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Please explain why some of these words are considered more correct than others

(11 Posts)
PeaMcLean Wed 30-Jul-08 21:45:43

I've wondered about this for a while.

I realise "handicapped" is considered to be rude.

To me (and yes, I'm sure it's been discussed before but humour me) "handicap" is just one thing that stops otherwise normal performance.

"Disabled" I find quite odd. To me, an alarm is disabled when it is switched off. Clearly people who are disabled are not switched off.

Or is it better to say "has a disability" or "has special needs". The latter gets me to because "special" sounds slightly patronising. To me.

Now, I'm sure no one who has a disability gives two hoots about what I think.

But I do wonder about these words. And as far as I know (living in Wales as I do) the welsh for disabled is "anabl" - literally, "unable" which is even worse!

How does all this come about?

Habbibu Wed 30-Jul-08 21:48:07

Interesting, Pea. I went out with a guy with cerebral palsy when I was in uni, and he preferred the word handicapped to disabled. Don't know when and why the change happened.

boredveryverybored Wed 30-Jul-08 21:50:52

Can only comment as mum of disabled child. DD is very particular about the wording, she is disabled and thats that. She (and I) hate the phrase 'special needs' Although this could just be a personal preference. I agree with you I do find it patronising in DD's words 'there's nothing special about it, my legs just don't work' accompanied by baffled look grin
I've never really thought about the actual word disabled before, but I suppose in DD's case anyway it is apt, her legs are in a way 'turned off' or 'unable'

tribpot Wed 30-Jul-08 21:51:45

I'm not sure this is a pedantry issue, although I will say in Spain the word for disabled/handicapped/differently abled/whatever you want to call it is 'minusvalido' which literally means "less valid". So we prob are tying ourselves up in unnecessary knots so far.

I think we are still struggling to find a form of words that truly explains what being disabled (or differently wotsit, you get the idea) really is - my dh is in a wheelchair, he's not really 'disabled' in that he can also walk so we say 'wheelchair user' but clearly that's not the universally appropriate term.

Handicapped sounds bad to me. Disabled I can live with. Mobility is a word that features a lot in our life but the absence of mobility aids is something much more significant. Every journey outside the house is a flipping nightmare. It doesn't matter what you call it, it's all absolutely awful.

lilolilmanchester Wed 30-Jul-08 21:53:25

"handicap is just one thing that stops otherwise normal performance". What is normal? Handicap suggests held back, there are many people with disabilities who are more capable than those without.
"Disabled" suggests that the entire person is disabled. "Special needs" is condescending IMO. Some people with disabilities don't consider that they have special needs. There are plenty of MNetters with disabilities who will comment. IME some don't mind the word "disabled", others prefer "has a disability". Just like I don't mind being called a "girl" (quite a compliment at my age) but other women hate it. I don't have a disability but would be interested to hear what others say about this.

lou031205 Wed 30-Jul-08 21:53:30

Handicapped originates from the phrase "Cap in hand" which is begging - so is disliked.

Disabled - well, it isn't switched off, it is prevented from working. So I think that people can get a bit offended that they are being defined by what they can't do, rather than what they can. Also, just because one part of them does not function as the majority of the population does, does not mean that they are any less able to live their lives fully.

I think that the phrase "lives with x" is accepted, and I agree that 'special' needs is patronising, but as it doesn't affect me, I have no right to determine whether it is an acceptable term!

RuffleTheAnimal Wed 30-Jul-08 21:54:15

maybe the switch came about because of ignorant common perceptions and negative connotations being connected to one word and wanting to shrug off those societal attitudes and move on a bit? its a theory...

hairtwiddler Wed 30-Jul-08 21:54:54

have always found these definitions useful

RuffleTheAnimal Wed 30-Jul-08 21:55:21

x post. didnt know handicapped meant cap in hand, thats shitey. no wonder thats not liked.

PeaMcLean Wed 30-Jul-08 21:58:12

I don't think it's a pedantry issue but we don't have an Etymologist's Corner grin

Am interested in how and when "handicapped" became bad.

(and yes, very fair point tribpot, if you actually have to deal with a disability, why it's called what it is, is probably very low on your list of concerns. Sorry)

PeaMcLean Wed 30-Jul-08 22:02:02

Sorry, x posts with "cap in hand" remark. yes, that would explain why it's not popular!

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