Today Is A Day To Stop Using The Word “Retard”

Countless times a day, maybe even at this very second, someone is arguing with another person about the word “retard.” One person is saying something like, “That word’s offensive!” The other person is saying something like, “I’m not speaking about people with disabilities! I can use whatever word I want!”

This is what I know from the defensive and even hostile comments I’ve gotten when I’ve spoken out against the word. It’s what I hear from friends who care. A wise and wonderful woman I know, Marjorie Ingall, recently told me of a conversation with an acquaintance who’d used the word “retard” around her. Margie pointed out that using a term that refers to a physical disability is a “sweeping” insult to a person with a disability and his/her family. The woman’s responded that she’d never actually use the word to taunt a person with disabilities, but she saw nothing wrong with using it to describe stupid people and things.

In her mind, she saw these as two separate things.

In many people’s minds, there is no difference. When you refer to stuff as “retarded,” you insult people with intellectual disabilities because you equate them with stupidity. And yet, so many people cling to the word, as if it is their Favorite Word In The Whole Wide World. As if there are no other words to use.

As Margie says, “I grew up saying retard. I have slipped and used it as an adult. It IS an effort. But intellectually I know that it is HURTFUL to say, and being able to shut up and come up with another word is what makes us higher than the animals! If someone is really hurt by a word you use, there are excellent words that are less targeted to people with disabilities, less sweeping about a specific class of people.”

The Special Olympics started the End The Word campaign and pledge several years ago, and every March they do Spread The Word To End The Word Day. But you know what?

Today is a day to stop using the word “retard.”

Tomorrow is a day to stop using the word “retard.”

The day after that and the day after that are days to stop using the word “retard.”

Any day is a day to stop using the word “retard.”  Make no mistake: It hurts. See?


Update: I just wanted to say that I put this post up before I’d read the big news about the rise in autism rates. More on that coming soon, along with a series of posts from autism parenting bloggers all throughout April, Autism Awareness Month.


From my other blog:

Would you call my child a retard?

Haters gonna hate, and this blogger’s gonna pity

If you ask people not to use the word “retard”

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  1. [...] Today is a day to stop using the word “retard” ( [...]

  2. by Janie

    On March 30, 2012 at 10:40 am

    Without doubt you still use words in your everyday life that insult and/or affect groups of people – do you make valid attempts to ban those words from you vocabulary? Are you making great strides to change any and all offensive language or just what personally offends you? You had no problems using the word retard until it directly affected YOU, now you are attempting to bully everyone into conforming to YOUR idea of what is acceptable.

    Even if you someone manage to suceed in banning retard, whatever word people replace retard with will still have the same meaning. The intent behind the new word will still be the same.

  3. by Ellen Seidman

    On March 30, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    You are right, I do not wake up in the morning and think, Hmm, what words could I avoid using today that might be offensive to someone? But if someone were to ever point out to me that a word I was was offensive, you can bet I would try to avoid that. It’s sad that you consider my efforts and those of countless other parents and organizations, including The Special Olympics, “bullying.” We are all trying to make the world a better place for kids with special needs, and I hope you can understand that.

  4. by Janie

    On March 31, 2012 at 9:06 am

    “… But if someone were to ever point out to me that a word I was was offensive, you can bet I would try to avoid that…”

    Ok ellen, you are offending people by using the words fat, stupid, ignorant, dumb, dummy, idiot, nerd, geek…do I need to go on? When a car cuts you off when you’re driving and you’re telling your friend later about “the idiot that needs to learn to drive” you are using language that you’ve chosen to offend the person you’re speaking about. Just because you’re not using the word “retard” doesn’t mean you’re not doing the same thing you’re asking others to stop doing.

    No doubt you won’t post this because you only seem to allow comments that support you. There are always two sides to every story and it’s a shame you only allow one (yours) to be told.

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