The Disabled. And other offensive terms.

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Captain Kremmen, Apr 5, 2013.

  1. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    People don't like being summed up by one disparaging word which defines them by their disability.
    So, calling someone a Spastic, a Cripple, a Mongol, a Cretin, a Dwarf, a Dummy, a Madman, etc. is offensive.

    There isn't "A disabled", only "A disabled person".
    But there is still the term "The disabled"
    Why isn't "The disabled" offensive?
    It should be, shouldn't it?

    Is a word summing up a whole group of people focussing on disadvantages,
    less offensive than a similar word summing up an individual?
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2013
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  3. elte Valued Senior Member

    I think you're right. Differently abled in such a way that one's abilities aren't valued by society seems like a better way of putting it.
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  5. spidergoat pubic diorama Valued Senior Member

    Any term of differentiating such people would have the negative connotation of seeming to define their totality. But such terms are necessary, so we need something.
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  7. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    It presents us with a dilemma: how does a class of people held in common by nothing else but "disability" or "special needs" refer to themselves in a way that doesn't suggest disability? While many disabled people may prefer not to self-identify based on their being disabled, it remains practical in the effort to eliminate discrimination and to acquire government assistance to politically self-identify as such. Perhaps a realization that the label is only serving a social function for others but is not really defining who you are as a person?
  8. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Careful there! "Differently abled" is a phrase summing up a whole group of people focusing on their disadvantages. So is "short" "tall" "white" "black" "fat" "skinny" - basically any word used to describe a group of people, someone's going to be offended by it.
  9. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    There are all kinds of new euphemisms people come up with to avoid the Language Police. "Handicapable" is one of the more clever.

    In 69 years I've made friends with a lot of people with a wide variety of... er... "conditions." I notice when they talk about themselves they just use the clinical term and that's what they expect to hear from me. "I have ADHD," "I'm a high-performing autistic," "I use a wheelchair," "I'm dyslexic," "I bring my own food because I have fibromyalgia," etc.

    My favorite is, "I'm a recovering asshole." That shuts down all the questioning!
  10. Buddha12 Valued Senior Member

    It would seem that there's no "right" way to say anything anymore which is a very bad thing to have happen. So I just try not to say what I think would be words that would offend or I'll even ask what I should say if I encounter someone who has an affliction or malady of some type.
  11. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    On principle, the offensiveness of a term depends on the context in which it is used.
    The same term can be offensive in one context, but not in another.

    "And here at my birthday party, I also welcome my disabled / black / Muslim / [enter almost any label or category] friend Thomas!"
    is offensive, for example.

    On the other hand, checking on a medical chart that one is disabled, is not offensive.

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