This 'spastic' debacle (redux)

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Post by Optimus Prime Rib » Thu Dec 02, 2010 5:42 pm

Karl wrote: Using a word in a new way does not redefine the word unless the new definition is accepted by the vast majority of people.
UK population: 61.1 million
US population:308.4 million


I would call that a vast majority.

Therefore, spastic is now no longer an offensive word.

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Post by Guest » Thu Dec 02, 2010 5:50 pm

By that logic... why aren't you Chinese? ;)


Retrospectively, shouldn't we have been up-in-arms over the potential connotations of that Headmaster head Spasma?

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Post by Optimus Prime Rib » Thu Dec 02, 2010 6:29 pm

Rebis wrote:By that logic... why aren't you Chinese? ;)
Ni Hao!
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Post by Kaylee » Thu Dec 02, 2010 7:00 pm

Optimus Prime Rib wrote:
Karl wrote: Using a word in a new way does not redefine the word unless the new definition is accepted by the vast majority of people.
UK population: 61.1 million
US population:308.4 million


I would call that a vast majority.

Therefore, spastic is now no longer an offensive word.

Prepare yourselves for assimilation.
Do all Americans agree with you and do all the British agree with me?

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Post by Brendocon » Thu Dec 02, 2010 7:08 pm

Karl wrote:I never knew I had so much power, albeit 1/6th if yours!
Well The Dark Side did always claim to be stronger.

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Post by Metal Vendetta » Thu Dec 02, 2010 7:11 pm

Looking into this a bit further, I actually think the "cultural differences" argument is kind of valid, at least according to the Wikipedia page. Americans never really referred to people with cerebral palsy as "spastics" and a definition of "spaz" from 1965 from an American film critic reads:
"The term that American teenagers now use as the opposite of 'tough' is 'spaz'. A spaz is a person who is courteous to teachers, plans for a career, and believes in official values. A spaz is something like what adults still call a square."
The difference being that while Blue Peter introduced British children to the cerebral palsy sufferer Joey Deacon, saying that Joey was a "spastic" - which quickly got shortened to "spaz" on the cruel playgrounds of 80s Britain, Americans got Steve Martin as "Chaz the spaz" who in today's parlance was basically, a nerd.

Essentially, I think I'm agreeing with Hot Shot here. AFAICT the closest US analogy would be if Hasbro UK decided to call one of their characters "Retard" (as in the verb, to hold something back) unaware that the noun form of the word was a derogatory American term for someone with Down's Syndrome (which of course we would call a "mong").

Then again I'm a huge fan of all things sweary and offensive so make of that what you will.
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Post by Denyer » Thu Dec 02, 2010 7:22 pm

Jack Cade wrote:Imagine if we started using 'American' to mean 'a bit slow on the uptake'
Not personally, but it's not uncommon in my experience.

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Post by Brendocon » Thu Dec 02, 2010 7:22 pm

Metal Vendetta wrote:someone with Down's Syndrome (which of course we would call a "mong").
We call them Windowlickers round here.

Which is actually something you can totally see Hasbro calling a Transformer.

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Post by Metal Vendetta » Thu Dec 02, 2010 7:27 pm

Brendocon wrote:We call them Windowlickers round here.

Which is actually something you can totally see Hasbro calling a Transformer.
I'm not a religious man, but from now on I'm going to pray daily and nightly to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that one day the Transformers line might include Windowlicker®, with Nebulan partner Mong®.
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Post by bumblemusprime » Thu Dec 02, 2010 8:20 pm

Hey! I'm twice offended; I got spasms from licking a window once! Of course, it was covered in PCP...
Best First wrote:I didn't like it. They don't have mums, or dads, or children. And they turn into stuff. And they don't eat Monster Munch or watch Xena: Warrior Princess. Or do one big poo in the morning and another one in the afternoon. I bet they weren't even excited by and then subsequently disappointed by Star Wars Prequels. Or have a glass full of spare change near their beds. That they don't have.

