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Ever since the existence of languages maybe even before they were coherent, there have been words crafted specifically to mock and vilify our fellow human beings, confused animals, faith itself, and even inanimate objects that seem to be out for us with way too much vengeance for something that doesn’t have sentience (unless it does, which is a conspiracy theory for another day). Children rather gleefully pick up these words and forbidden phrases with a suspicious amount of enthusiasm. Although there isn’t much wrong with having a slightly nefarious lifestyle and using words that hinge on immoral and rebellious, there is something very deeply harmful in using phrases that have their origins in homophobia and ableism. 

Most, if not all of us have become conditioned to using terms that often unknowingly echo casual ableism and can have actual negative real-world impacts. The culture we live in already consistently deprecates people with disabilities. The discrimination has virtually become institutionalized with little regard for their requirements and seldom is an effort made to diversify our neurotypical and able-centric societal, educational, and economic structures to be inclusive to those with disabilities. They have almost no representation or assistance when it comes to housing, employment, medical care, and access to resources. This may seem like much ado about nothing but simply put, using a word to mock someone else means you are attributing that negative implication to the source of that word as well. In such a scenario to say that common and everyday slurs have no impact in furthering this heavily discriminatory climate is naive at best and ignorant and ableist at worst.

Including people with disabilities in such a rigid mainstream society is already an extremely arduous task, stopping their dehumanization in our usual discourse though is a much simpler foe we can all easily vanquish through just a little effort by unlearning words that have become so infused in our daily language that we miss how disrespectful and frankly, problematic they are. Sure, there will be people that label such analysis of a phrase as overly sensitive and unnecessary. Being branded as a “snowflake” though in my opinion is much better than refusing to unlearn and being an outright adamant bigot. Look at that, I threw a pretty good insult (if I say so myself) without using even a single slur, who would have thought?

So now that you feel sufficiently guilty about the way society so blatantly ignores the marginalized, I am here to help you use a few better insults to destroy whomsoever dared to cross paths with you. Firstly, the ‘r-word’ is a definite no-no. A disability is not a joke, instead, use words like confusing, foolish, silly, insensible, or irrational because I’m sure that’s what we really mean when we use such a word, often not realizing its true implication. 

Similarly, instead of ‘dumb,’ ‘deaf’ or ‘blind,’ phrases like dense, dull, obtuse, vapid, and ignorant are a much better substitute and again, much closer to what we actually mean. Calling something or someone ‘lame’ too is extremely disrespectful to those physically impaired from using their legs. How about using uncool, tacky, cheesy, or corny as an alternative? 

Another hugely problematic thing we tend to do is romanticize mental illness like depression, anxiety, OCD, etc., and use them to describe minor upsets or inconveniences in our lives. Frivolously throwing around such terms whether intentional or not, does trivialize people who have these conditions and further alienates them when already people refuse to take mental health seriously. Sad, upset, worried, fretful, meticulous, and neat are much better words to use.

So in conclusion, is there anything actually wrong with ridiculing people and things around us with words that can really pack a punch? Nope, nothing at all. What would human existence even be about if not to abuse and jibe, especially in as cursed a year as 2020? So as long as those jibes and sneers you choose to use do not have any connotations associated with neurodiverse people or people with disabilities, you’re good to go.

You can use one of the many words I have recommended, or maybe all at the same time to really land a blow on your chosen fiend of the day! Go forth and berate, albeit in a less bigoted way.

Avnika Sinha

Delhi South '22

A History Major and a member of Kahkasha, the Dramatics Society Of Jesus and Mary College Wannabe rebel with way too many causes to yell about
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