I was promised Happy Fun September September 6, 2016 3:36 PM   Subscribe

I do not like having ableist slurs on the front page of Metafilter.

We wouldn't accept sexism, racism, homophobia, or transphobia there. Now it's time to do better with ablism. This word is nothing but a clever way to say the r-word and just as unacceptable in grown up society. And it makes me especially sad because I really was excited about Happy Fun September.
posted by hydropsyche to Etiquette/Policy at 3:36 PM (503 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

I equate using the term "Derp" to this sort of mocking behavior. The term arose from mocking pictures of people or animals that appear physically or mentally disabled due to the moment the picture was taken, which ultimately boils down to "Disabled people are funny"

There are ways to describe an unflattering picture that makes a person or animal look silly without mocking disabled people.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 3:47 PM on September 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


Where are we as a community in re: hurf durf?
posted by phunniemee at 3:55 PM on September 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


Now it's time to do better with ablism. This word is nothing but a clever way to say the r-word and just as unacceptable in grown up society.

Yes.
posted by cashman at 4:13 PM on September 6, 2016 [10 favorites]


And hey, if you're coming to this thread, maybe you've been using the word and didn't realize it is/was a word used to mock disabled people! If that's the case, and you feel like you're being accused of something that you didn't intend, may I suggest you just take five? Go out, look at some clouds, count the cars on your street or something. Then take a deep breath and remind yourself that this isn't about you, and try and see this as an opportunity to learn and grow.
posted by duffell at 4:16 PM on September 6, 2016 [92 favorites]


I had someone here try to take a strip off me in MeMail like two weeks ago for discouraging the use of the term in a thread I don't even remember anymore, plus several people who protested their right to use it in the thread, so people are still pretty unaware and shitty about it. It would be cool to see it officially discouraged.

(Also: What duffell said.)
posted by Lyn Never at 4:18 PM on September 6, 2016 [15 favorites]


"Derp"? Really? Metafilter's level of sensitivity and language policing is getting ridiculous.
posted by Spacelegoman at 4:20 PM on September 6, 2016 [48 favorites]


One man's "language policing" is another's "not being a shitty human for no reason".
posted by tobascodagama at 4:23 PM on September 6, 2016 [159 favorites]


I feel like this is a word like "butthurt" where people might reasonably think "derp" is the word for that goofy face your pet makes, without knowing anything about its original coinage. That said, I think it's a very good plan to make more people aware of the connotations so they can make informed (and hopefully respectful) decisions about it.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:24 PM on September 6, 2016 [66 favorites]


"Derp"? Really? Metafilter's level of sensitivity and language policing is getting ridiculous.

I wonder if you would be all "lol DERP" directly to the face of someone with, say, a mental disability.

If the answer is "no," I invite you to consider why you would, as you put it, police your own language in this instance while objecting to "language policing" in other instances.

If the answer is yes, then I invite you to consider your purpose here on Earth.
posted by duffell at 4:28 PM on September 6, 2016 [29 favorites]


The term arose from mocking pictures of people or animals that appear physically or mentally disabled due to the moment the picture was taken, which ultimately boils down to "Disabled people are funny"

I looked it up and some people think it originated from "Baseketball", and was popularized in South Park (which is by the same people). Where, notably, it was not used in reference to disabled people but instead by non-disabled people doing stupid things.

So, it might not be ablist at all! It's always hard to tell with terms that basically boil down to calling someone unintelligent, because it's obviously a very narrow line between calling someone normal-person stupid and mentally disabled. But you can't get rid of all of the terms for calling someone a dumbass.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:28 PM on September 6, 2016 [20 favorites]


I wonder if you would be all "lol DERP" directly to the face of someone with, say, a mental disability.

I wouldn't call someone with a mental disability an idiot, but that doesn't make idiot an ablist slur.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:29 PM on September 6, 2016 [41 favorites]


Watch for "sucks" to be deprecated by 2022. And would that be so bad?
posted by Mapes at 4:30 PM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


There's absolutely nothing wrong with sucking, so the comparison doesn't work.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:33 PM on September 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


I looked it up and some people think it originated from "Baseketball", and was popularized in South Park (which is by the same people). Where, notably, it was not used in reference to disabled people but instead by non-disabled people doing stupid things.

Right. It implies that someone is doing something stupid by imitating stereotypical mannerisms of disabled people at them. It's just like "hurr durr" and the gestures/sounds Trump is making in Mr.Encyclopedia's video.

And I really don't know why people think citing the term's origin in a Matt Stone/Trey Parker movie helps to make their case that it's not intended to be offensive. Being deliberately offensive is, like, those dudes' whole thing.
posted by tobascodagama at 4:33 PM on September 6, 2016 [27 favorites]


I looked it up and some people think it originated from "Baseketball", and was popularized in South Park

There are similar phrases - "duh", "a doy" and similar words that are just like derp, that existed long before that movie or that show.
posted by cashman at 4:34 PM on September 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


Isn't derp also a Mac sound meaning "you screwed up"?
posted by jgirl at 4:37 PM on September 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Right. It implies that someone is doing something stupid by imitating stereotypical mannerisms of disabled people at them.

I don't really associate 'derp' as being associated with any disabled stereotype. That sounds more like what someone would say when they are caught in the spot and can't think of anything to say at all, so they just spit out non-words.

Now, hurr durr is clearly an imitation of disabled speech (specifically, slurring) and one could probably make a stronger argument against it.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:37 PM on September 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


B̨̩̭̠̪ͅat̶ ̴̺̮Ca͙̩̠̭̙ͅt̮̗ ͙̭͚̤R̰̖̻̟̪u͕͙̻l̴̗̼̞̖e̸͓̞̖͍s̩̹
posted by clavdivs at 4:42 PM on September 6, 2016


I wouldn't call someone with a mental disability an idiot, but that doesn't make idiot an ablist slur.

A number of disability activists disagree:posted by Lexica at 4:43 PM on September 6, 2016 [48 favorites]


"Derp" is a new enough term--and so widely used for this one specific purpose, animals making silly faces--that the burden must fall on someone to show that it is actually ableist.

Yes, absolutely, we must refrain from words that are insulting, that perpetuate stereotypes. But "derp" seems to fall into that same class of sounds like "errrrrr" and "uhhhhh," which certainly have been deployed as discriminatory, but that deployment doesn't change the general meaning of the sound (one's own uncertainty, hesitance, a sense of one's ignorance), nor does it taint the sound past the point of usefulness in polite, socially conscious speech. (Doy, which cashman mentions, does seem to have fallen on the bad side of that line, as you never hear it used without the insulting connotation.)

I think "derp" falls safely on the nondiscriminatory, noninsulting side of things. A dog with her tongue out, her teeth bared in a silly way, deserves a sound that captures the essential goofiness of her expression, and that expresses the joy we feel over such ridiculous behavior.
posted by mittens at 4:48 PM on September 6, 2016 [23 favorites]


Stupid, lame, and crazy are also ableist slurs. They are really fucking hard to break the habit of using, too. And yet, many people try, because accidentally being an asshole is still being an asshole.

I don't really need etymology to remember the noises and words that the nastiest kids (who were sometimes me) used about disabled people in the 70s and 80s. Derp was in there. It holds no joy for me, and horrified me from the first time I saw it used for funny animal pictures.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:52 PM on September 6, 2016 [61 favorites]


the burden must fall on someone to show that it is actually ableist.

There isn't a mathematical proof that will lead to "Therefore, this is ableist". That's not how language works. Maybe you can accept someone saying "Hey, this is offensive" as proof that someone is offended by it, pause to consider whether you personally are going to remove it from your active lexicon, and then go about your day.
posted by Etrigan at 4:54 PM on September 6, 2016 [38 favorites]


My comment was deleted, and that was fine, so I'll bring it here instead - I would genuinely like to know how a screen reader handles that zalgo text.
posted by spinifex23 at 5:02 PM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Poster here: I did not in fact know anything about its original coinage, and will refrain from using that term in future. If the consensus is that the post should go, I'll find some goofy animals elsewhere for tomorrow. Sorry for any offense.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 5:08 PM on September 6, 2016 [86 favorites]


There isn't a mathematical proof that will lead to "Therefore, this is ableist". That's not how language works. Maybe you can accept someone saying "Hey, this is offensive" as proof that someone is offended by it, pause to consider whether you personally are going to remove it from your active lexicon, and then go about your day.

Indeed. I can recall the exact conversation from about 8 years ago when a good friend of mine called me out on casually using the word "gyp" as in, "I feel like I got gypped buying that cup of coffee." A friend of mine asked me if I would casually say "Jewed", to which I responded, "Of course not." And then she explained to me how it's essentially the same thing, only specifically about people who have Roma heritage. My friend was not Roma herself but it made me realize how powerful words are. I've actively made a point to not use that word ever since and I also inform others around me when they use it themselves. I like to think of it as paying it forward.

Language is a social contract. Some things last and some things do not. There's a kind of ebb and flow to the words we use, the phrases we deploy in conversation. I'm ok with certain words and phrases going extinct. Gypped, derp, we don't really need them. There are plenty of other words that we can use that are not offensive.
posted by Fizz at 5:09 PM on September 6, 2016 [44 favorites]


And a reminder, for people who may be legitimately and well-meaningly wrestling with having a word taken away they didn't know was bad and now have to have weird feelings about it: the direction a word punches matters.

When people who suffer lack of control, gruesome abuse, inescapable mockery, or diminished opportunities as a result of an oppressive system say "that word you're using is a tool of the system that holds us down" the appropriate response is "okay, I don't support that, I'll stop now that I know."

When people who have the power to oppress, abuse, etc because of this differential say "that word calls me out on my participation in a skewed system and that makes me feel bad" the appropriate response is "that does not excuse your participation in it." If your protest is "I have earned the right to use that word" you are in almost every case wrong. If your protest is "but I was having fun with that word at the expense of other people and I don't want to stop" you are wrong in a whole different kind of way.

You will almost always end up on the right side of this equation if you always stop first and look before you leap every time you hear "don't use that word." Either you are being discouraged from empowering yourself, or you are discouraging someone's empowerment. It's generally pretty easy to tell if you let that initial NUH UH reaction just pass through you and ask a couple of questions.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:10 PM on September 6, 2016 [62 favorites]


Stupid, lame, and crazy are also ableist slurs.

What, based on ancient, obsolete word usage? If that offends you, you were looking to get offended. That does nothing but damage to your causes by alienating people.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:10 PM on September 6, 2016 [30 favorites]


I don't really need etymology to remember the noises and words that the nastiest kids (who were sometimes me) used about disabled people in the 70s and 80s. Derp was in there. It holds no joy for me, and horrified me from the first time I saw it used for funny animal pictures.

Yep. I grew up in the 80's and it was a commonplace schoolyard taunt combined with a parody of mentally disabled mannerisms. Common variations are "derpa derp," "herp derp", "herpa derp" and all it takes are a few google image searches of those to see why it's really not okay. Just straight-up cruel, ableist mockery, codified in memes used by 12 year olds on 4chan and reddit. I hope we're better than that. Not sure why Know Your Meme pegs South Park as inventing it. Maybe the people who run that site are young enough that they weren't around to hear it used by bullies decades before.
posted by naju at 5:10 PM on September 6, 2016 [17 favorites]


I had no idea. It's not a word I've used or heard said out loud. But I'm grateful to learn about it. It will cost me nothing to refrain from using it, and neither will it be an impost to tell people of the history of the word if I encounter it in the wild.

I love the learning I get here- thank you for this thread.
posted by taff at 5:17 PM on September 6, 2016 [41 favorites]


Lyn Never: I don't really need etymology to remember the noises and words that the nastiest kids (who were sometimes me) used about disabled people in the 70s and 80s. Derp was in there.

Thank you for saying this, and for the other things you've said in this thread. Your feelings about it mirror my own. My dad was disabled. He had Multiple Sclerosis, and the illness became more debilitating as he got older. I heard things like 'derp' a lot as from other kids in elementary school and jr. high. And worse. Classmates called him names, and made fun of him.

One of the more powerful ads of this election season was Hillary Clinton's Role Models. There's a moment when Donald Trump makes fun of a disabled reporter at a rally, and they show children watching him on television. Seeing Trump act that way was more than distasteful. It makes my heart ache, watching those kids. I remember what it was like to be one, upset that someone was being mean about my dad and people like him. And in Trump's case, being cheered for it.

Mocking people for being different is a shitty thing. Doing it when they are in the room is arguably worse. We would do well to remember that there are disabled people who read (and may be members) of Metafilter. Some, like me, are abled, but have had disabled family members.

It costs us nothing to be kind.
posted by zarq at 5:42 PM on September 6, 2016 [76 favorites]


"What, based on ancient, obsolete word usage?"

No, upon contemporary usage. "Lame" is still used as "non-ambulatory" (though mostly about non-human mammals). In my opinion, there's hardly any distinction at all and therefore the word is functionally very ableist. "Crazy" is perhaps now debatable in that actual psychiatric terminology has completely entered into the vernacular, so some people (like me) think of it as an emphatic "nonsensical/incomprehensible" -- but there's still so much overlap that the case for ableism is strong. "Stupid" seems to me to be even more defensible, but it's worth thinking about how its implicit negative judgment intersects with how we culturally think about the developmentally disabled and to consider alternatives that avoid this conflation.

The edge cases are actually more instructive if you're willing to learn because they reveal that it's not so much about attacking someone who uses these words and pinning them with a scarlet letter as it is that it's easy to not consider how our words and actions can affect other people if we're not willing to even listen when they tell us.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:56 PM on September 6, 2016 [14 favorites]


If that offends you, you were looking to get offended. That does nothing but damage to your causes by alienating people.

man wait until we hand out the bingo cards at least
posted by griphus at 6:00 PM on September 6, 2016 [118 favorites]


I'm with you OP. Thanks for bringing this up. It doesn't even matter what the origin is or how people intend to use it, it's hurtful so we shouldn't do it, end of.
posted by zutalors! at 6:03 PM on September 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


If that offends you, you were looking to get offended. That does nothing but damage to your causes by alienating people.

If you are going to make all of human interaction into math you should not also be bad at math
posted by beerperson at 6:06 PM on September 6, 2016 [33 favorites]


it's easy to not consider how our words and actions can affect other people if we're not willing to even listen when they tell us.

I think this encapsulates why I find this thread, and conversations like it, remarkable and unsettling.

There has been very little "when they tell us" here. There has been an expression of generalized offense, there has been reminiscence of schoolyard cruelty (absolutely emotionally scathing, yes), but there has been no, "Someone described their dog's face with this word and it hurt me or someone I love."

That's important. That narrative--a disabled person speaking for themselves--is worth far more than this ...this, I don't even know what to call it, this being offended on behalf of people?

As a disabled person, I don't want anyone in the world to be offended on my behalf. It takes away my agency when other people decide whether I can hear slurs about my disability in conversation. I have fielded enough verbal punches in my life to know that a term itself is not a punch. "Crazy" is not a punch. Maybe it's a fist, but there's got to be intent and motion behind it before it becomes a punch. Does that make sense? You can take away the fist, but intent and motion can make anything into a weapon. You haven't saved us from anything by taking away that word.

I know several of you in this thread are disabled. Probably many more than I'm aware of. And if you think I'm totally off-base here, that's fine, and I'm not trying to carry on an argument or anything, and am not trying to double-down on any of these terms being innocent. But it's like, whenever any dominant group comes together and starts making decisions about language on our behalf, you gotta be a little suspicious, right? Not of the people themselves, that's not what I mean--nobody here is a bad person, nobody here is trying to make life tough or anything like that. But suspicious of the process by which the group quickly comes to consensus on our behalf. The process by which that fist, that punch, becomes more a matter of agreed-upon manners, than an examination of the actual pain of the punch.

I'm sorry, I don't think I'm doing justice to the topic, so I better bow out now. I just found this thread very hard to read, and wanted to attempt to explain why, in case anyone else felt that twinge of misgiving too.
posted by mittens at 6:20 PM on September 6, 2016 [147 favorites]


I too would love for "derp" to die. It doesn't affect me personally, but it seems like a clear case of punching down, a lazy joke that's aimed squarely at some of the most marginalized people in society, people who were genuinely dealt a shitty hand right out of the gate and who could probably use a fucking break, not to be the constant butt of casual mockery.

I get that there are a lot of people who don't understand the origins and the connotations of the word, and who don't mean any harm by it. Still, it's one of those words that there's really no good excuse for using, once you know that it's harmful.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:28 PM on September 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


For everyone's info, Johnny Wallflower has requested that I pull the original post, so I have. It's still visible at the link and all, as is usual.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:28 PM on September 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


To be clear, I've always seen the term as targeting people with mental rather than physical disabilities. People in this group often have a hard time advocating for themselves (or being taken seriously when they do) but nevertheless deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Issues of agency become more complicated under those circumstances. Maybe that's not how everyone sees the word, but that's how I've always seen it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:33 PM on September 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


I've been having this conversation with a lot of people lately (well over the past year) because these people and their organization name, I felt, were being sort of insensitive in their name choice. Some people have agreed with me and also many have not. I'm sure Johnny Wallflower didn't mean anything by his post, stuff happens. I do feel like it's one of those words that when I see it it's often poking fun at people with mental disabilities so it makes me feel weird and I don't use it.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 6:34 PM on September 6, 2016 [16 favorites]


I'm with taff. Had no idea what it meant and hadn't heard it before. But I won't use it now. I have learned so much here (I genuinely mean that, this site is the best education into being a better person).
posted by kitten magic at 6:50 PM on September 6, 2016 [8 favorites]


There has been very little "when they tell us" here. There has been an expression of generalized offense, there has been reminiscence of schoolyard cruelty (absolutely emotionally scathing, yes), but there has been no, "Someone described their dog's face with this word and it hurt me or someone I love."

"Derp" is a word I've only seen online, mostly in post titles on Reddit. So while I've avoided using it on general principle, it's not a word with any emotional resonance or personal experience for me.

But like with zarq's comment above, having a close family member who would get called names takes all of the fun out of those kinds of joking phrases, even when they aren't said with any intention of hurting. Jokes about short buses and cutesy in-joke words aren't welcomed by everyone who gets to hear them.

It's so common, and usually so clearly meant without malice, that I usually let it slide and don't say anything unless it really crosses a line. But it is something I notice, and I will always think less of that person.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:51 PM on September 6, 2016 [8 favorites]


oh wow! I had no idea. I thought it just meant silly cute animal faces. Thank you for saving me from being an insensitive jerk.
posted by ilovewinter at 6:52 PM on September 6, 2016 [12 favorites]


"Stupid" seems to me to be even more defensible, but it's worth thinking about how its implicit negative judgment intersects with how we culturally think about the developmentally disabled and to consider alternatives that avoid this conflation.

If what you want is for humans to stop calling each other unintelligent forever, then, good luck with that.

Well not really, because I don't want to live in a world in which nobody ever speaks their mind, but I'm not too worried about that.
posted by Mitrovarr at 6:54 PM on September 6, 2016 [8 favorites]


I've mentioned my hate for "derp" before. My son is 22 and severely intellectually disabled. Sometimes he makes sounds like "herp", "derp", etc. When I hear it casually used as a joke, it's like nails on a blackboard to me. You may say I'm going out of my way to be offended by a funny word. I say 22 years of changing diapers every day has given me a lot of time to reflect on what isn't funny.

Jason doesn't talk very well or very much. Of all the people in the world, he is among those least able to articulate any kind of defense for himself or to advocate for his own dignity. So I will do it for him. When you use words that mock the intellectually disabled, you are not only telling him is he unimportant and somehow a lesser person, but you think it's funny. If you feel like that is an unfair characterization of you and your attitude toward the intellectually disabled, I invite you to carefully consider what your words may unintentionally say about you.
posted by double block and bleed at 6:57 PM on September 6, 2016 [172 favorites]


Really had no idea, thought it was used for the cute faces animals sometimes make. Thanks for posting this.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 7:04 PM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Nthing the fact that I didn't put 2 and 2 together on this one, so thanks and I'll try to avoid it in the future.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:10 PM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Mitrovarr, I would fucking love it if people could somehow just stop mocking each other entirely, yeah. I think it would be a huge net positive if cruel humor just died away somehow. I don't expect it to happen, but that's no excuse not to be doing our own tiny parts to slow the tide.

You've made several comments in this thread in which you've basically defended your right to mock the intellectually disabled, on the grounds that it's no big deal and people have always done it and anyway it's just funny. You're sounding like an asshole and it's lowered my opinion of you. In the past you've been a MeFite whose pseudonym I recognize but have no strong associations with. You're fast becoming "that person who decided that making fun of mentally disabled people was the hill they wanted to die on." It's not a good look.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:22 PM on September 6, 2016 [39 favorites]


> Well not really, because I don't want to live in a world in which nobody ever speaks their mind,

It's not that hard to speak your mind without inadvertently insulting people you don't mean to insult.

I'm doing my best to stop using terms like "crazy" when what I actually mean is "I think your ideas/statements are awful, destructive, and waaaaay out of what I think should be acceptable norms" because a friend has asked me and other people she knows to stop using language like that. It's so ingrained that I hardly hear it but I am trying to be more conscientious. I have not noticed any appreciable drop in my ability to express myself or insult ideas I think need insulting.
posted by rtha at 7:27 PM on September 6, 2016 [27 favorites]


Count me in as another person only vaguely familiar with the word as an Internety term for cute and/or funny animals & kids mostly. Thanks for bringing this up so I don't use it.
posted by Cuke at 7:39 PM on September 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yeah, if anything, working to trap and remove the ableist, gendered, sexist, and homophobic language from my vocabulary (I **hope** that I got rid of the racist stuff first, though I still get startled by an idiom I never thought about now and then) has made me a more thoughtful* communicator.

*And more clearly understood - with the absence of cruel and/or dogwhistly language, that might accidentally sound some sort of Horrible Person Attracting Call - to not be a willfully crappy person.

Plus it means I get to use the word "absurd" a lot more often, because I am fairly certain it can't be used to bother anyone except maybe absurdists, but possibly they would welcome that?
posted by Lyn Never at 7:39 PM on September 6, 2016 [18 favorites]


Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The: You've made several comments in this thread in which you've basically defended your right to mock the intellectually disabled, on the grounds that it's no big deal and people have always done it and anyway it's just funny. You're sounding like an asshole and it's lowered my opinion of you. In the past you've been a MeFite whose pseudonym I recognize but have no strong associations with. You're fast becoming "that person who decided that making fun of mentally disabled people was the hill they wanted to die on." It's not a good look.

That's not what I've said. I don't think 'derp' as a term mocks the mentally disabled, at any rate beyond the level of which calling anyone unintelligent mocks the mentally disabled. And I think the idea of a world in which nobody ever insults each other is simply never going to happen, and probably shouldn't (it would be such a violation of human nature that I don't think it could happen outside of some sort of incredibly repressive police state).

But more importantly, I really wish people wouldn't call each other out over petty vocal missteps. The thing is, you get positive reactions to speech policing here, but mostly everyone else in the world hates it. Hates it a lot. Which is why I always come out against it; I know that to you, it might be like "Oh, glad to know, I'll be more careful" but to the majority of people, it's incredibly annoying and sanctimonious. This puts tons of people off these causes. That's why the right wing attacks political correctness so hard - because there's been so much overreach on these issues, it's become incredibly unpopular. There really is a feeling like people are waiting for you to step on some sort of verbal land mine so they can jump in and 'correct' you.

Also, this all fits in to what someone mentioned above as people getting angry on the behalf of others.

There doesn't need to be this much policing. I get that it was a big deal in the past, but the thing is, things like racial epithets had tons of dark history behind them, and they have the potential to really hurt people. Most of these new words don't, and only have impact if you go searching for that impact. It really isn't the same.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:50 PM on September 6, 2016 [29 favorites]


And who decides which language is "ableist, gendered, sexist, and homophobic"? I don't see anyone here demanding the right to mock the disabled. What people are saying is that the word "derp" does not mock the disabled. Its origins are (possibly) from mocking stupid behavior by abled people, and regardless, it's come to be an affectionate internet word for cute pets.

Just because some people take offense on behalf of others, does not make them the sole determiners of how a word is used. If anyone could just speak up and say "this word targeted at X group hurts me, even if I'm not a member, so please stop using it" and be listened to on MeFi, then the recurrent anti-white/male/cis/straight/rich/"privileged" posts would be out of vocabulary.

I know that my complaints about certain language have and will go unnoted. Nobody here is going to pause over a witty post about "male tears" and consider whom it insults, because favorites and good feedback outweigh decency. So what gives any of you the right to demand that other people start self-censoring over your particular language preferences?
posted by Rangi at 7:54 PM on September 6, 2016 [10 favorites]


Folks, there are several people here talking about their actual real-life experience hearing this term and similar ones used to mock the disabled. You can agree or not that it's something you need to worry about, but claiming that it's never used that way is just flat counterfactual.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:56 PM on September 6, 2016 [85 favorites]


I can't believe people are digging in on this after double block and bleed's comment.
posted by zutalors! at 8:02 PM on September 6, 2016 [37 favorites]


I am Officially Disabled and think "derp" is a shitty word. Can we all shut the fuck up with the "offended on behalf of others" now?
posted by griphus at 8:04 PM on September 6, 2016 [52 favorites]


If you think saying 'Please stop being quite so shitty to me' counts as too much policing I think it's probably you who is way over-sensitive.
posted by beerperson at 8:06 PM on September 6, 2016 [58 favorites]


The thing is, you get positive reactions to speech policing here, but mostly everyone else in the world hates it.

Well, um... congratulations on standing up for the majority, then?
posted by Etrigan at 8:08 PM on September 6, 2016 [33 favorites]


There doesn't need to be this much policing.

No, there doesn't need to be this much pushback.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:22 PM on September 6, 2016 [20 favorites]


Etrigan: Well, um... congratulations on standing up for the majority, then?

It's not that. It's that I think it does real harm to these issues to police speech, at least to the point of doing it over common words. It alienates people to those causes, and it makes them afraid to approach or discuss the issues.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:30 PM on September 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


This MeTa is about the use of the word "derp" on MetaFilter. It's not a discussion about the best way to enlighten the rest of the world, so your digging in on this seems to be, at best, misreading the room.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:34 PM on September 6, 2016 [28 favorites]


> But more importantly, I really wish people wouldn't call each other out over petty vocal missteps.

What counts as "calling out"? If someone says "Hey, I'd appreciate it if we do our best to avoid using [term] because {here are my reasons why it's hurtful]," is that "calling out"? Is that "policing"? When my friend asked people - both in person and via a couple thoughtful fb and blog posts - to not use terms like "crazy" when what we mean is "mean, awful, thoughtless, insensitive, absurd, you know, like that," I guess some people, including you, would call that "policing"? And so maybe in some peoples' universes there is no way to ask that people consider the language that comes out of their mouths, because thinking about what you actually mean and whom you are aiming your insults at is somehow worse than continuing to use terms you know that many people you don't mean to insult find those terms painful and insulting (NB: because your intent is not in fact magic). That is a depressing thought.

> Also, this all fits in to what someone mentioned above as people getting angry on the behalf of others.

Also, yuck.
posted by rtha at 8:36 PM on September 6, 2016 [15 favorites]


So. Okay. I don't like "derp" and "herp derp" or what the hell ever, in part because I find that the more people get into those terms and those silly faces, the... more they ape whatever they think intellectually disabled people do. (How many people do you see making tongue thrusts or shaking their heads as if they have a motor or balance issue when they're derping it up? I see lots.) I don't use them myself, because I find that distasteful. This specific example, in part because it is a newer one, I see as still having strong ties to directly mocking people with particular disabilities.

But.

I have noticed that awareness of disability on the internet, especially in the last five years, revolves more and more about word policing and tracing back the etymology of insults and trying to strip common words from people's language. I have noticed a lot of discussion about words like "lame," and "crazy," and "idiot", and a lot of people who are working very hard to strip those words from their vocabulary or argue that others should do so. And that's... fine, I guess. I think that removing words from a vocabulary is not costless, and that I'd rather focus on the inbuilt ideas that people hold about the world and the way it works, but word choice is a thing that people sometimes focus on as a way to do that. Okay.

What I have not noticed is a lot of discussion about things like, oh, accommodations, and who benefits from them. (I actually did an entire FPP once on the curb cut effect, because I could see the lack of familiarity with disability activism dialogue screaming at me from a totally unrelated discussion, and I wanted to see if I could maybe teach people a little about accommodation and the absolutely pragmatic reasons for encouraging it while I was going.) I don't see a lot of discussion about what it means to be disabled, and what it means to build things and organizations so that everyone can participate if they want to.

I haven't noticed people telling each other about little things that make their work accessible, like the html tags used for emphasis (em, by the way, is as I understand it better than i, because of the way screen readers work) and like embedding descriptions in images. I haven't noticed people telling each other to not make assumptions about what other people are doing and why they request small changes around them. I haven't noticed people talking about not petting service dogs, or about the fuck-awful gross Inspirational Disabled trope, or about models of disability and how we conceptualize basic human variation. (There's a lot of interesting discussions about that! The internet at large is not having them!)

And that bugs the fuck out of me. It bothers me so much. I have a bunch of disabled friends to varying extents, mostly these days people with chronic pain or other people like myself with varying degrees of brainweird. And day to day, the people I know who are trying to just get through their day with a disability... the words people use to convey concepts are not, generally speaking, the biggest problem standing in their way. The focus on words and language use to the exclusion of every other bloody thing to do with disability and ableism just bothers me.

And I think that it can actually make communities and conversations less safe for people with certain forms of disability. (Me, for example. That stuff drives my anxiety straight into overdrive and paralyzes me, so I have made a very conscious choice not to try to strip my language of words like 'crazy' unless I'm around someone who it specifically and personally hurts. Or people with intellectual disabilities who can't keep up with a euphemism treadmill as easily. There is, as with anything, a cost to changing language, and it's important to keep that in mind as we decide whether to jettison or keep particular words.)

