As the days get closer to King Charles III’s coronation, YouTube personality, H.G. Tudor, has been making more videos about Meghan Markle’s inevitable narcissistic response to the “ballyhoo”. H.G. Tudor claims to be a narcissistic psychopath, and he makes many videos about other people he deems narcissists. Personally, I’m not sure he’s as narcissistic as he claims he is. I’m sure he’d argue with me about it… and I could be wrong. I just don’t think a really hardcore narcissist would care about sharing knowledge and personal experiences with the public, to “educate” them about their “kind”. He claims he does it because it “suits him”, and it’s for his own purposes. Maybe… and I do think he is very narcissistic. But as to the extent of his narcissism, who knows? And who cares? That’s not the main idea of this post, anyway…
One thing I notice and appreciate about H.G. Tudor is that he’s very precise about language and word usage. That happens to be one of my idiosyncrasies, too, although I confess there are times when I use words incorrectly. It’s just that I find words fascinating, so when I am corrected, I try to remember the correction and mend my ways.
Recently, I’ve noticed H.G. Tudor pointing out the difference between the words “envy” and “jealousy”. Many people think of those two words as synonyms and use them that way accordingly. However, they actually have distinctive meanings. And true to his narcissistic nature, H.G. Tudor sneeringly points out the difference every time he runs across comments in which someone dares to use the word “jealousy” when they really mean “envy”. It seems like people more often use jealousy in place of envy, rather than vice versa.
For those who don’t wish to look it up (for the love of GOD!), here’s a quick rule of thumb. The word “envy” is correctly used when you want something someone else has. For instance, you might feel envy if your best friend comes home with a brand new sports car or gets a big promotion at their job. You might be envious of a friend who gets to travel to exotic locations or has a really good looking partner.
“Jealousy”, however, is properly used when you feel protective or territorial toward something or someone. That’s when you feel like your position is threatened somehow. For example, you might “jealously guard” your property, or feel jealous when a potential romantic rival flirts with your significant other.
I must confess that although I did know the difference between the two words, like a lot of Americans, I mix them up all the time. But H.G. Tudor is correct, so I shall try harder to use those words properly. It’s good for the brain to keep these things in mind, and my brain needs all the help it can get.
My personal pet peeve is when people misuse (and overuse) the words “use” and “utilize”. There is also a difference in the meanings between these two words, but people frequently interchange them. I distinctly remember one time, telling a friend on Facebook that there’s a difference between the two words, only to be taken to task by another one of his friends who insisted that I was wrong (I’m not, by the way… For the love of God, look it up!).
The word “use” means to “consume from a limited supply or take something to achieve a result.” The word “utilize” means to use something beyond its intended purpose or in an unexpected way. They are NOT synonyms, although so many people mix them up that they’re probably by now considered synonyms in many dictionaries based only on popular usage.
You’d use a frying pan to cook your eggs. You’d utilize a frying pan to knock your husband unconscious for coming home drunk. You’d use a spoon to eat pudding. You’d utilize a spoon to open a can of paint. See what I mean?
A lot of people seem to think that “utilize” is a more “advanced” word, so they employ it as a means of sounding more formal or educated. Maybe it is a more advanced word, but only when it’s used properly. There are also situations in which both words will work. For instance:
I use old newspapers to line my cat’s litter box.
I utilize old newspapers to line my cat’s litter box.
Utilize works in that case, because newspapers are originally meant to be read, not spread in litter boxes for absorbing cat waste. But you wouldn’t correctly employ the word “utilize” in a situation in which you’ve employed an object for its intended purpose. For instance:
I utilize a curling iron to curl my hair.
Curling irons are meant for curling hair, so it would be more correct to write:
I use a curling iron to curl my hair.
I use a rake to gather the leaves in the fall, but I utilize a rake to beat my neighbor’s ass through the fence. (That would be quite an unexpected way to use a rake, right?)
I already have a lot of rather uptight language pet peeves like this… but I have to confess that H.G. Tudor has added another to my list. I will now make a point of using the words “envy” and “jealousy” properly. It’s the right thing to do.
Now… Mr. Bill has to leave town today, and I have some other stuff to get done. So, I think I shall end today’s blog rantings and get on with the day. I do hope you’re able to use the information I’ve provided in today’s post to good effect somehow. Maybe you’ll even be able to utilize it somehow, too.
