Spaz? Really? October 24, 2018 8:27 AM   Subscribe

So, "spazzing" is acceptable to metafilter, is it?

Given I've just had my comment about ableist language deleted from this:

https://ask.metafilter.com/327720/Does-a-remote-have-to-sync-with-device

...after I flagged it, it seems that my comment was more offensive to metafilter than the language in question.

So, should we all take it that "spazzing" is simply an inoffensive descriptor of malfunction?
posted by pompomtom to Etiquette/Policy at 8:27 AM (116 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Just for the record, you made the point in a comment that stayed. Then you went on to make several more comments saying the same thing, and those were deleted. On issues like this, one correction in thread is usually ok, larger discussion or PSA needs to come to Metatalk.

MetaTalk is the better venue to make this point anyway, this way more people can see it.

For folks who don't know, in the US "spaz" doesn't have the offensive connotation, but in the UK it's a very offensive term. See Wikipedia on "spastic" for a bit more.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:33 AM on October 24, 2018 [25 favorites]


US-based mefite here. I'm vaguely aware that "spaz" can be a hurtful term and probably would avoid using it on MetaFilter (and am happy to do so in the future) but it's not something that would make me blink if I read it and I do at least try to keep an eye out for that kind of stuff.

Getting comments deleted from AskMe if they aren't substantially about answering the question seems totally standard though. Appending a usage reminder like this to an answer sounds fine to me, but if I made a comment that was only correcting someone's usage and not at all about answering the question, I'd expect that it very likely would be deleted. If I made a bunch of corrective comments I'd expect them to definitely get deleted and that I'd probably get a talking-to from the mods, as well. Green threads are supposed stay more narrowly on-topic than blue ones.

That said I'm fine with this MeTa. I support the ongoing project to remove hurtful language from our conversations here on MeFi. I don't think that it being more offensive in the UK than the US makes a difference in terms of what should be acceptable here; our userbase and our audience is global, even if in practice most of us are from the US.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:43 AM on October 24, 2018 [14 favorites]


Canadian/American, with a bit of a background in this area due to my profession. I know not to use that word, but many, many around me do not. Raising the profile of the reason not to use it is a good thing.
posted by wellred at 8:46 AM on October 24, 2018 [18 favorites]


It's kind of the reverse of how you guys (UK and AUS) freely use the C word because it doesn't have the same connotations there as it does in the US. (Not saying it should be an acceptable word to use on MeFi; just explaining the disparity.)
posted by Atom Eyes at 8:48 AM on October 24, 2018 [13 favorites]


I think this varies wildly - I'm in the US and grew up with "spaz" as a cheerful childhood insult but it's been many years since I considered it anything but offensive. I would be really happy to see it NOT used on Metafilter.
posted by Stacey at 8:53 AM on October 24, 2018 [30 favorites]


"Spaz" is absolutely not okay, and I'm...startled that it's even being discussed as a possibility.
posted by scrump at 9:12 AM on October 24, 2018 [35 favorites]


It doesn't have the same association in the US. Same way I can use fanny in the US in mixed company and I would at best be looked at as a bit old-fashioned and twee as it refers to a totally different body part in the US.
posted by asteria at 9:15 AM on October 24, 2018 [6 favorites]


It used to be a cheerful playground insult. There's a character and an entire scene devoted to it in the movie Meatballs. But like "retarded," it's changed interpretation and isn't hunky-dory. Even Weird Al Yankovic knows it.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:16 AM on October 24, 2018 [8 favorites]


For folks who don't know, in the US "spaz" doesn't have the offensive connotation,

In Canada it's offensive. While I think we should be kind to the OP, in terms of moderators, any literate, thinking adult should be able to understand that "spaz" is unacceptable, and should not hide behind "in the US it's different." I don't believe this is true at all.
posted by JamesBay at 9:17 AM on October 24, 2018 [15 favorites]


Yeah plus there's that word which Brits seem to define as basically "a person" but which as an American I'm not even comfortable using in quotation marks.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:18 AM on October 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


Where/when I grew up in the US the term applied to mechanical devices rather than people, similar to 'on the fritz.' Anyway, TIL.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 9:21 AM on October 24, 2018 [3 favorites]


Well, it would like like someone "freaking out", so, yeah, not nice, better adjectives out there.
posted by clavdivs at 9:22 AM on October 24, 2018


For folks who don't know, in the US "spaz" doesn't have the offensive connotation, but in the UK it's a very offensive term.

...which is why the question should be edited.

And frankly, I don't think it doesn't have the offensive connotation in the US. It's just not as publicized, because it's used much less in the US.
posted by Etrigan at 9:22 AM on October 24, 2018 [9 favorites]


There's a character and an entire scene devoted to it in the movie Meatballs.

In retrospect, this should have clued us in that there was something problematic about that word, because everything about that movie is problematic.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:22 AM on October 24, 2018 [10 favorites]


It's news to me that it doesn't have a negative connotation in the U.S. Pretty much every time I've heard someone say it it's been accompanied by one of those awful impersonations of people with cerebral palsy that people do.
posted by edeezy at 9:40 AM on October 24, 2018 [22 favorites]


It used to be a cheerful playground insult.

Um, no it wasn't? At least not in the US. It was an insult, to be sure, but it was not cheerful, and it has always been hateful.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:15 AM on October 24, 2018 [15 favorites]


For folks who don't know, in the US "spaz" doesn't have the offensive connotation,

Respectfully, as a person who grew up in the US, I disagree, I was often told by adults that it was not a nice word and was socialized not to use it. I'm almost-50; my parents were not Hippies or radical progressives, and we lived in a variety of US states.

It may not have been a widely-understood or known hateful origin, but in the US calling a person a "spaz" was precisely like like calling people or things "tards" or "retarded". Just most kids did not get in trouble for it.

At any rate, I appreciate any and all efforts to removed ableist slurs and gendered insults from Metafilter.
posted by crush at 10:31 AM on October 24, 2018 [32 favorites]


Growing up in the 90s and 00s in southern California, the most frequent context I heard it in was as equivalent to klutz, clumsy, or scatterbrained, as in "oh my gosh, I'm such a spaz, sorry!" I learned it was an offensive slur in the UK only once I was on the internet as a teenager, after participating in forums with a lot of people from the UK or other Commonwealth countries. I'd wager the vast majority of Americans have no idea it's a really offensive term in the UK, nor any idea of its origins, so maybe give Americans some benefit of the doubt here. I think this is largely a genuine difference in language/dialect. Here's a Language Log article that gives a brief history of the US use of the word, which I think makes it clear it's rude here in the US, but not actually widely known as a slur. (And, blast from the past, reminds me that Tiger Woods got in trouble in the UK media for using the word in 2006 in just such a US vs. UK English misunderstanding.)

