Can we just grow up and stop saying "retarded"?

Seems like just this week I’ve seen in several posts the use of the word ‘retarded’ to mean stupid. You know, like “Dude, that’s just retarded!” Since I mostly read mom blogs, I guess I’m even more shocked by this. Why is it still acceptable for people to speak this way? How come no one ever gets comments that call the author on their use of the word? What the hell is up with people?


  1. says

    I cringe everytime I hear it too. I know we live in a country where free will and free speech are talked about but…it just seems like common decency to NOT use that word…

  2. says

    don’t you think it’s an attempt to sound like you’re down with the kids? the uk equivalent du jour is ‘minger’ – which i did a post on. come into my parlour (ok – blog) and have a look at ‘the minger dynasty’

  3. says

    Retarded means stupid, slow, or delayed. I’m okay with calling my craft project gone wrong retarded.

    I’m NOT okay with referring to children or adults with developmental delays, handicaps, or special needs retarded. That’s what’s offensive in my humble opinion ;)

  4. says

    kerflop: Yes, that’s how it should be, but it is not that way in practice. When people say “Dude, don’t act so retarded” they’re comparing someone pejoratively to a person with developmental delays. They’re not saying the person is behind schedule.

  5. says

    I was thinking this exact post, THANK YOU!

    Once upon a time, it was taboo when people were or pretended to be more sensitive about special needs persons. In the last 3-4 years, all of a sudden saying “retarded” is cool or acceptable for some reason and I don’t get it.

    I have an autistic brother, so anything that slams special needs I find offensive.

    I am going to address this in a post and will link yours as well. Excellent job.

  6. says

    This is my trigger word. Well, this and when “gay” is used as an insult. I’m always a little suprised when I hear people use either. Don’t people know better than that? I guess not.

  7. says

    Ok, I know this is old post and not much action on your comments, but I read it the other day and thought “good for you”. Then, last week in my local paper there was an article on this very same subject, and also referred to a speech given by a local teen to his class. I copied a link to his speech, thought you might be interested.

  8. says

    In Britain the word ‘retarded’ is not considered ‘politically correct’and its usage frowned upon and seen as insulting. The nursery rhyme ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ has been banned from schools as it is not considered politically correct, but I don’t see a problem with it. However I do see the problem with the word retarded. It is not one I would ever use.

  9. Jeanette says

    Retarded is a hateful word. It is a hopeless word. With the -ed at the end, “retarded” is an adjective that describes an irreversible situation having been done to someone.

    The Retarded are the only minority you can join in a split second. Just ask one of my regular customers. She was hit driving through an intersection and hit by someone running a red. She woke up with a chunk of her brain missing. She lost her boyfriend, job, and house. She woke up “retarded”. So could you.

    Those coming back from Iraq suffering traumatic brain injuries are now “retarded”, by its true definition. So do you see you are comparing your malfunctioning cell phone with our proud soldiers who have given their minds for our country?

    Free speech was guaranteed to us because our founding fathers knew how powerful language can be. Those who think the word is “no big deal” don’t recognize this fact, which makes their arguments for free speech empty and embarrassing.

    I don’t believe in government censorship, but I do believe in personal censorship. Watch your language.

  10. Jason says

    this to reply to your “retarded” speech! no pun intended… the use of the word is not in an offensive way against Handicap(retarded) people, it is just used as a separate to as stupid. People say it as a new meaning…no referring to the handicap… another example which I have now seen you use yourself is in the sentence QUOTE “What the hell is up with people?” the word “HELL” has its new meaning.

  11. Jeanette says

    Dear Jason,

    So you are saying that because you don’t mean it to be offensive, it isn’t? What kind of ignorant, narcissistic drivel is that? I know this might come a shock to you, but this is not about YOU. You sound just like some of my students who refused to apologize if they accidentally knocked into someone. “It was an accident.” But you still knocked into them, Genius!

    Let me tell you about these beautiful and fascinating creatures that live on this planet. Maybe you have heard of them. They are called “Other People”. Perhaps you can pull your head out one day and acknowledge their existence.

    You are right when you say word usage changes over the years, like the word “foolish”. That was originally used to describe the mentally ill and challenged who were used for entertainment purposes. Since it has been centuries since we had court jesters, the word has lost its original meaning. (Not that we haven’t stopped laughing at the handicapped – we have school cafeterias and YouTube for that.)

    But the word is still used medicinally and legally in the term “mental retardation.” In all my years teaching special ed, every single mother has wept when they hear THAT as their child’s diagnosis. One mother even refused to accept special ed services because she refused to accept that term. It is more powerful that you can imagine.

    And as for your analogy of the word “hell” – guess what? You are not insulting an innocent, indefensible group of human beings when you use it.

    You mentioned that the word is used interchangeably with “stupid”. Why don’t you just use the word “stupid”? For example: “Jason, your sentence structure, capitalization, grammar, paragraph organization, and logic are completely stupid.” See it works!

    And the word stupid also has the connotation of choice.