I remember back in the early aughts, while job hunting, I got hooked on Mad TV. There was a hilarious sketch featuring a paranoid middle management guy named Sean Gidcomb who was obsessed with the office supply closet. He would accuse his co-workers of being “sneaky snakes”, stealing the pencils, staplers, toilet paper, and computer paper. He was rigid about their work habits and absenteeism. And he held the prospect of being fired over their heads to keep them in line.
The character of Sean Gidcomb is, of course, an exaggerated stereotype of a certain type of person we all know. If we didn’t know someone who acted like Sean in some way, this routine wouldn’t be funny because people couldn’t relate to it. However, I’m willing to bet that most Americans– and probably a lot of Europeans (especially Germans)– can relate to this type of busybody.
I don’t work with other people very much anymore, so it’s been a long time since I had to deal with someone like Sean in the workplace. However, I do often run into this type in my online endeavors. These are the hyper-anal types of people who appoint themselves the law and order keepers. I usually refer to them as “overly helpful people”, but they aren’t always coming from an apparent place of help. Sometimes, that behavior comes from a deep need to look superior to other people, or to subtly tear people down… in a “sneaky snake” kind of way. I think that kind of behavior is meant to make someone who feels insecure or “small” feel better about themselves by being subtly negative or corrective. They don’t want to be obvious about their negativity, because that would not be socially acceptable. So, instead of being outwardly rude or upfront, they’ll be sneakily passive aggressive and covertly controlling.
I happen to be very sensitive to this type of behavior. Much like people who snipe at others in underhanded ways because of childhood trauma, I am sensitive to that manipulative behavior due to my own baggage from childhood. I grew up around controlling, manipulative people who were always issuing corrections and criticisms. So, when someone acts that way toward me as an adult, I tend to notice immediately and issue a response.
Many times, my responses tend to be more obvious call outs, which put the other person on the spot. I don’t mind criticism or correction when it’s really warranted, but I truly don’t appreciate passive aggressive digs. And I almost always notice them, too. Then, when I respond, the other person tries to gaslight, saying that what I read or heard wasn’t really what I read or heard.
Here’s an example from 2014 or so… (just to keep this post somewhat safe from a shitshow).
There was a woman in my online life that I used to know from a messageboard I hung out on in the days before Facebook. I found her incredibly insufferable. It was like she went out of her way to be rude and condescending to me. Back in the days when we posted on the messageboard, this woman would seemingly make it a point to contradict or criticize. I tried to ignore her, but she just continued her behavior, either not realizing or not caring how obnoxious and overbearing she was. (for more on this, click here)
I tried to be assertive, but she got offended and sent me angry private messages, accusing me of “insulting” her. I wasn’t insulting– I was pointing out that I found her comments rude, belittling, and offensive. She insulted me first, which is why I responded in the direct way I did. But no, I never called her names, told her to “fuck off and die”, or anything like that. What I wrote was, “Whether or not you mean to come across that way, your comments to me are belittling and offensive.”
Finally, once the messageboard fell apart, we all moved to Facebook, and I unfriended her.
Unfriending the offender worked fine for a long time. But unfortunately, we had mutual friends, and I would still run into her on occasion. One day, I left a comment on a mutual friend’s post, and the overly helpful person decided to leave a little passive aggressive dig that I found very offensive.
Here’s an excerpt from my original post about this on the Blogspot version of OH:
I was fine with letting her be her and letting me be me… until a couple of nights ago, when a friend posted about marijuana. She wanted to know if we thought it should be legalized. I said it should; that way, I could smoke it next week while hanging around my family.
Ms. OH pipes up with a quip about how some laws were meant to be broken, insinuating that smoking pot is no big deal. And maybe it’s not if you don’t have a job where drug testing is done. I wrote that I don’t have a problem with recreational pot use, but Bill doesn’t like marijuana because he used to live with a couple of potheads in college. He didn’t like that the pot seemed to make them less than ambitious. He also doesn’t like smoke.
Ms. OH comes back with “He’s never lived with alcoholics? 😉 ;)”
Looks like a simple comment, right? But because we used to hang out on a messageboard, I think she knew full well that alcoholism is a sore subject to me. Why would you add winkie smilies if you aren’t implying that you “know” Bill has had “experience” with drunks? If it were an honest and serious question, there wouldn’t be any winking going on, right?
