How do you view "invalids" in relation to society?

The term “invalid” has come up a couple times in a few threads of mine and it brings up a relevant question: when that term is used to describe a person, whenever and whomever it may be, do you consider that person to be (or capable of being) a productive member of society? A societal peer, if you will? Now I’m not referring to a technical definition of the word but rather the actual use of the word in everyday dialogue. Does not the use of the word “invalid” imply a person of societal burden? A person not capable of contributing to the productivity of society but one who must depend on that society to survive? Am I wrong here or just too sensitive?

This may be the wrong forum for this but yes, an invalid is not a fully functional member of society. The true and popular definition goes beyond other terms that imply a person doesn’t contribute to society in a normal way. It means a person that depends on others for survival because of their deteriorated physical or mental state.

Ask Stephen Hawking.

I agree with Shagnasty. However, before this gets any further, that definition clearly does not include either the OP or myself, since being paraplegic does not imply being invalid (and somebody who is invalid may have use of all four limbs). In addition (trying to anticipate what the OP might be getting at), the only times in my life when I feel I’ve been treated like an invalid have been when I actually have been one. Being pushed around in an aisle chair briefly does not constitute “depends on others for survival”.

When I hear the word “invalid” I think of someone who is temporarily or permanently in a state of dependency. If I’m laying on the couch, sick as a dog, and my wife is bringing me juice, I’m an invalid. Stephen Hawking is handicapped, but he’s not an invalid.

I was under the impression Hawking is pretty much totally dependent on his wife, servants and others to bring him things and care for him. I thought he is almost completely paralized.

I think of an invalid as someone who is hospital or housebound, more or less permanently, because of chronic health issues. Steven Hawking, therefore, is not an invalid in my mind, while my grandmother (who leaves the house only once a month) is pretty close, even though she can still walk a few steps unassisted.

I might jokingly call myself an invalid when I have a bad cold, or I sprained an ankle, or was hugely pregnant, but I would not actually consider myself (or anyone else) an invalid with an acute or self-limiting condition.

Since the OP is looking for opinions–moving this from General Questions to IMHO.

samclem Moderator

Got a place in the museum of invalids. Friends in the business used to call them “consumers.”

I started this because numerous posters taking part in some of my discussions regarding disability-related issues referred to me as an “invalid” and viewed my subsequent offense at being called such a name as nothing more than my own personal issues/problems with my disability. This, to me, is indicative of a larger attitude or even belief-system (subconcious or not) of people in general towards those in wheelchairs.

But doesn’t he make money which pays for the servants and helps provide for his wife? (I have no idea if she has her own career.)

In answer to your questions, yes, no, no and way too sensitive. Why would a person’s physical capability determine whether or not that person can contribute to society? This is after all the 21st century. A strong mind is much more important than a strong body.

You want us to tell you what we think of invalids, but only as you define the term?

No, I’m putting a definition out there to be agreed/disagreed with. If you disagree I ask you to tell my why. I’m sorry if I went about this in a round-about way but this is what I meant. That is why I phrased the meaning as a question.

Because the actual(or as you put it, “technical”) definition of the term is the way I have used it in the past, and will continue to use it in the future. Why don’t you use a word for what you are trying to talk about that matches its dictionary definition?

Absolutely. For example, I believe invalids should not be prohibited from going on a mission to Titan if they have proven themselves capable.

Or how about this…

I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “invalid” in English (rather, I’m using it here by the first time), but in Spanish “inválido” doesn’t mean either “the opposite of valid” or “requiring assistance” but “handicapped/disabled (either permanent or temporarily)”. If you’re missing a finger from one hand, that counts as invalidez (disability), even though it’s so mild it doesn’t even require acomodations for any jobs other than “Chinese shadows actor”. Since that appears to be the English definition as well, I think what you have an issue with is the dictionary.

So my brain reads “invalid” as “has some sort of non-infectious medical condition (or an infection so bad they need assistance)”, not as “completely not-valid”.
xoferew, IIRC, Hawking’s current wife is a nurse. They met because she was his nurse (again, if I’m not mistaken).

Addendum: OP, your problem reminds me of the one I have with words that English has borrowed from Spanish but completely changed their meaning. Some, such as plaza, don’t just have different meanings in both languages, but opposite ones (“big building” in English, “town square” in Spanish). You’d think that a word’s origins or construction will tell you what it means, right? Well, yeah - but not always.