Michigan moves to delete word 'retarded' from laws


LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan lawmakers are looking to remove the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from state law.

The legislation in Lansing incorporates some recent recommendations from a mental health commission appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder. The bipartisan bills would strike references to outdated language such as “retarded” from various statutes and instead use terms such as “developmentally disabled” or “intellectually disabled.”

Special Olympics Michigan has said Michigan is among just a handful of states to not have already passed such legislation.


Some words in the English language have become pejorative and offensive.

One day, I would like to see the words “homophobe”, “religious nut,” “anti-abortion”, “anti-gay” and “crazy conservative” (hear it all the time on Chris Matthew’s ‘Softball’ MSNBC talk show program) similarly retired from our civil discourse.


I agree with this legislation, and there’s similar legislation in Arizona that would put the word “person” FIRST and “with disability” SECOND, not the other way around. If we support the sanctity of life at all stages, that we should support the sanctity of life, not demean it - and words like “retarded” demean it when considered in the context of common English vernacular, circa 2014.


I agree wholeheartedly. I have (had now deceased) a developmentally delayed sister. The word “retarded” in any context offends me. I also dislike the other words that the OP listed.


It’s about time every state has done this. In NYS we have used the term “People With Developmental Disabilities” since 1978. They changed the name from the state Office of Mental Retardation to Office of People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) & established the People With Disabilities Act. This act enforces the practice of handicapped accessability everywhere to all.


This is going to be unpopular, I suspect.

I asked my sister about this. She said, “I am retarded. I am stunted. I am not challenged. I am not going to cross any goal.” She went on, but…

“Retarded”, as in developmentally delayed, is a medical term. There is no delay. There is no challenge to overcome. It’s a medical stoppage of growth.

It’s also similar to using the word “marriage” as synonymous with “same sex legal union (SSCU).” Are the words synonymous? No. Do people in SSCUs think that the term “marriage” is offensive once they learn it had a sacramental connotation? Once they learn the definition, do they care how the word is bandied about in relation to their SSCU? Certainly not, because the uneducated have conscripted the term.

It’s not the people using the term (wrongly) who apply to themselves who offend others…it’s those who want to be “sensitive” and want to invent an Orwellian NewSpeak.

How about educating people on language and the roots of words before we go sanitizing Huckleberry Finn and the “N” word…because that was the word used that wasn’t a pejorative at the time. This is the problem with the “Glee show” PSAs.

Perhaps there is a lack of solidarity in the “developmentally delayed” community. But the term remains a medical one, not a slang one.

How about using the word ‘retarded’ ONLY by its definition? And if not, correcting people who use it inappropriately? Because we can’t hurt the feelings of the uneducated while pretending to shield the “developmentally disabled?”

I think not. Or, maybe I think better, optimistically, of those who (according to the works of Mercy) should be corrected–appropriately. Instead of saying “That word is not PC,” how about saying, “I do not think that word means what you think it means” …and then explaining it. Yes, channel your inner Inyego Montoya.

‘Retarded’ is a medical word that had made its way into slang. It is sad that it its used as a pejorative, but raising the level of discourse means understanding the definition of the word and using it appropriately. Separate yourself from slang and ‘instruct the ignorant.’

Changing the language…well, we’ve been through this before with calling people who aren’t going to increase their intelligence quotients past a certain age as “idiots.” We also no longer call people incapable of speech “dumb” because ignorami misused these words. But in proper context of medical diagnosis, there was no harm.

Why would anyone let the uneducated take over the definitions of medical words is far beyond me.


Not anymore it’s not:

The diagnostic term ‘mental retardation’ is finally being eliminated in the upcoming international classifications of diseases and disorders. The term ‘mental retardation’ was introduced by the American Association on Mental Retardation in 1961 and soon afterwards was adopted by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5).[1,2] Mental retardation replaced older terms such as feeblemindedness, idiocy, and mental subnormality that had become pejorative. Now, over 5 decades later, the term ‘mental retardation’ is being eliminated for similar reasons.
Source: medscape.com/viewarticle/782769


They will change the word as is right as it has become pejorative. Just like all the other words before. Then the new words will be used in the same manner.
Don’t change the words, just the people.



Wow. When I visited Michigan, a local church called thanselves “Christ followers” because “Christian” had a “negative connotation.” So who were thrown to the lions, then? Are we to revise ancient texts to scratch the word ‘Christian?’

