Choice of Words

A posting on [Metafilter](http://www.metafilter.com/) about words used to describe the disabled provides an interesting list.

Found [here](http://www.bbc.co.uk/ouch/yourspace/worstwords/), the list is composed of a mix of derogatory, clinical, and patronizing terms in an order that flat-out baffles me.

In the vein of clinical, we have numbers 1 (Retard), 7 (Cripple), 9 (Handicapped) and 10 (Wheelchair-bound). That these are found to be offensive is something that I can only understand by remembering that for the vast majority of people the truth is far more threatening that fiction.

For derogatory, we have numbers 2 (Spastic), 3 (Window-Licker (!?)), 4 (Mong), and 8 (Psycho). The negative nature of these is clearest, but apparently in the disabled community these were the best-accepted, and were generally more offensive to non-disabled voters. Kind of like the 'nigger' issue with blacks/whites, I imagine... A badge of pride of some kind in a divisive situation. This is weird, but I guess taking a negative label and re-working it to mean positive things is a better response than many.

Last, and worst in my books, are the patronizing ones. These shocked me in that they appeared at all. However, what didn't shock me is that a higher proportion of the support for these words (By support, of course, I mean votes for being the worst) came from the disabled voters. Numbers 5 (Special) and 6 (Brave) anger me whenever I hear them applied. Patronizing the disabled in that fashion is analogous to affirmative action and race-based quotas in schools -- it's a subtle from of discrimination. It's contempt that hides itself behind a veneer of respect, and it makes me ill every time I encounter it.

An interesting list, though. I recommend reading the [comments](http://www.bbc.co.uk/ouch/yourspace/worstwords/results2.shtml) and the proportions of disabled/non-disabled voters for the words. It was a nifty article.

Comments !