Not ok to use spastic April 13, 2010 9:46 AM   Subscribe

I dunno if I'm out of touch with what the kids are saying, but I thought it was not cool to throw the word 'spastic' around.

I mean I don't want to shut the poor guy down when he's asking for help over a word, but still it's not right.

I know 'gay' etc can be ironic, but a lot of mentally handicapped people can process that kind of thing.
posted by Not Supplied to Etiquette/Policy at 9:46 AM (86 comments total)

can't process
posted by Not Supplied at 9:46 AM on April 13, 2010


"Spastic" doesn't really imply a mental handicap at all. It refers to sudden involuntary muscular contractions (spasms), in general. People often use it colloquially to mean something like "dorky". The use in this case is not the use I am accustomed to; but metaphorically, the Asker's erratic behavior and lack of control could be likened to a spasm, I suppose.
posted by Mister_A at 9:50 AM on April 13, 2010


wikipedia has a description of how the term is considered widely inoffensive in the US as opposed to the UK.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 9:52 AM on April 13, 2010


You're in London? Look here. It has a different meaning in the US.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:52 AM on April 13, 2010


Maybe it's a cultural thing...when I grew up spastic was an insult for people with downs etc. or kids who were a bit slow.
posted by Not Supplied at 9:52 AM on April 13, 2010


Well dang
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:52 AM on April 13, 2010


(or, i guess think of it as 'fag' in reverse-pondage)
posted by fallacy of the beard at 9:52 AM on April 13, 2010


OK fair enough then, I can see why it was posted. Still something to think about though.
posted by Not Supplied at 9:53 AM on April 13, 2010


Oh, come on. Spastic? Really?
posted by mkultra at 9:53 AM on April 13, 2010 [11 favorites]


Thanks fallacy, I didn't realize this was such a negative term in the UK. Bearing that in mind, my comment above was obviously written from the US point of view. If the term gives great offence to persons of UKian heritage, I will use it even less than I do now on this siteā€“but one shouldn't shy away from it in Texas (location of the Asker).
posted by Mister_A at 9:56 AM on April 13, 2010


Wow, I really did learn something new today.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:57 AM on April 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


i don't think the callout was disingenuous or unreasonable; it's simply a minor point of cross-cultural education.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 9:58 AM on April 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


Jesus, no wonder we left England.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:58 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, come on. Spastic? Really?

A lot of Brits and Aussies feel the exact same way about a certain other word.
posted by gman at 10:00 AM on April 13, 2010 [37 favorites]


Oh, and don't use "gay" ironically. It makes you look like a 12-year-old boy and will attract unwanted attention from the clergy.
posted by Mister_A at 10:00 AM on April 13, 2010 [7 favorites]


Yeh had no idea, they obviously edit it out of all the US tv shows we get.
posted by Not Supplied at 10:00 AM on April 13, 2010


Let's all relax with a pint of nigger.
posted by Not Supplied at 10:01 AM on April 13, 2010


This is clearly just another case of British people not understanding proper English usage.

kidding aside, I also had a bit of a cultural relativism lesson here myself. Interesting
posted by Burhanistan at 10:02 AM on April 13, 2010


I saw that and wondered if it would get MeTa-ed. "Spastic" is such a super-unacceptable term to me in the UK that I always flinch when I see it used on Metafilter (even though it's in a less/non-offensive way). In particular I notice that jessamyn uses it a fair amount (or talks about "spazzing out", which (a) helps me realise that there is clearly a non-offensive US usage, but (b) still makes me twitch.
posted by patricio at 10:02 AM on April 13, 2010 [10 favorites]


i doubt it appears in US tv shows, though i don't watch the teen stuff now. i hear it very rarely.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 10:03 AM on April 13, 2010


I didn't realize it was a loaded term in the UK either. Interesting. I don't recall hearing spastic much at all in general over the last several years, at least, and think of "spaz" as the more common American usage, but even at that I associate it more with the 80s than anything—the "spaz" character in stupid 80s comedies and such.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:03 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let's all relax with a pint of nigger.

