Words, Words, Words

 

A couple of days ago, I started a conversation on Facebook about the use of a specific word. I’m not going to tell you what that specific word is, because it is beside the point I want to make here. The conversation was lively, most people disagreed with me, it got a little testy, and I eventually deleted the entire thing.

Sidebar: The instant I deleted the conversation, I felt foolish. I felt like a fool for two reasons. First, as soon as the conversation began to get very personal, I “took my ball and went home.” Disagree with me? Make it personal? Conversation over. That was childish. Second, as my wife says “If you can shut someone up, you can control them.” I felt like I’d been shut up. The personal bit of the conversation was basically “I don’t understand why anyone is even discussing this, it’s sad, you don’t care about how people feel.” To paraphrase the paraphrase: this is settled science, so just knuckle under and behave the way you are supposed to. There is nothing to discuss here.

Sidebar to the sidebar: There is no such thing as settled science. Anyone who tells you that there is no reason to have the discussion is just trying to shut you up. Okay, back to the point.

Here is the point I was trying to make. It stems from something that happened to my 15-year-old daughter at school.  She referred to someone using a specific term. She was not being derogatory, she was not making fun. She simply used the term to describe the condition of the person, so that the person she was talking to would know who she was talking about. She was then told “You can’t say that, it’s mean.” She came home and asked “Why is that mean?” I think she understands why the term can be mean, she was just frustrated that the person she was talking to did not take the term in the context it was used, but rather ascribed meaning to my daughter’s words that she did not intend.

And there’s the root of my point. Someone heard the word, had their own ideas about what that word means, and decided that is what my daughter meant when she said it. So I took to Facebook to point out that words have meaning, and that words have different meanings in different contexts. Rather than ascribe meaning to a word that isn’t there, in the context of the spoken and written word, we should strive to understand the person communicating. We should take what we know about the person, and ask ourselves “Is what I think I am hearing consistent with what I know about this person?” We should ask “When you use that word, what do you mean?”

By now you may have guessed the word that was used. On dictionary.com the word has two definitions. The first is a simple statement of fact. No moral judgement exists in that definition. The second definition is different. It means, literally, something completely different than the first definition. There is a moral judgement explicit in the definition. When my daughter used the word, she intended the first definition. When I spoke about it on Facebook, I was speaking about the first definition. No moral judgements about anyone were implied. Yet, moral judgements were made about us. Even when trying to explain that words have meaning, and that understanding each other is important, moral judgements were hurled at us. Victoria is mean. I am insensitive. I am unnecessarily agitative. I think “those people” are worthless. We are offensive if we use that word, regardless of the intent.  We should use other words. It should be noted, of course, that some of the words we were instructed to use were found offensive by others.

So, the more I thought about this political correctness (because that is all this is), the more I began to realize that words really have no meaning. Words are meaningless. Only feelings matter. I feel like you meant a certain thing, and therefore you did. The words you used have no meaning whatsoever. This is the insidious nature of political correctness. Political correctness has created a culture of communicative laziness. We no longer “seek first to understand.” Rather, it seems, we seek first to find offense.

Finally, what have I learned? Yesterday morning I would have said “I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut.” But as the whole thing sunk in, I’ve learned that I’m stronger than that. I like to discuss Big Important Issues. It’s why I’m a member of Ricochet. It’s why I post things on Facebook, and engage people in discussion in person. I think talking about these things is important. And if you don’t like it, you can lump it. I won’t be shut up. Never again.

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  1. AUMom Member
    AUMom
    @AUMom

    Spin:

    AUMom:

    Whatever you use, please remember that you are reminding the parent and/or person of life altering conditions. I am not usually sensitive, especially toward myself, but towards my daughter? Any reminder that her life is not going to be what her grad school brother or her college educated parents are is hurtful Use what you want. Just own the pain you are inflicting with it.

    I’m not trying to inflict pain, nor be insensitive. And certainly, if I’m talking to you I’m not going to say something callous or hurtful.

    Having said that, by your statement here, any word or phrase used to describe your daughters condition will be painful, and potentially offensive to you. Is that correct?

    No. There are people who exhibit love and kindness that talk to and about who are not hurtful.

    It’s the careless, throw away lines of normal folks who don’t think that through an accident of birth they would be the same and the deliberate insults that are painful.

