Communication: Substitutes for colloquial usage: retarded

Rather than hijack the ATMB thread on misogyny, I thought I’d put the discussion here.

I think I can dispense with “This guy is a retard.” Perfectly adequate substitutes include “Idiot” and “Stupid sh**”. In fact they roll off the tongue better. In my experience, those using the word 'Tard, are usually insufficiently articulate to attack the underlying argument and therefore reach for a simple insult. They are neither the sharpest knives in the drawer nor the brightest lights on the porch.

“This is so retarded,” meaning, “this situation is retarded”, will be more difficult for me to give up. Is it still to be avoided? What are the real-world substitutes? Sure I could say, “This situation is not to my liking and furthermore does not reflect the highest degree of perspicuity”, but that’s not the sort of tone I had in mind. Or meaning for that matter. So whadya use? “Pathetically stupid” maybe?

I’m hoping we can have a calm, well lighted place for discussing insults. But if the mods want to move this to the Pit, that’s ok by me.

Not so fast! You aren’t supposed to use any term that suggests a differential value to various levels of intelligence. Call them “differently intelligenced”, and offer them a warm hug.

Not an American, so not sure I quite grasp all the nuance of “this is so retarded”. But, faced with a state of affairs which has been made more difficult than it needs to be by previous poor judgment, lack of foresight, vanity, stupidity, etc, I’d describe it as “a shambles”. There are other terms that are equally apt, but this one is fit for the drawing room.

(PS: if the situation is irretreivable, it’s “a train wreck”.)

I usually call it a “clusterfuck.” Works for me.

“This situation is bananas.”

“This situation is crazy.”

“This situation is stupid.”

“This situation makes no sense.”

“This situation is wack.”

“This situation is FUBAR.”
If you can’t think of any decent alternative, then I gotta wonder if you aren’t a little “bananas” yourself.

Casey Jones is offended!

It’s easy for people to scream about political correctness run amok, or throw around “social justice warrior” as an insult whenever somebody suggests we not use a term that we’ve used most of our lives. So kudos for approaching the question calmly.

At the same time, I think it’s generally agreed upon these days that “retard” or “retarded” in any context are best avoided. Lord knows I’m not easily offended, but those words (that I used constantly as a kid) make me cringe now, and any attempt to justify them fails to sway me.

Crazy and stupid might be intrinsic traits as well. Seems potentially ableist.

My go-to replacement word is “moronic.” Granted, I often can come up with a more specific term, but that’s the one closest to the original meaning. “Fucking dumb” also works in places where “fuck” is okay.

I’ve also used “ridiculous” and “nonsensical” in places where you don’t want to imply that the other person is actually dumb. “Bull shit” works where shit is allowed.

I’m offended;). I grew up being called Beck the wreck. Obvious reason being I was a quite the klutz.
Daddy put me in ballet and I conquered parts of my clumsiness. But the title stuck. So Beckdawrek, I am. I am occasionally a trainwreck.
Retard, retarded, 'tard are singularly offensive. I have a dog who has diminished capacity and I won’t call her that word. It needs to be struck out of our vocabulary. It does no one any good to use it. There are many words that would work better.
It reminds of the kids saying “that’s so gay”. It’s just wrong.

Darren Garrison, I always read your posts with great interest, so I hope you won’t mind if I call you a moron. :wink:

I am kidding about you being a moron.

But I’m interested in the deeper point this discussion raises. In my opinion, it is worthwhile to have strong words to denigrate positions and opinions that are false or chimerical on their face, and words to designate advocates of these positions. What ARE we to call flat-earthers if not stupid idiotic morons?

ETA this now seems like hijack, apologies, will start new thread tomorrow.

Out of respect for “the holidaze” I’ve been biting my tongue instead of pointing out folks’ idiocy.

After a trip to the grocery store yesterday (tip: never go to Giant Eagle the morning of a Steeler Sunday) I told my gf that my tongue was bleeding and she understood immediately.

I like words, and I like wordplay, but there are a handful of words that I feel are super-strongly associated with violence–retard, faggot, whore, and a couple racial slurs. These aren’t just offensive words, they are the words people shout when they gang up on someone and literally beat them, stomp their faces, kick their bodies. These are words with a long history of dehumanization attached to them–words used by people to justify horrific violence because the words themselves label the target as being not-human. Other people may have used those words in other ways that aren’t as horrific, but the fact that violent people so often resort to them to justify themselves pretty much takes them outside the pale for the rest of us.

Personally, I like “So fucking dumb” to describe those sorts of situations.