Obviously best not to use the word, I know I don't any more, just pointing out that this is likely a genuine issue of ignorance on the part of most American English speakers.
posted by yasaman at 10:43 AM on October 24, 2018 [24 favorites]


I wouldn’t use it (American).
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:44 AM on October 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't use it. It has always been on par with retard/retarded in terms of offensiveness.
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:58 AM on October 24, 2018 [3 favorites]


For folks who don't know, in the US "spaz" doesn't have the offensive connotation

It certainly does to this lifelong US resident. You are not the spokesperson for all of us.
posted by enn at 11:02 AM on October 24, 2018 [10 favorites]


It sounds like I was generalizing too much and there are probably regional or time variations in the US about what it meant. My childhood experience was of it having no connotation of disability at all, just one of excess energy, but sounds like that's not everyone's experience of it.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:08 AM on October 24, 2018 [34 favorites]


For folks who don't know, in the US "spaz" doesn't have the offensive connotation

It certainly does to this lifelong US resident. You are not the spokesperson for all of us.


And it doesn't have the offensive connotation for this lifelong US resident. It's a rude playground insult and because I am aware of its uses in other cultures I have not used it since about the fourth grade. "No one person is able to be the spokesperson for all of us" cuts both ways.

Please understand that I am advocating for its non-use here on MF, nonetheless, as a kindness to those who use it (and similar words) differently.
posted by Liesl at 11:09 AM on October 24, 2018 [12 favorites]


Yea, it wasn't offensive in my schoolyard raising (American South as if it matters). It could have been a synonym of badass, rebel, person-who-marches-to-the-beat-of-their-own-drum or it could be a synonym for other words that were less kind that we don't use on metafilter. Of course, it could be used in an offensive manner, but, like many words, it wasn't cut and dry and relied on context, setting, and intonation.

If it's problematic I'm fine with us moving towards not using it because, yea, why not. Doubly so if it's cut and dry offensive in other countries.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:20 AM on October 24, 2018 [3 favorites]


So, have we passed whatever the threshold is of "Number of Americans who think the word is offensive" that we can edit it out of the question already?
posted by Etrigan at 11:20 AM on October 24, 2018 [15 favorites]


It used to be a cheerful playground insult.

I would agree with the above in the sense that it was used exactly as "retard" or "faggot" were used as cheerful playground insult. As mentioned above, almost always hand in hand with someone doing a trump-style impression.

I grew up in the midwestern US, and lived the last 17 years in Canada. I would agree that it's less offensive around here, only because it's so very rarely heard. Outside of possibly some regional area where it might have applied only to machines, 5 seconds of reflection is probably all that's required for one to realize that yeah, it's always been meant to be offensive, cheerful playground insults were often not actually meant as kind, and times have changed.

Again, excluding possible weird regional issues I don't think the definition/meaning of these words have changed. I remember being young and quite easily picking up from other's context the meanings of said words.
posted by nobeagle at 11:25 AM on October 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


It's surprising to me that it is claimed to be more offensive in the UK, given it's only been 20-odd years since most towns had a "spastics shop" to support the leading CP society. I can't imagine that ever would have been ok in Canada, for example.

In any case, yes it's offensive enough now in the English speaking world and should be removed.

Similarly I saw pushback against "libtard" as well today on the site, which is an unfortunate term even if used ironically.
posted by Rumple at 11:34 AM on October 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


I've edited the question, with some reservations because avoiding unilateral edits has been a major point of policy over the years but deleting a question over a stumble on dialectal differences in a passing description also feels weirdly blunt in this case. I think there's a complicated line to try and draw in the space between trying to resolve high-visibility missteps in a MeFite's word choice and not getting into an expectation that we're going to routinely and unilaterally edit stuff by third party request, which is why it took some mod discussion to decide where to go on this this morning. But I'm just making a call toward flexibility on this one, and can talk it out with the original asker if they're uncomfortable with it after the fact.

All that mod praxis stuff aside: yeah, in general, folks should indeed just avoid using the word on the site. People aren't always going to know this, see the wide variety of reported experience of use and awareness above, so extending a bit of benefit of the doubt while also flagging/contact form is probably the right balance there, but it is totally fine to flag and hit up the contact form, and the occasional MetaTalk discussion about it is fine too.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:40 AM on October 24, 2018 [8 favorites]


Previously. It was actually pretty eye-opening for most American users.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:01 PM on October 24, 2018 [7 favorites]


(Actually, read that thread at your own peril as it went south in a stupid way because the OP made some apeshit comments.)
posted by Burhanistan at 12:04 PM on October 24, 2018 [3 favorites]


Yikes. Reading the comments in a 2010 MeFi thread is like stumbling across a high school yearbook photo of yourself proudly sporting a shiny new mullet.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:23 PM on October 24, 2018 [40 favorites]


I grew up hearing my parents use it to mean some mash-up of clumsy and hyper. Or to refer to an inanimate object malfunctioning as the OP did in the linked question. I only learned of the offensive and hurtful connotations here on Metafilter - probably in the thread Burhanistan linked. I stopped using it then and have also told other people not to use it. It's definitely good to keep pushing back on it when it comes up here, because I genuinely didn't know it was a slur before Mefi told me, and I can't be the only one.
posted by the turtle's teeth at 12:23 PM on October 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


Off the top of my head, so: Until relatively recently in the UK, Spastic was the accepted term for someone with cerebral palsy (that is to say, accepted by everyone except probably people with cerebral palsy: it was an official term). So the national charity looking after the interests of that community were the Spastic Society, for example, who changed their name to Scope in 1994, and expanded their remit.

So when I was a child, Spazz was definitely a term of abuse that negatively contrasted one with a person with cerebral palsy, just as Mong (short for Mongol, and beloved of Ricky Gervaise) compared one to someone with Down Syndrome.

