Log in

Previous Entry | Next Entry

The beloved column/site News of the Weird has a category of weird events they call "Not Clear on the Concept."  Here's a nice example in writing -- this taken from the NY Times article about Urban Dictionary http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/04/technology/a-lexicon-of-the-internet-updated-by-its-users.html :

Because Urban Dictionary allows people to add multiple definitions to each entry, questionable entries include follow-ups that offer perspectives on why those words are not acceptable.
For example, the definition for a word describing people with cognitive challenges and difficulties includes the sentence, "People who choose to make fun of the mental retarded tend to be complete morons and cannot comprehend that these people have feelings and emotions just like anyone else."


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 4th, 2014 03:49 pm (UTC)
People who choose to make fun of the mental retarded tend to be complete morons...

::dies laughing::
Jan. 4th, 2014 04:57 pm (UTC)
I'm always that guy...
OK, here's my hopefully not-a-rant but gentle attempt at teaching. I'm a parent of a boy with significant and extensive special needs. The problem with using "retarded" as a synonym for "stupid" is that, as anybody who knows folks who fall under the definition of mental retardation understands, folks with such special needs aren't stupid. They're people who need to use all the resources they possess to get through life -- something that we normally-abled folks have the luxury of not having to do: we can often get by without paying full attention to whatever is going on around us.

So when folks make fun of the mentally retarded, or when folks use "retarded" or "retard" as a synonym for "stupid," they don't realize that said folks are using pretty much all their resources -- much in the way that those who are able to be fully mindful and aware, or those who can focus all their attention to the task at hand to get something done. They're doing the best they can with what they have. Stupid people aren't doing the best they can with what they have. So "Stupid" and "Retarded" aren't in any way synonymous. "Complete moron" is not synonymous with "retarded" -- it's synonymous with "stupid," and so the sentence that technically isn't "clear on the concept" above actually has it right, if not in a kind way. Those who choose to make fun of the mentally retarded are, indeed, stupid, for the reason the person said, and for the reasons I spelled out.

Once we realize that "stupidity" isn't a concept that truly applies to folks with Down's Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome, Angelman's Syndrome, and so on -- which is an easy realization once you get to spend time with such folks -- the false association with dumbness and "retard/retarded" will die away.

Edited at 2014-01-04 04:59 pm (UTC)
Jan. 4th, 2014 05:24 pm (UTC)
Re: I'm always that guy...
Perfectly understood. As the parent of a child who has a disability often involving cognitive impairment, I know that all children want to use all their resources. That's why I found the quote funny: to correct people who call people with mental retardation or cognitive impairment stupid, the complainer uses a term (antique) that equates stupid with cognitively impaired. "Not clear on the concept" though withthe best will in the world. This blog often detects and reports on such bizarre or self-contradictory word choices, their intentions aside.
An Infinitude of Tortoises [verisignlabs.com]
Jan. 5th, 2014 04:19 am (UTC)
Re: I'm always that guy...
Would it be considered insensitive to refer to "retarded time" or to describe, albeit somewhat whimsically, a tardon as a "retarded tachyon"? (I've been chastened for doing just that and was rather taken aback.)
Jan. 5th, 2014 01:26 pm (UTC)
Re: I'm always that guy...
It's part of that common linguistic cycle whereby euphemisms or supposedl.y neutral or scientific terms that are used to avoid pejorative or folk or crude terms gradually become the crude terms themselves. "Retarded" was a word based in a psychological theory that people with miild cognitive impairment were simply slowed down and took a while (maybe till never) to catch up. It wasn't long before "ree-tard" became the insult that it was intended to displace. Like "toilet" or "gentleman of color" or "Hebrew" or even now "homosexual", a neutral scientific description to replace, oh, "sodomite" or "pervert" which now seems to be used largely by people who mean something invidious ("homosexual agenda" etc.)
Jan. 5th, 2014 09:52 am (UTC)
The irony that I saw in the quote was that "moron" was introduced into English as a classification of mentally retarded people, making it problematic (in the way you describe) to use that to mean "stupid".

Maybe that technical sense of the word has been lost from use (not much loss), and it can just be "stupid", back to its etymological root. But that's what raised my eyebrows.
LR Fredericks
Jan. 5th, 2014 02:59 pm (UTC)
Surely the intention is ironic and the word is used deliberately. At least that's how an English person would read it.

Edited at 2014-01-05 04:08 pm (UTC)
Jan. 6th, 2014 10:16 am (UTC)
Mm, this was my immediate assumption (although I am indeed an English person).

And it opens up the possibility that crowleycrow read it so too, and so was only citing it ironically as 'Not clear on the concept'.
Jan. 6th, 2014 02:27 pm (UTC)
I don't think the commenter was that sophisticated, and I'm not clever enough to pretend that I thought a comment by a writer pretending to be stupider than he is was sincere. And I didn't suspect that. But thanks for believing me capable of such multiple kidding.
Jan. 6th, 2014 01:15 pm (UTC)
Possible, but I bet there was no irony intended at all. The Urban Dictionary can be edited and updated by anyone. It's a popular thing with high school students, for example. If you spend a bit of time on popular websites or in a high school, you see rather quickly that most people have no concept of irony- much less a knowledge of how words have changed meaning though time. In my job, I'm constantly aware of how people don't think at all about what words they use or what those words mean, and I think this is also perfectly natural.

I can't see the quote right now as I type, but I think there were other very minor problems with the sentence also (mental instead of mentally I believe) which is just fast-typing carelessness but still indicates that the writer wasn't focusing on witty sentence construction. Most likely, it's a well-intended thought expressed in an accidentally funny way which is what makes it such a gem. As a deliberate joke, it's only slightly clever.

I'm not English btw.
Jan. 8th, 2014 03:35 am (UTC)
Check out:
Madrigal, Alexis C. "IBM's Watson Memorized the Entire 'Urban Dictionary,' Then His Overlords Had to Delete It." The Atlantic. January 10, 2013.
(I'd include the link, but LJ has tended to block such posts as spam.)

I really hope the story about Watson is fictional. Urban Dictionary is a rotten website. Anderson's claim in the NY Times article that UD documents regional Internet vernacular in real time in an important way is absurd. The majority of it appears to be immature (and not infrequently disgusting or bigoted) attempts at humor, not actual words anybody uses.
Jan. 8th, 2014 12:36 pm (UTC)
Slang dictionaries going back to the 18th century have tended to have those faults -- supposedly clever words for disgusting or bigoted things that nobody really used. I have no idea how the scholar-makers of real slang dictionaries determine whether some cute word is actually being, or was actually ever, used. Did anyone ever say "Dared not trust my arse with a fart" meaning suffering from diarrhea? It's sin some "canting" or "rogue's" dictinary of the past.
Jan. 8th, 2014 06:22 pm (UTC)
Well, this may be TMI, but "Never trust a fart" is a byword for those of us who have had gastric bypass surgery.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )