Disablist language and deletions

(183 Posts)

MNHQ have commented on this thread.

BOFtastic Mon 17-Mar-14 01:43:12

Sort of on the back of another thread, I've noticed recent deletions of the word 'moron' as disablist.

I''ve done some googling. It was used among a couple of other older terms, idiot and imbecile, by Henry H. Goddard, a psychologist at the turn of the 19th century to grade people of "low intelligence", and it was taken up to justify eugenics. So distasteful, yes.

Is it just that Goddard actually coined 'moron', and the other terms were pre-existing? Goddard himself disavowed it shortly afterwards, and it hasn't been in use medically for a very long time. I very much doubt that people who use the word are directly referring to learning disability- the word in that sense is long-obsolete. Much like the word 'cretin', which has a similar history.

Language changes, we all know that.

The issue gets more clear-cut, I think, when similarly-originated terms are used as insults separate to their initial meaning. It is NOT ok- regardless of the speaker's meaning and motivation- to, for example, use 'gay' to mean 'pathetic', because it is still primarily used to refer to people's sexual orientation, and making the word an insult is demeaning to them. Also words like 'retard', because alongside its general use, it is still used to abuse and insult people with learning disabilities.

That, in my opinion, should be the rule of thumb: if the initial meaning is long obsolete, fine; if it still gets used in a discriminatory sense about actually-existing groups of marginalised and oppressed people, not fine.

So after thinking about it, I don't think I agree that the word 'moron' should be deleted as disablist language.

So what do people think?

limitedperiodonly Mon 17-Mar-14 09:47:41

I agree with you.

I agree with you wholeheartedly.

I've never known it used as a derogatory term to describe disability, the current MN stance on the word baffles me.

Moron is akin to prat, idiot, stupid, muppet and not "retard".

PartialFancy Mon 17-Mar-14 10:17:11

I've been thinking much the same. As so often, it's one of those Where Do You Draw The Line questions.

For me, moron is over the line into acceptable, for exactly the reasons you give.

Ditto idiot and imbecile. Most people go their whole lives without knowing these words have any connotation of disability.

But I'm not keen on cretin. Cretinism does still seem to be used for the medical condition caused by iodine deficiency - at any rate, it's a recent change if it's no longer widely used, so not obsolete for decades.

MoominIsWaitingToMeetHerMiniMe Mon 17-Mar-14 10:25:40

I confess to using moron, but pronounced the Welsh way, so actually it's calling someone a carrot.

I started a thread about this a while ago, I find it an unpleasant word. But I think after the thread, I'm more likely to agree with you about its not disabilist like other words

I still find it unnecessary and unpleasant though, as I do imbecile and idiot I would really prefer to not be called any of them.

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 17-Mar-14 10:35:01

Hi Bof,
That's interesting - thanks for raising. We do get lots of reports about use of the word moron from MNers who think it is disablist, and more offensive and, than, say idiot or imbecile. Would be good to get their perspective on this thread....

Goblinchild Mon 17-Mar-14 10:40:30

The problem is that it's such a personal thing that getting a consensus would be almost impossible.
I object to retard and mong and cripple and spaz, but there are other words that I don't find offensive, such as idiot, fool and loon. But someone else might well.
I tend to stick to twit, arse, noggin, muppet and twerp along with other words that are less emotive.

I completely agree that if a word is only used in its ordinary insulting sense and has no other current meaning then it should not be considered disablist.

Of course even if it did have a current meaning it probably wouldn't be intentionally disablist, but I can see why someone wouldn't want the current medical name for their condition used as an insult.

PartialFancy Mon 17-Mar-14 12:03:01

Any word that has a current meaning should never be used in the pejorative sense. Be it "gay", "mental", "woman" or anything else.

Regardless of whether the individual saying it meant to insult.

Because it's impossible on the receiving end to separate out the intent of the speaker, and anyway the word carries with it the negative connotation regardless of that intent.

People are rightly revolted to find themselves labelled "X, the bad thing" even if the speaker didn't mean that.

Besides, although the speaker isn't required to be omniscient, once the dual meaning's been pointed out what sort of wally would honestly go around deliberately trying to be mistaken for being pejorative? Usually one who is trying to be pejorative, but thinks dual meanings provide cover?

PartialFancy Mon 17-Mar-14 12:08:09

("Woman" was a particularly bonkers insult from my youth, used exactly the way the derogatory "gay" is now. 'Twas an object lesson in the appropriation of entirely neutral words to express and reinforce contempt for the group described.)

BOFtastic Mon 17-Mar-14 14:24:36

Yes, like "You're such a girl!", I see what you mean.

DoJo Mon 17-Mar-14 23:21:10

Besides, although the speaker isn't required to be omniscient, once the dual meaning's been pointed out what sort of wally would honestly go around deliberately trying to be mistaken for being pejorative? Usually one who is trying to be pejorative, but thinks dual meanings provide cover?

I don't think most people would, but if you've been using a word for decades without anyone ever objecting to it then it seems reasonable, even after someone pointing out the relatively obscure origins of the term, that

a) you might still find yourself saying it without really thinking
b) you might question the significance of one person's opinion that a word is insulting against the fact that you have NEVER met anyone else who agreed

It seems almost as though the offensiveness of the word is spreading like a virus - one person finds it offensive, explains to another who begins to find it offensive and so on, but was that first person correct to believe that a large number of people were using the word in a derogatory way? Or is it just the knowledge of the origins of the word? After all, there has to be some word to describe people or actions which show below average intelligence, and some will always be derogatory.

And a relatively innocuous term like 'simple' would once have been a common way for all kinds of people to describe a range of characteristics, from those with low IQs to the very naive or even someone who is just immature. Can we ban the use of all words which could potentially be used to describe traits which are traditionally considered negative, but could also be symptomatic of a disability or medical problem?

These aren't rhetorical questions, by the way - I am genuinely pondering all this as I feel quite conflicted on the 'moron' issue, and BOFtastic has sort of summed up my internal debate over the word. (Except every time I decide I don't think it's disablist, I swiftly follow it with an inner conflict over whether that would be EXACTLY what disablist apologist would use to justify their stance and end up back where I started.)

Because it's impossible on the receiving end to separate out the intent of the speaker

No it isn't.

Occasionally it's possible to be mistaken about the intent of the speaker if you don't know them well or were not paying attention to the context.

RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 19-Mar-14 13:25:22

Thanks v much for your thoughts so far. We're just stickying this in Special Needs: Children (as well as in Site Stuff) to make sure it gets seen by the posters there as well.

It's a thorny issue and one that we do struggle with sometimes (as we're sure you've noticed wink). For every person saying they think 'moron' is fine, we have another person reporting the thread or post for being disablist. And obviously, some terms are more borderline than others.

So we'd love to gather some more opinions - anyone else want to have their say?

bialystockandbloom Wed 19-Mar-14 14:20:39

For me, the word moron doesn't offend, or make me think it's a word used to define a learning disability which is being applied as an insult (in the way that "spaz" or "retard" is, or a more recent one, being called "autistic" as a pejorative). I don't think I have ever heard it used in that way.

But then I freely use the word "cunt" and "twat" as insults (usually not seriously!), which are offensive to some, being based on female genitals.

On the whole I agree with you.

zzzzz Wed 19-Mar-14 14:33:28

"Fucking moron" and "fucking retard" register exactly the same to me. I am trying to remove "moron" and "idiot" from my vocabulary as a result. Mercifully "retard" never featured in my language anyway shock

FWIW I had a very un-PC childhood and have since grown up and had two children with neurological disabilities (though neither could be described by the words we're discussing) and I find that I do care and those terms do hurt.

I'm bringing up my children NOT to say them.

hazeyjane Wed 19-Mar-14 14:59:38

I have stopped myself using 'moron' and 'idiot' after reading posts on here. They are not words that jump out at me in the way that 'retard' or 'spaz' would, but I can see that they cause hurt to some and there are enough suitable alternatives to use for it not to be too much of a hardship!

The word that my dds (6 and 7) think is the worst word to use and they refer to as the 's word' is 'stupid'.

