Is it offensive to call someone a "tard" or a "retard"?

Me, I’m seriously put off by the word on this messageboard. Not only is it offensive, it comes off as juvenile and beneath the standard of intelligent invective around here. I’ve been poking around and finding, of course, that very many disagree with me. I’m curious about the numbers.

If I were emperor of the Straight Dope, I’d ban the term here outright, just as racial slurs and terms of hate speech are banned. You?

It doesn’t bother me. And I hate being told to censor my speech for things like this. I never call developmentally disabled people “retarded”, just people who should know better who are acting like it.

Buuuuuut, I try to watch my audience and I don’t use it indiscriminately.

Is anyone correctly called retarded anymore, or imbecile, or idiot?

In my childhood, mentally challenged people were called retarded by doctors, teachers etc but is that term medically used anymore?

If not, then doesn’t this fall into the same category as idiot and imbecile? If tard is unacceptable then we have to throw away these other insults also.

I can see where it can be offensive, but I think Christopher Titus makes a good point.

I prefer “mongoloid” myself. I don’t remember the last time I used “retard”. I don’t find it offensive. It’s just super lame. If you’re going to take the time to insult something or somebody, put some effort into it. I can’t take you seriously if you display the put-down proficiency of a third grader.

I swear I just read last week that there’s a term for this sort of euphemism creep. Where a term is found insulting, so a euphemism is introduced, and then over time that euphemism is thought to be insulting, so we come up with a new one, and on and on it goes. I’ll try to find it…

Euphemism treadmill. It’s a bit annoying, but good grief, the treadmill moves real slow, it’s not hard to keep up.

Spot on.

I might add: when I was in high school, one of the age-peers in my neighborhood was what was then called “mentally retarded”, but when we talked, he asked questions in order to understand things no-one had explained to him; and when I led him through the explanations to understanding, he was happy to arrive there; he was in his heart a seeker of truth.

When I went to a private “Great Books” college on the Robert Maynard Hutchins plan, with small classes to allow discussion, I found that some very bright students wasted their wits on smokescreening, obfuscation, bafflegab if they could get away with it, because that had worked so well for them they hadn’t needed to think rigorously or argue honestly; the contrast with that neighbor boy and his earnest use of what wits he had could not have been sharper.

Had they ever encountered him, they might well have dismissed him as a “tard” or “retard” and gone past without a second thought. But for intellectual integrity, I tell you, I think he was their superior.

“Retard” is not something anyone would choose to be. It’s not like the similar movement to stop using “gay” as a synonym for “stupid”. There’s nothing wrong with being gay. Even retarded people will tell you they’d rather not be retarded though.

To me, it’s like telling someone you hope they get cancer. It’s certainly offensive to the recipient, which is the point. But I don’t see why it would be offensive to people who have cancer. They recognize that cancer is a shitty thing, too.

You’ve got to love it when a poster can’t take someone seriously because that person used a “super lame” insult.

Wellll… it’s not just the root word itself, but how it’s used. Note that the clinical term “mentally retarded” really means “slowed down in progress”, a somewhat neutral way to describe what’s happened to someone, and it’s not a noun, not necessarily an encapsulation of the entire person (unless so used in a sentence). Make it a noun, call someone a “retard” or “-tard”, and suddenly you’re summing up their entire being; that’s what really makes it insulting.

“Retard” is fine. “Tard” is much more informal, so I only apply it to my close friends.

I find the words incredibly offensive, no one who fits in that category implied is thrilled to be there, they’d rather be “regular” (a disabled kid on my bus told me that one day in response to be called a tard).

However, I’m no a fan of censorship so I voted it should be allowed. I always like knowing who the bigots are anyway, they out themselves nicely when given free rein.

Idiot, imbecile, moron, retard… none of these should be allowed if they’re used against other people on this forum. Namecalling should not be allowed. Maybe in the pit. It seems rather popular there, but I think they even have to be careful with certain slurs.

one thing i rarely hear people talk about, well not enough, is that even if the person you are talking to is “not” retarded, maybe someone else who is listening is, or their brother or sister or close friend is…

How about variations like libtard and conservatard, or diptard?

I agree using anything -tard lowers the conversation level. It is somewhat associating a negative connotation of the word retard by assuming someone has a mental illness. It would be like asking someone if their Asperger’s is acting-up, or if they have Down’s syndrome. Insulting, and insulting to the people who have these problems. There are better ways insult people without bringing others down as well.

It’s a word I would use sparingly, and on in reference to someone who is being intentionally stupid. And only in the company of people I know aren’t offended by the word. I have a coworker who has expressed how much she hates the word because she has a developmentally delayed sister. So I would never use the word in her presence.

FWIW, I was called “retarded” all the time growing up because I was a clumsy kid who talked funny. It hurt so much to be called that, and I think it caused me to carry a lot of emotional baggage for a long time. But relatively recently, I came to the realization that the insult was technically correct. If my parents had known better and taken me to a doctor, they would have likely learned that I fit the criteria for developmental motor coordination disorder. My motor skills were (and still are) “retarded”. If everyone had known that I actually had a good reason for acting “retarded”, the teasing probably wouldn’t have happened. Or, at the very least, there would have been more sympathy for me when I expressed hurt over it.

The other day, a coworker laughed at the way I was gesturing while telling a story and told me I looked “flickted”–a word that is more or less equivalent to “retarded”. I thought I had long recovered from my childhood bullying days, and yet all that ancient hurt came back and put me in a sad mood for the rest of the day.

I’m not gonna say I would never ever use the word. But there are so many other insults in the dictionary that don’t press my buttons, so I’m just more likely to go with those.

As a general rule, I don’t think the use of any word should be banned.

However, as the OP says ‘calling someone’, such things would be out of line here on the Dope except in the Pit. I do not support banning it there.

And you know, there are legitimate uses of the word, and not just in reference to someone’s mental capabilities.

Voted No, but that’s only mostly true. The world is a messy place full of messy opinions. There is virtue, I think, in resisting most opportunities to be offended.

For me, “retard / retarded” refers to a very specific and pathetic stereotype–a caricature of a person who is at once to be pitied, certainly not envied, and by no means to be considered a source of reasoned opinion. To be sure I’ve referred to myself as a retard at least as often as I’ve affixed the label to others on a situational basis. It’s nothing more or less than shorthand to summarize a person’s actions or attitude. Curiously, it’s not a term I’d use to describe an actual retarded person. It’s also on a short list of words I don’t take out when I’m in decent society.

I have to say that one of my favorite words is still “fucktard”. It’s got punch. Retard, not so much.