What complicates the word "spastic" is that it is a medical term that refers to the muscle spasms suffered by people with cerebral palsy along with other spasms (for example in the colon) that might be experienced by any patient, and so could be a perfectly accurate description of someone's physical movements (for example, my attempts at dancing) while not reflecting on people with cerebral palsy at all, were it not for the the fact that its previous signification lurks toad-like in the communal memory. A physician might use the word without prejudice (and it might be the most appropriate word for them to use), but for the rest of us that ship has not only sailed, but its passengers have long since moved on to sending back postcards from their destination.
posted by Grangousier at 12:37 PM on October 24, 2018 [26 favorites]


Thanks for that clarification, Grangousier. I recently purchased Christopher Nolan's Dam Burst of Dreams and he used the term "spastic" to refer to himself, but now after reading your comment, it makes sense to me.
posted by 4ster at 12:53 PM on October 24, 2018


Physicians might have to change their language the same as the rest of us.
posted by Rumple at 1:37 PM on October 24, 2018


I had no idea this had this connotation. It's used as an adjective here, usually self descriptive in my case, IE "spazzing out" such as when one has had too much coffee and not enough to do.

I don't use it very often and won't miss it.

Someone once recently had to call me out on "I got gypped" w/r/t something unimportant and totally spaced out on the actual origin of the term and word as a racist epithet, and I haven't used it since.

English is a definitely a language of the conquerors and the conquered, the oppressors and the oppresed - and it's rife with idiomatic landmines like these.
posted by loquacious at 1:37 PM on October 24, 2018 [20 favorites]


Another 'merican datapoint -- I possibly would use it in certain rough company as I loudly drop a bunch of pots and pans and then trip over them making a hilariously embarrassing scene, but although oblivious to most subtleties as a young'n it was never a polite bit of slang.
posted by sammyo at 2:06 PM on October 24, 2018


Off the top of my head, so: Until relatively recently in the UK, Spastic was the accepted term for someone with cerebral palsy (that is to say, accepted by everyone except probably people with cerebral palsy: it was an official term). So the national charity looking after the interests of that community were the Spastic Society, for example, who changed their name to Scope in 1994, and expanded their remit.

Just to add to this, the history of this term is a partly explained by looking at it through the lens of the medical model of disability (tl;dr - generally seen as disempowering and shitty, and which stands in opposition to the social model). The social model isn't the only way to think about disability (and there's been a whole lot of ferment about its meaning and how to apply it since its coinage - it's been around as a term since around 1983, more on it and how it's developed here) but it's an important one.

Anyhoo.

This is a helpful discussion to have, because it seems there's a variety of understandings and misconceptions around the term in question, its history, and its usage that are being brought to the surface.

So yeah, a hard "nope" on "spaz." It's not too hard to figure out when you think about it.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:13 PM on October 24, 2018 [8 favorites]


Physicians might have to change their language the same as the rest of us.

That seems like a curious over-reaction, though: the word "spastic" is a technical term that precisely describes the condition it's intended to encompass - something like a muscle that's prone to intermittent spasms - and I'd be very surprised if the word in itself was offensive to people with cerebral palsy (although, please, person with cerebral palsy do tell me I'm wrong). As a descriptor for those people I would think it was problematic because it reduced them to a superficial symptom (rather than referring to the condition itself). The abbreviation "spazz" in the past - not a technical term - mocked people with cerebral palsy by using them as an insult and that word simply exists as an insult. The debate here is over whether people realised that it historically stems from referring to people with cerebral palsy rather than just the generally uncoordinated and twitchy.

In the same way "Paki" is simply an abbreviation of "Pakistani", but in the UK the people who would use that abbreviation, at least when I was young, would be using it in a context of expressing their extreme disapproval of people from the Indian subcontinent in general: the abbreviation became an insult by association despite not being in itself insulting. People from outside that context (for example from the U.S. or Australia) who might use the abbreviation have been warned off it in case they appear to be adopting the attitude of old racists, and because people hearing it might perceive unintended threat. But the word from which it derives - Pakistani - is still perfectly usable.
posted by Grangousier at 2:27 PM on October 24, 2018 [13 favorites]


It's surprising to me that it is claimed to be more offensive in the UK, given it's only been 20-odd years since most towns had a "spastics shop" to support the leading CP society.

Nthing that there's was a vast difference between the word spastic (which was at one time a commonly used, generally inoffensive term for CP) and the word spaz, which was exclusively a term of extreme offence and mockery.
posted by penguin pie at 2:29 PM on October 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


American 30-something here. The word under discussion was not one that got (personally! anecdotally!) push back from teachers and parents when we used it. I'm sort of remembering that a few adults actually uttered it themselves?

I don't think that 90% of my peers in the 90s through the 00s knew it to be alternate name for an actual disease. At the time, we did know that a "spasm" was an uncontrolled gross-motor twitch (not in those words, naturally), or maybe that they were something slightly more serious, like a cramp? A painful twitch that lead to a cramp?

Clearly it's now inadmissible to everyone who thinks kindness is a good idea, but there was a whole 20-30 years where honestly good American-type people may very plausibly have not thought of it as a slur. I'd like to say that time has passed for even the general public, but the word seems to have fallen out of fashion rather than having been agreed upon as being hurtful.

also that previous thread SHEESH-WILLIKERS

I would definitely say flying is better. no thinking, all soaring.

french toast ftw.

posted by wires at 2:32 PM on October 24, 2018 [4 favorites]


hey yeah, let's just not use that word.
posted by nikaspark at 2:37 PM on October 24, 2018 [4 favorites]


I'm 49 and though I do remember it being used as a playground insult, I would never call it "inoffensive;" it was definitely of the category of playground insults rooted in hate and ignorance that are now roundly called out for the slurs they are. After 30 years in the education field where this word is not ok, I am startled that people are still using it or consider it inoffensive. It is not recommended language and, if anyone was unaware that it can be hurtful, I hope this serves as a good introduction to that fact.
posted by Miko at 2:45 PM on October 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


That seems like a curious over-reaction, though: the word "spastic" is a technical term that precisely describes the condition it's intended to encompass - something like a muscle that's prone to intermittent spasms - and I'd be very surprised if the word in itself was offensive to people with cerebral palsy (although, please, person with cerebral palsy do tell me I'm wrong).

Well the "Spastic Society" changed their name so that suggests it's not as clinical a word as someone might wish. I think one could find plenty of examples where words which might be technically correct are nonetheless unhelpful or offensive. I mean, you could say that "moron" has a technical medical definition and is useful so let's let doctors use it. In any case I don't think it is as precise as all that, muscles can spasm for a lot of reasons and "palsy" is probably a better term with regard to CP. In any case medicine is full of acronyms and one more won't kill them. In fact, it's good for doctors to occasionally take note of the social context of language.
posted by Rumple at 3:11 PM on October 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


there's that word which the Brits seem to define as basically "a person"

For clarity, the trope that the c-word is acceptable in British English is utter fucking bullshit.

