Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

Stop Using the Word “Retard”

Stop Using the Word RetardHere’s a quick post to help the “Spread the Word to End the Word” Campaign (hat tip to my friend Jason Wert for bringing my attention to this):

Do yourself and the world a favor and stop using the word “retard.”

Period.

No questions. No excuses. Just stop.

Stop calling your friends “retards” or saying that your parents are “retarded” for being old and out-of-touch.

Quick confession: I used to use the words “retard,” “fag,” and “Jew” in a pejorative sense to put down my friends on a regular basis. But it was “okay,” because were “just joking.” Right?

Until someone overheard us and was actually offended. Until real people were hurt.

Then, it became real.

Then, we were the idiots.

If this is you, you just need to stop using words like this. No judgment or shame. Just stop using them. It’s okay, you didn’t know. But now you do. So, stop.

Because when people hear you talk like this, they form an opinion about you that I don’t think an educated, self-respecting person like you wants to be associated with.

No, it’s not impossible. These words were a part of my everyday vocabulary once, and I stopped using them. They used to instinctively come to mind. Now, I don’t even think about them. And when I hear, them, I shudder.

It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t that hard, either.

The bottom line is this: If you look closely enough, people are following you. Someone is watching your every move. Maybe it’s a friend or a sibling or even one of your followers on social media. Someone is seeing what you’re about.

And when you open your mouth and words like “retard” come out, well, it makes you look dumb. And a bigot. And kind of a jerk.

That’s not what you want to be remembered for, right?

Make a decision to stop today. Please. This word affects people in ways that hurt far worse that you can imagine. There are so many more beautiful and wonderful-sounding words that could come out of your mouth than that stupid R-word.

“From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” –James 3:10

Thanks, Jason, for bravely sharing your story of how the R-word has personally affected your family. I’m sorry for idiots like me who have caused you pain. I pray that those reading this will take note of the victims of their careless words and choose to change.

Time to ‘fess up. Do you use the R-word? Would you make a pledge to stop?

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the blog and liking this post on Stumbleupon.

If you still aren’t convinced, read some of these stories of heart-break and courage:

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Gracie

    This article is fantastic. To all of the mean comments below – why does having a disability give you the divine right to mock them and put all people with a disability in a bad light. Just because they are a little different to you doesn’t make them any less of a human being. This writer was simply putting in to context that whenever you say the word ‘retard’ or other vulgar words you will hurt someone that over hears. Consider you words and actions.

    • Blue Flame

      Even well intentioned people can cause others to be mocked. I am actually being called derogatory terms because a well meaning person thought I was intellectually disabled and whenever I walked in the room she would remind co-workers to refrain from calling me the “R-word”. People believed this co-worker knew what she was talking about so I automatically received the label intellectually disabled even though I’m not intellectually disabled. This resulted in other co-workers not being so kind to me because they felt I only got my job because I had an intellectual disability and called me the R-word and many other names. One even asked what “you people” prefer to be called since he was told by this co-worker that he cannot use the R-word anymore. Thanks to this employee who is no longer working at my job, I have the incorrect label of being intellectually disabled. Some employees have realized I’m not what she thought I was but others actually believed her assessment even though she is no expert on determining who is intellectually disabled and simply was reminding employees that she believes I have an intellectual disability and that everyone needs to refrain from using the R-word or any other offensive word when talking around me.