That was the sound of the room suddenly and uneasily quieting.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:03 AM on April 13, 2010 [29 favorites]


I know 'gay' etc can be ironic, but a lot of mentally handicapped people can process that kind of thing.

This is an odd comparison, since you seem to be implying that it's OK to use of "gay" as an insult, which is not OK with me or a lot of other people.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:05 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why, it's just a soft drink we have over here ;)
posted by Not Supplied at 10:05 AM on April 13, 2010


Well, keep reading, Jaltcoh, things get even odder in the next installment.
posted by Mister_A at 10:06 AM on April 13, 2010


No I don't use the word gay as an insult, but some gays do for example, whereas you could really fuck up a handicapped kids day by saying that.
posted by Not Supplied at 10:07 AM on April 13, 2010


Why, it's just a soft drink we have over here ;)

I'm curious, do you have any links to it or any more info? A quick search in Google didn't turn up much.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:09 AM on April 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was just joking...thought the discussion was over. Sorry if it was close to the edge, but I just thought it would be funny if one of your worst insults was a soft drink here.
posted by Not Supplied at 10:11 AM on April 13, 2010


So, how's things under the bridge there, Not Supplied? Steady supply of goats I hope?
posted by Mister_A at 10:11 AM on April 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


In particular I notice that jessamyn uses it a fair amount

My nickname was spaz in high school [in an endearing way, I think] and so it's a bit of a habit, but I'm aware that it's a more loaded term in the UK and try to temper the use of it here when I can. I was going to drop the OP a note about it but didn't know if it was worth the database digging that I'd need to figure out who posted it and wasn't sure if it was that touchy a word or not.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:11 AM on April 13, 2010


I'm sure the AskMe OP, who is clearly dealing with mental health issues, really appreciates your political correctness and this Meta callout, you spaz.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:12 AM on April 13, 2010


I'm not trolling, it was just a joke. I apologise if it came off wrong.
posted by Not Supplied at 10:12 AM on April 13, 2010


No, it wasn't funny.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:13 AM on April 13, 2010


Shut up you fucking keyboard rapist
posted by Not Supplied at 10:14 AM on April 13, 2010


Walk away, dude.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:14 AM on April 13, 2010 [7 favorites]


What the fuck.
posted by kmz at 10:15 AM on April 13, 2010


I've long considered spaz and spastic to be offensive, but not because of mental handicap. It seems pretty obviously to be referring to epileptics.
posted by DU at 10:15 AM on April 13, 2010


Shut up you fucking keyboard rapist

You need to stop this, or we will stop it for you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:16 AM on April 13, 2010 [34 favorites]


Protip: If you make a MeTa post about a word you find offensive, try not to use other offensive words in the thread, ironically or not.

This isn't in the Metafilter FAQ, but it is in the "duh" FAQ.
posted by bondcliff at 10:17 AM on April 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow, did not know about the use of "spastic" in the UK. I've heard it used before like it was an actual condition and was always a little confused - it seemed like calling somebody a "sneeze".
("Surprise! You're wife's dead and your baby's a spastic!" from Arkham Asylum comes to mind as something that confused me a bit. Of course, that was Alan Moore so it makes more sense now. Also, since the Joker is supposed to be from the US that usage has completely ruined that book forever for me! Ruined! Forever!)
posted by charred husk at 10:19 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Boy, this went dog butt ugly in a hurry.
posted by dirtdirt at 10:20 AM on April 13, 2010


Dang man, I was all "oh I guess we've all learned something new today, how nice" and then you had to go and get all weird on us.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:20 AM on April 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


bondcliff, can I have that "duh" FAQ when you're done with it?
posted by Mister_A at 10:20 AM on April 13, 2010


This is like Type 6 shit, eh, dirtdirt?
posted by Mister_A at 10:21 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was thinking, "Sausage shaped, but lumpy".
posted by dirtdirt at 10:23 AM on April 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


You know what shocked the hell out of me? The first time I heard an American throwing Paki around.

