Ableist Slurs Of The Mentally Disabled (UPDATED)
June 18, 2008
I often use words like “crazy,” “insane,” and “nutbag” to describe people whose views I think I bizarre, illogical or bigoted. But as Tekanji points out, words mean things. And while words like “crazy” are pretty steeped in my vocabulary, it really isn’t all that hard to make an effort to purge them. Consider this Step 1.
Hmm. I am going to have to give this some thought, as almost every single one of my posts at PhysioProf is built around characterizing sick-fuck right-wing scumbags as “demented”, “insane”, “wackaloon”, “nutjob”, “crazy”, “psychopathic”, “deranged”, “depraved”, “lunatic”, etc. I guess I really do believe that there is something wrong with their minds.
I think I really need some guidance from my readers on this one, so please give me your thoughts. And if any of my readers who has personal experience with mental disability would be willing to weigh in on how my use of these terms makes them feel, I would really be grateful. Anyone who would prefer to post anonymously about personal experiences, feel free to just make up meaningless names and e-mail addresses.
UPDATE: I just looked up some of the words we are talking about in the Oxford English Dictionary: crazy, insane, demented, and lunatic. I know that the origins of these words is not dispositive of how we should view them today, but I think it might at least be relevant. In their first usages that relate to a disordered or irrational thought process, these words predate medicalized notions of mental illness or disability, and seem to all have first been used to apply to people whose behavior or thinking was incomprehensible and irrational.
Here are the first uses in this sense:
crazy: 1617 J. CHAMBERLAIN Let. in Crt. & Times Jas. I, II. 19 He was noted to be crazy and distempered before.
insane: 1560 ROLLAND Crt. Venus III. 259 Than said Venus with mind almaist Insane.
demented: 1644 J. MAXWELL Sacr. Regum Maj. 105 Who can be so demented, as..to.. runne the hazard of totall ruine.
lunatic: 1377 LANGL. P. Pl. B. Prol. 123 Thanne loked vp a lunatik, a lene thing with-alle.