I don't know why language seems to have been the only thing out of ableism dialogue to seep into the wider Progressive Internet, although I can maybe make a few guesses. But... for me, context matters more than word origin when it comes to things like this. While language can influence ideas and communication, it's not as important as the ideas and the things being communicated themselves. And while I'm not exactly surprised that our first big ableism MeTa is purely a matter of correcting other people's language and focusing on word choice, I'm a little sad about it. I think there's way more to ableism than that, and I wish that got as much attention as word choice does.
posted by sciatrix at 8:36 PM on September 6, 2016 [153 favorites]


I wonder often about issues of ableist language and how to address them. I try and police my speech, I've tried for a long time not to say "lame" anymore which was a definite favorite word of my childhood peer group. I don't think I've ever said "derp" outloud and I'm totally cool with avoiding it especially given what others have said in this thread.

But I was reading some of the links that Lexica posted above, and thinking about the arguments and claims being made in them, and having trouble going along all the way. One of them writes:
I always find it extraordinary that people who have been oppressed on the basis of their physical differences — how their bodies look and work — can still hold to the idea that some bodies are better than others.
And I wonder, as someone himself incapacitated in certain distinct ways that render him less abled, and who wishes so greatly that he wasn't incapacitated in these ways, that he could overcome them, what I wonder is, isn't it just the case that some bodies, and some minds, are just more capable than others? More fit. And isn't it better to be more capable, and more fit? To think faster, to run faster, jump higher, to be more clever, more charming, wittier. To have a tremendous recall and tremendous strength? Great calm and composure, indefatigable endurance?

I mean this from a first person perspective. Isn't it just objectively better to be strong and fast and clever? And, conversely, isn't it objectively worse to be weak and slow and unclever?

Besides my mental incapacitations, which are numerous, and, I'm sure, in constant evidence in my comments on this site, I have some injuries that prevent me from doing certain activities which I wish I could do, like an elbow injury that keeps me from bowling more than a few rolls before the pain is unbearable. This injury seems an objective, undeniable loss to me. It's not the greatest of losses, but it's a loss.

And I had a episode of viral conjunctivitis once which rendered me temporarily blind (and permanently damaged my retinas). It was one of the worst experiences of my life, being sightless for those few days, being led around by my partner. Stumbling into walls, walking with trepidation up and down stairs, and being cut off from my precious books, which normally were a salve for my soul in hard times. It was all panic and heartbreak and loss, the horrible thought that my sight might be gone forever. How would I study? How would I dig into the stacks in libraries any longer, searching for obscuranta? How would I go on with my life? Take my legs, I thought, before you take my vision away from me!

My vision returned, less than it had been, but back nonetheless, and the relief was so palpable, so incredible.

What else could I conclude but that to be blind is worse than to have sight?

None of this is to say that the blind person is worse, as a person, than the sighted one. Or the weak person worse than the strong, or the unclever person worse than the witty and quick. Society should commit itself to making all possible accommodations. I know and believe that it's often the case that the limits a disability places on a person are socially imposed. We could construct our environments to be more accomodating, and this would bring many capacities back to those who have "lost" them.

But no accommodation will restore a loss of one of the senses, and no amount of capability-minded architecture will give me back the free use of my arm. Those losses are genuine losses. What Aristotle termed privations from the complete or perfect functioning of the human being.

Not that there is a perfect human body.

I dunno. I guess I just struggle with this and I wonder if there is more thoughtful literature than the kind of blog posts that are just like: this is oppression! Because I think there is something very tangible and visceral about people's understanding of the difference between being able-bodied and disabled. And it has less to do with the value of these people and the love and compassion they deserve and more to do with the fear we have about our own vulnerability to such incapacitation and the terror it inspires in us.

I guess what I wonder is, how am I supposed to approach this conclusion. What is wrong with it? What's my error? How is it not better to be more capable than less capable?

This is more or less orthogonal to the question of what kind of language one should use. I know I fail here in many ways. I say insane when I mean 'out of whack' which also I think just means 'insane'. It comes naturally. I try not to. I want least of all to bring hurt to others who suffer already.
posted by dis_integration at 8:45 PM on September 6, 2016 [41 favorites]


I completely echo what dis_integration says above, and would be keen to hear people's comments.
posted by lalochezia at 8:58 PM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


All right. Enough people have called me out as wrong that I've re-read the thread, and tried to re-evaluate my opinion. Here are my conclusions thus far:

"Derp" is probably a little questionable. I haven't personally seen anyone mentally disabled getting insulted by it, but to be honest, I don't really interact with anyone mentally disabled. I can see how someone with a close relationship to someone mentally disabled could perceive it as mocking without really going looking to be insulted; it does resemble mockery. I return to my earlier statement that it will always be hard to sort out terms that mock normal people for being unintelligent from terms that mock the mentally disabled. However, I can see that perhaps it may not be good to use.

On the other hand, I stick by my assertion that it isn't good to go looking for insult where it clearly isn't intended. No one means to mock the disabled by using "lame" or "stupid" these days, and in fact many people who use those terms probably don't even know of the alternative meaning. So, if you do want to police the speech of others (and yes, just saying "This offends me, could you not use it" does count as policing speech), try to keep it to things that do or at least realistically could be taken as insulting by real disabled people, and don't go reaching. Derp may not be reaching, but stupid, idiot, and lame clearly are.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:01 PM on September 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


On the other hand, I stick by my assertion that it isn't good to go looking for insult where it clearly isn't intended.

If you are walking around with your eyes closed, randomly swinging your fists, and you hit me in the face, I assure you that your intent means nothing to me.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:04 PM on September 6, 2016 [39 favorites]


Sorry for any offense

Johnny, you're a class act. Good on you, brother.
posted by smoke at 9:05 PM on September 6, 2016 [13 favorites]


Johnny, you're a class act. Good on you, brother.

Seconded. And if it's any consultation, I really enjoyed those goofy animals.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:08 PM on September 6, 2016 [9 favorites]


Lots of this sort of thing in the unfortunately named /r/AnimalsBeingDerps.
posted by Mitheral at 9:14 PM on September 6, 2016


His thoughts were red thoughts: If you are walking around with your eyes closed, randomly swinging your fists, and you hit me in the face, I assure you that your intent means nothing to me.

I get that, but at some point, you really are just grabbing the other person's fist and jabbing it into your face. Using obsolete usage and etymology to adjust the meaning of someone's words into an insult is about on that level.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:27 PM on September 6, 2016 [16 favorites]


I guess what I wonder is, how am I supposed to approach this conclusion. What is wrong with it? What's my error? How is it not better to be more capable than less capable?

I think you answer your own question here: "Not that there is a perfect human body."

I'd love to be an Olympic athlete, but the fact that I'm not that physically talented doesn't make me feel like I'm lacking something every day. I am nearsighted, and the fact that I have to wear prosthetic lenses on my eyes every day doesn't even register as an obstacle to daily life. My mother died over a decade ago, and I register that as a major loss, but her physical absence from my life is something I've grown used to -- it's still sad, but not so devastating that it keeps me from functioning any more.

My not-as-capable-as'es and disabilities and losses are considered "normal," though, right? It'd be weird for everyone who wore contact lenses to spend days and weeks and months mourning our loss of perfect vision, because there are easy and common ways of correcting it. Most non-Olympians don't spend their lives pining about not being Usian Bolt. Most people who have suffered major losses grieve, and then move on.

But we frame some disabilities and losses as if they were so devastating that no one could move on from them. Why? In large part, because we've constructed a society that's horrible about being accessible to people with various disabilities, so there are often major issues adjusting, but that's not about how devastating the disability is, but about how non-accessible society is. (Research "social model of disability" for more info.)

And in large part, you're right, I think, that we allow ourselves to project our fear onto others and assume they must feel "less than." And because we've created a society that's inaccessible to a lot of people, we don't have those people nearby as much as we should to give us their own perspectives or tell their own stories, so we read and watch and hear more projections from other people who assume that disabled people must feel "less than."

And I'm sure some of them do, from time to time, because we all do, from time to time. It is often better to be more capable than less capable, but no one is the absolute best at every single thing, so we've generally all come to terms with the reality that we're generally less-than-average, at the very least, in some aspects of life. That's just normal coping with the reality that we aren't all genius superheroes.
posted by lazuli at 9:29 PM on September 6, 2016 [39 favorites]


If you are walking around with your eyes closed, randomly swinging your fists, and you hit me in the face, I assure you that your intent means nothing to me.

I never quite understand this argument. It matters quite a lot to me whether or not you intentionally hit me in the face.
posted by lalex at 9:49 PM on September 6, 2016 [22 favorites]


The point is that it hurts either way.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:59 PM on September 6, 2016 [17 favorites]


...If the answer is "no," I invite you to consider why you would, as you put it, police your own language in this instance while objecting to "language policing" in other instances.

If the answer is yes, then I invite you to consider your purpose here on Earth.
posted by duffell at 7:28 PM on September 6 [5 favorites +] [!]


Whether or not we agree on the use of "derp" and if it is or not a slur, saying shit like we should consider our purpose here on Earth if we don't agree with you? There's no need for that, and I just wanted to call this crap out as incredibly offensive. It is okay if we have disagreements here (or at least, it fucking should be), there's no need for this kind of response. This is just as bad as the thing you are decrying.
posted by FireFountain at 10:06 PM on September 6, 2016 [24 favorites]


I think a key reason that intent matters is that a fist swung with harmful intent is going to be swung again. However, if a person claims that their own fist swinging is random and keeps hitting you anyway, you will still not want to be around them.
posted by Jpfed at 10:06 PM on September 6, 2016


Po-TAY-to, po-TAH-to
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:12 PM on September 6, 2016


Why is lived experience never enough for some people? This is not hard. You don't get to decide what's important to or for someone else. Is life just that easy for some people that they literally cannot fathom being ground down by words? Are they that privileged that they just cannot imagine emotional hardship? I really cannot understand how people can just blithely say "oh well, your hurt is not real enough to me to take seriously because I just can't imagine it, deal with that." Insult to fucking injury.
posted by sockermom at 10:32 PM on September 6, 2016 [41 favorites]


Is there an alternative that can be used for funny animal faces with no risk of offence? Serious question, not a rhetorical point.
posted by Segundus at 10:41 PM on September 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


"funny animal faces" works pretty well.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:54 PM on September 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


Selective moments in humourous husbandry.

It's a cavalcade of silly cats and dogs or parrots!

Fun animals not on a farm.
posted by clavdivs at 11:16 PM on September 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


Is there an alternative that can be used for funny animal faces with no risk of offence? Serious question, not a rhetorical point.

The alternatives are endless. Pretend that you had never heard of the word "derp". What other word/s would you use to describe a funny animal face?
posted by futz at 11:36 PM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Etrigan: Well, um... congratulations on standing up for the majority, then?

It's not that. It's that I think it does real harm to these issues to police speech, at least to the point of doing it over common words. It alienates people to those causes, and it makes them afraid to approach or discuss the issues.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:30 PM on September 6


I also want to say that, this right here, what Mitrovarr said? This is basically the reason I do not participate on this site more than I do. It is the reason I have never, and probably will never post a FPP on the blue. It is why I don't comment or discuss things in the threads about tougher topics. It is why I only really stay on the green and even there I am nervous all the time that something I write is going to cause a problem that I never intended. It has gotten to the point that it seems that anything I say on this site might offend somebody somewhere, and people here, instead of calmly pointing things out, instead create emotionally-charged threads that just further alienate people like me.

Anyway, I'm not saying I want the right to be shitty to people. I don't actively want to offend others, but when it comes down to it, people are offended by all kinds of things and I can't keep track of it all. So, I just don't participate unless I see that I'm with the site majority. And, I will say, that doesn't feel good.
posted by FireFountain at 11:41 PM on September 6, 2016 [35 favorites]


This is basically the reason I do not participate on this site more than I do.

Yeah but honestly: look at the thread that caused this post, look at how it was brought up, and how it was responded to by the original poster. Nobody's mad at each other, and people are learning. Is this what you're scared of? Why?
posted by destructive cactus at 11:45 PM on September 6, 2016 [55 favorites]


It has gotten to the point that it seems that anything I say on this site might offend somebody somewhere, and people here, instead of calmly pointing things out, instead create emotionally-charged threads that just further alienate people like me.

If this MeTa is not 'calmly pointing things out', then I am at a loss as to what would be. There are no calls for anyone's head. There are no calls for bans. hydropsyche pointed out that 'derp' is a slur, and asked if we could to better. That's all.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:52 PM on September 6, 2016 [32 favorites]


I don't actively want to offend others, but when it comes down to it, people are offended by all kinds of things and I can't keep track of it all.

I don't mean this to sound harsh, but no one's asking you to. It's OK to make mistakes. It's OK to not know things.

So, if you make a mistake or offend someone, learn from it, apologise if that's appropriate, and try not to do it again. That's all anyone is asking here. A little consideration.

For example: Johnny Wallflower's approach to this thread.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:56 PM on September 6, 2016 [24 favorites]


Mitrovarr, I would fucking love it if people could somehow just stop mocking each other entirely, yeah. I think it would be a huge net positive if cruel humor just died away somehow. I don't expect it to happen, but that's no excuse not to be doing our own tiny parts to slow the tide.

You've made several comments in this thread in which you've basically defended your right to mock the intellectually disabled, on the grounds that it's no big deal and people have always done it and anyway it's just funny. You're sounding like an asshole and it's lowered my opinion of you. In the past you've been a MeFite whose pseudonym I recognize but have no strong associations with. You're fast becoming "that person who decided that making fun of mentally disabled people was the hill they wanted to die on." It's not a good look.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:22 PM on September 6 [11 favorites +]


If the answer is "no," I invite you to consider why you would, as you put it, police your own language in this instance while objecting to "language policing" in other instances.

If the answer is yes, then I invite you to consider your purpose here on Earth.
posted by duffell at 7:28 PM on September 6



Comments like these made the conversation not feel very calm to me. It's fine if your perspective is different, I'm just expressing mine. It would have been nicer to feel like someone who slightly objected shouldn't just go reconsider their purpose on earth, or be made to feel like actually the whole time we just wanted to make fun of disabled people when that wasn't the point at all. Dissenting viewpoints seem to just be shouted down, and this also doesn't feel very calm to me.
posted by FireFountain at 12:00 AM on September 7, 2016 [33 favorites]


For the record, I'm completely fine with Johnny's approach. His comments aren't the ones I'm referring to.
posted by FireFountain at 12:02 AM on September 7, 2016


I'm not entirely sure I get your point, but you seem to see disagreement with your views as a personal attack. It's not.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:04 AM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


How are those comments I referred to not personal? They directly insinuate that people with dissenting opinions sound like assholes who want to make fun of the mentally ill. Those aren't arguments in good faith, based on fact or reason. Anyway, I can see that I'm not being understood so I bid you good night.
posted by FireFountain at 12:11 AM on September 7, 2016 [24 favorites]


I have no problem insulting people, but when I want to insult someone I want it to be on purpose, not because of unknowing word choices.
posted by Evilspork at 12:26 AM on September 7, 2016 [9 favorites]


There are also multiple people saying that it's not a big deal if you didn't know how affected people receive this word, but now you know, so try to be better. That's the overwhelming tenor of the thread. Seems more than charitable to me. To the extent people are frustrated, it's because there are some who do know better, now, but have chosen to ignore that it directly hurts people who have spoken up (and some who crucially lack the ability to speak up for themselves). That choice - when it comes to the mentally disabled who are arguably the least accomodated and cared for in our society, and the least of us who can express their views on the matter - seems so utterly callous that I can't quite fathom it.
posted by naju at 12:37 AM on September 7, 2016 [22 favorites]


so we read and watch and hear more projections from other people who assume that disabled people must feel "less than."

And I'm sure some of them do, from time to time, because we all do, from time to time.


I know you mean well, and I appreciate it, but as a person with an acquired disability, I really hate the trend towards this kind of framing being used to apply to the entire subset of people with disabilities, who may not all agree.

Many of us were not disabled from birth. Some of us are disabled because of things or experiences that were done to us. When we mourn who we used to be, it's because that has been stolen from us. If we think it's objectively better to be as we were, not as we are, it's because we've experienced both and /know/. The things I may have gained are not worth the things I have lost. It's not a "time to time" thing, it's a "every day, in every way, I think about what I've lost."

This kind of thing just always seems, to me, like "Man, disabled people aren't sad so why should you be sad for them?" And that framing doesn't allow us the freedom to be as we are, which includes sad, and angry, and hurt, and yes, even sometimes broken.
posted by corb at 12:44 AM on September 7, 2016 [33 favorites]


And while I'm not exactly surprised that our first big ableism MeTa is purely a matter of correcting other people's language and focusing on word choice

I'm pretty sure this isn't the first meta on ableism.
posted by Dysk at 1:39 AM on September 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


I was unaware that the term being discussed is abelist.

Thank you OP for drawing attention to this negative usage.

I have been educated and will now remove the term from my language usage.
posted by Faintdreams at 2:01 AM on September 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'd be grateful if anyone could point me to a source of good, strong words that can be used instead of words like idiot, stupid and crazy. Sometimes descriptions like 'intellectually lacking' just don't cut it.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:02 AM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Too-Ticky This list was posted upthread, gives lots of alternatives : http://isthisableism.tumblr.com/sluralternatives
posted by Faintdreams at 2:09 AM on September 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


Ah, thanks!
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:10 AM on September 7, 2016




Zarq, thanks. That one is really good and useful. I was not looking for phrases like “that viewpoint seems extreme to me. Could you please clarify?” Sometimes, I want something short, strong and cutting. I just want to try and make sure I don't cut where I don't want to cut!
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:19 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


You're welcome!

Totally understandable.
posted by zarq at 3:18 AM on September 7, 2016


Well done, Johnny Wallflower.

I would like to add that I grew up in Australia in the 1980s, didn't know anyone with mental disabilities, and remember derp and similar sounding words being used to mock intellectual disabilities.
posted by daybeforetheday at 3:19 AM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Why is lived experience never enough for some people? This is not hard. You don't get to decide what's important to or for someone else.

There's a very common word that was, slightly mispronounced, an insult at my school. You wouldn't think of it as an insulting word, but believe me, after being called it enough it's enough for me to note it in situations where few others would blink, especially because as written the spelling is exactly the same. It has no known connotations to any kind of slur, either, modern or ancient - it's just the word they used to insult other kids.

That's my connotations, and mine only. There have been times - very rare, but still times - when someone brings up a phrase or a word as something 'we shouldn't do here', and general consensus is no, your interpretation is incorrect, or your sensitivity seems restricted to you, as your associated meanings are far from common.

In cases like this, where a word that people have often been taking to mean 'stupid thing a cute animal did' is defined as an ableist slur, it should be fair to examine the extent to which the word has that definition, versus whether the perception of it as an insult is a meaning being forced onto it by a small fraction of users for whom it is true. Despite repeated attempts to claim otherwise, these discussions always come down to people saying 'It only means what I think it means, so if you use it you are intentionally hurting me and/or the class of people being insulted, you very bad person.' Any reaction other than full and unequivocal support is treated as only the actions of bullies and trolls.

The very idea that the connotations of a few shouldn't affect the neutral usage of the rest, or that there is anything inherently negative in soft-banning words, is dismissed out of hand and scoffed at. If it were just attacking viewpoints rather than people, then the reaction to anyone disagreeing wouldn't be always one of personal hurt.

I think there's a problem in always letting the negative versions of words hold sway, letting people who twist and misuse them into insults be those who define them. Because in my experience, it's both a good way to associate certain very positive things with negativity, and also any word can become an insult if said the right way.

And I, too, could write a couple of very emotive personal paragraphs reinforcing that point.
posted by gadge emeritus at 3:50 AM on September 7, 2016 [24 favorites]


these discussions always come down to people saying 'It only means what I think it means, so if you use it you are intentionally hurting me and/or the class of people being insulted, you very bad person.

Yeah, but mate, it totally didn't come down to that in this particular discussion - multiple people have asserted its widespread use as a slur implying intellectual disabilities - I have no reason to dispute those testimonies. I kinda feel like what you're saying is ignoring multiple people who have posted this.

More broadly, I can understand the feelings of embarrassment, shame, even anger that may come when someone accuses you of hurting them - for sure. And sometimes it can get pretty hot in the old MeTa. But really, like, if that's your takeaway from these threads, I feel like - again - you're ignoring the terrific strides metafilter has taken as a community in the way it takes about and treats other races, other religions, other genders and identities - none of it would have happened if we had been like 'it's just your opinion, man, maybe *you're* the bad person'.

It's an ongoing journey for sure, but we're moving. And - more importantly - it ignores like all the discussion we have here about privilege and punching up, and being kind to each other, and all of that jazz. You're making it about you, and yes you are the privileged one in this instance because its use doesn't offend you.

No one was accusing Johnny of being a bad person - I think he's tops! But even if you think derp is perfectly fine, someone in your community has asked you not to use it; can you not respect that the same way you would if a friend asked you not to call them a certain name, for example?

I guess, I'm asking is derp the hill you really want to die on here? It seems like a crappy line in the sand, and you'll forgive me if I take any hurt people express about being unable to use "Derp" on metafilter with a jaundiced view.
posted by smoke at 4:30 AM on September 7, 2016 [19 favorites]


I would like to propose "goofy-ass," "ridonkulous" and the ironic "extremely noble" as excellent descriptors for ridonkulous pictures of goofy-ass animals, as well as the EXTREMELY NOBLE.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:40 AM on September 7, 2016 [15 favorites]


In cases like this, where a word that people have often been taking to mean 'stupid thing a cute animal did' is defined as an ableist slur, it should be fair to examine the extent to which the word has that definition, versus whether the perception of it as an insult is a meaning being forced onto it by a small fraction of users for whom it is true.

This is no 'small fraction of users' thing - it's inherent in the meanings associated with both the word 'derp' itself, and the adjective form 'derpy'. It's used exactly like 'retarded' was ten or twenty years ago.
posted by Dysk at 4:45 AM on September 7, 2016 [10 favorites]


It's saying something that sciatrix's comment (sciatrix, who I really like and respect) upsets me more than most of the others in this thread precisely because I actually agree with her underlying point. But I have no idea how to engage people here on the actual lived experience of being disabled in an ableist society. The curb cut thread went fairly well, but other similar threads have infuriated me because so many people aggressively refuse to get it -- they actively refuse to consider the viewpoint that lazuli so eloquently presented above.

I'm so frustrated and angry about engaging with people on the more substantive issues that I mostly just don't even attempt to ... even here on MetaFilter where one would expect better.

But that's exactly why I don't begrudge people targeting language, either on their own behalf or on the behalf of others. Language is low hanging fruit: it's easy to point out, it's easier for people to consider, and it's easier for people to change. The systemic stuff, the thinking carefully and self-critically about how we think about other people and changing our thinking and behavior and institutions -- all of that is hard and unavoidably takes a lot of time and effort. Yes, yes -- we need to be doing those things, those are the things that really matter -- but right away, right now, we can at least listen to people when they say some language is hurtful and perhaps change that small thing in our behavior. It is small, that's why it's not much to ask.

Or, at the very least, as I wrote earlier, to just consider the issue and not get defensive and make it all about our defensiveness.

Which is the other reason I've come around to the idea of always taking complaints about language seriously -- the way people react is revealing and, in fact, a prime opportunity for people to start working at those things that more deeply matter. Because overcoming one's own defensiveness about language is often the first hard and critical work that one can do to begin to examine one's relationship to an institutionalized injustice. It's my hope that people learning to resist a defensive reaction about "derp" is the first step in learning how to think about and engage with the much more substantial ableist barriers in our society.

"I'm pretty sure this isn't the first meta on ableism."

It's not, but at the risk of repeating myself, I long ago decided that I couldn't possibly deal with the emotional risk and trauma of posting a MetaTalk thread about ableism. I've thought about it and even felt some responsibility to do so on many occasions when I've encountered ableist stuff in discussion here, but I. just. don't. have. the. energy. to deal with a MetaTalk thread I post myself about something that intimate to my own experience. I don't want to put myself in the crosshairs at all, but about that? Dealing with ableism on the site has given me so much more insight into what women (and trans* folk and others) have said about dealing with stuff here. It upsets me at an existential level. I want to go to sleep. I am forcing myself to write and post this comment. So I'm just happy to see some more awareness about ableist language and to subsequently see less of it here -- that, all by itself, is a relief. Is it even remotely close to getting people here to work on more substantial changes? No. But it's one less thing and it's a first step.

And, anyway, we've already had this damn discussion about other things. We got the same "it's not wrong" and "it's not the important problem" and "this diverts energy from people solving the important problem" and "this makes people more unwilling to listen" about all these other -isms. Why do we have to deal with the same list of talking points again and again about each new thing? Is it so much to ask that people here pick up on the pattern and learn something from it? The refusal to engage on these smaller things and the defensiveness is a sign, it points to the "larger problem". That people don't learn to recognize the pattern and become more self-critical, that people are adamant and sensitive about issues that they experience but dismissive and defensive about things they do not -- more and more I've become convinced that gaining the self-awareness and getting over this first hump is the one crucial first real step anyone can make. I know I'm repeating myself, but I think that interrogating one's own dismissiveness and defensiveness in this context is singularly important.

"As a disabled person, I don't want anyone in the world to be offended on my behalf. It takes away my agency when other people decide whether I can hear slurs about my disability in conversation."

Mittens, I favorited your comment even though I disagree with large parts of it (and, in fact, I think it's far too easily co-opted as a defense of ableism by other, badly-intentioned people) because I deeply and strongly agree with your concerns about people presuming to speak on your behalf as a disabled person. As another disabled person, I think what you're saying in your comment is important and should be listened to. I don't agree with the use to which you are making that point, but I agree with that point.

I don't like it when non-disabled people presume to speak on my behalf and I disagree with them (obviously) but I also don't like it and find it even more difficult in some respects when another disabled person presumes to speak on my behalf and I don't agree with them. And, yeah, when I do agree with them, it doesn't bother me, but that's only because I'm not thinking about why it might bother me. So, in fact, when I do speak as a disabled person here I make an effort to not universalize my own experience onto all other disabled people and act as if I'm speaking for everyone else. It can be a difficult line to walk, but I'm mindful of it (though very imperfectly) and in fact I've written here on MetaTalk about this on numerous occasions.

"I know you mean well, and I appreciate it, but as a person with an acquired disability, I really hate the trend towards this kind of framing being used to apply to the entire subset of people with disabilities, who may not all agree. Many of us were not disabled from birth. Some of us are disabled because of things or experiences that were done to us. When we mourn who we used to be, it's because that has been stolen from us. [...] And that framing doesn't allow us the freedom to be as we are, which includes sad, and angry, and hurt, and yes, even sometimes broken."

As you might guess, given what I just wrote, I'm very strongly in agreement with you about other people implicitly or explicitly invalidating your own experience of your disability. Your experience is valid and real and it is simply wrong for someone to tell you otherwise. But, likewise, that you feel the way you do should not be seen by you as a justification for you to, in turn, implicitly or explicitly invalidate someone's objection to a third person framing that other person's life and experience in terms of "being broken".

There's no one right way to be disabled.

I'm more like you than not. Although my illness is an inherited collagenopathy, my experience is that I had a bit of trouble as a child, had one surgery at the age of ten, and then lived mostly without disability until my thirties ... but am now fairly seriously disabled. In contrast, my sister had her first of many surgeries at the age of fourteen months. She has never known a life without pain or limitations about things most everyone else takes for granted. And yet I think she and I are exactly the reverse of what you'd expect from the argument you are making from your own experience. I don't feel broken at all. I definitely experienced the loss of something my sister (or father) never had, but I don't feel broken or resentful or that it's hurt my self-esteem in any way. My sister, I think, would really like an explanation from someone for why it's fair that she was born into a life of pain and disability.

I used to have a lot of trouble with this difference between us. But this was a severe failure of empathy on my part. She and I are alike in so many ways -- we have a sort of secret language between us about the disease, a language that we shared with our father -- but in some very important ways our respective experiences of this illness are profoundly different. I can't know what it's like to be a toddler and be in a body-cast for eight months and then have to learn to begin to walk all over again. I can't know what it was like to have [boys/girls] make fun of how I walk. I've always walked a bit oddly, too, the way people in my family with this disease do; but for me, as a boy and for whatever reason, it wasn't targeted for ridicule. Her experience is hers. It's not mine. What's true for me isn't necessarily true for her. What's good for me isn't what's necessarily good for her.

But what's true for both of us is that life's a constant series of obstacles we have to negotiate that most other people don't experience, don't even see. Our mother, whose ex-husband and both children have this disease, and who is a caretaking personality who became an RN of all things ... just doesn't understand so much. And to the degree to which she's aware that she doesn't understand her childrens' experience, it just breaks her heart. But I mention it because it's also so weird. She's 70. I'm 51, my sister is 41. How can she not know what I can reach and not reach? What kind of activity will hurt me and what will not? If anyone who hasn't experienced this life could know these things, you'd think she would. But there's so many things that just aren't even visible to her, even though she tries to see them. I'm not being critical of her, it's just the way that it is.

Being disabled is living in a world of obstacles that other people just don't see and, when asked to see them, will often deny they exist. Or they'll say that it cannot be any other way. Again, lazuli's comment was so good. Of course there's many things that I can't do that most other people can and it's not that I'm asking people to pretend otherwise. But there's a reason why people prefer the expression "differently abled". Because this is all a continuum, we all can't do various things that others can, and collectively we have a choice about how much we err in the direction of being inclusive and to remove barriers. Or not.

