Mental illnesses as adjectives? Perhaps not? February 2, 2014 11:49 AM   Subscribe

I hate to call out such an otherwise amazingly written post (full, I hasten to add, of links I am looking forward to listening to), but I have some concerns.

As someone living with the effects of more than one mental illness, I have concerns about describing a multi-talented artist's output as 'schizophrenic.'

Disorders on the schizophrenic spectrum are poorly understood by the public at best, and I feel like using the word in this way is not helpful, contributes to stigma, and is a use of othering language that Metafilter in general tends to frown on in other contexts such as ethnicity and gender identity.

Could we, as a community, be a little more careful? Mental illness in general can be debilitating and highly stigmatizing, and I think Metafilter can do a lot better in this regard.

I understand that language is often taken from the links, but if so, perhaps we could make it more clear when problematic language is directly quoted, as opposed to being the language choice of the poster.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering to Etiquette/Policy at 11:49 AM (113 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

I have a schizophrenic cousin who I've spoken about before. I know that filthy light thief was just quoting someone else's usage, but I agree that it's a pretty touchy word to use when you're trying to mean "multivaried"
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:56 AM on February 2, 2014 [18 favorites]


> I understand that language is often taken from the links, but if so, perhaps we could make it more clear when problematic language is directly quoted, as opposed to being the language choice of the poster.

I'm not sure why you don't think it's totally clear, since the title is:

Dubbel Dutch: "I think we need more [musical] schizophrenics"

That said, the word bothered me too, and I wished that quote hadn't been chosen as the title. Also, I would like to applaud the framing of this callout, which is perhaps the least grar-y I've ever seen.
posted by languagehat at 11:58 AM on February 2, 2014 [21 favorites]


feckless fecal fear mongering: " I understand that language is often taken from the links, but if so, perhaps we could make it more clear when problematic language is directly quoted, as opposed to being the language choice of the poster. "

The title said: Dubbel Dutch: "I think we need more [musical] schizophrenics"

I think it really could not be any more obvious that this is a quote by the subject of the post. Who is named in the post's first sentence.

How would you have made it clearer?
posted by zarq at 12:03 PM on February 2, 2014


I like to think I'm a decent reader and it did not leap out at me.

I'm not sure how I would have made it clearer. Thus the questioning nature of my post.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:04 PM on February 2, 2014


So we need a dictionary specific to Metafilter? Let's get cracking.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 12:08 PM on February 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Nooo... schizophrenia isn't defined differently here than it is everywhere else.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:09 PM on February 2, 2014 [15 favorites]


The use of the word in the post is overwhelmingly positive, so I don't see what the problem is.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:10 PM on February 2, 2014


The use of the word is incorrect. See jessamyn's comment. Whether it's 'positive' or not, using 'schizophrenic' to mean something that is not schizophrenia contributes to stigma and misunderstanding.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:16 PM on February 2, 2014 [47 favorites]


The problem is that "schizophrenic" is a diagnosis of a mental illness, not a word that means "multivaried," and even when a word is being misused in a "positive"(ly-intended) manner, it is being misused in a world where mental illness is heavily misunderstood and stigmatized and misusing it does not help the misunderstanding.
posted by titus n. owl at 12:17 PM on February 2, 2014 [51 favorites]


High five, titus
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:18 PM on February 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


In addition to the concerns about mental illness, another reason to avoid the metaphorical use of "schizophrenic" to describe an artist whose output has a lot of variety is that it's a trite cliche that's been cheapened through overuse. If you're unsure what word to use other than "schizophrenic," pick up a thesaurus and look at all the other ways to express the fact that an artist's work is diverse, multifarious, heterogeneous, kaleidoscopic, variegated, amalgamated, incongruous, alloyed, hybrid, mercurial, composite, many-sided, shape-shifting, blended, eclectic...
posted by John Cohen at 12:19 PM on February 2, 2014 [8 favorites]


feckless fecal fear mongering: "I like to think I'm a decent reader and it did not leap out at me.

Okay, but that's not the poster's fault. The quote uses proper punctuation and a standard format.

feckless fecal fear mongering: " Disorders on the schizophrenic spectrum are poorly understood by the public at best, and I feel like using the word in this way is not helpful, contributes to stigma, and is a use of othering language that Metafilter in general tends to frown on in other contexts such as ethnicity and gender identity."

Since we're talking about a phrase someone used to describe himself, are you saying it shouldn't have been quoted at all because it's a misnomer?

Definition 2: Of, relating to, or characterized by the coexistence of disparate or antagonistic elements.
posted by zarq at 12:21 PM on February 2, 2014 [7 favorites]


The use of the word in the post is overwhelmingly positive, so I don't see what the problem is.

You don't see any problem with referring to a mental illness in a way that's overwhelmingly positive? Don't you think some people who've had overwhelmingly negative experiences with mental illness might feel differently?
posted by John Cohen at 12:21 PM on February 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


Since we're talking about a phrase someone used to describe himself, are you saying it shouldn't have been quoted at all because it's a misnomer?

Effectively, yes.

Okay, but that's not the poster's fault. The quote uses proper punctuation and a standard format.

I wasn't snarky. Perhaps this would be more productive if you weren't as well.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:24 PM on February 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


The use of the word is incorrect.

Technically sure, but I've heard it used in a manner similar to the posts for years, so again, not a big deal to me. If you want to stick to the dictionary definition, have at it. But it's reasonable if others do not, IMO.

Don't you think some people who've had overwhelmingly negative experiences with mental illness might feel differently?

Absolutely, I simply do not agree that people need to change how the word is used based on this one example. It sucks that feckless is bothered by it, but I'm not seeing this as a site problem.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:25 PM on February 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Since we're talking about a phrase someone used to describe himself, are you saying it shouldn't have been quoted at all because it's a misnomer?

Are you suggesting that as long as you're describing yourself or your artwork, your choice of words cannot be insensitive to another group, even if you're not a member of that group? Really?
posted by John Cohen at 12:27 PM on February 2, 2014 [9 favorites]


Technically sure, but I've heard it used in a manner similar to the posts for years, so again, not a big deal to me. If you want to stick to the dictionary definition, have at it. But it's reasonable if others do not, IMO.

Absolutely, I simply do not agree that people need to change how the word is used based on this one example. It sucks that feckless is bothered by it, but I'm not seeing this as a site problem.

I don't even know how to respond to this without a whole lot of screaming about privilege and blindness to same.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:28 PM on February 2, 2014 [20 favorites]


Using "schizophrenic" to mean anything other than "someone with schizophrenia" is dismissive and trivializing of schizophrenia as a disorder (and actually kind of patronizing when used to mean "someone with schizophrenia" as well). I agree that we can't police everyone's usage at all times, but being aware that it's a word that can have insulting connotations and therefore maybe not quoting it directly on FPPs would be a decent thing for all of us to do.
posted by jaguar at 12:29 PM on February 2, 2014 [40 favorites]


fffm, I'm not being snarky. I'm being absolutely serious. He used the exact format I would have used to make a quote. I use quotations as titles all the time when I make posts, and that's one of the two formats I use. The other is just a phrase in quotes with no attribution.