    • #61
  2. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Misthiocracy:And my argument is that someone has every right to propose and pursue the dissemination of that revision to the language. They simply do not have the right to use coercion to enforce it.

    If their pursuit of the revision is persuasive, then it will proliferate.

    You’re entirely free to express displeasure at the proliferation of an opinion with which you disagree.

    You’re also free to express displeasure that others express their displeasure at your expression of displeasure, etc, ad nauseum.

    At no point “must” one side give way to the other. They can express their mutual displeasure indefinitely if they so choose.

    When one person says to another “you cannot use that word”, that statement is clearly a falsehood, but they still have the right to say it. Freedom of speech is not limited to statements that are true.

    On the other hand, if a person says to another “you may not use that word”, and they back up the statement with force, that is clearly tyranny.

    I suspect this is what a former boss used to refer to as being in violent agreement.

    • #62
  3. AUMom Member
    AUMom
    @AUMom

    Ryan M:hah. Have you ever listened to the Flyover Country podcast where Terry and I discuss the word “retarded?”

    I thought that post of yours was great. I’m sorry I didn’t see you were being personally attacked, or I would have chimed in. I suppose next I won’t even be able to talk about how taking offense to that sort of thing is quite stupid, because, you know… some people actually are stupid. Are they less than people? Trust me, I’m all in favor of being sensitive when you know people have hang-ups about certain things. But how arrogant do you have to be to make your personal hang-up into a vast societal rule?

    Give me a break.

    Oh, please. No one is being personally attacked. A question was asked. I answered from the view of one who finds retarded hurtful. Is the question one of “what is kind or acceptable?” or is it “Can I say what I want and not feel responsibility of how someone takes it?”

    Sure, there are folks who perpetually offended. One can’t help it if someone looks for ways to be hurt. This is not the case.

    • #63
  4. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    AUMom:Oh, please. No one is being personally attacked. A question was asked. I answered from the view of one who finds retarded hurtful. Is the question one of “what is kind or acceptable?” or is it “Can I say what I want and not feel responsibility of how someone takes it?”

    Were you on the Facebook thread? I think that’s where the personal attacks happened.

    • #64
  5. Severely Ltd. Inactive
    Severely Ltd.
    @SeverelyLtd

    MLH:OK. Aim the pitchforks and arrows over here:

    About 8 yrs ago I had a patient who worked the admin office of the local school district. Some kid was passing a note that said: “Say the following out loud: I am we Todd did.” The kid got in trouble and the folks in the admin office, and me, laughed their backsides off. Of course 8 years ago we were less enlightened.

    You are certainly going to hell for laughing at that. And now me too. Thanks fer that.

    • #65
  6. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    AUMom:

    Ryan M:hah. Have you ever listened to the Flyover Country podcast where Terry and I discuss the word “retarded?”

    I thought that post of yours was great. I’m sorry I didn’t see you were being personally attacked, or I would have chimed in. I suppose next I won’t even be able to talk about how taking offense to that sort of thing is quite stupid, because, you know… some people actually are stupid. Are they less than people? Trust me, I’m all in favor of being sensitive when you know people have hang-ups about certain things. But how arrogant do you have to be to make your personal hang-up into a vast societal rule?

    Give me a break.

    Oh, please. No one is being personally attacked. A question was asked. I answered from the view of one who finds retarded hurtful. Is the question one of “what is kind or acceptable?” or is it “Can I say what I want and not feel responsibility of how someone takes it?”

    Sure, there are folks who perpetually offended. One can’t help it if someone looks for ways to be hurt. This is not the case.

    sorry, I wasn’t referring to you – I haven’t read any of the comments on this thread.  I was referring to Spin’s reference to a previous post.  I commented on that (I think) early on because I thought it was an interesting post; I hadn’t been aware that it had become any sort of argument.

