Choosing Words

A while back, I was posting on my blog and referred to something that I disliked as “retarded” while railing against it. I’m sure it was something important like snack foods or archaic, opinion based tech topics (you fucking emacs wankers). I had long since eradicated “gay” as a pejorative term (with the ironic exception of any time prior to which I had been hanging around a homosexual friend who used the term frequently referring to things he dislikes), but calling some thing or situation I disdain retarded, or affectionately referring to a friend who had done something foolish as a “tard” was still very much a part of my vocabulary.

On this particular occasion, an online acquaintance called me on it. What she said boiled down to “you’re funny, that’s not, and you’re smarter than that.” I drafted a hasty rebuttal referencing free speech and an argument referring to the blog as my house in a way that was not entirely unlike Cartman’s daytime TV quote, “it’s my life, I’ll do what I want.”

It was probably not entirely unlike what is quoted in this article. Fortunately, I faltered when I got to the part where I tried to defend the usage. How do I defend that in a way that is logically sound and fits with my own ethics? I don’t. In my own unthinking way, I had lumped retarded in with a bunch of other words that had no real meaning, save for disparaging. Like “gay” before it, I had used the language without consideration that it had an initial meaning that was wholly free from negative connotation; and when I used it to mean something was bad, I was equating “gay”, “lame”, and “retarded” with “bad”…with “undesirable.” 1

That’s not alright.

Now, I’d love to say that my vocabulary is entirely free from those, but it’s not. The fact is, I never really used “gay” all that often, so it was pretty easy to ditch. Lame and retarded, however, I used much more often: and so they still seep out. The best I can manage now is to not do it when I’m choosing my words with care (such as in writing), and when I catch myself doing it verbally, immediately stop and correct it.

Well, that and ponder what other words I use casually that don’t mean what I think they do.

1 Before you give me that trite shit about “being retarded *is* undesirable” remember that you’re not saying “dude, that rule is totally being retarded”…you are saying that it *is* retarded, and therefore unwanted. You are putting out in the world that things (people) that are retarded, gay, or lame are unwanted.