Thursday, August 26, 2010

Is the A-Word the New R-Word?

Jennifer Aniston came under fire recently for using the word "retard", as have many others in the past.  I've never known where to weigh in on this one.  I have myself used the word just as Aniston did (she was referring to herself), as well as the word "retarded"...the latter mostly in the context of "socially-retarded" or "emotionally-retarded".  I am, after all, married.  To a man.

But I got to thinking...what if the word "autistic" started to be used in the same way?  What if the Black-Eyed Peas' new hit song was called "Let's Get Autistic"?  Or people from the Northeast started using the term "wicked autistic" to describe something negatively?  And it became common urban slang to say "Man, that shit is autistic"?  Well, guess what?  It seems it's already so.

Since I've started using the Twitter machine, I sometimes will set my search to "autism" or "autistic", just to be sure that I'm on top of it should the announcement of a cure come across the wire.  I mostly see the usual autism-related news links, blog posts, etc.  But I've also been seeing those words used as epithets.  Just in the course of one day, I could have snagged dozens of examples, but here are just a few: 

OK, let's be glass-half-full.  Maybe the
music was really really good.

Not sure how to construe this one.  Audrey doesn't know
how to blow her nose, so I remain unoffended.

And we're off.

Maybe she reads my blog and the person in question was
squeezing their eyes shut or grabbing their hoo-hah.

I'm not sure if I should defend autism or Larry King's hair.  What
exactly is being insinuated here...people with autism have bad
hair?  Are squirrely?  Sodomize skunks?  I hate IHateJeffBaker.

I refuse to be offended by someone who refers to herself JerseyCokewhore.

You get the idea.  What do you think?  Are you offended?


  1. I can't be offended by the ignorant.

  2. Oh Lynn...
    I can't be offended when you make me laugh at them. I mean.. JerseyCokewhore... REALLY?? I wonder if people in New Jersey are offended by her associating them with Cokewhores?

  3. She is totally giving coke whores a bad name.

  4. It's so hard to be offended when you consider the source! I wonder if JerseyCokeWhore's mom follows her on Twitter?

  5. It's hard to be offended by stuff like that . . .

  6. I would say more sad than offended. You made me laugh, that's for sure, but this stuff still bums me out.

    Also? Who ARE these people? Dear lord.

  7. Love your comments on the tweets. Made me teehee.

  8. Offensive? Yeah, I guess.
    Mostly, it's just stupid.

    Being an autistic adult, I'm honestly no longer phased by pejoratives from the Interweb Hoi Polloi. Look around and you'll find entire communities of haters for just about everything and everyone. *shrug*

    What really bothers me is the far more insidious hatred coming from our own ranks. Maybe it's just me.

  9. Yeah, these people obviously represent some kind of social media underbelly, but the point is: would it bother you if it became a part of the vernacular as a result of the common use of it by people like this?

  10. Wow...that's an interesting bunch of comments. You made it funny with your comments, I have to say. But I would not want to see it become the new R word. Not at all!

  11. You are kidding me, I had no idea. Wow guess that gives a new name to "dipshits" Can't wait to have to deal with this when my aspie son comes home asking me about why he was called that in school. Last year it was "fag" I had to deal with, and that was not a fun one. Love the humor you used, hard to get upset when you put it that way. :)

  12. Yes, I'm offended but then again...these people are ignorant. I don't get it.

  13. Oo. On the one hand, it's not hard at all to imagine that happening.

    On the other hand, I'm given hope by just a quick look at the definition of "autistic" in the Urban Dictionary. My sense is that trendy insults make it into the Urban Dictionary very quickly -- but almost all the definitions of autistic that are there are straight-up. Except for the very last one, which is last because it's been down-rated, and that one just basically makes me giggle ("The majority of contributors to Urban Dictionary.")

    Don't look at the automatically-generated synonyms/ related-word list up top, though. Gah.

  14. O-M-G! Love the first paragraph in regards to being married. LMAO!!! That was too funny!

    "JerseyCokewhore" she must live down the shore.

    "IHateJeffBaker" is an angry person. Don't take him to heart. He probably says that to everyone.

    What I like about your whole attitude about autism is you take it seriously, but don't let it get to you. You're open minded about it. You get a kick out of what Audrey does, yet understand why and go with the flow. And I think that's healthy!

    This was a great blog post! Made my morning!

  15. Yes! It would bother me. It does bother me. My oldest has Down Syndrome AND Autism so i already know how I feel about the R word. To me it's the same as using a racial slur.
    As long as it's continuing to be used by these strange tweeters with the wierd names, I'm not really worried about it becoming a "thing"'
    I mean let's face it....coke whores don't live long. (ouch!)

  16. JerseyCrackWhore: that'll make me giggle all damn day.

    I'm difficult to offend. A good friend of mine at work was disciplined by our supervisor who overheard her describing someone as "Deaf as a Haddock"... he thought that it was insensitive of her becasue I have a Deaf child. She just laughed her ass of at him knowing that I was hardly offended.