I heard dd1 say 'are you stupid?' to ds the other day, when he said 'uh uh uh' (he can't speak), she said 'you didn't say no, so you must be stupid' - then she saw that I had heard her and looked horrified. It broke my heart because she knew that what she was saying was hurtful.

Words and the intentions behind them can be messy painful things.

PartialFancy Wed 19-Mar-14 15:32:43

Surely we are more than "occasionally" in the presence of people we don't know very well? Virtually and in RL?

BOFtastic Wed 19-Mar-14 15:39:27

It's one thing to personally resolve to avoid certain words, and another to say that they should be deleted by mnhq if somebody else uses them though, isn't it?

Morgause Wed 19-Mar-14 15:41:45

Language evolves. Moron and idiot are far distanced from their use in the early 20th C, to the vast majority they aren't in the least disablist. in use or intent and Mumsnet looks very precious, not to say daft, for deleting them.

BOFtastic Wed 19-Mar-14 15:43:18

Many people, for example, feel deeply offended by expressions like 'Jesus Christ!', but does that mean their offence should shape the deletion policy on mumsnet? Or is the most that is reasonable to discourage its usage in your own family?

zzzzz Wed 19-Mar-14 16:24:28

I'm not commenting either way on who should delete what or why. I'm simply expressing how I feel about it.

MNHQ are on the whole extremely understanding to the parents of children with disabilities. I personally don't worry about how "precious" people think I'm being when I decide how I want me and mine to behave.

I think the underlying message that being "stupid" is something to mock or deride people for is unlikely to hold much attraction for those of us that love people who through no fault of their own are not operating on an even playing field.

We no longer use words like "gimp" to describe the physically disabled, yet a doubt many people would welcome it being used about them or theirs.

ImAThrillseekerHoney Wed 19-Mar-14 16:36:32

I have reported "moron" in a thread title recently, saying "is this OK?" I wasn't asking rhetorically (though MNHQ might have thought I was) - I genuinely didn't know the answer, so I was drawing the thread to their attention. I'm still genuinely unsure where the line should go - I do see the OP's point, but to me it does feel quite close in sense to "retard".

PolterGoose Wed 19-Mar-14 16:55:21

I personally don't use 'moron', but don't find it quite as offensive as retard, 'speshul', and the other more obvious disablist words.

I do think it's time for MNHQ to update their Accessibility Policy and perhaps look at extending it by developing an inclusion policy which explores the use of language and how it might impact on particular individuals and groups of posters.

limitedperiodonly Wed 19-Mar-14 17:02:59

We no longer use words like "gimp" to describe the physically disabled

No, I don't and never have. I don't connect the word with that.

I do use it to describe the socially disabled. I also use the term 'social cripple'.

I use them to describe a NT person who is being obtuse right up to being downright deliberately offensive. I would not use them to describe anyone else.

You might count me amongst the NT people who were downright deliberately offensive because that is what I am being. Context is everything. I think my targets are legitimate but others wouldn't.

I have talked about gimp masks sometimes in the context of discussing Pulp Fiction and American Horror Story.

I have wide interests, but that's as far as my interest in gimp masks goes.

zzzzz Wed 19-Mar-14 17:03:04

"speshul" is utterly unforgivable and horrid and I would and have been disgusted to see that left un-deleted.

zzzzz Wed 19-Mar-14 17:05:16

"I do use it to describe the socially disabled." (gimp)

shock well you should be ashamed of yourself.

mercibucket Wed 19-Mar-14 17:21:37

i agree with the op

PolterGoose Wed 19-Mar-14 17:26:02

I do use it to describe the socially disabled

WTF is 'socially disabled'?

In my life socially disabled equates to autism.

BOFtastic Wed 19-Mar-14 17:26:15

"I think the underlying message that being "stupid" is something to mock or deride people for is unlikely to hold much attraction for those of us that love people who through no fault of their own are not operating on an even playing field."

See, I have a daughter who is severely learning disabled, yet I have no real issue with invective directed at people who display stupid or unthinking behaviour. I'm sure I've been known to call David Cameron plenty of things, including in all likelihood 'moron'. Nobody, to my knowledge, has ever used those words to insult my daughter- why would they?

I just think that any so-called medical descriptive function of words like 'moron' and 'idiot' is so long-obsolete that it is, in my opinion, perfectly acceptable to employ them as general insults.

As I tried to explain in my OP, there are words which still get used by particularly unpleasant folk to belittle the disabled. I don't think that we should be using those words in a general sense, or be attempting to rehabilitate them as funny or cool.

Do you see the distinction I'm trying to make?

Thanks for everyone's thoughts on this- I'd be really interested to hear more views.

limitedperiodonly Wed 19-Mar-14 17:34:11

well you should be ashamed of yourself.

Do you think so, zzzzz?

I thought I'd explained what I meant by my use of the terms 'socially disabled' and 'social cripple' and the context in which I used them.

I also thought this was a discussion.

If you would like further explanation, you have only to ask. It's more helpful in this context to challenge rather than to make bald statements of outrage.

My views may differ from yours but I will be polite and as accommodating as possible. Perhaps you can be too.

But if you just want to shut down debate, then this is not the thread for you.

Goblinchild Wed 19-Mar-14 17:43:16

'I do use it to describe the socially disabled. I also use the term 'social cripple'.
I use them to describe a NT person who is being obtuse right up to being downright deliberately offensive. I would not use them to describe anyone else.'

And you really don't understand why some people with a physical disability might be offended at your use of gimp and cripple in this situation?
Or why someone who does have a social communication disability might be distressed by being described as a social cripple?
How thoughtful of all your friends and aquaintances to have stencilled NT on their foreheads, so you know they are not on the spectrum but merely rude, crude, insensitive and obtuse because they actively choose to be so.

<hands limited a mirror>

OwlCapone Wed 19-Mar-14 17:50:11

What is a suitable replacement for the word idiot? How else do you describe someone who is being really stupid?

Sorry, what does socially disabled mean?

For me moron can stay back in the 1980s playground, I think it may have been used then but I don't know anyone who uses it now.

BOFtastic Wed 19-Mar-14 17:53:54

What about 'dunce', 'halfwit', 'nitwit', 'dullard'?

None of them in current use to refer to people with learning disabilities, but all originally referred to specific intellectual impairment. Now they are only applied to neurotypical people acting in a way we think is daft...

Daft? Is that ok? Soft?

RaRaTheNoisyLion Wed 19-Mar-14 17:57:54

What about 'loon', 'insane', 'crazy', 'mentally unstable', 'idiot' etc.

ImAThrillseekerHoney Wed 19-Mar-14 18:00:42

Tangentially, I struggle in particular with mental-health-based insults. For personal reasons I am a bit sensitive on this one, but there are times when you really need to tell an OP that what they are suggesting is profoundly lacking in rationality. Maybe we just need to switch en masse to "Are you on glue?" If anyone crops up to say that they're hugely offended by that because their brother is struggling with a solvent abuse problem then we can move onto something else.

ImAThrillseekerHoney Wed 19-Mar-14 18:01:32

X-post with rara

BOFtastic Wed 19-Mar-14 18:02:01

To reply to limitedperiodonly, I do find the term 'socially-disabled' unacceptable, precisely because there are real actually existing people who are oppressed and marginalised who are regularly referred to as disabled, or having social impairments. I don't think we should be converting non-pejorative descriptive words which apply to people with disabilities into words used to criticise anybody.

limitedperiodonly Wed 19-Mar-14 18:06:37

In my life socially disabled equates to autism.

Isn't that interesting? Because in my life, it doesn't.

I find the use of the word autistic as a term of abuse abhorrent.

As I explained, I use the term 'socially disabled' and 'social cripple' to describe an NT person who was being deliberately obtuse or offensive and never to describe a person who has special needs.

I would ask you to note that. I have no right to make you accept it though.

I find some other terms of abuse related to mental or physical disability abhorrent too, but I'm not going to list them.

However, I find the words Idiot, Imbecile, Moron and Cretin acceptable. But I respect anyone's right to find them offensive.

But I do ask them to explain why, rather than saying that they find them 'disablist'.

Shall we ban mad, madness, crazy, lunatic, loon, loony, mental, mentalist, special, speshul, retarded, retard, backward?