I do not see how it could possibly be misinterpreted as anything other than a quote.

More definitions:
Merriam Webster: 2. contradictory or antagonistic qualities or attitudes
and
Oxford Dictionaries: 1.1(in general use) a mentality or approach characterized by inconsistent or contradictory elements.

It fits the secondary definition of the word. So I don't think it's a misnomer.
posted by zarq at 12:30 PM on February 2, 2014 [7 favorites]


See jaguar's post above because I have to leave this thread now, I am incredibly incensed by BB's nonsense.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:31 PM on February 2, 2014


Since we're talking about a phrase someone used to describe himself, are you saying it shouldn't have been quoted at all because it's a misnomer?

The quote is in this interview, in case people want to read it in context. Here's the bit.
Your influence flies all across the boarder. Genres like Tech house, Dancehall, Cumbia, Juke, Old Skool, UK Funky have been scattered all through out your productions. In your opinion, what does the electronic music scene need more of and what do you like to see in the near future in regards to the growth of the scene?

The electronic music scene is doing ok but it needs more originality and new ground. It’s great to be inspired by what others are doing but sometimes I feel like artists are overly conscious of that. People seem all too ready to accept that there’s nothing new under the sun and so they pick a certain sound and collectively beat it to death until nobody can stand it anymore. It’s fun to reference the past, I do it in my music a lot, and hold a lot of proto-typical genres as sacred. But that can also be a trap. I think we need more schizophrenics.
I know this is a thing on which reasonable people disagree and this is me speaking as just me, not a mod. Schizophrenia is a real thing, it's a medical diagnosis. The fact that there is a secondary definition that just means "characterized by the coexistence of disparate or antagonistic elements." does not change that. To me, personally, this is like someone saying "Oh man I'm feeling really OCD today, I just did all the dishes AND I'm doing the laundry!" when for people living with OCD, it can be a really hard-to-manage disease full of social stigma and a lot of negative thoughts. Or, to say "Yeah that team really raped us" when you mean that you suffered a terrible loss. It's using words that are touchy and difficult for some people in a somewhat slang-y way. Not a big deal--we're certainly not going to start moderating people's use of words like that for the most part--but a thoughtful approach might mean not doing it.

We know we have schizophrenic MeFites and people who have family members who are schizophrenic. It's a kindness to be careful with language. People are welcome to choose to not do this. My cousin is in an institution for the rest of his life and he wishes his brain would function well enough for him to be able to play a guitar. It's not flt's responsibility to me to not include that quote, but in a post that has a bunch of potential presentation angles, yeah, I would have left that quote off. I never use schizophrenic in that way and, again only in my experience, people who have friends/family/personal experience don't either.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:31 PM on February 2, 2014 [81 favorites]


I never use schizophrenic in that way and, again only in my experience, people who have friends/family/personal experience don't either.

Fair enough, but in my experience people with various mental illnesses use labels in different ways, so there's that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:39 PM on February 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


*shrug*

The word has a specific dictionary meaning. If it bothers people, I won't use it. That costs me nothing and as Jessamyn says, it's a kindness to be careful with language.

But I sure as hell don't think filthy light thief did a damned thing wrong or should be called out in any way for quoting the subject of an fpp(!) who used the term as it is found in multiple dictionaries.
posted by zarq at 12:40 PM on February 2, 2014 [9 favorites]


so there's that.

No one said otherwise.

I sure as hell don't think filthy light thief did a damned thing wrong

It's possible to be able to improve on a thing without having done something wrong with the original thing.

For MetaTalk to operate like it's supposed to, people need to be able to pick apart ideas and the way we present them. We ask that they do so in a decent manner and don't act like assholes about it. fffm did that.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:42 PM on February 2, 2014 [37 favorites]


For what it's worth, every single time I've scrolled past that FPP, it's pissed me off and it's kept me from looking at any of the links. Filthy Light Thief didn't do anything wrong, no, but I would suspect most of us would appreciate feedback about how our framing of a post turned people off from reading it.
posted by jaguar at 12:43 PM on February 2, 2014 [13 favorites]


Schizophrenia is a real thing, it's a medical diagnosis. The fact that there is a secondary definition that just means "characterized by the coexistence of disparate or antagonistic elements." does not change that.

Yeah, the former is the useful word usage. The latter is sloppy and ultimately breeds a lot of confusion, at best.

Anybody been "gypped" lately? It still rates as a meaningful word, but the world will be better once it's dumped for good in the anachronism trash heap.
posted by philip-random at 12:43 PM on February 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


jessamyn: " For MetaTalk to operate like it's supposed to, people need to be able to pick apart ideas and the way we present them. We ask that they do so in a decent manner and don't act like assholes about it. fffm did that."

In his post, only. Not in the thread. When people disagreed with him, he said that he didn't know how to respond to someone without screaming about blindness and privilege, and then, that he was so incensed by Brandon's comment that he needed to leave the thread. Which, you know, good for him for leaving before it came to that but at the same time, that probably wasn't the best way to handle what appeared to be polite disagreement.
posted by zarq at 12:57 PM on February 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


Ok, here, i have a comparison for the people who are kinda defending this or going "i don't get it" or whatever.

How do you feel about people describing nerdy things, or stubborn internet nerd behavior, or expressions of nerdiness in general online as "Autistic" or "Spergy" or whatever?

Because as someone diagnosed with aspergers/HFA, i think it's pretty tiresome and trite and vaguely offensive/a misuse in the same kind of way for the same reasons.

And i mean, that wasn't ever really something that happened here more than very occasionally, but on other sites of a similar age like SA it took a lonnnngg time before the mods and general community finally came around and stopped letting people get away with it the vast majority of the time.

I think the best way to approach this isn't "Could we be more clear about the fact that it's a quote?", but just how about we don't choose pull quotes that use stuff like that. I have no beef with filthy light thief*, but unless the post is something along the lines of "This person suddenly did a shitty thing and is doubling down on defending it and it's going to ruin their career and it's really sudden and wtf"†

Like i think this isolated it as an obvious quote as well as it possibly should. So either we're ok with that, or we're not because you posted this and it bothered you(and i get why! it bothers me too nearly always!). There's no way this could get more quotey.

Oh yea, and for fucks sake, lets not start like starring it out or something. jesus.


*Ooooh, rhymey!

†And obviously what i'm describing here in my example would usually be a shitpost of the "a bad thing happened, discuss" variety. You know what i mean though, there's been higher quality posts that featured that as some portion of their content.

posted by emptythought at 12:58 PM on February 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


that probably wasn't the best way to handle what appeared to be polite disagreement.

