Turns out I have some thoughts about “stupid” and whether it’s an ableist word

Not very coherent thoughts, though!

  • Some people have had certain words like “stupid” used against them a lot and are triggered by them, and that has to be respected and accomodated.
  • A lot of people with intellectual disabilities/developmental disabilities have difficulty with language for one reason or another, and it may be very hard for them to change their vocabularies or censor themselves, and this also needs to be accomodated.
  • Personally, whether I would be upset by the word “stupid” depends to a huge degree on the tone of the person saying it. Like, it could swing from “fine and friendly and I would laugh” to “I would go home and cry” based on tone. For me, it’s 0-2% the word, 98-100% the tone/intent.
  • I think it makes sense for the word “stupid” to exist to mean something besides ID/DD. As a lot of people use it, it means something that isn’t derogatory, just accidental and unfortunate, and that can happen to anyone. Something analogous to looking away for a moment and spilling a glass of milk, including the part where you proverbially shouldn’t cry over it, just clean it up.  It’s possible to use the word “stupid” to describe what someone has done, without being hostile or overly negative towards them as a person.
  • I get why people say we should get rid of “stupid” completely. It makes sense as an extension of the principle that’s used with other words. E.g. Don’t say “blind” when you mean “willfully ignorant”. Because (a) people who are actually disabled exist (b) what you’re saying has nothing to do with what that disability is actually like. But, in the case of “stupid”, both of those things are kind of fuzzy. “Stupid” doesn’t exactly mean a disability, and the thing people are trying to say when they call things “stupid” isn’t exactly divorced from the meaning of the word. It’s not metaphorical, the way “our business plan was crippled…” or “our political opponents are blinded by…” are metaphorical. “Stupid” doesn’t quite fit the pattern.

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