Saying Retarded or Retard is Offensive: Don’t Be An Ass

Glee Stars Know the word retard is offensive

Sue Sylvester is the worst, and even she doesn't say it! | Source:

Fair warning: the next time I hear someone describe something annoying, upsetting, or otherwise negative as a “retard” or “retarded”, I’m going to lose my shizz.

The terms “retarded” and “retard” are offensive, yet for some reason, these word keeps popping up in people’s daily dialogue as a substitute for “pathetic”, “weak”, or “stupid”. They’re used to describe ex-boyfriends, enemies, infuriating situations and uninformed arguments.

And guess what: they shouldn’t be. Here’s why.

1. Because mental retardation (or, in more contemporary parlance, developmental disability) doesn’t have some kind of moral value: it’s a disability. So unless you’d describe something stupid by saying “that’s so cancerous”, or talk trash about your exboyfriend by saying “he’s such an amputee” – basically, unless you’d neg on the deaf, the diseased, and the missing-of-limb to make a point about how much you hate your science homework – then don’t use mental disability as a synonym for stupidity.

saying retard is offensive

Saying "retard" makes you look like trash. | Source:

2. Because you never know who you’re hurting. Once upon a time, I couldn’t help noticing the way that one of my good friends would flinch every time someone said, “That’s retarded.” It was like she’d been slapped. Turned out, her beloved little brother had been born with Down Syndrome – and every time someone described something worthless as “retarded”, they were describing someone she loved as worthless. Could someone you care about be wounded by your words? Are you sure you want to risk finding out?

3. And finally, because what “retarded” actually means, per dictionary definition, is “delayed”. Which means that the only thing “retarded” about using that word as a negative is your empathy and emotional maturity.

And that if you keep using the word like that, there’s not going to be anything retarded, in the strict definition of the word, about the connection between my fist and your face.


Do you say the “R” word and brush it off as just a bad habit? Do you get upset when people say those words around you? Tell me about it in the comments!

Now That You’re Angry, Check Out Disney Princesses Gone Bad!


Posted in: Celebrity Quotes & News, Celebs & Hot News, Discuss, In the News, Just the Facts, Mental Health Facts, News & Reviews
Tags: , , , , , ,
  • Anonymous

    I went to a special school and some of the retarded kids I went to school with said retarded and retard all the time. Most of the kids who used those words were learning disabled or retarded. The only reason retarded and retard offend retarded people now is because they are taught that they are differently abled and not retarded. They can not understand the only time these words are offensive is when other kids call them retard and retarded. Than again all names are hurtful.

  • RB

    I don’t use it as a ‘bad habit’ and brush it off. I use it because I like it, because colloquialisms are a part of language and they always have been. Language is a subjective issue and people use it differently. I don’t believe at all in the concept of an offensive word, words are just a human invention and their meanings have warped over time.

    I don’t not say things on the off chance they offend someone, if someone is offended they are more than welcome to politely ask me to refrain from saying a word in their presence and I would be certain not to do so.

    Colloquialisms do not offend me and while I think it is fair enough if they offend you what i don’t think is far is trying to blanket ban words because you don’t like them and because you have a different point of view. It is also completely histrionic to want to commit physical violence against people who use it colloquially.

    Intention is what matters to me. If you use a word, any word, in an attempt to make people feel bad and do so with malice or spite then it’s go-time. In essence it is hatred that bothers me, not words used in a different way than you might use them.

    If every word people considered offensive was struck down then there would be a very huge gap on my colloquial wardrobe. Intention is everything to me, not interpretation.

  • LittleRedWolf

    To those saying “It’s not an issue, get over it”, how would you like it if someone used a term that defined something about you in a negative way? It’s the same as using “gay” as an insult, which REALLY bothers me. It’s just like using racial slurs. You can say “it’s become a part of modern vocabulary” all you want, but THAT DOESN’T MAKE IT RIGHT!. This is NOT about people being “too sensitive”, but about people trying to be sensitive towards others. It’s about getting out of your own little selfish bubble and looking at things in a different way. It’s about not being an insensitive jerk who feels like they have to diss and insult EVERYTHING they see that they don’t agree with, just because they have nothing better to do. Try growing up, and you’ll see that this article makes a really valid point.

