A reader writes:
I understand the point Mark Peters is trying to make, but in doing so he compares "gay" to "lame." Does he realize that the supposedly neutral word he's trying to compare "gay" to is a pejorative for people with disabilities?
Instinctively, we want to defend the incumbent pejoratives we grew up with and that don't affect us ("it's not about people with disabilities; horses can be lame too!"), but is there any qualitative difference between calling something "lame" or calling it "retarded" or "gay?" Do you think people with mobility impairments like the word "lame" in that sense any more than gay people like "gay?"
While helping my grandmother clean out some old boxes, I came across an old booklet called "How to improve your vocabulary" made by the Home Service Newark Star-Eagle, which went out of business in 1939. I would love to share with you the section "Objectionable Slang Expressions"
kid for a child or to tease
for crying out loud
nutty and nerts
invite for invitation
pinched by the cop
bird for man
ain't it fierce?
nix on the rough stuff
bean for head
nifty or snappy dresser
dump for house
tux for tuxedo or dinner-jacket
soup-and-fish for a man's formal dress
skirt and dame for girl or woman
And my favorite sentence from the section: "The application of swell to anything from a ham sandwich to a symphony concert, though countenanced by many, is a practice to be discouraged."