Don’t be Stupid

Begley bashes careless vocabulary

“That’s retarded.” I hear those words every day. I hear it both inside and outside of school.

I hear it constantly from students, which is not unusual since teenagers rarely censor themselves. But recently, I heard it from a teacher. I was shocked, as a teacher is supposed to be someone a student can go to for guidance or a problem with bullying.

The question here is, “Why?”

Personally, I believe that people have zero idea what they are actually saying.

The word “retarded” is defined as “less advanced in mental, physical, or social development as usual for one’s age,” while the word “stupid” basically means “doing something without sense.” I am pretty sure whenever someone says that another person is doing something “retarded,” that the intended meaning is the person is doing something senselessly.

I am sure that many readers are probably thinking “Why should I care? What is the big deal?” For one thing, using a word incorrectly never sounds intelligent. It does not sound smart when someone says “retarded,” unless they are using it in the correct manner.

For another thing, it is just plain mean. When “retarded” is used as a derogatory term, it generally makes fun of people who live with mental retardation. And that is not the intention. I get that. So, obviously, the wrong word is being used.

I guess it’s probably true that most people do not really care. And hey, I get that everyone has their own opinion. But I know many people with special needs because of my mom’s job. The word retarded is used so much as a derogatory term that those with special needs are ashamed. The ladies in my mom’s group home have been heard saying “I am not retarded because I am not stupid!” Some of these people are actually mentally retarded, but are very ashamed to be thought of as such. They are not stupid people, they are mentally retarded. And it should not take a genius to understand that there is a difference.

Readers may be asking themselves why I am only hitting on this one word when there are so many others that people use incorrectly. I have been asked why I do not also talk about the misuse of “gay” or bullying in general.

The reason is simple: these topics have been covered.

There are commercials about the misuse of “gay” and people speak against it constantly. There have been essays upon essays about bullying. Who is speaking out for the people who are mentally retarded? The word “retarded” is not a derogatory term. Stop using it as such.

Story by Lindsay Begley