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Post by Yaya » Thu Dec 02, 2010 8:45 pm

Metal Vendetta wrote:Looking into this a bit further, I actually think the "cultural differences" argument is kind of valid, at least according to the Wikipedia page. Americans never really referred to people with cerebral palsy as "spastics" and a definition of "spaz" from 1965 from an American film critic reads:
"The term that American teenagers now use as the opposite of 'tough' is 'spaz'. A spaz is a person who is courteous to teachers, plans for a career, and believes in official values. A spaz is something like what adults still call a square."
Geez, that's like the third U.S. definition of "spaz" meaning nothing near what I thought it meant. I don't think anyone knows what the hell it means.

It may very well be the least defined term in human existence.

Heretofore, 'spaz' shall, in my world, mean somebody who is seriously anxious but with a mildly playful bend on Tuesdays.
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Post by bumblemusprime » Thu Dec 02, 2010 8:54 pm

And I'm going to follow you around, correcting your definition to mean "washed-up porn star."
Best First wrote:I didn't like it. They don't have mums, or dads, or children. And they turn into stuff. And they don't eat Monster Munch or watch Xena: Warrior Princess. Or do one big poo in the morning and another one in the afternoon. I bet they weren't even excited by and then subsequently disappointed by Star Wars Prequels. Or have a glass full of spare change near their beds. That they don't have.

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Post by Jack Cade » Thu Dec 02, 2010 9:11 pm

Optimus Prime Rib wrote:It is aggravating that people feel the need to rush to the aid of those who can speak for themselves. I actually felt the need to call a friend of the family who has cerebral palsy and ask him how he felt about this issue. Then I asked him how he felt that this has turned into a useless debate while "able bodied" people talk about how helpless he is and we should feel bad for him.
I think the way you're characterising this is kind of bizarre. I'm not rushing to anybody's aid; I'm talking about behaving in a fair and decent way, and being aware of the impact of certain words, the way language is sometimes coded to enforce social prejudices. Your mate can kiss *my* ass if he thinks I'm going to simmer down on that just because one disabled guy comes along and says he can fend for himself.

Same as if a bunch of women said, "You know what? Don't bother talking about feminism and women's rights any more. We're doing fine. Just drop the whole thing, okay?"

You'll always be able to find examples of individuals who say prejudice hasn't held them back or doesn't bother them. It doesn't mean it's not holding back other people like them. More importantly, it doesn't mean that prejudice is actually a good or acceptable thing. What you seem to be saying here is: "Oh hey, it's fine if the words we use reinforce negative images of minority groups as long as I can produce examples of said groups to say they don't find it offensive."

I mean, jeez, I'm sure very few Americans with cerebral palsy actually find the word 'spastic' offensive, because if they ever complained about it, they'd have been shouted down. So they've had to learn that it's 'acceptable'. Similarly, I bet many of them, like your friend, have developed a thick skin towards more obvious prejudice and don't let it get to them anymore. Doesn't mean the prejudice is right to start with, does it?

I mean, you still seem to be mixing up the idea of something being 'offensive', ie. rude, with the problem I'm actually talking about, which goes much deeper and concerns how people form their identity in relation to wider society.
Optimus Prime Rib wrote:Socially advantageous because I am white and male? That does not apply anymore.
I gotta say, dude, if you think this, you're living in cloud cuckoo land. Check the average wages for different groups some time soon.
Optimus Prime Rib wrote:It has become our nature to coddle those who dont necessarily need it in a selfish need to make ourselves feel better.
I call BS here as well. It's still our 'nature' to distrust and victimise those who're different. We just have certain forces helping to rein us in these days, most of which are unappreciated and actively loathed for spoiling people's fun.
Optimus Prime Rib wrote:You know what most people with some kind of handicap want? Its not "name sensitivity", it is simply treat them like a regular human being.
This is a 'well, duh' point. But it's got little to do with what I'm talking about. I'm not talking about the way we treat disabled people in a one-to-one kind of way; I'm talking about thinking about how the words we use can reinforce social prejudices, subtly marginalise groups, et cetera, et cetera.
Optimus Prime Rib wrote:why has this created multiple threads?
Well, (a) Hasbro have changed the name in the US now as well. So they obviously realise something is wrong. (b) I think it's created multiple threads because there's a kind of kneejerk 'anti-PC' reaction to any suggestion that there's something wrong with using a particular word in a particular way.
Warcry wrote:I fail to see a distinction, to be honest. If enough people use the word without knowing what it's 'meant' to mean, that's the very definition of the old usage being obsolete.
It's not obsolete if people in an important profession - and their patients - still understand it in that sense. It's simply a lesser known definition. I completely understand what you say about language's fluidity, but I think it's a bit of a stretch to say a particular meaning no longer exists when it's widely understood within the medical profession.
Warcry wrote:Right now, you're trying to stick up for people who aren't offended (disabled folk in the US/Canada) and thus don't need sticking up for, even when people who have a lot more experience with North American language and North American disabled folk are telling you that there's really no issue here to get worked up over.
Two points.