  • Nitram

    Reality Check, (warning, I’m not an overly sensitive person and simply call things as I see them) Most of the words we use today to convey the concept of stupidity were once considered the ‘politically correct’ term for someone with diminished mental faculties. The main reason I feel compelled to point this out is that the OP basically stated that anyone using the word ‘retard’ as an insult is an ‘idiot’. This is essentially a oxymoron (guess what the word moron originally meant). Idiot was the used term by the Victorians to mean ‘retarded’ (I’ve even seen it used on census forms from that era). Stupid, moron, fool etc. are other examples I’ve come across, which at the time of their usage wouldn’t have necessarily implied any insult. So basically what I’m saying is; It doesn’t matter what word you choose to represent this condition with, before long it will get used as an insult. If tomorrow we decide that the word ‘Awesome’ is now to be used in place of ‘retard’, the next week people are gonna be throwing the word about in an insulting or teasing manner. The simple fact is that to an able minded person the retarded condition is about the least desirable state of being imaginable. There is no state of human existence that is likely to be perceived as being below this one. So from that perspective it seems unlikely that this type of teasing or name calling is going to abate. I also think it’s worth pointing out that it’s the family of the retarded person that feels an insult, not the person themselves. I can’t help thinking there is a delusional element present in the minds of the offended family members, in the sense that the are trying to kid themselves into thinking that their child is no different to any other (or even special?).

  • I explained the problem with the term to a friend the other day: we need a word to mock someone’s willful ignorance without hurting people who do not have the mental capacity for ignorance to be willful.

  • Guest

    Fuckin retards

  • john

    I have an 18 year old son with special needs and when I go to work they use the word retarded

  • Hojo70

    I am deeply offended by the author using the word “idiot”, I prefer the “I-word”. Do yourself and the world a favor and stop using the word “idiot”. Period. No questions. No excuses. Just stop, you insensitive bastard.

  • Anonymous

    “And when you open your mouth and words like “retard” come out, well, it makes you look dumb.”

    This sentence is the epitome of hypocrisy, considering you are using the term “dumb”. “Dumb” is a term for people who are verbally impaired, and before you guys say “dumb isn’t used to refer to people who can’t speak anymore”, let me tell you that the use of “Dumb and deaf” to refer to “unable to speak and unable to hear” is still in use, as with lame to refer to people with handicap. The Bible uses “dumb” and “lame” to refer to people with disabilities, yet nobody’s crying for it to be changed. I have family members with devastating dementia, yet I also hear the term “demented” used as an insult a whole lot.

    Am I saying that people with handicaps don’t deserve respect? No, they deserve our sensitivity and our patience, and not to be mocked. However, allowing certain abelist words while disallowing “retard” is essentially saying that people with learning impairment are more worthy of respect than others.

  • Hard Little Machine

    Up with Downs Potato

  • christopher golden

    perfect example of pc gone crazy… at the end of the day they are JUST WORDS regardless… and it’s the person the word bothers that has the problem… and besides most retards probably don’t even know they are defended becauuuussssseeee THEY ARE RETARDED… so it’s the parents of the retards that get offend….which is even more extreme PC by getting offended by proxy…. my brother is gay but it does not bother him if someone says cock loving flaming fairy queen butt pirate faggot and if it. did then it would be his problem… not the big mean monster that says mean bad so horrible awful words…

    • Peggy Cassidy

      I am sure that you know that Many Retarded people Do Know when people are talking not nicely to them. They, many of them, are Not that Slow that they are oblivious to everything going on around them. Some are Mildly retarded so they Do Understand when people are being mean. Maybe it Doesn’t bother your brother when people tease him. Remember, Not everyone may be as Secure as your brother is. I’m sure if you called someone a Retard, and they got upset and started to Cry—You’d probably Stop? People can’t go around worrying over every word they say, whether it will offend this or that person, but if you were to see a Real Slow person that you didn’t know, I’m sure that you wouldn’t go up to them and call them a Retard—Would you? Some people are just more sensitive than others. Not everyone is like your brother. He probably is very secure. Those JUST WORDS do hurt some people. If i were to say something, and I found out that I hurt them, I would apologize.

    • Johnmancat

      You know whats retarded? I look up “why are retards so retarded” and all that comes up is why people are using the word retard wrong. It so retarded

      • Ronmancat

        Thats the most mother fucking real than i have heard. Bless u johnmancat

    • Brandon

      People that say such negative things about anyone, whether if they are mentally challanged, gay, of a different race, different religion, have some kind of issue themselves that need to be worked out. No one should be talked to in that manner, it is a former of abuse, mental abuse. Maybe the abuser is looking for power and can only find it in people that are different or weaker than him/her. There’s no need to be ugly to fellow human beings. You don’t think that hurts your brother? I think he is not telling you the trutH, IMO. Are you one of them calling him names? If so, maybe that is why he plays off the insults.