I think if she’d left off the winkie smilies, I probably wouldn’t have gotten so aggravated. Alcoholism is a very sore subject for me and I don’t think it’s funny. Alcoholism has personally caused me a lot of pain. People I love have also been hurt due to alcoholism. I grew up with an alcoholic who abused me. Moreover, some might even call me an alcoholic because I really do like my booze– though Bill says he doesn’t think I’m abusive or mean when I drink.
But even if alcoholism weren’t a sore subject, Idon’t like her and I don’t enjoy interacting with her. This week has been stressful enough for me, dealing with people who are crazy makers. I feel pretty certain I don’t want to interface with Ms. OH again. So I decided to block her.
I told Bill that I thought I’d soon get an email from her. Sure enough, I did. She wrote that she didn’t understand and demanded to know what she’d said to offend me. Seems to me that if someone blocks you on Facebook, it means they don’t want to talk to you. But she can’t accept that and has to know why… and she seems to think I owe her an explanation, as if we were actual friends.
Years later, as I think about this, I realize that there are a lot of people out there who struggle with their own feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, and low self-esteem. They’re always looking for someone to pick on in some way. When they spot someone who seems like an easy target, they can’t seem to help themselves.
I know I have served as an “easy target” to a lot of people. Maybe it’s because I am the youngest of four by more than several years, and my family regularly discounted and belittled me when I was a child. So I still have that unsure side to me that comes out, attracting “overly helpful” people like blood to a shark. However, just as our dog, Noyzi, loves people naturally, but is automatically affected by prior abuses that make him skittish and scared, I am affected by that unfinished old business.
Naturally– I am not as unsure as I seem. Naturally, I am someone who is pretty assertive. But I was taught not to be that way by controlling, manipulative, critical people when I was not in a position to defend myself as well. It’s hard to lose that old way of surviving, even when it no longer works. So I still have people in my life who are comfortable being shitty to me.
Below is more from my 2014 post:
It is possible that [the sneaky snake overly helpful offender’s] comment about alcoholics was innocent, but I am guessing it wasn’t. I’ve been around her enough to know that she’s one to be snarky. She has a way of looking down on people. I don’t think she was intending to be funny or even friendly. Besides, I honestly think she’s an asshole; so this decision was years in the making. To be clear, I didn’t block her because of one stupid comment; I blocked her because she has a very long history of irritating me and most interactions I have with her raise my blood pressure. And when I have told her why she gets under my skin, she gets pissy.
She just rubs me the wrong way and either can’t or won’t modify her behavior. And I would be wrong to ask her to modify it. She obviously has friends and loved ones who love her just the way she is. I’m obviously the one with a problem, so I just decided to quietly walk away so I don’t have to read her shit anymore.
But she apparently doesn’t want us to part company… or she wants to engage me in some dialogue as to why I don’t like her. I just want to say to her, “Don’t go away mad. Just go away.”
Not everyone is going to like you. Lots of people don’t like me for whatever reason. Not even a mild mannered, even tempered guy like Bill is universally liked by everyone. You’re not a bad person, Ms. OH. You just get on my fucking nerves. So please just leave me alone. There are a lot of people out there who will happily be buddies with you. I am not one of them.
Years later, I unblocked Ms. OH because, at the time, I was a lot more conservative about people I blocked on social media. Nowadays, when I block someone, they tend to stay that way. In any case, when I popped up on her radar again, Ms. OH sent me a private message apologizing for whatever it was she did to upset me. I appreciated that and accepted her apology, and life has gone on without her particular brand of passive aggressive microaggressions. However, more of her ilk have popped up– giving me a chance to practice being assertive.
Yesterday, I was watching cop videos on YouTube, and there was a cop who incorrectly used the non-word “irregardless”. A lot of the cops I watch on YouTube annoy me anyway, because quite a few of them are high on power trips. I know they have difficult jobs that are very stressful. Some of them have other issues that exacerbate, like bad marriages or substance abuse issues (lots of drunk cop videos on YouTube, too). I probably shouldn’t watch those videos, since they seem to trigger my authority issues.
Those who know me, know that I tend to be a stickler when it comes to words. “Irregardless” is not a word that well educated people should use, because it’s a double negative. The word “regardless” means without regard. When you add the unnecessary prefix “ir” to it, you get “without without regard.”