There are some words there that I'd use and some I wouldn't, but it's not up to me, or to you to shut it down.

It's a debate which will lead to a policy.

I'll stick to that.

But can we talk about it?

limitedperiodonly Wed 19-Mar-14 18:16:02

Simple? Simpleton?

I'm not saying these terms are right. But I want to use them and this is a debate.

I have plenty of mirrors goblin. What do you mean? Because I think I've been plain.

Say what you think is wrong with my view and I will explain. We might not agree, we probably won't, but it would be more helpful if we avoided trickiness.

PolterGoose Wed 19-Mar-14 18:20:45

I thought we were talking about it. People have explained why they find some words offensive. Other people have explained why they don't. We respond to each others points. That's a discussion isn't it?

As I explained, I use the term 'socially disabled' and 'social cripple' to describe an NT person who was being deliberately obtuse or offensive and never to describe a person who has special needs.

So do you also think it's ok to call someone the R word as long as they don't have a learning disability? What about 'mong' - is that OK as long as you're talking about someone who doesn't have DS?

BOFtastic Wed 19-Mar-14 18:36:58

There will always be words which some people find offensive and others don't. Always.

But if we are trying to come up with a coherent rule of thumb for what gets deleted on mumsnet, my suggestion would be delete insults as disablist when

a) they are terms currently, or very recently, used in an ordinary descriptive sense about people with disabilities, because they are converting that description into something pejorative; and

b) they are terms which get used in an unpleasant way by rude or bigoted people to directly demean and belittle people with disabilities. While we still have nasty people who bang on the school bus yelling 'mong', 'spaz' 'or 'retard' (for example), then it doesn't matter if the poster on mumsnet isn't using it to refer to disability. Regardless of their intent, they are still cruel words which serve to oppress and insult the disabled.

Words which have fallen into disuse to refer to disabled people altogether and now only get used in a general sense, should not be deleted, in my opinion, even though some people may find them offensive or choose for themselves to avoid those terms.

limitedperiodonly Wed 19-Mar-14 18:46:17

So do you also think it's ok to call someone the R word as long as they don't have a learning disability? What about 'mong' - is that OK as long as you're talking about someone who doesn't have DS?

No, I don't.

And where did I say that?

I thought I covered it when I said this:

I find the words Idiot, Imbecile, Moron and Cretin acceptable. But I respect anyone's right to find them offensive.

and this:

I find some other terms of abuse related to mental or physical disability abhorrent too, but I'm not going to list them.

If you wanted me to list them, then yes, retard and mong would be on my list of abhorrent terms which I'd never use. I didn't think it was necessary to list them or other words because I was trying to talk while not being deliberately offensive or provocative.

I'm not going to unless you specifically ask. And if you did, I think that would say more about you than it says about me. Provocative and offensive, actually.

This is a debate. Some words need to be used. But we don't need to make accusations.

At the end of it I hope we will reach a consensus and I will abide by it.

AladdinKingOfTheives Wed 19-Mar-14 18:46:56

I agree with you language moves on at a stable rate- Pejoration can occur on previously fine words, FYI little know fact- Gay used to be slang for prostitution in Victorian london. Just like some words are ameliorated, it is just silly for people to pick out insults unless someone has directly made someone with special needs. That is not what moron and imbecile are referred to anymore. Much like "Merry Andrew" used to be a huge insult in the Victorian era.

BOFtastic Wed 19-Mar-14 18:53:50

Just to be clear, I am NOT trying to tell anybody what they should or shouldn't find offensive.

Anybody would be free to tell another poster that they dislike their terminology, and say why they think it's unacceptable to describe people in any particular way.

I just think that we need a deletion policy which is comes from consensus and is consistent and objective, rather than one based on individual posters reporting words that offend them personally.

But your argument was that it was fine to use 'social cripple' because the person you were referring to was NT confused

BOF I think your a) and b) sound sensible.

Goblinchild Wed 19-Mar-14 18:57:10

Did you mean to spell your name like that Aladdin?
Yes, many words change over time and there are words that in the past were mortal insults that go without a raised eyebrow now. Likewise there are words that are beginning to have the original meaning forgotten, and the boundaries blurred.
But there are vulnerable people who are disadvantaged by the use of certain words as insults in the general population, and who may be distressed. It's a matter of being reasonable and flexible about the language used.

Hypothetical example. DS is able, but has Aspergers.
The child of unmarried parents is a bastard. It's in the dictionary as a definition.
He would need it clearly explaining to him why the word isn't acceptable to be used in that sense any longer, and then if he used it to insult someone, he would argue that as the child of unmarried parents, he wasn't insulting but describing his opponent.
Language, archaic, defunct and inaccurate is still a weapon that can hurt others. Why use certain, loaded words at all?

AladdinKingOfThieves Wed 19-Mar-14 19:04:08

Goblinchild- Nope spelling is not my forte Thanks smile

Goblinchild Wed 19-Mar-14 19:07:11

I thought you were going for that pre-Johnson, damm your orthodox spelling rules touch.

AladdinKingOfThieves Wed 19-Mar-14 19:11:22

haha I wish I had kept it- Damn all those rules of spelling etiquette smile

Owllady Wed 19-Mar-14 19:15:53

I have a child with sld and agree with the op and tbqh j have enough shit on my plate day to day to start getting huffy about the use of moron

limitedperiodonly Wed 19-Mar-14 19:21:42

But your argument was that it was fine to use 'social cripple' because the person you were referring to was NT

In certain circumstances, yes.

I don't find it offensive to refer to someone who is being deliberately socially offensive in that way.

In fact, I find it challenging for them to confront that.

You do find it offensive.

Both our views are allowed.

I'm the only one who keeps explaining my position.

Nerfmother Wed 19-Mar-14 19:22:30

Or 'damn' if we're being picky grin

I sort of agree with bof. I was concerned about the bit about words which no longer have their original meaning and are only used as insults, because then you would be able to use 'spaz' or 'mong' which are awful words, but I can see that's been covered. Phew. I can go back to agreeing.

Nerfmother Wed 19-Mar-14 19:25:09

For me, socially disabled is a horrible term. Why use 'disabled' as part of an insult, when you could be kind and say 'socially awkward' or unkind and say 'socially inept' ?

MyChemicalGerard Wed 19-Mar-14 19:27:35

What's wrong with damn? Tis a good word smile Unfortunately there are so many words anyone can take offense too its hard as you will never ever please everybody.

Interesting thread. I would really struggle to see the words 'idiot/idiotic' or 'stupid' as disablist - unless addressed directly at someone with learning difficulties perhaps, but then even the mildest insult becomes offensive in that context.

'Speshel' I've often interpreted as being a bit entitled/princessy, as in "they think they're special" rather than special needs.

Nerfmother Wed 19-Mar-14 19:31:06

Nothing wrong with damn! was correcting spelling from post above!

limitedperiodonly Wed 19-Mar-14 19:32:35

As it happens I did say 'socially inept' on another thread nerf

In the context the person I was talking about knew damn well they were being offensive and I thought I made that clear.

Yet I was pulled up on that as well.

So how would you describe people who transgress social rules either inadvertently or, more importantly, deliberately?

And that's what I suspect is happening here in order to shut down debate.

Yes I do find it offensive. I have a social impairment. I am never 'deliberately socially offensive' hmm

I agree with Nerf - if you use 'disabled' as part of an insult you are pretty much guaranteed to come across as offensive to people with disabilities and those who care about them. The word 'cripple' is nasty whatever the context.

BOFtastic Wed 19-Mar-14 19:37:57

I would delete 'cripple' too, as in that form it is still used as an insulting/offensive description of someone with a disability.

I think I would leave to stand its use as part of a phrase like "cripplingly shy", say. It's a grey area...

Nerfmother Wed 19-Mar-14 19:40:17

Limited - I would use 'socially inept' and wouldn't understand the being pulled up.

Well were they being deliberately offensive or not, limited? It's only in your most recent post you've introduced the idea that it might be 'inadvertent'. Up until then, you were saying it was fine to use 'socially disabled' or 'social cripple' to describe someone who was being deliberately socially offensive.