    • Blue Flame

      Some people with intellectual disabilities are able to understand when someone is calling them a derogatory name and they take it as equally offensive to be called some other word in a derogatory way. I’m equally offended if someone calls me the “R-word”, stupid, special, or the new PC term intellectually disabled. The author should ask people who actually mean to use these words as derogatory towards someone else to stop making derogatory comments towards others regardless of the words they use. I’ve been perceived as intellectually disabled by people and even had someone who insulted me ask me what “us people” prefer to be called since they cannot call me a retard anymore. I think the PC movement may have even made things worse since the people who do intend to insult people for having an intellectual disability will simply come up with other words since their intention is to offend and they will not discontinue using the “R-word” because the “experts” are asking them to stop using it.

  • Patrick

    There’s a difference between saying “retarded” in a derogatory way versus using it for it’s intended purpose. It is an old medical term, and when used as such, it should not be taken as derogatory. My brother is retarded, and I have no problem using the word to describe his condition. It’s the meaning behind the words you use that matter.

  • Jeremy

    Retard, retard, retard, retard, retard. Freedom of speech FTW!

    • Jake (FTM Trans)

      Not freedom to be an asshole and use hurtful slurs.

  • 5233

    Jeff, nice post. While I appreciate your tolerance of free speech, most of the replies count as spam, and are probably the same person posting with different aliases, hence the bad grammar. Also, I find Ted TheAtheist’s post sickening. He has the nerve to show his mug alongside that too. Maybe he needs to have a talk with other atheists like Penn Jillette who are working with charities here in Vegas such as Opportunity Village. It’s a thrift shop that mainly hires disabled employees. I am a devout christian and believe we do need God to be whole but at the same time I wouldn’t put all atheists on the same level. Lastly, I do believe there is a good point a few have made about using ‘dumb’ while chiding ‘retard’ but it makes you think about how words have evolved. ‘Punk’ originally meant a male prostitute, for instance.

  • Calls an asshole an asshole

    “I used to use the words “retard,” “fag,” and “Jew” in a pejorative sense to put down my friends on a regular basis.”

    Retard and fag are pejorative when referring to people no matter how they are used, but “Jew” is something else. Glad you stopped using them pejoratively, but even though you are now PC, you’re STILL A FUCKING BIGOT!

  • Carl van Tonder

    Um, what? How can you justify using “idiot” when it’s in exactly the same situation? Just drop both of them (and “dumb”, while you’re at it) and experiment with writing what you mean instead of replacing lazy insulting shorthand with more lazy insulting shorthand. http://disabledfeminists.com/2009/10/11/ableist-word-profile-idiot/

  • Carl van Tonder

    Oh, and for everyone whining about free speech… you may have misunderstood, but the author is not *actually* the supreme dictator of the world and this post is not *actually* saying that the government is going to persecute you for calling someone a retard. Your precious rights aren’t being violated by someone asking you to make a minor change to your use of language to avoid causing unnecessary suffering … or even by saying that it reflects badly on you if you disagree https://xkcd.com/1357/

  • BrianSheller

    Better yet, why don’t you stop referring to people with intellectual disabilities as retards?

    I’m pretty sure when I say retard, I mean a person of ordinary cognitive function behaving as if that function has been temporarily retarded.

    So it’s you, writer, who is continuing to insist that we keep calling the intellectually disabled retards, which is pretty messed up.

    Where’s all your hand wringing over idiot and moron? Exactly, those words stopped being applied to intellectually disabled people, they didn’t become swear words.

    Political correctness has retarded ordinary sense among humans.

  • gustavo pacheco

    What a retard pussy. Please, kill yourself, you fucking retarded faggot jew.