I posted that the word “irregardless” is not a word. And it’s not. I even double checked before I made that claim. Some might say I was being critical when I posted my comment, and in fairness, I was. But the actual offenders weren’t going to read it. It would be different if I posted that to a friend. It was posted to no one in particular, as the person who said it is some cop on YouTube in Wisconsin.
Just as some people abuse reflexive pronouns, and overuse fifty cent words like “utilize”, when they could just as easily use “use”, in an attempt to sound smarter, others think they should say or write “irregardless” instead of “regardless”. It’s a pet peeve of mine, but easy enough to ignore when I complain about it, especially when I put the complaints on my own page.
You’d think my comment wouldn’t attract controversy. And yet it did. Someone asked me what my “criteria” was for a real word.
That struck me as a pot stirring dig, because I don’t think the person who asked it was being serious. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be a dig, but that’s how the question came across to me. I’ve known this person for years and I’m pretty sure she knows that “irregardless” isn’t a real word. She just wanted to call me out, like a sneaky snake… maybe knock me down a peg. Maybe that’s an appropriate thing to do sometimes, but I didn’t think that particular post warranted a challenge. So, instead of answering the question, I asked one myself.
“Why do you ask?”
The response was telling, as the person wrote that they were “just curious” and “had no agenda”. The “no agenda” part kind of confirmed my initial suspicions that the question about my “criteria” was a dig. I was reminded of when our toilet clogged in our last rental house and the landlady immediately said, “We’ve never had this problem before!”, when I had never accused her of anything. When people add extra unsolicited information when something goes awry, it’s usually because they do have an agenda of sorts… and are maybe trying to establish an alibi or cast blame.
Former tenant did the same thing when she volunteered that she and her husband were moving mid tour because they needed to be closer to their babysitter. We never asked them why they were moving, and simply telling us they needed to be closer to the sitter sounded disingenuous. If they’d just said they needed to be closer to work, that would have been a lot more believable. The bit about the sitter rendered their excuse to bullshit, kind of like a person telling me they have “no agenda” is likely bullshit, too.
I know some people might think that my reaction to this is ridiculous and over-the-top. And to those people, I’d basically say that people discounting my reactions is one reason why they are so extreme. Because I have a right to feel any way I do, and I have a right to express myself. You might think it’s crazy and an overreaction, but I have these reactions for a reason… just like people issue those little passive aggressive digs for a reason.
I’m sure the people who do this kind of shit don’t actually mean to be irritating. I know I irritate people. I generally don’t mean to do so. A lot has to do with old baggage I need to unload. I think most people who issue passive aggressive digs are looking for control, or a way to even the playing field somehow. And my over-the-top responses to them have a lot to do with my own authority issues… which come from having a lot of controlling and criticizing people in my life when I was growing up. I don’t respond to control freaks very well anymore. I tend to rebel, sometimes, by getting pissed and writing blog posts. Maybe that’s passive aggressive, too… but I don’t want to get in a fight. I just want to be heard.
People can always choose whether or not to read the blog, right?
Anyway… that’s today’s deep thought. Now, time to get dressed. We need to go to the hardware store and get a new sun umbrella. Our old one (of two years) broke yesterday. So, sayonara, until tomorrow (probably).
While I’m reposting blog entries, here’s another book review I wrote for the now defunct review site, Epinions.com, on September 17, 2013. Just reposting it so I don’t lose it forever.
Yesterday, while hanging out on Facebook, I lamented to my fellow books top reviewers here on Epinions that my latest reading project, Melissa Mohr’s 2013 book Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing, was taking forever to read. A few hours later, I had finished the book after a couple of weeks of reading. Though I did complain to my husband, Bill, about all the profanity in The Big Lebowski when we watched it the other night, I have to admit that I enjoy swearing. I don’t understand why so many people get upset over so-called filthy language. For me, the swearing in The Big Lebowski had gotten annoying because it was the same words uttered over and over again and had become boring. It wasn’t so much because the “f-word” itself is offensive to me.
Melissa Mohr, whose book was introduced to me on Facebook by famously foul mouthed singer, producer, and radio host, Red Peters, has attempted to explain where swearing comes from. In her book, Holy Sh*t, she explains the history behind some of the dirtiest words in English, linking history, literature, and even art and providing a comprehensive and scholarly explanation behind words like f*ck, c*nt, sh*t, and even the “n-word”.
