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Do You Use The Word Retard As A Synonym To Stupid?



You abuse the word.

You say it with a lightness
that ignores my twenty-nine year old
sister playing with Barbie dolls
and unable to run her own bathwater
for fear she might scald the skin
off her thighs.

You say it with a lightness
that ignores my family’s celebration
when years and years of work
finally paid off and my sister learned to read
the year her brother, four years younger,
started high school.

You say it with a lightness
that ignores the woman who
would not let her daughter
be near my sister because
she thought my sister’s brain
might be contagious
and you say it with a lightness
that ignores my sister’s furrowing
brow when she overhears the word
you think she does not understand.

You say it with a lightness
that ignores every stare
my fearless sister walks under.

You say it with a lightness
that ignores the boy in my sister’s class
who bruises his temples with his fists
because he is frustrated hunting words
his tongue doesn’t understand how to form:
words like “toothpaste” and “basketball” and
“I don’t know how to tell you my body hurts.”

You say it with a lightness
that ignores the boy in my sister’s class
who dies at twenty-two because his contorted
body was born stamped with
an expiration date earlier than yours
and you say it with a lightness
that ignores my exhausted mother
trying to tell my sister what death is.

You say it with a lightness
that ignores everything else my sister is:
her love of rocking chairs and dancing,
fleece sweaters and Mexican food;
her fear of thunderstorms
and the sound of people fighting.

You abuse the word.

You do not know better
than to disrespect its weight.
After years and years of work,
maybe you will learn.

This poem © Gabriel Gadfly. Published Jun 8, 2011


Asked by dedicatedrider at 8:38 AM on Jun. 13, 2011 in Kids' Health

Level 18 (6,385 Credits)
This question is closed.
Answers (13)
  • Eloquently put (poem). Anon needs to learn a little empathy I think. Clearly you've never been with a person who has mental retardation when they've heard that word so casualy thrown out. They deflate, it kills their spirit and drive to keep trying against all odds. It is a hurtful, terrible slurr that should be erradicated from our vocabulary. People should be people, not defined by labels that mark their intelligence level, disabilities, race, or religion.

    Answer by Kimedbs at 8:50 AM on Jun. 13, 2011

  • No, never. I hate that word more than I dislike hearing cuss words.

    Answer by missanc at 9:08 AM on Jun. 13, 2011

  • i don't use it for people who have developmental delays. i use it to mean something that is slow, which as anon. pointed out is a correct way to use it. i would also suggest getting a scald guard installed on your water heater so your sister can be more independant and you won't have to worry about that. i am a big believer in letting people do as much as they can for themselves. when i was a special ed. teacher there were alot of things i let the kids do by themselves that the other teacher did for them.....she didn't even give them the chance to try. it's also a good idea to teach the kids the word is ignorant. ignorant doesn't mean rude as some people think, but it means uneducated or uninformed. i taught all of the kids this word and it really made a difference. it taught them that everyone is different....some are different physically and others mentally. sometimes the difference doesn't show until the mouth opens ;)

    Answer by princessbeth79 at 9:09 AM on Jun. 13, 2011

  • I don't, but I was raised with my disabled aunt. She was born with 'water on the brain' as my grandmother puts it, and she was unable to walk or do anything for herself.

    Answer by lovingmy4babies at 9:10 AM on Jun. 13, 2011

  • Yes, I have and yes, I have a family member who is mentally challenged. Here's the thing, the word retarded (as anon pointed out) means slow or less advanced. The word has become synonymous with mentally challenged people, but that's not it's ONLY meaning. Our society has become overly sensitive to the use of certain words, and it's mainly because we are uneducated to the original meanings of them (as in bitch = female dog, fagot = bundle of sticks, gay = happy, etc).  Your poem shows a very emotional perspective, but we need to stop focusing on words and labels and focus more on the actual person.  Compassion cares for people, being politically correct only cares what other people think of you.


    Answer by scout_mom at 9:54 AM on Jun. 13, 2011

  • yes, i use it, never directed towards anyone. And when i say it, I'm never thinking of someone who is mentally retarded. I think people have put so many connotations towards that word, that they themselves find it offensive when it shouldn't be.

    the word retard gets used all the time for meanings other than mentally challenged. To retard, means to slow down as in..."This drug will retard your heart rate" mother was told that the other day. No one thought of a retarded person. People have become so damn sensitive about that word. It's just a word & unless people are using to offend someone, i don't think there is anything wrong with it. My TV was being retarded last was running me down all you want, but I just have a normal grip on the Englsh language. It can be used as a verb and not a noun...and in that sense, it should not be considered offensive.


    Answer by samurai_chica at 9:30 AM on Jun. 13, 2011

  • I won't lie, I used to. I never meant to insult anyone. I was always used in a joking way. However, as I've gotten older and matured, I've realized that it is indeed offense, and therefore have stopped using that word in that way.

    Answer by LovingSAHMommy at 9:36 AM on Jun. 13, 2011

  • I did as a stupid kid, but I do not any longer. It took having a special needs child and being around other special needs kids for me to reach that point but I do spread awareness.

    Answer by Mipsy at 11:48 AM on Jun. 13, 2011

  • no. i think using that word against someone who isn't "normal" is very childish and evil. my ex h used to refer to my daughter as a retard.. she has birth defect that causes her to not see well.

    Answer by mrsary at 9:17 AM on Jun. 13, 2011

  • 2 down votes, huh? What happened to "It's just words"? LOL!

    Answer by MegMurry at 10:24 AM on Jun. 13, 2011