  • Anon

    The word Retarded is part of what is commonly referred to as the “euphemism treadmill”. As other commenters have pointed out, the term was originally meant to replace words like “idiot”, “moron” and “imbecile”. Every new euphemism to describe intellectual deficiencies becomes a new pejorative term, because having an intellectual deficiency is perceived as a negative.

    The lesson to be learned: You can’t alter perception by sanitizing language. Calling a retarded person “special” isn’t going to improve their intellect, or the perception that retardation is a disability.

    If the goal of the author is to protect the feelings of retarded people, he and other SJW’s like him should refrain from teaching Retards that they should be hyper-sensitive about their retardation. SJW’s breed further weakness in a group of people already struggling.

    I have OCD. I don’t get offended whenever I hear people use the term “crazy” as a pejorative. Why would I? If someone sees that I am behaving in an unusual way, and they tease me saying, “What are you, crazy?” I tell them, “Actually, yeah. I have OCD.” In all my years on this earth, not one person has made fun of me once they realized I have OCD.

    I’m tired of listening to over-educated arts students spewing their cult-like post-modernist philosophies at the rest of us, as if we have an obligation to nurture everyone’s feelings. These people are way too soft, and they’re trying to make the rest of us as weak as they are. They have a victim-fetish, and it’s unhealthy.

    • Peggy Cassidy

      What you said reminded me of something else. The word OBESE for heavy people. I worked at a hospital for quite a few years. We had to take a short course over the computer on Obesity, as more people were coming in for weight loss surgical procedures. In the course these “Experts” were telling us that we should Not call heavy people Chubby, or Pleasantly plump. We were supposed to call them OBESE. I remember thinking that I would much rather be called plump, or even Heavy, than Obese. Obesity is a medical term, yet, many people have problems with the word Obese. I also thought, when I took the course, WHY do we Have to CALL them ANYTHING? When I took care of a heavy person, and I took care of plenty, some who were Huge. I didn’t come in and say, “Oh, You’re that OBESE patient.” I went into the room, introduced myself, if I didn’t know them, and I treated them like Anyone else. We may have used the word Obese in report, if that was their diagnosis, yet, it was said in a professional way. Sure, some people talked, outside the patient’s room, If they were really big. That should Not have been done because you never know if the patient might hear you, or a relative, or a person who had no business hearing. The main things is, people go on and on how we “Shouldn’t” say this, or that. People can just be way Too Touchy. And, again, we were told , in the computer course, that we should Not call people plump, or heavy. Every person is different. I just remember thinking that I would much rather be called plump than obese. And, why do they need to be CALLED Anything? Some patients may prefer to have the word obese used, but most Hate that word. And I have met some who Hate no matter what you say or do. You just can’t please everyone.

      • Blue Flame

        Someday these same experts will ask people to stop using the word Obese and come up with another “less offensive” term to refer to people who are overweight.

  • anon

    This is so retarded

  • Jake (FTM Trans)

    Okay, everyone’s talking about free speech. Yeah, we have free speech. I know we do. But guess what? Freedom of speech does not equal freedom to be an asshole. Yes, you are allowed to say whatever you want and you won’t be breaking the law, but there is a line between normal words and bullying. Calling someone names, or even using hurtful slang or slurs, such as “gay” for stupid, “retarded” for stupid, “tranny” when referring to a trans person, etc, is not acceptable and crosses that line.

  • elmo the great

    Hey you said idiot, that is offensive stop using it and you use the word “impossible” that offends me as well. Heck to make sure you stop offending others can you stop writing? do you get why telling people to stop using words is wrong in an open and free society?

  • True

    God is a real fucking Retard.

  • Anatonomy

    “Retarded” is a word now used to describe idiocy rather than a mental handicap (which has nothing to do with intellect.) As someone who has used the word “retarded” to describe things unintelligible in nature, I’m not saying it with the mentally handicapped in mind. Yes, it was once used to describe people with mental handicaps, but things change. The 21st century is full of new contexts and perspectives. Worry about people who genuinely go out of their way to hurt others, not those who use a collection of letters and phrases that so happen to hurt someone though they lack malicious intent.
    If I saw someone calling a person with a mental handicap with the obvious goal of hurting them, then I’d be mad. But Jesus Christ, this is a godawful pile of politically correct bullshit.

