Words ‘gay’ and ‘retarded’ haunt the halls of Foothill

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Words like gay and retarded are not acceptable in 21st century vernacular Credit: The Foothill Dragon Press/Lucy Knowles

Lucas Wiltjer

Words like gay and retarded are not acceptable in 21st century vernacular Credit: The Foothill Dragon Press/Lucy Knowles
Words like gay and retarded are not acceptable in 21st century vernacular Credit: The Foothill Dragon Press/Lucy Knowles

That’s so gay. That is seriously retarded. On a daily basis, you will hear the words ‘gay’ or ‘retarded’ either in the halls, outside of school, or even in your own group of friends. But when you hear these words, they will almost always be used in a derogatory manner.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of the word gay is “1. Happily excited. 2. Bright, lively. 3. Given to social pleasures. 4. Homosexual.” The definition of the word retarded is “slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development or academic progress.”  Neither of these words, however, is being used with the intent of their definition nowadays. When you hear the word ‘gay,’ it is usually used as a synonym for the word ‘stupid’ or ‘lame,’ and the same goes for the word ‘retarded.’

What we don’t realize whenever we say these two words, is that we really are offending someone else, someone who has done nothing wrong. When you use ‘gay’ or ‘retarded’ in the  pejorative, you are insulting that group of people because whether consciously or not, you are saying that it is not okay to be gay, or that it is bad to be mentally disabled. You are advocating against those who have done nothing to you. We hear this at school every day, but how many of us actually say something about it, and stand up against the inappropriate usage of these words?

The word ‘gay’ is still the word ‘gay,’ and ‘retarded’ is still ‘retarded,’  and you are still insulting a group of people when using these words with a negative connotation. In an interview done by the New York Times, a 14 year-old girl stated “If I was gay and someone used that word in a negative context, of course I’d be insulted. I hear it all the time, every single day in class. It’s wrong. I’d much rather call someone a loser.”

In an article on the NBC News website titled “Special Olympics fights use of the word ‘retard,’” an interview was held and actor Eddie Barbanell, who has Down syndrome, stated that “It’s insulting, it’s painful and it hurts people.”  The Special Olympics is campaigning to eliminate the word ‘retard’ as a casual insult.

So, why use these words?

The fact of the matter is: These words are hurtful. You may not mean gay by ‘homosexual,’ and your aim may not be to insult the mentally disabled when you call something ‘retarded,’ but you are still insulting a group of people when you use one of those words. These phrases are so commonly used, that most of the time we think almost nothing of it. There’s no way to justify these phrases and say with full confidence “What I am saying is in no way an insult to someone other than the person I am directing this to, and this is perfectly okay,” because you are insulting someone else, and those phrases are not okay.

Since these words are so common, it will be difficult to eliminate them with their negative connotations. But we need to be more conscious about what we say, because it can and does hurt people.

What do you think?