It's depressing that people who live within the boundaries that society has defined as "normal" and therefore as a matter of course experience equal access (how many houses have you walked into with five-foot ceilings?) argue that this exact status quo is the one reasonable and rational place to have drawn those lines. If we move the line over here, they say, it will be a slippery slope and, anyway, you're making this into a bigger deal than it really is, they say. They always say.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:48 AM on September 7, 2016 [62 favorites]


I'm not sure what you're trying to say to me in reply to my comment, Ivan - I was a bit disgruntled at the erasure of some of the intensely frustrating conversations there have been on this issue in the past. I do not disagree that the focus on language is superficial in many ways (but the easiest and most obvious angle on a text based forum) but this is absolutely not the first big ableism MeTa.
posted by Dysk at 5:00 AM on September 7, 2016


No, I used your correction of sciatrix's claim that there hasn't been a previous ableism thread to engage with the whole idea of why there aren't more ableist MetaTalk posts than there are, and about the things that are more important than language. My comment wasn't aimed at you, although I quoted you. Sometimes when I quote someone I don't make that sort of thing clear, and I apologize. I'll try to be mindful of this in the future.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:05 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


So what's the current status of "duh"? As far as I can remember, it evolved in the 80s from "no duh", which in turn came from "no durr", which came from the same place as "derp", imitating someone with a mental disability. Did the etymological split happen far enough back that "duh" is okay now, or is it in the same park as "derp"?
posted by Bugbread at 5:08 AM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


OP here. I appreciate Johnny Wallflower's graceful, thoughtful response. Personally, I have an invisible disability, but I love people with much more visible disabilities, physical and intellectual. The r-word and its relatives are directed at anyone who does not speak, walk, or act in a typical way because our society is generally completely unaccepting of this. I boggle at the lack of empathy in the world. I appreciate those of you who have shown empathy in this thread.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:18 AM on September 7, 2016 [25 favorites]


I guess, I'm asking is derp the hill you really want to die on here? It seems like a crappy line in the sand, and you'll forgive me if I take any hurt people express about being unable to use "Derp" on metafilter with a jaundiced view.

Since we're erecting hills, it doesn't really matter which one a person chooses to "die" on. If not this hill, there'll be another one further down the road, probably over 'lame' or 'crazy'.

It does't seems like the micomanaging of language will ever stop, not until we've reached a nivanghetto where no could ever possibly be hurt by something someone wrote on the internet.

I have no particular love of the word 'derp', but I am struck by how the line on this particular site has shifted to where it matters if a person is hurt or offended by the use of seemingly common, everyday words. And how quick those offended are to try and goad and shame others into changing.

The goal of wanting to offend anyone is laudable in theory, but in practice is lacking. There are now lists of offensive words and replacement words to consult and learn and possibly keep up with and its odd that things have come to this.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:25 AM on September 7, 2016 [15 favorites]


This kind of thing just always seems, to me, like "Man, disabled people aren't sad so why should you be sad for them?" And that framing doesn't allow us the freedom to be as we are, which includes sad, and angry, and hurt, and yes, even sometimes broken.

Sorry, did not mean to erase your experience. I was trying to give a counterpoint to the original question I answered.
posted by lazuli at 5:36 AM on September 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


It does't seems like the micomanaging of language will ever stop, not until we've reached a nivanghetto where no could ever possibly be hurt by something someone wrote on the internet.

There is literally no way that someone can ask that people be mindful of their language that does not result in this sort of slippery-slope bullshit, is there.
posted by Etrigan at 5:43 AM on September 7, 2016 [47 favorites]


There's a pretty clear line between variants of "derp" (it was "derr" in 1980s Adelaide) and words like "crazy", "stupid" and "idiot": derp never had any meaning other than as a mocking onomatopoeic comparison to an intellectually disabled person, probably a child, but anyone can be crazy or stupid sometimes or do idiotic things, and those words have never been used exclusively to talk about disabilities.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 5:53 AM on September 7, 2016


There is literally no way that someone can ask that people be mindful of their language that does not result in this sort of slippery-slope bullshit, is there.
posted by Etrigan at 12:43 PM on September 7 [4 favorites +] [!]


How far down the slope do we need to get before we are allowed to acknowledge that we are actually on it?
posted by Reggie Knoble at 5:56 AM on September 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


I have never before connected "d--p" to anything even distantly related to people with disabilities. I always thought it was just a silly sound. However, after reading through the thread, I see how easily one could get from "silly sound" to "ablest slur" and I will do my best to stop using the word, especially in MeFi.

Another however! I use this word a lot, especially with Mrs Tevin, and we use it very specifically to refer to "A Thing where maybe the person who produced The Thing* tried but the amount of effort is unclear and the results are definitely lacking and it isn't bad but it is a little sad."

For example I make a loaf of bread that tastes delicious but the scoring didn't come out quite right and rather than a beautiful star on the top of the loaf it looks more like a homunculus giving me the finger.

There I would normally say "well it tastes alright but it looks a little d---y."

What is a good replacement word? "Shitty" doesn't work because it isn't outright bad. "Half assed" isn't quite right either because I assure you my whole ass went into that loaf. "Half baked" could work but only in this very particular instance and anyway the connotation is more that it wasn't thought through.

Any help finding a replacement for this word would be most appreciated.

*it's me, 95%** of the time

** OK, 100% of the time
posted by Tevin at 5:58 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Well I was reading this thread to think about ableism in language but here's my contribution on good words to describe something you put effort into that turned out wrong: we use rustic in my house, said emphatically when you realize the thing is off despite your best efforts. Pie slumped because your tiny crappy oven is tilted? "Oh, it's rustic." It both satisfyingly acknowledges that it isn't quite what you wanted and reframes it so that it's okay that it turned out that way.
posted by felix grundy at 6:03 AM on September 7, 2016 [21 favorites]


"What is a good replacement word?"

I completely get you in that the word answers a need.

Even a lot of those unambiguously bigoted used as pejoratives work just right to express something (that doesn't seem related to bigotry) and it's really hard to let those words go when you feel like there's not a substitute that functions the same.

Of course, that's sort of a clue that part of how the word "works" is because it's freighted with that objectionable stuff -- that this very likely has something to do with why there's not a perfect substitute.

And this can be true even if "you" (the speaker) has absolutely no awareness of that bigoted or otherwise problematic aspect of the the word. Language usage is funny that way: what words mean is socially constructed on a collective basis and they carry with them the weight of all sorts of associations, many we're aware of but many more we're not. We usually learn new words just by inference from context so that's why a whole bunch of associations can be operational but hidden from us. Oftentimes, though, learning explicitly about some of those associations results in a "eureka" moment where suddenly some of a word's oomph makes a lot more sense. Derp is, I think, a word that works the way it does because of the aspects of it that stem from ableism. Not entirely, and many people aren't aware of this, but it's there. This is true about most of these sorts of things. "Thug". "Bossy". Words are mostly subterranean.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:20 AM on September 7, 2016 [9 favorites]


How far down the slope do we need to get before we are allowed to acknowledge that we are actually on it?

So...we're at the part where nothing actually harmful is happening to those that use the terms under discussion, apart from whatever unrelated injuries one gets from gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, whereas a lot of people are saying they are actually harmed by them and almost all of them are politely asking for it to stop. And yet, as so often happens, it's the former group that is making predictions of DOOM.

If the slippery slope even exists, comments like this that bemoan the horror of being gently asked to (as zarq said above) be kind to others at a cost of nothing--especially when combined with the hyperbole about when will this PC SJW nonsense stop, this is how free speech dies and democracy ends, etc.--are evidence that it's not where you think it does.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:23 AM on September 7, 2016 [28 favorites]


"Goofy" is a perfectly cromulent replacement for "derpy" if one considers the Disney character with that name. I mean, just look at him.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 6:23 AM on September 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


Serious question what are people's thoughts on the other Reddit terms "bleep" and "Mlem" for animals with their tongues out?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:32 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


I haven't personally seen anyone mentally disabled getting insulted by it, but to be honest, I don't really interact with anyone mentally disabled.

I am literally sitting at my desk, jaw agape, unable to believe anyone can write the quoted sentence and not see the inherent huge contradiction between 'I haven't seen anyone mentally disabled getting insulted' (although people in the thread have said they are) and 'I don't really interact with anyone mentally disabled'.

Although you probably do, you just don't know it because wearing signs is not actually a thing.
posted by winna at 6:40 AM on September 7, 2016 [55 favorites]


I will happily replace "derp." Is "blep" still a thing? Because I always see the same pics of animals with their lil tongues sticking out and the term "blep." (It also sounds like what I would imagine a cartoonish tongue slip to be.)
posted by Kitteh at 6:47 AM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


I've read this thread with interest - I've never liked the term derp and refrained from using it because I always assumed it was an attack on someone's look's (which, for some, may be in of itself problematic) but never connected it as relating to disabled people.

On the other hand, I am concerned about saying things like "stupid" are also offensive and ableist or blanket rules on words that may have historically had an offensive meaning towards one group is also now offlimits.

If we go down that route, my understanding of the word "goofy," which many in this thread have suggested as great alternative, can also be taken to be offensive, since all of the definitions I'm coming across use the term "stupid" to define it, and if you research the (unclear) etymology of the word, apparently is related to the old words "goff" or "goffe" which apparently means "simpleton", or "stupid" and we're back to square one. Same with the word "dumb."

And then there's the business of how I've come across folks who found the character Goofy offensive because they feel it's a depiction of people with (separately heard), alcoholism and/or mental disabilities. Comparing some of the older disney cartoons with Goofy in it, it's not hard to see.
posted by Karaage at 6:50 AM on September 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


winna: "Although you probably do, you just don't know it because wearing signs is not actually a thing."

I think he was referring to someone with a mental disability severe enough that it caused severe speech disorders like the very topic we're talking about.
posted by Bugbread at 6:51 AM on September 7, 2016


Why is lived experience never enough for some people? This is not hard. You don't get to decide what's important to or for someone else.

I think, and this is coming from the perspective of someone who basically agrees with you and is just answering the question, that people's lived experience often varies. Even in this thread we've seen people with varying types of disabilities chime in with varying perspectives on how they feel about the word derp or the idea of asking people not to say it. Which totally makes sense. So, there winds up always being some sort of assessment of not just that someone asked you not to say a thing (Or be mindful of your use of the thing you do say) but also why they asked.

And for people who don't have a terribly sophisticated idea of ableism or transphobia (to bring up two slightly more-recently-advocated things people are asked to be mindful of) it can seem like maybe this is asking for carve-outs as opposed to just ... extending manners and etiquette to include more people who deserve the same positive attentions as other people have always gotten. And so for nerdy types who are more rule-governed and learned manners by rote, this whole "Just tell me what to say!" thing gets complex when they can't just read one rulebook but have to manage the feelings of a lot of people, many of whom they don't even know really well. And so two people whose lived experience makes them come down on different sides of the issue can be vexing and basically cognitively dissonant to people who just want The Rules. I think many people understand how to move on from that and make their own personal determinations, but some people are just flat out bad at it. So you get the terrible trope where someone says a thing, people call them on it and then they say that it's okay because their one black/jewish/disabled friend says it's okay.

So we have had a few MeTa threads about language where the general direction is "Well this word bothers the OP but a lot of people don't necessarily agree with their reasoning so while we might be sorry their feelings are hurt this may not lead to a mod change in policy" (mouthbreather was the one I can recall) as opposed to other ones like this (and maybe butthurt?) where people were more like "Huh, I didn't think of it in that way before and now I'll maybe choose my words differently" And I think it helps to understand that this is mostly talking about how we talk about things here on MetaFilter, in public. You can use whatever words you want in your own home, it just might be useful to understand how some people might take them. That's useful information.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 6:51 AM on September 7, 2016 [30 favorites]


How far down the slope do we need to get before we are allowed to acknowledge that we are actually on it?

Far enough to see that it's not at all slippery and has plenty of brave lovers of language freedom standing athwart it to prevent any further slides, I guess.
posted by Etrigan at 6:52 AM on September 7, 2016 [14 favorites]


"Slippery slope" fears always turn out to be unfounded.

Also, I like sledding.
posted by pracowity at 6:55 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


It does't seems like the micomanaging of language will ever stop, not until we've reached a nivanghetto...

You might consider micromanaging your own language a bit more before hitting post.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 6:55 AM on September 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


Karaage: "On the other hand, I am concerned about saying things like "stupid" are also offensive and ableist or blanket rules on words that may have historically had an offensive meaning towards one group is also now offlimits."

People always talk about how in 50 years people are going to look back at us aghast by various -isms that we didn't even realize we were committing. It's always seemed fairly clear to me that it's going to be intelligence. From the 22nd century, people reading MeFi will be agog at how free and easily we insulted folks for stupidity.
posted by Bugbread at 6:58 AM on September 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


I don't know if I've ever written the word "derp" before this moment. It always struck me as one of those stupid howdy-doody internet neologisms (even when used by otherwise insightful political commentators).

I don't know why language seems to have been the only thing out of ableism dialogue to seep into the wider Progressive Internet, although I can maybe make a few guesses.

Probably because the internet is a highly logocentric medium where presence, indeed existence, is characterized by words. Much more so than the other spaces we inhabit in our lives, on the internet we are the words we write and often little more. Language speaks being, as the man liked to say, and nowhere more so than "here," wherever "here" is. And probably, also, as one sees on the left and the right, feelings of powerlessness in the real world turn quickly to the malleability of language and the succors thereof.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:20 AM on September 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


I love the suggestion of rustic for household efforts that fall short. We use "good thing looks don't count" and "Becky Home-ecky" at our house.
posted by hilaryjade at 7:38 AM on September 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


I was accused of just looking to be offended once. I had asked someone not to use the word Jewed. He said it was just a word, nobody meant anything by it, and I was the one with the problem.

I am, of course, Jewish. I wasn't looking to be offended.

I was looking not to be offended.
posted by maxsparber at 8:05 AM on September 7, 2016 [59 favorites]


You might consider micromanaging your own language a bit more before hitting post

Oh no that was most certainly on purpose.
posted by beerperson at 8:15 AM on September 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


What was "nivanghetto" meant to reference? I'm googling zero results for "nivanghetto", "nivan ghetto", and "niven ghetto".
posted by Bugbread at 8:19 AM on September 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


I assume it is a Larry Niven reference. Maybe all our words end up on Ringworld?
posted by maxsparber at 8:20 AM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


People always talk about how in 50 years people are going to look back at us aghast by various -isms that we didn't even realize we were committing. It's always seemed fairly clear to me that it's going to be intelligence.


God, I hope so. I feel as if there's a huge overvaluing of something people call "intelligence" that's recent, or worse on the internet, or something. It's not only hearing people's intelligence impugned; it's hearing people talk about how intelligent someone is, as if they are at some sort of higher level where they can gauge everyone else's intelligence. I used to notice this a lot in academia and I thought it sounded incredibly hubristic there. Now it seems to be everywhere.
posted by BibiRose at 8:22 AM on September 7, 2016 [9 favorites]


I feel as if there's a huge overvaluing of something people call "intelligence"

It must be all talk. Because I read the news every day and I see little evidence that intelligence is valued at all, much less overvalued.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:42 AM on September 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


There is literally no way that someone can ask that people be mindful of their language that does not result in this sort of slippery-slope bullshit, is there.

No there isn't. Because this is a site that by-and-large functions on consensus, not top-down rules of conduct. Building consensus is messy, but worthwhile. It builds durable communities. Moderation by fiat, forcing "consensus" results in community fractures. Metafilter has never significantly fractured.

I've personally learned a lot in these sorts of threads. I come in without having significantly considered a word or a practice, and come out more thoughtful. I don't always agree, but I always learn something. I think there are many others here going through a similar evolution.

Slippery-slopes exist where there is no pushback, or worse, where any objections are nullified. The fact that there is a loyal, thoughtful discussion happening here is the way MeFi avoids that problem. A new norm can (and likely will) emerge, but it won't be happen blindly. There will be no slippery slope.

Being disgusted by that process is not hugely helpful to ensure that it happens smoothly. The fact is that it has to happen for this place to continue to exist and continue to be durable.
posted by bonehead at 8:49 AM on September 7, 2016 [14 favorites]


I've been having this conversation with a lot of people lately (well over the past year) because these people and their organization name, I felt, were being sort of insensitive in their name choice.

You know your old Spaz Solutions website is still online, jessamyn? Might be a good idea to take it down if you're trying to persuade folk to stop using an ableist slur in their name!
posted by jack_mo at 8:59 AM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


And here comes another able-bodied, non-disabled straight white male to offer his opinion :)

Growing up in the 80's, 'derp', at least from my neck of the woods wasn't associated as much with mental disability as repetitive silliness for lack of a better word. We threw around the 'r' word liberally for mental disability without giving it another thought.

There were a lot of words that weren't considered outright wrong that we used only to discover as we got older and our horizons more expanded that they probably weren't the best words to use. I now know 'derp' falls into that category as well and will strive not to use it, just as I wouldn't use the 'r' word anymore.
posted by splen at 9:01 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


My overarching principle in these matters, instilled in me from a young age, is to "respect the inherent worth and dignity of every person." I've never been able to find a crack or flaw in that concept, and I've long thought that it is a powerful razor by which to judge my actions and those of others. Once you accept that every human has inherent worth and dignity and is deserving of respect on those grounds, lots of other potentially thorny situations can be dramatically simplified.

When I find myself in a situation where I'm questioning my behavior or my language, I ask myself "do my words/actions demonstrate respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every person?" If not, it behooves me to modify my words or actions to suit.

It's not a slippery slope. It's the implementation of a general principle. Everybody deserves dignity. Everybody deserves to be valued. Everybody's fundamental humanity deserves to be respected. No exceptions. It's about making the world a kinder and more harmonious place. This dystopia people speak of, where nobody ever has to feel mocked, or devalued, or stereotyped or erased or made small? Your dystopia is my utopia. What you see as a slippery slope, I see as the long arc of history in action, bending toward justice.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:05 AM on September 7, 2016 [28 favorites]


I'm just surprised anyone over the age of 13 would ever use the word "derp", including making an FPP. Time to put childish things away.
posted by My Dad at 9:10 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


You know your old Spaz Solutions website is still online, jessamyn?

Totally forgot about that, actually. It's down now. Based on an old nickname people had for me before I realized it was more of a slur in a different country.

Might be a good idea to take it down if you're trying to persuade folk to stop using an ableist slur in their name!

Zing! Sure, I mean everyone could be doing better and I'm no exception. If I can at least model reasonable responses to people saying there's a problem, I'm okay with that.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 9:11 AM on September 7, 2016 [65 favorites]


You know your old Spaz Solutions website is still online, jessamyn?

I agree it might be a good idea to address this on the site, and I think Americans would do well to realize that "spaz" is a slur. It is worth noting that the word is much stronger in the United Kingdom, as, in 1951, there was an organization formed there called The Spastics Society, referring to people with cerebral palsy, which cemented that usage in a way that never happened in the US, where spastic is generally more associated with muscle spasms and spastic colons than disability.

However, it is one of those words that does actually have its roots in describing disability in both the US and Great Britain, even if that usage is almost entirely forgotten here, and we would do well to avoid it.
posted by maxsparber at 9:12 AM on September 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


Everybody deserves dignity. Everybody deserves to be valued. Everybody's fundamental humanity deserves to be respected. No exceptions. It's about making the world a kinder and more harmonious place.

I think that's incontrovertible, but if it were that simple we'd be there already. I'm sure I don't need to tell you that the conflicts lie in the details: what constitutes "dignity," how precisely does one keep it and acknowledge it in others, what constitutes an insult to that dignity, and how are amends made. All of that is more pertinent to what is or isn't acceptable here, in this forum. Waving the flag of "human dignity" is like waving the flag of "freedom." You won't have many disagreements, but on just what has been agreed to is likely to be much less clear.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:24 AM on September 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


Well, the word has always bothered me as well, so I am quite pleased that we are having this discussion.

I understand that words change, and that they may mean different things to different people, but it's not a hardship for me to avoid words that hurt people, even if those people are in the minority (and sometimes especially so). There are words that have been used to denigrate groups of which I am a part, and some people still use those words without knowing their history. It hurts. I want them to stop. And so I will extend that courtesy to others.
posted by blurker at 9:27 AM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


You won't have many disagreements, but on just what has been agreed to is likely to be much less clear.

I have a pretty simple rule that seems to work for me: If a member of the group being insulted tells me the word is an insult, I stop using it.
posted by maxsparber at 9:28 AM on September 7, 2016 [15 favorites]


If a member of the group being insulted tells me the word is an insult, I stop using it.

Bull. We don't do that for cis, and we've had that battle a million times here. Neither do we do that for "white tears".
posted by zabuni at 9:34 AM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


punching up v down is a thing
posted by zutalors! at 9:35 AM on September 7, 2016 [18 favorites]


Bull. We don't do that for cis, and we've had that battle a million times here. Neither do we do that for "white tears".

I'm a member of the group described by both, and neither are an insult. And I'm not really going to discuss whether the dominant majority gets to feel insulted because a) they don't like a perfectly reasonable term that is linguistically exactly right and b) some mild ribbing at the sort of fragility you just demonstrated.
posted by maxsparber at 9:36 AM on September 7, 2016 [26 favorites]


and neither are an insult

You don't get to decide that for them.

punching up v down is a thing

And it would be better sometimes not to punch at all. The discussion of what hurts more is a side discussion to the request not to be an asshole. We don't need to measure who is the bigger asshole due to societal effects. We should just be assholes less.
posted by zabuni at 9:39 AM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


I mean, these are not even comparable. Cis has not become a generalized insult based on steroetypical features believes to be shared by Cis people, and "white tears" mocks a phenomenon of white fragility, and isn't a generalized description of white people that we use to make fun of nonwhites.

This isn't even apples to oranges, as, at least in that case, both a fruits. This is, like, apples and quasars.
posted by maxsparber at 9:40 AM on September 7, 2016 [28 favorites]


And it would be better sometimes not to punch at all.

This is a separate discussion, and I won't engage it here.
posted by maxsparber at 9:40 AM on September 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


I have a pretty simple rule that seems to work for me: If a member of the group being insulted tells me the word is an insult, I stop using it.

That's a good rule. I try to follow it. I see no reason not to follow it in regards to this particular request. At the same time, around here, it's never not been applied simply on the principle of who shouts loudest, as the last several comments demonstrate.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:44 AM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


If we're about to re-litigate "cis" can we at least go back to 2006 and also re-litigate whether there's a Boyzone problem or not because I bet there's some people DYING to crawl out of the woodwork to tell us that it was never, in fact, a problem and a bunch of people were just looking to be offended and there's a very, gravely serious risk of alienating the men by using the term "Boyzone."
posted by griphus at 9:45 AM on September 7, 2016 [42 favorites]




I'm a member of the group described by both, and neither are an insult.

And I'm a member of the group described by both and I'm not insulted by "white tears" or "cis," either. But as we've seen in this discussion, different members of the same group may feel differently. Which was precisely my point: simply saying "human dignity" and "I won't say anything that I'm told is insulting" isn't a workable standard in the absence of more specific rules.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:51 AM on September 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


"Cis" is no more an insult than "Trans" is, it's just a convenient back-construction that exists for the purposes of having a useful way to refer to non-trans people. It doesn't mock anyone. Trying to mock me for being "cis" would be like trying to mock me for being "male." It's just a value-neutral word that describes what I am.

"White tears," as has been pointed out a couple of times already, stems from the phenomenon of white fragility. It doesn't attack anyone's dignity or humanity. It satirizes a phenomenon wherein white people with unexamined privilege have that privilege challenged and then act like the sky is falling down because someone asked them to think a little bit about how their actions affect others. Fragility is not an essential characteristic of white people's humanity.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:52 AM on September 7, 2016 [12 favorites]


We don't do that for cis

Because it's not an insult.

You don't get to decide that for them.

"Cis" and "trans" are literally two sides of something. The argument against "cis" basically comes down to positioning trans people as deviant, and everyone else as "normal." If you consider "cis" to be an insult, you're the one deciding who to insult, not the other way around.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:52 AM on September 7, 2016 [10 favorites]


Is arguing about "cis" really a great place for this thread to go?
posted by lazuli at 9:53 AM on September 7, 2016 [31 favorites]


Also it sounds like you're reaching really hard to find counterexamples that allow you to throw your hands up in the air and say "What do words even mean? What is meaning anyway? What is an insult? If I say 'melon' is an insult, do we all have to stop saying 'melon?'"

I mean come on here, this is not fucking debate club. It's not a seminar on formal logic. The contortions and gymnastics that people are going through in order to defend their right to say something that many people right here have said is harmful to them and their loved ones are just blowing me away.

We can try to be respectful of people's humanity without having some kind of totally ironclad, black-and-white, 100% logically consistent rule about what counts as disrespectful or dehumanizing. What's inexcusable is not trying, or going out of one's way to find reasons why one shouldn't have to try.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:57 AM on September 7, 2016 [37 favorites]


Is arguing about "cis" really a great place for this thread to go?

No. This was a thread about not insulting disabled people. That it became about white cis people and what offends them is both unwelcome and unsurprising.
posted by maxsparber at 9:58 AM on September 7, 2016 [52 favorites]


I'm just surprised anyone over the age of 13 would ever use the word "derp", including making an FPP. Time to put childish things away.
posted by My Dad at 9:10 AM on September 7 [+] [!]


Hey, buddy. You might be a dad, but you're not my dad.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:59 AM on September 7, 2016 [17 favorites]


this is not fucking debate club

We are, in fact, debating, tho whether we constitute "a club" is arguable.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:02 AM on September 7, 2016 [6 favorites]




I have a pretty simple rule that seems to work for me: If a member of the group being insulted tells me the word is an insult, I stop using it.


There is a tautology and an assumption baked into your rule the way it appears to be applied in this site's culture that always happens in these discussions:

"If I Believe I am Punching Down: always assume prima facie that the group's self analysis is correct with respect to justified offense

vs

vis: If I believe I am Punching Up: always assume offense is unjustified, incorrectly self-analyzed and an expression of privilege"
posted by lalochezia at 10:04 AM on September 7, 2016 [14 favorites]


Good Lord. Did a Bat Signal go out to the rules lawyers?

What's that in the night sky, old chum? Is it a general rule that can be beaten into submission with needless and capricious arguing, and can it be used as an excuse to climb onto my hobby horse? Yes, old chum, so let us away from stately Wayne Manor, and to the fray, old chum
posted by maxsparber at 10:07 AM on September 7, 2016 [32 favorites]


> I'm just surprised anyone over the age of 13 would ever use the word "derp", including making an FPP. Time to put childish things away.
posted by My Dad at 9:10 AM on September 7 [+] [!]

Eponysterical.
posted by Tevin at 10:10 AM on September 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


The purpose of a debate club is to create and win arguments. That is not the purpose of MetaFilter. If that is what you are here for, you are in the wrong place. Take your needless shit-stirring somewhere else.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:11 AM on September 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


smoke: I guess, I'm asking is derp the hill you really want to die on here?

I'm not in the slightest bit inclined to die on the hill of 'derp'. I do think it's a poor implication that I'm drawing this as my final stand. I'm not arguing for usage of this specific word; I'm much more aligned with users like bonehead and octobersurprise who (at least it appears to me) think there's value in discussing whether a word's use as a slur is familiar enough for it to always be read as such, or that it's all well and good for users to make their high-minded proclamations of how 'it insults someone so I just don't use those words' but how that's an oversimplification.

I'm not making it about me, which is frankly a bullshit claim. I'm putting in my opinion (as someone mentally disabled as well, as it happens, not that it matters in this instance) same as everyone else, and I made a point that there's a common word that I think of as an insult, after all, and I'm not putting it forth as an example of another word we should all refrain from because of how I react to it.

As much as derp's origins can be discussed, for many it has no ties historically or linguistically with disabilities. Those with disabilities in the thread aren't in accord about whether it's offensive or not, and though the original poster of the FPP in question has chosen to withdraw their post, it's now no longer the only word under discussion (see stupid, crazy, lame, etc.). So there's room for discussion, not just simplistic moral pronouncements on language.

That there's room for discussion without immediately staking a position of the good vs. the evil - that's a hill I'll die on, though.
posted by gadge emeritus at 10:12 AM on September 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


"Goofy" is a perfectly cromulent replacement for "derpy" if one considers the Disney character with that name. I mean, just look at him.

"Goofy" is used as an ableist slur. It's also used to describe lefties (usually in the context of surfing/skateboarding left-footed).

we use rustic in my house, said emphatically when you realize the thing is off despite your best efforts.

Using "rustic" as an insult is very anti-rural. Why do you hate Real America?

Seriously though, as I try to think of alternatives to the word "derp," I'm starting to think that maybe the problem isn't the word itself, but with what is being found to be "silly/funny" in the first place. Marnie is severely disabled, but from an interview with her human, it sounds like she is a happy and loving sweetheart. Which is all fine and good... but it also seems clear that she wouldn't be as popular if it weren't for her deformities (see also: Grumpy Cat, Doge (though that was more of Kabosu being caught in an amusing facial expression/body position), and Maru (we love him because of his compulsion)) .

The same can be said for the general genre of photos of animals or humans being caught in poses/positions/facial expressions that tend to be labeled "derpy." It's cute/funny because the subjects are doing something that's stupid or goofy-looking, or zany, and/or makes them look temporarily deformed.

So I feel like any word that gets used to replace "derp" is going to end up having ableist connotations in time because the whole genre is ableist. For example, I was going to propose "broken," but its easy to see how that could be insulting to people. "Seg fault" is perhaps a little too technical, and pretty much just means "broken". I like "Forgot how to dog/cat/snek" but that can't really be applied to humans in the same situation... then again, I'm not a fan of human "derps" most of the time (unless they are my own).