1) As I said to OPR above, I'm not really concerned about whether people are 'offended'. It's the subtle reinforcement of existing social prejudices that matters here.

2) North American people telling me there is no issue only tells me that North American people don't think there's an issue. That only holds any weight so long as they've properly considered/investigated the possibility that an apparently harmless word can be part of a meaningful systemic process of marginalisation. If the attitude is "Oh, look, if no one makes a fuss over here, then there can't possibly be any problem" then I'm not sure that tells me much.

I mean, suppose we were back in the slave days and I was complaining about that. You'd have North Americans saying, "Hey, man, cultural differences!" and: "I just spoke to my slaves - they say everything's tickety-boo. They're very happy working for me. So hey, no harm done! Now get off your high horse because you just don't 'get' us!"
Warcry wrote:And honestly, when it comes right down to it...shouldn't we all be happy that there's one less thing in the world for people to get upset over?
Not if the only reason no one's upset about it is because of a multiplicity of blind eyes.
MV wrote:Americans never really referred to people with cerebral palsy as "spastics" ...
No, but the colloquial use of the word seems to come from an association of clumsiness with motor function disorders.

Maybe this will make things clearer: I think the US use of 'spastic' is perhaps akin to the way we use 'mental'. We're always saying things went 'mental', or someone is acting 'mental', to mean excitable or enraged, and the reason we use the word in that way, I would postulate, is because of the stereotype of mental patients as crazy people.

Now, I say 'mental' in that way every now and then. I probably also say 'spastic' sometimes. Heck, I say most words that I probably shouldn't say. But that doesn't mean it's not worth questioning why we use these words in the way we do and what prejudices are enforced by them. How much do we really have to forget before 'mental' and 'spastic' can take on their gentler meanings without any shadow of the things they used to refer to?
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Post by Guest » Thu Dec 02, 2010 9:13 pm

Yaya wrote:Geez, that's like the third U.S. definition of "spaz" meaning nothing near what I thought it meant. I don't think anyone knows what the hell it means.

It may very well be the least defined term in human existence.
Well, three definitions is quite poor, when compared to some heavyweights with over a dozen definitions.

bumblemusprime can probably reel off over a dozen of those with over a dozen definitions with no apparent effort.

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Post by bumblemusprime » Thu Dec 02, 2010 9:32 pm

Pinochle, bowling, Lord-of-the-Rings-porn, Gay-Lord-of-the-Rings-porn, gargoyles, pants. Pants pants pants pants.
Best First wrote:I didn't like it. They don't have mums, or dads, or children. And they turn into stuff. And they don't eat Monster Munch or watch Xena: Warrior Princess. Or do one big poo in the morning and another one in the afternoon. I bet they weren't even excited by and then subsequently disappointed by Star Wars Prequels. Or have a glass full of spare change near their beds. That they don't have.

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Post by Impactor returns 2.0 » Thu Dec 02, 2010 10:02 pm

Can I just ask what the Americans think the word spastic means?

To me, spastic is a word that usd to be used to describe mentally of physically disabled ppl.

Generally if someone was 'being stupid' they might be called a spastic.

I've always found it pretty offensive to be honest, and wouldn't use it.

