Saturday, February 6, 2010

political correctness. evolution of 'retard'. English oddities.

D: it is the talk of the town.

A Palin spokeswoman seemed to back away from earlier criticism of conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh. Yesterday, when asked for comment on Limbaugh's use of the "r" word in a recent broadcast, Palin spokeswoman told Greg Sargent of the Washington Post, "Governor Palin believes crude and demeaning name-calling at the expense of others is disrespectful."


In calling a strategy developed by liberal health-care activists "fucking retarded," Rahm Emanuel spoke stupidly. It isn't that "the r word" can never be used appropriately, or that the White House chief of staff revealed himself to be a bigot; it's just that the developmentally disabled are wronged when a word referring to their condition is invoked as an epithet, and hurtful language like that is best avoided in civil society. The man made an obvious mistake.
D: I will look at 2 aspects of this discussion.
1) epithets and stigma in a minority group or disadvantaged part of society
2) the evolution of P.C. terms for said phenomenon.

First of all, I think we rarely actually mean stupid when we say highly stupid.
We often mean our debating opponent is being foolish, or obstinate.

We all encounter dogmatic positions that we cannot understand. My pet peeves include creationism, feminism and right-wing economics (neo-cons). Notice I say feminism, not feminists.
Like the Bible says, "hate the sin but love the sinner". Lord knows I do. <:

Right now, I'll discuss creationists, since I am reading "The Blind Watchmaker".
I have to assume creationists don't ever read the opposing position.
I have always refused to argue with them.
I've read their books. Always read both sides of an argument before thinking your position is justifiable.
The only creationists who read any legitimate science are the authors of creationist books.
And then, they take it out of context in tiny lil' sound bites or from out-dated sources to defend positions that those
authors don't even agree with!
If somebody needs to lie, misquote and bake studies to defend their position, then I assume their position is not defensible.
Exactly my problem with feminism - every time I went back to source studies they quote, I'd find their conclusions to be a case
of 'silly bugger'.
OK, I stand corrected. There is one scenario in which I will argue with die-hards who obviously will never budge from their unjustified position no matter what.
That is for an audience. The funny thing about zealots is that they think the argument is about THEM.
Nope. It is not about me either. Usually, it is pretty clear from the start that the 2 positions of the debaters will NOT change.
My position, because I have already considered their position. Their position, because they don't have a mind to change...
Play to the audience. The important thing here is to realize that victory consists of making moderates who hear the debate more sympathetic to your position at the end than when the debate (or argument) began.
Interestingly, one does that by winning by a margin, but no destroying your opponent's position - even if I can.
Why? That creates sympathy for the one losing so badly. So you cede part-marks here or there.
All the better if they start name calling. Like, say, calling me a retard.

Anyway, creationists are generally folks of at least average intelligence. Their IQ suggests this. They are, however, typically of a particular brand of religion. What Joseph Campbell referred to as "Aristotle's logic but devoid of transcendental elements". The words are there, but they refuse to acknowledge the limits of words or read anything between the lines, or behind and beyond the words. Very Western.
So I am not debating with somebody stupid. I'm arguing with somebody foolish and obstinate. But NOT stupid.
Obviously, if they finished high school (and quite possibly even if they did not), calling them stupid is not accurate.
If they started high school (or could have) then they are also clearly not retarded.

So what does 'retarded' mean?

re·tard 1 (r-tärd)
v. re·tard·ed, re·tard·ing, re·tards
To cause to move or proceed slowly; delay or impede.
To be delayed.
1. A slowing down or hindering of progress; a delay.
2. Music A slackening of tempo.
[Middle English retarden, from Old French retarder, from Latin retardre : re-, re- + tardre, to delay (from tardus, slow).]
re·tarder n.

D: strictly speaking, ignoring social stigma and epithet aspects, this is etymologically highly accurate.

D: It's been called many things. Retarded. Slow. Mentally challenged. Mentally disabled. And so on.
I'm sure it will be called something else in a decade.
It doesn't matter. If the social stigma remains, then the latest politically correct term will gradually lose it's brand-new shine and become tarnished by this stigma. Soon, instead of polishing the term again -addressing the stigma- we will instead drop the word and find some new term. And then we'll repeat the process all over again.

Let's look at the various terms that have been used in lieu of 'retarded' at various points.
1) slow- same thing, but more ambiguous.
2) disabled? Um, this not very accurate. They learn slower, and in a more limited fashion. They are not unable to learn.
3) challenged? I imagine a standard school curriculum and normal life skills would be. Also accurate.