The curious student in me lapped up all this new information enthusiastically, though not without effort. I appreciated the way Mohr married history and current events to write a lucid discussion of the origin of swear words and curses. This is a great book for foul mouthed nerds.
I was surprised that the overall negative attitude about cursing seems to have evolved relatively recently. I was particularly interested in Mohr’s discussion about the so-called n-word, which has gotten a number of people in trouble lately. We’ve become so sensitized to that word that even using words that sound similar, like niggle and niggardly, neither of which have any racist connotations at all, can get a person fired or forced to resign from their job. Mohr relates that scandalous word to hate speech and provides an interesting discussion about court cases in which using that word could be considered “hate speech” that is not protected under the First Amendment, and when it’s simply rude.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, it took me a long time and considerable effort to get through this book. While I did find Mohr’s writing scholarly and competent, I didn’t find it especially entertaining. Holy Sh*t really is an academic look at cursing. Mohr did an admirable job researching and providing notes so readers who want to study more about the phenomenon of swear words can read on in other scholarly books. It’s not so much a book intended to entertain as it is to inform, although I’m sure many readers are able to be both as they read Mohr’s history of swearing.
Frankly, I have done a lot of studying in my lifetime and am somewhat less interested in academic books than I might have been when I was younger. On the other hand, I can’t deny that I learned a lot reading Holy Sh*t and it was ultimately worth the effort. There was a time long ago when people thought nothing of cursing. Mohr explains why we suddenly had “words we couldn’t say on television” and why some people determined that people who cuss are “lazy”, “uneducated”, and “low class”. She enlightens those of us who wonder why we have “bad words” and who determined that those words are bad.
This is a good book for people who love language. If you have any English majors on your Christmas list, this might be a great book for them to read; if they aren’t offended by profanity, anyway. It certainly was good reading for this former English major, even though I’m trying to read less lofty books these days.
I give it four stars.
As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.
Here’s a post I wrote in November 2018. It’s mostly “as/is”.
Negative comments are interesting. A lot of times, they inspire me in ways you wouldn’t expect. I have kind of a strange mind sometimes. It goes off into tangents, some of which turn out to be totally goofy. Yesterday, Bill and I were directed into goofy territory when I looked up the meaning of the expression “bite me”. A couple of days ago, I wrote a post entitled “Hate my blog? Bite me.” My inspiration for that post came, in part, from some drama that has erupted on my blog recently. It’s not just “Wondering Why’s” negative comment about how I’m so bitter and post so much “inappropriate” stuff. It’s also because of other people who feel the need to try to “police” what I write in my blog.
“The Overeducated Housewife” is my first and probably most read blog simply due to the fact that it’s eight years old (ETA: in 2021, it’s 11 years old). But around these parts, it’s my travel blog that gets more notice (no longer true). Because of the community I live in and the fact that military folks can be excruciatingly uptight about some things, I try to keep the travel blog somewhat clean. Every now and then, a little profanity slips in, and I make no secret about how much Bill and I enjoy booze tourism. We aren’t necessarily a “wholesome” couple. But I do try to keep the personal drama to a minimum on that blog. It’s somewhat PG by my standards.
This blog, by contrast, gets a lot of weird shit posted on it. Some of it is very personal, profane, and “inappropriate”. Some of it’s kind of silly and funny. I use a lot more swear words on this blog. It’s “rated R”.
Then I have the music blog, which I update maybe once or twice a month. I would probably delete it altogether, but for some reason, people are obsessed with my post about Richard Carpenter’s daughter, Mindi. To date, my post about Mindi Carpenter has garnered well over 100,000 hits. It’s my most popular post of all time. I really don’t know why, but as long as it gets hits, I figure I might as well get some ad revenue. (still thinking of deleting it because I never update it much anymore, but I want to get paid, first)…
Anyway… back to the subject at hand. I was writing about tangents, and it’s time I came back from the latest one. A couple of days ago, I wrote my post about people who hate blogs and bloggers. I used the expression, “Bite me.” I used that expression because it’s a somewhat sanitized version of saying “fuck off”. In truth, I am much more likely to say “fuck off” than “bite me”. In fact, I can’t think of any time recently that I invited someone to “bite me”. It’s just not a phrase I use very often. “Fuck off”, on the other hand, is a favorite expression of mine. It’s very ladylike, you see.