Sure. We're not always our best selves when we're feeling bad.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:00 PM on February 2, 2014 [7 favorites]


philip-random: " Anybody been "gypped" lately? It still rates as a meaningful word, but the world will be better once it's dumped for good in the anachronism trash heap."

An excellent point. Agreed.
posted by zarq at 1:01 PM on February 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


The latter definition is also subordinate, of course; it exists only because of the existence of the word to describe a form of mental illness, and its consistent misuse to mean "varied, self-contradictory or inconsistent". Basically, that dictionary definition is the equivalent of the definition of "literally" as meaning "metaphorically" - it's useful for a non-native speaker trying to understand why someone has said "he is literally an angel" about someone who is not an angel, but dictionaries are not intended as style guides.

Not that this matters all that much, of course. There's never going to be a ban on the use of the word in its subordinate meaning on MetaFilter - any more than sloppy uses of "psycho/sociopathic", "autistic" or indeed "lame" are going to be banned. With that in mind - that is, that the threat percentage is literally zero* - I don't see the harm in people talking about how particular terms feel to them.


*OK. Numerically zero.
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:03 PM on February 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


When people disagreed with him, he said that he didn't know how to respond to someone without screaming about blindness and privilege, and then, that he was so incensed by Brandon's comment that he needed to leave the thread

I think perhaps you don't understand why BB's statement was so rage-inducing. The "No big deal to me" reeks of privilege--which is something you usually are rather more thoughtful about, in my experience, so your blind spot here is perplexing.

I'd also take issue with your utter mischaracterization of what I said and how I reacted but I don't think you're going to listen.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:06 PM on February 2, 2014 [7 favorites]


I am having trouble reconciling feckless fecal fear mongering's objection to the lack of preferred nomenclature in this case with feckless fecal fear mongering's defense of the lack of preferred nomenclature in this case. And here. And in a particularly gross way here and here. That whole thread became about what stupid terms feckless fecal fear mongering thinks are okay and how some groups should stop asking people to use better language.

He says he's gone from this thread now, and that's fine by me. Perhaps he can attempt to draw some parallels between how he feels with the language issues surrounding mental illness with how other people feel about language issues surrounding other marginalized groups.
posted by Corinth at 1:07 PM on February 2, 2014 [12 favorites]


Hey, filthy light thief here. I apologize for my use of a quote from the artist. It was a lazy quotation on my behalf, made without thought to the primary definition, thinking more about the secondary that zarq has noted.

I added "[musical]" to the quote because the line itself is too vague, and didn't convey what the artist was talking about. jessamyn provided the broader context for the quote, which was what caught my eye. But in retrospect, it was just a generally poor quote to use, and I could have rephrased the general idea without making light of schizophrenia.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:10 PM on February 2, 2014 [50 favorites]


The "No big deal to me" reeks of privilege

Suffice to say there are several people around me with various mental illnesses who do not object to the term. That doesn't make me or them the sole arbitrator the use of the word. But I do feel that your insistence that it has to mean X and must be offensive to not be my experience. YMMV.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:11 PM on February 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


That was a good FPP.

I understand fffm's objection to the phrasing using by the subject of the FPP, but I don't think this is a good example of the problem, for the reasons stated above (adjective not perjorative, multiple uses and definitions of the term...etc.). I agree that it's better not to use the term otherwise than in connection with the mental illness if you can avoid doing so.

Nevertheless, nice apology flt.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 1:15 PM on February 2, 2014


I am having trouble reconciling feckless fecal fear mongering's objection to the lack of preferred nomenclature in this case

I guess maybe you should look here.

I also think maybe that you could perhaps look at the idea instead of attacking me for something I said in the past.

But this is metafilter so by all means let the fucking pile-on begin.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:24 PM on February 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


While accepting that the original post is only quoting someone else who problematically refers to schizophrenia, I agree with this Metatalk about how we use the terms for specific mental health diagnoses.

My nana had schizophrenia, and for most of my life others equated her disorder with multiple personality / dissociative identity disorder or borderline personality disorder, and as a result thought she must have been violently unstable, when in reality she suffered mostly from delusions and depression. Even when used metaphorically, schizophrenia is a bad analogy for 'multivaried' because the disorder does not even resemble something that is 'multivaried'. I think its adoption as an adjective has followed from this common misunderstanding of yesteryear, and has now come full circle to perpetuate the othering and misunderstanding of people with schizophrenia.

I also have several sufferers of bi-polar disorder in my family, and I have noticed an increase of people using the word 'bi-polar' to describe generally erratic behaviour or things. (Not on Metafilter, mind, just out and about.) Even the use of the word 'manic' to describe someone's behaviour is enough to set my teeth on edge.

Thank you for the response, FLT. Like others have said, I don't think you personally did anything wrong or intentionally hurtful, but your thoughts on the matter are appreciated nevertheless.
posted by dumdidumdum at 1:26 PM on February 2, 2014 [18 favorites]


Yeah, dumdidumdum brings up a really important point regarding the use of "schizophrenic" as an adjective: the metaphorical adjectival use does not actually represent the reality of the mental illness, but that metaphorical adjectival use DOES inform people's IDEAS of what the reality of the mental illness is.

So if you want to defend it by going "well it's a metaphorical adjective and it's meant as a positive" you are defending a bad metaphor, one which depends upon a false equivalence and an imaginary non-reality.
posted by titus n. owl at 1:29 PM on February 2, 2014 [11 favorites]


Yeah, my position on this usage of the word (as someone who also has a family member institutionalized with the diagnosis) is that it's sloppy, careless writing. Which means people are going to do it, but that it certainly shouldn't be encouraged.

fffm, your impulse to step away and cool down was probably a good one. When you're at the point where everyone seems to be misreading and piling on you, it's worth getting a little perspective.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:36 PM on February 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


feckless fecal fear mongering: "I think perhaps you don't understand why BB's statement was so rage-inducing.

Yes. I understand it a bit better now with Jaguar's, Jessamyn's, emptythought's and phillip-random's comments.

Also, I'm pretty much the last person here who would defend Brandon Blatcher for being rage-inducing towards anyone.

The "No big deal to me" reeks of privilege

*nod* I have zero experience with schizophrenia (well, that I know of.) I didn't understand what you meant initially. I think I get it now.

--which is something you usually are rather more thoughtful about, in my experience, so your blind spot here is perplexing.

I am frequently stupid and inflexible about stuff. Was more hung up on the quote thing than anything else. The definition of the word itself was a wrongheaded argument on my part, but I didn't see that until it was pointed out by several people.

Also, the (meta and mefi) threads about Dylan Farrow has pushed every single one of my buttons today and I was a bit of a dick to you here (especially in pushing the quote thing beyond what I should have) because I was riled up over the other threads. Sorry about that. Took a breather before posting this.

