Alternatives to ableist slurs

More and more people are recognising why you should avoid using terms like ‘retard’, ‘idiot’, ‘imbecile’ or ‘moron’ as an insult, though they may struggle to think of terms to use instead. These types of slurs have become so normalised, and are used so commonly, it can seem like a hard habit to break.

But it’s important that we do. Using terms historically associated with learning disability (or intellectual disability, as it’s sometimes referred to outside the UK) in this way is not just disrespectful towards this group of people, it leaves them vulnerable to abuse by implying they are lesser human beings.

Often, too, people use level of intelligence to attack someone when what they’re really objecting to is wilful ignorance, arrogance or just plain selfishness.

So what can you say instead? Here are a few suggestions:

Instead of ‘idiotic’ or ‘moronic’, try:

Annoying, Arrogant, Asinine, Boastful, Bumbling, Clueless, Contemptible, Contemptuous, Dangerous, Despicable, Detestable, Disreputable, Erratic, Foolhardy, Foolish, Gullible, Ignorant, Ill-mannered, Incompetent, Incomprehensible, Inept, Insipid, Irresponsible, Irritating, Ludicrous, Nonsensical, Obdurate, Oblivious, Obtuse, Preposterous, Reckless, Ridiculous, Rude, Selfish, Silly, Spiteful, Underhanded, Unenlightened, Uninformed, Unmannerly, Unprincipled, Unreasonable, Unwise, Vacuous, Vapid, Wrong-headed

Instead of ‘retard’ or ‘imbecile’, try:

Arse, Asshat, Balloon, Berk, Bigmouth, Bloviator, Blowhard, Bollix, Bozo, Braggart, Buffoon, Bullshitter, Cacafuego, Chump, Cockalorum, Cockwomble, Contrarian, Delinquent, Dickhead, Dickweed, Dingbat, Dingleberry, Divvy, Doofus, Douche, Embarrassment, Fecker, Gasbag, Gink, Gobdaw, Gobshite, Ignoramus, Jackass, Jerk, Knobhead, Lemon, Loudmouth, Maggot, Mooncalf, Mumpsimus, Muppet, Nerk, Noodle, Nyaff, Pettifogger, Plonker, Prat, Prick, Quack, Sap, Schmuck, Scoundrel, Smellfungus, Snollygoster, Twerp, Ultracrepidariun, Vulgarian, Wally, Wazzock, Wastrel, Windbag, Yakass

Remember, though, this is not just about particular words: it’s about changing prejudicial attitudes towards people with a lower IQ. So please don’t fall into the trap of substituting one word for lower intelligence with another.

If you want to learn more about ableist language, here are some good resources:

https://www.autistichoya.com/p/ableist-words-and-terms-to-avoid.html

http://www.disabilityandrepresentation.com/2013/09/14/ableist-language

https://bylinetimes.com/2020/02/17/eugenics-and-the-intellectuals

https://everydayfeminism.com/2014/11/ableist-language-matters

http://nosmag.org/stop-using-intellectual-disability-as-an-insult-trump/

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