    As to offense taking, I hate to be such a boring nerd, but I’ve recently been reading Adam Smith’s “Theory of Moral Sentiments,” which I’d recommend for everyone.  I think the first section of the book is on point with our present culture of offense.  He mentions two related phenomena, where on the one hand, when we see a person react to something, we attempt (in some sense) to imagine ourselves in that person’s position in order to empathize; on the other hand, before we react to something (to a 3rd party) we also consider how that person’s situation might differ from ours.  [please excuse me for stating this poorly]  In the story I tell on our podcast about using the word “retarded” in a conversation, the context is important.  I was not referencing anyone with any sort of mental illness, or speaking to anyone with a known sensitivity.  I was speaking with liberals, of course, but you cannot go around planning for all of their sensitivity-by-proxy.  I think a passer-by might hear a word used in that context, and – according to Smith – rightly understand that it is not directed at that person or at anyone at all. Offense in that situation is not only inappropriate, but in exceptionally bad taste (some might even say… “offensive.”)

    In today’s uber-PC-sensitive society, we seem to be so inwardly focused that we’ve lost a great deal of what Smith refers to as helping society to run smoothly.  I call it narcissism.  On the one hand, we could sanitize all of our language in all circumstances, on the off chance that someone might have a hidden sensitivity – when I put it that way, I hope it sounds ridiculous.  On the other hand, we give speakers the benefit of the doubt.  If I’m in a bar and I use the word “retarded” among friends, and one of those friends tells me that he has a child with some mental illness, I will take that into account for future reference.  I will still disagree that it is insulting (just as literally ANY descriptive word along those lines will inevitably reference someone with a legitimate ailment, so the complaint is actually that a person should never say anything negative at all), but if it is a big deal to that friend, I would probably stop saying it around that particular friend.  But I wouldn’t stop saying it altogether.

    • #66
  7. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    Severely Ltd.:

    MLH:OK. Aim the pitchforks and arrows over here:

    About 8 yrs ago I had a patient who worked the admin office of the local school district. Some kid was passing a note that said: “Say the following out loud: I am we Todd did.” The kid got in trouble and the folks in the admin office, and me, laughed their backsides off. Of course 8 years ago we were less enlightened.

    You are certainly going to hell for laughing at that. And now me too. Thanks fer that.

    yeah, when I was a kid, that included “sofa king”

    • #67
  8. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    Ryan M:

    Severely Ltd.:

    MLH:OK. Aim the pitchforks and arrows over here:

    About 8 yrs ago I had a patient who worked the admin office of the local school district. Some kid was passing a note that said: “Say the following out loud: I am we Todd did.” The kid got in trouble and the folks in the admin office, and me, laughed their backsides off. Of course 8 years ago we were less enlightened.

    You are certainly going to hell for laughing at that. And now me too. Thanks fer that.

    yeah, when I was a kid, that included “sofa king”

    Interestingly, we also had Jay McGuire, the kid with downs syndrome.  Everyone loved him and was super nice to him.  He graduated with something like 3 different classes to wild applause from all of those same kids who didn’t think twice about using the word “retarded.”  You know why?  Because people know the difference between using words that reference an idea and not a person, and actually treating people poorly.  The two were not the same.  In the overly PC world with language police, you end up with actual resentment.

    • #68
  9. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    Actually, Spin, I have to correct what I previously said…  your conversation was on Facebook and I had that confused with something else I recently read on Ricochet, which I thought was from you.  :)  Of course, if I was on facebook and participated in that medium, I’m sure I would have read your post.  Everything else I say about the “R” word stands, but with the caveat that I haven’t the foggiest idea about any of the context of your posts or statements or the ensuing discussions.

    • #69
  10. Spin Coolidge
    Spin
    @Spin

    AUMom:

    It’s the careless, throw away lines of normal folks who don’t think that through an accident of birth they would be the same and the deliberate insults that are painful.

    Who’s talking about deliberate insults?

    I’m asking, given my daughters situation, what words should she have used?

    • #70
  11. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    Greg Oldham:

    The King Prawn:…We’ve reached this state because the individual perception of reality is now held in higher regard than actual reality.

    I would go further and say this is not just relativism, but selfishness. Those that espouse relativistic/PC doctrine are putting their own desire to not be offended above the good of anyone else. Not only is individual reality more important, but MY individual reality is the only consideration. You are not even allowed to think of things that might declare that what I am doing might be in any way less than perfect. I must be right I am me.

    Perhaps this relativism is what is driving what I perceive to be a secular push in society. If there is a God, and He declared what is and is not good and acceptable, and what I want to do is not on that list, or does not fall inside those guidelines, then I must reject the rule giver. If nothing is expressly universally good then who is to say what is bad? Except me of course. Without codified behavior that comes from outside of me I am left to create whatever system of rules makes me the most comfortable and challenges my conduct the least. If what you have said offends me then I get to declare those ideas forbidden.

