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  1. #1
    Senior Member Viridian's Avatar
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    Default Ableist language and substitutes?

    I've browsed Tumblr in the recent past and found quite a lot of stuff on Social Justice subjects. One topic that seems to pop up from time to time is prejudiced language - not just racial slurs, but also gender-specific words and phrases like "bitch", "emasculate", "shrill", "slutty", "like a man", etc. It's a pretty interesting topic, and it made me try not to use these words anymore.

    Ableist language is another big issue, especially concerning mental conditions. Insults like "dumb", "lame", "retarded", "psycho", "spazz", "crazy", "insane" and others are variably considered offensive by people who have disabilities. Even phrases like "putting your best foot forward" and "look before you leap" are being condemned by those who believe this kind of language implies that "walking > rolling".

    Still, it raises the question: are there any words or phrases that culd be used in place of those, but without the ableist connotations/implications? I'm still struggling to find something with the same "flavor" as "lame"...
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    insert random title here Randomnity's Avatar
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    The whole fuss about it makes me want to use words like that much more than I would otherwise. I dislike excessive sanitization of the language. (Clearly there are exceptions like the N-word and similar, and I also think racism is a bigger deal than other forms of discrimination both for historical and logical reasons, and racist words should be considered accordingly).

    Of course you are free to avoid this language yourself. Nothing has exactly the same connotations, because that's how language works. You could always mix it up with "gay", if you prefer to insult a different group once in a while.
    -end of thread-

  3. #3
    Analytical Dreamer Coriolis's Avatar
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    Political correctness run amok. That's retarded.

    Seriously, though, if you don't want to use words like "dumb", "lame", "crazy", etc. just cut to the chase and state what makes it so. Is it dumb because it overlooked a key imput? Lame because it was poorly executed? Crazy because it was spur-of-the-moment without forethought? Specificity to the rescue; also appropriate when speaking with people who are not native English speakers, and might not understand "lame" or "retarded" in the context used.
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    insert random title here Randomnity's Avatar
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    Completely off-topic posts have been moved to graveyard...
    -end of thread-

  5. #5
    RETIRED CzeCze's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Viridian View Post
    Still, it raises the question: are there any words or phrases that culd be used in place of those, but without the ableist connotations/implications? I'm still struggling to find something with the same "flavor" as "lame"...
    The savage love guy recommends the use of "leotarded" in lieu of "retarded".

    In terms of contemporary use and potential offensiveness, "retarded" is the most inflammatory. Moreso than that is "gay". Some words have gotten so sterilized or more so folded into language that people forget the origins, like "lame" or the term "gyped" which means ripped off. the word supposedly came from "gypsies" who are of course thieves, dontcha know. a decade or so ago a guy went on a hunger strike to protest the term "welsh a bet" which is another way of saying "Indian giver". He was Welsh. I think most people today don't even realize that Welsh people was what tht term referred to. "Indian giver" is racist but people in the states don't really care about being offensive to native Americans for some obvious reasons.

    I think it's important to be conscious and more so aware of the words we use. usually when people use "violent speech" they are totally unaware of the origin of the word or how it can be offensive. That's why people use the word "gay" which bugs me on as much if not more of a grammar nazi linguistic level than a conscious person level.
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  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Randomnity View Post
    The whole fuss about it makes me want to use words like that much more than I would otherwise. I dislike excessive sanitization of the language.
    Despite my white maleness precluding me from having a valuable opinion on the subject, I agree.

    Quote Originally Posted by CzeCze View Post
    In terms of contemporary use and potential offensiveness, "retarded" is the most inflammatory. Moreso than that is "gay". Some words have gotten so sterilized or more so folded into language that people forget the origins, like "lame" or the term "gyped" which means ripped off. the word supposedly came from "gypsies" who are of course thieves, dontcha know. a decade or so ago a guy went on a hunger strike to protest the term "welsh a bet" which is another way of saying "Indian giver". He was Welsh. I think most people today don't even realize that Welsh people was what tht term referred to. "Indian giver" is racist but people in the states don't really care about being offensive to native Americans for some obvious reasons.
    To most of this, I think that these words are part of the vernacular and have nothing to do with any ill will towards the offended parties. I think people bend over backwards looking for things to be offended by. They learned it from Abraham Foxman. To the bolded part - I think that's absurd.
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  7. #7
    Lay the coin on my tongue SilkRoad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Randomnity View Post
    The whole fuss about it makes me want to use words like that much more than I would otherwise. I dislike excessive sanitization of the language. (Clearly there are exceptions like the N-word and similar, and I also think racism is a bigger deal than other forms of discrimination both for historical and logical reasons, and racist words should be considered accordingly).

