Think Before You Speak: “Retard” is commonly used, but its implications should not be overlooked

By Laurie Mcdade
Elm Staff Writer

I know we all say it–it’s an easy word to slip out—but that does not make it ok. Calling a friend a “retard” is the equivalent of saying “that’s so gay.” When someone utters a “that’s so gay” people respond with disdain and anger, but calling a person a retard is not met with the same reaction. How come using one group of people as a synonym for stupid or weird is wrong but using another group of people as a synonym for brainless is accepted? There are public service announcements all over MTV speaking out against using the word gay as slang for dumb or strange, but not one that includes using the word retard for the same thing.

However, there are many organizations that speak out against the use of this word and educate people on why this slang is so boorish. The website gives people a place to pledge against using this word and to help eliminate its use. I encourage all readers to visit this website and make a pledge after reading what I have to say.

The word “retard” means to slow down or hinder progress or delay. However, during the 1920s the word began to take on the meaning of someone who is mentally challenged or developmentally stunted. Back then it was used as a medical term to describe someone with a mental handicap, but now it is used as an insult. The medical community no longer uses this term when diagnosing a person who is mentally challenged or autistic. Just like using the “n-word” this word is no longer politically correct and is just down-right inappropriate.

But you have to remember that when using this word as an insult you are not only insulting the person it is intended for, but a challenged society who works hard just to have a “normal” life. Using this word as slang for dumb or stupid diminishes all the work societies like the Kent Center have done. People with challenges such as these have to work ten times harder to understand social cues and maintain everyday routines. They are also some of the nicest and most non-judgmental people out there, so why continue using this word when all it is doing is hurting the wrong person?

This is an insult that only backfires on the person uttering it; this word makes the insulter look ignorant and stupid, not funny or intelligent. Please stop using this slang. This pledge is a hard one but it is attainable. Choose to stump your friends with better insults or jokes using correct synonyms for the term stupid, not a word that harms an innocent group. Before using it, think of all of the friends the Washington College community has at the Kent Center and then decide if that is the suitable word to use. Think before you speak, we are a smarter campus than this.

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