  12. says


    You are so right. Not only do I have a daughter with multiple disabilities I also work in the medical field. While the word continues to be used as part of medical diagnosis, it is not a word to be used to describe a person outside of a medical practice. Additionally, when a person interchanges it with ‘stupid’ it is even more offensive to those who care for or are affected by a developmental disability. This was the same thought with if someone says “N’r” rigging, or “Jewing” someone down… these words are interchangeable for other meanings but they are still WRONG.

  13. Anne Gainey says

    Funny, even some of the more enlightened sounding people who are offended by the misuse of the word think it’s still ok if you’re just using it as a replacement for the word “stupid.” You’re not getting it. Retarded doesn’t mean stupid. Kids with cognitive disabilities aren’t stupid. The point is, don’t use the word to describe a stupid action, thing or person. Go ahead and say you did something stupid or that person acted like an idiot. And if you want to be considerate when referring to people with developmental or cognitive delays, use those more current and acceptable terms rather than mentally retarded. Thanks!

  14. KATE says

    as of right now i am working on a speech for my speech class. and my topic is….. on how WRONG it is to say “retarded”. i cannot believe how ignorant people can be and say “that’s retarded!” do they even know what they are saying. i agree with all of you that agree with me. this blog has given me so much insight to the hateful word “retarded”. honestly….. people need to think before they speak. i feel strongly when i say that saying something is “retarded” is the same as swearing.

    on another note…. it is correct to say someone is retarded ONLY IF they have been diagnosed with mental retardation.

    i am so happy to see that other people feel as strongly as i do with the hateful term “retarded” and how it is used.

  15. says

    Kate, good luck with your speech. I hope it goes really well for you. I do want to make a comment about something you said. I don’t agree that if a person is diagnosed as HAVING mental retardation they can be called “r—–d”. When a person is diagnosed with any condition, that condition is NOT the person, but only a condition they happen to have. So if you mom was diagnosed with cancer or dementia, would you want your mom to hear someone call her “that cancerous lady” or “that demented lady”…. I know I wouldn’t. My daughter has several medical diagnosis’ but none of them is who she is. She is Kay… not “r—–d” she’s not even blind, she has a visual impairment, she’s NOT autistic, she has autism.

    Wanda’s latest post: Are You On the Ladder?

  16. Jeanette says

    Well, thankfully, there is now a conversation in the media about this problem word. Everyone who gets a chance, check out Maria Shriver’s op=ed piece “The R-Word is no joke” at,0,4571473.story.

    So many people are so afraid to be seen as being PC, they have lost all civility, consideration, and community. It is amazing that anyone can defend using this word, other than for shock value.

    By the way, if anyone is having difficulty knowing how to respond to someone who casually uses the word “retarded”, consider this. I have been resoponding, “By retarded, you must mean ‘wonderful.'” An explanation about my son with a developmental disability usually follows, about how he is wonderful and the word couldn’t mean anything else.

    The conversation is usally ended with a sincere and embarrassed appology.

    Do not be concerned with embarrassement. That is the mind’s way of learning and growth.

  17. Em in Pursuit says

    Plain Jane – a friend from the Blogosphere sent me here to read your wonderful post, and to see that I’m not being overly sensitive, but human, when I expect this word to not be thrown around so casually.

    I appreciate your thoughts. And most of your commenters. To rest of you that don’t get it, I shake my head. And will second this statement…

    “I don’t believe in government censorship, but I do believe in personal censorship. Watch your language.”

    Thanks, Em

  18. KATE says

    Hi there, I am back and doing another paper/speech on how bad the r-word is. Last time I stopped by this web page I was a senior in high school. Now I am a freshman at college and loving it. My plan is to major in special education.

    anyway, I was wondering if you would mind helping me with the key points of why saying THAT word is horrible. I know how I want to go about my project but i keep getting stuck.

    please feel free to type your opinions away. I LOVE THIS BLOG SPOT. YOU WOMEN ARE WONDERFUL PEOPLE. if anyone else thinks of anything i should put in my project PLEASE SAY SO. I want the word to be spread!

    thank you

  19. Cath says

    I’m in a constant battle with the kids in my school (I’m a senior). Pretty much everyone has grown tired of me asking them to not use that word when referring to a perfectly normal person (“you’re a retard”) or to something that does not even possess a brain (“that’s retarded”). Almost all my teachers correct the kids too, whether they know about my sister or not, and I think that’s great. Thing is, I can refer to my Down Syndrom sister as “retarded” (even though I never do), because her development is delayed (retarded) by her extra chromosome, and “delayed” is the only correct synonym of “retarded”. I dream of the day this word will only be used in its right context.
    Thanks for pointing it out, on behalf of my family, and particularly on behalf of my baby sister.

  20. pete says

    It is a word in the process of loosing its original limited definition to a broader one. “Moron” “idiot” “imbecile” “Dumb” and many more, all refer to persons with mental or physical disabilities but have widened to mean persons who are lacking good judgement. Maybe “retarded” is not really any more offensive, unless we insist upon being offended.


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