Spastic became an insult in the UK as unintentional fallout from Blue Peter shows about Joey Deacon, which was supposed to be a sensitive peice to increase awarenss of cerebral palsy, but failed to take into consideration that British schoolkids are vicious little fuckers.
posted by Artw at 10:23 AM on April 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


You need to stop this, or we will stop it for you.

considering that the question around the issue has been resolved, keeping the thread open would seem to only invite more that you'll want to stop.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 10:24 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


(Also Arkham Asylum was Grant Morrison, not Alan Moore)
posted by Artw at 10:24 AM on April 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Artw: "(Also Arkham Asylum was Grant Morrison, not Alan Moore"

Derp. Took the wrong funny colored mushroom.
posted by charred husk at 10:26 AM on April 13, 2010


keeping the thread open would seem to only invite more that you'll want to stop.

Nah, we can talk about pie now! or pancakes with rum flavored syrup! or iPads!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:26 AM on April 13, 2010


In that particular AskMe I thought spastic was synonymous with 'twitchy'. I thought the asker was actually using it to describe their behavior.
posted by TooFewShoes at 10:27 AM on April 13, 2010


The first time I heard an American throwing Paki around.

Do you mean "packy"? I've tried to remove it from common use because of the similar sounding slur, but I honestly feel it is a net loss to the American English. "Packy" from "package store" meaning "liquor store" is a good word maligned.

But, again, since I don't have control over how others hear it, I try not to use it any more.
posted by dirtdirt at 10:28 AM on April 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


I like french toast better than pancakes no matter the kind of syrup.
posted by TooFewShoes at 10:28 AM on April 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Gluten free fruit pie is better than 'regular' pie.
posted by TooFewShoes at 10:29 AM on April 13, 2010


French toast is the best kind of toast.
posted by threetoed at 10:30 AM on April 13, 2010


No I don't use the word gay as an insult, but some gays do for example, whereas you could really fuck up a handicapped kids day by saying that.

I've never heard of (and I find it hard to imagine) anyone who's remotely gay-friendly using "gay" as an insult, and again, I find it odd that you're holding this out as an example of something that's benign, as opposed to using "spastic," which could ruin someone's day. You really don't see how using "gay" as a derogatory term could hurt gay people? I realize this is completely tangential to the point of your post, but I have a serious problem with people writing on the internet that it's not that bad to use "gay" in this way. Even if it's somehow fine in the UK, you're not just writing for the UK, you're writing for the world.

I have no problem with you raising awareness of the hurtfulness of using the word "spastic" on the internet considering the situation in the UK. But I don't see what you thinking you're accomplishing by incidentally condoning "gay" as a negative term in the process.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:30 AM on April 13, 2010


I am now hearing, in the back of my mind, people chanting "spaz! ... spaz! ... spaz!" like they were gearing up for a contest.
posted by adipocere at 10:30 AM on April 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


French Toast is neither. Pancakes reign supreme!
posted by Burhanistan at 10:30 AM on April 13, 2010


I completely think that the iPad sounds like a feminine hygiene product. They really should have given it another name.
posted by TooFewShoes at 10:30 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, what about hash browns? Should they shredded, sliced or gotten through the drive through window?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:31 AM on April 13, 2010


My problem with pancakes is that I eat gluten-free. GF pancakes are really heavy and pretty gross, GF french toast is very tasty. Even when I ate a regular diet I prefered french toast over pancakes, but now the margin has widen significantly.
posted by TooFewShoes at 10:33 AM on April 13, 2010


In the UK hash browns are those little fried potato patty things you get from McDonalds. It is a great shame, really, and a cause of suprise and delight for me when I got some decent American breakfast.
posted by Artw at 10:33 AM on April 13, 2010


Hash browns from a drive thru are not hash browns, they are forms of Tater Tots.
posted by TooFewShoes at 10:33 AM on April 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hashbrowns are no home fries, I'll tell you that much right now.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:35 AM on April 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Drive thru hashbrowns always make me feel sick >:(
posted by threetoed at 10:35 AM on April 13, 2010


This has veered well off track, but yeah. Spastic is offensive in the UK.
posted by fire&wings at 10:35 AM on April 13, 2010


You know what I really like? Cereal! Yay for cereal!
posted by Mister_A at 10:36 AM on April 13, 2010


I drove through hashbrowns and got potato crumbs all over the windsheild.
posted by jonmc at 10:37 AM on April 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hash browns from a drive thru are not hash browns, they are forms of Tater Tots.