    The word you want is not “relativism,” but “solipsism.”  But I disagree that these people are putting their desire not to be offended above anything else.  They want to be offended.  They desperately want to be offended.  They search for excuses to gin up being offended.  It gives them a sort of power over the speaker.  It reassures them of their own moral superiority.  And, of course, they have nothing else to do because they are retarded.

    • #71
  12. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Spin:

    AUMom:

    It’s the careless, throw away lines of normal folks who don’t think that through an accident of birth they would be the same and the deliberate insults that are painful.

    Who’s talking about deliberate insults?

    I’m asking, given my daughters situation, what words should she have used?

    Can you explain what your daugher was trying to comunicate? Why did she need to refer to this individual?

    • #72
  13. Spin Coolidge
    Spin
    @Spin

    To be clear, in the case I described, there were only a handful of what I’d call “PC” responses.  The really heated discussion came from people who have mentally disabled children that simply did not like the word and find it offensive, in any context.  They gave examples of phrases that could be used.  But contradicted each other and comments I’ve heard from other people.  I’ve got a sister in law who says the term “disabled” is offensive.  They aren’t disabled, they are “differently-abled”.

    But, as I tried to explain, nobody is referring to your children by that word here.  I certainly would never refer to someone’s children as retarded, at least not in their presence.  That really didn’t matter.  The whole conversations was “sad” and it was “surprising” to see that anyone would even partake in such a discussion.  In other words, shut up, you don’t have a child that is differently-abled, so you don’t have anything to say.

    To state my point in a different way, it is no worse for me to make a judgement about the value of your child based on some emotional condition that he has, than it is for you to make a moral judgement about my child because she used the word retarded to refer to someone.  In both cases, we would be taking our preconceived ideas about people, and applying them each other’s children, without taking the time to understand them.

    • #73
  14. Spin Coolidge
    Spin
    @Spin

    Mike H:

    Spin:

    AUMom:

    It’s the careless, throw away lines of normal folks who don’t think that through an accident of birth they would be the same and the deliberate insults that are painful.

    Who’s talking about deliberate insults?

    I’m asking, given my daughters situation, what words should she have used?

    Can you explain what your daugher was trying to comunicate? Why did she need to refer to this individual?

    For some reason she was trying to point out the individual to a friend.  Something to do with a class.  I don’t know exactly why, but I know it wasn’t just to point out “the retarded kid.”  She doesn’t know the guys name, and after trying to describe him with other words, she finally said “You know, the retarded boy.”  Her friend said “You can’t say that, your mean!”

    And that is the crux of my point.  She wasn’t trying to be mean.  Yes, people use that word (and others) with the express purpose to hurt, and that is mean.  But she wasn’t being mean.  But because we’ve all decided that the word is taboo, if you use it, you are wrong.

    • #74
  15. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Spin:

    Mike H:

    Spin:

    AUMom:

    It’s the careless, throw away lines of normal folks who don’t think that through an accident of birth they would be the same and the deliberate insults that are painful.

    Who’s talking about deliberate insults?

    I’m asking, given my daughters situation, what words should she have used?

    Can you explain what your daugher was trying to comunicate? Why did she need to refer to this individual?

    For some reason she was trying to point out the individual to a friend. Something to do with a class. I don’t know exactly why, but I know it wasn’t just to point out “the retarded kid.” She doesn’t know the guys name, and after trying to describe him with other words, she finally said “You know, the retarded boy.” Her friend said “You can’t say that, your mean!”

    And that is the crux of my point. She wasn’t trying to be mean. Yes, people use that word (and others) with the express purpose to hurt, and that is mean. But she wasn’t being mean. But because we’ve all decided that the word is taboo, if you use it, you are wrong.

    Yes, that’s how taboos work. For what it’s worth, your daughter’s friend was wrong to say she was mean, but how much nuance do you expect from a 15 year old?

    The guaranteed non-taboo thing to do would have been to give up.

    You essentially disagree with the taboo. That’s fine. There’s plenty of things I believe that are taboo and so I refrain from speeking them unless I’m highly confident about my audience.

