Sunday, July 24, 2005

Experts: City Ain't Got No Legal Basis. Dang Fools!*

There are certain words or phrases that I don't give a second thought to when overheard in casual conversation, but that stand out as glaringly inappropriate when spoken in a formal context. Case in point, the quote in today's SJ-R story on a defamation suit filed by the city:

Unless (Gripper's lawyer) is retarded, this case ain't going to last more than a few minutes.

Although the hillbillyesque "ain't" is significant in coloring the reader's perception of the speaker of the quote, the word that really stuck out for me was "retarded."

Although I don't consider myself oversensitive to such things, the connotation of that word in the context in which it was used strikes me as somewhat offensive. I'm not sure that it personally demeans those that are afflicted with mental disorders. And it isn't a direct insult to the lawyer, Courtney Cox, unless of course he manages to botch the case. But it just seems juvenile and unnecessary.

What's more befuddling is that the person who spoke the quote is a lawyer and a professor of journalism. You would think that a person in that capacity would know to measure their responses when talking to a reporter and realize that certain words are potentially damaging to the credibility of their statement.

To some, his statement might make him seem a colorful character unconcerned with social convention. To me, absent any further insight into his personality, he comes across as a buffoon.

I'm sure that in the past I've used the word "retarded" to good naturedly rib a friend, so I don't want to stand in judgment too harshly. I do know, however, that I wouldn't use that word when talking with someone I was less familiar with for fear that they may have a loved one that has a mental disorder, and might then be offended by its casual use.

"Ain't", on the other hand, is a word that only seeps into my conversations when attempting to assimilate with a drunken transgressor with whom I hope to liberate myself from a potentially ugly confrontation.

*Today's front page headline in the SJ-R if written by Tim Smith, lawyer and professor of journalism at Kent State University.

1 comment:

Marie said...

Aw shucks, Dan. You done good on this one.

I thought the professor was using the kind of speech he probably believes people in Central Illinois use. That is, he was speaking to us on our own level. If so, little did he know our language includes words such as "buffoon," which would be used to describe him.