Anyways, a much as I believe "derp" == ableist is a result of the same kinds of bullshit backwards etymology that puts words like "niggardly" and "pussy" onto the figurative "naughty list", I agree that it's reasonable to try to avoid it on Metafilter, if only because these kinds of fights over language are fairly tedious. It's too bad that it seems so perfect for describing a genre of things and doesn't have an equally satisfying replacement. But since it's used in such a silly and unnecessary context, if we lost the word to describe it, the human race would continue.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:15 AM on September 7, 2016 [17 favorites]


Look, I get the desire to determine whether a slur actually is a slur. People like to bring up "niggardly" and an example, as it has a different linguistic origin from the slur it sounds like and means something entirely different, but was the subject of controversy all the way back in 1999 when an aide to the mayor of Washington DC used the word in reference to a budget and upset a black colleague, who filed a complaint. The aide resigned over this, and it's especially used as an example of how people can get upset over nothing, and that sometimes words are innocent and maybe our language would be poorer if we just dropped everything people complained about.

But that doesn't actually happen. I mean, the aide was reinstated, and actually said he learned from the experience and didn't begrudge the black colleague, saying "I used to think it would be great if we could all be colorblind; that's naïve, especially for a white person, because a white person can't afford to be colorblind. They don't have to think about race every day. An African American does."

I don't use niggardly in general communication. I would wager most of us don't. Should we have it in our arsenal? Well, we do. The word hasn't been banned. But we could probably stand to learn from the aide, that there is risk of being misinterpreted, and we should be judicious in our use of language, making sure to pick words that clearly communicate what we mean. I am sure there are uses of niggardly that are just right, and I am sure the word can be contextualized.

Are we poorer for generally trying to avoid derp here? I suppose if you think English is a small language and every single word, even neologisms, must be clung to because otherwise we will lack in the right word for the job, maybe. I do not share this idea. Whether or not derp actually, at its very core, at its point of origin, was an ablest slur is not so important to me as the fact that there are other words out there that clearly communicate what I mean, and I do not need to cling to this one except in the instance when it is the only word for the job.

I have not found that instance yet.
posted by maxsparber at 10:26 AM on September 7, 2016 [23 favorites]


I found this article useful: For Allies Who Feel Like Everything They Do Is Wrong
posted by lazuli at 10:41 AM on September 7, 2016 [14 favorites]


I believe "derp" == ableist is a result of the same kinds of bullshit backwards etymology that puts words like "niggardly" and "pussy" onto the figurative "naughty list"

Except that several people in this thread have attested with childhood remembrances and personal experiences that it's origins lie in ableist mockery. So that's just etymology. Nothing backwards about it.
And using the word "niggardly" in a conversation, in this day and age, knowing full well what it sounds like, is the height of obnoxious. It's like the word-version of holding your finger a centimetre away from someone and saying I'M NOT TOUCHING YOU.

I've never heard the word "derp" before but now I'll never use it. Easy.
"Lame" has been a tough one for me, ingrained in my head since the '80's. I'm trying hard to eliminate it.
posted by chococat at 11:00 AM on September 7, 2016 [13 favorites]


I think ultimately a lot of things like this come down to the purpose of communicating.

It seems to me that the purpose of posting "derpy" animal videos (see also: Derpy Hooves the pony) is to bring joy into the world. If the result of your action is, even if only for some people who see it, the exact opposite of what you intended, then that's pretty clearly a bad thing, right? It's an undesired outcome.

And I just don't understand why someone, knowing that a particular thing they do will very frequently have an undesired outcome, would want to keep doing it. It literally defeats the purpose of doing the thing in the first place!

Likewise, if I actually intend to insult somebody who I think deserves it -- let's say Donald Trump, for the sake of example -- and the way I insult them is to compare them to a class of person I have absolutely no quarrel with, with the result that a bystander belonging that group might feel insulted, haven't I caused an undesired outcome? At the very, very best, what I've done is cause collateral damage.

As a person who communicates with other human beings, I see precision of effect as something very important. If it doesn't bother me when I discover that my communication has effects I didn't intend, then why am I even going through the trouble to put words together in an order that has a consensus meaning in the first place? Seems like just speaking nonsense to a wall would equally effective.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:03 AM on September 7, 2016 [16 favorites]


I'm pretty sure cats and dogs don't care about words, but it's interesting that head tilting and tongue-sticking-out can be symptoms of neurological problems, which is the very thing that "derp" mocks.
posted by AFABulous at 11:05 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Other neurological symptoms often associated with "goofy" pet pictures:

dragging leg(s), abnormal gait
lack of balance, head tilt, circling, falling/rolling
walking into objects
holding up limb
decreased facial movement, voice changes, muscle atrophy of the head, collapsing, behavior changes (confusion, pacing, wandering), dropped jaw
posted by AFABulous at 11:08 AM on September 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


"I found this article useful..."

Wow, that was very, very good. I wish I had written that -- she says things I've been struggling to articulate for years, so much more clearly.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:11 AM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


What was "nivanghetto" meant to reference? I'm googling zero results for "nivanghetto", "nivan ghetto", and "niven ghetto".

I assumed it was a misspelled portmanteauish nirvana+ghetto...
It does't seems like the micomanaging of language will ever stop, not until we've reached a nivanghetto where no could ever possibly be hurt by something someone wrote on the internet.
...with the implication being that the micromanagers think their efforts will result in an enlightened "nirvana" of safety, but which is actually a sociolinguistic "ghetto."

(Note that I don't share this opinion.)
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:11 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


"I'm pretty sure cats and dogs don't care about words"

I'm pretty sure they do.

The "can be" is just another unsupported claim that tries to reach a consensus. But upon cursory examination of the pictures, I see no evidence to support your claim so I'll trust Victoria Stillwell:

Appeasement and Displacement

"A dog might try to appease another by actively seeking attention via one or more of the following behaviors:

muzzle and/or ear licking
jumping up
lowering and curving the body
blinking
clacking or exposing the teeth “(“smiling”)
lip licking
lowering the head and ears
play bowing"
posted by clavdivs at 11:26 AM on September 7, 2016


good words to describe something you put effort into that turned out wrong: we use rustic

I laughed out loud over this one, using "from the country" as a synonym for a fuck-up in a thread about insulting word choices. Then I checked and found it came from NYC, its a humorous twofer in one post.
posted by ridgerunner at 11:26 AM on September 7, 2016 [25 favorites]


Hey, I am glad I was wrong about this being the first disability MeTa! It's the first one specifically focused on ableism on the site since I've been here, but a cursory search (which I did not do before commenting) does turn up this discussion from 2010 which is definitely not about language, and which I am going to wander off and go read. (I find it kind of interesting that 2010 is also when I remember the discourse around language beginning to seep out into more broad progressive spaces, but that's a huge tangent.) Thanks, Dysk, for correcting me on that point.

I want to respond to Ivan's comment, too, starting with an apology for upsetting you. (I don't think I could have said what I felt without being upsetting, because I think I largely agree with you too, and I definitely also like and respect you. But I don't want you to be feeling upset, either.) I just... disagree that the focus on language leads to any change in the way that people frame their thinking about disability more generally. I think, actually, that the focus on "well okay what word can we use to convey that concept and have it still be fine" betrays that it does no such thing, because the problem isn't the string of phonemes or the forgotten etymology. It's the impulse that leads people to see something that reminds them of the facial expressions of someone with certain types of disability and laugh, or to insult someone by comparing them to someone with a different disability. And.... you know, that impulse is exactly what drives euphemism treadmills in the first damn place.

I think that changing the words we use just covers up the symptom of the thing. I don't think it really helps the underlying cause of the problem. And you know, I don't mean to dig in too much on this--I certainly, like I said, have no desire to use derp or retarded or any of a host of other slurs that take their explicit power from mocking people--and I'll stop digging this in here. I will say that I do find it really disappointing that you feel the way you do about disability here, Ivan, because I feel the same way, and I--like you--am not sure what to do about that.

Stuff like academic accommodations and trigger warnings here consistently goes terribly, and to be honest I think that comes straight out of embedded ableism. (I'm hesitating, as I write this, because I think it has the possibility to derail this entire conversation. But I can point out other examples of conversations here that consistently go terribly because people here reject the lived experiences of people with specific types of disability and/or insist that requests for accommodations for those differences in ability to do a given task or participate in a given activity are unreasonable.)

And... oh, I don't know. Ableism is complicated, and the edge cases and the things I'd like to feel out aren't things which it's possible to discuss here right now. I almost want to make a fpp about the social model of disability that lazuli so beautifully explained, except--would it help? And would it even be interesting? I mean, what do you say about a model of thinking about the world? How do you even hook that? It's so integral to the way I think at this point that I'm not sure how I'd sell it in a general discussion, or even what the hell I'd like to see in a conversation about it. That is, of course, my other problem when it comes to bringing bits of disability discourse that I genuinely think are interesting here--I come here for conversations, and I can't envision what kind of interesting conversation I could reasonably expect to see.

No answers here, of course.
posted by sciatrix at 11:27 AM on September 7, 2016 [13 favorites]


We've also had MeTas about more structural things like making the site friendly for users of screen-readers and such. The "small" tag has also come under the microscope once or twice, and I know we had a recent MeTa about asking people to add transcripts to video-based FPPs where possible, which is partly an accessibility issue. And we regularly have posts on the Blue that touch on accessibility issues, universal design, and the difficulties faced by disabled people. It's definitely not a new subject around here.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:36 AM on September 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'm pretty sure cats and dogs don't care about words

From just last week: Their Masters' Voices: Dogs Understand Tone And Meaning Of Words (Ab: MRIs suggest that canine brains separately analyze and integrate word meaning and intonation).
posted by octobersurprise at 11:41 AM on September 7, 2016


I'll concede spider-cat could be a cat burglar in jail but the dog underneth is just sleeping with the nose against the post exposing it's teeth.

If it really means anything, Johnny is a class act. I did a similar thing years ago and promptly apologized despite being ignorant of the word. Do that, don't repeat same word in same context and that's what one can do.
Oddly, stories, cartoons, etc are riddled with a lexicon of descriptive names, most that come to mind are pre-1980.
posted by clavdivs at 11:44 AM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I dislike "derp" as generalized internet slang for the general reasons raised by the poster here and a bunch of commenters; I avoid it because I don't have a need for it and it feels gross. I don't spend much time looking at goofy animal pictures on line, so I haven't had a lot of encounters with its usage in those arguably more disconnected contexts. I can understand how the disconnected, "that's just the word for this animal face schtick" thing could have its own legs with no harm intended. I think unpacking and redirecting that, if it were to happen, would be a slow and complicated thing because memetic momentum is complicated. There's something very internet about the way all these different linguistic areas end up colliding, and the internet is complicated.

Less complicated: saying, hey, I didn't realize that's kind of a problem and I can try and adjust my usage slightly. Which, I'm not anybody's word boss in general and even on MetaFilter specifically we don't lay down the law hard outside of fairly nuclear-grade lingo most of the time. But it feels like a manageable small effort. It feels like a pretty easy thing to just think about and be mindful about if you're not making a specific effort to not do so or to justify not having to do so. We do that sort of thing all the time on all sorts of little fronts in communication; show me the person who speaks in truly unfiltered, unconsidered terms and I will show you someone experience constant overwhelming social difficulty that absolutely overshadows any notional discomfort in being obliged to think about whether a word they don't have a problem with is a problem for other people.

I feel like MetaTalk when used to say, hey, heads up, this is a thing that bothers me and might bother other, is MetaTalk being used well. And these threads often go pretty well, with e.g. people being generally cool about "hey, I didn't realize that" and "hey, I bet you meant no harm but heads up" type stuff, and thoughtful, detailed comments that dig deeper on the subject from directly applicable personal perspectives.

And it's a hard thing sometimes to look at a thread where 90% of it is pretty good stuff and 10% is getting into the variously messy or heated or Let's Do This Same Rhetorical Dance Yet Again territory, and just focus on that 90%. Because the 10% is still there, and it's still frustrating. But to the extent that I try to see the good and usefulness and community value in this place, I find that that 90% is a lot more meaningful to me in the long run, a lot more of a roadsign for what can be accomplished through gentle heads ups and nudges and slow community iteration. And I guess I just want to say that I appreciate that stuff.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:51 AM on September 7, 2016 [17 favorites]


believe "derp" == ableist is a result of the same kinds of bullshit backwards etymology that puts words like "niggardly" and "pussy" onto the figurative "naughty list"

Except that several people in this thread have attested with childhood remembrances and personal experiences that it's origins lie in ableist mockery. So that's just etymology. Nothing backwards about it.


I don't think that getting the etymology "perfect" is entirely worth fighting for*, but since this got called out I figured I'd address it. I'm not a professional etymologist, but to me, "derp" is a very short word (and somewhat onomatopoeic), so it wouldn't be surprising if it had multiple origins. Also, since it's so short, I'd want to see an exact duplication before I'd draw a straight line from regional usages in the 70s and 80s to its use today, in Internet lingo that was probably recoined by someone who wasn't even alive in the 80s. So: "derpa derp," "durrr," "derr," used 30 years ago aren't sufficient evidence that calling silly memes"derpy" is a also a slur.

Even if "derp" was a widespread slur previously, for those of us who know this as a word born on the internet, it's kind of the reverse of the story of "pussy." "Pussy meant "scaredy-cat" for a long time before it meant "vulva," but now that "pussy" means "vulva" calling someone a "pussy" is a sexist insult. We're saying that "derp" meant "slur" before it meant "stupid animal tricks" so therefore using the word "derp" means you're insulting people. So you end up in this situation where if a word was ever used in a *ist way, the word is problematic, even when references a completely different thing.

*like I said previously, I'm not arguing for the continued use of the word, I just think that if we're going to discourage the use of words that hurt people, because they hurt people, we shouldn't wrap our justifications for that discouragement in faulty history/logic. If "don't say this because it's hurtful" isn't enough, then the reasons need to be more solid than the fact that kids were mean on the playground in some MeFite's youth.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:11 PM on September 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


My own personal solution is to just MAKE UP NEW WORDS to describe stuff.

When I started working at a Mental Health Hospital, I learned to put the word "crazy" away REAL quickly.

But I enjoy -- truly enjoy -- taking real words and adding a consonant to make it sound funnier, mispronunciations, and making up or using funny-sounding words like flurp. Flurping flurp!
posted by Dressed to Kill at 12:12 PM on September 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


I henceforth nominate Whippety Doo!
posted by AFABulous at 12:18 PM on September 7, 2016 [9 favorites]


Isn't making up nonsense words (especially to describe things that are out of the ordinary/you can't think of a word for) mocking to people with aphasias or apraxias?
posted by sparklemotion at 12:19 PM on September 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


There's no implication we're forgetting the word or we can't think of it. We're thinking of an alternative.
posted by AFABulous at 12:22 PM on September 7, 2016


Isn't making up nonsense words (especially to describe things that are out of the ordinary/you can't think of a word for) mocking to people with aphasias or apraxias?


Um... no? Sparklemotion, are you... being serious?
posted by Dressed to Kill at 12:23 PM on September 7, 2016 [20 favorites]


oh good lord. please tell me that you are joking SM.
posted by futz at 12:25 PM on September 7, 2016


I assume it is a Larry Niven reference. Maybe all our words end up on Ringworld?

Here's hoping a bunch of them end up on Riverworld.
posted by phearlez at 12:31 PM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


I have aphasia on occasion (damn migraines). I use a related or incorrect word, not a nonsense word. My dad has aphasia (damn brain bleed) - he also does not speak nonsense. He pauses and seems to be searching for the word he wants. But I suspect sparklemotion was stirring the pot.

I have always wondered about the origin of "derpy" so now I am happy to know. I have a friend who has MS and asked her friend group to be cautious about using "lame." She finds it hurtful, and we all agreed to adjust our usage. No one on Metafilter is my friend, but I have made many adjustments to my language from discussions here in an effort to learn and not be hurtful.
posted by Squeak Attack at 12:47 PM on September 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


Here are some of the arguments made against using the word "derp":
  • My son is 22 and severely intellectually disabled. Sometimes he makes sounds like "herp", "derp", etc. When I hear it casually used as a joke, it's like nails on a blackboard to me.
  • derp never had any meaning other than as a mocking onomatopoeic comparison to an intellectually disabled person
  • It implies that someone is doing something stupid by imitating stereotypical mannerisms of disabled people at them
This isn't an argument in defense of "derp." But, without knowing the intention of the speaker, I don't know why I shouldn't assume that someone mimicking the speech patterns of someone with a speech impairment wasn't intending to mock people with speech impairments.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:47 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have always wondered about the origin of "derpy" so now I am happy to know.

I'm left wondering if any "origin" matters at all. Most everything I can find is apocryphal or anecdotal.

In any case, do those unclear etymologies have anything to do with its use now? Isn't that what we need to concern ourselves with?
posted by bonehead at 12:52 PM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


So my thought is...if all the words we use to insult people as lacking in intelligence are problematic becuse they are slurs...maybe the problem is that we are using lack of intelligence as an insult.

I'm honestly still digesting this because "that was a dumb thing to do" and "what an idiot" are still staples in my vocabulary, and now what am I going to say?! Do I not really need an insult that expresses lack of intelligence?

Though, now I'm thinking that maybe they weren't very useful words in the first place. Maybe "that was a useless thing to do" or "what an inconsiderate poop" would be more expressive, even.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:59 PM on September 7, 2016 [11 favorites]


Isn't making up nonsense words (especially to describe things that are out of the ordinary/you can't think of a word for) mocking to people with aphasias or apraxias?

Sometimes I doubt your commitment to sincerity, sparklemotion.
posted by Atom Eyes at 1:06 PM on September 7, 2016 [48 favorites]


Why does the second half of so many MeTa threads turn into a repetitive, absurdly tedious debate club about minutiae that totally misses the point?
posted by selfnoise at 1:16 PM on September 7, 2016 [12 favorites]


I'd argue it's more like the third act than the second half and I will defend this opinion with my very life.
posted by griphus at 1:19 PM on September 7, 2016 [25 favorites]


> Why does the second half of so many MeTa threads turn into a repetitive, absurdly tedious debate club about minutiae that totally misses the point?

Like once you've sorted the beans by size, scent, relative shape, and flavor profile you really can only split the individual beans down the middle and dive right down to the guts to figure out what makes each one special.
posted by Tevin at 1:23 PM on September 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


Yeah. Wow.
The justification pretzels people twist themselves into continue to amaze me.
Anyhow, using words that make people feel shitty sucks and it's my son's birthday and I'm going to go put icing on my cupcakes.
Hope everyone has a happy day.
posted by chococat at 1:26 PM on September 7, 2016 [11 favorites]


But the Third Act of Barnaby Jones was always the climax!
posted by octobersurprise at 1:29 PM on September 7, 2016


Do I not really need an insult that expresses lack of intelligence?

Nothing wrong with an eyeroll and "Well, that was less than optimal."
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:40 PM on September 7, 2016 [10 favorites]


I'm glad I figured out how to discern between "emergent word that sounds silly that is actually encoded in meanness and punching down" from "emergent word that's silly".

It's not that hard. I don't really know how to explain to people how I am able to discern that. I wish I did.

Not every word is some precious thing. Some words do indeed, actually suck. As far as making the world a better place for abilities of all types, as sciatrix notes above, I agree, but I don't think this conversation is coming at the expense of the other not getting done in the world. I appreciate you bringing that awareness up though.
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:43 PM on September 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


It is the MeFi way to turn arguments about minutiae into houratiae and dayatiae.

...yes I've made better jokes in my time, what of it?
posted by Pyrogenesis at 1:49 PM on September 7, 2016 [10 favorites]


I mean, I use rustic specifically as about food that isn't trying to look particularly polished; it's a pretty established word in food criticism, without negative connotations. It's a deliberate aesthetic with, say, tarts, and in opposition to something fussy and overdetermined (like that stacking thing that everyone was into a decade ago, or molecular gastronomy). It also includes everything from unfussy and spectacular Italian cooking to whatever unpretentious holiday meals you make in a fucking AGA in your fancy country home. So when my fancy pie doesn't turn out perfectly symmetrical, I make myself feel better by acting like it's a calculated success in an aesthetic I wasn't trying for.

I confess, though, that I may not have a good ear for how it sounds outside food circles; I was in food service for a long time and my partner works for a restaurant company.

ridgerunner, like many other NYC-americans I'm not from NYC; if you want to trawl my whole posting history you'll find my rural bonafides.
posted by felix grundy at 1:50 PM on September 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


rustic is so fetch.
posted by bonehead at 1:58 PM on September 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


Using "rustic" as an insult is very anti-rural. Why do you hate Real America?

I know (think?) this was somewhat tongue in cheek but in the small town where I live rustic can definitely be a put down sort of depending on what you're trying to describe. Like if you had a local AirBnB that you were trying to polish up for people from cities? You might sell it as rustic (where rustic = good) but if someone came to your house and said they liked that your kitchen was rustic they would probably be meaning that it was out of date, backwards and just generally not that nice. It's a complicated word but definitely has overtones of "This is like what poor people have and that is not a good thing" vibe to it. I like the word but I'm careful where I use it.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 2:05 PM on September 7, 2016 [21 favorites]


Thanks for that background, Jessamyn. I'll be less casual about it especially in non-tart contexts.
posted by felix grundy at 2:09 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Rustic is to modernity what cozy is to size.
posted by maryr at 2:10 PM on September 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


Where are we as a community in re: hurf durf?

I always thought this was meant to connote emotive tongue-tied sputtering, an inarticulateness brought about by a surfeit of anger.
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:11 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


ridgerunner, like many other NYC-americans I'm not from NYC;

No worries mate!

I know rustic has good and bad connotations, and I certainly can be legitimately called rustic, but in the context of this thread, I just busted out laughing. Then seeing Brooklyn of the origin gave me the giggles.

I live in BFE, over a thousand miles away, your local dialect of English is no skin off my ass unless you're intentionally insulting. So go ahead and enjoy your slightly out of round pie anyway you want.
posted by ridgerunner at 2:16 PM on September 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


I also have a cook in the family, one who used to work at a high-end but calculatedly rustic restaurant. It's a running joke in my family as well, that whenever a food item doesn't go as planned it's because "it's rustic!" rather than because we made a mistake.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:28 PM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


So what's the urban equivalent of "rustic" that works for both good and band.
posted by griphus at 2:29 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


The first time I ever encountered the word "Derp" was in the context of Derpy Hooves, and I was instantly uncomfortable because I felt like it was mocking the speech patterns of people with physical or cognitive disabilities. I may have used it a couple of times but it hasn't become part of my lexicon because the association was too immediately strong for me. The word we use in my household for the "Oh, bless, A+ for effort and intent but perhaps a C- on execution" is "doofy," which to the best of my knowledge does not have gross origins.
posted by KathrynT at 2:31 PM on September 7, 2016


So what's the urban equivalent of "rustic" that works for both good and band.

"Keith"?
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:32 PM on September 7, 2016 [12 favorites]


Shouldn't we not be bringing in things from people's profiles to these threads?
posted by zutalors! at 2:33 PM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


So what's the urban equivalent of "rustic"

sophisticate, cosmopolitan, urbane? they can all imply pretentiousness, arrogance and a sense of entitlement.
posted by ridgerunner at 2:44 PM on September 7, 2016


So what's the urban equivalent of "rustic" that works for both good and band.

Deconstructed.
posted by OmieWise at 2:45 PM on September 7, 2016 [18 favorites]


what's the urban equivalent of "rustic" that works for both good and band.

"Industrial."
posted by octobersurprise at 2:47 PM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


Deconstructed.

I am adopting this immediately.
posted by KathrynT at 2:50 PM on September 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


I dunno, I feel like if it's posted in the profile, it's not being used maliciously, and it's relevant to the discussion at hand, then it's fair game? I mean I know that profiles are non-indexed and such, but that's not meant to be a strong privacy measure, just a speedbump. Maybe I'm off base though.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:50 PM on September 7, 2016


It's always at least a "please be mindful" thing in general; we have made a point about it in the past because of, in particular, jerky or malicious or exceptionally tone-deaf use cases, and most situations aren't those so in practice it doesn't seem like a big deal. But innocuous-feeling jumps over a privacy speed bump can still sometimes make someone feel shitty and/or cause them a headache, so it's good to sort of think twice about the whether and why of explicitly making a connection there.

In this case seems like it's a no biggie in practice with the user, which is fine, though I'd say that pulling over profile info just to ding someone about their apparently, I dunno, hypocritical? location isn't really a great use case in the first place.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:57 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Turnabout is fair play, cortex (checks profile) 'Metafilter moderator'
posted by beerperson at 3:00 PM on September 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


So what's the urban equivalent of "rustic" that works for both good and band.

"bama"
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 3:02 PM on September 7, 2016


You can never completely eliminate rules lawyering, but you can greatly reduce its likelihood by avoiding the use of expressions like "It's easy" or "I have a simple policy" or the like when discussing a complex issue.
posted by Bugbread at 3:04 PM on September 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


"It tastes fine but looks a bit...deconstructed."

I think that will do very well indeed.
posted by Tevin at 3:04 PM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


"Artisanal"?
"Craft (...)"?
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:05 PM on September 7, 2016


"It tastes fine but looks a bit...deconstructed."

"Hi, family! I made waffles for breakfast! Sorry about the first one, the iron wasn't hot enough so it's sort of deconstructed."
posted by KathrynT at 3:15 PM on September 7, 2016 [9 favorites]


You can never completely eliminate rules lawyering

Let them keep their lawyering, but turn the mods into Dungeon Masters. Make users roll saving throws against banning when they try incantations like "Mordenkainen’s Slippery Slope", "Not All Paladins", and "Prismatic Schmear of Mundane Minutiae".
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:30 PM on September 7, 2016 [15 favorites]


I refuse to take responsibility for the behavior of others. If my personal policy is a clarion call to people who can't let something be, that's on them.
posted by maxsparber at 3:35 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Fine, as long as you realize what's going on. There's a big difference between 'If my personal policy is a Bat Signal to rules lawyers, that's on them' and the pretend surprise and puzzlement of "Good Lord. Did a Bat Signal go out to the rules lawyers?"
posted by Bugbread at 3:43 PM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


If we're looking for a word to replace rustic, may I suggest: uncomplicated.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 3:43 PM on September 7, 2016 [17 favorites]


I wouldn't call someone with a mental disability an idiot, but that doesn't make idiot an ablist slur.

No, but the historical usage of the term as a slur does!

What, based on ancient, obsolete word usage? If that offends you, you were looking to get offended. That does nothing but damage to your causes by alienating people.

My, what an interesting perspective! How's that working out for the people around you?
posted by listen, lady at 3:48 PM on September 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


Celsius1414: "Let them keep their lawyering, but turn the mods into Dungeon Masters. Make users roll saving throws against banning when they try incantations like "Mordenkainen’s Slippery Slope", "Not All Paladins", and "Prismatic Schmear of Mundane Minutiae"."

I would totally play a D&D game in which, when the rules lawyering started, the DM brought out rules specifically for rules lawyering.

Player: "The rule says that you are stunned for one round if you are struck or set on fire, but I was struck and set on fire, so I'm not stunned."
DM: "Okay, what's your save against common sense?"
Player: "12, but in my backpack I have my Holy LSAT Prep Textbook, which gives me a plus 2 to save."
DM: "Okay, roll for it."
posted by Bugbread at 3:48 PM on September 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


My mom once sent me a "deconstructed" carrot cake for my birthday. That is, a box with the dry ingredients measured out, cake tins and some carrots.
posted by hoyland at 3:58 PM on September 7, 2016 [10 favorites]


See?
posted by OmieWise at 4:00 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


hoyland: "My mom once sent me a "deconstructed" carrot cake for my birthday. That is, a box with the dry ingredients measured out, cake tins and some carrots."

Look at Mr. Luxury over here. I just got wheat seeds, carrot seeds, cow seeds, and metal ore.
posted by Bugbread at 4:01 PM on September 7, 2016 [25 favorites]


Fancy. I'm still playing the v0.18 alpha, they haven't implemented seeds yet.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:07 PM on September 7, 2016 [12 favorites]


To bake an apple pie from scratch, etc., etc.
posted by tobascodagama at 4:11 PM on September 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


Player: "The rule says that you are stunned for one round if you are struck or set on fire, but I was struck and set on fire, so I'm not stunned."

And you didn't simply lecture him on the difference between OR and XOR (preferably while whacking him with a rule book)? I commend your patience!
posted by Lexica at 4:48 PM on September 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'm honestly still digesting this because "that was a dumb thing to do" and "what an idiot" are still staples in my vocabulary, and now what am I going to say?! Do I not really need an insult that expresses lack of intelligence?

You know, it occurs to me that insults that express lack of intelligence are usually used not as direct attacks ('you are an unintelligent person') and rather about certain actions ('that was an unintelligent thing to do'). Even when it is a direct attack, it's not usually in the usage of 'you would do poorly on a general intelligence test' but rather 'you consistently make poor decisions'. Attacks on actual intelligence do happen, but not as often, are often also tied to education, and usually mark the person making them as an elitist asshole.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:50 PM on September 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


> that was an unintelligent thing to do

Or be more specific. "That was a dangerous thing to do," "doing that thing will cost us $1,000,000 in fees," etc.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:20 PM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


All you need to do is be honest and say either "I'm sorry, I didn't know, I'll try to stop" or "I know, and I don't care". Is that so hard?
posted by Evilspork at 5:24 PM on September 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


If you wanna be mindful of engaging the largest possible group of mefites as you can with your FPP's and comments then you should give more care to ensure the language you use is not exclusionary. This is a feature that is specific to how the metafilter platform operates and is not in any way a part of some larger social justice movement. It's about engaging metafilter in a better and more meaningful way.
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:02 PM on September 7, 2016 [12 favorites]


As a community we'll be flying our new "don't insult intelligence" banner proudly in threads about religion, politics, and Kardashians, right?

