Reclaiming language, not making it up


Before Christmas, a colleague and friend asked me why I believe it is okay for me to use Spaz but I am uneasy about terms like Bendy and Spoony. It got me thinking and there is my response to their question.

I believe in order to reclaim a word from one to oppression to one of liberation, the term must go through some stages. In terms like Spaz or Spastic, Cripple and Idiot, these were once official medical terms for conditions because they became terms of abuse. It is therefore possible for those with the conditions to reclaim these terms in the acknowledge one term is publicly known as a term of abuse but so much known as its original meaning. Therefore the term can be used to cause discomfortable and use the power of freakism to reclaim power and identity, eg I am a dribbling spastic and that is a fact.

Now with the terms Bendy/Bendies and Spoony/Spoonies, these terms do not the same history of other terms. There have been created to mimic other reclaimed words like if the public is not aware of any previous meaning, its because a internalised term that have little meaning outside the sick and disabled movement. I have seen people try to use this latest fashion on traditional impairment turns like Deafies and Blindies. Since this is one impairment group imposing an oppression term on another, where there is no history of using that term, it is quite worrying and maybe slightly offensive.

The term spoony is particularly odd is that it relates to a metaphor for energy management writing in a blog and on a video with few people will have heard off and understood. While the metaphor is aimed at people who experience chronic fatigue, it could actually relate to anyone as we all have to make choices on how we use energy.

Language is very complex and it is as made as knowing what is heard and understood as much as it is about what is said.


If you like what I say, have a look at my website at http://www.simonstevens.com or follow me on twitter, @simonstevens74

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