Perhaps, following the trend noted in the previous paragraph, “disabilities” will give way to “challenges”. But one thing in their favor is they don’t lend themselves as readily to insults. I can’t quite imagine children taunting each other with “Look where yer goin’, ya challenge!”
What’s in a word? Only what we put into it, at the end of the day. A rose under another name would indeed smell just as sweet, but imagine the freakish event the word “rose” were to be somehow used in a derogatory way with an intent to wound. Imagine this was done long enough by a considerable number of people. It would then eventually need to be replaced by another word to denote this sweet flower, a word which hadn’t by this described process aquired its own insulting connotations. The word “rose” itself wouldn’t sound as sweet.
When I was suffering from a long term chronic illness, in the 90s I was told by some “able” person that it was not the done thing to say “handicapped”. This was despite in effect feeling very much, modesty notwithstanding, like a racehorse carrying such a load of weights that I was reduced to watching the other ponies gallop their way through life. That word was offensive, it seemed. I thought instead it was very apt. Perhaps this person thought that because I wasn’t visibly incpacitated I was referring to “the other” rather than including myself in this group. I remember they didn’t seem convinced by my claim to this despite my diagnosis.
The word “retarded” originates from the French, in which its counterpart “retardé” means “delayed”. Does that word seem familiar nowadays in relation to neurodevelopment? Has anything really changed with the adoption of referring to the same concept but in a different guise? Would this deal with the fact that the uncharitable have chosen to apply a negative value judgement connotation to this concept? Can many claim to have never in any way ridiculed another with its associated contemptuous stereotypical image and therefore not be included among the uncharitable even in passing?
Can you cover up Human nature’s less appealing features with euphemisms, or is it better to instead reiterate and confirm the neutral, clinical, and truer sense of the words we chose to apply in the first place, in our better moments and with our best intentions. Perhaps rather than concede defeat to the insidious process which debases words and which drives the treadmill an effort could be made to focus on what these words were meant to refer to in the first place. Are we attempting to deny some collective Jungian shadow?
Things and ideas need need names in order to be referred to meaningfully. When these names are required to change on a regular basis what then happens to Meaning itself? Given the strange evolution of language which constantly occurs from season to season in the schoolyard I can well imagine that “challenged” will one day go the same way as “special” already seems to be going. We’re going to need a bigger Lexicon, or effectively deal with our failings it would seem.