  • Finalstand

    This is why we have censorship. Morons like you moaning about things that offend you. Learn to deal with it , people can say whatever they want. You have the right to criticize but you don’t have the right to tell people what they can/can’t say. Grow some thicker skin , stupid Liberal.

    • LittleRedWolf

      Why do you have to automatically assume that this person is a liberal, and then call them stupid for that? Why don’t you try and see things through someone else’s eyes, stupid conservative.

  • Gutterboyx

    Why so serioussss

  • Annoyed

    This is so stupid. The word ’retarded’ is a real word with a legitimate meaning, why should I stop using it’s CORRECT use because a bunch of people got together and decided that this is now an offensive term? First of all, I think it is you people who are using the term insultingly by calling someone with a mental disability a retard. I have never called a mentally disabled person retarded in my life, NOR have I ever been referring to a person with a mental disability in ANY way when I have used the term in conversation, and frankly I’m sick of people trying to imply that.

    Here’s a freakin idea. Instead of banning a perfectly legitimate word, why don’t YOU instead STOP calling people with mental disabilities “retarded“??? Their condition has a proper name, and in cases when you don’t know it, mentally disabled is the correct term–NOT retard!!!

    With your logic, we should also then stop using terms like “crazy” or “insane” or “deranged”. There are millions of people with mental disorders that I’m sure would find THOSE terms offensive. Should we ban them too? What about the word “dumb” which is also an adjective defined as “a person unable to speak, most typically because of congenital deafness”. It’s the same idea so should we stop using that word too???? NO! Just educate your damn self and DON’T refer to people with mental disorders as “crazy” or “insane” just like you shouldn’t refer to someone with Down Syndrome as “retarded”. Seriously, get a grip.

    • simsam685

      Not trying to be offensive, but you just made yourself look like a complete jerk. Maybe you should have done some of your own research and educated yourself before trying to question this article in such a way. Mental retardation is an actual disability, it is a more generalized term and most say ” retarded” or “retard” for short. You’ve obviously never called somebody with a mental disability “retarded” because you believe it to be an offensive term. Sounds a bit hypocritical, doesn’t it? You basically said it’s not okay to call people with mental disabilities retarded but it’s okay to use it as a legitimate word… for what? That’s what it’s used for, an adjective for describing someone with a mental disability. This situation is quite similar to the way that people use the word “gay” in a negative way, yes, it is a real word. But that doesn’t mean you should use it in a negative fashion because it is offensive. Speaking of offensiveness, people don’t just band together and decide that something is offensive, one cannot say something is offensive without people obviously being OFFENDED by it. All in all, you should feel very ashamed of yourself for your method of voicing your opinion (which personally, I find invalid). So seriously, maybe YOU, should get a grip.

  • Mo

    I was editing a video of mine in which I casually used the word ‘retarded’. Since English is not my native language, I wasn’t quite sure wether or not it’s an offensive term. Thanks to people like you, people like me can avoid hurting a ton of people. <3

  • Kadee

    I get how the word is offensive, and im not trying to disagree but i thonk its okay to use it as a descriptive word. When i use the word retarded i use it as a deroggatory term, for objects not people. if i see a movie that i hated then i might say the movie was retarded. but on the other hand i dont call any one that, if someone is being stupid then i call them stupid not retarded, and is someone is mentally disabled then that is what i say; not “retard”. I dont think the the word should be used on any person in any way. thats why i think its okay to say it in a descriptive manner. there are geniuine stupid people out there but we can still call other things stupid.

  • Josh’s

    I don’t agree with you on this there’s nothing wrong with calling anyone a retard it’s become a trend in the new generations vocabulary. If a word like retard ever ofended anyone then their a little b**ch there’s a whole bunch of words that offend people that you never think twice about in my case the first words you typed fair warning oh I feel offended by that because my dad used to beat my ass after he would say that see . You offended me booooooo

  • Kayla

    I agree that saying the r-word is insensitive and disrespectful towards those with certain health conditions, their friends, and their families, but “there’s not going to be anything retarded, in the strict definition of the word, about the connection between my fist and your face”? There is no need to post any personal attacks. It makes it questionable about who actually wrote. This article is written in the second-person point of view, which is not recommended for a professional article. Who is truly the bully now?
    P.S. I actually have a question about other medical words that are commonly misused. Is saying the words “crazy” and “dumb” out of its medical context wrong, too? I am not question the overall argument of this article. I truly want to know.