Now, I'd call u C£&? But I won't use that word...
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Post by Professor Smooth » Thu Dec 02, 2010 10:15 pm

Impactor returns 2.0 wrote:Can I just ask what the Americans think the word spastic means?
I've only ever heard it used to describe somebody who's really hyper.
snarl wrote:Just... really... what the **** have [IDW] been taking for the last 2 years?
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Post by Jack Cade » Thu Dec 02, 2010 10:59 pm

Impactor Returns 2.0 wrote:Can I just ask what the Americans think the word spastic means?
I don't want to answer for anyone else, but based on the ear-bashings I've been getting from the other site, it's used to mean a whole variety of not-exactly-positive things, like spasmy, clumsy, silly, twitchy, jittery, highly strung, nerdy etc.

But in no circumstances, apparently, is it an 'insult'.
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Post by Warcry » Thu Dec 02, 2010 11:27 pm

Karl wrote:Language isn't defined by usage. It is defined by an agreed set of rules for exchange of information. Using a word in a new way does not redefine the word unless the new definition is accepted by the vast majority of people, i e it becomes an agreed rule for the exchange of information.
But if enough people accept the new definition, isn't that actually a clear example of language being defined by usage?
Jack Cade wrote:1) As I said to OPR above, I'm not really concerned about whether people are 'offended'. It's the subtle reinforcement of existing social prejudices that matters here.
I don't see how it can do that when none of the people involved (on either side of the equation -- using the word or receiving it) understand the word in its' original context.

On this side of the pond people use "retard" the way "spastic" is used in the UK, and I agree that that definitely reinforces prejudices and negative stereotypes. The key difference to me is that everyone knows what "retard" means when they say it. Very, very few know what "spastic" means, and I don't see how a word can reinforce prejudices when no one knows it's supposed to be prejudicial.
Jack Cade wrote:2) North American people telling me there is no issue only tells me that North American people don't think there's an issue.
Bluntly, who else's opinion matters? If North Americans use "spastic" this way and disabled folk in North America don't appear to think it's an issue, I don't see why we should care what anyone else has to say on the matter -- or why other people should care about how we use the word. If there's a sizable group of people in NA that do think that it's inappropriate and just haven't spoken up because of social pressure that's a different story, but I don't see any evidence that that's the case.
Jack Cade wrote:I don't want to answer for anyone else, but based on the ear-bashings I've been getting from the other site, it's used to mean a whole variety of not-exactly-positive things, like spasmy, clumsy, silly, twitchy, jittery, highly strung, nerdy etc.

But in no circumstances, apparently, is it an 'insult'.
Insult, yes. Insult to disabled people, no.

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Post by Kaylee » Thu Dec 02, 2010 11:38 pm

Sounds more like 'language is defined as whatever a group of people agree it to mean' rather than usage IMO. Your mileage may jffdhds. It's a new word I'm using, I want to see if it becomes language as a result.

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Post by Hot Shot » Fri Dec 03, 2010 12:02 am

Jack Cade wrote:I mean, jeez, I'm sure very few Americans with cerebral palsy actually find the word 'spastic' offensive, because if they ever complained about it, they'd have been shouted down. So they've had to learn that it's 'acceptable'. Similarly, I bet many of them, like your friend, have developed a thick skin towards more obvious prejudice and don't let it get to them anymore. Doesn't mean the prejudice is right to start with, does it?
I don't think you understand. We don't call disabled people "spastic". I've never heard the word used that way until recently. As a matter of fact, I'd rarely ever heard the word. This idea that we all secretly beat palsy kids, call them spastic, and beat them again if they object is ludicrous.
Well, (a) Hasbro have changed the name in the US now as well. So they obviously realise something is wrong.
I think they just bowed to pressure.
1) As I said to OPR above, I'm not really concerned about whether people are 'offended'. It's the subtle reinforcement of existing social prejudices that matters here.
I doubt Hasbro was trying to offend people.
Not if the only reason no one's upset about it is because of a multiplicity of blind eyes.
It's not being blind if it doesn't explicitly mean something here.
don't want to answer for anyone else, but based on the ear-bashings I've been getting from the other site, it's used to mean a whole variety of not-exactly-positive things, like spasmy, clumsy, silly, twitchy, jittery, highly strung, nerdy etc.

