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Poor word choice offensive and disrespectful

Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 00:10

After the last presidential debate Monday, Ann Coulter took to Twitter to post her reaction, writing, “I highly approve of Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the retard,” referring to President Barack Obama.

Coulter’s poor choice of words is a clear example of how people throw around words that are harmful and disrespectful. It is easy for people to post their every thought on Twitter without a filter considering who it may affect.

Coulter’s use of the word reflects a larger societal problem in the U.S. of misusing offensive vocabulary words.

In August, GOP official Jim Roddey told a bad joke at an election victory party that referred to Obama supporters as being “mentally retarded.”

It is despicable that these terms are used as joke material and are bad excuses for political discourse. As public figures, Coulter and Roddey, or anyone who posts or says every harmful epithet that comes to their mind should know better — and we as a society should hold them accountable for their mishaps. 
This is not unexpected from the conservative Coulter, who has made plenty of remarks like this in the past. According to CNN, in September, after Obama made a video about disability issues, Coulter tweeted, “I had no idea how crucial the retarded vote is in this election.”

Though this type of hateful discourse is nothing new for extremists like Coulter, Obama also made a questionable comment when he compared his bowling game to the Special Olympics during his appearance on the Tonight Show in 2009.

Though his comment is inexcusable, earlier this month, Obama signed legislation to replace the term “mental retardation” with “intellectual disability,” according to Disability Scoop, which is a step toward a more sensitive public
discourse.

The Backbone Zone, a project of the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, created a series of posters with generally misused phrases and their correct uses above them to bring awareness to words that are often used offensively and incorrectly. The hilarity and hyperbole of the posters shows how words can be used with the intention of meaning one thing while actually implicating something completely different.

Using hurtful language is not a partisan issue — everyone is guilty in one way or another. As the Backbone Zone poster series shows, whether referring to a party as “gay” when you mean to say that it was “boring” or mistaking a gardening tool for the girl that just took your boyfriend, the way we mindlessly mischaracterize our words proves that people are willing to say anything to get their point across, regardless of whom it might offend.

Whether sending a tweet or talking to a friend, one should always chose words wisely. There is no end to the amount of harm someone can do just by speaking. Our voice can be a powerful thing, so it is best that we not waste it.

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