It's still by far the most offensive word in the language even though there are a very few registers in which it is commonly used by (mainly) men to address (mainly) men. I was in my 30s the first time I ever heard the c-word addressed against a woman and was shocked.

And I can't remember the last time I overheard it being used in public, except when shouted. The c-word is still extremely taboo in British English.
posted by ambrosen at 3:33 PM on October 24, 2018 [29 favorites]


Seconding everything ambrosen says.

And additionally, it's always felt to me that the "but it gets used in laddish banter" justification is usually a self-serving "and so I should be allowed to use it here too". No; context matters. It's used in laddish banter -- "allright, c**t?" -- precisely because it's taboo in all other contexts.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 3:48 PM on October 24, 2018 [15 favorites]


There are wider issues around Scope's name change, not least why it took them so long to get round to it, tied in with the way they did/do work with the medical vs social models of disability. Which is to say they leaned much more to the "for disabled people" than the "of disabled people" and there is still a lot of mistrust of the organisation because of that amongst disabled people.

I'm glad that spaz is no longer acceptable on Metafilter. The contrast in how it was dealt with compared to cunt was one of the many reminders that the site was US-centric and made it a less comfortable place for me as a Brit to be. (There was a FFP earlier this year/last year which had spaz in the title which was edited, so this isn't a recent change).
posted by Helga-woo at 4:13 PM on October 24, 2018 [7 favorites]


It varies, obviously, even in the US. My 26-year-old daughter, her boyfriend, and their friends playfully call each other "spaz" or not when another is "spazzing out".

It was common to hear when I was a teenager in the late '80s, early '90s. I'm not saying any particular side is right or wrong, but clearly, the term varies meaning within the United States. Just mentioning as an "Oh, isn't language and meaning fascinating in how it varies".
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:44 PM on October 24, 2018 [4 favorites]


It was common to hear when I was a teenager in the late '80s, early '90s. I'm not saying any particular side is right or wrong, but clearly, the term varies meaning within the United States.

Yeah this was my nickname in high school in the 80s, among people who did not hate or even dislike me, just because I had extra energy and was exciteable. This is not a word I use any more, just offering another data point.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 5:11 PM on October 24, 2018 [26 favorites]


Internationally-sensitive moderation? Oh yes.

Remember to tip your mods well, because you won't find this on reddit.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 5:14 PM on October 24, 2018 [12 favorites]


I grew up knowing it as a synonym for "ditz" with absolutely zero awareness of any association with a disability. I only know of that connotation from the previous MetaTalk thread, and I'm almost certain I never would have found out otherwise. I think changing the wording in the question was a good call, but regardless of whether "every American" does or doesn't know about the offensive connotation, I can definitely tell you that lots and lots of Americans have never been made aware of it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:29 PM on October 24, 2018 [14 favorites]


It got commonly used as a joke to describe people who were clumsy/high-energy, yes, but the word came into that colloquial use as a mocking comparison to people with uncontrollable body spasms. There is just no way to make that a kind, harmless word. Like “retard” and “gyp” and “fag,” it is the kind of usage that is offensive even if the people using it have no idea of the derivation and don’t know it’s offensive. But that is just an ignorance of the context and derivation of the word - not evidence in itself that a word specifically intended to mock with a comparison to disabled people is just fine. There’s no way to declare it universally not offensive, just that in certain contexts people using the word didn’t realize it came into usage to mock friends precisely because it was once definitely intended to offend.
posted by Miko at 5:35 PM on October 24, 2018 [10 favorites]


Kinda sorry for kicking things off with the "As an American, I…" stuff. It doesn't really matter. What matters is that it's a word that hurts people. I don't even think there's much disagreement about that—not seeing a lot of folks here trying to defend its use—so maybe our personal takes on the word itself aren't super relevant.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:18 PM on October 24, 2018 [6 favorites]


Yeah, some Americans didn't know it was an offensive word, some Americans did, and all present have agreed not to use it. This is really pretty smooth sailing, as far as this kind of MeTa goes.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 6:22 PM on October 24, 2018 [7 favorites]


I'd still prefer a deletion of the question with invitation to repost (all or nothing, pretty much), but I guess it's not like questions haven't been edited before.
posted by ODiV at 6:25 PM on October 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


Offensive; full stop
posted by soakimbo at 6:39 PM on October 24, 2018


It's always been an offensive word to me, and I'm glad to see it not be used here.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 7:17 PM on October 24, 2018


Perhaps it's fairer to say that, in the US, it hasn't had the same universally, unequivocally offensive connotation it has in the UK and other parts of the Anglophone world.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:22 AM on October 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


As an Australian kid in the late 1960s through the 1970s, it was common for me to hear medical adverbs get nouned and applied to people in a defining fashion. So a person with poor muscular control, possibly due to cerebral palsy or the aftereffects of polio, was "a spastic"; a person with schizophrenia was "a schizophrenic"; a person with epilepsy was "an epileptic"; a person with diabetes was "a diabetic" and so forth. That was normal adult usage, and it didn't start being widely understood as an offensive way to dismiss, other and categorize people until maybe the late 80s to early 90s.

In the playground it was a different matter. "Spastic" was always an insult: the standard idiom was "ya fucken spastic". It didn't have a precise meaning - you could accuse anybody of being a fucken spastic for pretty much any reason whatsoever - but it always carried a fairly heavy connotation of being in some way mentally deficient as well as unacceptably clumsy.

We also didn't say "spaz out", though "chuck a spaz" was often used to mean "throw a spectacular tantrum".

Having recently spent a dozen playground-adjacent years as a school IT technician, I can report that both "spaz" and "spastic" are now only rarely heard in Australian schools. Anybody who would once have been a fucken spastic is now a fucken idiot instead (possibly due to the influence of this long-running TAC campaign) and "chuck a spaz" has been superseded by "skitz out".