Sometimes I get curious about language. I find the origin of words and expressions fascinating. I love to read Urban Dictionary, where people post definitions for common slang words and idioms in the English language. I looked up “bite me.” and, sure enough, Urban Dictionary had a definition. But then I stumbled across another site called English Language & Usage. Six people also included information about the origin of the expression “bite me”. The first answer posted was rather pedestrian, but the second one was fascinating. Have a look…
This made me laugh hysterically for a few minutes. I was especially amused by a subsequent comment left by someone who said it was equivalent to saying “Eff you”, then apologizing that he could not bring himself to “say” it.
While you can use the phrase when you mean “deal with it”, I am of the opinion that it most emphatically doesn’t mean “deal with it”, but instead is closer to when you don’t like what the other person has said or done, and express your contempt. It’s really not different than “eff you” (sorry, I can’t bring myself to say it). – ErikENov 27 ’12 at 9:04
Some people really cringe at the idea of using vulgarity and being “inappropriate”… I think they must live very constrained lives, but if it makes ’em happy, what’s it to me?
The person who provided the above screenshot information immediately charmed me for being so apologetic and polite about the original raunch factor of “bite me”. I had no idea. There are several more answers posted about the origin of “bite me”, most of which caused me to giggle and reminded me of the old show, Crank Yankers, which used to be aired on Comedy Central a lot. Crank Yankers consisted of comedians using puppets to act out crank calls they made to people. There was a character on that show named Niles Standish, who was “inappropriate” on the phone as they pranked some unsuspecting guy who was looking for some phone sex.
I don’t often say “bite me” to people, because to me, it’s about as non-sensical as calling someone a douche. I have ranted about my aversion to the word “douche” used as an insult on several occasions, so I’m not going to rehash it. I’ll just say that, to me, calling someone a “douche” doesn’t make sense, nor does it make sense to say “bite me”, although I do know the conventional meaning of both expressions. I just used “bite me” a couple of days ago because it seemed less profane, and I’d rather not be profane in my blog post titles, if I can help it. But then, if you think about it, calling someone a “douche” or inviting them to bite you is actually very offensive if you consider what those expressions really mean. It’s just that they’re used so often that people are now kind of unfazed by them. They’ve become almost sanitized… and even somewhat “appropriate”. You might even hear someone say it in church.
Because I enjoy oversharing, as regular readers of this blog certainly know, I shared on Facebook that Bill and I were having a stimulating discussion about vulgar English idioms. I wasn’t surprised when a number of my friends who know me well had a good laugh at that. Bill and I often discuss things that would never cross anyone else’s minds. That’s why we’re perfect for each other. We ended the evening by watching early episodes of America’s Next Top Model, where there was certainly a lot of “inappropriate” behavior. I think many people secretly love it when others are “inappropriate”. It’s the sticks in the mud who feel that a high level of decorum must be maintained by all means that ruin it for everyone else.
I’m sure plenty of people read some of my posts and wonder “WTF is wrong with that woman?” They wouldn’t be the first to wonder that. My own mother used to loudly exclaim, “Where did you come from?!” whenever I said or did anything she found inappropriate, obnoxious, or weird. I always wanted to tell her that I came from an unfortunate night she spent fucking my father… and then I slid out of her womb, between her legs, all purplish and wet, kicking and screaming into the hellhole of life. But, because I do have a sense of decorum and did not want to be knocked into the next month, I did not tell her where I literally came from. The fact is, I came from their come… She could have spared us all a lot of grief if she and my dad had just taken a cold shower and gone bowling or something. Ah well… I will keep thinking and writing about goofy, inappropriate shit that upsets, shocks, annoys, and offends people. Then, some blessed day, I won’t be able to write anymore and the world will be spared these weird, inappropriate postings from me.
In May of 2013, Bill and I were sitting at a train station in Venice, Italy. We were waiting to catch our ride to Florence on Italo, a then brand new private Italian train company. As we were waiting, we heard an announcement in Italian about a train that was significantly delayed. The pre-recorded announcement did not use the word “delay”. Instead, it included an Italian incarnation of the word “retard”, used as an adjective.
Bill turned to me and said, “Now you see… there’s an instance in which the word “retard” is used in a completely non-offensive way.”
I have never forgotten that conversation, especially as more and more “woke” types feel the need to outright ban certain words from the English language. I am all for avoiding deliberately insulting others, especially those who suffer from any kind of intellectual disabilities that are beyond their control.