I'd also take issue with your utter mischaracterization of what I said and how I reacted but I don't think you're going to listen."

All I'm saying is, (and I want to note that this has been a really hard lesson for me to absorb over the years, and one that I have frequently had difficulty with,) talking it out is usually more productive than losing your temper. Taking a breather from a thread when you get upset is a great thing. It's something I try to remember to do when I'm getting pissed off, so I'm glad you did that for yourself. But I respectfully (truly! sincerely!) suggest that you not cut the conversation short when you do. Because it's easier to quietly take a breath, let the comments pour in and then respond when you are calmer and can breathe normally.
posted by zarq at 1:52 PM on February 2, 2014 [14 favorites]


I tend to side with the linguistically liberal in arguments like these. While I'm all for showing due sensitivity to the plights of others, it seems like a call for a boycott of all instances of metaphorical extension that could offend or hurt a person or a group of people - good luck with that!

I have had SAD and have no problems with calling a movie "depressingly" bad. Actually, depressed is in itself a topographic metaphor: depressions, elevations and such. And bi-polar too - poles were a physical reality long before they were metaphorically extended to mean the mental illness. And "schizophrenia" meant at the beginning "divided mind". No more, no less. For what reason should semantic change freeze in time and words should forever mean that "one true thing"? Seriously, language change is bound to annoy or offend someone, and as such it is a very democratic process, and nobody "owns" or can "(re)appropriate" it. Or well, not for long.

By now though, "schizophrenic" used as an adjective has turned into a clichè, and since it's not a particularly enlightening metaphor anymore, it might soon start being avoided in discourse on that account alone.

I'm sure we can appreciate the intrinsic badness of this usage, and still remain realists when it comes to "regulating" the use of language.
posted by ipsative at 1:58 PM on February 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


The tone argument defense is not making anyone look better in this thread.
posted by Etrigan at 2:01 PM on February 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


The slippery-slope "well it looks like we're going to be calling to ban all metaphors!" bullshit isn't making anyone look better either for that matter
posted by titus n. owl at 2:02 PM on February 2, 2014 [12 favorites]


Wow, thanks titus n. owl! But it is worth wondering about, as it comes up a lot and it's always the same two sides, it tends to always kind of end the same way, namely nowhere.

What a great use of all our times! Can't be just be sensitive and give other people the benefit of the doubt, that they might be using a word in a neutral sense when applying it to a topic that is very much unrelated to the offended party?

I'm just voicing an opinion here, one different from yours, on the record, for the first time in MeFi, in this thread. In which people talk. To give opinions about stuff. So there's mine.
posted by ipsative at 2:10 PM on February 2, 2014


Can't be just be sensitive

That is more or less exactly what I am saying. But:

and give other people the benefit of the doubt, that they might be using a word in a neutral sense when applying it to a topic that is very much unrelated to the offended party?

...is seriously problematic, in ways that have been explained by me, jessamyn, philip-random, jaguar, and emptythought.

Thank you, zarq. Sorry for getting snippy in return.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:24 PM on February 2, 2014 [11 favorites]


i'm also voicing an opinion that is different than yours on metafilter, and mine is that i'm really, really, really tired of people constantly claiming that being sensitive to others' feelings is going to put all of society on a slippery slope that leads to literally not being allowed to use metaphors ever, which is something i see people claim all the damn time whenever somebody points out that a specific usage is harmful.

so there you go. an opinion. in a thread. in which people talk. to give opinions. i can type mine out too. and use tiny sentences. how about that.
posted by titus n. owl at 2:24 PM on February 2, 2014 [28 favorites]


feckless fecal fear mongering: " Thank you, zarq. Sorry for getting snippy in return."

No worries. My fault.
posted by zarq at 2:26 PM on February 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Except I never called yours bullshit.
posted by ipsative at 2:37 PM on February 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


Can't be just be sensitive and give other people the benefit of the doubt, that they might be using a word in a neutral sense when applying it to a topic that is very much unrelated to the offended party?

Yes, we can, in the same way that if someone was stepping on my foot, I would assume that they didn't mean to do so and yet I would still ask them, politely, to move, because whether they meant to do so or not, they hurt my foot.
posted by jaguar at 2:49 PM on February 2, 2014 [13 favorites]


there are several people around me with various mental illnesses who do not object to the term

The "even my best friend is [enter problematic term]" turn of logic isn't really helpful most of the time q. e. d. a thousand times here in the truly difficult threads. That, we definitely could do without.

If someone asks "couldn't we be a bit more considerate about Thing because Reasons?", it may be just as well to just simply say "uh huh, yes, no prob," instead of "I know a bunch of people too who have Thing but don't feel that bad about Reasons."
I like Jessamyn's line "It's a kindness to be careful with language." And the great thing about it, it doesn't cost anything.

[actually, it's a necessity to be careful with language, for what else do we have, really?]
posted by Namlit at 2:55 PM on February 2, 2014 [10 favorites]


"the slippery slope to banning all metaphors" is a bullshit argument. you're not, like, a bullshit human being or something, but it is a bullshit argument, and an exhaustingly common one in this sort of discussion across the entire web. "but i know a person who doesn't think it's a problem" is a bullshit argument too, because the existence of people who don't get hurt doesn't negate the existence of people who do get hurt. "it's unrealistic to expect everyone in the entire world to change their language 100% of the time" is also a bullshit argument, because whether everyone in the entire world will do a thing isn't really of any bearing on whether an individual ought to do it (see also the general acceptance that one should not mug people, despite the fact that some people DO mug people).

i apologize for the "not making anyone look better" part, which was a case where i was not sufficiently careful with my use of language - i was echoing the comment right above mine and did not reflect on how it might make you feel, since the construction, especially when posted almost immediately after your own comment, implies that your comment makes you, as a person who posted such a thing, "look worse"/look like a bad person/something along those lines. i'm sorry for hurting you.

but i still think the arguments are bullshit.
posted by titus n. owl at 3:04 PM on February 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


It's worth noting that if people want to joust about the "my friend is fine with saying $THING_THAT_BOTHERED_SOMEONE_HERE, and they're in that group, so I'm in the clear!"

A. We are not your friend, your friend is not here, different places involve different rules/customs/requirements and you are not 6 and I know you know that. Don't be coy or a rules lawyer.

B. That fight was already valiantly made here. That was a shitty thread full of venom and people acting not their best. Do we really need to collectively do that again? Or every week? Or whatever?

I'm also not a fan of the "well you said X thing about Y issue over here two weeks ago, that seems to contradict your opinion on this. Which way is it? Can't be both" thing. This isn't court, this isn't a cross examination. This isn't some CNN televised debate. If someone has a shitty opinion about one thing and a good/the right stance on another tricky issue celebrate it. Don't try and start a fight with them about some unrelated thing they have a shitty opinion about. It's not the place or time for that, and you make no friends that way. There's already an asston of people with shitty opinions about things, why put someone on the defensive when they say something right just because you want to start a fight with them or whatever the fuck?
posted by emptythought at 3:06 PM on February 2, 2014 [10 favorites]


It sucks that feckless is bothered by it

No it doesn't.

