A Word and World of Misuse

June 24, 2010
By Teddy SILVER, Flemington, New Jersey
Teddy SILVER, Flemington, New Jersey
5 articles 2 photos 9 comments

“Look at those sports cars, they are gay. That kid is so gay. Communists and retards are gay.” What isn’t gay? If a belief is different from yours does that make it communist? If a kid acts differently are they retarded? What’s wrong with being gay anyways? Are all communist people “bad”? Are mentally retarded people automatically “dumb”? This world is going crazy! The media says it’s “bad” and automatically gays are exiled; gays are “bad”. There’s still time to teach kids adjectives other than gay, communist, and retarded.

Albert Einstein was perhaps one of the smartest people ever: you know the guy that came up with E = mc2. Did you know that Albert Einstein himself was actually retarded? He didn’t start talking until age 3 (Isaacson). He may be extremely smart, but according to dictionary.com the definition of retard is, “to make slow; delay the development or progress of (an action, process, etc.); hinder or impede.” Starting to talk at age 3 is making slow development, however Einstein was not stupid. Like Einstein, other people that are truly mentally retarded, are not stupid.

My life: I started off with simple adjectives like dumb and these were insults as a kid. Around third grade the adjective retarded came into play. This term quickly infiltrated the minds of my peers and after a few weeks it wasn’t just the truly mentally retarded kids, it was the less-coordinated kids as well. Slowly baby steps were made, it was no longer the original victims, it turned into anyone. If even “the coolest kid” made one dumb move, said something dumb, or did anything wrong the term retarded was freely tossed around. It’s these baby steps that can be seen as a slow and steady rate for the spreading of this term and it really didn’t happen over night. So, why wasn’t this stopped…by anyone?

When I went in the 5th grade a few kids discovered the “big-kid” term: gay. Once again it was baby-steps to make the cross-over. All the kids knew was that “gay” was a bad term; they didn’t consider it derogatory, just that it was “bad”. It was only “bad” in the sense that people may have told them not to use it, it was one of those words like stupid where you really don’t offend a general group of people, you more of offend the one person or thing that you call “stupid”. Gay was like that and it was misused; it never did follow dictionary.com’s definition of, “A person whose sexual orientation is to persons of the same sex.” At 5th grade, kids were just starting to go on real dates and exploring dating with people of a different sex. No one was gay in 5th grade yet a derogatory term was making baby steps throughout my peers’ vocabulary in a bad way making it a bad term before it even had meaning. Why wasn’t this stopped…by anyone?

By the beginning of 7th grade, people started to learn that communism was “bad”. Kids started to watch the news and their parents would start to explain things. Kids learned communism was bad because of the media. If you asked any of those kids back then what is wrong with communism it would be rare that they could explain it, and even still a lot of my peers can’t say what’s wrong with it maybe even parents that told them that it’s bad can’t explain why. Communism in the vocabulary, made baby steps, different beliefs most likely meant “communism”.

Dictionary.com defines communism as, “a theory or system of social organization based on the holding of all property in common, actual ownership being ascribed to the community as a whole or to the state.” Communism is to believe that everyone gets an equal shot at life and children aren’t dependent on who their parents are. It seems pretty fair to me; what’s wrong with it? China calls itself communist; it used to be an equal communism however the power that the government gained was abused. The communist theory is overall a good humane theory, however it has never really worked; leaders tend to become corrupt. So why is it that communism started to be spread, why is it that communism is “bad”? It’s just a good theory that has never worked; does that mean that anyone with a different belief should be called a “commie”? Why has communism turned into a bad term, and why hasn’t it been stopped…by anyone?

Baby steps have been taken every step of the way, and I’m sure that my school was not the only one that worked on a similar schedule. Gay people are be proud to be gay; communist people are proud to be communist; in fact people who are in special educational classes are proud too…that’s who they are; there is no denying that. Someone might say, “I’m gay”. If they are perfectly serious, they will hope that it’s respected, and they probably will not take offense to it if someone says that they are gay, assuming that the person that says that they are gay says it respectfully. Just because a gay person is not offended if someone says that they are gay (respectfully) does not mean that they aren’t offended if someone uses “gay” as a bad term towards someone who isn’t gay. Likewise someone who isn’t gay and being called “gay” can be and most likely will be offended. The main reason that people may be ashamed to be gay, communist or mentally retarded is because of the ridicule resulting from the misuse of terms.

