Tag Archives: word use

Evolution of Words

The world is full of symbols, even if we don’t consciously consider them such. A symbol is something that represents something else through common agreement rather than anything inherent in its nature. In America, a red octagon is strongly associated with “Stop,” as is a red light. In other contexts, red means other things, like love. No one thinks a red light means love, however. Written language as also symbolic. Each squiggle only means something because we all agree it

The Fickleness of Vocabulary; or, the Case of the R-Word

Strip of 1974 stamps dedicated to "retarded" children

In 1974, the US Postal Service put out a stamp stating “Retarded Children Can be Helped.” The sentiment was certainly one we can relate to: the mentally impaired do not need to be marginalized. This is contrary to a long history of approaches to mental disability, which has included institutionalization and forced sterilization. I can find no consensus as to how many people were still using the word “retarded” in a non-derogatory way in 1974. Some thought it was already