It sucks that you (and others) are so casually dismissing the perfectly good reasons for being bothered by it.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:11 PM on February 2, 2014 [20 favorites]


I like Jessamyn's line "It's a kindness to be careful with language."

Speaking of second-order definitions of terms with a specific technical meaning, I immediately thought of this as a mitzvah...
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:16 PM on February 2, 2014 [9 favorites]


There are talmudic and mishnaic passages which focus on the importance of being kind and gracious to others in words and deeds. So there's precedent even in the first-order definition. :)
posted by zarq at 3:26 PM on February 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


Happily, we live in an amazing age where a word can mean multiple things depending on the context in which it is employed.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:31 PM on February 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


I actually skipped the FPP because I thought it was about the role of mental illness in making art, a discussion that I wasn't in the mood to read. How disappointing to find out what it was actually about, and to see folks here defending their right to use schizophrenic the way it was used here.

I don't understand the desire to be unkind. I understand how one may be accidentally unkind, how a word can be used without thinking about the consequences. But after the consequences have been pointed out to you, after you've been told that what you're doing is hurting people, why the desire to be unkind? Why is the right to (mis)use a word so important to you that you would willfully hurt others in doing so?
posted by hydropsyche at 3:50 PM on February 2, 2014 [20 favorites]


I think (I hope, I expect...) most people reading this thread will see the points made by others above and from now on start being careful with their use of this word in this website. I know I will, and I know that arguing against sensitivity in a community with linguistics is a pretty perverse misuse of linguistics. That's not what I was trying to do.

But I strongly disagree with the "stepping on your foot" analogy, because they're not stepping on your foot. They're stepping on similarly looking socks filled with sand. You'll say "but it looks exactly like my foot, so it's insensitive, disrespectful even" and it's true as soon as they know that's the way you feel. Before you tell them this, they won't. That's what different senses are - they are socks identical to yours, filled with something very different. They thought they were stepping on sand-filled socks (which were part of a funny looking doll) in order to reach the top of a shelf (or something like that).

Now extrapolate to every single word that could (potentially) have many senses, of which one could refer to a disadvantaged minority, illness, etc. Wait, before you do that, just think of this one word and the next time you see it being used the same way - as an adjective for something other than a mental illness - by someone who gives no indication whatsoever of meaning the mental illness - and imagine your reaction. Will you write a letter to the editor? Will you stop reading the newspaper? And what will happen when people start forgetting about it, and the word starts being used prominently again in Metafilter?

I understand that avoiding sensitive words might be the best possible solution within a community as humane as like this. But, as real as a condition may be, the term it is currently being used to refer to it is always a slippery thing. So, in general, it's just less exhausting to appeal to people's sense of respect for others, empathy and sensitivity, than to declare every single word palabra non grata, which is hardly ever effective on a large scale, and if it is, then not for very long.

In short, while I think it's fair to ask for sensitivity, expecting other people to share your meaning associations on a regular basis isn't. And using your name in a way that is value neutral but just different to what you are and therefore think it should *always* mean... This is what I find exhausting.

titus n. owl, thanks for your apology, and I'm sorry if I overreacted.
posted by ipsative at 3:59 PM on February 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think the problem with using "schizophrenic" this way is that it reflects a really confused idea of what schizophrenia is, not that it's insulting or insensitive (unlike, say, "spergy", mentioned above, which is definitely both). I get a little twitchy when I see the word used this way, but, fortunately, this usage seems to be a pretty old-fashioned now.
posted by nangar at 4:00 PM on February 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Who was expressing a desire to be unkind, hydropsyche?
posted by nangar at 4:03 PM on February 2, 2014


I'm not sure how else to explain this. After it has been pointed out to you that your use of a word hurts people, continuing to use the word in that way is unkind because you are then willfully hurting people, which is unkind.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:28 PM on February 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Anyone who would commit the mortal sin of not agreeing.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:29 PM on February 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


When I saw that fpp I was really hoping it was about an awesome musician who happened to have schizophrenia. It bothered me a little when I realized how the word was actually being used. I'm glad feckless pointed this out.
posted by Golden Eternity at 4:30 PM on February 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


This usage leapt out at me too. I realised it was a quote, but I actually chose not to click on the link because I didn't want to read something by someone who was either so clueless about effects of word choice or deliberately offensive as to use that phrase.

I agree that it would have been a better FPP if the poster had selected a different quote to pull.
posted by lollusc at 4:32 PM on February 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


But I sure as hell don't think filthy light thief did a damned thing wrong or should be called out in any way for quoting the subject of an fpp(!) who used the term as it is found in multiple dictionaries.

I don't think anything was done wrong, per se, but I do think maybe we should try to choose pull quotes that won't antagonize a bunch of people rather than ones that will. It starts a thread off wrong when it doesn't have to be.
posted by corb at 4:41 PM on February 2, 2014


But I strongly disagree with the "stepping on your foot" analogy, because they're not stepping on your foot. They're stepping on similarly looking socks filled with sand.

What?

I mean, I work with people with schizophrenia regularly. Their misunderstandings and denial about their disorder is a MAJOR issue that causes them not to comply with treatment, and (with the population I'm working with) that denial means they often end up unemployed, homeless, and/or institutionalized. People using "schizophrenic" as a throwaway adjective meaning "multiple personalities" actively contribute to the difficulties experienced by people with schizophrenia, since people diagnosed with schizophrenia write off the diagnosis since they don't have "multiple personalities."

So yes, people using "schizophrenic" to mean "multiple personalitied" are actually stepping on actual feet, no socks or sand involved. You are actively making my job harder, you are actively making my clients' recovery harder. I chose the job, so I'm not going to complain on my behalf, but you better believe I'm going to advocate for society at large contributing to my clients' recovery rather than working against it.
posted by jaguar at 4:48 PM on February 2, 2014 [29 favorites]


I am not cross-examining fffm or debating him. I am encouraging him to apply this empathy he has for the mentally ill to other groups. The things he is saying about about this issue are the same kinds of things he resisted patronizingly last time. At no point in the MeTa you linked did fffm ever acknowledge or apologize for his behavior (and various signs suggest that he still doesn't), so perhaps making a link between the language he is objecting to here and the language of his that others were objecting to previously will help.
posted by Corinth at 5:00 PM on February 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I wasn't comfortable with that usage. I know a schizophrenic person and he would hate that music.
posted by michaelh at 5:07 PM on February 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


any argument that boils down to "rather than encourage people to change a behavior that hurts you, you should just let them keep doing it and work on changing yourself to not get hurt by it" is pretty bullshit, too