    • #75
  16. AUMom Member
    AUMom
    @AUMom

    Spin:

    AUMom:

    It’s the careless, throw away lines of normal folks who don’t think that through an accident of birth they would be the same and the deliberate insults that are painful.

    Who’s talking about deliberate insults?

    I’m asking, given my daughters situation, what words should she have used?

    The guy in the blue shirt works.

    • #76
  17. AUMom Member
    AUMom
    @AUMom

    Arahant:

    AUMom:Oh, please. No one is being personally attacked. A question was asked. I answered from the view of one who finds retarded hurtful. Is the question one of “what is kind or acceptable?” or is it “Can I say what I want and not feel responsibility of how someone takes it?”

    Were you on the Facebook thread? I think that’s where the personal attacks happened.

    Sorry, I thought this referred to the conversation here.

    • #77
  18. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    Spin:

    Mike H:

    Spin:

    AUMom:

    It’s the careless, throw away lines of normal folks who don’t think that through an accident of birth they would be the same and the deliberate insults that are painful.

    Who’s talking about deliberate insults?

    I’m asking, given my daughters situation, what words should she have used?

    Can you explain what your daugher was trying to comunicate? Why did she need to refer to this individual?

    For some reason she was trying to point out the individual to a friend. Something to do with a class. I don’t know exactly why, but I know it wasn’t just to point out “the retarded kid.” She doesn’t know the guys name, and after trying to describe him with other words, she finally said “You know, the retarded boy.” Her friend said “You can’t say that, your mean!”

    And that is the crux of my point. She wasn’t trying to be mean. Yes, people use that word (and others) with the express purpose to hurt, and that is mean. But she wasn’t being mean. But because we’ve all decided that the word is taboo, if you use it, you are wrong.

    I totally agree.  I’m sure this has been beaten to death, but that word used to be “idiot,” and has slowly progressed through time.  Turns out, people don’t want to be “retarded.”  Any description is of a condition and not of an individual, but regardless of how much people love their children (or how much we love people themselves), it is not a condition that anyone willingly chooses.  So ANY reference to it will, at some point, be offensive to someone.  I tend to think this is counter-productive, and honestly it disappoints me to see from parents.  When I refer to a comment someone makes as “retarded,” I am not referring to your kid.  Not even slightly.  If you say that it conjures up memories in your brain, then good grief, those memories should be good ones, right?  It reminds you of your kid?  Well wonderful, because I’ve never met a “retarded” kid who everyone didn’t think the world of.  We treat them exceedingly well, and it is abundantly clear that most people see how they can be wonderful people in spite of whatever handicap they have.  Being a word policeman doesn’t remove the condition, and unless someone is directing it at your kid, it is simply not the same as walking up and insulting that person.  IF it is, then saying “mentally handicapped” or “differently abled” is equally insulting.  Heck, talking about my own children would be insulting, because it is also a reminder that you’ve got children and that they are different.  At that point, we’re devolving into ridiculousness.  Whereas, at any point along the line, common sense could easily have prevailed.

    Spin’s daughter would have been mean if she pushed the kid down, took his chocolate milk, and said “effing retard.”  Yes, I think ANY person would recognize that.  Would it be ok if she did the same and said “effing differently-abled kid?”  I suppose not… which indicates that the word means something less powerful than the actions.

    • #78
  19. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Mike H:Yes, that’s how taboos work. For what it’s worth, your daughter’s friend was wrong to say she was mean, but how much nuance do you expect from a 15 year old?

    Ah, but the OP said that the person said the word was mean, not that the daughter was mean.

    So, the question becomes: “Can a word be mean?”

    Before we can answer that question, we first have to answer another question: “What is the definition of “mean”?”

    According to Wiktionary (my preferred online source for definition and etymology), the word “mean” comes from the Old English/Old Germanic word for “common, public, general, universal”.

    Using the word “mean” in a derogatory sense is to say that that which is common or average is of low quality. It’s a classist insult.

    In the example of the OP, the speaker was pretty clearly using the word “mean” as a synonym for “cruelty”. Again, this reveals a very classist bias, to suggest that cruelty is an attribute of low quality commoners.

    So, can a word be “mean”? I would suggest yes, if the word is used commonly. That doesn’t make it a bad word.