However, as I realized when we were at the train station in Italy, words have many nuances, usages, and definitions. Some words are inherently offensive, and almost always used in a hurtful way. And sometimes, people deliberately take offense at the use of a “taboo” word when absolutely no harm is intended. That causes problems that could just as easily be avoided if the person would simply be more mature and stop being willfully ignorant.
It’s been many years since I last used the word “retard” in the taboo way, although I will admit that in the 1980s, it was a word that was flung around on playgrounds and school busses with the greatest of ease. It was also used in plenty of 70s and 80s era comedies, both on television and in the movies. I can think of two films off the top of my head– very popular movies that still remain popular today–in which characters use the word “retard” as an insult.
Today, those films would probably not be made with the word “retard” used as an insult, although I would not be surprised if some incarnation of the word “douche” was used in its place. Personally, I find the word “douche” offensive for several reasons, but I’m not campaigning to have it banned. In many cultures, the word “douche” just means “shower”, and is perfectly useful and non-offensive. So rather than trying to get the word “douche” banned, I simply avoid using it myself.
As a lover of language, I can’t quite bring myself to jump on the “ban-wagon” when it comes to any word, even the ones that can start riots. I never think of words as things that should ever be banned, even when they are deemed very “offensive”. Instead, I am more concerned about context and the attitude behind the use of language. And yes, that means that I think words that people routinely campaign to have struck from the language are sometimes acceptable to use in certain contexts. To avoid being offended, it’s up to people to grow up and not be deliberately obtuse. Otherwise, they’re doomed to stay butthurt.
This morning, someone shared the below post on Facebook. If I had already had my coffee, I probably would have just rolled my eyes and ignored it. But instead, I left a response. Basically, I wrote that the word “retard” is only a slur if it’s used as an insult. There are other ways to use it that are totally neutral.
I knew I might regret leaving that comment, but the friend who shared this is usually a very understanding person. I figured she’d get what I mean. Besides, while I understand people being aggravated by insulting, demeaning language, I am aggravated by people who presume to tell me what I can or cannot say or write.
I think people should be responsible for their own use of language; most of them don’t need the language police to remind them to be “politically correct”. Frankly, I’m fed up with people who use social media as a place for that kind of soap box activism, particularly when all they’ve done is shared someone else’s viral post. Facebook was originally supposed to be fun, wasn’t it?
Sure enough, it wasn’t long before someone came along and tried to school me about how the word “retard” is never acceptable. This person wrote that it’s no longer used by professionals and it’s outdated, etcetera, etcetera.
My response– simply because I was feeling stubborn and my verbal restraint reflex was somewhat “retarded”– was that yes, in fact, sometimes the word “retard” is perfectly acceptable and unoffensive. That word has other meanings besides the insulting one. The word “retard”, when used as a verb, means “to slow or delay”. That was how it was used at the train station in Italy. No one got offended when it was used in that way. I can think of other ways the word “retard” can be used that shouldn’t cause offense to anyone.
The person who challenged me came back and posted that she’s got autism. Actually, I believe she wrote that she’s “autistic”, and has an “autistic” child. I was a little surprised that she put it that way, since I thought the emphasis was supposed to be on the person rather than the condition. Like– I thought it was more politically correct to say, “I have autism” rather than “I’m autistic.” But I am not in that world, so I don’t know, and I wouldn’t presume to tell someone who is in that world how they should refer to themselves.
Besides, I don’t think of autism as something inherently good or bad. My husband’s older daughter is supposedly on the spectrum, but we know she is a brilliant artist and she’s proven that there’s nothing wrong with her intellect. I don’t know if she’s sorry she has autism. She no longer speaks to Bill. But, based on what I know about her, she’s got plenty of things going for her besides the condition of autism.
I responded to my friend’s friend that I was sorry that people have used the word “retard” in an offensive way, and that she is offended by its use. But I am not going to be told that I can’t use a word that I know is perfectly acceptable in many situations, simply because some group says it’s “offensive”, in and of itself. That’s wrong.
The challenger then asked me to use the word “retard” in an unoffensive way. So I wrote something along the lines of, “I see no reason to retard the development of languages by banning specific words.”
