We're living in increasingly progressive times whereby derogatory terms used to describe minority groups are considered to be plain offensive and recognised as such by the vast majority of society.

The 'N' word springs to mind as being somewhat comparable; used by a certain group of society after 'reclaiming' it from its racist roots. Similarly, the use of the word 'queer' in reference to the LGBT+ community was first used in a derogatory way, however, has been 'reclaimed' by the community since.

What is the 'R' Word?

Yet the word 'retard' continues to exist in our everyday lexicon, seemingly without a second thought, often used as a synonym for 'stupid' or 'idiotic'.

If you wouldn't disrespect any minority group for being slightly different from the mainstream, why is it acceptable to use the 'R' word when it is disrespectful to the disabled community?

It's about time it is eliminated!

What is the history of the word?

Yes, it is true the word does exist in the dictionary. It means to hinder or slow something down. It eventually started being used as a medical term for people with intellectual impairments in the 1960s, replacing terms that were considered to be even more offensive.

Eventually it took on the contemporary - albeit offensive - meaning that we know today and is tossed around playgrounds and corporate offices alike.

Although it has since been replaced in medical contexts with more sensitive terms, thanks to the hard work of advocates, it continues to be used in everyday life, even if the taunt is not directed to the disabled community.

Why should you not use it?

This is the obvious question to ask and the reasons are numerous. First and foremost, it reinforces damaging stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities being less valued members of society and humanity as a whole.

It has come to mean something negative and flawed and although it may be somewhat removed from its outdated origin in regards to labelling the disabled community, the link still exists.

Therefore, in turn, this is how you end up segregating and disregarding an entire section of humanity.

Furthermore, you are mocking and dehumanising disabled people entirely when you use the word and run the risk of alienating them from society, making them the 'other', through a single word and its subsequent effects alone.

What about free speech?

There is a clear difference between free speech and hate speech and the 'R' word most certainly comes under hate speech.

The roots of the word need to be paid attention to as has been done with other words historically referring to minority groups in a negative way.

After considering these, we will realise that to use the word is offensive and is hate speech and therefore must be avoided.

Are people just being too sensitive these days?


There are dozens of other words which you can use to describe something 'stupid' or 'idiotic', including 'absurd', 'senseless' and 'ill-considered'. So why would you choose the most offensive word to get your point across?

Your words have meanings beyond what simply comes out of your mouth; aspects such as context and connotations have to be taken into account so the ones you choose are important because if chosen wrongly, they can have devastating effects on people.

If you wouldn't make racist, homophobic or sexist jokes or use terms derogatory to the minority groups in question then why would you make jokes or use terms derogatory to the disabled community?