Why does the second half of so many MeTa threads turn into a repetitive, absurdly tedious debate club about minutiae that totally misses the point?

Because when one of the beginning comments on a MeTa is a variation of: if you find yourself in disagreement about this issue, you should go ahead and take a break ... I bet a lot of people don't even bother to stay and you're left with the usual fighty people.
posted by kimberussell at 6:07 PM on September 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


I'm glad this MeTa was posted, because I never used the word in question, but not because I knew better. Still, there was always something that seemed sort of off about it, and now I know maybe what I was picking up on.

Also, since other people have brought up the word "crazy," I do often refer to myself as "an actual crazy person" and I can imagine that might have offended people. But I say that because I... well my default is to say I'm crazy, but what I mean by that is that I suffer from intense mental health problems, to the point that it's an official disability. I'm not trying to set a rules lawyering precedent and be like "what if someone with a disability uses that word, huh?" but rather to point out that in my own self-perception as disabled or atypical, it never occurred to me that people might not know that about me when I laugh about being "crazy."

So... this is just one of those things about participating in a public forum, where you behave differently than you might in other situations. It's ok to hold off on joking about my mental health if another person is going to read that and be hurt by it, regardless of whether or not we're both sufferers.
posted by teponaztli at 6:31 PM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


And also that's a totally different thing than the word that spawned this post, so this is more of an aside than anything else.
posted by teponaztli at 6:33 PM on September 7, 2016


I live in BFE, over a thousand miles away

That a simultaneously anti-gay and Orientalist expression would appear in this thread -- generating no comment or reaction from anyone -- is a good indication of how hard it is for people to expunge problematic language from their casual usage.
posted by escabeche at 6:41 PM on September 7, 2016 [10 favorites]


I had no idea what BFE meant, but I looked it up just now and yeah, what the fuck? Not cool.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:13 PM on September 7, 2016


That a simultaneously anti-gay and Orientalist

Are you sure? I've thought it was a bootleggers term for bumB fuck Egypt. Egypt being the area around Cairo, Thebes, and Karnak, Illinois, half way between the stills in the hills and the customers in Chicago.
posted by ridgerunner at 7:30 PM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


There's a lot of debate, actually.

The relationship between the "bumfuck" part and homosexuality look to be coincidental, as the term is and has been almost entirely American, and is not used in the UK. Of course, since language is fluid, this can change, depending on whether people start to primarily think of "bum" as meaning "butt" instead of "homeless" (and also, given the increasing popularity of anal sex in the Western world, on whether people think of "buttfucking" as being primarily a homosexual activity or as an orientation-neutral activity).

The Egypt part, there's really no way of narrowing down. My impression is that it refers to the country, but that in areas where there is a small town named "Egypt", or a collection of small towns that are reminiscent of Egypt, spurious etymologies develop spontaneously.
posted by Bugbread at 7:58 PM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


I originally heard that one as "Bumblefuck", which, as far as I know, refers more to incompetence than homosexuality.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:00 PM on September 7, 2016 [9 favorites]


The oldest documented use I can find is from 1972, at which point it was Bumfuck, Egypt.
posted by Bugbread at 8:06 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


To be fair, I learned it as an eight-year-old...
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:07 PM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


It is almost inconsequentially easy for me to drop that expression.
posted by maxsparber at 8:07 PM on September 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


Do it if you want, but the odds of it genuinely offending anyone are essentially zero. No homosexual person I've ever met is as thin-skinned as that, and I can't picture people from Egypt really being offended either (I mean, it is a long way from the US).
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:12 PM on September 7, 2016


Thanks for telling us that.
posted by Bugbread at 8:12 PM on September 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


In jamaican english/creole, "bombocloth" means "r'asscloth" means something you use to wipe your bum. I don't know how to interpret "bumblefuck" except "anal sex". It's two slurs in one: you get Deliverance-esque suggestions about the sexuality of people in the boonies, and a generalized homophobic slur. I've probably said it before but I'm going to stop now.

Here on out, it's Rustic, Egypt.
posted by dis_integration at 8:13 PM on September 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


Is this performance art? Just because you can't picture someone being offended by something does not mean it's not offensive.
posted by sockermom at 8:19 PM on September 7, 2016 [13 favorites]


Actually, you know what? Unlike mentally disabled people, I actually do know some gay people. And they would be far more likely to be insulted by the fact that you'd self-censor that expression than they would be by the expression itself. Because, by self-censoring that expression, you're implying that they have incredibly thin skin, and would be offended by the slightly verbal misstep. Which is much more insulting than the expression is.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:24 PM on September 7, 2016


Mitrovarr, this is not a good rhetorical tack to take. As a gay person, please don't speak for me.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:25 PM on September 7, 2016 [43 favorites]


Does it offend you? I mean, directly, not on some abstract level or on behalf of other people. I'm honestly curious.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:28 PM on September 7, 2016


I'm far more offended by having my mind read by someone who doesn't know the first thing about that aspect of my identity than by a casual colloquialism. Seriously, that is not the way to win an argument. It invariably makes you more enemies than friends, and makes you look like you're not speaking from knowledge or experience, just purely bloviating.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:30 PM on September 7, 2016 [38 favorites]


Where I am from it is fine to chide, scoff and mock one another a little bit. Of course it is decidedly not fine to demean people, or to use slurs or nicknames when someone specifically requests not to use them. But then it is also possible for somebody to acquire the reputation of always being rather picky about language, which then by itself becomes a valid topic for gentle mockery. I consider it a rather humanizing and egalitarian impulse, but at the end of the day I understand that it's simply a kind of interaction that I am used to. I know it's something that does not work well on Metafilter, so that limits my participation. And I think that is fine: this place is a lot better off with other voices. But it does reinforce a particular range of topics and registers. There are a lot of taboos.
posted by dmh at 8:31 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Wow, I accidentally derailed this thread all the way to ... you know what, never mind.
posted by escabeche at 8:34 PM on September 7, 2016 [4 favorites]



Wow, I accidentally derailed this thread all the way to ... you know what, never mind


this doesn't seem necessary
posted by zutalors! at 8:37 PM on September 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


The Middle Of No Fucking Where
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:37 PM on September 7, 2016


Er...so, are there any people here who are gay or Egyptian or both who can share their personal yay/nay on BFE? I understand, conceptually, that it could easily be offensive, so I haven't used the expression in like 20 years, but now it occurs to me that I'm kinda pulling a reverse-Mitrovarr, assuming that of course homosexuals would be offended, despite the fact that I've never actually having heard anyone say they were personally offended, nor that they were personally unoffended. (A few people upthread have indicated offense, but I don't know their sexual orientation).

I mean, of course that's just part of life, if you've got no input in either direction you've got to come to your own conclusions, and I concluded that BFE was kinda racist and kinda homophobic, so I don't use it, but can anyone covered by either or both of those categories help shift this from "draw my own conclusions" to "based on what I've heard from people actually affected"?
posted by Bugbread at 8:47 PM on September 7, 2016


I don't know why you would have to be gay or Egyptian to be offended. Also, especially about Egyptian, the offense isn't to Egyptian nationals, it's the idea that Egypt is some far away foreign land, akin to other "jokes" about far away places with funny names etc. it's exoticizing, orientalism, extremely dismissive, etc.
posted by zutalors! at 8:50 PM on September 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


zutalors!: "I don't know why you would have to be gay or Egyptian to be offended."

No, of course not, but the whole deal being discussed is whether people in a marginalized group are offended by a term. As has been reiterated over and over, what a bunch of straight white guys thinks about the offensiveness of a term isn't really as important as what the people who the term actually encompasses thinks.

I mean, I'm already erring on the side of caution, so if nobody feels like answering, then I'll just continue not using BFE, but my curiosity is piqued.
posted by Bugbread at 9:01 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think you're not understanding the group that's encompassed by the term if you think Egyptian passport holders need to weigh in.
posted by zutalors! at 9:06 PM on September 7, 2016


Okay, fine, rules lawyer.

"Are there any people here who are gay or from northern Africa or the Middle East or a combination thereof who can share their personal yay/nay on BFE?"

Any other revisions required?
posted by Bugbread at 9:11 PM on September 7, 2016


Actually, this was not some sort of data collection effort to find and bring back one specific offended person for every slur, that y'all's rules-lawyering, sea-lioning derail.

If you want to use a slur or slang or derogatory language that, in the wild, contributes to the idea - hell, the zeitgeist, still - that brown people are lesser, anal sex is bad and people who have it or want to have it are bad, that people with developmental/motor/facial irregularities are hilarious and fun to laugh at and share with your friends, that's still available to you if you really want to. It's not great for the people who get discriminated against for those things, or people who can't see a way to a future that's happy or satisfying because of their lesserness, or who can't get jobs or housing are are just killed for sport on the street because of the presumed righteousness of those words because it's okay and fun to say them, but if it means that much to you - as it does to so many people - there's plenty of places that enjoy collecting and swapping those terms.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:13 PM on September 7, 2016 [22 favorites]


I'm not trying to "rules lawyer" you, you just really don't seem to understand.
posted by zutalors! at 9:13 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Is BFE even derogatory? Egypt is legitimately a long way away from the area in which the term is used, and bumfucking is just an amplifier that could be replaced with regular fucking without changing the meaning at all. I'd always assumed it was bumfucking because for a while, that was used in the same way as fucking in language, and the term probably dates from that time.

Also in retrospect I think I would have been tactful enough not to say it in front of gay men I didn't know.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:28 PM on September 7, 2016


I'm someone with a mental illness. When I describe someone with a mental illness, I will described them as "a person with a mental illness", or with "a mental health condition." They are not crazy; they have a condition.

I reserve "crazy" for the truly insane and dangerous, like certain politicians.
posted by jb at 9:28 PM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


I guess what I wonder is, how am I supposed to approach this conclusion. What is wrong with it? What's my error? How is it not better to be more capable than less capable?

Better from the perspective of who?

Better in what context?

Better than what?

How do you measure "better"?

Your argument has a number of weaknesses. They are incredibly obvious to me, but you have missed all of them. Therefore, you are probably worse at reasoning and/or critical thinking than I am. According to your "argument," it seems like it would be better to be like me than to be like you. Is it?
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:30 PM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


as for whether something can be lost if we ban terms:

the ICIDH was a really important model for thinking about disability. but it was dropped because the H stood for "handicap", which offended some activists (based on an erroneous etymology). the model that replaced it ended up being much less rigorous and useful.

being offended - and erroneously at that - really did make things worse for just the kind of people on whose behalf people took offense.
posted by jb at 9:36 PM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


What is even happening in this thread right now? Put my vote in for "maybe in times of already strained mod load, we could not call for a referendum on every offensive or potentially offensive word that could conceivably be raised on Metafilter?"
posted by corb at 9:43 PM on September 7, 2016 [20 favorites]


zutalors!: "I'm not trying to "rules lawyer" you, you just really don't seem to understand."

Apparently not. Let me break it down so we can better pinpoint my understanding gap.
(The rules-lawyers comments below are not directed at you, but any potential RLs reading waiting to pounce on misplaced commas or the like)

1) I don't use the term BFE any more.
2) I interpret it as generally being taken to mean "bumfuck Egypt" (for rules lawyers: yes, I realize that its origins may actually be different, but I'm talking about how its interpreted today)
3) I assume that "bumfuck" is generally taken by hearers to refer to homosexual penetrative sex (for rules lawyers: yes, I realize that heterosexuals also engage in anal sex and not all homosexuals do. Again, I'm talking about how the phrase is interpreted, not a prescriptivist definition)
4) I assume that homosexuals find this part of the expression personally offensive (for rules lawyers: I'm not saying only homosexuals find this part of the expression offensive, I'm saying that they find it offensive and that it is addressed at them specifically)
5) I consider terms that homosexuals find personally offensive to be homophobic (for rules lawyers: I'm not saying that I only consider terms that homosexuals find personally offensive to be homophobic. If Fred Phelps had a word which he used to insult gays, and only he and a straight family member knew the word, then it would still be homophobic, even if no homosexuals knew it and therefore were incapable of finding it personally offensive.)
6) I assume that "Egypt" is generally taken to mean "someplace far away where there isn't anything interesting or good"
7) I assume that people in Egypt, and from nearby areas and areas which are often confused with Egypt by ignorant folks, find this part of the expression personally offensive (for rules lawyers: I'm not saying only they find this part of the expression offensive, I'm saying that they find it offensive and that it is addressed at them specifically)
8) I consider terms referring to regions that people in/from those regions find personally offensive to be racist (for rules lawyers: no, I don't know how to clearly delineate race or explain how large the specific regions have to be or why insulting Houstonians wouldn't be considered racist or the like. Also, the Fred Phelps example applies here mutatis mutandi to racist codewords)
9) I don't use BFE because of 5 and 8

So I'm just curious about how well assumptions 4 and 7 match up with reality. I know I can't demand that people share their opinions, and, like I say, if nobody wants to share their opinions I'll just go on not using BFE, so I'm not some sea-lion hell-bent on using BFE. Heck, even if 1,000 folks chime in and they all say "I'm not offended," I'll probably continue to not use BFE. I'd just like to know if my assumptions are well-founded.
posted by Bugbread at 9:47 PM on September 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


I've only ever heard the terms "bumblefuck, Idaho" and "bumblefuck, New Jersey" in reference specifically to some way-out-of-the-way place with little in the way of anything interesting to do. That's the NY version, anyhow. Never Egypt. As for "bumblefuck" referring specifically to anal sex, that never really occurred to me. It was more akin to "fuckall" as in "I know fuckall about avionic technology." I.e. nothing, nowhere.
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:56 PM on September 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


If a word or phrase triggers your own personal yuck factor to the point that you haven't used it in 20 years, why do you feel the need to check with its potential targets? Are you hoping for a thumbs-up from gay/Egyptian/whomever people so you can finally use the phrase after all these long, wasted years without it?

For those of you who think my dislike of "derp" is pc-ing you to the point where you can't use a word like stupid, I'm not trying to do that. I'm sure a search of my comment history will reveal a zillion hits for words like stupid. When I use that word, I'm not talking about the intellectually disabled. I'm talking about someone of ostensibly normal intellectual capacity who is being willfully ignorant, intellectually lazy, hasn't contemplated the unintended consequences of their actions, or sometimes just makes the kind of mistake we all do. I'm talking about what someone is doing, not who they are. I don't see it as being in the same class as a word that literally mocks a severely disadvantaged group of human beings by imitating a stereotypical noise some of them make.
posted by double block and bleed at 9:56 PM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


Bugbread, I see you posted an answer to my question in the long time I took to compose my last comment.
posted by double block and bleed at 9:59 PM on September 7, 2016


...sea-lioning derail.
posted by Lyn Never


Thank you for bringing up sealioning, unfortunately the term is very appropriate here.
posted by Evilspork at 10:11 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing, based on the length of my last comment, the sea-lion comment is in reference to me? I guess I can see that, but it's weird, I always think of sea-lioning as something anti-SJW types do intentionally, aimed at pro-SJW types, not something pro-SJW types do accidentally to other pro-SJW types.

(Unless I'm being vain and that comment wasn't about me in the first place, in which case never mind, and I feel embarrassed)
posted by Bugbread at 10:21 PM on September 7, 2016


Sea lioning is a rhetorical technique, not tied to any particular ideology, and if you don't want to be in danger of using it, now would be a good time to let this line of inquiry drop.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:39 PM on September 7, 2016 [17 favorites]


Sure, but FFS, it wasn't like it was a giant line of questioning with followup questions and "have you considered X" and the like. It was just a single, fairly simple question.

Q: "Hey, are there any foreigners living in Japan here who can share their yay or nay on 'gaijin'?"
A: "I didn't used to, but it really depends on the tone of voice of the speaker."
A: "Yes, all the time."
A: "Nope, doesn't bother me."

There's no reason for that exchange to turn into:
"I don't know why you have to be a foreigner to find that offensive." "You just don't understand" "Why would you even ask?" "You're sea-lioning, so drop it"

Ah, well, I should know by now. Birds gotta fly, MeFites gotta beanplate, assume ill intent, and rules lawyer.
posted by Bugbread at 10:54 PM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


dear god this thread
posted by naju at 11:09 PM on September 7, 2016 [56 favorites]


I've been known to get all frisky at attempts to moderate speech on internet forums in a way that I believe might be slightly excessive, but I can't tell you guys how much I miss my favorite rule at Television Without Pity when I'm on Metafilter; don't start posts with "um" because it's impossible to do so without sounding snotty and rude. Upon remembering this beloved rule I shut my mouth and add whatever word that is causing offense to my mental "do not use on MeFi" list. I just want to be collegial and don't wish to cause unnecessary offense when it doesn't really hurt me or cause any real bother to avoid certain words. If I've used "derpy" on MeFi, I apologize to those who have been hurt.
posted by xyzzy at 11:11 PM on September 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


Ah, well, I should know by now. Birds gotta fly, MeFites gotta beanplate, assume ill intent, and rules lawyer.

And Gazebos gotta Dread.
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:18 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Point of reference: assigning all references to anal sex as to do with homosexuality is, in fact, if not outright insulting then at least condescending to gay men, as if only gay men engage in anal sex. cf Every time people try and say butthurt is homophobic.

So to immediately assume someone saying bumfuck is using a homophobic slur is, well, evidence of some lousy ways of thinking from people, suggesting they're much more concerned about not appearing homophobic than actually not being homophobic. Which kind of ties in with stuff raised above, about language policing being done instead of any of the actual things necessary to deal with the -isms in question.
posted by gadge emeritus at 11:47 PM on September 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


Also sea-lioning is pretty clearly tied to the MRA/Gamergate ideology, at least around these parts. It's certainly not ideologically neutral.
posted by gadge emeritus at 11:52 PM on September 7, 2016


Wow lotta prescriptivists in this thread. The meaning of words changes over time, and sometimes words take on multiple meanings.

Whatever you claim derp used to mean, it clearly doesn't mean that anymore -- if it ever meant that to begin with. I can't find any dictionary evidence that derp is or was a slur against the disabled. It just means foolish or stupid behavior, which anyone is capable of.

Just because someone who didn't like you called you a word doesn't therefore make the word a slur. This is like claiming that because some kids write "die cis scum" on Tumblr that "cis" is now inherently a slur instead of just a neutral-connotation term referring to non-trans gender identity.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:25 AM on September 8, 2016 [8 favorites]


I always thought "butthurt" referred to the pain from those really big hard turds that rip you open on the way out and then the tear gets infected and festers and wiping is now agony for days and days. My husband and I routinely use it in the context of "hey don't grope me there, I've got butthurt."

Someone being/feeling butthurt therefore is someone in a foul temper because they had just suffered the emotional equivalent of that, complete with festering for days and anything touching on the sore topic being painful.

Made sense to me. Bur maybe I just need to eat more fiber.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:32 AM on September 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


Jacqueline, maybe we need to not do the whole thread again?
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:39 AM on September 8, 2016 [22 favorites]


Wow lotta prescriptivists in this thread. The meaning of words changes over time, and sometimes words take on multiple meanings.

...says the prescriptivist, before bestowing upon the thread her own supposedly authoritative definition, beyond which the word can have no meanings.
posted by Dysk at 2:44 AM on September 8, 2016 [22 favorites]


I feel like ijust watched the trapping the monster in the bathroom scene from 'Dreamcatcher'.

I purpose that we not put every word on trial here, please.
posted by clavdivs at 2:59 AM on September 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


And yes, more fiber or something. That shit ain't normal.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:18 AM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Is there a point to this thread anymore beyond watching the left eat itself?
posted by asteria at 3:31 AM on September 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


Watching people choose privilege over empathy has been eye-opening.

And rather depressing.
posted by zarq at 4:08 AM on September 8, 2016 [23 favorites]


Not sure why it's so eye opening, we get waves of it every time somebody makes a "hey, this word is derogatory, please stop" MeTa.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:20 AM on September 8, 2016 [14 favorites]


And using the word "niggardly" in a conversation, in this day and age, knowing full well what it sounds like, is the height of obnoxious. It's like the word-version of holding your finger a centimetre away from someone and saying I'M NOT TOUCHING YOU.

During that controversy a few years ago, I heard a good quote: "The thing about niggardly is that you have to go through n----- to get there". Which is kind of the issue. It's one thing to use the word in an etymologically correct context among people who know you aren't racist. It's quite another to use it "in the field" of business or politics or anywhere else where you might be easily misunderstood. Better to use "cheap" or "parsimonious".
posted by theorique at 5:48 AM on September 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm starting to think language itself is somehow problematic, maybe we can resort to a series of hoots and claps?
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 5:50 AM on September 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm starting to believe that there are indeed shitty words that are okay for a group to decide aren't worth employing anymore.

its not like we have only a certain amount of words and can't make new ones up with a better understanding of the world.
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:58 AM on September 8, 2016 [12 favorites]


As for "bumblefuck" referring specifically to anal sex, that never really occurred to me.

It might be useful to know that in lots of idiolects, including my own, "BFE" stands for "butt-f***kin' Egypt." I have no idea whether that's the earliest form of the expression, but it's certainly a common one, and if you say "BFE," that's what a lot of people are going to hear.
posted by escabeche at 6:00 AM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


(It's exactly what I hear, escabeche)
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:05 AM on September 8, 2016


It might be useful to know that in lots of idiolects, including my own, "BFE" stands for "butt-f***kin' Egypt." I have no idea whether that's the earliest form of the expression, but it's certainly a common one, and if you say "BFE," that's what a lot of people are going to hear.

I assume it is a regional thing, because I've only ever heard people say "butt fuck ______" (not always Egypt), never any of the variations I've seen in this thread like "bum fuck" or "bumblefuck."

It's also something that I've probably heard a grand total of five or six times in my life, so it's not like it is a big thing that people say a lot around here.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:17 AM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


People say "East Bumfuck" where I live, I never heard the Egypt part until I went to college.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 6:26 AM on September 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


When playing Mad-libs and prompted for a Location, my grampa's go-to was "East Overshoe."
posted by usonian at 6:40 AM on September 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


People say "East Bumfuck" where I live, I never heard the Egypt part until I went to college.

I have encountered "butt-f***kin' Egypt" so rarely that I can't remember the last time I encountered it. I don't think I've ever actually heard any one say it. In the original comment I took "BFE" to mean "Bumfuck England." Similarly, the variations I'm most familiar with are East/West Bumfuck with "West" tipping the scale.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:00 AM on September 8, 2016


It's like the Pop/Soda/Coke regional dialect thing. It was Bumfuck Egypt in NoCal, but the folks in SoCal had no idea wtf I might be trying to say (maybe because of the wall to wall suburbs?). "Out in the Sticks" and variants seems like an almost equally expressive alternate, and one I never had to explain to Southern Californians.
posted by notyou at 7:29 AM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]



Also in retrospect I think I would have been tactful enough not to say it in front of gay men I didn't know.


Do you have some kind of amazing infallible ability to detect every aspect of a person's identity with a casual glance or something? This is at least the second time in this thread that you've assumed you could know if your speech would target a specific group based on your intuitive understanding of who is in that group.

I mean dang if so that is a magical power indeed - me, I don't know who is gay just by looking at them.
posted by winna at 7:40 AM on September 8, 2016 [23 favorites]


I've heard people refer to "out in BFE". I guess it could be said that if someone inquires to its meaning, most poeple would respond "...ah, way out there". Maybe reducing it to an acronym lessens people's usage.
It reminds of cheap reefer, Defender at the arcade in a jean jacket with a jam box kicking B͚̦̘̥̤̦l̻͉͚͓u̡̫̣̩͉̰̗e̩̟̱͈̫̪ Oý̻̬̜̟̦s̛̲̗ţ̝̭̰͎̘̥è̲͕r̵̘ ̙̟̼͝C̢̰͈̰̗ṳ̠̝͠l̤͓͓̫̮͓̟t̼͎̠̺.
posted by clavdivs at 7:46 AM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Serious question: is using “butthurt” not reference to homophobia, in the sense that if someone projects “butthurt” it’s the projection of a perceived “violation” of (toxically) masculine identity?
posted by Dressed to Kill at 7:46 AM on September 8, 2016


The prevalence of casual homophobia in my (at the time, massively predominantly straight) social circle was one of the things that made me very wary of coming out as queer - in fact, I didn't do so until I'd effectively come to peace with losing all my friendships. As it turned out, they were almost universally very accepting and awesome about it, but the atmosphere very much indicated the contrary, and was a huge source of distress for me for a long time.

The language you use, the expressions, they matter. Even where you think they don't.
posted by Dysk at 7:49 AM on September 8, 2016 [36 favorites]


Which reminds me of a story I'm sure I've told here before. My Grandma's boyfriend Leo was from Austria and taught himself English with a dictionary and the WSJ. He frequently missed the nuances, but filled them in with his own. For example, when he wanted to describe a place in East Sticksville, he'd say "way out in the moonies."

"The where?"

"The moonies! Out in the Moonrocks!"

Which is much, much further out than the Boondocks.
posted by notyou at 7:52 AM on September 8, 2016 [31 favorites]


Growing I heard iterations that included Bumfuck, Bumblefuck and also just Bumble, most often paired with just "East" before it, but also with Egypt or China after.

Also, Podunk (which I believe would be a reference to indigenous people in Connecticut) and Jabip (no idea, but it seems to be a Philly thing). Both most commonly with "East."
posted by Pax at 7:58 AM on September 8, 2016


Contextually, 'butthurt' always seemed to me much more to reference a trembly-chinned, red-faced toddler on the verge of outraged tears after a swat on the bottom. 'I spanked you and now you're mad.' The other interpretation doesn't even really seem to fit the context it's used in. 'haha you got violated?' Nah. 'haha you got spanked?' Easily.
posted by Fantods at 8:00 AM on September 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


Previously on Metatalk: 'Please reconsider the use of the term "butthurt",' March 2013. Which, itself, includes several 'previously's'.

If anyone is genuinely curious about how other people perceive or use the phrase, there's four-hundred and sixty-seven comments in that discussion alone -- leaving aside the linked threads -- that address the topic. Could we maybe not rehash those conversations now, 300 comments into this Meta, unless there's some pressing need?
posted by cjelli at 8:11 AM on September 8, 2016 [26 favorites]


ah, mea culpa, cjelli. Asked w/o searching.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 8:16 AM on September 8, 2016


The entire song and dance is quite a bit more previously than that, but it doesn't seem to slow the merry-go-round at all, does it.
posted by Fantods at 8:33 AM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


> In jamaican english/creole, "bombocloth" means "r'asscloth" means something you use to wipe your bum

Hmmm. Are you sure? I thought both bumbaclot and rasscloth were Patois for a sanitary pad.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:41 AM on September 8, 2016


> People say "East Bumfuck" where I live, I never heard the Egypt part until I went to college

It was "East Bumfuck, Maine," when I was in high school in Massachusetts.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:42 AM on September 8, 2016


So what's the urban equivalent of "rustic"

"Loft"
posted by maryr at 9:24 AM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm happy to replace BFE with "ass end of nowhere."
posted by Squeak Attack at 9:30 AM on September 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


If we're collecting data, I've only heard "BFN," for Bumblefuck, Nowhere. I don't think I've ever heard BFE or "Egypt" etc. before this.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:31 AM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


I thought both bumbaclot and rasscloth were Patois for a sanitary pad.

Both of those mean ass-cloth, as in what you wipe with. Menstrual pad is bloodclot or pussyclot (clot as in cloth), with spellings for all varying by patois transcription style.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:41 AM on September 8, 2016


Bllodclot is a menstrual pad? That's coming out of my vocabulary as well, although I only use it when pretending to be an angry Jamaican, which I should probably also drop.
posted by maxsparber at 9:44 AM on September 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


> Both of those mean ass-cloth, as in what you wipe with. Menstrual pad is bloodclot or pussyclot (clot as in cloth), with spellings for all varying by patois transcription style

My experience varies from yours. I'm an American, but I went to school in Jamaica at a relevant age. I never heard "pussyclot," but the other three were yelled out regularly whenever the teachers weren't around.

We have gone far astray. I'm enjoying our discussion, but don't want to irritate people who want the conversation to stay on the original point of language, disability, and slurs.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:59 AM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


If we're collecting data, I've only heard "BFN," for Bumblefuck, Nowhere. I don't think I've ever heard BFE or "Egypt" etc. before this.

As another data point: BFE was a completely foreign Americanism to me (growing up in Canada you at least hear weirdo American phrases, even if you don't use them). It was defined for me (by a Wisconsinite who picked up a lot of UP Michigan jargon in undergrad) as "Bumfuck, Egypt."

(which didn't make any sense to me because Egypt is a country with a lot of legitimately cool things that are very much known in Western popular culture -- if it were BFChad or BFLibya it would make more sense, not because Chad and Libya are boring, but because Americans are far less likely to have heard of the significant places in those two African countries than the Pyramids of Giza or the Nile).
posted by sparklemotion at 10:02 AM on September 8, 2016


I actually wonder if the "Egypt" part is Midwest-specific (there is actually an area of Illinois, as ridgerunner pointed out, with a bunch of Egyptian town names, the largest of which is Cairo (CAY-roh, of course.) It would definitely qualify for the larger sense of the phrase.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:16 AM on September 8, 2016 [7 favorites]


I don't think expressions like BFE necessarily need to make a lot of sense to find sticking power. They do need to roll off the tongue well, and BFE and Bumfuck Egypt both are rhythmic and easy to say.
posted by notyou at 10:18 AM on September 8, 2016


maybe we can resort to a series of hoots and claps?