Shambles, train wreck, clusterfuck and FUBAR are fine words for describing a totally mucked situation, but not a totally stupid situation. A stupid situation isn’t merely bad: it indicates a lack of forethought reflecting poorly on the initial planner.

Stupid, moronic, and idiotic seem like sufficient substitutes.

Manda JO: I can see how retard might have the intensity of faggot or whore (I use none of those words with frequency or without reflection). But retarded seems to me to be somewhat milder. (I might use that word occasionally, something I am reassessing. I am thinking that it sounds a little anachronistic now, like saying the work “queer” in the 1920s sense (meaning odd) during the 1980s.)

Thanks. I see it as a matter of calibration. Language evolves and those who can’t grasp that are whiners in my view. For example, to expect juvenile words from your youth to maintain equivalent meaning decades later is [del]retarded[/del] more than a little pathetic.

In the interest of completeness, I’ll include a reasonable critique of political correctness from Kevin Drum: I happen to think that political correctness is more fraught than liberals give it credit for: not all of it is for the good, and the part that is for the good can be genuinely confusing and onerous to those who aren’t steeped in the vocabulary demanded by its practitioners. Even if your intentions are good, it can be nerve-wracking to know that you might get walloped at any time for a mistake you didn’t even know you had made. This is especially true for the vast majority of people who aren’t all that skilled at using language in the first place, and liberals could afford to be a little more sympathetic about this. It’s not nerve-wracking for me frankly, but I can understand how it could be for some. Kevin Drum also says: Still, the truth is that Ed is right: for the vast, vast majority of us, it leaves our lives entirely unaffected as long as you can avoid flat-out slurs against women, blacks, gays, Jews, and so forth. Really, that’s about 99 percent of it. Is that really so hard? Interesting that the mentally disabled didn’t make the list. Huh. Evolving situation I suppose.

Thanks to all for the replies.

I get you about “retard” being a lot worse than “retarded”–the former literally implies “subhuman” in a way the later does not. That said, I think “retarded” is tainted by association. I won’t use it for the same reason, honestly, I avoid “renege” and “niggardly”. Nothing wrong with the words in an objective sense, but they are too close to things said too hurtfully.

My parent hated the use of retarded. Like handicapped. Because to the parent, those words implied that you could get there eventually, just a little slower. The people the parent worked with were never going to get there. They weren’t just ‘slow’: they weren’t just ‘retarded’ or ‘handicapped’.

Apart from that, the parent didn’t think that labeling mattered. the labels are insulting because they were used to describe retarded or handicapped people: any other label used for the same purpose inevitably must also become insulting.

FWIW, the parent didn’t normally use terms like retarded or handicapped: the parent normally referred to individuals by name.

So many train wrecks, yet I’ve never seen a train junk-yard. :confused:

I stopped using the word ‘retard(ed)’ years ago, but this PSA really hit home:

I started a big mess with my thread about acceptable uses of non-PC words/terms, but stand by 100% behind the message of the above PSA.
That said, there is an archaic ranking of moron (being the highest) followed by imbecile, idiot, lawyer and politician. :stuck_out_tongue:

“Moron” was coined in 1910 by psychologist Henry H. Goddard[3] from the Ancient Greek word μωρός (moros), which meant “dull”[4] and used to describe a person with a mental age in adulthood of between 8 and 12 on the Binet scale.[5] It was once applied to people with an IQ of 51–70, being superior in one degree to “imbecile” (IQ of 26–50) and superior in two degrees to “idiot” (IQ of 0–25). The word moron, along with others including, “idiotic”, “imbecilic”, “stupid”, and “feeble-minded”, was formerly considered a valid descriptor in the psychological community, but it is now deprecated in use by psychologists.[6]

In the obsolete medical classification (ICD-9, 1977), these people (morons and feeble-minded) were said to have “mild mental retardation”, “mild mental subnormality” or “high-grade defect” with IQ 50–70.[7]

Following opposition to Goddard’s attempts to popularize his ideas,[8] Goddard recanted his earlier assertions about the moron: “It may still be objected that moron parents are likely to have imbecile or idiot children. There is not much evidence that this is the case. The danger is probably negligible.”[9]


In all seriousness, dumb, stupid, probably are okay. Gotta be careful with imbecile and idiot though as those are old-timely technical terms for retarded and honestly should be no less offensive.

I’m with the OP on this one.

My go-to swear when a situation irritates the hell out of me is “Shit, this is fuckin’ retarded!”. It’s not something I think about, it is just the statement that comes out.

I remember reading at some point that the “swear words” we use are processed in a different way than our normal speech, and that some folks who lose the ability to communicate normally can still swear exactly the same as they had before the loss of verbal skills… don’t know how true that actually is though.