If someone is obviously being deliberately offensive, I like to use the term 'arsehole'.

limitedperiodonly Wed 19-Mar-14 19:53:54

So how do I describe the person who giggled and said something very offensive when I told her my mum had died plenty?

Or more importantly, how would you describe her behaviour, seeing as you have a social impairment which isn't deliberate but presumably has caused upset?

I ignored it because I know her and know that she has some difficulties with social interaction, though I don't really know what they are. Neither do I care.

She didn't mean to hurt me. She often responds inappropriately. But I still think that under the circumstances that was mighty big of me.

So, can you can you be big too? Or are you going to carry on playing social impairment top trumps?

PolterGoose Wed 19-Mar-14 19:56:14

Why would you need to describe her as anything other than insensitive and offensive limited? Why is there a need to find an insult?

zzzzz Wed 19-Mar-14 19:56:26

LimitedP I can't see anyone "shutting down debate". I wonder if the reason you don't find "socialy disabled/social cripple" offensive is because you are unaware of the existence of social communication disorders/autism???? confused

NurseyWursey Wed 19-Mar-14 19:57:43

It's just getting really difficult now because when someone hijacks a word we've used generally for a while and uses it to offend a certain group of people ie disabled people, it's not always well known

It's like 'cow' being suddenly seen as a disablist slur.

zzzzz Wed 19-Mar-14 19:58:07

If someone is obviously being deliberately offensive, I like to use the term 'arsehole'.

Here, here!

zzzzz Wed 19-Mar-14 20:00:26

ahh yes disability top trumps....a bit like "professionally offended"/the SN posse.


zzzzz Wed 19-Mar-14 20:01:26

Why is "cow" a disablist slur?? <boggle>

NurseyWursey Wed 19-Mar-14 20:02:17

I think you might have missed the point of my post zzzz grin

NurseyWursey Wed 19-Mar-14 20:02:32

It was a hypothetical

zzzzz Wed 19-Mar-14 20:04:35

Well thank fuck for that!

NurseyWursey Wed 19-Mar-14 20:06:32


PolterGoose Wed 19-Mar-14 20:07:10

Arseholes, bastards, fucking cunts and pricks

Courtesy of Ian Dury.

Covers most eventualities.

zzzzz Wed 19-Mar-14 20:09:06

I find the shorter "Arse" very satisfying.

limitedperiodonly Wed 19-Mar-14 20:11:19

PolterGoose I didn't insult or confront her to her face. Not because I'm a nice person but because there'd have been no point. She has behavioural issues and wouldn't or couldn't understand.

It wasn't that I didn't want to hurt her feelings. I didn't want to make mine worse.

But am I not allowed to let off steam about her behaviour? Which was pretty fucking appalling.

RaRaTheNoisyLion Wed 19-Mar-14 20:11:55

Is it okay to insult someone with 'nigger' as long as they aren't black? confused hmm

How about [don't be such a wimpy girl] as long as they aren't female.

'wanker' smile

AmberLeaf Wed 19-Mar-14 20:22:37

Why call a NT person 'socially disabled' to highlight their character flaws though?

Why use the word disabled in such a negative way?

I use the term 'socially disabled' and 'social cripple' to describe an NT person who was being deliberately obtuse or offensive and never to describe a person who has special needs

You are using a current term [disabled] for a person who has no choice and isn't 'deliberately' anything, as/in a perjorative, to describe someone who in your opinion chooses to be an arsehole [why can't we just call an arsehole an arsehole BTW? arseholes can't be offended can they]

You say you would never use the term to describe a person with special needs, which is odd IMO, as in some cases it would be perfectly acceptable to call someone with autism 'socially disabled'

This is entirely the problem with things like this, words/terms with legitimate and non offensive meaning, get highjacked to be used as insults towards people that are arseholes.

Re Moron, using that word isn't something Ive given much thought towards, the song about Gordon from the 70s rings a bell and I know the historical meaning, but it isn't really a word Ive ever used. But I have read about it on MN and can understand why some find it offensive.

I agree with the OP, not much else to add!

Upandatem Wed 19-Mar-14 20:24:48

I don't like any name calling or pejorative labelling.

Mintyy Wed 19-Mar-14 20:26:58

Thanks for this thread Bof.

There are people who we find abhorrent because of their deeply stupid unintelligent vile prejudiced behaviour. What word do we use to describe them? I don't agree that arse is adequate. I think of arse as being perfect for someone who is alright really but is just being a bit of a numpty on specific occasions. Arse isn't insulting enough.

The word I would like to see banned from Mumsnet and everywhere else is bitch.

Upandatem Wed 19-Mar-14 20:29:21

How about we just don't call people names?

AmberLeaf Wed 19-Mar-14 20:32:03

Why is arsehole inadequate?

I think it is a great word personally.

I find it interesting [and sad TBH] that the 'strong' words deemed 'bad' enough to be directed at arseholes are disability related. There are parallels with the misogynistic terms there IMO.

Mintyy Wed 19-Mar-14 20:37:01

I just agree with Bof because she is one of the most intelligent, measured and rational posters on Mumsnet.

JuanPotatoTwo Wed 19-Mar-14 20:38:03

This is a really tricky one to negotiate. There are a whole range of words which I would never use, including ones like moron, cretin, and plenty of others which I don't even want to write. I discourage my dc not to use any of these words and I try to explain why. I realise some of the terms were medical in origin but a lot of people don't and therefore use them in a discriminatory way. When you hear some of these words being used in a disablist sense, you don't often get the chance to say "well, you know, that word used to be frowned on, but now that it's passed into everyday parlance I guess I don't mind you using it".

I don't even know what I'm trying to say - just maybe that, or me, personally, certain words, regardless of their origin, are to be steered well clear of.

Upandatem Wed 19-Mar-14 20:38:29

'I do use it to describe the socially disabled. I also use the term 'social cripple'.'

I'd be shocked if you said this in front of me.

BOFtastic Wed 19-Mar-14 20:40:05

Yes, Upandatem- I'm sure lots of people feel that way. But we can't really have a functioning discussion site if we delete everything derogatory about anyone or anything even though nethuns try their best.

Again, is like to stress that I believe people are perfectly entitled to not use words from personal preference, and to feel able to challenge others if they want to. I can't tell anyone what should offend them.

This is about what mumsnet should delete as disablist though, and what objective criteria they should use. Clearly, a policy which deletes anything somebody dislikes if they can make a case (however tenuous) is simply not workable as a policy.

It's nice to be nice, yes. But I don't think it's nice to be deleted for NOT being nice, iyswim?

Yes I think 'Arsehole' and 'Arse' have quite different meanings. Both are useful.

BOFtastic Wed 19-Mar-14 20:42:07

Shucks, Mintyy grin

Upandatem Wed 19-Mar-14 20:43:18

Sure bof, it's Len btw, but don't run the gauntlet or stoop to that then it's not an issue. PARD and all that.

AmberLeaf Wed 19-Mar-14 20:43:53

I agree with you there.

I do think that people should be more aware of the words they use as insults, where they stem from and their current impact [if historical terms]

Using disability related terms to insult is a much wider issue than some realise I think. Lots probably don't even realise how offensive their words are. Raising that issue shouldn't lead to those raising it being called 'precious' etc. It should lead to people just thinking a bit more before they open their gobs.

TeaAndALemonTart Wed 19-Mar-14 20:46:10

I don't think any disabalist posts should be deleted. I think they should stay so we can see what posters are really like.

If their posts keep being deleted we never know what they are really like IYSWIM.

zzzzz Wed 19-Mar-14 20:47:29

Do you feel the same about racist language BOF?
Do you really think it's difficult to have a functioning discussion site if people can't call each other "nigger" or "paki"?

limitedperiodonly Wed 19-Mar-14 20:55:22

I'd be shocked if you said this in front of me

Why? Honestly? Upandatem?

Have you never met people you consider to be socially crippled or to have unacceptable social views?

Perhaps me, for instance?

Setting that aside, I meet them all the time.

How do you describe someone who does not behave in the way that you deem socially or politically appropriate, whether NT or not

But particularly NT?

BOFtastic Wed 19-Mar-14 20:55:44

I think you've misunderstood me, zzzzz.

