Disclosure: Vulgar words are used in this article. I believe that they are used intellegently and to illustrate a point. They are not intended to be insulting or gross. If you are language sensitive, you may choose to skip reading this post. Or you may choose to read, with the understanding that the intent isn’t to BE vulgar. There is one word, well a couple actually, that I do not type out fully, for various reasons, which are addressed in this article. You have been warned….
There is a facebook group that I am in that I love very deeply. They have taught me so much. But today, today something happened that left me in a massive state of complete and utter, shut my mouth shock.
Someone used the word…..
There I typed it. I typed the word Retarded.
But honestly, that didn’t bother me. She used it to describe her state of mind in a moment… her state of mind was delayed, slowed, only half processing that which she needed, and thus she was retarded and forgot something important at the store. And that was how she described herself, retarded. In the context of foolish. It very well could have read: “I was foolish and forgot….”
Honestly, I didn’t even see it in her post. I tend to skim, scan, and not really read anymore. Most of my day is spent in research, and I’m checking for “relevant” information, and need to do it with speed. This also means that sometimes I miss things (relevant or not). In this case, I saw her question and scrolled down to answer it, completely overlooking the word retarded.
And then I saw the comments. I can’t screen shot it, or I will get kicked out of my beloved group, it’s against the rules, but they went something like this:
“R-word? Really? We couldn’t have a better use of language.”
“That is offensive.”
“What a disgusting word to use.”
“I can’t believe in a group this large you would use that word.”
“Of all the words in the English language, you couldn’t pick a different one.”
Honestly, I didn’t even know the “R-word” was in the post until I saw all this backlash being given to this young lady who had little crying faces in her post seeking help.
If she didn’t feel retarded before, she probably does now after the judgement she received from the people who were supposed to be helping her with her problem.
I get it, especially if you have special needs children, the term retarded has a different context than it might for someone like me who grew up using the word as an adjective, as well as “cool” and “rad”, like young people today describe things as “fire” and their friends as… I can’t even type that word, because I do think it’s vulgar, but it starts with an N.
And you know why I get it…. I get it because I have GAD. Generalized Anxiety Disorder. And I have chronic low grade depression. Or at least, those were the diagnosis I received years ago. Today, therapists and a battery of tests indicate that the low dose of medication I take manages it so well, that there appear to be no residual indications of a problem. However, in the process of learning to manage these conditions, I learned a lot about my anxiety triggers. One of them is a messy house. Does it bother me when someone whose house is a mess professes that they have anxiety that they aren’t clean enough? Well, it does to a degree, especially if they aren’t clinically diagnosed with anxiety as a problem. But then again, I have to look at the meaning of the word. Is it annoying when people flippantly say “you are giving me a panic attack”? Yeah, yeah it is, because I have had those, and goodness gracious they are scary. But, whatever. I am like Bob. Bob keeps scrolling (if you facebook, you have seen the image to which I refer, where the stick figure man scrolls past posts that he doesn’t like).
So tell me then, why we can’t say retarded to describe our state of mine (I was retarded and forgot….), but we can say words like B*tch, Sh*t, d@mn, A$$… without a second thought. We even have them in abbreviated forms:
WTF – what the f&^%
LMAO – laughing my a$$ off
IDGAS- I don’t give a sh*t (sometimes the S is an F for… well, you know)
Wait, we are mad at someone for using a logical word to describe her state of mind in a moment, but these vulgar words are OK. We tell someone who uses the word retarded to get a better grasp of the English language. We tell them to be more creative. To use a thesaurus. But, cussing is OK?
As a woman of developing faith, THAT is offensive.
Get a better grasp on the English language.
Be more creative.
Use a Thesaurus.
Instead of What the F&^%, how about asking “What is going on here?!?!” You convey the same thing, and actually do so using a third grade vocabulary.
