". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Monday, January 23, 2012


A few days ago I saw this on Facebook and it made me laugh, so I reposted it.

I have seen a few other people posting and/or "liking" it, but I have also found myself wondering if it is insensitive, making fun of something that ought not be made fun of. I was once pilloried for using the word "retarded." I was not trying to insult; I actually used the word to mean "delayed" in reference to my own understanding of a concept. But I have learned my lesson and I now try to avoid that word at all costs because I am afraid I will use it incorrectly and again offend someone.

I see the "attention deficit" label thrown around a lot these days. Usually people are referring to their own difficulty focusing on tasks and seeing things through. Some of my friends jokingly talk about their "mommy-induced ADD" and once I even wrote a blog post about the phenomenon. My husband has a friend who self-deprecatingly calls himself "ADD boy" because of his difficulty sticking with the task at hand.

But Attention Deficit Disorder is a real, clinical problem with which real people contend, is it not? If that is the case, why is it okay for people to joke about it? Or is it not? Should we avoid making light of ADD (or Asperger Syndrome or depression or menopause or any number of challenges that have a physical basis) in the same way that we avoid using the word "retarded" for fear of hurting those who are, in a very real way, living with that very condition? And if we don't need to do so, why don't we? What's the difference?


Melody said...

I wish more people would avoid making light of menopause. Mine has been standard, and not too difficult, but I resent that my current physical state can be the butt of a joke. I've even done it; "My menopausal brain is causing this," etc. I mean, can we joke in the same way about a man's impotence? I think not. But it's OK to snicker when a woman has hairs that shouldn't be there, or odors, or mood swings. In fact, Maxine has made an industry of it! OTOH, I'm "just" a menopausal crone, so my crabbiness will be gone in half an hour. Don't mind me.

Cheryl said...

See, that is my point exactly. It seems it's socially acceptable to make light of certain things but not of others, and I'm trying to figure out where the line is drawn. Maybe it has to do with whether or not someone is intending to insult. But it seems with some words the intent or particular usage doesn't matter.

Cheryl said...

It could be argued that to say, "That's so depressing" is insensitive to people who struggle with true depression or to call someone "neurotic" or "psychotic" is to make light of people with true neurosis/psychosis or to dismiss a middle-aged woman's emotions as "menopausal" is belittling. I could go on, but you get the picture. It seems all of these things get done with little or no fallout, while other words set off nuclear bombs, and I'm trying to figure out why.

Untamed Shrew said...

This kind of stems from the email discussion you and I had a few months ago, Cheryl. Words have meaning. I too have used the word "retarded" in its literal definition and have unintentionally offended. As a friend once said, the ultimate determiner of offense is the hearer. It is the hearer's responsibility to apply the best construction, and when they are unable, to either walk away or ask for clarification.

So I guess I walk the middle road. I try not to bulldoze my way through life with no regard for the weaker brother (whatever his weakness), but neither do I seek man's approval. When everything is offensive, nothing is.

Cheryl said...

Very wise words, Shrew. Thank you.