But in no circumstances, apparently, is it an 'insult'.
That sounds about right, but it's mildly insulting at most.
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Post by Warcry » Fri Dec 03, 2010 12:03 am

Karl wrote:Sounds more like 'language is defined as whatever a group of people agree it to mean' rather than usage IMO. Your mileage may jffdhds. It's a new word I'm using, I want to see if it becomes language as a result.
If enough people use it, it just might. I don't think that's very grrvbbly, though.

I think we're basically saying the same thing, though. What I'm thinking is "a word means what most of the people who use it think it means", more or less.

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Post by Jack Cade » Fri Dec 03, 2010 12:04 am

Warcry wrote:But if enough people accept the new definition, isn't that actually a clear example of language being defined by usage?
Yeah, and the new definition takes hold, but it doesn't extinguish the other one if that's also still in use, particularly if the link seems to be rather natural (ie. 'spastics' act clumsily, so we'll use 'spastic' to mean clumsy and then forget we [meaning, our doctors] used it to mean people with cerebral palsy).
Warcry wrote:I don't see how it can do that when none of the people involved (on either side of the equation -- using the word or receiving it) understand the word in its' original context.
OK, this is your strongest point, as I see it, and I agree that it significantly reduces the ability of the word to reinforce social prejudice if so few people are drawing the connection. In this respect, I completely agree it's less harmful than 'retard'.

But I'd still say that if the people with cerebral palsy themselves understand 'spastic' to refer to their condition, then growing up somewhere where the word is used in an insulting way works alongside other more obvious prejudices to make them feel more marginalised. They might not complain about it because they don't necessarily understand it's going on, but isn't there a reasonable likelihood that the association they form in *their* mind between 'spastic' (something I am) and 'spastic' (someone ridiculous or clumsy) forms a part of their perception of themselves as somehow unacceptable? If there were no other prejudicial forces, I'm sure the association alone wouldn't be a problem, but I'm talking about in addition to more obvious signs of cultural discrimination.

'Retard' is much more powerful because in addition, it also draws the connection between idiocy and disability in nearly everyone's mind, but you can't discount the idea of harm being caused solely by drawing the connection in the minds of the people with disabilities.

So for me, a question that will ultimately decide whether I let this go or not is: how many Americans are told at a young age by medical professionals or they're parents that they're spastic, or rather, that they suffer from spastic cerebral palsy?

To put it another way, you're one stage down from the level we need for it to be harmless. You need to have no one, or near enough no one, seeing any link between cerebral palsy and the word 'spastic'. What we have, pending further evidence, is most people not seeing that link, and the people with cerebral palsy, who may still see the link, not raising a stink about it. But on the latter point, neither of us know, as you point out, if some members of that community *are* concerned about it. I had a quick look earlier and couldn't find any discussion forums for people in the US with that disability.
Warcry wrote:Insult, yes. Insult to disabled people, no.
Yeah, I thought so. But this is why I was tearing my hair out on the Seibertron forums - they were so eager to do down any notion of it being a problem that they wouldn't even accept it was a generalised insult.
Warcry wrote:Bluntly, who else's opinion matters? If North Americans use "spastic" this way and disabled folk in North America don't appear to think it's an issue, I don't see why we should care what anyone else has to say on the matter -- or why other people should care about how we use the word.
Well, I point to the slave age example again. I'm sure back then you could have rounded up any number of slaves to say their lives were happy and they had no problem, and it would be a case of: if no one is going to say it's a problem, then how can there be a problem?

