Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Crazy: Addendum

In this post, I talked about how calling someone "crazy" - even if good-natured in intent - is dismissive and derogatory. In similar conversations about other words ("retarded", "gay", etc.), it's common to see comments in the vein of, "Now I'm not allowed to say [crazy/retarded/gay/etc.]!? Censorship! Political correctness police! Newspeak!"

I have not had any such comments here, but they came to mind, as I've found that taking "crazy" out of my vocabulary has resulted in me expressing myself better. Because now instead of just saying "that's crazy!" I have to put more thought into my intended meaning. Instead of "crazy", "nuts", "insane"; it's "unpredictable", "out of control", "incomprehensible", "irrational", "illogical", it "doesn't make sense". I have to be more precise in my language. And I avoid simply dismissing an idea or person - saying something is "irrational requires justification; saying something "doesn't make sense" invites explanation.

Contrary to what those opposed to "political correctness" think, avoiding dismissive slurs improves discourse for everyone.

Image source.


  1. I find myself wondering why you need to use such words so often. ;) Do you find yourself constantly having to dismiss suggestions and ideas?

  2. In your opinion, in what context should the word 'crazy' be used? Or do you think the word should be abolished, removed from dictionaries everywhere?

  3. @ Mandy - I talk about right-wing politics a lot.

    @ Railway - If you want to insult someone or put them down, then that's your prerogative. I'm just saying to be aware of the effect your words have.

  4. I wrote a long, nuanced comment about it and then my browser crashed...

    But basically, I was saying I feel that as someone with mental health issues it's a word, like 'queer', that I can reclaim. It often disarms people and breaks down their perceptions of what it means to be 'crazy'. Because I'm quite open about my mental health, I frequently hear things like 'But you don't SEEM crazy! Why do you think you're crazy?' And it's useful for opening up dialogue about why just because I can seem 'normal' to them, it doesn't mean I'm necessarily any less 'crazy' than the person on the bus talking to themselves...

    That said, when any mental-health related term is used in a derogatory way, it definitely creates stigma and also hurts me on a personal level. The message I get is basically that you wouldn't like me if you knew me. So yeah, err, use with caution?

  5. @aimeecucullati

    I think it's great that you do that. And yeah, it entirely makes a difference whether you're using the word to undermine people's expectations, or wielding it against someone else.

    Thanks for commenting!

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