Instead of LMAO, how about “Laughing so hard I am crying.” Or “That is TOO funny!” And we haven’t exceeded the third grade vocabulary yet.
Instead of IDGAF, how about “I really don’t care.” Still, third grade or lesser vocabulary.
How Does a Word Become Vulgar, Anyway?
As a lover of words, this strange distinction bothers me in other ways too.
When the church choir has to change a song that uses a quarter note with the word ass, to two eighth notes with the word donkey, I look at it and go really? If we use a word in it’s proper context, we might offend someone. You have to be kidding me! (also a viable substitute for the WTF noted above).
Most of these words didn’t start out as swear words, they evolved into swear words. As language changed, or as different languages became the “official” languages, and other languages were forbidden, the connotation of different words changed, making them vulgar. With the exception of one common swear word. The F-word. As noted in the infographic below, which gives a brief history of swear words, the F-word was always intended to be used in vulgar context and has no discernible meaning other than to offend. Yet, it is used so very casually today.
Get the downloadable version here: I Swear
It seems, that in today’s culture, vulgarity is OK. Vulgarity is cool. If someone is offended by vulgarity, they are just prudish, overly sensitive, stodgy people who need to loosen up.
But, politically incorrect, is not OK. Politically Incorrect ostracizes people, offends them, hurts them. Words like Retarded, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder/ Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) should be not used, or used with the utmost care.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that using politically incorrect phrases is ok. But I do wonder, when did being politically incorrect become more egregious to our society than being vulgar?
Back to my original scenario, where a young lady referred to her behavior as retarded… I ended up responding to the post (I have redacted certain parts that would make it easy to identify the group I was in):
“wait a minute- people are getting upset because someone referred to her mental process in the moment of procuring cleaners and supplies as retarded, but yet we use the words sh$t, f#ck and d@mn like it’s all pc ok????? We repost memes with these words in them. We post pictures of our husbands in their boxers. We post the video of Mr Clean and objectify him as sex object with the “hubba hubba” hips and all. We joke about having OCD (even though we aren’t clinically diagnosed OCD), and ADD/ ADHD with our processes (again without a clinical diagnosis)… IMHO ALL of that is far more offensive than someone describing their own state of mind as retarded in a moment. Why are we attacking this woman who had an honest question and happened to use the word retarded. Really????? For the love of all things, if we are going to language police lets do it all the time and get rid of ALL vulgarity” (I then went on to answer the OPs questions).
And they do those things, they post those things, and there are those memes and those pictures. A quick search of the page revealed more WTF’s than I cared to see (especially in light of the history of the F-word). In a meme, nudists are described as crazy. (Is that a clinical diagnosis? Is that politically correct? What if they offended a nudist?) There are memes of what a man must do in order to get laid, as if it’s OK to withhold healthy sexual relations from your spouse for failure to perform expected duties- to use sex as a manipulation tool. Pets, spouses and even children are referred to as an animals behind.
And no bats an eyelash.
But when I point out that band-wagonning on a woman for using the word retarded is a but hypocritical, I am provided this explanation:
“Cussing is OK, vulgar is not. It’s not about being PC. I suppose you think it would be OK if we use the N-word.”
It is quite a confused world we live in, my dears.
Faith changes you. It really does. As the spirit works, things change. Vulgar starts to leave quite a sour taste in your mouth. And it should, the Bible instructs us, quite clearly I might add, that a person of God is not vulgar. In fact, Paul (or his scribe, depending on your belief) in his letter to the Ephesians goes so far as to tell us not once, but twice to watch how we talk:
Ephesians 4:29 ESV
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Ephesians 5:4 ESV
Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
Be it vulgar, or politically incorrect, show the love the spirit grows inside of you by being neither. Be sensitive in your speech, written and verbal. Be uplifting, let people see you as a shining example of another way to be.
I hope, that in my sharing my experience, you find understanding, and perhaps some self-examination (even if it’s not religious). Feel free to share your comments below!