Words are very important to me. Language means much to me. I often forget to think about my words beforehand, but I try very hard. There are some words I never use. There are some words that offend me, even when said in jest. I am going to list these words and explain why I don't like them. I'd like to dedicate this post to my 11th and 12th grade students, and to the younger kids they influence every day.
Unless you are a doctor, discussing a medical term for stunted growth, I don't want to hear this word. EVER. A few years ago, yes, it was an acceptable term. No more. And not with me. I understand that language shortens over time. People want the fastest way to say what they want to say. It is very difficult to get a person to go from "mental retard" to "person with a cognitive disability" because it's longer. Extra words require extra thought. However, I don't like anyone to be identified by one characteristic of themselves. If unavoidable, I'd rather it be a positive attribute. Saying someone is "retarded" or "a retard" indicates that they are bad overall. It says that they are nothing but that word. Even if a person is not present who has a disability (even if they are but don't understand), it is not okay to make it okay for others to use that word. Because when it does offend, it is the worst kind of thing you can never take back. As a kid, I once locked a girl with a mild cognitive disability in a shed (with the help of her sister) because we didn't want to play with her. Despite the fact that I was "just a kid" and "didn't know better," I feel guilty for that action every single day. If we make it okay for people to do awful things (and say awful things) by doing and saying them ourselves, we are creating a society built on intolerance. This leads me to my next terrible word.
Gay (and all the words that go with it)
The sentence, "That's so gay," means that is full of joy. However, no one outside of the English department pays attention to that fact, so I don't want to hear it. If you are saying that a person is gay, as in they like someone of the same sex (otherwise known as homosexual), and, here's the part that's important, they ARE, then seriously, more power to you. As my sister says, "I say I'm gay all the time." My sister is a lesbian. See the distinction there? They make amazing commercials about thinking before you call someone "gay" now. There is one where two girls are talking in a convenience store and one of them calls something gay. The store clerk starts saying, "that's so Julie" about a similar something. Since the girl's name is Julie, she gets offended. The store clerk ends with something like, "Well, everyone says it. It's just an expression." If I'm not being clear enough, go watch the youtube video. Gay is not a swear word, not an insult, and not an acceptable way to influence those around you. By saying a person is "gay" you may not be homophobic, but you are letting people who are homophobic say it too. You're creating a bad culture. This leads me to my next few words.
Whore/Slut (and other derogatory terms about women)
These words, whether you use them to describe a woman or a man, in jest or seriously, they make it okay for women to degrade other women and for men to degrade women. This okayness is called Rape Culture. While I won't get into that in detail, a young kid who hears an older kid call someone a whore will probably repeat that word. They may not even know the meaning, but anyone who hears them say it will have one more example of someone downgrading women. Some people actually don't respect women. Some people are on the edge of not respecting women. Some women don't respect themselves. These people here those words, and they use them too. And it perpetuates. It goes on and on until everyone says it, and some people believe it. If that is the kind of world you want to live in, that's fine for you, but don't ruin it for the rest of us.
And it isn't just people. Calling things by these names makes it okay as well. I should stop ranting for now, but please, if you take nothing else away from this...think before you speak. Always.