THE “R” WORD

Back in the 1950s and 60s, people with intellectual disabilities were frequently referred to as “retarded”, as in their intellectual development was, for whatever reason, impaired. Idiot (IQ 0 – 25), imbecile (IQ 26 – 50) and moron (IQ 51 – 70) were technical terms used to categorise persons according to their level of mental impairment. Retardation was merely a catchall term.

Imbecile is no longer commonly used, whereas idiot and moron are perfectly acceptable in everyday discourse. The catchall “retardation” and its noun form “retard” – a fairly recent addition to the vocabulary – are, however, totally politically incorrect.

The WA Government has helped launch a social media campaign aimed at getting people to stop using the word “retard” to demean people with disabilities.

Disabilities Minister Stephen Dawson said the word appeared on social media every five seconds and was used casually and unthinkingly by people every day.

“The R word is insulting and disrespectful — not just to people with disability but also to their families, friends and carers,” he said.

“It’s never OK to use the R word — not in humour or frustration.

“People should stop and think about whether they would use the word on someone they love before they direct it towards somebody else.”

Like most users of the “R” word I do not use it to describe the genuinely intellectually disabled, which I never make fun of, rather using it to describe those who are apparently normal but fucked in the head. It’s akin to the use of “gay”, which has evolved from “light-hearted and carefree” to male homosexual to “foolish, stupid or unimpressive”.

Those who seek to police the use of language are totally retarded.

 

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