Ryan Halligan was a 14 year old. He committed suicide October 7, 2003. This day was heart shattering to his friends, peers, and family. Why did this happen? Ryan had depression. Causes of this depression were: cyber-bullying and bullying. One cause of the bullying was from being called “gay”. You may not think that the term “gay” is that offensive, but one of the minor trigger events that led up to Ryan committing suicide was because he was called “gay”. A bully started calling him “gay” because of a funny story that Ryan had told the bully. This bully started calling Ryan “gay” and soon Ryan was being called “gay” by many of his peers. Over the summer he wanted the rumor to go away, so he started talking with a “popular” girl (over IM). This girl decided to go along with it so that she could show her friends, and they could laugh at it. When the next school year started, Ryan talked to the girl and the girl told him that it was all fake. Ryan was in the dumps after that and his depression grew (Halligan). What would have happened if the offensive term “gay” had not been thrown around so loosely? Why was it that the term was allowed to be used anyways?

How would you like it if people went around saying that’s so (your name) as an insult. Sure it sounds kind of cheesy and kind of funny, but at the same time, look deeper than that. How would you like it if people used your religion as an insult? GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) uses the message: “how would you like it if your name was an insult?” (ThinkB4YouSpeak.com). This is one baby step in the right direction, but we need to take more baby steps.

Facebook has about 6 times more members than Twitter does, and according to GLSEN on Wednesday March 31, 2010 at 6:35 the phrase, “so gay” had been in 1,125 “tweets” (Compete and ThinkB4YouSpeak.com). I challenge you to go on Twitter and search “gay”, wait five minutes and then check back. When I tried this, there were over 500 new “tweets” containing the word “gay” in them since I started my search. If Facebook has around 6 times more members imagine how many people would say “gay” in 1 minute: that’s over 600 people saying “gay” for each minute that passes.

Throughout my entire school career (9 years), I have only twice received a presentation against bullying and stopping misuse of terms. Sure, people have said “don’t bully”, but that barely means anything. Those two presentations that I have had, made an impact, not once on either of those days, did I hear the term “gay”, other misused terms, or even any bullying in general. There was rarely any bullying for the next month. These presentations were affective, so why don’t schools have more of them? Brief talks saying that bullying is “bad”, does not work; inspirational stories do. All schools should have at least 1, if not 2 presentations per year to talk about bullying and its effects as well as talking about misuse of terms.

Baby steps got the world into this: a constant stream of misused terms, and constant stream of bullying. There is no end. Baby steps are not only the way into this crazy mess, but they are also the way out. Replace one of your misused terms with another adjective and say the new word as opposed to your misused term. Terms such as gay and communist caught on quickly, so why wouldn’t better terms catch on with adjectives? Slowly change all of your misused terms to another term: take a baby step in the right direction. Not only is it the kids that need to make the baby steps, but schools too, schools need to affectively teach kids at a young age that bullying is wrong and that misuse of terms is wrong. It’s making the baby step to counter the baby step that the misuse of terms has used to infiltrate of the minds of the youth and many others.

Works Cited
"Communism." Def. 1. Dictionary.com. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
Compete. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
"Gay." Def. 1. Dictionary.com. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
Halligan, John. "If We Only Knew, If He Only Told Us." Ryan's Story Presentation, LLC. Web.

31 Mar. 2010. <http://www.ryanpatrickhalligan.org/>.
Isaacson, Walter. "20 Things You Need to Know About Einstein - Was Einstein Learning
Disabled? - TIME." Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech
Reviews - TIME.com. Time, 2007. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
"Retard." Def. 1. Dictionary.com. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
ThinkB4YouSpeak.com. GLSEN. Web. 31 Mar. 2010. <http://www.thinkb4youspeak.com>.

The author's comments:
This piece was originally written as a persuasive piece for an English class. Originally I chose to make my topic the misuse of gay, as I started writing my introduction paragraph I realized that that's not enough. It's not enough to say that homosexual's are the only target. And I will admit I did not mention anywhere near the amount of misused terms I perhaps should have but I feel that these 3 are the most misused. The reason I chose to write on the topic of a misuse of gay was because every kid at some point is called gay or retarded but when you are different than you tend to be called that more. I will admit that I have misused terms too and I feel that my solution works for me and it will hopefully work for others.

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This article has 2 comments.

Teddy SILVER said...
on Sep. 12 2010 at 4:15 pm
Teddy SILVER, Flemington, New Jersey
5 articles 2 photos 9 comments
Thank you!

Bethani GOLD said...
on Sep. 11 2010 at 9:23 pm
Bethani GOLD, Highlands Ranch, Colorado
10 articles 0 photos 508 comments

Favorite Quote:
Life is perfect until you sit back and realize how boring it is without risks.

This is amazing! Great job!

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