I don't want to be on a site which tolerates racist, misogynistic or disablist language.

I do think though that we need a clearer understanding though of exactly what constitutes disablist language, rather than just words which some people prefer not to see used.

Is that any clearer?

rinabean Wed 19-Mar-14 20:58:04

Words aren't ableist. It really annoys me to see something like, a women without disabilities calling another woman without disabilities 'stupid' and her jumping up and down and claiming the real reason she's outraged is concern for people with disabilities. It's blatantly not. It's because she said something stupid and she didn't like losing an argument. That has nothing to do with disabled people and it's disgusting to drag us into it.

What would be offensive is to call a woman with a learning disability stupid/idiot/moron as a means of saying her opinion has no worth. Because that's what other people say, that's what society says. Same as calling a woman with a mental illness crazy/irrational/delusional/hysterical. It is not the words themselves, it's the attitude towards disabled people that's implied in the words.

So someone insulting a disabled person based on their disability should be deleted as ableism, but arguments themselves are not ableist. Because it's about people with disabilities. And all of this 'well I wouldn't be offended if people said and my son/daughter is disabled' is missing the point too. It's not about your feelings, it's not about the feelings of people who want to ~debate etymology~, it's about disabled people. Which is what is always overlooked when it comes to ableist language. Because we are always overlooked. Which is the problem. It's not about being insulted!!! on the internet or being censored!!! on the internet.

Upandatem Wed 19-Mar-14 21:00:48

Inappropriate seems a good enough word.

zzzzz Wed 19-Mar-14 21:01:07

BOF my last post obviously came across as more antagonistic than I meant it too. Apologies I wan't trying to goad. I genuinely am interested in why racist language is so obviously not OK for most people but disablist language seems so much more of a grey area.

BOFtastic Wed 19-Mar-14 21:02:27

I don't think I understand you fully, rinabean. Can you try and explain it slightly differently?

Do you think it's possible to agree on specific words which are unacceptable and should be deleted on mumsnet?

AnythingNotEverything Wed 19-Mar-14 21:03:44

Sorry to dig this up from a post on Monday, but Partial - "cretinism" is not a condition caused by iodine deficiency, or not solely so. It's the old name for a condition called Congenital Hypothyroidism, which is a rare condition affecting around 1 in 4000 babies from birth. Many of these babies turn out to have malfunctioning thyroid glands, or no thyroid tissue at all and require lifelong medication (hormone replacement) to ensure "normal" development. It usually has no known cause.

I particularly dislike the use of the word cretin.

As you were.

limitedperiodonly Wed 19-Mar-14 21:05:38

Inappropriate seems a good enough word

Was that to me, Upandatem?

If it was, then yes, you're right.

On some occasions it's too prim for me.

PolterGoose Wed 19-Mar-14 21:11:20

This is old but shows the result of a survey on disablist language - BBC Ouch survey 10 worst insults

Upandatem Wed 19-Mar-14 21:11:39

Describing someone as a social cripple is completely inappropriate. You said you wouldn't if enough or some people said so so will you not use it in future?

Upandatem Wed 19-Mar-14 21:15:19

Agree with rinabean. It's not going to hurt anyone to not use the word moron but it might help to stop it being used against others who aren't on a level playing field.

Upandatem Wed 19-Mar-14 21:16:35

And I swear a lot limited. It's nothing to do with being prim, calling someone a social cripple is not acceptable at all.

PolterGoose Wed 19-Mar-14 21:17:26

limited it does seen quite cruel to me to want to find an insult for a friend who you know has 'behavioural problems' and appears from your descriptions to have some sort of social/communication difficulties.

BOFtastic Wed 19-Mar-14 21:19:31

I keep re-reading rinabean's post, but I still don't think I properly understand the last paragraph.

Nerfmother Wed 19-Mar-14 21:24:57

I wonder if rinabean means disable ism rather than ableism? I can understand more if I substitute the word.

LiberalLibertine Wed 19-Mar-14 21:28:26

limited apologies if I've misunderstood some of your posts, but I thought you said you used it for someone who was being deliberately obtuse and offensive? Then you went on to describe the 'friend' and say she has genuine social problems, so you don't hold it against her (not those words I'm sure, but something like that?)

NurseyWursey Wed 19-Mar-14 21:28:27

ableism is the term is it not?

BOFtastic Wed 19-Mar-14 21:32:24

I don't know, tbh, Nursey- I was taking my cue from MNHQ's phrase. The part of rinabean's post I'm not clear on is the last bit.

Rina, are you saying that this whole question of what mumsnet deletes/doesn't delete is irrelevant, and it's about attitude rather than language? I'm just not sure what you mean, sorry.

limitedperiodonly Wed 19-Mar-14 21:33:31

I would Upandatem given the circumstances, which I've explained.

hazeyjane Wed 19-Mar-14 21:36:00

Aren't 'ableism' and 'disablism' interchangeable?

BOFtastic Wed 19-Mar-14 21:39:09

It looks like it, yes. That's not what is flummoxing me though. Anyhoo. I'm flagging a bit now, but it would be good to hear back from MNHQ and anyone else who wants to chip in.

NurseyWursey Wed 19-Mar-14 21:39:32

I get what she's saying.. I think!

BOFtastic Wed 19-Mar-14 21:40:32

I'm probably just knackered, Nursey!

zzzzz Wed 19-Mar-14 21:42:09

LiberalL I read it the same way.

Upandatem Wed 19-Mar-14 21:45:39

Then there's nothing more to say on that limited, you asked, people said, you're ignoring that.

limitedperiodonly Wed 19-Mar-14 21:57:56

Did I call the woman who giggled at news of my mother's death my friend?

I don't think I did. I think I called her a person that I knew.

In any case, I don't blame her for her strange reaction to my news. She's odd. and somewhat socially inadequate.

Would anyone like to argue against that? Or possibly someone might like to argue that my nodding and smiling at her when MY MOTHER HAD JUST FUCKING DIED was anything other than unbelievably reasonable and restrained.

Much like the other person who told me about his ski-ing holiday and then asked me how my Christmas was and when I said: 'Not great. My mum died' said: 'Oh, yeah, I know. Your husband told me.'

WTF? I'm sure he didn't mean to hurt me but that's what I call a social cripple too. He just thought asking about your Christmas was the socially acceptable thing to do.

Shall we just stop making excuses and say that for whatever reasons, some people are fucking useless and hurtful and need to be called on it and if I use hurtful terms that's because I'm hurting too and some people should think about it?

limitedperiodonly Wed 19-Mar-14 22:01:14

you're ignoring that

No. That is the last thing I would ever do.

TillyTellTale Wed 19-Mar-14 22:49:43

Okay, time for me to chime in on 'moron' and 'cretin'. I personally find them inextricably linked to disability, because when I looked them up in the early nineties (as was my wont with new words), they were explicitly defined as someone with an IQ between 50 and 70 and someone with thyroid issues. And that dictionary was printed in 1989, I'm fairly sure. I think it's this one. I believe I found one of the words in a 1970s book on education.

Today, I use this Collins 2005 dictionary. And that defines each word similarly.

The offensive sense isn't obsolete yet.

SwedishEdith Wed 19-Mar-14 22:50:26

Agree with OP as well.

My favourite insult atm, though, is "bellend". So much so, I'm posting just so that I can type it. Oh, and look, there's Danny Alexander on the telly...

I really hate seeing women described as slags

Sillylass79 Wed 19-Mar-14 23:07:37

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

bialystockandbloom Wed 19-Mar-14 23:37:30

limited nobody would blame you for being upset by insensitive responses to your mother's death. It's the use of the word "cripple" which is at face value offensive and 'disablist'.

Because you are taking it out of proper (ie medical) context and applying it as an insult. You're using "cripple" as a pejorative term, and are therefore using a disability as an insult in itself.

Just like using the word "gay" to insult someone.

I can't understand how you're not seeing this.

Amberleaf hits the nail on the head:
Why call a NT person 'socially disabled' to highlight their character flaws though?

Why use the word disabled in such a negative way?