2014 = 1984


I admit that I haven’t read the ancient texts in their original language, but I would be surprised if they used the word “Christian.” Whether we translate that language as “Christian” or if we translate it as “Christ follower,” does it really matter?

Language changes as the culture changes. The definitions and meanings attached to any given word sometimes evolve. For example, when we use the word “decimate” we rarely intend it to mean "kill every 10th person"nor do we intend it to mean “reduce by 10%.”

As for the use of the word “retarded,” the US Congress removed it from federal laws a few years ago.


I agree with this legislation. The word is offensive to those who suffer from intellectual disabilities.


While what you say is primarily true. The word Retarded has been used with the intent of hurting for as long as I’ve been alive.

This is about removing stigma’s and I’m all for it.


Thank you for helping me to see another point of view. I really expected to get flamed.

The change in language irritates me, and I did not man to offend, and I’m relieved no one took it that way.

My point about Christian v Christ Follower came from conversations with folks who took to heart the negative connotation from the MSM, the campus crowds, and the local Muslim population. I argued that instead of changing one’s image by reinventing a, word, how about dispelling myth through education and behavior?

Thanks again to those who have given me pause. :slight_smile:


If use of the term retarded was born of the fact that it was a medical term applied derogatorily to another person, is there any reason to expect that the substitute term like “disabled” will not simply become the new offensive, derogatorily-used term down the road? If so, would it be appropriate to continually change whatever term to keep ahead of derogatory use of it?


My only concern would be one of priorities. Is this going to cost and is Michigan’s economy so robust that this is a good expenditure? It is a cosmetic fix. I just wish we had more money where I am to spend on mental health. We are terrible here. If we did, changing placards would be way down the list of priorities.


As a special needs mom in MI, I’m glad the State is making the change.

“Retard” hurts in similar ways to the “N” word.

Our language and how we treat/talk about other groups of people matters to Jesus.

I don’t recall Jesus (in either the Catholic or Protestant version(s)) saying in red letters, “love your neighbor as yourself, unless it will cost you money to right a wrong.”

Sometimes, governments do have to spend money. Sometimes, we have to learn (and teach others) how to treat people better than we do.

Yes, I agree that there are much higher priorities for the State. However, it’s usually the ‘low hanging branches’ that legislators can agree on, not the big ticket priorities.

I get that people get in a tizzy about free speech, but I also don’t want it to be acceptable for people in society to just come up to my kid and call him a retard either. I have to wonder what happened to the concepts of empathy and community when discussions like this come up.

Words can hurt just as much as a knife piercing the skin.


Retarded replaced words like moron, imbecile, idiot, or feeble-minded and now it gets to move on down the euphemism treadmill. The same thing will happen to disabled or challenged as it starts to get used pejoratively. Trying to stay ahead of derogatory use of a word by changing it seems, well, retarted to me. It seems the real issue is that whatever term you decide on it will always be a stand in to describe someone who is simply being an idiot. :shrug:


Just a clarification, the word in question was not “retard”, but “retarded” and “retardation” from the law. It will not affect what words are used in speech. It’s probably not going to cost too much, if they will not react but just phase it in as new purchase are made, until it is down to the last vestiges of the old name. I just noted that we have ditched the term a few years back. I didn’t know because it is still use in common speech and the agency still called MHMR.

My guess? “Disabled” will be the next term targeted for change.


Just like changing changing “fat” to “fluff” doesn’t make it any healthier, changing “retarded” to “disabled” isn’t going to make mean people nicer. Mean people are going to be mean no matter what you label something.


The word “retarded” is perfectly acceptable. His progress was “reatrded” by a second stroke, e.g. To call a person a “retard” reflects upon the speaker, and there is no reason to get bent out of shape b/c of some insensitive or nefarious individual using it. Jerks will always be with us. :rolleyes: Rob


Disabled is too close by the vernacular definition to “invalid.”

Heh. The term “colored people” has been stricken from the lexicon but the NAACP’s name is still the same.

My grandmother hated the word “handicapped.” She had a “lame” (i.e. paralyzed) leg due to polio and actually preferred the term, “crippled.” :shrug:

It is ironic that the folks who quibble over changing words to manipulate public thought (‘pro choice’ v. ‘pro abortion’) don’t see how they feed into the same tactics for their own causes as the opposition uses.

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