I can't think of any good reason why any of these schoolyard utterances deserve to be in general use on MeFi.
posted by flabdablet at 5:42 AM on October 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


As far as terms for losing thy shit in a spectacular tantrum I like “he lost his rag!” as something that’s clever without being ableist. (So far as I’ve researched the term...)
posted by nikaspark at 6:20 AM on October 25, 2018


There’s also “you chucked your toys out of the Pram, mate.”
posted by nikaspark at 6:22 AM on October 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


He's got the screamin' ab dabs.
posted by lucidium at 6:51 AM on October 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


"Cracked the sads" is my current favourite.
posted by flabdablet at 6:58 AM on October 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


"Off the rails" comes from trains. I also use "ridiculous" all the time now, so much that it no longer has to replace anything, it's just what I use.
posted by wellred at 7:04 AM on October 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


*sigh* US here, it's an ableist word, and I'm further depressed I even need to show up to say this but yes, it's ableist and not okay.
posted by odinsdream at 7:24 AM on October 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


It's ok for people to simply not know things if they correct themselves after they learn, isn't it? I don't see anybody saying it isn't abilist, just that they didn't know it was.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:35 AM on October 25, 2018 [25 favorites]


As far as terms for losing thy shit in a spectacular tantrum I like “he lost his rag!” as something that’s clever without being ableist. (So far as I’ve researched the term...)

The first time I ever heard this phrase was on GBBO, when Paul Hollywood said it to hijab-wearing contestant Nadiya Hussain. I did quite the double-take before I checked and realized it had nothing to do with the slur...
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:38 AM on October 25, 2018


I heard spaz used a lot as a kid to mean something like "energetic ditz". I didn't know of any other meaning until this thread (I also haven't even heard it used since I was a teen 25 years ago). From now on, I will definitely be more aware that it is an issue.

Someone above mentioned that "freaked out" is also considered offensive now? Is that true? Who does it refer to/offend? I do use that one (about myself) sometimes.
posted by mkuhnell at 10:04 AM on October 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


I'm in Canada, was long aware it was offensive, but I spent a lot of time in the UK as a kid. I always assumed it was more readily apparent that the word was offensive in the UK precisely because the UK used "spastic" to refer to individuals with CP in a non-insulting way (e.g the charity shop) - so the connection to spaz was easier to draw. I can't recall ever hearing someone called "spastic" in North America except as meaning clumsy-hyper, so there was no common non-insult usage to tip you off that hey, this work actually refers to something other than the set of things I map it onto (e.g. clumsy/hyper). Obviously others may have had other experiences, and yes, it's great that we not use it, and since not everyone is getting this memo, that we flag / comment and move it to Meta.
posted by girlpublisher at 1:09 PM on October 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


It was only non-offensive in America in the way that "gypped" was non-offensive, in the sense that the word had become unmoored. It's origins are in the medical phrase spastic, and whether this referred to cerebral palsy (as in Britain) or not, it always was a medical description of a temporary or permanent disability. It was therefore always ablest, even if we didn't think about or realize the origins of the word.

Americans still use it without realizing its origins, and of course we aren't all etymologists so we don't always realize. But a good rule of thumb is that if a word is mocking or depreciating, even if it is self-mocking or self-depreciating, there is a better-than-average chance that we won't like where the word came from when we look into it.
posted by maxsparber at 1:31 PM on October 25, 2018 [7 favorites]


It doesn't have the same association in the US.

Maybe don't speak for all 320,000,000 of us?

It's always been a terrible insult and a not-to-use-lightly word among the people I grew up with and my current friends.
posted by tzikeh at 1:44 PM on October 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


On another note, I have never understood the push-back we get on MetaTalk when an OP is just "Word X is offensive, and I think it would be good for the community to move away from using it."

English has about 250,000 commonly used words (if you add in arcane words, skill-specific jargon, and different senses, we get near 750k). So many choices to find exactly what you want to say, and usually in a much more colorful and creative way.

Arguing that for the right to use the handful of words the site has discussed and eventually chosen to avoid over the almost-20 years the site has existed just makes you look like you want to be cruel.
posted by tzikeh at 1:52 PM on October 25, 2018


I don't think (unlike previous, similarly-structured MetaTalks) anyone is arguing for the continued use of this word - they're trying to explain why someone might use it in good faith and ignorance. Knowing what words mean to different groups in different context is useful for helping to determine intent, even if we all generally agree that more people should be in the "knows the hurtful connotations of this word" group.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:20 PM on October 25, 2018 [6 favorites]


Sorry, I was very unclear - the "on another note" was a poor way of saying "in the past in posts likes these...". Apologies.
posted by tzikeh at 3:12 PM on October 25, 2018


He's got the screamin' ab dabs.

I had always understood the screaming abdabs to be much the same thing as the howling fantods; more of a hooting and gibbering in abject fear than a violent expression of dissatisfaction.
posted by flabdablet at 8:18 PM on October 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


American physician here. Spastic does indeed have a very specific meaning in the medical literature which only describes musculoskeletal condition and does not imply cerebral palsy or cognitive dysfunction in any way although those conditions may co-exist.

Spaz is one of those words that I grew up not considering at all but have learned to think differently about because people on Metafilter have shared what it meant personally for them as a target. Yeah, nothing about it is worth the dehumanizing effect it has on members of your community.

Interestingly, it opens the door to question the use of lots of other words. Obvious ones like “retarded” and “gay” but less obvious ones too.”Psycho.” “Bonkers.” “Manic.” Not the same level of line crossing in 2018 as “Spaz” but it’s important to be thoughtful with words.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:55 PM on October 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


I hadnt heard this word used in any context other than ditz (I never heard it as a child as an insult worth remembering) in the southern US.

I consider myself to be pretty on top of these word things and this is news to me. So, I'm with the politely correct, educate and move on approach here.

Thanks for the language update.
posted by AlexiaSky at 12:29 AM on October 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


To not abuse the edit function: what I mean by not an insult worth remembering is that my brain never coded it an insult so I don't remember it as one? Like I clearly remember bad words used in school and that's just not one of them for me. It's possible it was used as one and I never caught it
posted by AlexiaSky at 12:32 AM on October 26, 2018


Interestingly, it opens the door to question the use of lots of other words. Obvious ones like “retarded” and “gay” but less obvious ones too.”Psycho.” “Bonkers.” “Manic.”