"the world is going to be shit and people are going to be mean and there is nothing you can do about it so stop getting upset about things" is a terribly defeatist attitude and also demonstrably untrue. society changes. what is considered appropriate by society changes. i've seen a massive change in societal treatment of homosexuals, for instance, just during my own brief three decades on this planet, and those changes didn't occur as a magical happenstance, but due to people not being willing to just shut up and stop being hurt by things.
posted by titus n. owl at 6:30 PM on February 2, 2014 [10 favorites]


Even as used it is a fucking stupid way of using it, it is incorrect even in it's attempt to make an analogy. We don't use "gay" to mean stupid and while I get it, it's not meant to be pejorative that doesn't mean incorrect usage is value free. There are A LOT of people who will claim with a straight face that when they use "gay" or "retarded" in some other context they don't mean it to be mean, people should just lighten up. It really doesn't matter if you you don't intend it to be mean, if a significant section of people affected by that label and their allies point out that you are using it incorrectly and would you please stop and you don't then you cross the line from innocent-yet-stupid sounding to willful assholishness.
posted by edgeways at 7:48 PM on February 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


Hey Feckless, thanks for calling this out, and thanks to Filthy Light Thief for responding with such, a thoughtful apology.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:40 PM on February 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


I've had schizophrenic episodes in the past, and I have the diagnoses to prove it. Did I see anything wrong with the FPP or its language use? Not at all. However, does it bother me that a slight bit more care in language use might be a good idea for the sake of those that it does bother? Not even a little a bit.
posted by Dysk at 12:30 AM on February 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


Its always a shame when we get to these kind of arguments where someone says "listen, I find the use of a term like this unpleasent to encounter. Would you mind trying to avoid it in future?" To which the response is often

"No! How dare you! I have friends who are not offended by it! Do I have to stop saying this other word too?"

When it could just be, "yeah, sure, I'll do my best in the future."

Words are complicated, and what words trigger people switch from person to person. I find "bitch" extremely unpleasant to encounter but am aware that some people use it in a (to them) non misogynistic manner. I don't think we can succeed in not hurting someone's feelings by the words we use, but I don't see why we can't try.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 1:18 AM on February 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


For kicks I looked up the morpheme "schizo" in a thesaurus. Apparently "schismatic" means something like "iconoclastic" or "divisive".

Apart from the offensive angle, "schizophrenic" doesn't seem like the best word to apply to music with a lot of influences, unless your intended meaning is that it doesn't hold together.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:28 AM on February 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


This brings to mind that oft recalled song from Styx, called Double Life, from wherein I quote for thee:

Nowhere to hide, though we both might try
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I
Double life, a double life, a masquerade
You know we all live a masquerade
I know you're out there!


iirc its from Mr. Roboto, released in 1983 or thereabouts
posted by infini at 5:35 AM on February 3, 2014


I don't mind that we live in a time when people ask us to be more cautious of our use of language. English is huge. For almost every word we use that others might find lazy, uncautious, insensitive, and misapplied, there are often dozens of better words, many of them sadly underused. This is not a call to use less language. It is a call to use more and better language.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:56 AM on February 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


This is not a call to use less language. It is a call to use more and better language.

The language was used by the subject of the post, and it was a revealing and meaninful quote.
posted by spaltavian at 6:02 AM on February 3, 2014


The language was used by the subject of the post, and it was a revealing and meaninful quote.

...Which people would still have read and seen when they clicked through, but was not required to be the pullquote of the fpp, which caused at least a few people that we know of to not click through even though they discovered (thanks to this meTa) that they might have had interest in the subject.
posted by rtha at 6:11 AM on February 3, 2014 [9 favorites]


it was a revealing and meaninful quote

Totally agree that it was mean in full.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 6:21 AM on February 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Sorry, couldn't resist! ;-)
posted by the quidnunc kid at 6:21 AM on February 3, 2014


the entire quote was meaningful (that still included shitty word choice) - the part used for the title of the fpp? well, even flt says they had to edit it to have it make sense and that i was maybe not the best quote for the title in retrospect. that seems a pretty fair read from where i'm sitting.
posted by nadawi at 6:40 AM on February 3, 2014


The language was used by the subject of the post, and it was a revealing and meaninful quote.

I dunno. Not meaning to pile on FLT, but I saw that, briefly thought it was about musicians dealing with mental health issues, realized it wasn't, felt a little put off by it and (since it doesn't take much to put me off music threads*) I didn't read it. So, if the intent of the pull quote was to draw me (as a kind of MeFite) in, it was not well chosen. As communication, it just doesn't work well -- if you use "schizophrenic" to mean "multi-sided," and a bunch of your prospective readers respond with "I'm bugged by that" and another group goes "well, that is a poorly-chosen metaphor," you haven't really managed to communicate what you intended -- presumably "here is a cool thing to read."

I have lately been on a project to purge "lame" from my vocabulary replacing it with "weak," which usually expresses the feelings I am having better anyway. It's maybe too self-conscious of me, but I am finding it a worthwhile project.

*Nothing about music threads, music threads are fine; I just don't participate in them often.

PS. Nthing the "good apology FLT." I wish we saw more like that (well, when necessary).
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:50 AM on February 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I saw it immediately as it went up, went and looked at the quote in context and it upset me but I refrained from commenting in the thread, so I'm glad this metatalk post was made, and I'm glad Filthy Light Thief said what he said in response.
posted by cashman at 6:55 AM on February 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


Thanks for this post. Hate this usage, and others like, "I'm so OCD about cleaning."
posted by agregoli at 7:19 AM on February 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'll chime in as another MeFite who deals with mental illness in myself and in loved ones, and cringes at this type of usage. I totally get why it happens - I'm working pretty hard myself to purge stuff like casual usage of "OCD" from my vocabulary without 100% success, although I hope I'm getting better at it.

I'm not angry when people use these terms, and I don't think they intend any harm. But there is some hurt inflicted anyway, and I think it's worth noting for people who might not have thought of it. Thank you for making this post, and to others for engaging in it productively.
posted by Stacey at 7:54 AM on February 3, 2014


1) I wish all metatalk posts were so politely framed.
2) I have a brother who is schizophrenic. My brother's illness is to the extent that movies, video games, books, and the guitar are to an extent, inaccessible to him. He doesn't really enjoy anything but sleeping and eating.

So, that's one version of schizophrenia for you.

