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Kayla Cook

Mrs. Reid

English I Honors

2 April 2015

Epithet Essay

Discrimination is a very present problem that has been around for centuries. People hear,

see, and even say discriminatory things every day, whether they realize it or not. Discrimination

can take many forms: gender, race, mental ability, appearance the list goes on. Sadly, we learn

these discriminatory terms at a young age and do not realize the damage these words can bring.

Many times a person insecure about himself will use an epithet in an attempt to heighten his own

esteem. Discriminating against mentally disabled people is still a very present issue. One simple

word, like retard, can do irreversible damage. Negative intellectual epithets, such as the word

retard, identify one group as worthless, stupid, and messed up as opposed to more

intellectual people, causing the person to feel insignificant and inferior to others, to have a

lowered self-esteem, and to dislike the speaker.

Using the negative epithet retard can have a very destructive and negative impact on

the victim of the word. Comments like, Wow, youre so retarded, are thrown around so

carelessly, while their impact leaves a significant scar on the victim. The word retard came from

the Latin word retardare, which means to slow, hinder, or delay and was used in the late

1800s. But by the 1960s, the meaning of the word began to change. It was and is seen as an

insult. When someone calls someone a retard, they imply that the victim is more stupid and

inferior than everyone else. The word means slowed, or delayed, which implies that others are

faster than the victim. This makes the victim feel different and abnormal. The word retard can
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be defined as to slow up by hindering advance or accomplishment. That is just how the victim

feels: hindered. When someone is called retarded, they are labelled as someone who cant do

things as good as others. By labelling someone as retarded, it leads him to feel weak, hindered,

abnormal, and causes his self-image to shatter.

Using the negative epithet retard against somebody can also show the true character of

the speaker. When someone calls another retarded, he is belittling the victim. When this

happens, it is most often because the speaker feels insecure and wants to tear down another

persons self-esteem to improve his own. Calling someone a negative word like retard reveals

the true character of the speaker: vulnerable. The way he tries to feel better about himself is by

making someone feel slow and abnormal. People sometimes just use the word as a joke, but

truthfully the word does far too much damage to be considered funny. When the speaker uses

this word against the victim, it makes the victim feel belittled. This does not improve the

relations between the victim and the speaker. In fact, this can cause the victim to dislike the

speaker. When a speaker uses negative epithets like retard against a victim, he is showing a

weak character and is weakening the relationship between the speaker and victim.

Intellectual epithets can be used for good or for bad. When they are used negatively, they

can make the victim feel worthless, abnormal, and belittled. These types of epithets are so

dangerous because they can affect the victim by making them feel like they are unimportant to

the world and that they are a mistake. Words are tools, and an epithet is a very powerful one.

They have a way with making a person feel certain ways. If the epithet is positive, it can make

that person feel good. But often people use negative epithets against each other, and these words

have a destructive way of making someone feel awful. This is very problematic because people

use negative epithets in their everyday language. It is very important to understand that a word
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can either destroy or strengthen. When we as people start to think twice about what we say, we

might be able to relieve the problem we have created. Before we say something like Wow,

youre so retarded, we may be able to save another person by thinking twice about the effect of

the word.