Yup, and if you order hasbrowns in the UK that is what you will get - a large squashed Tater Tot.
posted by Artw at 10:37 AM on April 13, 2010


Many people (myself included) have said in this thread that they had no idea the word had negative connotations.

So why come down on the asker?
posted by morganannie at 10:37 AM on April 13, 2010


This is the first time i have ever seen somebody plummeting refer to themselves as "close to the edge." You were close. Then you fell off. The more you fell, the further from the edge you were. Now you're close to the ground.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:37 AM on April 13, 2010


I've never heard of (and I find it hard to imagine) anyone who's remotely gay-friendly using "gay" as an insult

Perez Hilton does it all the time.
posted by morganannie at 10:37 AM on April 13, 2010


You need to stop this, or we will stop it for you.

Fair enough, but I don't like being called 'spaz' for reasons that I've already gone into. I'm walking away. If you could ban me from the internet as well that would be cool tx.
posted by Not Supplied at 10:39 AM on April 13, 2010


The ground constitutes an edge or interface of sorts, Astro Zombie. Please refer to the "duh" FAQ (whenever bondcliff returns it to the MetaBrary).
posted by Mister_A at 10:40 AM on April 13, 2010


Which superpower would you rather have, teleportation or flight?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:40 AM on April 13, 2010


Anyway, "spastic" is used to describe cerebral palsy in the UK, while it's just used to describe somebody who is a bit dorky and hyper and not entirely in control of themselves in the US. I would say that out of deference to our UK users, for whom it is a pejorative about a disability, maybe we should steer clear of it. Heck, it's a pejorative in the US, although not as strong a one, and we can probably come up with better words to describe what we mean besides schoolyard taunts.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:41 AM on April 13, 2010 [9 favorites]


Perez Hilton does it all the time.

That's about as compelling a reason not to do something as I have ever heard.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:42 AM on April 13, 2010 [10 favorites]


I don't like being called 'spaz' for reasons that I've already gone into.

Nothing personal at all but I think I missed where you mentioned this.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:43 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Flight. Teleportation makes me puke.
posted by TooFewShoes at 10:44 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's about as compelling a reason not to do something as I have ever heard.

But he is gay.
posted by morganannie at 10:46 AM on April 13, 2010


And an idiot.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:48 AM on April 13, 2010


While he is gay, he is also a douchebag.
posted by Mister_A at 10:48 AM on April 13, 2010


Teleportation makes me puke

But what if you could teleport french toast?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:49 AM on April 13, 2010


Wow. Count me in as one of those people who had no idea about the UK take on this. Glad to learn something new everyday, etc.

And yeah, I don't see how we could've had the c-word thread recently and then have this one be the flip side of that and have people not seeing how it's not ok now either, the other way. Color me uninformed and now aware of it, won't use it on the site, etc. It's that simple.
posted by ifjuly at 10:50 AM on April 13, 2010 [16 favorites]


I guess as long as there exists one idiotic douchebag, people can keep pretending that gay people never use the word "gay" as an insult.

Also, teleportation.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:50 AM on April 13, 2010


Fair enough, but I don't like being called 'spaz' for reasons that I've already gone into.

Understandable. People previously unfamiliar with the heft of the term as a pejorative in the UK have in here have been pretty understanding about the whole thing and learned something, some other folks have found out that it's lacks that heft in US contexts. It's a net good thing, and it was fine to point it out in the first place.

I'm walking away.

Not a terrible idea since this got a little weird. And I think I'll go ahead and shut this down since we seem to have kind of gotten to a stopping point and then some.

If you could ban me from the internet as well that would be cool tx.

If this is how you're really feeling after you have some time to let the stuff tied to this thread dissipate, you can close your account if you like, but that's not something we're hoping for or anything. We just need the aggressive button-pushing in this thread to stop is all.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:50 AM on April 13, 2010


« Older Can't delete tags   |   In other breaking news, Hurricane Katrina. Wow. Newer »

This thread is closed to new comments.