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?

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

About Jeff Goins

I am the author of four books, including The Art of Work. I also run an online business teaching writers how to get the attention their work deserves. Every week, I send out an email 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.

  • 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?).

  • http://deirdre.net/ Deirdre Saoirse Moen

    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.

  • 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!

  • 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/