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Power and the ‘R’ word

Pete Reimers | Thursday, March 4, 2010

It wasn’t long ago that saying something sucks would garner disapproving looks and perhaps a stern talking-to. Despite the fact that “sucks” refers to what many would consider a deviant sex act, it has become a common part of our vocabulary. It’s widespread usage in our vernacular has rendered the word largely inoffensive and powerless.

Etymologically, the word “retarded” is synonymous with “hindered,” “delayed” or “underdeveloped.” Thus, when people say, “Parietals are retarded,” they are, in effect, stating that the rationale behind said policy is underdeveloped. This is a perfectly legitimate usage of the word (and arguably an accurate assessment of the situation).

When a word becomes taboo, it only becomes more powerful. To remove the power of the word, one must remove its stigma.  If we embrace the word and use it where it is etymologically appropriate, it will cease to offend, and its stigma will disappear. As such, I hereby pledge to step up my efforts to remove the power of the “R” word by using it as often as I can. Because why would we want to give a word we don’t like more power? That just strikes me as an underdeveloped line of reasoning. I’d even call it retarded.

Pete Reimers
Hesburgh Libraries
Mar. 3