It’s high time we realized that language is a dangerous scheme for perpetuating not only stereotypes, but the entrenched power of linguistically exploitative hegemonies of power, and stopped communicating entirely.
And yet the scene where they’re all chanting “spaz spaz spaz spaz!” is one of the most memorable parts of the movie.
I remember being taken aback when Tiger Woods said he putted like a spaz after a round (at the Masters, I think).
I think at the time it was said that it was less offensive in the US than the UK.
Charades are still OK, right?
Shaka, when the walls fell.
What, and accept that they have legitimate, useful, roles in our society? I find this highly implausible.
“Spastic” or “spaz” in U.S. English hasn’t commonly been used as a medical term to describe people with a general class of disabilities. (Although it is used as an adjective for particular conditions, such as “spastic colon.”) It just means “uncoördinated, clumsy, unathletic.” There’s no association with epilepsy or cerebral palsy or the like.
Any language can be victimizing. It’s the intent and context that matter, not the magic words.
Cerebral palsy is a group of movement disorders, and the various subtypes are spastic, ataxic, athetoid and mixed. These subtypes are often prefixed to monoplegia, diplegia, hemiplegia, triplegia and quadriplegia to describe which limbs are affected. (I myself have spastic quadriplegia)
Since spasticity is the most common type of cerebral palsy-- 70-90% of cases, it’s understandable that the spastic society would choose to name themselves that way, and I suppose it’s also understandable though regrettably so, that laymen would learn to label certain people as “spastics.” as the abnormal motor patterns involved are easily recognizable. I’m not sure that there is much value to “cerebral palsy” as a name-- the therapeutic techniques used tend to differ by subtype.
With the movie Meatballs, the question is whether Canadian English followed the US or UK definition. It was written and directed by Canadians and filmed there.
Before anyone complains that I’m making fun of the disabled READ THE WIKIPEDIA ENTRY IN THE LINK FIRST.
You can use Google books to discover how “Mongoloid” was used in a medical context during the early part of the twentieth century.
Stuff such as
The general muscular relaxation present in mongoloid cretin and amaurotic family idiocy may give rise to suspicion of paralysis and indeed this sometimes occurs and as will be noted hereinafter microcephalus and other cerebral defects are often associated with paralysis of the spastic type The second or spastic group is well illustrated by the cerebral palsies. Rigidity of the extremity involved exaggeration of the deep reflexes no reaction or degeneration and no atrophy are symptoms common to all types and are distinctly opposite to the symptoms of the flaccid type. In general spasticity means cerebral lesion or lesion of lateral or posterior tracts of cord. Flaccidity means anterior cord disease or peripheral nerve lesions.
Thus, “mongoloid” did have a more specific meaning than is commonly appreciated. It may have been specific enough to mean “person with Down’s Syndrome”. Down’s syndrome is associated with characteristic facial features, and it is one of those facial features-- slanted eyes-- which were seen as sufficiently similar to the epicanthic fold common among central asian populations to be called “mongoloid”
So it could be seen as a diagnostic criteria, though in that era, treatment may not have consisted of anything more substantive than mere neglect, and the diagnosis merely an excusatory basis for this neglect.
Discrimination against the handicapped may come in the form of “binning.” Because you have these features, you belong in this bin, and because you belong in this bin, you are not going to be treated as a full member of society. What other people call the bin is immaterial. The discrimination, however, is most definitely not.
Ah, +1 informative, thanks. But when you call someone retarded, jokingly or otherwise, you’re saying the person’s mental development is stunted. When you call someone a spaz you’re not saying they have a type of cerebral palsy, and you would never call someone with c.p. (or an epileptic, etc.) a spaz. (Again, this is in U.S. usage.) I don’t know why it became so much more offensive in the U.K., while they go around calling everyone “cunts” and no one seems to bat an eye.
One of my children looks Mongolian (we’re highly admixed, so we all look different from each other) and I’ve witnessed strangers do a double-take because they ASSume one thing and then she starts speaking and they realize phenotype=/=genotype.
This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.