She then wrote that my answer was “stupid”. There was more to her comment, but I quit reading, because she made it clear that respectful communication and education weren’t her goals. Instead, it appeared that she wanted to disparage my intellect by referring to my answer as “stupid”. That’s brilliant, isn’t it? I guess she didn’t see the irony. She’s lecturing me about not ever using the word “retard” because it’s disrespectful and hurtful, but then she uses the word “stupid” to describe my comment and, based on her perceived tone, my intellect.
I truly didn’t want to get into a pissing match with this person, since I don’t know her and she doesn’t know me. If she did know me, she might be surprised by how “not stupid” I am, at least compared to the average person. Even if she did still think I’m stupid after meeting me, that would obviously be her uninformed and incorrect opinion.
I realized, however, that my time would probably be wasted trying to continue the conversation. As I didn’t want to get into a legitimate argument, I wrote “So now you are insulting me. That’s very nice. Have a good day.”
Normally, when a person writes “Have a good day.”, that means they’re done with the discussion and are politely trying to bow out. I figure that’s a more respectful way of leaving the conversation than telling them to “fuck off” is. But, as this person says she has autism, I guess she didn’t pick up on the social cue. She came back and wrote, “Feeling insulted, huh?” then continued with more insults…
I guess, if I were going to assign an emotion to how I felt about her response, it would be “annoyed” or maybe “puzzled”. It does seem strange to be preached at by a stranger about not offending people with intellectual disabilities by calling them “retarded” (which I never did), and then, in the next breath, having that same person refer to my comment as “stupid”.
If I had written that I thought her comment was “retarded”, what would her response be? Isn’t “stupid” just as offensive as “retarded”? At least the word “retard”, even when used an insulting way, indicates a medical condition that a person can’t help. Stupid just means a person or thing is dull-witted and unintelligent, whether or not they can help being that way. I can’t think of many ways the word “stupid” could be used that isn’t negative.
I wrote something akin to, “No, I’m not ‘feeling insulted’. You’re being hypocritical, and I have other things to do. So kindly enjoy your day, and I will continue to speak and write as I please.” I truly wasn’t “insulted” by her comment, because I would have to care about her opinion to be insulted by it. But I will admit to being annoyed by her comments and her erroneous presumptions about me. Especially, since I truly didn’t attempt to insult her.
Then she wrote some sarcastic remark about how I can keep “offending” people with special needs, but at that point, I used my block button. Because I do actually have better things to do with my time today than argue with a perfect stranger about my vocabulary. Hell, cleaning the lint out of my belly button would be a better use of my time than continuing that unproductive discussion with someone whose mind is currently closed. She obviously didn’t see my point, and wasn’t going to try to see it. Instead, she was hellbent on “winning” the argument, and doing so in a disrespectful, non-empathic way. Still, she failed to convince me, so I guess she can keep fighting the good fight with someone else.
Some people might point out that I probably “asked” for this unpleasant exchange. I would agree with them that it’s mostly pointless to point out these kinds of language discrepancies among friends. A person who would share an image like the one above probably has strong feelings about the subject matter, but hasn’t thought very long and hard about them, and is just looking for likes and loves, rather than actual commentary.
On the other hand, I do get annoyed when some busybody presumes to correct my language. I’m an adult, and fully responsible for what I say and do. If I say something egregiously obnoxious or offensive, it may be appropriate to call me out for that. But I don’t really need my friends to pre-emptively instruct me on the proper way to use language.
Moreover, I think my opinions matter as much as anyone else’s do. I’ve spent my life being told that my thoughts and feelings don’t matter, so I tend to be strong-willed and argumentative about these things, now that I am an adult. I realize it’s hard to be assertive about such things without still inadvertently offending people. Such is life.
I do get irritated when people try to tell me how I’m feeling or what I’m thinking. I think it’s disrespectful to try to read people’s minds, especially when they’re strangers. Maybe I would be happier if I just “let it go”, but I think that people who are able to do that often don’t think about much more other than what’s right in front of them.
Either that, or they’re like that Japanese monk Bill and I ran into a few years ago, who just radiated peace, serenity, and calmness. I have seen very few people like that in my lifetime. I would actually LOVE to be like that monk… although I realize I am ASSUMING he is actually as calm as he appeared. For all I know, he’s got a hot temper.
Perhaps today I will go out of my way to use the word “retard” in non-offensive ways. Of course, around here, most people speak German and don’t speak to me, anyway, so that effort might be lost on them. Also… when it comes to grammar policing, all bets are off.
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