Politically correctness abuses the meaning of words. It leaves behind a trail of words exhausted by abuse and mis-use.
There are semantic trash-heaps full of old words and phrases that nobody wishes to use any more.
We treat language like some sort of infinite resource. How we used to view fish in the ocean, or trees on land.
Whatever happened to reduce, reuse and recycle?

With Decimese, we actually build in a system whereby one can turn any term into a stigma or epithet.
Logic- mind - less - slow. Mind-slow. Tricky to spin this as a good thing - "he's a very special little boy!".
Mind-slow-adjectival. Or Mind-slow-(one) - noun. Easy to modify into be/become/behave slow-of-mind. And so on.
Not worried about social niceties? Just plain old mind-slow.
Mad and wanna bash somebody? You stop using the nice 'mentally challenged' term. Or whatever it is now. I've been out of university for 1-2 decades. I'm sure I don't have the latest trendy, popular words for everything now. I'm obsolete. And have no interest in trying to keep up. Language should not need to be fashionable. Like good clothes, they are timeless and need not change.
So you wanna insult somebody. Add social etiquette/prestige modifier with the plus/minus option. Pick minus.
Mentally challenged becomes mind-slow-social:minus. You get retard.
Are right royally mad as heck? You get F**King retard. Social very minus. Possibly expressed in the math part as divide.
Emphasis. Voila.

D: Yup, I'm aware that there is an eerie resemblance to Orwell's 1984 here.

doubleplus- - A Prefix used to create the superlative form of an adjective or adverb. (i.e. - pluscold and doublepluscold meant, respectively, 'very cold' and 'superlatively cold'.

"If you want a stronger version of "good", what sense is there in having a whole string of vague useless words like "excellent" and "splendid" and all the rest of them? "Plusgood" covers the meaning, or "doubleplusgood" if you want something stronger still. "
D; for the record, News-speak was more inspired by Basic English. NOT Esperanto, contrary to popular opinion.
Nice very brief overview.

I actually LIKE that 'Big Z' (aka: the Z-ster, Z-Daddy) includes a system for epithets. I just wish he had added even more detail!

Then again there are the derogatory affixes, and <-ach>, demonstrated in "Teach Yourself Esperanto" just as feminists would predict: by forming sex-specific insults. is "dirty woman, slut"; is "crone, contemptible female".

Time for a few jokes. Is a casino a feminine case? Is a neutrino a female eunuch? And if a is an unmarried woman, is an unmarried man a ? Well, actually, yes; a merry jest from Dr Zamenhof. Ha ha ha...(sob).

D: Sorry, couldn't resist that last part. We see the limits of a natural-feeling word formation system without careful syllable construction rules. Natural feel. Natural... ambiguity. This is like re-inventing not the wheel - which works- but the flat tire!

D: but we use somewhat, fairly, quite, very, totally. Somewhat more nuanced, but not endlessly so.
D: Besides, we can switch to the more varied Decimese consonant voiceless part of each pair- there are 7.
0 - 1 - few-some-.... all. SEVEN. That was easy.
He's a bit slow? Variant of few - less.
Compared to others?
# - single, dual, plural. 1,2,3.
Nuanced a bit - 0-4. No/not/never single, dual, plural, all/every. And so on.
A handful of naming conventions all endlessly recycled with permutations.

Humans insult each other. They get made, the exaggerate the short-comings of their foes.
A language needs to accept this. A language is intended for commutation. Bigots saying reprehensible things are also communicating. Decimese needs to be equipped for bigots too. At least it overtly indicates this. No hiding.

A few odd English words.
Fame. Famous. Infamous. Here is where it gets interesting.
Infamous.... infamy. "A day that will live in infamy."
But ... not infame. Not famy.
Even worse, when you consider that fame means 'well known', without a necessarily positive spin.
Wouldn't infame mean ... state of not well known? Obscure? Wouldn't infamous mean not-well-known?

The apparent 'clockwork morphology' of English if just that- apparent.
Suffixes -ous, -ic-, -al? Which. Memorize them all on a case-for-case basis.
I particularly like electrical. Electr-ic. Electr-al? Nope. BUT electr-ic-al. Adjectived... twice?!

1 comment:

Dino Snider said...

On the subject of politically correct language as fashion. I compare PC terms to clothing fashion. In grade 6, I was traumatized by my mother dressing me in bell bottoms long after they wre cool. Fast forward a lifetime, and bell bottoms are hot again- and I'm wearing 'em!
So too words. In the Depression, the economic term 'slowdown' was so emotioally volatile that we found a new, more neutral term to use. Which was...
RECESSION. Now we are using slowdown as a more neutral term. What was old is new again! [=