That's perilously close to tap-dancing and farting.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:19 AM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


You know, as much as some people hate the discussion on appropriate language, that's how much I hate the "let's stop using words all together" and "someone get an Egyptian in here to weigh in" rhetoric.
posted by zutalors! at 10:42 AM on September 8, 2016 [7 favorites]


Also, Podunk (which I believe would be a reference to indigenous people in Connecticut) and Jabip (no idea, but it seems to be a Philly thing). Both most commonly with "East."

I'm Philly-adjacent, and it's either "Bumblefuck" or "Jabip," as stated above, with "East" if you're really out there. I've taken to using "East Nowheresville" when I'm in mixed company and unsure who's okay with hearing an f-bomb.

I had never ever heard of Egypt being part of the phrase until I hit the latter portions of this thread.
posted by moviehawk at 10:53 AM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


(I grew partially in New England, partially Philly-adjacent, with Ohio and Philly-adjacent parents.)
posted by Pax at 10:56 AM on September 8, 2016


I actually wonder if the "Egypt" part is Midwest-specific (there is actually an area of Illinois, as ridgerunner pointed out, with a bunch of Egyptian town names

If the bootlegger etymology is correct, bumb/bum fuck could be a corruption of bung fucked as an expression for having to tap a keg to pay extortion, blackmail or bribes for a safe layover before the next leg of the run north.
posted by ridgerunner at 10:59 AM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


You know, as much as some people hate the discussion on appropriate language, that's how much I hate the "let's stop using words all together" and "someone get an Egyptian in here to weigh in" rhetoric.

I can't think of anyone in this thread proposing "let's stop using words" seriously -- it seems like that's lighthearted jokery about the nature of the whole debate itself as opposed to any kind of rhetoric.

Similarly, I'm not a fan of the rhetoric behind "someone get an [XXX] in here to weigh in," but if debates regarding acceptable language are to be resolved (or even influenced) by listening to the affected people, asking an [XXX] what they think seems reasonable, and not rhetoric in and of itself*.

*to me, the rhetorical argument would be something like: "[XXX] says [thing] is fine so it's fine" or [XXX] says [thing] is terrible so it's terrible" or even "I don't care what [XXX] says, they are wrong and thing is [terrible|fine] because [other reasons]".
posted by sparklemotion at 11:10 AM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


It comes across as making fun of people who say this stuff bothers them.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:12 AM on September 8, 2016 [15 favorites]



It comes across as making fun of people who say this stuff bothers them.


agreed.
posted by zutalors! at 11:13 AM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


And tokenizing as hell.
posted by lazuli at 11:14 AM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


It comes across as making fun of people who say this stuff bothers them.

You know that I know that that can absolutely be the case, but in the context that the "let's stop using language" jokes were made in this thread, it seems clear that they were a dig at the folks participating in derails about completely different words than the "stuff" that bothered the original poster (and others).

That just reads fundamentally differently to me than the slippery slope/reductio ad absurdum style snark that can understandably be problematic.

And tokenizing as hell.

I'd agree, if the comment was "we can't possibly know if BFE is offensive unless we talk to an Egyptian." But the comment was more like (paraphrasing) "I've always assumed that this would offend Egyptians, maybe I'm wrong." I mean my own concerns about tokenizing are part of why I'm not a huge fan of the argument that "I am an [XXX] and I find [do|don't] this offensive" should be the final arbitrator in these sorts of language questions. But I get that that's part of the calculus here.

So listening to the opinions of Egyptians when talking about slurs involving Egypt seems like the kind of thing that Metafilter wants to encourage, especially when it's made clear (as Bugbread took pains to do) that it's not a demand for participation, just an acknowledgement of the lack of that perspective.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:44 AM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


i would never use hurf durf or derp to ridicule a disabled person. however i frequently use those words to ridicule perfectly able co-workers who are simply being stupid. i don't forsee that changing in the future.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 11:49 AM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


You're, uh, probably going to end up saying that to a disabled person then! I do not envy you at that moment!
posted by griphus at 11:58 AM on September 8, 2016 [33 favorites]


Yea you can't really tell who's "perfectly able."
posted by zutalors! at 11:59 AM on September 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


I... don't think that's reaaalllly the biggest problem with QII's statement. Try replacing "disabled person" with "black person", use the obvious word to replace "derp", then see how the paragraph scans.
posted by selfnoise at 12:01 PM on September 8, 2016


i would never use hurf durf or derp to ridicule a disabled person. however i frequently use those words to ridicule perfectly able co-workers who are simply being stupid. i don't forsee that changing in the future.

Cool story, bro.
posted by Etrigan at 12:03 PM on September 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


Try replacing "disabled person" with "black person"

no never do this
posted by zutalors! at 12:04 PM on September 8, 2016 [15 favorites]


Thought experiment: replace each instance of "black person" with "monster truck"

Notice anything now? That's right, the comment is now almost entirely about monster trucks
posted by Greg Nog at 12:09 PM on September 8, 2016 [47 favorites]


Every time I think I'm getting my comedy groove back the Nog comes to remind me that I am an amateur.
posted by maxsparber at 12:12 PM on September 8, 2016 [7 favorites]


"East Nowheresville"

This is good, I like this.

But it might be offensive to people who don't occupy a point in space. :D
posted by tobascodagama at 12:13 PM on September 8, 2016



Notice anything now? That's right, the comment is now almost entirely about monster trucks


yay
posted by zutalors! at 12:13 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Jerkwater, USA."
posted by My Dad at 12:14 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


*tries replacing "monster truck" with "sweet, delicious booze"*

*is delighted*
posted by octobersurprise at 12:14 PM on September 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


Personally I think we should replace monster trucks with a series of hoots and claps.

It would make the demolition derbies confusing, but it's a price I'm willing to pay.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 12:18 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


I tend to go with "West Upper Nowhere" for distant places. Sometimes I'll use "out in the twigs," which is where you wind up after you've passed through "the sticks", but usually only for wooded areas, because the sticks in question are trees, referring to the increasing ratio of trees to people.
posted by Karmakaze at 12:20 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


And, if I remember the plot to The Forest of Hands and Teeth right, those trees are zombies.
posted by maxsparber at 12:22 PM on September 8, 2016


Sorry if this was linked in here already, I saw it mentioned elsewhere a couple days ago:

"We should talk about the problems that women and minorities face."
posted by Evilspork at 12:28 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, that was an extraordinarily ill-considered comment.

What I meant was, using a term that denigrates a group only on non-members of that group does not make it any less offensive, and it's bizarre that someone would think so.

I almost used ANOTHER inappropriate analogy in this comment. I need an anti-analogy medication.
posted by selfnoise at 12:28 PM on September 8, 2016 [10 favorites]



People say "East Bumfuck" where I live, I never heard the Egypt part until I went to college.


It was definitely Bumfuck, sometimes followed by the specific state ("Bumfuck, Arkansas" being different from "Bumfuck, Indiana" obvs) when I was in growing up (in Appalachia, where half of my friends lived "way out in bumfuck"). I think we thought sounded tougher than "the boonies" and not as couched in stereotype as "out in the sticks/ up in the the hollers"

I don't remember adding Egypt on the end, but I think my little sister's friends did, so that might have caught on after I left public school.
posted by thivaia at 12:45 PM on September 8, 2016


There is a part of downstate Illinois known as Little Egypt. It's surrounded by three great rivers (Illinois, Mississippi, and Ohio), all of which have very fertile flood plains. Settlers compared it to the alluvial Nile and to the abundant agriculture of Biblical Egypt. There are songs and even local hymns about the new Egypt in Illinois and how much God loves us to give us awesome Egypt-like farmland.

It's plausible that BFE referred to Little Egypt as it was and is pretty rural (and used more barge shipping and travel than train, so wasn't as easy to visit). But I have no idea as I'm not really familiar with the term or its vernacular! (I grew up in the Chicago burbs, people wanting to express something small and rural either said "the ass end of nowhere" or just "downstate.")
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 12:46 PM on September 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


For whatever it's worth, in Missouri I always heard it as Bumblefuck, Egypt (or BFE) and mentally connected it with the Cairo area mentioned.
posted by thetortoise at 12:50 PM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


there are a million references when I google BFE that imply that it's Egypt, the country. There seems to be a lot of twisting here to make it seem like something else.
posted by zutalors! at 12:56 PM on September 8, 2016


Funny, I thought this was a conversation.
posted by Atom Eyes at 1:00 PM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


I actually wonder if the "Egypt" part is Midwest-specific (there is actually an area of Illinois, as ridgerunner pointed out, with a bunch of Egyptian town names, the largest of which is Cairo (CAY-roh, of course.) It would definitely qualify for the larger sense of the phrase.

Aha! I always suspected "stuck down in Mobile with the Memphis blues again'' was some kind of weird euphemism.
posted by jamjam at 1:02 PM on September 8, 2016


it's Egypt the country. Egypt is a far-off country anybody can be assumed to have heard of because Egypt is the #1 Foreign Country in the Bible. Buttfuck, Chad? Who's Chad? and yes it is Buttfuck, Egypt, I guess Bumfuck makes some sort of sense if you're from England or whatever but Bumblefuck? what twee nonsense is that? oh yeah and of course it's hella orientalist in a not-cool way
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:07 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Here's what's interesting to me about the discussion around BFE...

It's plausible that BFE referred to Little Egypt as it was and is pretty rural (and used more barge shipping and travel than train, so wasn't as easy to visit).

Let's say this is true, and go even further and say that BF was originally "bumblefuck" (and that "bumblefuck" is, further, not homophobic in origin).

Should the "true" etymology make a difference in whether or not the alphabetism stays in usage given that there are people who understand it to be orientalist and anti-gay?

On the one hand, the easy answer is "no." But if that's the case why are people who generally err on the side of respectful language even bringing up alternative etymologies?

If the answer is "yes," then how much weight should we give the "true" etymology vs. the feelings of people who understand it to mean something else? Is it acceptable to do that weighting at all?

And, while in this thought experiment we assume that we have perfect knowledge of word origins, that's not how it works in the real world, so what standard should a respectful community use to determine what the "meaning" actually is? Should we be weighing "strength of evidence for non-offensive meaning" vs. "amount of pain caused to those assuming offensive meaning"?
posted by sparklemotion at 1:09 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Funny, I thought this was a conversation.

From this part of the conversation, it sounds like people are trying to say they're not being unintentionally racist, you see in the Midwest...(convoluted explanation)
posted by zutalors! at 1:11 PM on September 8, 2016


I've heard it as Bumsfuck and Bumsville but not Egypt but Idaho.
posted by I-baLL at 1:13 PM on September 8, 2016


I like how a thread about a request re: maybe not using insulting ableist language led to a surprising amount of pushback and a few comments stating that they're just gonna keep using the insulting language, all the while getting completely derailed into a discussion about where 'BFE' is referring to instead of about ableism.

What the fuck is this thread still doing open?
posted by qcubed at 1:17 PM on September 8, 2016 [24 favorites]


And, while in this thought experiment we assume that we have perfect knowledge of word origins, that's not how it works in the real world,

This. I hate this. I hate it when real life people with feelings and lived experiences are treated as not real life people.

People are not here to be anyone's thoughts experiment while you rules-lawyer on how to continue not having to change.
posted by Kitteh at 1:27 PM on September 8, 2016 [17 favorites]


Should the "true" etymology make a difference

That there is the MeTa in a nutshell. No, it shouldn't. In a community as diverse as MetaFilter, where a significant number of members have stated that a word's use is upsetting to them, I have no problem at all never using the word again, here or elsewhere. Those who think the etymology does matter should refrain from using it here.

This doesn't seem hard.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:29 PM on September 8, 2016 [29 favorites]


This thread is really, really, really upsetting. I'm so deeply disappointed to see so many MeFites that I previously had respect for, doubling down on their right to say whatever they want even though they know it hurts other people. Other MeFites. Members of the community you belong to. Why are you so proud to be seen devaluing other people like this?
posted by palomar at 1:31 PM on September 8, 2016 [26 favorites]


I think a lot of posters are getting caught up in the "where does this midwestern phrase come from" or "ooh, I know a joke!" thing, including very experienced posters and mods. I find this very odd. Based on what I know about the posters, I don't think they intend to disrespect the real issues raised here. I do think that there should have been an effort to keep the discussion more focused.
posted by selfnoise at 1:36 PM on September 8, 2016 [13 favorites]


including very experienced posters and mods. I find this very odd.

me too.
posted by zutalors! at 1:37 PM on September 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


Oh, and in case anyone needs more anecdotal evidence on this, pretty much every verbal usage of "Derp" I encounter is accompanied with the eyeroll and flappy arms. Yeah, I'm old enough to have encountered that mockery in the 80's but the gesture never went away. I really don't think you can argue that today's kids on the internet just happened to pick the same word that goes with the flapping as pure innocent co-incidence.
posted by Karmakaze at 1:38 PM on September 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


Why are you so proud to be seen devaluing other people like this?

Are you referring to the ones that suggested all those non-homophobic, non-orientalist words like jerkwater, nowheresville or in the twigs to write entire communities out of existence because they don't deserve anything more than a generic insult as a reference?
posted by ridgerunner at 1:46 PM on September 8, 2016


I think a lot of posters are getting caught up in the "where does this midwestern phrase come from" or "ooh, I know a joke!" thing, including very experienced posters and mods.

It appears to have been a deliberate choice made by the mods. Three of them contributed to the BFE derail rather than step in to encourage posters to keep this thread more on topic. Perhaps they felt the derail was tangentially related and therefore worth discussing further?
posted by zarq at 1:47 PM on September 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


Count me as another person completely baffled as to how this thread about ablist language has turned into something entirely unrelated. It's kind of upsetting, to be honest, because to me it reads like people are so uninterested in the original request that we've decided to talk about something else instead.
posted by langtonsant at 1:50 PM on September 8, 2016 [16 favorites]


When I ask someone to avoid using whatever sort of slur, I'm basically asking for two things.

First, I'm asking for the cognitive labor necessary to instigate a change of behavior. For some people, it will take a lot of conscious thought to alter long-standing patterns of language use.

Second, I'm (implicitly) asking for the emotional labor to work through one's own internal feelings about the request without directing that processing at me. Like, if we're going to argue about whether I'm offended by a word, I will win that argument 100% of the time because my internal feelings aren't up for debate.

This post is not to suggest that these tasks are always going to be easy. Taking that sort of constructive criticism can be very difficult, so I've been trying to cope ahead a bit in case I accidentally say something offensive to someone.

What is this coping ahead bit? It means that I imagine myself in the first person having said something offensive and then responding appropriately to the criticism -- i.e., not responding to the initial huge burst of stress hormones and reacting negatively, but taking a couple of deep breaths, apologizing, and making a commitment to avoid such terms in the future.

It's work to respond without defensiveness, but it is work that will make this and other spaces more inclusive.
posted by Excommunicated Cardinal at 1:52 PM on September 8, 2016 [22 favorites]


Perhaps they felt the derail was tangentially related and therefore worth discussing further?

It's possible, I suppose, but that sort of permissibility when it comes to derails seems to be applied inconsistently depending on the topic.

It's kind of upsetting, to be honest, because to me it reads like people are so uninterested in the original request that we've decided to talk about something else instead.

Or so awkward to discuss and easy to overlook. This is like a reverse dead goat situation.
posted by qcubed at 1:54 PM on September 8, 2016 [7 favorites]


This. I hate this. I hate it when real life people with feelings and lived experiences are treated as not real life people.

Please tell me where I did this. The only "hypothetical" items in that comment were 1.) we know what BFE "really" means, and 2.) it's not offensive.

People are not here to be anyone's thoughts experiment while you rules-lawyer on how to continue not having to change.

Also this. I've made zero comments in this thread to even imply that it's ok to use either the word "derp" or "BFE." If it's "rules-lawyering" to try to clarify what goes into determining which words are OK to say, then so be it. The BFE discussion is interesting because it seems like, for some people, for some reason "this is offensive" is "enough" for some words, but [citation needed] is a reasonable response for other words.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:55 PM on September 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


Ableist language is something I have been thinking about lately and trying to strike from my lexicon. It isn't easy to see my own failings and weaknesses sometimes, especially when I have never contemplated the roots of a specific word before.
I appreciate when people contact me to tell me that I have used ableist language and I am glad to see this post here. Thanks.
posted by Seamus at 1:59 PM on September 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


to me it reads like people are so uninterested in the original request

Huh. I can see that reading but that wasn't what was going on in my head. From my non-mod/emeritus/whatever perspective it seemed like people mostly agreed with or at least empathized with the original request, some people either didn't agree or wanted to nitpick, that turned into some of the derail that started very specifically here about a day and a bit after the thread opened and when, to my mind, it had started winding down.

So I totally get that for people who aren't living in MetaTalk, this feels like fanning a derail and maybe glossing the original point since there may be a few people still debating that topic. But I also feel that from my vantage point there was a decent amount of consensus that the request was reasonable, that ableist language is worth paying attention to and avoiding (though specifics may vary) and that this side discussion about other "please maybe think about words that you use including this one" was on topic enough to be part of the general conversation here.

Can't speak for anyone else, that's my thinking.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 2:04 PM on September 8, 2016 [7 favorites]


My take on these threads is that they're fundamentally good for raising awareness, and they're absolutely terrible at achieving anything close to unanimity. So once the initial topic is clarified enough that folks reading it get a sense of the scope and significance of the request, there isn't all that much more to say that isn't the Usual Positions trading jabs. A jump to related topics is, as Jessamyn suggests, a pretty natural follow-on to something that's as hashed out as it's going to be. Possibly that means the thread may as well be shut down - I'm not quite there yet with this one, but we may hit that point.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:08 PM on September 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


Well, a cursory view of this thread suggests just using the acronym, as I said up thread, is one way to rid these phrases from everyday life.
Is that reductivist?

What I don't understand is that the OP requested it taken down, discussion ensues, devolves and people calling for attention to a word that no longer appears on the FFP and one most wouldn't use.

paging Winston Smith to Fluid corrections!
posted by clavdivs at 2:27 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Are you referring to the ones that suggested all those non-homophobic, non-orientalist words like jerkwater, nowheresville or in the twigs to write entire communities out of existence because they don't deserve anything more than a generic insult as a reference?

nope! but thanks sooooooo much for playing!
posted by palomar at 2:28 PM on September 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


All due respect, @restless_nomad, I fail to see how nailing down the exact location of where the fuck Butter Fingers Estonia is referring to actually deals with the question of whether or not it's exposing the subtle bigotry of careless disdain in language.
posted by qcubed at 2:29 PM on September 8, 2016 [12 favorites]


Yeah, sorry, had been reading with interest but didn't have anything to contribute beyond "yeah I don't really like that word." Because I was reading I happened to see the side conversation on BFE and Egypt Illinois and Lord knows I am easily drawn into Illinois geography conversations regardless of topic and probably should not be quite so easy to derail in that fashion.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 2:30 PM on September 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


Although, ridgerunner, I do like how you think the subject of this post should be rural areas, and not ableist language. Thanks for being a shining example of what the problem is.
posted by palomar at 2:31 PM on September 8, 2016 [5 favorites]



All due respect, @restless_nomad, I fail to see how nailing down the exact location of where the fuck Butter Fingers Estonia is referring to actually deals with the question of whether or not it's exposing the subtle bigotry of careless disdain in language


It doesn't help the "mod team lacks diversity" issue, for sure.
posted by zutalors! at 2:32 PM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


Moving to "related subjects" that is basically US trivia strikes me as more disrespectful to the people who want to discuss ableist language than "the Usual Positions trading jabs", whatever that is. Nobody wants to encounter that kind of dismissive attitude coached in "Oh we want to talk about something else".
posted by selfnoise at 2:38 PM on September 8, 2016 [9 favorites]


So, I have been adhering strictly to my "read to the bottom before commenting" rule, and it's mostly a good one, but I feel a bit like I could have just dropped in any time in the last two days with

What the hell, MeTa, are you drunk?

and really have had the gist of the thing.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:58 PM on September 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


While I don't think the subject of "derp" specifically has a whole lot more use to it, if we're going to go on to ableist language in general (as opposed to maybe-unknown offensive language in general,) I was reading this storify on what constitutes abelist language earlier yesterday, and thought it makes some interesting distinctions.

For me, I'm generally on the "avoid things that support structural injustice as a rule"/"avoid personally upsetting things around people who are personally upset by them" train in my personal life, and the former seems like something that it's easier for mods to come down hard on than the latter, which are damned tricky with a community this large. I think a chunk of the perennial conflict around this issue involves the conflation - on both sides - of those two angles. (That said, the link above does kinda skip the whole category of "things that are flat-out slurs" which are not quite either category, or possibly are just both.) I'd love to hear if folks think the points made there resonate for them.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:01 PM on September 8, 2016 [10 favorites]


I think that storify has some valuable info -- one thing I'd like to point out from it: it defines ableism as "dismissing, silencing, or stigmatizing disabled people". We've seen plenty of that right here in this thread -- for every one person saying that the word "derp" was used as a hurtful slur against themselves or someone they know and love, there's at least one person saying "naaaaah, not really a problem, no one's ever used this as a slur, it's just a funny sound!" If that's not being dismissive and silencing, then I don't know what is.

We NEED to do better on this. Or we're going to lose some valuable members.
posted by palomar at 3:06 PM on September 8, 2016 [27 favorites]


perfectly able co-workers who are simply being stupid

1. Thanks to the OP. I was blessedly unaware of the existence of this term, haven't used it, and now I won't.

2. There is an inherent assumption that being abled is better than being disabled. As someone with an invisible disability, that's an assumption I share. YMMV, and that is fine. But another, seemingly related assumption is that being intelligent (or highly intelligent) is somehow optimal. And yet American history, at least, is littered with nightmarish stories of horrible things perpetuated by really smart people. Like, super smart.

I broke up with a lover in part because he tended to objectify huge swaths of individuals and characterize them in negative ways. When he was driving, he'd yell at other drivers on the road and call them "idiots", although often they weren't doing anything dangerous or particularly upsetting. I used to call myself lots of names, including "idiot", because several things that come easily to others are challenging for me to do. Then, with help, I learned to identify myself as merely human. As are most people. So I, for one, don't expect to ever live in a world without slurs. Still, I applaud people who ask for respect and kindness and applaud those MeFites who make an effort to honor such requests.

I don't think anyone is ever simply "stupid". Personally, I can be thoughtless, unkind, sloppy, and a host of other imperfect yet perfectly human things. Stupid, not so much. I wish our collective default was self-knowledge ("gosh, I wish X hadn't done Y, that makes me feel sucky/will push us past the deadline/endangers my kid") rather than judgement ("X is so deconstructed!") when faced with individuals doing things we would prefer they not do. That's never going to happen, so I'm just working as best I can to absorb the many fine lessons MF has to offer.

TL;DR: Thanks for being here. I love you peeps. Let's hug it out!
posted by Bella Donna at 3:28 PM on September 8, 2016 [15 favorites]


I think the usage of the ableist term here falls under the "sensitive language" part of that storify.

Metafilter as a platform IMO would greatly benefit from a commitment by contributors to care more about using sensitive language.

Really, it does not at all in any way harm any contributor here to use more sensitive language, nor is it "group think" or some other horrible act of Marxist oppression.

It's literally just asking people to look at language and turn the dial here more towards "inclusive and sensitive".

if we don't want to use that kind of language, then these types of Metas are what result, and the site biases itself away from marginalized, stigmatized and oppressed groups from participating here.

its up to each of us to decide the amount of effort we want to put into caring about how the content we create here will be recieved by others. Lower effort == more friction on the platform. More effort == higher quality participation on the platform.
posted by Annika Cicada at 3:32 PM on September 8, 2016 [20 favorites]


Although, ridgerunner, I do like how you think the subject of this post should be rural areas, and not ableist language. Thanks for being a shining example of what the problem is.

I didn't drop this shit in the thread without one bit of pushback:

The Middle Of No Fucking Where
Out in the Sticks
ass end of nowhere.
East Nowheresville
Jerkwater, USA
West Upper Nowhere
out in the twigs
the sticks
posted by ridgerunner at 3:40 PM on September 8, 2016


I slightly disagree with the Nahh sence of dismissal Palomar, I don't read it that way and of a few, one I account for the philiosophy of Foon, simply disagree. But a discussion of the damage alone does nothing towards rectification or the further talk that can ensue. Takes courage and respect to admit wrong even in ignorance and that's something because it comes from consensus, the very thing were here for. I'm not calling for opening the liquor recipes but I'm not calling for thread closure.
posted by clavdivs at 3:40 PM on September 8, 2016


I think this thread needs a reminder about what really matters. Correctly naming cute animal pics without any offensive language getting in the way. The OP framed this post perfectly, and Im ashamed of us as a community for all this pushback. Also, Blep.
posted by kittensofthenight at 3:46 PM on September 8, 2016


So if people disagree that a word is a slur, despite ample evidence in-thread that it is clearly used as a slur, we can just go on pretending that it's a totally okay word to use that hurts no one at all? That's fucked up, kids. I can't believe what I'm hearing.

And ridgerunner, as soon as you can point out how referring to a rural area as the boondocks equals an ableist slur, you might have something coming close to a valid point.
posted by palomar at 3:50 PM on September 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


Yes, people are often horribly dismissive of rural areas. That would make a good topic for a MeTa. It should not be part of this one. To make it so is a derail and a pretty awful one given that the problem of ableism on the site is not a solved one.
posted by langtonsant at 3:55 PM on September 8, 2016 [17 favorites]


I have trouble putting "derp" into the context of that storify. I think, as restless_nomad says, it doesn't really get into "slurs."

I think that storify has some valuable info -- one thing I'd like to point out from it: it defines ableism as "dismissing, silencing, or stigmatizing disabled people".

Disagreements about facts aren't "dismissing or silencing" though.

We've seen plenty of that right here in this thread -- for every one person saying that the word "derp" was used as a hurtful slur against themselves or someone they know and love, there's at least one person saying "naaaaah, not really a problem, no one's ever used this as a slur, it's just a funny sound!" If that's not being dismissive and silencing, then I don't know what is.

To me, the people saying that the word "derp" isn't a hurtful slur were saying that '"derp" is not "dismissive or stigmatizing of disabled people because derp has nothing to do with disabled people, at all, because it is an internet word meaning pictures of silly faces/situations.' (with a possible extension to "your anecdote is not evidence of the proper usage of the word" by both sides).

That, to me, is a reasonable thing to disagree about, and not (in and of itself) dismissive because it's possible to both believe that the vast majority of people don't use "derp" as a slur AND ALSO that it's better to avoid using "derp" because it bothers some people. The word doesn't have to have the Official Stamp of Slur Approval to consider not using it.

What I thought was interesting about the storify is that it ends by imploring folks on twitter to do what gets dismissed here as "rules lawyering":

You must understand WHY [this word] is bad to use before you can attempt to extrapolate over to whether [that word] is bad to use.

As far as "turn[ing] the dial here more towards "inclusive and sensitive"', I'm willing to bet that Johnny Wallflower thought he had it reasonably cranked when he made the post in question. So I don't think that this "if we don't want to use that kind of language, then these types of Metas are what result" really follows. The meta happened even though Johnny Wallflower wasn't trying to be insensitive.
posted by sparklemotion at 4:00 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


The discussion of rural areas occurred during the last metatalk when it was decided that "flyover country" was offensive.
posted by Karaage at 4:02 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sparklemotion, you are doing a thing here that you need to stop doing if you want to participate in these threads. Reframing the entire narrative of the thread in your own terms is absolutely going to do nothing but piss everyone else off, and sprinkling "to me" around does not do a thing to mitigate that. Please find a different way to process this kind of conversation, or do it in the privacy of your own head, because it's coming off as arrogant and willfully obtuse.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:04 PM on September 8, 2016 [30 favorites]


as soon as you can point out how referring to a rural area as the boondocks equals an ableist slur,

Strawmaning already?
posted by ridgerunner at 4:04 PM on September 8, 2016


Well Palomar, sometimes I cant believe I would type: "slaps Q$@&%}R with a fish" in "the day"

But I would never dream of that now even though I may disagree with a comment in this thread.
Ridge runner never said "boondocks".
That's different then the examples RR gave. Folks from the elite schools would call people who went to U of M as the sticks, probably still do despite its fine rating. Kinda proud of living in the sticks.
posted by clavdivs at 4:10 PM on September 8, 2016


Nope! Just pointing out the topic of this thread. There's nothing stopping you from leaving off the derail that you're so fond of in order to start a MeTa specifically to talk about the topic you want to discuss. This discussion is not about rural areas, despite the derail.
posted by palomar at 4:10 PM on September 8, 2016


and clavdivs, please notice that I did not capitalize my username. Minor quibble, but please address me correctly.
posted by palomar at 4:12 PM on September 8, 2016


And ridgerunner, as soon as you can point out how referring to a rural area as the boondocks equals an ableist slur,

Strawmaning?

....is a derail and a pretty awful one

Funny how its a derail when its pointed out but not when it's happening.

But, don't worry about it it, it time to do chores here in this rustic area. The thread is yours.
posted by ridgerunner at 4:17 PM on September 8, 2016


Sorry about the half post. IOS?
posted by ridgerunner at 4:18 PM on September 8, 2016


Really, it does not at all in any way harm any contributor here to use more sensitive language, nor is it "group think" or some other horrible act of Marxist oppression.

It certainly takes an amount of emotional energy to stop, think and reprogram your brain to not do that thing you've been thinking was harmless for all your life. Some people like to say it costs nothing to be nice, yet for others it does, particularly when the rules seem to be changing. It can be far easier to simply not change or disregard people when they insist a word has a new meaning, especially when it doesn't sync up with what you've known and experienced.