    A few days later this same supervisor told me the BEST inappropriate/dirty Deaf joke.

  17. I must confess, I read in the wrong order. My eyes caught the twitter stuff first and I read those and was PISSED! But then I went back up and was literally screaming at the Black Eyed Peas song title. You are so "autistically" funny! I am about to look "autistic" as I pee my pants! I thought I would play along. Oh I am going to hell. Sorry Jaylen, I am not laughing at your expense honey, Lynn made me do it!

  18. I'm guessing all these people don't even know what autism is... so it's hard to be offended by the lack of education and ignorance on their part.

  19. @Lynn - Thanks for clarifying your point. Yes, I'd definitely be bothered if it became a commonly-used insult, like the word "gay" has evolved as a vernacular synonym for stupid or undesirable.

    OTOH, I also see it being a natural consequence of visibility and awareness... which is actually a good thing. It means that people are at least thinking about it, if only to be rude. This can open the door for education and correction.

    Just trying to see the positives (if any). :-)

    BTW... more food for thought... another important aspect is that it could also depend on who's making the statement. If it was coming from someone who actually has autism, it might be funny. Coming from a non-autistic person, even a family member of an autistic person, it feels rude and patronising (even if it's done in the most light-hearted way possible). Sort of like how only members of certain minority groups can make jokes about themselves.

  20. and this is why i don't twitter. ppl are so rude these days and yes i am offended by cokewhore.

  21. No need to be offended by “retard” or “autistic” – as stated, it proves ignorance. Nowhere have I seen ignorance more prevalent than in the south where I have been disparaged by being described as a “Yankee,” “Catholic,” “college graduate,” and the most loathsome, “Democrat.” Seriously, there is something wrong with me for being these things (oh, and don’t forget SHORT)???? But here, “fat” and “drunk” are okay. These non-retarded, non-autistic people just set fire to construction equipment for a mosque. Look in the mirror for someone less than perfect. Teach tolerance!

  22. Re-thinking ever placing an autism # in a tweet again. :(

  23. Sigh. Fecking coke whores and haters anyway.


  24. That sucks. I try hard not to say retarded, but I do it without realizing it. I really don't mean it in reference to people with disabilities. I'm just saying I'm stupid. Stupid used to be the official term used for people who were later called retarded. I think it's weird that people would say autistic in replace of retarded. That seems more offensive in some ways because they must know what they are saying means. But at the same time, consider the source. BTW, stumbled your from Liz's BlogFrog!

  25. I don't have an autistic family member, so I suppose I'm not as personally hit here...but my instinct is to consider the sources. None of those people above sound like people I'd let do my taxes...

  26. Definitely offended. Offended that the word "autism" is being used in a negative context. People who try so desperately to be funny by using words like "retard" and "autism" in a demeaning manner are unintelligent, mean, totally not funny and definitely getting mounds of coal in their stocking from Santa this year.

    Kristi, Live and Love...Out Loud

    PS Stumbled your post!

  27. I just Stumbled Upon your post and I agree it's horrible. I am your newest follower and just tweeted this post---may be old to some, but new to me, and it's 12 kinds of awesome. Wonderful food for thought here and I hope others will pay attention!

    erin @ the mother load

  28. Nah...I was offended when my daughter was first diagnosed...but we deal with enough already. Sometimes you just have to laugh and consider the source. I feel like everyone gets too damn serious sometimes!

  29. I don't think I read this one the first time around. These people sound like assholes so I'm not offended.

    But I do worry about my kids hearing this type of thing from their friends as they grow older. I'll need to make sure they have some awesome comebacks at the ready :)

  30. You have such a good sense of humor and you teach me a little bit about outlook every time I read here! For me, I think these are not people I would ever run into IRL long enough that it would impact me in any way. People like this don't carry influence, IMO. Although there will always be some idiots who say stuff like this, I doubt it will ever become commonplace. (At least I hope not!)

    Happy Father's Day to Audrey's Daddy! :)

  31. I'm glad you can find the humor from these posts. Some people are such idiots..I just don't get what they are trying to say, they are only making themselves seem more uneducated and idiotic than anything. jerseycokewhore? enough said... My son is Autistic, my nephew is autistic and they both have gorgeous hair. The children in my sons classroom are all on the spectrum, yet look nothing alike, so how is there a way to look autistic? Keep laughing, in the end they are the joke, and we are blessed with children who help us see the beauty beyond the norm.

  32. Wow, way to spot this ahead of the trend! You are brilliant, as usual, Lynn. I don't offend easily, but to answer your question, "would it bother you if it became a part of the vernacular as a result of the common use of it by people like this?" Yes, it would, because they aren't using it in a smart, funny, or original way. My friends and I sometimes make jokes about people being "spectrummy" but it's always more a celebration of quirkiness, and never pejorative. That's the difference. These ass-sombreros are going to ruin it for the rest of us.

    1. That IS the difference. I'm actually not all that into being the word police, but the tone and intent here is what's unacceptable.