I hesitated to write about the incident, because I suspect Coulter makes offensive statements like that in order to drum up media attention, and I certainly don't want to encourage her. But the fact is that Coulter is not the only person out there still using that word — sometimes, as in this instance, with an intent to insult, and other times out of a kind of stubborn thoughtlessness. When my then-four-year-old son was diagnosed with mental retardation in , I was struck by how strongly people reacted to those words. I wrote at the time :. And twenty, thirty years later, that slur is causing just as much pain and controversy as it ever did. Being something of a word person, I was fascinated by the reaction the words got when we told friends and family about the diagnosis. Honestly, I think I had to spend more time talking to people about the terminology than the condition it describes. Even the Wikipedia entry begins with a long discussion of the various terms that have been used and discarded over the years—discarded after common usage coopted a clinical term for use as an insult.
CASE PRESENTATION: Psychiatric History and Diagnosis
KEY POINT: Making the Diagnosis
Older Use : Usually Offensive. Slang : Disparaging and Offensive. Usually the retarded.
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Top definition. A word used to describe someone who is profoundly stupid. A type of stupidity that is an insult to intelligence itself. Politically correct people would like you to be rude to someone in a less offensive way, perhaps by calling them dumb instead. This ignores the fact that dumb, idiot, and many other similar insults used today were all old-timey technical terms for retards. It also ignores the fact that any word used to describe someone of below average ability in any area is an insult to someone with average ability or higher in that area. You can't say that anymore. You have to say the party is lame , or it's dumb, or something else! You just insulted people who cannot walk and people who cannot talk.
In modern use, retard is a pejorative term either for someone with a mental disability or for someone who is stupid, slow to understand, or ineffective in some way. It was previously used as a genuine term in medical contexts. The verb "to retard" means to delay or hold back, and so "retard" became known as a medical term in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to describe children with retarded mental development. These words were discontinued in that form when concerns arose that they had developed negative meanings , with "retard" and "retarded" replacing them. The word retard dates as far back as It stems from the Latin verb retardare , meaning to hinder or make slow. The English adopted the word and used it as similar meaning, slow and delayed.