This made me look up "bonkers," which seems to have a mysterious origin and is (to me anyway) surprisingly recent, but doesn't seem to have a direct derivation from the world of mental health. But I totally agree with the point. Once you stop and consider which words have been used to insult or exaggerate, it's startling how many are directly drawn from characteristics or identities and repurposed to make a comparison intending to be derogatory. I recall an interesting discussion here about the phrase "Indian giver," in which I shared the earlier connotations of the seemingly innocuous phrase "peanut gallery." These words are everywhere, embedded throughout our language, and are evidence of a society that has been pretty thoughtless about human dignity, respect and inclusion until extremely recently. It's true that when people first learn them they have often become "unmoored" (great word) in our consciousness from their discriminatory origins and we don't always understand their baggage. But those origins are there, they are the very logic for the language, and so for me they fall into the category of "know better, do better." There's no good argument that the words themselves weren't offensive, just that we and/or our communities were unaware of their roots in the intent to disparage until someone called us on them, whether we were 8 or 88 when that happened.
posted by Miko at 4:46 AM on October 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


Just wanted to say that while “spaz” is a word I knew was offensive, I’ve appreciated Metafilter as a place that has helped me learn things that I didn’t know and has helped me hopefully avoid saying things that are offensive. I’m sure I still screw up a lot - so those of you who have taught me and will teach me: thank you.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:47 AM on October 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


During my 80s childhood, 'spaz' was a term used to describe how the one kid on ritalin sometimes acted in class and on the schoolbus, but I don't think this is about maintaining a list of particular words per se, it's more about trying to avoid casting identity or characteristics in a negative way, including as an insult or tease.

Loquacious notes how 'gypped' is not cool; I think it's related to how casually using an identity-based descriptor as an insult is part of how implicit bias works.

I also think we could do well to not be so cruel about people's appearances, even if we politically disagree with them. I think there is a lot of work to be done in our culture to unlearn the habit of resorting to immutable characteristics to insult/demean/discredit someone, but conversations like these can help.
posted by Little Dawn at 8:34 AM on October 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


Add me to the people who think spaz is ableist and should be avoided when possible.

US. Late 30s. Other demographic information available upon request.
posted by gauche at 9:24 AM on October 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Absolutely ableist, absolutely should not be used, I personally have not used it in many years (and never did much.) It seems so readily apparent from here, but if you got to the word the other way (Meatballs, the playground, etc etc etc) that connection is maybe not as obvious until pointed out. I totally agree that this is worth discussion, because I am pretty certain that there are people reading this thread who have not made this connection. But it's worth noting that using the word, for Americans of a certain age, particularly, is not indicative of bad faith or mal-intent.

Also, glad to see in that thread from so long ago I was talking about dog butts and the Bristol Scale. Oh, me. You haven't changed a bit.
posted by dirtdirt at 10:26 AM on October 26, 2018


Can we please, please, I am begging y'all here, stop using the various slurs that this is kind of like? The F one and the G one and the R one have all been brought up, and it does no one any good to have them pop up again.
posted by Etrigan at 10:39 AM on October 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


It's hard to talk about this without identifying which specific word we're talking about; I used a G one because I have found that so many people are unfamiliar with the connotations, and unlikely to recognize it by the first letter alone. I did pull descriptive examples from my comment in a related AskMe, but over here in MeTa, I feel like this is a place where we can look closer at the innards of this phenomenon. I'm not sure what the alternative is, but I would be happy to hear ideas.
posted by Little Dawn at 10:56 AM on October 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I should have added in my previous comment that discussing the history of a slur didn't mean I was endorsing or condoning its use, which I'm not and don't.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:01 AM on October 26, 2018


It's hard to talk about this without identifying which specific word we're talking about

You were the fourth different person to use that particular one, and literally dozens of people have used the word that was specifically identified as a slur in the post.

It's great that you feel comfortable using it as an example of "the innards of the phenomenon", but these words are denigrations of disabilities and ethnicities and orientations and people, and maybe some of those people simply don't like reading those words over and over and over again just because you feel like digging into the issue in a properly academic manner.
posted by Etrigan at 11:07 AM on October 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


Etrigan, please assume my good faith in this, especially because we are on the same team here. It's not comfortable for me to use it as an example, but I'm not sure how else to have an uncomfortable discussion about how to deal with this phenonmenon, which I see as larger than individual words. I mean no disrespect to you, and I surely will be reflecting on your reaction and comments as I think about how to inclusively talk about something I think is extremely important and really don't want to get lost in a fight amongst ourselves.
posted by Little Dawn at 11:34 AM on October 26, 2018


I'm not sure how else to have an uncomfortable discussion about how to deal with this phenonmenon, which I see as larger than individual words.

If the discussion is larger than individual words then perhaps it can be had without mentioning individual words.
posted by edeezy at 11:45 AM on October 26, 2018


Etrigan, please assume my good faith in this, especially because we are on the same team here.

As a general rule, people should stop acting like they're already on the same team and should start acting like they want to be on the same team.
posted by Errant at 11:54 AM on October 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


and yet the gray seems to be enough of a rough-and-tumble free speech zone that we can leave a word, identified as offensive by many, like "spaz" up in the above-the-fold title, where such a word would be deleted from a similar place in an AskMe post, a thing that recently occurred

As a general rule, people should stop acting like they're already on the same team and should start acting like they want to be on the same team.

nobody here is the Team Captain
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:00 PM on October 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


I agree entirely.
posted by Errant at 12:11 PM on October 26, 2018


I am trying to act like I want to be on the same team, and I surely don't think I'm the team captain. I'm also someone who has recently gone through a looking glass of attorney, advocate, and educator, into a world where people now recoil from my disfigured appearance, so I've been in the midst of a lot of reflection about how it feels to be discriminated against based on characteristics beyond my control, and at least for now, I'm not willing to be bullied off this site for trying to participate in good faith in a conversation about how to make things more open and inclusive for everyone.
posted by Little Dawn at 12:11 PM on October 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


I grew up with this as a harmless even playful jibe, synonym of goofball.

But Having worked for a UK based firm I learned that it had a totally different cultural context. Much like my London counterparts learned there is essentially no acceptable use of the C-word in the US.
posted by French Fry at 1:13 PM on October 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


Another just data point, U.S. 70's kid from the Appalachians. Spaz was just the excess of energy thing. The swimmer who jumps out and does some crazy thing off the diving board when the coach steps away is being 'Spaz'. That engine that keeps running for a few seconds after you turn it off is 'Spazzing'. My long time through middle and high school friend who drew a picture of Wolverine and wore it as a mask all through class (as a senior!) was 'being a Spaz'. Really at this time an place there was no cable tv, there was no real (what would be considered normal either in big citys or decades later) specificity in mental/physical diagnosis. The idea that Spaz was anything relating to some now-known condition just wasn't in place. Spaz would be more relatable to a muscle spazm or charlie horse than some serious thing.

