Take the lead in combatting anachronistic language

I want to tell you I really enjoy reading the Mountain Xpress and will continue doing so for its eclectic and inspiring material. However, I wanted to make an observation about the "Handicapped Parking" issue from two weeks ago [“The Placard Stops Here,Sept. 22]. I'm not a political-correctness tyrant, but I believe if you wikipedia the word “handicapped” you'll see why.

“Handicapped” was originally used in England to describe the numerous beggars and homeless who put their "caps" out looking for charity. I imagine this term is very offensive to people who are not looking for charity but simply have a physical or mental difference from typical society.

Like all convenient terms, this one is hard to kill. It’s much more difficult to say “people with disabilities” 20 times than to say, for example, mongoloid or retarded. But like handicapped, these words are extremely offensive to the people being described.

The main thing to remember about addressing sensitive subjects is to make it "person-first." We are not our disabilities or our abilities, or our hair color or skin color for that matter: We are people first.

For example, “people with disabilities,” or “children with autism,” both terms are much more sensitive and respectful than calling someone by their disability, such as “handicapped person” or “autistic kid.”

I hope in the future the writers on your staff will continue to address issues that affect even the smallest populations in need, and in the process maintain a respectful, forward thinking vocabulary to address them.

This one is a hard kill, but as the main publication in the area, it’s important to take the lead in combating anachronistic language. Thanks, and keep up the good work.

— Brian McNiff
Asheville

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3 thoughts on “Take the lead in combatting anachronistic language

  1. Sceth

    I disagree with your use of autism in particular; it appears that the condition is simply not understood. In terms of their economic impact, it appears from my familiarity with the community of persons with autism that they are collectively stricken with a disease much more lenient and favorable than persons with femaleness.

    I surmise that those last three words strike women the way “person with autism” strikes me; I am an autistic.

  2. Word Lover

    It’s a myth that the word handicapped has something to do with beggars. It comes from horse racing. Here’s what the OED says:
    A word of obscure history. Two examples of the n., and one of the verb, are known in 17th c.; its connexion with horse-racing appears in the 18th; its transferred general use, esp. in the verb, since 1850. It appears to have originated in the phrase ‘hand i’ cap’, or ‘hand in the cap’, with reference to the drawing mentioned in sense 1.]

    1. The name of a kind of sport having an element of chance in it, in which one person challenged some article belonging to another, for which he offered something of his own in exchange

  3. normanplombe

    holy poopity poop! there’s nothing inheirently bigotted about using accurate %^&* words! this whole thing reminds me of the washington d.c. official who was forced to resign over using the word “niggardly” in terms of budgetary restraint…i’ll leave it to you guys to google the meaning of the word, which has nothing to do with the formidable n-bomb….and, by the by, why does THAT word still have such power??….try and upset me by making fun of my race…i’ll laugh and buy you a beer!

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