    • l

      The R-word? does everything in this country have to be taboo? If I see a midget im going to say midget. If I see a retarded person im gonna say” oh poor dear she retarde thats really sad. ill pray for her” but if someone does something stupid im goin to call them retarded. Its not the same as a racial slur or a curss word. so stop treating it like it is. And to the writer: Are you seriousley going to get mad at someone for saying retarded. there are much worse and important things in the world going on and you have your panties in a bunch over retarded? Gay marriage, the economy, etc… those are things worth getting mad about publicly not using retarded as an insult.

    • Kayla

      Dear Ms. Rosenfield:

      I sincerely apologize for my tone in my previous post. I was not being reasonable. I am extremely sorry for calling you a “bully” that was very disrespectful of me. I also apologize for not saying this sooner.



  • Leah

    i’ll admit it, i regularly call my friends “retards” when they act stupid, but as my grade 8 teacher put it, “it all depends on where you’re from and how the word is used.”
    like i know that in the USA, “retarded” is an actual term for someone who (as we say here in canada) is mentally disabled. so for us in canada, the definition of “retard”, is a stupid person, it’s just the way our culture works and that’s not our fault.

  • Emily

    Ok, don’t hate me for this!!!
    gURL, I totally agree with you. I MUST admit. I have used retarded to describe things that are either unfair, “stupid”, etc. I just…grew up with it!! I thought about it and decided not to use it, but it’s sort of like a habit…
    But, I thought this “article” was going to be mature. Not “And that if you keep using the word like that, there’s not going to be anything retarded, in the strict definition of the word, about the connection between my fist and your face.” …I thought you loved us. :c
    Seriously? I just read an article that said to peacefully resolve problems with people you don’t agree with. Also, there are SOOOO many things that people say that are offensive (B*tch, N*gger [ or N*gga] Wh*re) even in songs!
    And I don’t see a “using ” Gay ” as stupid is offensive” on here!! :\

    • Kayla

      I agree that this article was written immaturely, too. This more so seems like a threatening rant than a defense toward those with certain illnesses.

  • LylaAi

    I personally don’t like when people say something is “Retarded” because I have a sister who IS mentally retarded and I volunteer with Special Olympics and plan to one day become a Special Ed Teacher. When I was in Middle school and people said it I use to call them out and tell them why they were wrong but now that I’m in high school the only people I call out are teachers and my friends. Last year my choir teacher said something was retarded and I called her out in class and now that word is banned in our classroom, as it is in a lot of other rooms.
    As much as I want to call everyone out every time it’s just a losing battle. Some people don’t care if it’s hurtful because “that’s not how they’re using it” and the rest of the people are just to stubborn to change their ways, especially when I’m just a student like them and therefore have no control over them. It’s like the word “gay”, no one cares.
    All there is to do is wait until they wise up and realize that it’s just not okay.

    • Sessh

      Context is a very important part of language. Just because you and many others cannot understand the context in which something is said and instead choose to be offended any time the word is used regardless of the context or intent behind the word does not mean everyone should stop using it or that they are “stubborn” or need to change in any way. You’re the one with the language problem, so perhaps it’s you who should stop being “stubborn” and understand that it’s not about your sister or participants in the special olympics every time someone calls someone or something a retard or retarded. It’s not okay for you or anyone else to impose your delicate sensibilities on others even when they don’t even apply to what’s been said.

  • jjjjj

    Actually i don’t get offended when people say the word around me at all. In fact i even say the word sometimes myself, i’m sure it does offend some people, but it’s not like i would ever go up to a disabled person and call them retarted. So i feel like if i’m not offending them directly they shouldn’t have a problem with me saying it, out of all of the offensive words there are today, i feel like this one is the very last one to be worried about. Especially when nobody is directing it to anyone who is truly disabled. If that were the fact, then of course it would be a problem but it’s not.