I'd mostly only think to use it nowadays when referring to machinery doing something out of expectations that doesn't reach the stage of 'on the fritz' which is more towards actually broken.
posted by zengargoyle at 1:33 PM on October 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


Why is anyone still thinking they need to drop by with their own childhood anecdote about whether or not they grew up using whatever insult as a mark of deep abiding friendship? That isn't adding any information or depth to the conversation. It's like doing recipes while pretending to still be on topic.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 6:31 PM on October 26, 2018 [7 favorites]


Maybe people are sharing anecdotes because self-reflection can be a part of understanding new concepts and processing new information. Personally, I think it is interesting to see such a wide range of experiences with language and culture.

I regret being so quick to comment earlier without more research, because terms like 'Cheeto' and 'Manchurian Combover' for you-know-who are in circulation all over the place, but I hadn't remembered that it included Metafilter.

Even well before I learned I needed surgery, I have cringed when people make light of you-know-who's physical characteristics, including because I think it's not that long a road from that kind of teasing to bullying and discrimination. I think it is awful that we have an elected leader who does it on a regular basis, and I don't think it justifies the same kind of behavior in return. But I'm trying to point out a disconnect in our culture, not condemn people for being a part of it.

I seriously could not tell if my recent FPP was being trolled by some of the comments, or whether it was the culture that just generates so much fear, uncertainty, and doubt about such a controversial topic. So I just kept posting educational resources in response, basically because I think our culture has a way of implicitly trolling us, but I also think we can counter it, especially if we don't take the bait to be divisive and confrontational.
That’s why it’s so critical to step up and do what you can to defend or empower the most marginalized people in our society. But in the end, the power to change online culture is not reliant solely on our ability to engage or explain, but on something outside of our control: whether or not the other person can open their heart and listen.
posted by Little Dawn at 7:02 PM on October 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


Why is anyone still thinking they need to drop by with their own childhood anecdote about whether or not they grew up using whatever insult as a mark of deep abiding friendship?

Why did you feel the need to make this comment? It’s a discussion. And it seems to have achieved a near consensus that the word in question is unacceptable for casual use on this website. Which is pretty much the optimal outcome for this type of meta post. So, yay?
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:06 AM on October 27, 2018 [6 favorites]


"Spaz" is not considered offensive in the US, but it is in the UK. The reason? The legacy of thalidomide.
posted by KazamaSmokers at 5:32 AM on October 27, 2018


I regret being so quick to comment earlier without more research, because terms like 'Cheeto' and 'Manchurian Combover' for you-know-who are in circulation all over the place, but I hadn't remembered that it included Metafilter.

Even well before I learned I needed surgery, I have cringed when people make light of you-know-who's physical characteristics, including because I think it's not that long a road from that kind of teasing to bullying and discrimination.


Eh? I’m on record as finding Drumpf and tRump and so on childish and counterproductive (we’re not going to win in the battle of playground insults and we shouldn’t want to either) - but it is 100% acceptable to be mean about terrible people when you’re talking about their choices. Names aren’t a choice, and nor are some aspects of physical appearance, but “cheeto” refers to Trump’s fake tan and “manchurian combover” refers to, well, his atrocious combover. You could argue that it’s attacking Trump’s sallow, unhealthy complexion and his hair loss if you were really struggling to find a reason to get offended on his behalf, but it’s obvious that both epithets are attacking his boundless vanity, not some imaginary group of oppressed rich white guys who are struggling to grow old gracefully.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 11:31 AM on October 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


"Spaz" is not considered offensive in the US, but it is in the UK. The reason? The legacy of thalidomide.

No. Firstly, there’s a whole thread of people explaining that the term is offensive in the US too, and secondly thalidomide has nothing to do with the origin of the word.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 11:37 AM on October 27, 2018 [10 favorites]


You could argue that it’s attacking Trump’s sallow, unhealthy complexion and his hair loss if you were really struggling to find a reason to get offended on his behalf, but it’s obvious that both epithets are attacking his boundless vanity, not some imaginary group of oppressed rich white guys who are struggling to grow old gracefully.

I was a little worried that my comment might look like that, and I do tend to agree with the idea that it is different to 'punch up' than to 'punch down' onto an actually oppressed group. I also worry that the distinction is getting lost, and I think it could be helpful to keep talking about how things like bias and discrimination work - my basic concern is that if it is acceptable to imply negative personality characteristics based on Trump's sallow, unhealthy complexion and his hair loss, it may become more acceptable and more of a habit to judge others negatively based only on their appearance.
posted by Little Dawn at 12:31 PM on October 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


my basic concern is that if it is acceptable to imply negative personality characteristics based on Trump's sallow, unhealthy complexion and his hair loss, it may become more acceptable and more of a habit to judge others negatively based only on their appearance.

I think you have it backwards. If Trump was a benevolent Santa-Claus-like figure, giving away his massive inherited wealth, taking to the airwaves to encourage everyone to be good to each other, signing executive orders to have a 4-day work week and double Christmas, then nobody would be calling out his ludicrous appearance and terrible sartorial choices.

People are attacking the way he looks because he’s a giant piece of shit and they hate him.

They don’t hate him and think he’s a giant piece of shit because of the way he looks. It’s his words and actions that make people feel that way.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 1:25 PM on October 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


"As a general rule, people should stop acting like they're already on the same team and should start acting like they want to be on the same team."

As a general rule, people should stop treating words like they're magic and assuming that their team is Quiddich so none of us can say "Voldemort."

Metafilter users should be savvy enough to distinguish descriptive from normative use.
posted by klangklangston at 3:11 PM on October 27, 2018 [12 favorites]


Politely disagreeing. It's easy for me to tell other people not to be upset about something that doesn't upset me, but it's even easier to just not say the thing if they say it's upsetting.

Weaponized terms don't suddenly fail to be slurs when they're mentioned academically. While I think the standard MeFi protocol is "Hey if someone uses a slur one time because they're talking ABOUT it, not pointing it at someone, that should be okay and try to roll with it" but continuing to repeat terms that others have said are difficult or problematic for them over and over (aside from the actual topic of this particular MeTa) seems unnecessary.