3) It's a small, polite request based on human suffering, to regulate the language in a small way. Nobody is a bad person for using schizophrenia of schizo to mean something else. It's just that, for some people, it is a very scary bad dark thing from which there is no escape. Surely that justifies a wee bit of attention to language norms in this case.
posted by angrycat at 8:02 AM on February 3, 2014 [8 favorites]


Chiming in as the nth person who has had experience both with my own and others' mental health issues: it would be pretty cool if folks didn't use terms pertaining to mental illness as if they were unloaded modifiers to use will ye nil ye. There's a lot of history bound up in them. It's not a bad idea to think about your usage in the context of that history.
posted by PMdixon at 8:23 AM on February 3, 2014


As a schizophrenic, I took the quote to mean "We need more schizophrenics making music," and I support that fully.
posted by Ardiril at 9:04 AM on February 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


A post about people with schizophrenia who make, and have made, music would be spectacular. After all, it's a list that includes Syd Barrett, Buddy Bolden, Daniel Johnson, John Ogden, Wesley Willis, and Brian Wilson.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:24 AM on February 3, 2014 [9 favorites]


Ardiril: As a schizophrenic, I took the quote to mean "We need more schizophrenics making music," and I support that fully.

I apologize for the confusion, and I support anyone who shares information about more diverse people making music.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:10 AM on February 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


The slippery-slope "well it looks like we're going to be calling to ban all metaphors!"

If going down that slippery slope means we can reclaim "exponentially" for its strict mathematical usage alone, grease me up and give me a shove.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:43 AM on February 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


I have Tourette Syndrome. It is a huge part of my life, and always will be, even when I very much wish that it wasn't. I've been having a hard time coping with it lately, so I don't really want to list a reasons of why it's a miserable neurological disorder to have, but it is both physically and mentally distressing to me in ways that most people can't begin to comprehend. It is very hard for me to think about the fact that it's incurable and that no treatments exist that work for me and not immediately start thinking about ending my life.

If I lived in a perfect world where I was properly recognized as a saint for staying alive for the people who love me, where my downstairs neighbor didn't hate me for my compulsive running, where I didn't have to try to supress my tics at work, it would still be a very difficult thing to cope with. But we don't.

We live in a world where Rob Schneider makes movie where a woman with Tourette's is forced to hire a gigalo because no one else would want to date her, and that insensitive comedic portrayal is the first thing that people bring up when I disclose my mental illness for years. For years.

We live in a world where a critic reviews Anchorman 2 by comparing it to "being locked in a broom closet full of Tourette's victims." We live in a world where I was forced to switch classes in school because entire classrooms burst into laughter every time I ticced. I have had people mock my tics to my face in a "durr hurr" voice. I am filled with shame about something that is completely not my fault multiple times a day.

Can you see why it hurts when someone says "God, I'm so awkward, I can't believe I blurted that out, it's like I have Tourette's"? Why that trivializes my struggle? Can you see how the portrayal of my lifelong disorder as a punchline or shorthand for saying "fuck" a lot has actually made my quality of life worse?

We don't need a sitewide ban on using Tourette Syndrome, or any other medical issue, as a metaphor. We need more people who think about who they are affecting with their language before they type, and who are willing to err on the side of not hurting people who are already suffering.
posted by Juliet Banana at 11:15 AM on February 3, 2014 [80 favorites]


Schizophrenia is tough. I have a close family member with it and she too doesn't seem to have much enjoyment or happiness. The medication - which she is very good about taking, now - has dulled her life around the edges in an extremely profound way. She used to be very vibrant and smart but at about 20 that all went away. It's really sad, and her life is hard, and I don't think anyone intends to hurt her or people like her when they say things like this, but it is hurtful.

I'm glad we are having a productive conversation about this on the grey.
posted by sockermom at 12:51 PM on February 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm really glad you made this post -- it really bothers me when people talk about OCD and ADHD in this way, but I very rarely have the courage to say "not cool" like this.
posted by spunweb at 1:01 PM on February 3, 2014


In addition to all of the very good reasons brought up in this thread, another less important reason to stop using "schizophrenic" in this way is that it is not even accurate metaphorically. Schizophrenia doesn't mean having multiple disjunct personalities, or having a personality that fluctuates abruptly. It means suffering from psychosis: delusions, paranoia, hallucinations, and very intense and difficult symptoms. A surprising number of people still confuse or conflate these very different phenomena (notwithstanding OED definitions, which are descriptions of common usage and not some kind of inviolable truth). The use of "schizophrenia" as a metaphor for the wrong condition IMHO is both sloppy writing and a contributing factor to inaccurate ideas about what mental illness is actually like - even before you get into the real crux of the issue, which is more that using a mental illness as a descriptor in this way in the first place can easily hurt people whom you didn't intend to hurt.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:03 PM on February 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Schizophrenia doesn't mean having multiple disjunct personalities

This is true and it probably doesn't help that the "schizo" part of it has the same root as "schism" (as well as sort of bringing "schism" to mind when you hear it, for me at least), and that at its roots the word is basically "split mind". It's kind of a crap word for the mental illness, frankly, but it is what it is.
posted by Hoopo at 1:21 PM on February 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


And in 1911, Swiss psychiatrist Paul Eugen Bleuler argued that the underlying mechanism in praecox was a "loosening of associations," a process in which patients existed in the real world and at the same time turned away from reality ("autism") into the world of fantasy, wishes, fears, and symbols.

As an early proponent of Freudianism, Bleuler placed psychosis on a spectrum with neurosis as a developmental disorder with childhood origins. He maintained that the term dementia praecox should be replaced by a name that combined the Greek words for split (schizo) and mind (phrene). "I call dementia praecox 'schizophrenia,' " he wrote, "because the 'splitting' of the different psychic functions is one of its most important characteristics."

posted by jaguar at 3:03 PM on February 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


It was quite a few years ago that I found out schizophrenic had more to do with dissociative tendencies than it did with, say, multiple personalities. That was when I quit using the word in a non-medical context.

I haven't surrendered my options to choose my vocabulary. I developed the habit of writing essays and letters, even anecdotes or stories, to a specific reader, and discovered that this led me to write different versions of the same idea. I wouldn't have used the word cunt in an essay I intended my mother to read, for example. Now, by this I mean that I may intend an essay to be read by inhabitants of BB such as Metafilter, or the readers of an email clique. Each version would be unique to that audience, and I would choose my words accordingly by writing to a representative "person" in that group.

I appreciate the sensitivity some people have for certain words. I accept that they have reasons for their reactions. It's not up to me to decide what they find offensive. It's up to me to understand the venue, though. Kevin Bloody Wilson once described this process in a song, which he entitled, "You Can't Say Cunt in Canada." (Anyone who's interested inhow that song evolved can easily run this down.)

There are few clear lines for this sort of thing. One the one hand are such things as racial slurs, which (I believe) ought to be handle contextually, and with care. On the other hand are such words a quisling, which to me represent a fair definition of a sort, and I don't feel inclined to worry about whether any of his descendants are put out by it. In the middle, and worth discussing are such words as gypsy. This has been in the public domain long enough to mean something along the idea of "a wanderer." I avoid using it to mean "cheat" (except as a point of dialogue) because I can find better words to cover that ground.