  • Blue Flame

    As someone who has been called the R-word by classmates during my school days and currently at work, if someone were to sanitize their comments towards me by calling me “special”, intellectually disabled, stupid, or brain damaged I find it equally offensive. This may sound strange coming from someone who has been called the “R-word” by many but this PC stuff is BS and I’ve even had someone ask me what they are supposed to call “us people”. I don’t like having people perceive me with a disability and treat me anything less than a human being so it doesn’t make me feel any better that someone calls me a different word. I can care less if someone uses the “R-word” in everyday use to refer to someone who acted as an idiot. It also doesn’t make me feel any better when someone who dislikes me changes the word they call me to “special”, intellectually disabled, brain damaged, etc. Are PC folks eventually going to ask people to refrain from calling people “special” or any other words that might offend people who have a mental disability or are perceived to have a mental disability by others? Did the PC folks ask people with intellectual disabilities if they prefer to be called something else and if they take offense to people using the “R-word” in everyday conversation when they have no intentions of offending people with intellectual disabilities? Wouldn’t using the word stupid, intellectually disabled, dumb, etc be equally offensive?

  • Benton Foster

    I really do not understand. If we use the word retarded to talk about people with learning delays, or with mental disabilities, then I can see how using it as a descriptor for something that is stupid or backward, would be very offensive. I can see how we would be wanting to reserve that word to talk about clinical mental or cognitive issues, and not use the word trivially. OR, if we were going to use the word trivially to mean stupid, then I can see how we would not want to use it to describe people. But I do not see how the present attitude about the word makes much sense.

  • Benton Foster

    THe words “moron” and “idiot” were also used in medical terms to talk about people with mentla or cognitive delays. Are we going to now call them the m-word and the I- word? C’mon now.

  • Anonymous

    We need to stop using all words that describe the disadvantaged. Calling people blind, dumb, autistic, challenged etc. is just as offensive. We should try to avoid speaking about these people at all, as acknowledging their existence offends them.

  • Royal Conquest

    No

  • Steve Wilson

    I just saw a screen print of a person using company text messaging asking my daughter what her job title was. He says he just tells everyone that she works with “retards”. I was floored! He actually thinks like that as well as saying it over his family company mail network. People like this still live in the dark ages? I thought we were over this garbage.

  • PattiBPoo

    I used to live in a world where people were tough and didn’t snibble & whine over every perceived Injustice or something as equally stupid. When we fell down brushed ourselves are off and kept right on going. Today they’ll end up going to the emergency room over a splinter or my all time favorite, words. The word police have been busy. Why worry about losing our rights to free speech when the Nazi police will soon have us all lined up and in terror about saying the wrong thing for they could lose their job, careers & even family.
    Now would be the time for those of you overly sensitive, control freaks to put this article down or risk getting your senses set to overload.

    Retard. Yep I said retard and since the rule is you must be whatever politically incorrect word you use, mine is retard cuz I am one and proud to be one and you will not deprive me of using it. Using the N word and shortening words to just their initial is about as retarded as it gets. You know when you see the initial that you actually hear the entire word in your head.
    As a bona-fide and certified retard I take my power to me back. I will NOT be ashamed of who I am by letting others dictate what I should or should not say because frankly it’s none of their damn business. I will not be made to feel lesser than, because some goody two shoes has decided I should pretend I’m not a retard and maybe it’ll go away. Oh the family shame.
    If you easily butthurt and live in the good Ol U. S. of A. grow a mighty pair or cry at the injustice of being a sissy. Me? Well I have stage 4 glioblastoma brain cancer and I’ve had a craniotomy and I’m a retard. Now what?

  • Walter Clemmens

    U’re a retard. Stop writing

  • Avirosb

    Retard means ‘slow’. You can be slow without being mentally handicapped.
    People who don’t know the difference are retarded.