What Does “Retard” Really Mean?

What Does “Retard” Really Mean?

Now that “retard” has been reawakened from its slumber of desuetude, we should remember that in its original nominative form it meant a “delay.” The verb form designated the action of delaying or impeding progress or development.  In the 15th century, it symbolized the action of “making slower in movement or time.” “Retard” as a slur of the disabled only came into use in the 1970s. See www.etymonline.com.

We know that a judgment we make of others is a judgment of ourselves. A hateful comment discloses the self-hated of the speaker. If “retard” must remain a part of our consciousness, then I suggest that it refers to a person who has not matured, who has not acquired wisdom, tact, compassion, courtesy, or any of the other spiritual qualities we were put on earth to learn.  A “retard’s” goal is to prevent mankind from progressing, to keep the human race as petty-minded, self-centered, ignorant and cruel as the “retard” is.

Though I was a caretaker for my son in the few years he lived after a traumatic brain injury, I want to focus instead on an incident from childhood.  One day I witnessed a fistfight between two boys in the schoolyard.  One had cerebral palsy and lacked the coordination to use his arms to punch or to block punches, though he refused to back down. A crowd of children were treated to the horrific sight of a “normal” boy methodically and sadistically beating a “cripple.”

A person who lives through such an experience can never again use the term “retard” to humiliate another human being.


About Tom Ukinski

Tom Ukinski is an attorney in state government in the Midwest. He's been writing plays, novels, short stories, comedy sketches and screenplays for many years.
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