I don't buy the arguments offered above, that simply causing certain folks to feel uncomfortable ought to keep me from modifying my vocabulary. The "kindness" argument, though, is persuasive, although it requires context to be compelling. I don't use the word schizophrenic, because the lay definition is muddled, and pretty much useless to me. But I do use the work psycho colloquially...I have a cat who is um, a psycho. I understand that this may be offensive to some folks, but unless someone gives me a specific response to its use in a certain essay, I don't worry about it. Context is what I'm trying to describe.

Now, all you guys who use the word "prodigal" to mean "errant" get up against the wall.
posted by mule98J at 5:13 PM on February 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


The "kindness" argument, though, is persuasive, although it requires context to be compelling.

"Tell me about your other strange folkways, humans..."
posted by neroli at 9:10 PM on February 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


Forget it you guys. How can we argue with someone who so eloquently reminds us that their right to choose their vocabulary is more important than the feelings and needs of others? May we all defend our rights to hurt people as effectively. I throw down my self in favor of those with this attitude. No point arguing any more.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:35 PM on February 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm going to suggest that if your biggest area of suffering is being a writer, you may want to consider how much other people are suffering, in a real way, before you try to present your opinion as fact.
posted by jaguar at 10:12 PM on February 3, 2014 [7 favorites]


what does essay writing have to do with commenting on metafilter? or do you see your comments here as essays?
posted by nadawi at 7:16 AM on February 4, 2014


I haven't surrendered my options to choose my vocabulary.

I am really really tired of this argument. No one is going to make you "surrender your options." There is no internet police who are going to lock you out for using the wrong word. All you have is people telling you that this word hurts them. That's all. You can keep choosing that word, if you want. What you can't do is choose that word and not have people thinking you are willfully ignorant, a jerk, or something worse. Which I would assume that you would take into account during your choice process. No one is slapping the word out of your hands; they are just telling you what that word means to them, and you don't really get to say "no, it means this." Well, not without further effects.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:43 AM on February 4, 2014 [14 favorites]


I think a general way that these discussions go south is that someone asks for people to consider doing something different on MetaFilter. Some people think this is reasonable and others aren't so sure. Then we got involved in a side discussion about how to use language in other non-MetaFilter places with people talking about how they can do whatever they want. And other people bristle at that. And then we start having a somewhat circular discussion because, ultimately, it's not up to us how you decide to use language elsewhere in the world and it's only just barely up to us how you use it here. For whatever reason people get prickly when they feel that they are being asked to change some part of themselves in general which is why I'm always really careful discussing these topics as they apply to me personally and how they apply to the site.

Honestly, for something like this, people pretty much don't care what you do outside of MetaFilter. This is a discussion of this space and how we interact with each other here. Maintaining or defending your right to do what you want elsewhere is certainly your right but it comes across as a bit truculent or maybe not understanding/appreciating what is being asked for. I do some things in my offline life that I am certain that some people on MetaFilter would find appalling. I don't feel like stirring up shit so I don't talk about them here. It's fairly simple to do if one of your goals is, as mine is, generally not stirring up shit.

I'm not sure everyone is able to not only read the room here but also to understand the different between "the room" and "the world" Some people's thought experiments tend to overlap into other people's real life and/or real world experience. That's just another data point for people to have when they make their own choices about how to use language here and elsewhere. Not every personal decision needs to be broadcast as a proclamation.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:50 AM on February 4, 2014 [16 favorites]


mule98J: "I don't buy the arguments offered above, that simply causing certain folks to feel uncomfortable ought to keep me from modifying my vocabulary."

Yes, the issue is definitely that people are uncomfortable and oversensitive.

It couldn't possibly be that the people affected are subject to pervasive societal discrimination and often actual violence, and would like this community, of which they are a significant part, to not be as shitty as the outside world.

But, by all means, feel free to make this about you being oppressed.
posted by scrump at 10:28 AM on February 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


> I'm not sure everyone is able to not only read the room here but also to understand the different between "the room" and "the world" Some people's thought experiments tend to overlap into other people's real life and/or real world experience. That's just another data point for people to have when they make their own choices about how to use language here and elsewhere. Not every personal decision needs to be broadcast as a proclamation.

I hope my room-reading was appropriate, but I was obviously trying to imagine a solution that made sense in the room as well as the world... It would make discussions like these easier because I really don't want to hurt anyone here and I will never ever use this word here (or anywhere) in that sense, but it feels so odd and counter intuitive - it makes a lot of noise for me - to have to "artificially" make these rules on a case to case basis - in general.
posted by ipsative at 12:22 PM on February 4, 2014


well that's just it, there are no hard and fast ultimate rules, you HAVE to actually use your brain and your thoughts and your judgement and your sense of righteousness and kindness and justice towards others every time you talk, it's not a language for robots but a discussion involving human beings and it is impossible to create hard and fast perfect every-single-case-applies you-will-never-have-to-consider-rules-on-a-case-by-case-basis guidelines for interaction with human beings. sorry.
posted by titus n. owl at 12:53 PM on February 4, 2014 [9 favorites]


> you HAVE to actually use your brain and your thoughts and your judgement and your sense of righteousness and kindness and justice towards others every time you talk

That's what I meant when I wrote "be sensitive", and that's pretty much the opposite of "hard and fast perfect every-single-case-applies you-will-never-have-to-consider-rules-on-a-case-by-case-basis guidelines". But I think you get my point and you're just trying to argue for the sake of it now! Goodnight, dear!
posted by ipsative at 1:05 PM on February 4, 2014


You started with a statement that I assumed was hyperbolic about how there was some kind of boycott of all metaphors being called for. Sarcasm and hyperbole are not always great ways to get one's point across in a sort of fraught discussion. And just FYI, that "dear" reads as condescending as shit.
posted by rtha at 1:24 PM on February 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


Ok, I'll rephrase that:

Goodnight.
posted by ipsative at 1:45 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Not a big deal--we're certainly not going to start moderating people's use of words like that for the most part--but a thoughtful approach might mean not doing it.

This is what metafilter mods sound like, which is why this is the best moderated site on the web. Mefites sometimes sorta take this to heart, which is why metafilter has the most interesting commenting community on the web, and is slowly improving.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:53 PM on February 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


Okay, I see where I made my error. The OP was about being careful to use certain terms (regarding mental conditions) in as accurate a context as possible. I riffed on the general notions (expressed by various contributors) of word usage.

My intention was to discuss intentions versus inferences. In the past, I have actually spent half an hour or so typing while thinking, then deleting, revising, and finally declining to comment. I probably should have done that in this thread. Sometimes I gain perspective better that way than I do engaging in a dialogue with another poster.

We've had the intentions vs inference discussion here before. Although they are always frustrating, they aren't always fruitless. To be clear, words are daggers, they are sometimes grenades, they are sometimes just a slap in the face. Sometimes they are the slamming of a door. But, also, they can be a pat on the back or a hug.
posted by mule98J at 4:26 PM on February 4, 2014


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