Sunday, May 31, 2009

Technically Speaking...

Have you noticed how the names of certain things change over time?

Take P.T.S.D. for example. In the Vietnam era, it was called Shell Shock. Easy name right? Then, the scientific community decided Shell Shock didn't sound scientific enough, so they gave it a more scientific sounding name. It became Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. After a while, people got tired of saying Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (or maybe they just got tired of typing it out so many times), and it was "re-shortened" to P.T.S.D. If you ask anyone who is more than 30 years old though, it still is and always will be Shell Shock.

Another one I like is Brain Damage. When I was a kid and you got in a car crash and hit your head, you got brain damage. That's what it was. You damaged your brain. There were songs about brain damage, there were bands named after brain damage. We just called it what it was.

Well, the scientific community, still ecstatic with themselves over their development of P.T.S.D., decided brain damage was not scientific enough either. Brain Damage became Traumatic Brain Injury. It was still some sort of damage to the brain. Eventually all of the brain damaged scientists got tired of writing Traumatic Brain Injury, so that was also shortened and became what we know today as T.B.I.

When I was a kid, anyone who could not hear was deaf. We referred to them as deaf, and they referred to themselves as deaf. They even carried around the little green sign language cards that said "I am a deaf mute". They were deaf.

Of course, this was not scientific enough. They had to become Hearing Impaired. They still couldn't hear you, so it really didn't matter if you said they were hearing impaired, deaf, or purple. I took a sign language class many years ago, and every deaf person in that class referred to themselves as deaf, not hearing impaired.

When we were kids, the kids who were in the special education classes were "retarded". That was what they were called. The medical community even referred to them as mentally retarded.

Apparently, this was either not scientific sounding, or it was deemed insensitive, so they became mentally challenged. That lasted for several years, but alas, it was still not quite technical enough. Nowadays we refer to such individuals as Developmentally Disabled.

What got me thinking about this was a radio commercial I heard yesterday. It referred to the "Sight Impaired". I guess it was only a matter of time. Now they're going to have to change all of the signs at the Center for the Blind.

We have now become apt to come up with overly technical terms for what used to be simple ideas. These terms then often become acronyms or abbreviations.

My vote for the next "technicalization" is rectal flatulence. While it is a relatively scientific sounding term, I don't think flatulence is quite scientific enough. With the amount of toxic gases expelled with each burst, and the sheer number of different contaminants released, flatulence is quite a societal hazard, and as such, it needs a much more technical sounding name. I'm thinking Flatulent Aerial Releases of Toxic Substances. That sounds plenty scientific. And it's sufficiently long that after a while we'll all get tired of saying, writing or typing that long name.

Then we'll just call them F.A.R.T.S....


Scottish not English said...

I bet you are pretty proud of yourself for that one. It is almost hilarious how politically correct we have to be these days. Stay safe.

Beat And Release said...

Had me rollin'! Just a tie-in to your F.A.R.T. subject. Many years ago we had a Captain with a sense of humor. When our Traffic Fatality Team got a new S.U.V. (there's another one) he had magnetic signs made for them to hang on the doors:



Conant said...

"Shell shock" was actually current in WWI. In WWi it would have likely been called battle fatigue. By Vietnam it was more likely to have been called "combat stress reaction" or, late in the war, PTSD. The change in terminology was not to be politically correct so much as to more accurately describe what was going on, and has little to do with political correctness.

There is a lot of political correctness by terminology going on. Why not give your readers some examples from your experience?

powdergirl said...

Great post, loved the end result.
I don't understand why 'hearing impaired' is less offensive than 'deaf' when it actually designates hearing loss as an 'impairment' whereas deaf is just a harmless little word.
I think it's just done to keep the pencil pushers feeling busy and important.
Can I still type 'pencil-pushers' out loud?

Front Porch Society said...

lol. Nice!

Too much politics in the words we use. Soon it will be wrong to say "please" and "thank you."

Mrs. "Smith" said...

Darling, we need to talk. Or is it "have speech with each other"?

MTBLaura said...

That's hilarious, but sadly true.
Just yesterday I saw a truck for Shriner's (some organization to help others or something). The truck said donations for "crippled and burned children."

I wondered to myself, are they even still allowed to use the term Crippled these days?

Anonymous said...

The P.C. crowd running wild.

Manda said...

My little boy (4 yo) passed gas on my lap recently and I accused him of tooting. He said to me in his surprisingly deep voice: "I didn't toot, I farted." Then collapsed in a fit of little boy chuckles.

Kerry said...

I know this comment is way after the fact, but I just found your page.

I am a university student, majoring in Deaf Studies. One of the things we learn about is Deaf Culture, and in Deaf Culture we are taught that Deaf people really don't like the term "hearing impaired" and get very offended if you call them hearing impaired. I have always found it ironic that the "politically correct" term offends the people that it was meant to "protect"! Almost every Deaf person I have encountered prefers Deaf to Hearing Impaired. Just a curious little tidbit I thought you might like to know.

Melissa said...

Another comment way after the fact - I work across the street from a place that employs 400+ people that carry white canes. But many of them - I'd even say most of them - have some vision, enough that they get around just fine with only minimal assistance from their cane or a guide. One guy I see on the bus regularly carries his cane folded up in his back pocket. I have no idea what they think of the terms 'blind' versus 'visually impaired', but in this case it could be an attempt to point out that blindness comes in lots of different degrees. So does deafness.

The fun part is when you realize some of the cane carriers are deaf too, and actually see better than they hear. Surprise, mister bus driver, yelling at that one isn't going to get you anywhere!

boo said...

I've only just discovered your blog, but my goodness, this made me giggle. And giggle. And giggle.

My son was autistic, due to his condition and improper supervision he started a fire this past summer that took both his, and his youngest sisters' life.

I still call him retarded, and use the term "retard" to equate to "exceptionally dumb/stupid".

He was by no means stupid, in fact he was well above kids his grade level in education and intelligence. What he lacked was common sense, socialization, and an ability to put either into functional use.

I have never taken offense to the term retard, and never will. I am not insensitive to my son, I am merely pragmatic and a realist. My son *was* to a certain extent, retarded; but he was most certainly not a *retard*.

I don't know if that makes any sense at all, and in fact, suspect that I have made rather little sense since I lost the two of them.

Then again, I suspect that is neither here nor there, and I likely just come off as a)crazy, or b) drunk.

Both of which are likely true.

Loren Pechtel said...

I have to agree with Melissa on this one. It's a matter of refinement.

Blind? Blind was my mother--she lost her eyes before age 2. Sight impaired was the guy I knew in college. Legally blind, he had a cane and guide dog, but he could with difficulty read some things. (Holding it an inch from his eyes he could resolve large print a letter at a time.)

Also, you mention retarded--a prime example of why we have such distinctions. We have seen an explosion in autism cases in recent times but what's rarely mentioned is that we have seen an equal drop in "retarded" kids. In general autistic kids have normal or above-normal intelligence, it's their interaction with the world that's messed up.

You need to handle autistic kids very differently than you handle retarded ones, the different term matters.