Sure, it's an extreme example but the point is: you can have problems and not realise it, or not realise exactly the contributing factors towards it. I'm sure you must realise you do, in actual fact, have a problem with discimination against disabled people in the US, just as we do in Britain. The question is whether I'm rightly pointing to a possible contributing factor. Whether I'm right or not is in no way dependent, surely, on how many Americans realise it; it's a matter of cold analysis.
Hot Shot wrote:I don't think you understand. We don't call disabled people "spastic".
Come on, man, don't be dense. I've repeatedly said I understand this. I said right in the first post: "So let's take it as read that 'spastic' is much less potent as a derogatory term in the US, roughly equivalent to 'clumsy'". I assure you we don't call people with cerebral palsy 'clumsies' over here.
Hot Shot wrote:This idea that we all secretly beat palsy kids, call them spastic, and beat them again if they object is ludicrous.
Yeah, it is. That would be why I've not gone anywhere near suggesting such a thing.
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Post by Yaya » Fri Dec 03, 2010 2:11 am

Professor Smooth wrote:
Impactor returns 2.0 wrote:Can I just ask what the Americans think the word spastic means?
I've only ever heard it used to describe somebody who's really hyper.
Which is what I thought it meant in America, but according to Wikipedia has nothing at all to do with being hyper.

So in answer to your question Impy, no, apparently you can't ask.
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Post by Optimus Prime Rib » Fri Dec 03, 2010 6:40 am

QUICK! someone call and get the name "The Mentalist" changed! Its offensive in a way we never knew!


Comparing a cultural useage of a word to Slavery is just the slightest bit of a stretch, dont you think?

thats like comparing an elementary school bully to Hitler.
"Give me your lunch money" = "Final Solution"?

Ok.So why is it so hard to accept that we do not view this as an offensive word? Not just "able bodied" Americans, just Americans in general. Why have we conveniently forgotten that we have been separated by an ocean for going on well over 200 years, during which time our language has evolved in changed due to influences from our surroundings and other nationalities mixing and mingling? The basics are the same, but while I can completely understand Ebonics, I cant for the life of me understand Cockney Slang.Same language, even the same words for the most part.. Different useage meaning different things.

If we need a prime arbitrary example of the English Language evolving into its own dialect, look at Australia. How many words do we use in one way and they use in an entirely different way? Why is this the case? Well for one it was a way for them to differentiate themselves from GB. Another reason is because of the Polynesian and southeast asian influences around them. Then there is the native population of Australia.

The same applies here, I am positive that there are not too many places in the UK with Native American names, but they are all over the US.

Or even better, lets look at my my home state vs my current state. Louisiana vs Texas. They are right next to one another, but one is heavily influenced by the Spanish and one is influenced by the French.
San Antonio vs Baton Rouge. Even if people dont know that those cities MEAN in their native language, they know that they are American Cities (Saint Anthony and Red Stick btw).

The bottom line is that language is subjective to the group that is using it.

Spastic is not offensive in the US. The toy should not have to have been renamed in the US because it is offensive in the UK.
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Post by Kaylee » Fri Dec 03, 2010 8:52 am

Warcry wrote:
Karl wrote:Sounds more like 'language is defined as whatever a group of people agree it to mean' rather than usage IMO. Your mileage may jffdhds. It's a new word I'm using, I want to see if it becomes language as a result.
If enough people use it, it just might. I don't think that's very grrvbbly, though.

I think we're basically saying the same thing, though. What I'm thinking is "a word means what most of the people who use it think it means", more or less.
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Post by Metal Vendetta » Fri Dec 03, 2010 9:07 am

Jack wrote:They might not complain about it because they don't necessarily understand it's going on, but isn't there a reasonable likelihood that the association they form in *their* mind between 'spastic' (something I am) and 'spastic' (someone ridiculous or clumsy) forms a part of their perception of themselves as somehow unacceptable?
I think this is your weakest point - before the word was appropriated by doctors to describe a form of cerebral palsy, it meant pretty much the same as "spasmodic", as in related to or associated with spasms - and everyone has a spasm now and again. I know I do. So in a very real sense it does mean clumsy, because it refers to involuntary muscle movements. Personally I think that spastic is a pretty insensitive term for someone with a muscle disease. Then again, early doctors were a pretty insensitive lot - look up the original definition of the word vagina, for example, and laugh at the next feminist who tells you it's far less offensive than c*nt.
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Post by Jack Cade » Fri Dec 03, 2010 7:57 pm

OPR wrote:Comparing a cultural useage of a word to Slavery is just the slightest bit of a stretch, dont you think?
Depends on what the comparison is meant to demonstrate. I wasn't saying it was *as bad* as slavery, but making the point that you can't just say, "We're happy, the slaves are happy - what's the problem?"

