Sunday, 24 November 2013

Surely it's all in the delivery.

Political correctness is just a business in its own right these days. It seems that if someone finds a word objectionable or offensive and they jump up and down about it enough, these words can be outlawed and anyone not ‘on trend’ can be castigated for falling behind.

This week’s story about the small demo outside a clothing shop brought this to mind.

Saying someone is retarded is now and possibly has been for sometime pejorative. So I had a little look at the history of the word.

We are talking about folk who are less able mentally. Nowadays someone with an IQ between 50 and 75 is called Educable, i.e. able to learn something. Someone with an IQ less than 50 is called Trainable if it is felt they might be able to learn personal hygiene. There was no descriptor of someone less able than Trainable.

In times past Cretin was used, surpassed by Retard, Idiot, Imbecile, and Moron, each of these taking their place in common parlance and then discarded presumably because some do-gooder thought them to insulting.

Now with political correctness we are meant to say developmentally disabled, or developmentally delayed. Or maybe I am already behind the times and there is something new.

How can a T-shirt with Retarde be offensive. The folk who were protesting put Retarde in the same category as Nigger and as the derivation of Nigger started out innocently enough as a noun describing a black person, I can see the argument. But Nigger has certainly since been bandied as an inflamatory insult. If shouted out, it is meant as a disgusting slur. If whispered, it is meant as some sort of insulting warning. There is a long history of abuse and neglect and mistreatment that is associated with the word and so I can readily see how putting it on a T-shirt would not be the done thing.

But Retarde is different. Words describing mentally less able people have changed probably as a result of able people feeling a little guilty of being able and not really knowing how to deal with less able others.

What I am saying is that I am certain that a black person would prefer to be called Black than the N word. I can see how a black person could and would become more than a little agitated if refered to as the N word. There is no misunderstanding the meaning and the venom attached to that word. But I am not at all certain that a less able person would care if they were called Retarded or Developmentally Disabled.

I if shout and sneer ‘Retard or developmentally disabled or fat or ugly or yellow or girl or boy’ and follow that with a rude finger gesture, then people would be right to take offense, but otherwise I don’t see the problem.

Surely it’s all in the delivery.