The Uses and Implications of the Term “Retarded” on YouTube

Johanson-Sebera, Brandy
Wilkins, Julia
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University of Hawaii at Manoa -- Center on Disability Studies
In this article, we provide a historical glimpse into the changing use of terminology for people with intellectual disabilities. In order to determine how the word retarded is currently used in popular culture in the United States, we analyzed one hundred randomly selected YouTube videos with the word retarded in the title. Five themes emerged: (a) the traditional use of the term retarded, (b) the use of retarded in humorous context, (c) the use of retarded to insult or criticize, (d) the term retarded as a substitute for other words, and (e) the slang use of retarded in a hip hop context. The coexistence of these multiple definitions is an unprecedented situation in the history of disability terminology. While advocates in the US are pushing for abandonment of the “R” word, establishing rules about language use is clearly a simplistic solution to a complex problem.
retarded, disability terminology, YouTube
Johanson-Sebera, B. & Wilkins, J. (2010). The Uses and Implications of the Term “Retarded” on YouTube. Review of Disability Studies: An International Journal, 6(4).
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