In other words, if I say there's a problem with something in someone else's culture, there are all sorts of ways of proving I'm wrong, but saying "Hey, no one here cares about it" isn't one of them.
OPR wrote:Ok.So why is it so hard to accept that we do not view this as an offensive word? Not just "able bodied" Americans, just Americans in general?
It's not 'so hard' and I do accept that. But it's beside the point. That goes for the rest of your post from this point onwards - I don't quarrel with any of it (except the last sentence) but you're just pulverising our old friend, the straw man.

So here's a question right back atcha: why is it so hard to accept the gist of what I'm saying has nothing much to do with whether or not the word is 'offensive'?
MV wrote:I think this is your weakest point - before the word was appropriated by doctors to describe a form of cerebral palsy, it meant pretty much the same as "spasmodic", as in related to or associated with spasms - and everyone has a spasm now and again. I know I do. So in a very real sense it does mean clumsy, because it refers to involuntary muscle movements. Personally I think that spastic is a pretty insensitive term for someone with a muscle disease. Then again, early doctors were a pretty insensitive lot - look up the original definition of the word vagina, for example, and laugh at the next feminist who tells you it's far less offensive than c*nt.
On the last point, I might be wrong, but I think it was Germaine Greer herself who first pointed this out. Certainly, she and other feminists make a point of favouring 'c*nt' over 'vagina'.

You might or might not be right about who started using 'spastic' for what when and who, therefore, has the greater claim to being close to the 'original' meaning, and whether it was ultimately a case of the medical profession using a word referring to clumsy people as a descriptor for a serious condition. Imagine if they called a serious illness 'prat syndrome'.

But regardless of that, I think Warcry is right that what you have to look at what people use and understand the word to mean now. It seems most Americans go round with no idea the word has or had anything to do with a serious condition or vulnerable group, so in that sense, I agree with him that it wouldn't enforce their prejudices against that group. I still think, however, that if there are people who think of themselves as 'spastic', it's got to negatively affect your development when everyone around you uses the word in the negative fashion.

So it still depends, for me, on whether patients identify with the word at all.
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Post by Optimus Prime Rib » Sat Dec 04, 2010 3:28 am

I am confused as to why this is still going on. If we all understand and agree then why are we still arguing. I dont even understand your point anymore. Maybe its just exhaustion, but it really feels like you just want to argue that youre not arguing at this point.
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Post by Jack Cade » Sun Dec 05, 2010 12:11 am

Optimus Prime Rib wrote:I am confused as to why this is still going on. If we all understand and agree then why are we still arguing. I dont even understand your point anymore. Maybe its just exhaustion, but it really feels like you just want to argue that youre not arguing at this point.
I'm confused as to what's so confusing. There is a disagreement (or rather, there are two sides to the argument, since I'm not trying to get at anybody here and I think Warcry and others have made some good points); it's just not the one you've been arguing.

We agree that the word 'spastic' isn't a term of abuse in the US, but equivalent to 'clumsy' or 'spasmy', something like that.

But I'm making the case that, even as an everyday word, it can still do harm. I don't know - maybe the trouble you're having is with the very concept that a word or a way of speaking can have effects beyond what is apparent to those using it.

Not that I know much about gender studies, but just to give you an example, there's a lot of thought that's gone into how everyday language can be 'gender-marked' to reinforce the assumptions of a patriarchal society - like how we have words like 'chairman' and 'fireman' but the female equivalents are much newer inventions, rarely used.

My case is only this: if someone sees a facet of their identity as being 'x', then if the word 'x' is generally used in a derogatory fashion, that is likely to have an effect on how that person sees themselves. So, say, for example, you found out at a young age that your mother was of a race called 'idiots' and that you were therefore a half-idiot. Or suppose your religion was technically called 'jerkism' and its adherents 'jerks'. The fact that 'idiot' and 'jerk' are used as put-downs would probably affect how easily you felt you could integrate into society.

That's all I'm saying.
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