Unless there's some slippery slope argument to be made about people's free speech rights to use slurs which, yes, sure, you certainly can use them but it's worth thinking about whether you should, which is the general topic we're all here to talk about anyhow.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 3:27 PM on October 27, 2018 [9 favorites]


Well, here's my little amusing/cringeworthy story, for what it's worth.

In the early 80's, before the days of the National Lottery etc. in the UK, there were various organisations selling lottery tickets door-to-door to regular customers, and I had a 'round' selling these to established customers. It was a business, with a bit over half of the money raised going to a charity, some sort of medical research fund. The remainder kept the business running. My cut was a few pence a ticket, which made up my £5 a week pocket money. Prior to my taking on the round, there'd been a different lottery covering the same area, and their money went to what's now called Scope (or possibly a similar charity). One of the few things about it I still remember (and it happened quite a lot) is ringing someone's doorbell, to have it answered by a surly teenager who shouted back into the house "Mum, it's the Spastics!"

So the word was in common use as a sort of catch-all term for people with severe motor/coordination disabilities. At the time I think it was a mostly-acceptable word among people who didn't know any better, although of course kids my age used it as a casual playground cruelty as well.

The progress since then has been remarkable. I think we tend to underestimate the extent to which the general population has a more nuanced understanding of disability. The sheer amount of cultural baggage we've shifted in just one or two generations is impressive. When I hear people from generations older than my own mutter things like "of course, you can't say that any more", it cheers me, sort of. I'm hoping my kids will end up rolling their eyes at me in a similar way in a decade or two - it'll mean they're doing something right, and that things are still moving forwards. I hope I'll still be open enough to listen to what they have to say.
posted by pipeski at 4:02 PM on October 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


I'll stop using the word 'spazz,' but it has never referred to anything even slightly negative in my world, at any point in my life. It has always been a synonym for creatively-fun-hyper, and was 100% a term of endearment in every instance I have ever heard it or used it. Ive been on this planet for 40+ years, and lived all over the world, and have only ever known the friendly 'hyper' interpretation of this world.. I'll freely admit I feel sad to lose an evocative onomatopoeia-y word for energetic and fun-hyper, which is all I assumed it was.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 6:38 PM on October 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


Well, maybe you can put your fun-hyper-creativity to use and invent a new word that fills the same niche for you? Not being snide here, by the way. I think you can do this.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:28 AM on October 28, 2018 [3 favorites]


One of the few things about it I still remember (and it happened quite a lot) is ringing someone's doorbell, to have it answered by a surly teenager who shouted back into the house "Mum, it's the Spastics!"

I would guess that the teenager in question was referring to the specific charity, since they went by “The Spastic’s Society” at the time.

(The charity was named when the term was purely a medical one - later it became a term of playground abuse & after a while the charity decided that it was no longer tenable to keep the name so it was changed to “Scope”.)
posted by pharm at 3:32 AM on October 28, 2018


I would guess that the teenager in question was referring to the specific charity

Apologies - I thought that had been implicit in what I wrote. Maybe should have included that detail in my comment, rather than just assuming that people would have read the up-thread explanations.
posted by pipeski at 4:35 AM on October 28, 2018


Why did you feel the need to make this comment?

If your definition of a pretty much optimal thread is people saying they find it hurtful for you to continue repeating slurs and being met with paragraphs of fun stories of using said slurs, you are wrong.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 5:18 AM on October 28, 2018 [5 favorites]


my basic concern is that if it is acceptable to imply negative personality characteristics based on Trump's sallow, unhealthy complexion and his hair loss, it may become more acceptable and more of a habit to judge others negatively based only on their appearance

In Trump's case - as is often the way of these things - it ain't the crime, it's the coverup.

I simply fail to understand the ability, displayed by so many, to contemplate the Trump combover and the Trump fake tan and the gratuitous acres of Trump gilding and the Trumping of the Trump tag on every Trumping thing and not draw the obvious conclusion that here is a man both wholly consumed by the need to pretend he looks better than he does and hopelessly self-deludingly bad at it.

Trump has always struck me as the most glaringly shonky of all the shonky glad-handing self-serving sales types I've ever seen. I thought so when he first made the cover of Time in 1989, and nothing I've ever seen him do or heard him say in any of the years since has shifted that impression by the tiniest little bit. How he fools anybody remains an abiding mystery.
posted by flabdablet at 6:54 AM on October 28, 2018


Do we really need a Trump derail here? Really?
posted by Etrigan at 8:14 AM on October 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


That's what shonky Nixon said!
posted by clavdivs at 8:34 AM on October 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


When I shared my 80s childhood anecdote about how the term identified in this post was used as a shorthand for a medical/mental health issue, my point was about how maybe we can stop using terms like that as shorthand for a negative. In a related Ask, it's similar to a resistance that people have to the use of other shorthand terms that essentialize identity, or perceived identity, as a negative.

> People are attacking the way he looks because he’s a giant piece of shit and they hate him.

I think some of my resistance to this view is from my experience as an attorney and how deeply ingrained it is to not make it personal. From a strategic standpoint, why sink to the level of the opponent? One of my favorite law professors used to say something along the lines of, 'when you have the facts, argue the facts, and when you have the law, argue the law, but when you don't have the law or facts, wave your arms around and pound your fists on the table.' I've been trained to regard personal attacks as a sign of weakness in the courtroom, and to flag it as a risk factor outside the courthouse.

On a more meta level, I noticed that I sometimes react to people using appearance-based insults about Trump in a way that seems similar to reactions that others have to other terms; my broader point is related to looking for a lodestar concept to help sort out inclusive language from words that may cause unintentional harm. I better understand now why my repeated use of a slur and somewhat frantic response to getting called out caused unintentional upset, and I appreciate people talking about it. I have some learning to do about how to keep up with online conversations like this, and I plan to be more careful in the future.
posted by Little Dawn at 11:32 AM on October 28, 2018


There's a popular compilation series of garage rock from the 60s called Nuggets. They released a deluxe, 4 disc CD version in the late 90s, which I had, and which contained a song titled with the word in question here. It's not a nice song, and the pejorative intent is pretty clear. I learned that the word was more strongly regarded as unacceptable outside the US from the liner notes, which contained an anecdote of the song being played, once, on Australian radio, followed by an apology from the DJ and a ban on playing it again.

That the editors knew this in 1998 but still choose to include the song in that version of the compilation was something I didn't note at the time, but as I've gotten older and more aware it's seemed increasingly suspect to me.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:31 AM on November 1, 2018


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