Banning 'retarded' is retarded itself | We need pejorative words, says Anthony Miller

Banning 'retarded' is retarded itself

We need pejorative words, says Anthony Miller

Recently at least two people have told me that I can no longer use the word ‘retarded’.

Now I did know that retarded was a naughty word but I still think this is retarded. I could probably get away with calling these people idiots, morons or even imbeciles but for some reason, ‘retarded’ really seems to rankle with these verbal puritans – none of whom, to my knowledge, have ever actually suffered with any learning disability. Ironic really since the phrase mentally retarded was invented to replace all of the above… but has ultimately become more shocking.

Indeed such is the stigma of the word that there is even an R-Word website which promises to ‘spread the word to end the word’. On the R-Word website Timothy Shriver, chairman and CEO of the Special Olympics states that: ‘Everyone has a gift and the world would be better off if we recognised it." But they don’t.

I don’t anyway. I’m kind of average at everything and mentally retarded when it comes to reading and writing. Why do comedy? It involves less physical writing than writing. Why do physics? There are 10 numbers and 26 letters in the alphabet.

While the talented chose their course through life based on what they most want to do… the rest of us, the average and the thick and those with ‘learning disabilities’, move through life doing what we can actually manage – and even if in later life we can manage what we couldn’t do when we were younger that’s no use now because society says that if you cant do it by the age of 16 you can fuck off and do something useful with your hands. Or that’s what it used to say when there were manual jobs and RSI.

The Pontiff of Political Correctness that is Stewart Lee claims that ‘political correctness… seems to me to be about an institutionalised politeness at its worst. And if there is some fallout from this, which means that someone in an office might get in trouble one day for saying something that someone was a bit unsure about because they couldn't decide whether it was sexist or homophobic or racist, it's a small price to pay for the massive benefits and improvements in the quality of life for millions of people that political correctness has made’ secure in the knowledge that he has talents and doesn’t work in an office any more. Yet for all his worship of PC, even he uses the word retarded.

Actually, I tell a lie, he uses the less ‘pejorative’ word ‘div”’ to describe the religious people who protest against his clearly blasphemous opera (‘It’s a dream sequence”’ didn’t work for Salman Rushdie …it ain’t working for you, Stu) as idiots or morons. Unfortunately even idiots are not stupid enough to not be annoyed when their stupidity is being openly mocked … did I mention the word stupid? Sorry I forgot for a moment stupidity is the ultimate taboo.

But has changing the word changed what Stewart is saying? No. It’s just cloaked the same sentiment is passive aggression. Of course Mr Lee is clever enough to know that if he actually used ‘retarded’ he would alienate his core audience of politically correct Guardian Reader and wet old lefties like me – so he has solved the problem by substituting a different word: ‘div’”

…by which he means the same thing. And such is the pattern of circumlocution that the euphemism treadmill creates. Yet for all this linguistic effort the problem that society doesn’t value, reward or understand people with learning difficulties hasn’t changed, if you ask me. Just the words.

There’s more unpassable examinations, uncompletable homework and more unfulfillable expectations than ever before. Indeed mentally retarded prize cunt David Blunkett once came up with the great idea that kids studying for their GCSEs should be doing 2.5 hours of homework a night. Still I’m sure such hard left ideological fanaticism that education is all can be curbed by binary discussions about which words we use.

So is it time for the thick to draw a line in the sand? For too long the educated have been able to get away with saying ‘there’s no such thing as political correctness’ as if it was never a politically promoted movement thought up and actively promoted by academics like Dinesh D'Souza and the John M. Olin Foundation who write long books us remedials cant read. Like political correctness just happened organically and it is a lie that someone invented it. Call me Richard Littlejohn but this is bollocks. Nothing happens without someone promoting it. I know – I’m a promoter. The campaign to ban retarded is promoted.

Of course what the anti R-word movement really object to in the word is that it is ‘pejorative’. It is. Who wants a learning disability or to be seen as stupid? I don’t. I’ve had one and am. They argue that there is a difference between being stupid and learning difficulties. But is there? Or do all the powerful stupid people I describe as mentally retarded just have socially acceptable learning difficulties like psychopathic personalities?

Also if you remove all the pejorative words from the language what shorthands do we have left that are adequately insulting? Some feminists claim we should not use the word cunt because it is insulting to women but I find it difficult to find another word to adequately describe people who are cunts than cunt that is suitably brief. It is a verbal shorthand – shorthand saves time and the time between setup and punchline is a premium.

So… Is this how it has to be? Do we really all have to speak passive aggressive and never use words that convey actual aggression? I’m sorry but I don’t buy using the word retarded instantly turns one into Friedrich Nietzsche. Am I retarded like Richard Littlejohn?

Stewart Lee on the religious:

Published: 13 Dec 2013

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