Depth of Terminology

Work created by Nicole Long

Work created by Nicole Long

Nicole Long, Staff Editor/Staff Writer

I hear many things at high school, but there is one thing that always bothers me. Now, I don’t usually pay attention to people and what they say about others, but I pay attention when someone improperly uses the word retarded just to call someone stupid.  That word is supposed to be used for a medical diagnosis, but a lot of people don’t know that. That’s why I am finally writing about it.

There are a number of people who don’t know, or understand, that words have specific meanings and uses. It’s important to respect the proper and improper uses of words. A couple of the most commonly misused words are gay and retarded. I don’t think it is appropriate to use those terms so freely, especially when they are medical terms.

The formal definition of the medical term retarded means less advanced in mental, physical, or social development than what’s usual for one’s age. However, that is not the common usage for the word. The meaning often used is the informal definition of very foolish or stupid, which I hear the most among teenagers and young adults. Perhaps this is because they have not been taught the proper use of retarded.

Gay has a couple different connotations, due to the feelings or ideas that the word suggests. Merriam-Webster states the formal definition of the word gay as “keenly alive and exuberant; having or inducing high spirits.” Oxford Dictionary shows the other denotation of gay as “homosexual”. Among teenagers the most common use of the word, which is actually the informal usage, appears to be “stupid” or “ridiculous”.

The terms retarded and gay are both used for complex situations, but when it is used in a simple, negative way, it’s offensive and hurtful. Everyone deserves respect.