My point here is that following MeTa and then even trying to change yourself takes emotional work and sometimes one can wonder whether its worth it, especially when you know there will be more changes coming down the line at some point.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:20 PM on September 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


Hey so mods? Check out how there was instantly more conversation about abelism once the stupid derail quit. You contributed to that derail. I know it kept me from contributing to the actual discussion, because it trivialized something actually pretty close to home for me. You /have/ put a stop to derails at the ends of metas before, even when it felt like the conversation was dying down. I am really disappointed you didn't here. It does send a message about what's worth talking about and who is worth listening to.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:23 PM on September 8, 2016 [30 favorites]


Funny how its a derail when its pointed out but not when it's happening.

This makes no sense.

If you want to discuss a specific topic, start a MeTa about it and quit trying to force this discussion about ableism into being a discussion about what you want to talk about.
posted by palomar at 4:24 PM on September 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


So maybe the rural boondocks whatever rustic bullshit derail could be nipped now
posted by stoneweaver at 4:24 PM on September 8, 2016 [8 favorites]


It would be nice if the people so concerned and dismayed about how other Metafilter users are so determined to use slurs were to actually read the thread, rather than respond to the one in their head, which seems to have gone very differently. Talk about reframing the debate - once again, that there even is a conversation is regarded as some cruelty, and those taking part terrible failures of humanity.

But then, much as they are dismayed at how the thread has gone, I am dismayed that there's always the scolds who treat the other members here as the child they're disappointed in, rather than an adult they know little about and have no authority over. It's never actually as simple as 'someone is offended so don't say this thing'; there clearly needs to be more to it than that, factual or otherwise, and explaining the why of something matters if you actually care about stopping behaviours and thought patterns rather than, say, insisting people behave the way you want them to.

I did notice that the assertion that BFE is an acronym that includes homophobia seems to have quietly faded away, which is nice. But also indicative of why discussing this sort of thing matters, because something seeming insulting or offensive doesn't mean it is, and frequently is designed to other the minorities in question but in a way those assuming offense are more comfortable with.

As content, a hand-wringing comment is nothing more than a little pill of attacking, inserting nothing but attempts to shame people into your way of thinking rather than engaging. It damages the community, just in a different, more subtle way, and treats the people you are supposedly in conversation with as if they are bad people if they aren't thinking, feeling or behaving the way you do.
posted by gadge emeritus at 4:25 PM on September 8, 2016 [14 favorites]


Related topics can go in more than one direction. I hear that there are still people who want to talk about ableism specifically - that's fine. But it's not totally obvious that the inviolable topic was ableism and not maybe-crypto-slurs. I'd really like a more in-depth conversation about ableism! So let's have that, rather than yelling at people who were taking a conversation path you preferred less.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:27 PM on September 8, 2016 [9 favorites]


From the storify: "Is the word one used to strip people of rights?"

I think this is a helpful question to ask when considering whether a term is harmful. Has it been weaponized in the past? Would it fit comfortably into a bigoted narrative? Does it contribute, even in a small way, to the sense that a person is "less than," and therefore not deserving of consideration?

One can consider one's own intentions in using a word, but those intentions don't exist in a vacuum. The word, for better or worse, exists as part of a usage narrative that transcends one person's interpretation.
posted by delight at 5:15 PM on September 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


But it's not totally obvious that the inviolable topic was ableism and not maybe-crypto-slurs.'

I really feel like if one reads the op it's actually super obvious, and I'm not ecstatic about the fact that most of the derails were raised by those seeking to defend the use of derp on metafilter. It seems tone deaf at best.

I also feel a bit surprised and disappointed by the mod response here. It feels inconsistent to me compared to other threads that are policed more stringently, and also a little defensive.

I feel that some people have said some pretty regrettable shit in here under the guise of concerned derails about non metafilter stuff, and that wouldn't and shouldn't have happened with some more mod guidance.

I understand it's a lot harder to police the seemingly infinite farrago of hypotheticals that arise whenever mefites are asked to alter their language or approach, but I'd love to see more of an effort. It feels trivialising when this happens, from the same people, every freaking time - and not genuine at all.

To see mods not only participating in it, but giving it an imprimatur speaks of a real disconnect to me.

I have nothing against hypotheticals (mostly), but I submit they have the effect in threads like these of obscuring the actual point, upsetting people, trivialising concerns, championing privilege, undoing any feeling of consensus or progress and sometimes being offensive all by themselves. They add nothing to these threads and I'm genuinely puzzled you guys seem to disagree.
posted by smoke at 5:31 PM on September 8, 2016 [21 favorites]


> So let's have that, rather than yelling at people who were taking a conversation path you preferred less.


Um. Is this directed at me? Because.... Wow.
posted by stoneweaver at 5:42 PM on September 8, 2016 [13 favorites]


Here's an aspect of abilism: Expecting that people are able to keep up with things in near real time. For the disabled among us, a day and a half in on a conversation is nothing.

I haven't been haunting meta for the last couple days because I'm getting ready to have surgery for the second time this year. Over one of the constellation of things that contributes to me being disabled.

More time should be allowed before things dive off into derails about other things that /may/ be considered offensive. That's basically 100% always bad. Look back at the rage yoga meta where the extremely reasonable request was made that the very specific case be addressed. Same thing here. That's how one approaches a conversation about most -isms in good faith.
posted by stoneweaver at 5:47 PM on September 8, 2016 [15 favorites]


I'm mostly too upset to address this as it deserves, but it's that although I agree that these threads have these phases where people joke or widen the discussion, and that's okay -- in this case, to me, the problem is that the supposedly lighter, more general wandering acted as a proxy for repeating the same arguments that were used to attempt to invalidate the OP's complaint, to sort of tarnish the earlier (shaky consensus) by association, create more space for the usual suspects to repeat their slippery-slope and silenced all my life arguments, divert the conversation to the complaints of an entirely different group (and in that earlier/future MeTa addressing their concerns, you can be sure there's a similar "let's talk instead about X"), and, especially, to just make this into some abstracted fucking trivial intellectual pastime, like it's a conversation in a cafe after a seminar in an analytical philosophy course: "let's abstract the terms and deconstruct the assertion...neato" as if some us hadn't already made it abundantly clear that this shit is our lives, it's fucking difficult on a daily basis, you understand?

And, again, I can see how the mods saw this from that "these threads have their natural progressions" perspective, but in this case there was actually a whole lot of same-shit-in-disguise going on. One commenter, especially, has been pushing me to tears of frustration in how they make valid, defensible points, and yet seem willfully oblivious to how their participation is functioning -- how it makes me like this whole conversation is just an idle pastime for them.

The probability of this sort of thread going off the rails this way is directly proportional to how much the community maybe kinda sees something is a problem but where it's mostly remote from their experience. And this is hurtful because it signals a kind of mild, patrician, merely transitory concern that's an insult in its unthinking condescension.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:49 PM on September 8, 2016 [26 favorites]


But it's not totally obvious that the inviolable topic was ableism and not maybe-crypto-slurs.

What?
I do not like having ableist slurs on the front page of Metafilter.

We wouldn't accept sexism, racism, homophobia, or transphobia there. Now it's time to do better with ablism.
posted by beerperson at 5:49 PM on September 8, 2016 [18 favorites]


The derail was due to me. It was an offhand comment which I thought was relevant, albeit tangentially, to what we were talking about in the thread. If I'd known it was going to take everybody over to an entirely different subject I wouldn't have done it. Maybe I should have known. Anyway, sorry.
posted by escabeche at 5:52 PM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


Ok, I have calmed down somewhat.

We get to have that conversation when the space is created and maintained for that conversation. This is intensily personal stuff, and approaching it from a stance of telling people not to yell about it when the space isn't guarded and is in fact disrupted by the supposed guards? Yeah, that doesn't create the space where people are able to speak clearly and coherently. It creates sputtering and anger and feelings of betrayal. You can't at once deploy a tone argument and also say "but I'm so interested in what you have to say!" It just doesn't work like that.

You want to encourage a discussion of abilism? You do that by apologizing and not scolding the people who are asking for better policing of derails.
posted by stoneweaver at 5:58 PM on September 8, 2016 [10 favorites]


stoneweaver, I'm pretty certain the "stop yelling like an angry mom" thing was directed at me, and I can't even tell you how disappointing it is to have that shitty sentiment coming from a mod.
posted by palomar at 6:03 PM on September 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


Oh, I guess the angry scolding parent remark came from someone else. So I'll apologize for thinking that came from a mod, but I agree that the mod response on this has been overwhelmingly dismal.
posted by palomar at 6:05 PM on September 8, 2016 [7 favorites]


mod response has been alarmingly bad in this thread
posted by zutalors! at 6:06 PM on September 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


Whoever it was directed at, it's not ok. People wouldn't be "yelling" (seriously?) about it if the mods had done their job. Instead of saying "my bad" the doubling down is really not cool. Super not cool.
posted by stoneweaver at 6:12 PM on September 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


For the record, restless_nomad, I've found most of sparklemotion's comments pretty thoughtful and politely worded (no doubt veering too much into a "let's consider this from an abstract viewpoint" kind of thing at times, for those with more direct emotional involvement, and yes yes "polite" isn't enough by itself but it's nice when people don't personally attack each other, too). I can't really speak to the accusation of "reframing the entire narrative of the thread in your own terms"...I mean, I take it (maybe wrongly) that you find sparklemotion's comments on the issues here kind of distorted or too focused on some point(s) that sparklemotion wants to make. Be that as it may, I don't think there's a single narrative to a thread like this -- in fact, I feel like it's in these MeTa posts where you can most clearly see all the different and tragically irreconcilable viewpoints of the people who are trying to share this space.
I particularly take objection to your accusation of 'sprinkling "to me" around'. You're sadly right that it generally makes no difference, but I'll continue to use phrases like "to me", "feels to me like", "comes across to me as", etc., because they convey the understanding that other people may feel differently and you're not trying to speak for them. When you say "it's coming off as arrogant and willfully obtuse", you're speaking for everyone, and you're at least a tiny bit wrong.
posted by uosuaq at 6:13 PM on September 8, 2016 [13 favorites]


mod response has been alarmingly bad in this thread

Who mods the mods?

But I dunno this seems pretty on par for a controversial metatalk...
posted by dis_integration at 6:17 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]



Who mods the mods?


I mean no one, this is just my opinion.
posted by zutalors! at 6:19 PM on September 8, 2016


(no doubt veering too much into a "let's consider this from an abstract viewpoint" kind of thing at times, for those with more direct emotional involvement, and yes yes "polite" isn't enough by itself but it's nice when people don't personally attack each other, too). I can't really speak to the accusation of "reframing the entire narrative of the thread in your own terms"

uosuaq, I think that's the whole issue.

This thread is written from and has numerous participants explaining their view of ableist language from a viewpoint of an intensely personal, lived experience. As in, this is shit they have to deal with in their actual lives, these are harms they are actively experiencing.

What sparklemotion is doing here (and has done numerous times in other threads involving similar intensely personal lived experiences) is reframing the argument in their terms by trying to wipe away and marginalize all of those actual experiences in favor of some clinical, detached, abstracted viewpoint where there are absolutely no harms because it's all theoretical and because it's all imaginary it's completely okay to jab at the little doll to see if it hurts there too, without considering that people can suffer even in effigy.

This is a constant pattern that others have noticed, I'm sure, and while yes, the arguments could be considered thoughtful and politely worded, you can dress up a lot of things that aren't polite, that are inconsiderate, in thoughtful, politely worded comments. One needs to look no further than the Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey, or some of the written prepared remarks from Donald Trump regarding minorities.

I am not saying that they should be silenced; I'm saying that this recurring pattern in numerous threads is a very noticeable thing and that while we all have diversities of opinions, maybe the way of presenting them could be less... cruel.
posted by qcubed at 6:41 PM on September 8, 2016 [48 favorites]


The one thing that I keep seeing in MeTa threads that go to shit is that one or two people really dig in and start having an answer for literally everything. It's been happening a lot lately, and it drags things out to this super exhausting point every time. They always object that there isn't clarity, or that no one has given sufficient proof of real harm, or any of a million legalistic things that go in huge circles because you have to explain every single aspect of what you're saying. It's like having to explain what water is, how human bodies work, what a body is, what desire is, and so on, just to tell someone you're thirsty.

I have a lot of patience with people's quirks and I know I can be totally unaware that I'm driving other people crazy sometimes, but I'm having a really hard time not feeling like we're all just being trolled. A request to stop using a shitty word shouldn't have dragged out to 450 comments.
posted by teponaztli at 7:11 PM on September 8, 2016 [27 favorites]


qcubed said what I wanted to say with much more tact than I could have mustered.

>What sparklemotion is doing here (and has done numerous times in other threads involving similar intensely personal lived experiences

>This is a constant pattern that others have noticed, I'm sure, and while yes, the arguments could be considered thoughtful and politely worded, you can dress up a lot of things that aren't polite, that are inconsiderate, in thoughtful, politely worded comments.

The above quoted is something that I want to echo as my interpretation as well. Plus, these comments often turn a thread 180 degrees with their often contrarian devil's advocate stance. It is incredibly off putting and so predictable that I have come to expect it as part of the patchwork quilt that is metafilter.
posted by futz at 7:20 PM on September 8, 2016 [15 favorites]


Is it possible to replace the increasingly common, non-conversational, pseudo-clinical jargon "cognitive labor" with something more colloquial and concrete like "thinking" or "thought", as in "put some thought into".

Actually, you're free to do whatever you want, but it's a really weird addition to the MetaFilter dialect or community grammar. I guess I've been out of undergrad and the student union for too long...
posted by My Dad at 7:24 PM on September 8, 2016


No weirder than the term "emotional labor", though, is it?
posted by palomar at 7:32 PM on September 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


Well said, qcubed, and I appreciate your acknowledging that I'm at least a little bit aware of why so many people have a problem with sparklemotion's comments (which I'm not here to endorse, BTW).
I don't know if (and I would like to doubt that) sparklemotion is actively trying to wipe away and marginalize other people's experiences, and certainly I'd hesitate to compare sparklemotion to the Dowager Countess or...Donald Trump, for fuck's sake.
But the "treating lived experiences as abstract questions" thing has certainly come up here before. This doesn't seem to be the place for certain kinds of detached, abstract discussion. (At the same time, I'm still often taken aback by the kind of personal viciousness that's accepted if you're on the right side of an issue.)
My comment was directed to restless_nomad, however, and while I know the mods are ridiculously busy and I wasn't trying to say "your mod comment sucks and you suck and you should feel bad", I wanted to give a little feedback.
posted by uosuaq at 7:33 PM on September 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


As discussed many times, it's the people who seem to mean well, probably do mean well, who make reasonable and intesting points that would be productive in other environments (like a seminar or a late-night discussion among verbal analysis-oriented friends), who end up having an outsized cumulative negative impact on threads because they're difficult to mod, they tend to have some "read the room" difficulties, and often -- speaking for myself -- I find their thoughtful and careful conversation valuable, all else equal. The silenced-all-my-life, what-about-the-men, you're-Xst-too disrupters are so, so much easier to understand and deal with by comparison.

The world is so full of people who just make fart noises, that someone like me just wants to be generous with someone thinks about stuff and recognizes nuance. But I often feel like these folk aren't aware that it's the case that alongside all the complexity and nuance about real-world issues that requires careful thought to work through, there's the same complexity and nuance in how people converse, how this all works with different personalities in different social contexts. You just can't do the productive discursive work in the former sense without having some awareness of the latter.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:01 PM on September 8, 2016 [12 favorites]


reframing the argument in their terms by trying to wipe away and marginalize all of those actual experiences in favor of some clinical, detached, abstracted viewpoint where there are absolutely no harms because it's all theoretical and because it's all imaginary it's completely okay to jab at the little doll to see if it hurts there too, without considering that people can suffer even in effigy.

I'm going to respond to this one thing, and then I'm out. I'll be happy to consider follow ups via memail but of all of the things appropriate for discussion in this thread, I am pretty sure that my commenting style is on the bottom of the list.

These sorts of discussions are fraught, obviously. The fact that Metafilter keeps having them is, to me, proof that there are underlying questions about what it means to be "considerate" or "kind" that we haven't figured out yet. (If you're tempted to point to me as the problem here, take a look at how many comments there were in this thread before my first one.)

At the same time, asking the aggrieved party more about what is aggreiving them is pretty much the definition of "sea lioning".

So yeah, I ask the community at large about analogous situations to try to get a better understanding of "things that hurt" so I don't hurt people later. I abstract because, to me, that is more respectful than doing anything which implies that I think that anyone's reasons for being hurt by X are "wrong." But I want to understand whether or not I should assume that people who don't exist would be hurt by Y. Because I don't want to do it if it's hurtful.

The impression that I get, generally, is that folks are more receptive to spitballing when they think it's leading to proving a point that they agree with. It's only when the hypo looks like it might be pointing in another direction that the accusations of dismissivness or abstracting away from lived experience start flying. So, I usually don't react to those kinds of callouts because what's the point?

So here's my request, for what it's worth* if my (or anyone else's) framing is inaccurate, or a hypo is too abstract to be relevant, or whatever: engage with that, or ignore it -- no one owes me (or anyone else) a response. Dismissing sincere discussion as "rules lawyering" or "theoretical" or, in this case, "contorting" in an attempt to justify activities that I don't even support, doesn't improve the discussion, or help anyone see your point of view.

*just so we're clear, it's not like I feel like I have any particular right to make a request because I don't think that this (or any) thread is about me, but since it's being made about me, why not?
posted by sparklemotion at 8:13 PM on September 8, 2016 [8 favorites]


One person's reframing the entire narrative of the thread in their own terms is another person's trying to approach the problem in a way that makes sense to their cognitive style, personal experience, cultural background, whatever. For what it's worth, I find discussions with a bit of that mixed in a lot more interesting (and convincing!) than when only one way of thinking is permitted, even when I don't agree with them, and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who does.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 8:32 PM on September 8, 2016 [10 favorites]


So yeah, I ask the community at large about analogous situations to try to get a better understanding of "things that hurt" so I don't hurt people later.

You're potentially hurting people now when you do that.

Listening and occasionally absorbing the very small hit to your psyche when someone says "Hey, that hurt" beat the hell out of having to explain yet again that "No, really, I'm being sincere and trying to gain a greater knowledge, despite doing something that looks a lot like what the jackwagons do!"
posted by Etrigan at 8:34 PM on September 8, 2016 [11 favorites]


One person's reframing the entire narrative of the thread in their own terms is another person's trying to approach the problem in a way that makes sense to their cognitive style, personal experience, cultural background, whatever.

Of course this happens and can make a conversation richer but when it the same person does it all the damn time it becomes problematic and doesn't feel genuine. Then it becomes the poster's MO and that is when it becomes a problem.
posted by futz at 8:47 PM on September 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


> So yeah, I ask the community at large about analogous situations to try to get a better understanding of "things that hurt" so I don't hurt people later.

There are never going to be definitive rules for all the things, and there will never be a large, diverse group of people who share a trait that will agree on One Rule to Rule them All. Sometimes we are just going have have to be uncomfortable for a bit, sometimes we are going to step in it, sometimes we are just going to have to apologize and then stop talking and think for a while and listen. Sometimes there is no perfectly analogous situation and trying to come up with one - and arguing back when people say "Well, no, that's not really the same thing that I experience, I don't think..." - doesn't really contribute to understanding (one's own or anyone else's).
posted by rtha at 8:49 PM on September 8, 2016 [20 favorites]


Flag this with my full blessing if you think just I'm stirring up shit, but while I greatly appreciated Ivan Fyodorovich's comment above, I think it would take very little work to turn it into "we're trying to have a sensitive, deeply personal conversation about people with disabilities that requires a lot of social sensitivity, so if you have Asperger's, please stay out".
Ivan Fyodorovich, I apologize, I think it was a very perceptive comment. I just also think it highlights the unavoidable difficulties in having a thread like this. They don't break down neatly into the righteous and the wilfully obtuse, as you were saying. I mean, this feels like a relatively simple issue and (to me) it still doesn't break down all that neatly. I've seen MeTa threads with like six incompatible sides where I felt like "wow, every one of them is right, dammit."
posted by uosuaq at 9:04 PM on September 8, 2016


Re:rustic: it's a highly loaded term. I lived in Maine for a while. One of my lifelong Mainer friends shared with me a local expression for something improvised, rough, shoddily-made, rashly-thought-out, half-assed: "hammered up." Think of something hastily fastened together with a hammer, or something over-constructed by an unskilled carpenter and dinged with too many hammer blows. Given that "rustic" definitely has overtones of judging something as parochial/rural and non-sophisticated, I submit "hammered up" as a good descriptor for the likes of unpolished tarts.

I'm left wondering if any "origin" matters at all.

When discussions of origin require delving into archaic texts, then no, origin doesn't matter, because most people are not engaged with the origin - current usage, perception and intent matter much more.

As a community we'll be flying our new "don't insult intelligence" banner proudly in threads about religion, politics, and Kardashians, right?

This is something worth thinking about. It's still seemingly okay - even admired, here - to denigrate the less intelligent, up to but not crossing the point where intelligence deficits become an official quantified diagnosis. But what we think of, imprecisely, as "intelligence" is just as randomly distributed as any other category of ability, and defining it is inherently problematic anyway. There is cognitive diversity. Of all the challenges this particular community has in dealing with ability, maybe problematizing contempt for intellectual style/capacity/presentation will be the most difficult.
posted by Miko at 9:05 PM on September 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


One other quick thing: when we discuss "disabled" it is a good thing to note that currently, just looking at US statistics, about 1 in 6 people have some form of a disability. 1 in 4 of people age 20 today will have a diagnosed disability by the time they retire. All of us who feel "able" now will very likely encounter some form of disability via aging, including mobility impairments, cognitive impairments, sensory impairments and/or emotional disabilities; and many of us will face sudden illnesses that can make dramatic changes in our ability categories - for example, the results of stroke, memory impairments such as Alzheimer's disease, physical debility due to diminished range of motion and tissue stiffening, resipiratory or heart functionr reductions, or other injury. It is a good idea not to consider "disability" some kind of permanent, enduring congenital category you're either in or not in. Statistically, if we are lucky enough to live long enough, a great many of us will find ourselves dealing with some form of disability.
posted by Miko at 9:16 PM on September 8, 2016 [17 favorites]


while I greatly appreciated Ivan Fyodorovich's comment above, I think it would take very little work to turn it into "we're trying to have a sensitive, deeply personal conversation about people with disabilities that requires a lot of social sensitivity, so if you have Asperger's, please stay out".

Hi. On the spectrum. I didn't get any of that sense from IF's comments, and have favorited several. (I think I know the comment you're handwavingly not pointing at, and it didn't ping any of my "this is iffy" sensors.)
posted by Lexica at 10:06 PM on September 8, 2016 [19 favorites]


And I'm suddenly empathizing like WHOA with the "please do not project what you think my community might feel when we're right here and able to speak up for ourselves" sentiment.

Really. There are enough of us autistic folks here to speak up for ourselves. (This is me speaking for myself; I haven't polled all other autistic people to get their buy-in. But enough other MeFites have self-identified that I feel reasonably comfortable saying that what we need is ally support backing up autistic voices, not people doing a false-flag "but what about the autistics" thing.)
posted by Lexica at 10:16 PM on September 8, 2016 [34 favorites]


I worried a little bit about that potential implication of my comment -- seriously, I was aware of and considered it. But aside from Lexica's excellent point above, it's also the case that my aunt, the one with whom I'm very close and is more like an older sister to me and who has an adult developmentally disabled daughter with autism, has said to me several times that she thinks I am on the spectrum. (Not that she's authoritative or anything.) And it's the case that my experience of myself is one of being paradoxically both extraordinarily sensitive to the nuances of social interaction and how other people feel and yet also like there are vast areas of social interaction that it's as if everyone else was born knowing and which I've had to spend a lifetime figuring out.

And I guess what I'm saying is that I'm dubious about generalizing what it means to be on the spectrum in this kind of context, first of all, and anyway that as long as we're going to attempt to engage people discursively about things that strike right at the heart of their experience of self and feeling appreciated or spurned or vulnerable and so on, then whether it comes easily or with more difficulty, modulating our manner of participation according these considerations is non-optional.

And, since I'm here, I'll mention that I very deliberately avoided naming sparklemotion because my aim was to point at a common kind of problematic participation of which hers is merely a specific example (and far from the worst) and it's not about her, shouldn't be about her, and these threads suck when it narrows down to one person who doesn't get it, digs in, the straw breaks a lot of people's camel's backs, and that person becomes a target of a lot of accumulated ire that is the product of many other people's previous provocations as much as anything here and now and from that one person. I don't want to do this. Basically all of us hate this all-too-frequent development in these kinds of threads.

But ... that last comment is a plea by her for everyone else to learn to not respond to her if we feel upset by her because, as she explained, she's pretty certain that she's the reasonable person here. And I just can't take much more of this crap. I and the other disabled people here aren't being paid to walk someone through the answers to their oh so reasonable questions because hey, isn't the point that people who don't know come to know, isn't it all about their learning process? Well, no, that's not what it's all about. That not unimportant, it's nice when people learn, but here and now it's to get people to just stop doing that thing and shut up and fucking listen for a change. Can you tell I'm upset? I'm upset. I'm sorry for being upset and less restrained.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:48 PM on September 8, 2016 [27 favorites]


Must be time for this again....

To everyone that it's saying "But I was learning stuff!"

Thing the first: the fact that it was hurting some people is something you can learn from. Learn that your education can come at real expense, particularly when it is very much NOT academic for your educators.

Thing the second: an analogy. Imagine that you are studying anatomy. You're learning about viscera and you come across someone who has just sustained a wound to their arm. You would not expect them to suffer further injury so that you might learn. You would recognize that vivisection values your education over the well-being of another human.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:39 PM on June 14, 2015
posted by stoneweaver at 12:34 AM on September 9, 2016 [14 favorites]


I've done the good faith back-and-forth more than a few times in threads because I'm charitable and want to take people at their word. But at what point do we finally acknowledge we're being taken by someone who has gotten sick of "outrage filter, awareness filter" and has decided to test it to see how far it can be stretched until it breaks? Because you can't say that the entire thing we're doing in threads like this is a waste of your time, yet simultaneously claim in these threads that you're just especially eager to learn and be aware. Those two things can't be reconciled.

At what point do we acknowledge that something obviously meant as a "gotcha, outrage warriors!" like this from upthread:

Isn't making up nonsense words (especially to describe things that are out of the ordinary/you can't think of a word for) mocking to people with aphasias or apraxias?

Can't be explained away by this "who, me?" statement that always comes once someone pushes back:

So yeah, I ask the community at large about analogous situations to try to get a better understanding of "things that hurt" so I don't hurt people later.

This pops up over and over, the attempts to poke holes followed by the super-innocent claim to just want to be better. This is just gonna keep happening as long as we let it happen, so whether it's nice or not I'm gonna go ahead and say we're being trolled by multiple people who've figured out THIS STRATEGY WORKS and it's a fantastic way to derail these discussions every time they happen.
posted by naju at 1:14 AM on September 9, 2016 [33 favorites]


I am kind of frustrated, because I both equally feel that actually it would be great if we could talk about the unspoken mental health assumptions in the idea that everyone should equally be able to "read the room" or stay out of conversation, but I also think this thread has become a shitshow and I don't think now is the time for it. But if anyone ever makes a thread involving that which is not a shitshow, please tag me in.
posted by corb at 1:19 AM on September 9, 2016 [8 favorites]


Flag this with my full blessing if you think just I'm stirring up shit, but while I greatly appreciated Ivan Fyodorovich's comment above, I think it would take very little work to turn it into "we're trying to have a sensitive, deeply personal conversation about people with disabilities that requires a lot of social sensitivity, so if you have Asperger's, please stay out".

As someone on the spectrum, I echo everything Lexica has said.
posted by Dysk at 1:35 AM on September 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


corb: "I am kind of frustrated, because I both equally feel that actually it would be great if we could talk about the unspoken mental health assumptions in the idea that everyone should equally be able to "read the room" or stay out of conversation, but I also think this thread has become a shitshow and I don't think now is the time for it. But if anyone ever makes a thread involving that which is not a shitshow, please tag me in."

It would be filled with non sequitur comments by people who basically wipe their asses with the idea that they should have any concern about the feelings of others, followed by long, complex and oh-so-sincere explanations that boil down to "Who me? I was just keeping it real, bro!"
posted by double block and bleed at 4:05 AM on September 9, 2016 [11 favorites]


Indeed, Naju. And when we look at the OP: 'please don't use the term derp on metafilter, it's often used to mock people with disabilities' - I'm sorry, but no investigation is required here, let alone the wild discursive odyssey we embarked upon. This isn't ambiguous; it's not confusing, or an edge case; it doesn't require enforcement or behaviour change or comparison to usage outside this site; it doesn't relate to any other terms, which are welcome to their own MeTas when (and if) required.

How anyone could argue otherwise with a straight face, I don't know. I would be embarrassed, if I had helped derail something like this, especially when Johnny himself displayed such amity in his pithy yet caring response.
posted by smoke at 4:05 AM on September 9, 2016 [31 favorites]


wither mods
posted by beerperson at 6:32 AM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Well said Corb, tag me in also.
Sorry, palomar, auto-correct capitalized on the 'P' were as I should have typed in a small 'p'.

Thanks to all for your contributions to this thread.
posted by clavdivs at 7:21 AM on September 9, 2016


I'm super late in coming to this thread, and I worry that chiming in now that the conversation has moved on to broader issues might be a derail, but this has been a VERY illuminating experience for me, a VERY uncomfortable one, and a VERY necessary one. I apologize in advance if my anecdote is redundant or a re-hash or unnecessarily self-centered.

