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Previous Entry On another note Jun. 13th, 2014 @ 07:11 pm Next Entry
I saw someone today register objection to the word "moron" as ableist language.

I... no. No no no.

Terms like "idiot", "moron", and "cretin" were, it's true, once used to categorise people who were perceived as being mentally deficient. But there is no way anyone would use them that way now, because their meanings have shifted.

However, if you decry as offensive any term which has ever historically had an application which would now be offensive, but which now have distinctly different meanings and connotations, then we are going to be very short, very soon, of available words with which we can criticise anyone for anything, and certainly lack for any way to express shades or nuances of meaning thereby.

I consider Tony Abbott to be a moron. He has sufficient intellectual competence to function in society, more or less, and even to succeed in politics, somehow, despite his knack for insulting pretty much everyone ever and his negative charisma, but he's a moron. (You gave a surfboard as your official gift to President Barack Obama, Tony? Hawaiian-born President Barack Obama? You thunderous cretin. Go back to England, please, you're an embarrassment to Australia.)

I don't know many ways to say that he's a moron without using words from that category. "Fool" would have worked a couple of centuries ago, but it has different connotations now. Saying he's stupid doesn't really convey "possessed of reasonable native intelligence, grossly misapplied to the point of simulating a badly-written AI that would fail the Turing test within three sentences, tops".

And that last one is too long to exclaim in exasperation every time you hear that he did something idiotic, because he's Tony Abbott. It happens multiple times daily.

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From:[personal profile] willow
Date: June 13th, 2014 11:21 pm (UTC)
I get your point. But if you think the mentally disabled AREN'T called morons now? You've just been lucky in your exposure.

I personally don't use idiot for various reasons (including personal ones related to learning disabilities).

Cretin might in fact be very rare.

But Moron? In the late 80's, early and late 90's, in the US, Down's Syndrome kids were being called morons by their piers, along with 'duh' and 'herp derp'.

I don't know about the 2000's, but as 'recently' as the 90's in middle and highschools this was going on. Moron was second after retard.
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From:[personal profile] sami
Date: June 14th, 2014 09:49 am (UTC)
I was at high school in the 90s. We had a class of mentally disabled kids. I was friendly with a couple of them, disliked another to a point that neared outright hatred. (Because in year 9, a small group of us were spending lunch time in the Art classroom for a few days, finishing a finicky project that involved sculpting a bird from clay. I was very proud of mine - I'd spent hours on it, carefully carving each individual feather with the point of a pocket knife. Katie asked to look at it, because she was admiring my detail work. Melissa got annoyed with Katie over something, and crushed my bird, thinking it was Katie's. I pretty much hated Melissa thereafter.)

To the best of my recollection, though, they were generally addressed by their names. If they were getting picked on or bullied, they wouldn't be bullied by being called morons or idiots or retards or any of those, because even the most sociopathic bullies at my school were well aware that that would unite the entire *rest* of the school against them.

If a kid in the gifted class does something stupid in public, they'll struggle to live that down, but certainly when I was growing up, if a kid had an actual disability, then that topic was generally taboo for picking on them.

Melissa, for example, wasn't particularly popular, in part because her personality could be a tad abrasive at the best of times, but the only person I can recall insulting her intelligence is me, during the altercation that followed her crushing my bird, and that was because a) she had just destroyed the first truly beautiful work of art I had ever created in my life, and being as vicious verbally as I could possibly could was the only thing allowing me to restrain myself from trying to murder her so I was pretty much insulting her on every level known to the English language and b) at the time I didn't know she was in the remedial education group, because the only class I shared with her was Art, and while we interacted socially due to mutual friends it never came up.
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From:[personal profile] rainbow
Date: June 14th, 2014 03:51 am (UTC)
agree with willow -- you've either been very lucky or you know far few people with disabilities which translate into the slurs idiot and moron (i don't think i've heard cretin used that way, but i still avoid it).

i know people who have, in their lifetime and up to currently, experienced being called morons as intentional slurs specifically re their disabilities.

fewer who've been called idiots due to disability, but still several.

they ARE still being used as intentional, dehumanising slurs against those who either have intellectual disabilities or the sort of difficulties with communcation that leads to neurotypical people assuming that lack of speech = lack of thought.

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