  • Jackie

    I definitely agree. As you’ve stated in this article, saying that dreadful word is all the rage in today’s society and it drives me to tears sometimes when people say it because it makes me think of my autistic brother. I’ve even heard teachers use it! Believe me I’ve spoken up about this but apparently logic cannot compete against trends

  • Annie

    i’m sick of people being so pretentious on this matter!
    do you lose your shizz when someone says idiot, moron or imbecile?
    if not, why not? i bet you even use them yourself, here is the outdated classification system of mental retardation
    IQ Range Classification
    50-69 Moron
    20-49 Imbecile
    below 20 Idiot
    or is OK to call someone/thing retarded only if you specify the degree of retardation?
    next time you want to pretend to be a sensitive person, at least include all of the slurs

  • Catherine

    I thought they changed the name of the disorder but I guess they changed it back. Either way, I can’t really think of erasing the word just like other terms that insult certain kinds of people. Unless someone is referring to the actual group the word refers to, I don’t think of it as derogatory. I believe that you should be offended by the person, not the word.

    It’s become one of those words whose definition has changed due to usage. Like ‘dreadlocks’, it originally was used to insult people but now people use it for other reasons.

    Still, I do understand the anger. My brother made fun of Becky for having Down’s Syndrome (not using the word ‘retarded’ but trying to use ‘down’ as an insult) while I was watching Glee. I’ve grown farther apart from him since he started acting like that, and we used to be very close. It makes me livid. I don’t like hanging out with people like that. I don’t use the term at all because I don’t make it my job to insult people or complain about things. I also know so many other words to describe things.

  • Kendall S.

    I used to say that things were retarded around middle school. In high school, I met a girl named Rebecca, who is one of my best friends now. The first time I said it in high school, she called me out for it. She said, “Don’t use that word. My sister has down syndrome.” I really admired her for doing so. She stood up for what she believed in, which is incredibly hard to do, especially as a freshman in high school. After she said that, I actually thought about it a lot. That time I used the word “retarded” was my last. Ever since then, I realized that carelessly insulting those with mental disabilities isn’t cool, no matter who is saying it, or if you mean it or not. Just say stupid. It is not that challenging.

  • Kendall S.

    I used to say that things were retarded around middle school. In high school, I met a girl named Rebecca, who is one of my best friends now. The first time I said it in high school, she called me out on it. She said, “Don’t use that word. My sister has down syndrome.” I admired her for doing so. She stood up for what she believed in, which is incredibly hard to do, especially as a freshman in high school. After she said that, I actually thought about it a lot. That time I used the word “retarded” was my last. Ever since then, I realized that carelessly insulting those with mental disabilities isn’t cool, no matter who is saying it, or if you mean it or not. Just say stupid. It is not that challenging.

  • Missfiction

    I hate it when people take ” retarded” so seriously. People think just cuz someone says retarded they are mean and hateful and they are making fun of mentally disabled persons. NOT TRUE. Ok? People need to just freakin’ RELAX cuz unless the person who said retarded has some against disabled they dont mean it to be offensive! Ok yeah the word retarded hurts people. So does a bunch of other words! Ok? i saw some white guy randomly call somoone a crazy ni*** nobody goes around saying . the point : WORDS ARE GUNNA HURT. another one: DONT ALWAYS TAKE THINGS SERIOUSLY CUZ SOME PEOPLE DONT GIVES A RAT’S ASS. HECK AND WHO WANTS TO EVEN RECEIVE ONE?! relax its just life. people are gunna say hurtful things…. dont be over sensitive. im sorry i have nothing against disabled ppl but we cant always be serious and take things seriously. have a little laugh cuz retarded can mean so many things else then disabled. ok? yeah it might not say in the dictionary but everybodys definition and interpretation is different. just relax.

    • Missfiction

      forgot somthing * nobody freaked out when that guy said ni***. and people do when we say retarded even though were not even making fun of the disabled? not cool. just relax.

      • Missfiction

        i cant even explain what would drive you to say the last sentence. that kind of was… out of order. and again everybody’s interpretation and how they feel about words are different.