I think loon is a good example. A bird that makes a loud, annoying and pointless sound. (well pointless to me. It's possible that other loons find it fascinating)

Sometimes someone will try to make out it's a reference to mental illness, but to do that they have to first say that it sounds like lunatic. Then they have to show that lunatic comes from an old (and obviously false) belief that the moon made people act strangely. Then they must extrapolate that the people referred to as lunatics in those times were actually suffering from a mental illness. Once they have sorted that out they can be offended on behalf of anyone who happens to have MH issues.

A lot of effort though for a little reward.

Sillylass79 Thu 20-Mar-14 01:04:22

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TheLightPassenger Thu 20-Mar-14 07:24:43

well I think Limited's posts on "social impairment top trumps" etc has neatly illustrated the OP's point, that an unwitting use of moron/cretin isn't the worst example of antiSn/ablist language out there and possibly may not merit auto deletion. hmm

PartingFancy Thu 20-Mar-14 08:33:23

Loon does indeed yield an excellent example above - of the elaborate attempts people make to pretend a word isn't about MH.

And that loons and loonies aren't people from the loony bin - a common, long-standing pejorative name for a lunatic asylum or psychiatric hospital.

PartingFancy Thu 20-Mar-14 09:33:29

Ironically, I've been OK with loon, because I felt it was sufficiently far down the track from lunatic, which anyway isn't used medically these days, and I wouldn't use the terms in between.

But writing out the above I've realised other people do indeed still use lunatic, loony bin and loony pejoratively, and explicitly referencing MH. Hmm.

PartingFancy Thu 20-Mar-14 09:34:19

Pejoratively referencing mental health, that should have said.

The bird is the primary meaning here because of the annoying sound that comes from it's mouth. Perhaps many of you do think first of lunatic - interesting.

Sillylass79, not sure where you were going with the rest of your first sentence. I'm pointing out that the person wanting to be offended on behalf of someone else sometimes has to go to great lengths to arrive at a please where they can be offended.

Remember, we've had the posters who wanted retard banned even though it's an engineering term. As I recall one poster said that we should stop French people using it to because even though it only means 'late' someone could be offended

'arrive at a place'

PartingFancy Thu 20-Mar-14 11:04:17

Ah, where is "here" for you, Back? Loon meaning bird is an American name for what in the UK is called a great northern diver. It isn't even resident in the UK, though it's a winter visitor to some coastal areas.

So most Brits have never heard one, and wouldn't call it a loon if they did.

I wonder, have you ever heard the terms "lunatic asylum" and "loony bin", or were those new to you when I posted them?

I don't have to go to great lengths to be offended by 'looney', I just have to remember people yelling it at my DSis when we were growing up.

PartingFancy Thu 20-Mar-14 11:10:06

Ah. I've just seen the rest of your comment.

You're defending the use of a word that is shouted after disabled people in the street, because there can also be found a technical use of it in engineering?

I refer you to my post of 17 Mar 12:03. You are exactly one of those people trying to use a dual meaning as cover for something you know damn well is pejorative.

bialystockandbloom Thu 20-Mar-14 11:17:36

<snort> at anyone ever using the word "loon" to actually refer to a bird. FFS.

As for the "retard" comment shock Oh yes, when kids use this as an insult what they really mean is engineer. Or the French word for late. Jeez.


PartingFancy Thu 20-Mar-14 11:22:07

And let's be clear, the r-word has probably never appeared on MN in an engineering context. So discussion of its use here is not about that.

Sillylass79 Thu 20-Mar-14 11:29:09

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

AlarmOnSnooze Thu 20-Mar-14 12:28:18

i agree that there is a current trend of trying to covewr up (for want of a better phrase) using disablist language as an insult by trying to be clever (see loon, retard, even limitedperiod's examples of social cripple etc).

I have used loon to refer to the bird (in RL, I hasten to add!) but would never skip to that definition when I see it used on MN because people are clearly referencing 'loony-bin' rather than birds - the context of the thread and indeed the post where it is used easily point to that.

I also hate the almost legalese posts, which try to tie everyone up in knots by pointing out the potential legitimate uses (usually rare and archaic, and again, it would be incredibly easy to tell from context that the poster was not trying to hurl insults, but instead talking about a niche area)

It may be amusing to these posters to linguistically fence their way through such arguments. I don't find it so amusing, given that it is my children beign referred to in insulting terms, and my children being used as a benchmark (and failing badly, according to many) against which idiocy and social inadequacy can be measured.

it is so easy to say 'oh, I don't mean you' when pulled up on using disablist terms. but Im afraid it sounds very hollow.

BOF, thank you for starting this, and trying to sort it out. Sadly, I'm not sure it will work. You said in a post: "This is about what mumsnet should delete as disablist though, and what objective criteria they should use. Clearly, a policy which deletes anything somebody dislikes if they can make a case (however tenuous) is simply not workable as a policy.' - unfortunately, MN has long had a policy of deleting something if a poster dislikes it, however tenuous. And that is only one reason why this thread won't work.

WHich is not to say it shouldn't be debated. you never know, it might make some posters think a little more carefully about who they are casually insulting when they bandy about terms like loon and mong etc.

TiggyCBE Thu 20-Mar-14 13:52:34

I play an online game that has a very large proportion of younger people. Mostly boy. The insult of choice is 'retard'. The mods don't seem to care.

TillyTellTale Thu 20-Mar-14 14:20:35

back I think other posters took it as read that we know the difference between uses of retard, as in decelerate, and as in out-moded medical terminology for someone with some form of learning disability.

It's a bit like how most MNers would be able to tell what was meant with the word row, simply from context, even though, among others, it has the senses of:
1) to propel a boat with an oar or similar
2) an argument
3) a noisy racket
4) a line of items, especially a horizontal line.


TillyTellTale Thu 20-Mar-14 14:22:46

P.S. We could quite easily ban 'retard' as a noun, without affecting engineers in the least.

limitedperiodonly Thu 20-Mar-14 16:58:11

I've calmed down now and would like to apologise for being heightened last night.

Thanks to bialystockandbloom for her post to me.

I don't agree with everything she said or others have said, but that's allowed in a debate, isn't it?

Just like many people don't agree with me.

We are trying to establish which terms are okay to use on MN.

I've said which terms I'd like to use and why. Other people have argued against them. I respect some of those views, but not the views of the people who were chucking words like wanker and arsehole about.

Those of you who did that were as guilty of being as stupid and insensitive as me.

Anyway, I'm grateful to OP for starting this debate. It needs to be had and I apologise to her if I've diverted it.

MiscellaneousAssortment Thu 20-Mar-14 21:29:29

I think this could be a useful turning point on how to proceed with language related issues on mumsnet.

I do think certain words should be an automatic delete (retard, spastic, mong etc). And if the person is surprised and upset by their post being deleted, then mumsnet should be kind but firm in helping them realise what most people already know.

It's all the in betweeny words that are problematic, and I think context needs to be the steer here. And in very borderline cases perhaps a mumsnet post explaining that this language is not ok although they understand the poster may not have meant to cause offense please refrain from using this word/ phrase. So not deleting but leaving it open so people can see.

Or would that cause a bun fight each time?

limited, in the context of this discussion can you really not see the difference between, on the one hand, terms such as 'arsehole' and 'wanker', and on the other hand, terms such as 'socially disabled' and 'social cripple'?

limitedperiodonly Fri 21-Mar-14 08:49:25

Not really, no. They're intended as insults, as a poster on a related thread recently said, insults don't move the debate on and she wished we didn't use them.

I thought she was probably right, but I also thought that very few of us could be that restrained.

Anyway, I posted to explain my position. I'm not interested in arguing with you about me, and what you think of me, because this is an important issue and we're diverting it.

But the thread is about disablist language!

'Social cripple' and 'socially disabled' are disablist language. 'Arsehole' and 'wanker' are not.

This is not a diversion and it's not about you.

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 21-Mar-14 10:57:20

Hi all, so our current position is that we don't allow hate speech or anything that breaks the law. We also will delete anything reported that we see as being unpleasant about vulnerable groups/minorities.

