Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Terms of Impairment

This article examines the history of "handicapped" and "disabled" as terms of impairment. 

Of course the process of denigration means that any word associated with a negative category will accumulate negative connotations, hence the long trail of discarded words for many traits, conditions, and groups that people tend to dislike.  Sometimes this costs in clarity.  "Lame" is more specific than both "disabled" and "mobility-impaired," because it specifies a malfunction of the leg(s) affecting gait.  Not to mention that "lame" is one syllable, "disabled" is three, and "mobility-impaired" is six.  I won't turn loose of "crippled" as distinct from "handicapped" because I use them to distinguish between levels of impairment: handicapped means it's harder to do things and some things may be impossible, whereas crippled means unable to do most  things which doesn't leave much of a life.  Disabled to me sounds closer to crippled than handicapped.  It bothers me when political correctness takes away words without furnishing precise replacements
Tags: activism, history, linguistics, networking, vocabulary
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