"Derp" has somehow recently made its way into my vocabulary, maybe as a result of me spending more time procrastinating on the Internet? Maybe as a part of my (embarrassing) attempts to stay "current" so that I feel relatable to my students?, I dunno. But for whatever reason, I have without thought and without pause somehow adopted the term into my vocabulary recently, and have used it to mean things like "silly", "amusingly incompetent", "hilariously bad", "unintentionally ignorant", etc, often (but not always) in a self-deprecating way.
Given that I had been a user of this term, my initial reaction to this thread was (I am not proud to admit) hostile, and defensive. I do not relish seeing myself as an uncompassionate and thoughtless person.
But the fact is that sometimes, unintentionally, I AM an uncompassionate and thoughtless person.
I am so, so glad that I did not comment based on my initial impulse and instead took the time to read the entire (painful, quite honestly) thread, because even a bare modicum of self-reflection and critical thought on exactly what I'm trying to convey and what "the joke" is when I use the term in question has revealed that yes, absolutely, I have been using this "innocent" and "funny" term in a totally ableist manner. There are other previously unexamined terms and phrases I have been using in a similar manner. I will now work to excise these terms from my vocabulary.

Mostly, though, I am horrified to reflect on the possibility that I may have unthinkingly used a term like "Derp" in a classroom setting (in a foolish attempt to be "hip" and "relatable" to my students), and that I have potentially caused injury and harm to humans I care very much about, and that I have potentially created spaces that felt unwelcoming or unsafe precisely where they should be the most safe and comfortable.

I am really, really sorry. I will be working hard to do further examination on why these types of terms entered my casual vocabulary and how they passed unnoticed for so long. I am grateful that so many people took the time to make comments that have opened my eyes to my callousness in this area, and I am sorry that such work was required.

Again, apologies if this was an unneeded comment at this point in the thread's evolution.
posted by Dorinda at 7:46 AM on September 9, 2016 [33 favorites]


I do think that the BFE thing was a big, obvious, disruptive derail in a thread that was definitely not done talking about its stated subject. I apologize for my part in it; I thought I was just tossing out a one-off "WTF" reaction to what I thought was a good point by escabeche regarding the meta-conversation that was going on, but it now seems obvious that I helped touch off a bit of an avalanche and I regret that.

I am disappointed by the mods' part in the derail though, and don't think that the excuse that was later offered is a good one. By the time r_n, LM, and Eyebrows started chiming in I think it should have been pretty obvious that it was a derail—this thread was definitely about ableism and not crypto-slurs in general—and even as it unfolded I was a bit baffled that the mods were apparently joining in rather than corralling the conversation back on course. I also think the excuse that was given was pretty weak sauce, definitely not up to the standard of moderation around here.

Furthermore, their participation wasn't even productive even if ruralism and/or Orientalism had been appropriate topics. What I saw looked less like moderation and more like participation in the kind of jokey hair-splitting that makes these kinds of threads so frustrating and difficult. It seemed to me like they weren't really thinking very much about how their contributions were affecting the thread, that they were just kind of chilling and rolling with it rather than trying to facilitate a difficult conversation.

I love the moderation here and have tremendous respect for the moderators. That's why I feel it's so important to point out that this, to me, was some really sub-par behavior on their part. Not only in the moment, but also when called out on it. I would love to see an apology. I think it's owed.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:51 AM on September 9, 2016 [17 favorites]


I think there should be an apology but also SOME plan to change something. Lack of diversity and lack of sensitivity on the mod team is still a big issue.

Actually, I personally wouldn't even care about the apology, just the plan.
posted by zutalors! at 8:45 AM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


I am disappointed by the mods' part in the derail though, and don't think that the excuse that was later offered is a good one.

I think most—if not all—of us are on the same page regarding the central request here. I know I am. I've stated my position clearly. But, honestly! The notion that the moderators—or any one else—should be ashamed, not for refusing the request, not for disagreeing, but for not agreeing strongly enough or in some preferred manner, ashamed for saying anything that strayed beyond the narrow boundary of what some subset of the commentariat thinks is proper to the topic just ... astonishes me.

I gather that neither I, nor my words will be welcome, so I won't say any more.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:56 AM on September 9, 2016 [18 favorites]


Zutalorsl, I totally understand your want for more mod diversity, but I think it's important to note that afaik the finances are still not rolling in dough - for mods to get more diverse they would have to actually fire a mod to hire another one, which I don't think is something anyone is actually wanting.
posted by corb at 9:09 AM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm not reviving the "finances" topic re moderator diversity. There's a lot they could do without firing people etc, we've been over it, they're not doing it.
posted by zutalors! at 9:11 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


The reason I didn't say that I think things need to change is that I think the mods are actually usually really good about riding herd on contentious MeTas and keeping things on topic. It's something I've seen them do countless times over the years (including elsewhere in this very thread) and do well. From where I stand, it's more that they screwed up in this one instance than that there is some huge issue with their basic practice or philosophy.

For what little it's worth, I would prefer that this thread not become another referendum on the mod team's sensitivity. The way I see it, they usually do a good job but they didn't here, and I'd like that to be recognized and apologized for. I would assume they would then naturally be a bit more careful and deliberate about this stuff in the future, and that's the only change I personally think is necessary from this incident.

I hear people who say that they would like to see more diversity and sensitivity from the mod team, and all I can say is that we've had that conversation many times and I feel like we've been heard and progress is being made. There are factors that prevent that progress from being instantaneous—small team size, the inherent gradualness of learning and growing as people—but I do feel like they're putting in the work and getting better in these areas.

I just think they fell down in this one instance and then gave a weak excuse when called on it. I'd like to see that recognized, but I don't know that we need to derail this thread another time by making it into a referendum about systemic flaws. If someone really wants to go there again, that sounds like it deserves its own MeTa. It's not a MeTa I'd look forward to, but it sounds like a legit topic if someone really thinks it needs to happen.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:20 AM on September 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


I don't think we need to revive the discussion, but I think I'm allowed to say that i don't see the changes, Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The.
posted by zutalors! at 9:22 AM on September 9, 2016


I do think that the BFE thing was a big, obvious, disruptive derail in a thread that was definitely not done talking about its stated subject. I apologize for my part in it

I apologize, too - adding data points about geographic variations/origins of an unrelated phrase undermines the OP's point, which I think smoke gets right:

'please don't use the term derp on metafilter, it's often used to mock people with disabilities' - I'm sorry, but no investigation is required here, let alone the wild discursive odyssey we embarked upon. This isn't ambiguous; it's not confusing, or an edge case; it doesn't require enforcement or behaviour change or comparison to usage outside this site; it doesn't relate to any other terms, which are welcome to their own MeTas when (and if) required.


Sorry for adding to the disrespect of the OP's request.
posted by Pax at 9:29 AM on September 9, 2016


Of course you are. I didn't mean to imply that I was speaking from a position of authority or anything. If I gave off the sense that I was trying to speak for anyone but myself, then that was an error on my part.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:34 AM on September 9, 2016


The way I see it, they usually do a good job but they didn't here, and I'd like that to be recognized and apologized for.

I disagree. I think mods usually do a great job moderating non-MetaTalk threads, but the unwritten mod policy of generally leaving MetaTalk threads unmoderated (imo) is what makes threads like this one turn out like this one. The whole BFE derail seems like a AskMe jammed into a MetaTalk thread, and I don't think an early Modnote like "Let's try and focus back to "derp" in particular or ableism/ableist slurs in general" would have hurt this thread.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:43 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Catching up on the last couple days here; there's a once-a-year festival event happening in town so I've been less around in my off time than I'd normally be.

I'm sorry the BFE thing turned into such a derail and a distraction. It's easy for a MeTa to sort of wander, and it's realistically speaking just kind of part of the history of the place that that's a normal thing (I could very easily see dropping in a "oh, here's my experience with that thing we're talking about now" thought on a ton of things, have done so previously any number of times), but I hear folks on feeling that, even setting aside any question of intentionality, it ended up getting in the way of or discouraging the core discussion of ableist language. That's understandably frustrating, so I feel you.

I have longer thoughts about the difficult dynamics of MetaTalk, but I'm not sure now's really the time to dig into 'em in detail. I can say that riding a MetaTalk close and hard over a period of days is both (a) something we've been making more of an effort to do for difficult discussions, to I hope generally good effect the last while, and (b) honestly pretty emotionally and intellectually exhausting because it moves the process of watching a MetaTalk thread from being sort of reactive-and-hope-for-the-best to something more like holding one's breath constantly. And the tension between those two points is hard to manage, and we're not perfect at it, and I think the wander off into BFE chatter in here is an example of how that can fall down sometimes. It's the sort of topic jump that isn't particularly weird for MetaTalk in general but is worth taking a closer look at avoiding during some more difficult discussions. This is a decent reminder to us to keep a keen eye on that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:43 AM on September 9, 2016 [9 favorites]


Flag this with my full blessing if you think just I'm stirring up shit, but while I greatly appreciated Ivan Fyodorovich's comment above, I think it would take very little work to turn it into "we're trying to have a sensitive, deeply personal conversation about people with disabilitaies that requires a lot of social sensitivity, so if you have Asperger's, please stay out".

Holy fuck-shit. I've been catching up after not looking at the thread for a day or so because I felt like no one gave a shit about the topic, given all the BFE-what-the-fuck-ever delightful derailing, and that my thoughts on ableism and language and whatever weren't welcome.

But this is a fucking slap in the face that left me personally, as a woman on the autism spectrum, sputtering in personally insulted rage. It is totally fucking unacceptable here. I can't agree with Lexica's much more measured response enough, but I need to make it clear:

That comment was fucking not okay, and it is stirring up shit. The next time you feel the need to speak for autistic people here, shut your trap. I have a learning disability, but that does not mean that I as an autistic person am incapable of listening to people and developing fucking social skills.

Jesus fucking Christ.
posted by sciatrix at 9:59 AM on September 9, 2016 [44 favorites]


I have more to say about the way that people use autism spectrum stuff as a concern trolling derail in, frankly, every fucking conversation we have about politeness to marginalized people or responding to social cues or people being creepy on this site. But I'm still so incredibly angry to see it here in a thread that is supposed to be about fucking ableism that I'm having a hard time stringing words together, and I suspect it would be a derail of its own.

hey look it's an autistic person who can follow contextual cues as mediated in explicit written communication in a community medium that completely obliterates the possibility of any kind of body language or non-verbal cues contributing to communciation

guess I must be a fuckin' unicorn, huh, that's totally outside the realm of what one of those Autistics can do
posted by sciatrix at 10:10 AM on September 9, 2016 [34 favorites]


it fucking says something that I initially parsed that thing with confusion, because what the shit it made no sense

then I was hurt and upset because I parsed it as "Asperger's is not a real disability, shut up you whiners with your made-up disorder"

and then I realized the poster was thinking of everyone on the autism spectrum with me as an expy of Sheldon fucking Cooper and I lost my shit entirely
posted by sciatrix at 10:14 AM on September 9, 2016 [21 favorites]


This isn't the first time I've seen the autism spectrum brought up in, I guess, sympathy for someone's less-than-ideal behavior. Like, they're behaving badly, but let's recognize that their bad behavior looks to me like something on the autism spectrum, and so let's treat them as we would treat an autistic person. Which is apparently to ask them to leave? It's armchair diagnosis, which is patronizing and gross, and as sciatrix says, it's extremely insulting to get "bad comments" = "poor social skills" = "autism spectrum!" all the time.
posted by teponaztli at 11:35 AM on September 9, 2016 [14 favorites]


Another way to say that is that I deal with pretty severe mental health problems, but nothing makes me more hurt or angry than someone being like "well, he just doesn't know better," or "he can't help it," or whatever. Treat me like an adult and let me be responsible for my own actions.

If you don't know someone beyond the comments they've left on this site, it's really mean to them to say "I think you've got this problem, so why not let the adults talk?" And that's really mean to everyone else with whatever condition you've assigned this bad behavior to, because it means you don't think anyone with that condition is able to participate satisfactorily.

The reason I'm non specific about what kinds of mental health problems I deal with is because I know that in the right circumstances someone will use a diagnosis as a way to discount my opinions and dismiss the agency I have over my own behavior. And that's shitty and utterly predictable.
posted by teponaztli at 12:04 PM on September 9, 2016 [17 favorites]


So, my first, second, and third reaction to sciatrix's comments above was a massive surge of adrenaline. Not because I can't sympathize or empathize or understand the anger - my first reaction was a massive surge of adrenaline because someone is angry, thus it seems like there's a fight going on, and my fairly severe PTSD is telling my body that I need to be prepared for that fight because I might have to defend my life.

My fourth reaction - my instinctual response - is to write in defending the people being attacked, because their position - "autistic people may have difficulty with community norms" is vaguely similar to my own position - "people with mental health issues may have difficulty with community norms", and thus my brain is picking sides in the battle it sees coming and telling me that I need to fire back, hard, because otherwise the other side is going to hurt me.

Fifth reaction was a super-babbling post somewhere in the middle. We are now, happily, on reaction six.

This is clearly not rational. I don't pretend this is rational. Sciatrix's comments are angry, but not even directed at me. I doubt sciatrix knew I held that position, and I think sciatrix would probably have been sympathetic to my position, coming from someone who actually has the condition they would be talking about.

But it takes enormous, enormous, effort for me to wait until reaction six to post. It has taken years for me to even kind of get there. Sometimes, if it's closer, or if the person or position being assailed is more clearly aligned with something core to my identity, or if people are posting about "why isn't corb responding? This CLEARLY means..", I don't get there. I post at reaction three or four.

I am now at the happy point where if something is freaking me out badly on Metafilter, I contact some mefite friends and are like "tell me if this person is trying to tell me I should die in a fire". And they're like "even if they are, you should FIAMO". And then while I argue with them that everything in life will be ruined if I do, I find my adrenaline and rage leeching away and can sometimes post something.

And I'm not saying all this to argue that I should get special treatment - I want to clarify this - but rather to say that for some of us, our mental health is absolutely affecting how we interact online, because it affects literally every aspect of our lives, and it would be outright weird if Metafilter was the one place it didn't affect.

For some of us, at least, mental health issues don't mean we can't ever interpret social situations or do the right thing - but it does make it harder.
posted by corb at 12:27 PM on September 9, 2016 [19 favorites]


I really appreciate sciatrix, Lexica, and Dysk speaking up as voices of actual autistic people. Thanks so much, you guys. I am so sick of ASD/Asperger's being used as default hypotheticals and the go-to example of difficult people. It's trivializing and insulting.

That said, corb's comment resonates with me a lot. (Speaking as somebody with ASD,) I wish I found the social norms of online interaction to be a totally different thing from in-person interactions, the way that sciatrix describes, but few things in my real life stress me out to the degree a controversial Metafilter/MetaTalk thread does. There are so many opinions and the atmosphere is so heated that I find it very hard to keep up with the social norms and the prevailing feeling of a thread, even though I really, really want to. Lately my default is to not participate or to step away if things are getting less friendly.

I do like requests like "please don't use derp; it's demeaning and it hurts me" because they are so clear.
posted by thetortoise at 1:09 PM on September 9, 2016 [18 favorites]


thetortoise: "There are so many opinions and the atmosphere is so heated that I find it very hard to keep up with the social norms and the prevailing feeling of a thread, even though I really, really want to."

I don't have autism and I often feel this way. The lack of nonverbal cues can make it very difficult for me to decide if someone is writing in good faith or not. That's not a problem I generally have in face to face communication. Metafilter doesn't have as many trolls as a lot of other internet communities, but the ones we do have are crafty and insidious.

I can imagine at least five people reading this are patting themselves on the back because I'm talking about how great they are at trolling. Being a good troll is like being a good shoplifter. Sure, there's a certain amount of skill involved, but it isn't something to be proud of.
posted by double block and bleed at 2:27 PM on September 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


Corb's comment made me realize what's been so distasteful about this thread for me. Other posters mentioned the shaming. There's also been a hell of a lot of mind reading, projection, and a generous serving of distilling other people's motivations to pithy 'so, you just don't do empathy, then.' And more, which I don't care to revisit because you know what?

Some people's lived experience has a lot a of that crap in it, and some people's lived experience is that they've gone no-contact with family because of that kind of emotional manipulation, and the irony, the utter hubris, of seeing those despicable tactics used in service of supposedly promoting a more welcoming community is absolutely extraordinary. I know it's in service to a very noble cause. Intent, however, doesn't matter. You're not making a better environment if you're participating in this fashion. You're as thoughtless as anyone you accuse, just about different things.
posted by Fantods at 2:30 PM on September 9, 2016 [8 favorites]


...seeing those despicable tactics used in service of supposedly promoting a more welcoming community is absolutely extraordinary

If we're all going to talk about what does and doesn't make the community better and by what methods it is and isn't okay to tell someone they said something shitty, telling people they should Do Better while not actually pointing out anything but the broadest strokes of their behavior comes off as passive-aggressive at best. I come from exactly the kind of environment you describe and I'm having a super hard time comparing it to this thread.
posted by griphus at 2:34 PM on September 9, 2016 [17 favorites]


I just really hate the idea that some people would have participated in this discussion if only we were having it better, and to let them know when we are.
posted by zutalors! at 3:17 PM on September 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


To be fair, if the people participating in this thread could have just said "oh, I'm sorry, I hadn't realized that word was painful for you; I'll stop," instead of rolling out the Six Reasons Why You're Wrong about What You Say You Feel, then this could have been better (and much shorter).
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:43 PM on September 9, 2016 [27 favorites]


There's also been a hell of a lot of mind reading, projection,

Accusing people in this thread of emotional manipulation tactics akin to abusive family dynamics is not mind-reading at all though, nope...
posted by naju at 4:11 PM on September 9, 2016 [10 favorites]


Fantods, I have no idea what you're on about. Please point more clearly to this supposed behavior if you're going to lob a grenade into the end of a huge thread.
posted by selfnoise at 4:14 PM on September 9, 2016


Actually, I'll retract that. It's Friday night and I'm exhausted. I don't agree with Fantods but I'm also not going to subject him to an interrogation.
posted by selfnoise at 4:40 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Looks like she disabled her account. I owe an apology, my response wasn't called for.
posted by naju at 4:43 PM on September 9, 2016


According to my outline and flowchart, it looks like we've reached Stage 12b of -ism MeTa threads (close to the end, but one of the more painful parts); and, in the wider view, with regard to problems with ableism on MeFi, we're in Phase 2 of the 6 phase process, which will see many repetitions of such threads through all phases over a period of no fewer than three years and encompassing as many as eight to ten. At the end of which we will almost never have such threads, the community will largely avoid ableist conversation and behavior, quickly dispatch the occasional troll, and otherwise will be noticeably more welcoming place for disabled folk. So, maybe sometime in 2019 at the earliest. But so much to look forward to until then! Speaking as a disabled person, I am so thrilled at the prospect of doing this at least twelve more times!
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:59 PM on September 9, 2016 [20 favorites]


"telling people they should Do Better while not actually pointing out anything but the broadest strokes of their behavior comes off as passive-aggressive at best."

You mean like this?

"I can imagine at least five people reading this are patting themselves on the back because I'm talking about how great they are at trolling."
posted by clavdivs at 5:21 PM on September 9, 2016


I owe an apology too. I've obviously lost all objectivity in this post and allowed my emotions to get the better of me. I'm sorry.
posted by double block and bleed at 5:47 PM on September 9, 2016


It's exceedingly difficult to weigh in on something like this perfectly, and anything short of perfection can cause its own problems. I don't want to say that pointing out one thing or the other is problematic or unnecessary, but I think there's also a value in trying to get at the germ of why someone is trying to say even if they're being a little hypocritical or overlooking something in their delivery.

These threads can so easily turn into a bunch of gotcha moments and I don't think those are as productive as they are satisfying, in the moment, for a handful of people.
posted by teponaztli at 5:53 PM on September 9, 2016 [10 favorites]


Fantods: "generous serving of distilling other people's motivations to pithy [remarks] "

I honestly think this is one of the problems we have on the site (though I'm not sure about this thread). Maybe other people are much better at social reasoning than I am, but I find it very difficult to read people's intentions from online comments, and I certainly don't know much about the life circumstances that shaped those comments. So often I've read things on the site where it looks like someone is saying something totally gross, but then it turns out that I misunderstood something or they omitted an important detail, and that the "grossness" was largely in my head (sadly it also turns out that people often intended to be gross). As much as I often want to fire off a pithy little comeback to shut down something that I perceive to be shitty behaviour, I worry a lot that it might be me that is wrong and I try not to do that. I'm not always successful, I admit, but I feel like one aspect of being a good ally is holding back on my own outrage and staying artificially calm in my phrasing. It is of course an entirely different scenario for folks who are actually in the marginalised category because tone policing sucks, but when I'm acting as an ally I try to stay calm and avoid being dismissive, because so often I find that it's very easy to end up punching down when I thought I was punching up. So for me, I'm trying to cut down on clever little hot takes and the like, because I don't really believe that I'm insightful enough to know when they're warranted.

I don't know about this thread though (others might disagree, of course). There have been a couple of places where I kind of felt that was happening, but most of the stuff that I've found distressing in this one hasn't been the clever little remarks (though those do get under my skin a lot) so much as the fact that a lot of people really don't seem to want to talk about the sheer pervasiveness of ableist language. The word "derp" itself isn't one I've used myself, but I've found quite a few examples in my own speech that I'm very unhappy with - it took me years to cut "lame" out of my speech (except in the literal sense when applied to animals), and I find that my language associated with cognitive disability or mental health is still less than ideal. More worryingly, I think these speech patterns reflect the fact that I still think in ableist ways at times (I try not to, but it's hard). I don't automatically think about accessibility issues, and I don't think about how making accommodations for folks with disabilities often turns out to be useful for everyone (as commented on upthread a few times). My thinking about the social model of disability is much shallower than I'd like.

I'm just not anywhere near as good on this as I want to be, and I was kind of hoping this would be a thread that would talk about how some of those issues play out on the site and elsewhere. It hasn't really worked out that way, unfortunately, but I really appreciate the contributions of those folks who have talked about their experiences, and I hope we can get better at this as a community.
posted by langtonsant at 7:37 PM on September 9, 2016 [13 favorites]


Also can we stop with 'The Silence is deafening" as well
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 8:55 PM on September 9, 2016


One deleted. Jumping in with cranky lashing-out stuff on multiple fronts and digression into the US election isn't a great way to join the discussion at this point. I understand that people are just generally feeling various levels of anger and frustration for all sorts of reasons, but maybe we can shift that a bit here and try to meet the original reasonable request and the concerns voiced with a bit more kindness and openness (speaking of which, thank you, Johnny Wallflower, for your gracious response).
posted by taz (staff) at 3:19 AM on September 10, 2016


I think the person was onto something who early on in the thread basically said look no matter what synonym or inoffensive terms we try to find and substitute for "retarded", we are going to have problems. Derp,derpy,lame,stupid,goofy, broken, etc have all been discussed and discarded in this thread for good reason. The overarching forest for the trees problem is that we are searching for a word to use while getting a laugh at animals that appear mentally or physically disabled. We are making fun of animal disabilities at heart and it's hard to do that without using offensive "you are less than" language.

Just the progression of "the left eating itself" in this thread as someone else mentioned has been astounding. We went from discussing stereotypes and offensive terms for the disabled to inadvertently slurring rural residents (with "rustic") then slurring foreigners and gay folks with BFE, then finally offended a few members who identify as gay who pointed out that associating BF ie anal sex with gay men is a stereotype and offensive so to assume BFE was a slight against gays (bc it equates "backward" and rural with anal sex) is ITSELF a slight against gays. It is dizzying.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 9:01 AM on September 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


It is worth noting that the word is much stronger in the United Kingdom, as, in 1951, there was an organization formed there called The Spastics Society, referring to people with cerebral palsy, which cemented that usage in a way that never happened in the US, where spastic is generally more associated with muscle spasms and spastic colons than disability.

And sadly, but with a great deal of thought, they changed their name to Scope:
The organisation grew and changed to become a household name. But attitudes to disabled people changed as well. The word 'spastic' became a term of abuse. Suddenly, The Spastics Society's name was holding it back.

We wanted to say something positive about disability. In 1994, The Spastics Society became Scope.
I'm a British child of the 80s so Spastic or Spaz was a word that you heard a lot of growing up in the playgrounds. I'm also the brother of a severely mentally disabled sister, and while she never had cerebral palsy, I was particularly aware of the connotations this term meant. When I grew up I was confronted not only with her challenges, but also, visiting her in hospitals and schools, where there were kids with all kinds of physical and mental disabilities, their challenges too.

My parents were particularly skilled in teaching me about my sister and how to relate to her, but also inviting me into situations where I might be initially unconfortable meeting a kid my own age with cerebral palsy, or Down's, for example, and playing with them or helping them out. It was a massive learning curve at such a young age but helped me define my concepts of human nature and compassion very early on.

As a couple of people have mentioned upthread Derp only entered into my consciousness because of the Derpy Hoooves story a couple of years ago. I had no idea that it had such a strong connotation in the US. I, as an non-US adult, thought it was cute. This thread has advised me otherwise.

There is one other instance of a British disability slur from the early eighties that no-ones mentioned here, so I will: Joey, basically a replacement for Spaz, but the story behind it is horrible in terms of the crap Joseph Deacon had to put up with in his later years, but uplifting because of the legend he truly was, and one of the reasons why I chose to comment today.

I'll leave Wikipedia to fill in the details.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 10:49 AM on September 10, 2016 [14 favorites]


Yes, the reactions people have to these photos are partly because of unexamined ableism, not the word used, and yes, real change happens only when those deeper things are challenged -- but what always happens is that this point is leveraged as a tool for arguments like this one: PCism run amok, the left eating itself blah blah frickin blah. Which is especially galling in this case because many (or all) of the extreme examples demonstrating this supposed frivolous overreaction were introduced into the discussion by the very people themselves who mock complaints about problematic language and seem, speaking for myself as a disabled person, very much unlike an ally against ableism, no matter what they claim.

I am thoroughly sick of this.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:47 PM on September 10, 2016 [15 favorites]


The notion that the photos themselves exploit animals with disabilities has been addressed to be not true. It is the word, the subject matter could be clay figures with flailing measuring tapes or whatever.
posted by clavdivs at 1:29 PM on September 10, 2016


It's not the photos themselves, it's the compulsion to frame and relate to those photos in an ableist way - demonstrated and actualised in the world by using terms like retarded/derpy/[other nonsense syllable word] to describe them and the humour of silly animal faces generally (as well as all the other 'fail' situations and examples of human clumsiness and ineptitude to which they are also liberally applied).
posted by Dysk at 6:16 PM on September 10, 2016 [12 favorites]


Humor is a very weird, tricky, treacherous, complicated psychosocial phenomenon, not the least because one of the things it often hooks into is an urge to dissociate caused by encountering the unfamiliar or while feeling social insecurity and so forth. There's a reason why people nervously laugh, there's a reason that sometimes sobs of anguish and laughter melt into one another, there's a reason why Mel Brooks famously said that tragedy is when I get a paper-cut and comedy is when you trip into an open sewer and die. Laughter can be an essentially distancing response, it can work to push away and alienate, it's why mockery and humor are closely related, and it's why humor often has an aggressive subtext. We fantasize of our enemies being laughed at.

People naturally (whatever that means), absent wider experience or enculturated broadened perspective, find the unusual appearance of others, or public failure, to be humorous when it doesn't rise (for them) to the level of eliciting outright disgust or fear.

The definition of illness and disability is socially constructed, as discussed earlier, and we see that there is self-evidently variation in appearance and capability that are not culturally perceived as being outside what's "normal". But what is outside those socially-constructed boundaries is experienced as being "wrong" in ways that make people uneasy and elicit that involuntary urge to dissociate. Often that takes the form of laughter, or just feeling humorously amused.

And this makes some sense. There's evidence that cat purring correlates with endorphin release and we know that cats purr in especially secure, sated situations but also when they are pain. Because endorphins. We say that laughter is the best medicine, and in some ways that's physiologicallly true -- at the very least, it's palliative. There are good reasons why this complicated emotional and physiological response we call laughter (and related) is deeply culturally contextual and culturally complex -- there are good reasons why humor can be found and expressed along a continuum so broad as to include both laughing in shared joy and laughing while committing violence.

Many people find the sight of someone slipping on ice or similarly falling to be funny. My sister is rather brazenly adamant in how much this is true for her, to the point that it always takes me a bit aback -- and I doubt she's consciously aware of why pitfalls may have such particular valence for her. We often laugh at what frightens us. I fell the other day, the first time in a awhile, and I remember being agile long ago, unusually so, and therefore when I fall now, I'm a toppling tree, certain on the way down something will break (no real damage, this time). These days I'm frightened of falling in some deep, unfamiliar way; the fear itself feels threatening. Maybe if this had been my life, from earliest memory, I'd have sublimated that constant fear into a strong dissociating humor. I don't know.

What I do know is that I've seen people laugh at appearance, illness, and disability all my life and have heard repeatedly the argument that the humor is inherent. Despite the illness, limitations, and some clumsiness, my sister as a little girl labored through ballet lessons and recitals. She met Baryshnikov when she was ten, hugged him, and told him that his dancing made her cry with joy. I don't doubt that there were people who found some of her recitals humorous, because of the trying so hard and arguably "failing" (she was awesome and succeeded and I will cut you if you say different).

We are who we are and we have the cultural influences and biases we have, we all have thoughts and behaviors which are not so good, but it never hurts to ask why we laugh at the things we do, especially when someone has spoken up and asked us to, because this is their life and it matters.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:46 PM on September 10, 2016 [18 favorites]


Couple of comments deleted. I'm going to close this up. The point about how this kind of language comes across to many people has been amply made, and folks can consider how they want to act on that information.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:32 AM on September 11, 2016 [10 favorites]


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