too much–the term is not only a seven-syllable monstrosity, but it’s literally inaccurate. I’m glad it’s been largely retired.

    • Sure, but you must admit that to be “nice,” we ought to accept a tiny bit of PC — at the very least, call people what they want to be called (within SOME reason), as preached by St. George Carlin, peace be upon him.

  4. shg says:

    I just got off the phone with a friend of mine who’s blind, and we were talking about another blind guy who says he’s visually challenged. We were laughing, because we couldn’t figure out if that was supposed to mean he’s blind or that he only saw what he wanted to see.

    The gist was that some words have meaning and are well-understood, while others, often euphemisms, are so convoluted or vague, or worse (differently-abled) as to convey inaccurate meaning or no meaning at all. My buddy told me that he likes to use the word blind because that way even idiots will know what he’s talking about. And to a blind guy, most people look like idiots.

  5. Windypundit says:

    This is why I like the word “fucktard”. Whereas “retard” still has lingering associations with an unfortunate mental impairment, the word “fucktard” pretty clearly describes a lifestyle choice.

  6. anon says:

    The more interesting thing is what black people have called white people. First it was “sir,” “ma’am” or “master.” Then, after Emancipation, it was “whitey.” Over time it just became, “White.” But now, while most White people are still referred to as “White,” “Best Friend,” “Mom,” “Dad” or “Honey,” in referring to white people like you, it’s just, “Useless.”

  7. Ken says:

    That’s so gay.

  8. […] the Legal Satyricon has an interesting post on the nature of the word “retard”. The same goes for the “developmentally disabled.” As long as it doesn’t get Orwellian […]

  9. […] Good god… you mean… McDonalds, the big multinational corporation, hates retarded children? (Yeah, I said “retarded“). […]

  10. Halcyon 1L says:

    I think you’re a douche if you use the word “retard” or variants as a pejorative. I don’t think there should be a law about it, but I don’t think there should be a law about the word “nigger” or “kike” and the like either. People with disabilities are one of the most vulnerable populations out there. It’s nice that you’re supposedly so sensitive because of your childhood friends. If you had a sibling, as I do, if you got in fights with much larger kids while growing up over “short bus” jokes and the like, if you saw firsthand how someone you cared deeply for was readily disregarded as irrelevant, you might see things differently. Or maybe not.

    • Fair enough. I disagree. I am not insensitive to the challenges that the mentally disabled, but I respect your position. I would respect it a lot more if it appeared that you had actually read the piece … you know, then commented. Just running off to comment, without reading it, is retarded.

  11. […] Politics This dispute is, well, retarded. If you have a problem with the word “retarded”, take it to the Legal Satyricon. […]

  12. […]  Marc has previously addressed this issue, noting how much this Orwellian “Newspeak” offends his sense of free expression.  Indeed, this form of forced censorship only reinforces not only the word’s negative […]

  13. […] you see why we are on a campaign to save, among other words, “nigger” and “retard“. […]

  14. I couldn’t agree more. I would add that it is the intention behind the word and not the word itself that makes a word offensive. Telling someone to not use it would only further stigmatize it. In literal context being called “Disabled” can even be more offensive than “Retarded” since “Disabled” implies one cannot do something while “Retarded” implies only that one is slow and says nothing for actual ability.

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