    Of course you are free to avoid this language yourself. Nothing has exactly the same connotations, because that's how language works. You could always mix it up with "gay", if you prefer to insult a different group once in a while.

    I agree. I know you're Canadian and I think Canada is particularly guilty of this. I mean, taking it to such an extreme that it becomes laughable. I am from the West Coast and probably went to the most PC university in the world. "Ombudsperson", "non-gender-specific language" and "craftspersonlike", anyone??

    Personally, I think terms such as "Indian giver" are best avoided because they imply that native Americans/Canadians are dishonest...etc. But then, in Canada at least you're not supposed to use "Indian" at all - it's "First Nations", which again I think is a bit OTT. What is wrong with respectfully saying "native Canadian" or something similar? Otherwise you get stuck with something pretentious like "an individual of First Nations origin." !!
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  8. #8
    RETIRED CzeCze's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SilkRoad View Post
    I agree. I know you're Canadian and I think Canada is particularly guilty of this. I mean, taking it to such an extreme that it becomes laughable. I am from the West Coast and probably went to the most PC university in the world. "Ombudsperson", "non-gender-specific language" and "craftspersonlike", anyone??

    Personally, I think terms such as "Indian giver" are best avoided because they imply that native Americans/Canadians are dishonest...etc. But then, in Canada at least you're not supposed to use "Indian" at all - it's "First Nations", which again I think is a bit OTT. What is wrong with respectfully saying "native Canadian" or something similar? Otherwise you get stuck with something pretentious like "an individual of First Nations origin." !!
    I thought you were British? :Huh:

    I doubt the school you went to was that PC. especially if it were Cal.

    Quote Originally Posted by EffEmDoubleyou View Post

    To most of this, I think that these words are part of the vernacular and have nothing to do with any ill will towards the offended parties. I think people bend over backwards looking for things to be offended by. They learned it from Abraham Foxman. To the bolded part - I think that's absurd.
    iMPERIALIST!

    The thread is so boring ow with the derails taken out. C'mon FM, let's have a proper rhetorical throw down!!!

    On a more serious note I think the point of questions like the OP is simply to be more thoughtful about language use.

    Also,the question starts to differ when you're talking about referring to things generally or referring to someone face to face. Or does it? Also I think part of the pushback from questions like the OP is that there's often a gut reaction of irritation at being told "you can't do that". It doesn't matter if youre being told not to smoke indoors (because it exposes others to unhealthy etc) or not to wear miniskirts (because it's indecent and immodest) or not to swear in front of kids, etc. if its something you are use to doing and enjoy doing, you automatically want to rail against the entity telling you "no you can't do that"

    Some people might say this is linked to a sense of entitlement and privilege but if you want to take those notions out of the picture you could also say its a matter of expectation and habit. If you are very used to saying something one way you will be resitant to change.

    To answer your question Viridian, you could always say:

    That's wack!

    also, don't you know Portuguese? Isn't there a nice word you can subsitute?
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  9. #9
    Lay the coin on my tongue SilkRoad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CzeCze View Post
    I thought you were British? :Huh:

    I doubt the school you went to was that PC. especially if it were Cal.
    I'm Canadian, but I live in England now.

    I went to university on the west coast of Canada, and believe me, the PC-ness is insane out there. Most people either from Europe, or from other parts of Canada, laugh in disbelief when I tell them about how the university paper insisted on the word "craftspersonlike" rather than "craftsmanlike" (and lots of similar things....)
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  10. #10
    Blah Orangey's Avatar
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    I don't think it does any harm to be made aware of the origins of words and how/when/why they are offensive, or at least to be made aware of the fact that they could be offensive. At worst it encourages a fleeting kind of empathy for one's interlocutors, and at best it provides a motivation for critical inspection of one's privilege and how it affects people who don't have that privilege.

    The problem is that language policing (which, mind you, is different than being critical of language and raising awareness) can easily become a vehicle for some people's out of control self-righteousness, and at that point it's no longer about educating or changing prejudicial attitudes; rather, it turns into an ego and a power issue, and everybody who can sense it rankles at the idea of somebody setting themselves up on a moral high ground just to sneer down at them from above and justify controlling behavior.
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