    Is the word “retard” mean? I would suggest not, because it’s no longer used commonly.

    The daughter’s interlocutor was not only being a snob but was also expressing a falsehood on two different levels.

    • #79
  20. She Member
    She
    @She

    skipsul:

    Spin:The word is “retarded.”

    (here come the pitchforks)

    The irony is that “retarded” was originally intended as a more PC substitute for prior words like “idiot” or “simpleton” or any of a variety of other terms. In time “mentally handicapped” will be seen as cruel and replaced with something even sillier, but then that will take on a pejorative meaning, etc. etc. etc.

    Yes.

    However, let’s not use ‘mentally handicapped,’ that’s perjorative, let’s use ‘developmentally disabled.’

    Oh, wait . . . .

    How about ‘congnitively impaired?’

    Oh, wait . . . .

    And so it goes.

    I also understand the point about it occasionally being necessary to state a fact, as opposed to mean-spiritedly insulting a person.  And that it is, in the latter case, sometimes appropriate to take offense.

    But then there are the truly creative, those unsatisfied with the boundless opportunities for taking offense that present themselves during the normal course of discourse, who simply invent their own lexicon of impropriety so that their fragile egos are even more susceptible of insult where none was intended.

    Like the mayor of Washington DC, who accepted the ‘resignation’ of an aide who unwisely used the word ‘niggardly’ to describe the tight budgeting framework he was required to work in.  Apparently one of his co-workers identified the remark as a ‘racial slur.’

    At some point during an internal review (no doubt at taxpayer expense) someone in the Mayor’s administration (the ‘designated reader,’ I suppose–perhaps he gets a bonus for practicing his craft) actually got out a dictionary, and the conclusion of the ensuing report was that ‘niggardly’ means ‘tight-fisted,’ and is not a racial slur in any way.  The guy was offered his job back, but refused.

    Other terms, like “black-hole,” “devils’ food cake,” “water buffalo” and so on, have been similarly re-appropriated to suit the various ends of the perpetually aggrieved.

    I try to use them all as often as possible.  What else can you do?

    • #80
  21. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Arahant:

    Misthiocracy:By contrast, English began to be standardized thanks to (mostly for-profit) works of literature.The birth of “Modern English” is generally considered to coincide with the publication of Shakespeare’s plays and the King James Bible in the early 17th century. These works were not created with the intention of standardizing the language. That was merely a secondary benefit.

    Later in 1755, Samuel Johnson’s dictionary was greatly influential in standardizing English spelling. It was a for-profit work, commissioned by a group of British publishers. i.e. English usage being shaped by commercial forces rather than the established authority of government.

    Okay, I think I see where you are going here. I had thought you were implying that since England and America dominated the landscape commercially for a few centuries between them, that other languages “specialized” in official formality. Your earlier statements were not so clear on the subject as this.

    Gosh bless the power of dialectic to render meaning!

    ;-)

    • #81
  22. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Arahant:I suspect this is what a former boss used to refer to as being in violent agreement.

    My favourite kind. Passive agreement is ever so dull.

    • #82
  23. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Spin:Her friend said “You can’t say that, your mean!”

    Waitaminute. The OP stated that the friend said that the word was mean, not that the daughter was mean.

    It makes a difference.

    The former implies that the friend was claiming that the word is forbidden because it is inherently common.

    The latter implies that the friend was claiming that the word is forbidden because its use reveals that the speaker is common.

    (Furthermore, I’m not sure I’m ready to go to the barricades in response to the political opinions of teenaged girls. ;-)

    • #83
  24. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Spin:

    AUMom:

    It’s the careless, throw away lines of normal folks who don’t think that through an accident of birth they would be the same and the deliberate insults that are painful.

    Who’s talking about deliberate insults?

    I’m asking, given my daughters situation, what words should she have used?

    Well, my usual advice to teenagers is that it’s better to keep one’s mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt (It’s in the Bible, people!), but that’s neither here nor there.

    (Actually, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are both really, really great sources of advice on how to deal with fools.)

    My advice to a person in this situation would be to tailor their response to the interlocutor.

    If the interlocutor is a rational, educated person (i.e. not your average 15-year -old) then the response would be a further dialectic to explore the meaning and origins of the interlocutor’s admonishment, in order to come to a mutual understanding of where each party is coming from.