BOF's suggestion for a rule of thumb for deletion on language makes sense to us and is pretty close to where we are at present. She suggested we delete words if:

a) they are terms currently, or very recently, used in an ordinary descriptive sense about people with disabilities, because they are converting that description into something pejorative; and

b) they are terms which get used in an unpleasant way by rude or bigoted people to directly demean and belittle people with disabilities. While we still have nasty people who bang on the school bus yelling 'mong', 'spaz' 'or 'retard' (for example), then it doesn't matter if the poster on mumsnet isn't using it to refer to disability. Regardless of their intent, they are still cruel words which serve to oppress and insult the disabled.

The grey area is what we mean by "recently". We would pretty much always delete 'spaz' or 'retard' I'd imagine - and I doubt many would object to that, but there's very little consensus, even on this thread, about 'moron', 'moronic', 'cretinous' etc

It would be great if we could reach a consensus but without it we would rather not have cast iron rules on actual words themselves but instead use the above guidelines and revert to the big principles on a case-by-case basis when we are in a grey area; i.e. is this in any way interesting or making anyone's life easier? Does it add to the debate? Is it in the spirit of the site? Is it just mean? Does it feel disablist?

Do continue to add thoughts as and when you have them.

bialystockandbloom Fri 21-Mar-14 12:39:05

They're intended as insults

limited that is *precisely the point!

This is not about whether or not people are allowed to insult each other. It is about the choice of words used as an insult.

Swear words like wanker/arsehole etc are abusive and insulting - which is why they're swear words.

But throw in a reference to a disability as an insult and you are therefore suggesting that it is, ergo, the disability that is the insulting part.

That is what this thread is about!

bialystockandbloom Fri 21-Mar-14 12:40:45

Would you use the word "gay" to belittle someone's behaviour? eg someone does something, say, clumsy, and you say "god that's so gay"

mrscog Fri 21-Mar-14 12:57:58

I think Bof's rules are sensible, I had no idea of the origins of 'moron' and I think that it is very much on the cusp of acceptability and will only become more acceptable - eventually it will be like idiot.

In fact I think idiot is less offensive than stupid. Stupid seems to demean people with lower intelligence which is something that people have no decision over whether they have or not. I see idiot meaning a certain type of behaviour based on a decision to behave in that way.

zzzzz Fri 21-Mar-14 14:11:39

I see idiot and stupid exactly the opposite way round! confused

I'd really like to see "special/speshul" added to the unacceptable list. Especially as those of us with children with disabilities are pretty much forced to des ribs them as having "special needs". No one would get away with describing someone as "just a bit disabled" or "she's a bit dishabled". What do you think HQ?

MiscellaneousAssortment Fri 21-Mar-14 17:42:22

Exactly this bialystockandbloom

^^They're intended as insults

limited that is *precisely the point!

This is not about whether or not people are allowed to insult each other. It is about the choice of words used as an insult.

Swear words like wanker/arsehole etc are abusive and insulting - which is why they're swear words.

But throw in a reference to a disability as an insult and you are therefore suggesting that it is, ergo, the disability that is the insulting part.^^

MiscellaneousAssortment Fri 21-Mar-14 17:43:26

Btw I've been avoiding the little diversion going on on this thread, but I will reference it just once (sorry!)...

Calling someone a cripple is insulting i get that, but also really hurtful to me. I am 'a cripple', and your decision to use what I am through no fault of my own as a harsh insult to someone else... Well it hurts. It's like you're saying 'god its so foul to be you, I can't think of a better insult than to say someone is like you too'

I'm sorry if that's annoying or unhip or ultra politically correct to you... But to me it's not a cognitive debate, it's wounding and shows me exactly what society thinks of me.

TheLightPassenger Fri 21-Mar-14 18:12:05

Good posts misc, completely agree. Sorry you have been upset.

bluepen Fri 21-Mar-14 19:34:23

While you are there.

What is the current status on the word "loon"?

limitedperiodonly Fri 21-Mar-14 19:44:33

Would you use the word "gay" to belittle someone's behaviour? eg someone does something, say, clumsy, and you say "god that's so gay"

I wasn't going to return to this thread because I didn't think I had anything constructive to add and I didn't think many of the other posters mindlessly attacking me and patting each other on the back did either.

But, bialystockandbloom, I'm going to reply to you. You can take that how you want and I don't require a response, and certainly not a complimentary one.

You asked me a question

So, the answer to whether I'd the use the word 'gay' in a pejorative sense is no.

Mainly because it doesn't register with me. I'm late 40s so 'gay' as an insult goes over my head. I honestly don't know how I feel about it, but I wouldn't use it in that context.

I understand gay friends using the words 'queer', 'homo', 'dyke', 'poof' and 'she' - as a gay man referring to another gay man - but I wouldn't use them myself.

Just as a woman, I find it acceptable to use the words 'slut', 'tart', 'trollop', 'whore' but wouldn't automatically like a man using them - or for that matter, a woman. It all depends on the context.

There are some words regarding mental and physical health that I regard it as too current. Among them are 'mong', 'spaz', 'retard' and 'flid'. 'Joey' is another one. That's a bit after my time, but I can see the offence.

Can I say that I didn't want to spell out those words and tried not to in case anybody wants to turn that against me. I've felt the need to because people keep asking.

As I've explained, I don't think cripple is amongst that list.

You've disagreed, as have others. That's fine. It's a debate to try to find acceptable terms to use on Mumsnet.

If the terms I use are unacceptable to the majority then I won't use them here.

It's not a contest to try to beat me over the head about it and pat each other on the back.

As I've said, to do that is a diversion and I don't want to do that though I realise that some posters do, even while saying 'it's not about you' confused.

God, this post is really long.

As I keep saying, the OP's original premise about the amnesty of archaic medical terms was a good one and I agree with her, even if she doesn't agree with me.

I don't understand why some of you are trying to divert the argument with an examination of my views.

Not because I'm scared of an argument. But because I think it detracts from the OP's point - which is extremely valuable.

So, look, I don't really want to argue about me any more. So I'm probably not going to. But I might. It depends on what's said.

Essentially though, I think we should get back to what the OP said. And yes, I agree with her.

Fuck me. That was long.

zzzzz Fri 21-Mar-14 20:16:01

Because being "gay" isn't an insult, but being a "cripple" is??? shock

It isn't just that you are using disableist terminology (which you are, do and defend), it's that you ARE disableist. You may not be homophobic or sexist, but the fact you find words that describe disability MORE satisfyingly insulting is indicative of your attitude.

Sometimes the language has to change to influence the underlying sentiment. Why don't you ask the people who are most effected by this? People with disabilities and their families and friends. Ask them if this makes their lives just that little bit crapper?

limitedperiodonly Fri 21-Mar-14 20:35:57

zzzzz I don't think that describing someone as crippled is necessarily an insult. I don't think that being raped is an insult either or should be a banned word.

Therefore I don't object to terms such as 'fraped' or 'the rape of the land'. There's another one to bash me with.

But as I keep saying, the OP's debate is not about me and what I think.

We can talk about what I think until the cows come home. You won't change my views because I am happy with them and I don't care about what you think.

However, the OP's debate is valuable and you are sidetracking it by arguing with me.

Maybe I should withdraw because you don't seem able to.

She has argued that terms such as imbecile, moron, idiot and cretin (I think) should be given an amnesty because they are archaic medical terms for mental illness and have passed into general usage.

I agree with her. What do you think about those words, and those only? And your reply shouldn't be addressed to me. It should be addressed to the OP.

I promise you, I won't use the other words that you hate so much on here. I thought I'd said that.

So there's nothing to argue with me about, is there? Unless you just want to argue with me for the sake of arguing.

NurseyWursey Fri 21-Mar-14 20:38:48

I think cripple is a horrible and outdated word. I wouldn't dream of using that.

zzzzz Fri 21-Mar-14 21:31:20

Oh I see limited I'm the one doing that. hmm

bialystockandbloom Fri 21-Mar-14 21:52:32

limited I feel you're missing the fundamental point of this, and focussing on the words themselves, rather than how and why they are used.

It is not a word itself which is offensive, it is the reason it is used.

So, to use my previous example, it is not offensive to say that someone is gay when they are gay and it is relevant to the conversation. But it is offensive to use the word as an insult to someone (whether that person is or isn't gay).

