Ta-Nehisi Coates finds himself in trouble over quoting someone using the word “retarded”. Being a nice guy, he apologized, thus marking one more step on the road to phasing out that word.
I, however, come not to bury the word “retarded”, but to praise it.
I know that some people find it offensive, but the fact is that it’s simply based on the term “mental retardation”. However, it has gradually evolved into an insult, just as the once technical terms “idiot”, “moron”, etc. did.
“Mentally challenged” or “mentally handicapped” or somesuch is usually the term of choice now, and that’s fine. Let something else be the terminology for true mental conditions, and let the word “retarded” take its place alongside the others as a mere insult.
The reason I say this is because there is a certain connotation to the word which I rather like. I say this because I know from experience that there are certain things for which there just is no other word. Seriously, things like this. “Idiotic” simply won’t do the job.
Now, I definitely see how using a word meant to describe a group of people as a synonym for “bad” is offensive. But the better course, in my view, is to simply agree that the word “retarded” is an insult word, and nothing else, and allow those groups formerly associated with the term in its medical sense to use one of the newer substitutes. But demanding that no one ever use the word at all is ridiculous.