    If the interlocutor was a person of authority, my advice would be to “fight the man”, but only if you’re willing to accept the consequences of standing up to “the man”.

    If the interlocutor was a raving Social Justice Warrior, my advice would be again to quote the Bible: “It is a waste of time to argue with fools.”

    Since the interlocutor was a 15-year-old girl, however, my advice would be to go along to get along.

    • #84
  25. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    AUMom:

    Spin:

    AUMom:

    It’s the careless, throw away lines of normal folks who don’t think that through an accident of birth they would be the same and the deliberate insults that are painful.

    Who’s talking about deliberate insults?

    I’m asking, given my daughters situation, what words should she have used?

    The guy in the blue shirt works.

    Sure, we can do that with anything, right?  But it gets to be pretty ridiculous.  The main difference between the kid and the other kids is not that he is wearing a blue shirt, and that much is obvious.  Not stating the obvious can be just as conspicuous – if not more conspicuous – than simply using the ordinary descriptive words and still treating a person kindly.  After all, it is not that the kid is “retarded” that causes pain.  The word is purely neutral, and most parents even recognize that the condition is something of a blessing in the impact that the child has on parents and those around him.  The only pain is in the possibility that the word might be spoken insultingly.  Well, therein lies the problem.  The word itself is not an insult.  “Idiot” was not an insult, but it took on a different meaning, derived from the real condition it originally described.  Perhaps “retard” has taken on that same connotation and people would prefer that it not be used any longer to describe real individuals (although I don’t think that it has quite as much as “idiot.”)  Consider the word “crazy.”  That’s crazy!!  What if you say that near someone whose parent or child is in a mental institution.  It is easy enough to tell from context whether a person is referring to you or is being insulting.

    • #85
  26. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    Misthiocracy:

    Since the interlocutor was a 15-year-old girl, however, my advice would be to go along to get along.

    I don’t think “go along to get along” with 15 year old girls should necessarily be our standard…

    • #86
  27. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Ryan M:

    Misthiocracy:

    Since the interlocutor was a 15-year-old girl, however, my advice would be to go along to get along.

    I don’t think “go along to get along” with 15 year old girls should necessarily be our standard…

    It beats bashing one’s head against a wall.

    • #87
  28. Owen Findy Member
    Owen Findy
    @OwenFindy

    “I think talking about these things is important. And if you don’t like it, you can lump it. I won’t be shut up. Never again.”

    I agree wholeheartedly, and I believe, with only some exaggeration, that it’s nearly a matter of life and death — long range.  Here’s why:  our specific difference from other species, and our means of survival, is our capacity to reason.  We reason via our language, and if the language is corrupt, so is our reasoning about the world.  The greater the corruption, the deadlier it is to us.

    • #88
  29. Spin Coolidge
    Spin
    @Spin

    Misthiocracy:

    Spin:Her friend said “You can’t say that, your mean!”

    Waitaminute. The OP stated that the friend said that the word was mean, not that the daughter was mean.

    It makes a difference.

    The former implies that the friend was claiming that the word is forbidden because it is inherently common.

    The latter implies that the friend was claiming that the word is forbidden because its use reveals that the speaker is common.

    (Furthermore, I’m not sure I’m ready to go to the barricades in response to the political opinions of teenaged girls. ;-)

    No.  “You can’t say that, it’s mean” is what I typed, a paraphrase.  It’s mean to say that.  therefore, Vickie is mean for saying it.  But really, you are splitting hairs here.

    • #89
  30. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Spin:

    Misthiocracy:

    Spin:Her friend said “You can’t say that, your mean!”

    Waitaminute. The OP stated that the friend said that the word was mean, not that the daughter was mean.

    It makes a difference.

    The former implies that the friend was claiming that the word is forbidden because it is inherently common.

    The latter implies that the friend was claiming that the word is forbidden because its use reveals that the speaker is common.

    (Furthermore, I’m not sure I’m ready to go to the barricades in response to the political opinions of teenaged girls. ;-)

    No. “You can’t say that, it’s mean” is what I typed, a paraphrase. It’s mean to say that. therefore, Vickie is mean for saying it. But really, you are splitting hairs here.

    I do not think I am.

    • #90
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