Equally, it isn't an insult to say that someone is eg disabled when they are disabled. It is if you use the word "disabled" as a form of insult about something which is wholly irrelevant that it becomes offensive.

The word "retard" is a perfect example of this - once upon a time it was used as a "medical" definition (to describe low IQ I assume). So at the time it wouldn't have been offensive for a medical textbook to use the term as a definition. But over time, as the term was dropped from medical/diagnostic use, it became a form of insult. Now it is used purely to insult people, either NT people for doing something laughable, or directly against people with LDs to openly mock them.

"Cripple" seems to fall into this category.

I don't want to make this into a sub-thread between us either! But it is such a crucial point to this whole debate - this thread is about exactly this.

terms such as imbecile, moron, idiot and cretin (I think) should be given an amnesty because they are archaic medical terms for mental illness and have passed into general usage.

I think I agree with you on this, about idiot and moron, because I don't think they're used in the way that other insults are, and I really do think most people under the age of about 70 wouldn't associate those words with anyone with actual LDs. But I'm not nearly so sure on this as I was when I first read the OP.

limitedperiodonly Fri 21-Mar-14 22:30:58

I'm not missing the point bialystock. I'm disagreeing with you. Which is allowed, isn't it?

I think crippled is a legitimate term to use in some circumstances. You, and everyone else on here, disagrees.

Fair enough. I will not use it here. I do not wish to be deleted. Neither do I wish to alienate people unnecessarily. I think my views on most subjects here are reasonably sound. But sometimes it happens...

I will continue to use the term outside MN.

If you met me, you could argue with me or ignore me. But it would be unlikely that you would change my mind and therefore I believe there is no point arguing. Ignore me. You could even console yourself in the belief that I am an arsehole or a wanker.

That was a a really intelligent level of debate btw and I've made a note of those posters just so I can make a special point of ignoring them in future.

As I keep saying, the point of this debate is to decide which other terms can be used - and the OP didn't mention cripple - I did.

So I continue to say that by banging on about the use of that word and arguing with me, people have hijacked an important debate.

That's not my fault. It's their self indulgence.

I should say that I'd bow out for the good of the debate. But maybe they should have the grace to say: 'Do you know what? Let's just ignore her, stop asking her questions and get back on track.'

Because I've lost count of the times I've suggested that.

And now that goes for you.

NurseyWursey Fri 21-Mar-14 22:34:11

I accept that you think it's an okay term to use, but I'm just wondering at what sort of circles you are in that find the term crippled okay confused it's possibly the sort of term my great nan would use, she's 83. She would use it out of ignorance though.

To me using the word crippled is akin to using the word queer.

limitedperiodonly Fri 21-Mar-14 22:38:07

I am going to try to sit on my hands now because the OP's point is a good one and replying to you is sidetracking her issue.

So if I promise to leave it alone, do you promise to debate her point?

Sorry, OP. Whatever you think of me, I'm going to try to get it back on your track.

MiscellaneousAssortment Fri 21-Mar-14 22:40:41

^It's not a contest to try to beat me over the head about it and pat each other on the back^

Interesting interpretation of other peoples posts. I'm glad you think my own personal life experience and view as a disabled person, is not in fact a valid point of view and that I was 'patting someone's back' in sharing something so close to my heart. Nice. Constructive. Thoughtful.

You are utterly failing to see the point that other posters are so eloquently making. Im sorry that you appear to be unable to see past your fixed point of view, which youve already made plain. I do understand the point you were making, and happen to disagree and want to move past it. Please don't belittle me or others. It's unpleasant. Needless. And massively derailing... Which is what you say you don't want to do.

I am finding your posts confusing, disengenuous at best, as they seem to be all about bringing it back to yourself, when really, it's not about you. I'm not quite sure why you feel the need to repeatedly tell us all off for daring to react to posts in this thread and that we are somehow derailing the thread by responding to you. It certainly has the effect of keeping the thread centred on one person.

My opinions aren't about you.
Nor is this thread.
Nor I suspect are most other peoples posts.
We have moved on, and have used your example of 'cripple' and accompanying mindset to debate something interesting, and I feel, useful.

As someone else has already said, it is not the words themselves but the way they are used.

Or have I got this wrong? Is this in fact a private thread? Perhaps I am not allowed to post here? Please do tell me.

bluepen Fri 21-Mar-14 22:44:37

Do people at your work use it?

MiscellaneousAssortment Fri 21-Mar-14 22:46:21

To everyone else, I am so sorry for not being able to keep a dignified silence and rise above it.

I am absolutely open to having a constructive debate and understand that people won't agree and that it's not my role to change their minds if they don't want to hear.

However I'm not ok with someone belittling my views and therefore (in this case) my identity and life experience. That, I do feel needs more than turning the other cheek.

I hope I haven't in some way derailed the thread flowers

limitedperiodonly Fri 21-Mar-14 22:53:08

NurseyWursey You are the last person I'm going to reply to and I'm going to say you and everyone else should address the OP and not me and you should debate her original point.

Not because I'm scared of an argument but because the OP's point is important.

It has been hijacked - and latterly not by me but by you and other people - and you should all get back on track as I've repeatedly said.

I'm going to hide this thread now because I don't think you people understand or want to.

NurseyWursey Fri 21-Mar-14 22:55:26

Of course we understand the point limited I think you're mistaken now. I already completely understand and support what the OP has said, and have nothing to add on the issue. It doesn't mean I can't challenge views that are said in the thread - of which yours I feel are incredibly wrong.

But yes, lets not derail any further smile

zzzzz Fri 21-Mar-14 22:58:26

You only really get to choose what you say in your own posts. Trying to dictate how an open discussion proceeds is pretty futile.

Most threads have a life of their own.

BOFtastic Fri 21-Mar-14 23:33:00

Sorry to only come back to this now- I've been out since before 5am shock, and haven't had much time to post.

Now I have wine, and am catching up...

Limited, I've disagreed on a couple of terms you've used, for the reasons I posted, but I thnk that apart from that we seem to be on the same page- and I really appreciate people trying to engage with the OP, because. Do think it's a useful debate.

Thanks too to Justine and MNHQ; I think that what you've suggested has just the right amount of clarity, without sacrificing flexibility.

I do like that on mumsnet we can be mindful of the implications of some expressions we use, and I also think that most people appreciate letting conversations flow without being overly prescriptive in situations where there are so many grey areas.

BOFtastic Fri 21-Mar-14 23:34:35

because I do think

I can't tell you how shattered I am grin <glugs wine>

Upandatem Sun 23-Mar-14 11:44:30

I think you can only look at intent and context with some of the words that have no direct or recent disablist meaning. I'd rather people just didn't call others names and discussed the topic instead but I think coming up with a list of unacceptable terms isn't necessarily going to help either.

I don't like the word moron, but I wince at is slightly less than a lot of the others.

Upandatem Sun 23-Mar-14 11:45:58

Actually, thinking about it, is all name-calling deleted as personal attacks if reported?

ImAThrillseekerHoney Sun 23-Mar-14 13:59:15

There are ways to insult people without being banned for personal attack. "You evil bitch OP" is deletable. "Surely only an evil bitch would/say do that OP" is probably OK. But "only a retard would do/say that OP" is just as deletable as "you retard!" despite arguably dodging the personal attack rules.

And remember of course that we're allowed to make personal attacks on third parties otherwise all threads referring to Michael Gove would look like Swiss cheese. But we're not allowed to insult him in ways which make unflattering "accusations" of learning disability.

youarewinning Wed 26-Mar-14 07:41:43

I'm so glad to hear one poster thinks calling the 'socially disabled' a gimp is acceptable. hmm I'll tell my DS to expect name calling in future then rather than tell him it's not acceptable just because his mind thinks differently.

coff33pot Thu 27-Mar-14 21:10:40

Ummm? Wow......haven't been here for a while and what a thread to open up first.....

Reckon I will nip in be brief and nip out again.

Here goes the word used to insult like 'moron' is just as horrid to see in print as to hear. The other words listed (and accepted) by some like cripple and yes rape are equally as disgusting. It doesn't really matter how when why or in what context they are used the question is WHY even use them In the first place.

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