Am I wrong here? I am open to hearing that I am, but I am vexed by this situation!
Post ReplyPost New TopicPosted 11/26/2012 by Shih Tzu Mommy in NSBR Board
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Shih Tzu Mommy
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Posted: 11/26/2012 9:57:41 AM
A teen who is not quite in 'friend' territory, but heading that way, with my younger son (they are both Seniors in HS) came over to hang out for a bit.

This kid was referring to some people at school as 'spazzes' and 'spastic'. After the third time I popped my head in and said that I did not appreciate him using hateful language in my home. He looked shocked and said "Oh, I wasn't swearing or anything. I was just calling X and Y a spaz." And I said that it was not kind to call someone spastic and that people cannot help if they have disabilities and asked him to find a different word and that others might find it hurtful. He looked at me like I had been drinking, but to his credit he did say "Yes, ma'am, I apologize, I did not mean anything by it."

So am I wrong? Totally willing to hear if I am. I have been stewing about this since yesterday afternoon.

I sit on the board of a non-profit that advocates for those with developmental and intellectual disabilities and I am VERY touchy about the 'R' word and this really struck me in the same vein.




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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:00:37 AM
I'll probably be in the minority knowing how the peas fly but I would not have said anything about this to the kid. I don't believe saying someone is a spaz is "hate" language.





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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:00:41 AM
I think we all have our buttons.

I wouldnt have said anything


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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:01:05 AM
Spaz means hyper. You over reacted, IMO.


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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:01:20 AM
I have a friend whose kids use such terms all the time. And she isn't bothered by it all. Some of us have tried to explain to her that it's something they should think about and stop using but she can't be bothered to do anything because it falls into the category of "hard parenting" which she is ALWAYS avoiding whenever possible.

I would have done the same. You did it nicely, calmly and without a lot of fuss. He responded well too. Hopefully it sinks in and sticks.


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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:02:21 AM
If he was actually referring to people with diabilities, then yes you were right.

Also, just because he was in your home if you don't want to hear that word, you were right.

I do have to say, sometimes we just the word "spaz" referring to someone who is normal (ie, not disabled) but being goofy or crazy about something.

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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:03:14 AM
Eh, I think you over reacted. But he sounds like a really nice young man.


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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:03:23 AM
I have never heard or thought of the word spastic as being derogatory. I don't think it refers to a disability at all

I'm sure I would have had the same reaction as your DS's friend.

I'm a bit puzzled.

When I say spastic I just mean someone who is a little awkward or random. It's not an insult.



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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:03:30 AM
I doubt if I'd have said anything. That's not a word that's on my radar as being particularly hateful.


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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:03:41 AM

I'll probably be in the minority knowing how the peas fly but I would not have said anything about this to the kid. I don't believe saying someone is a spaz is "hate" language.



I don't see this as hate language either. When I hear it used, it isn't used as a slur on someone with disabilities. I am known as a "spaz" in my house because I am neurotic and get worried and nervous about things. I have only otherwise heard it used to describe someone who is flighty or silly.

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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:04:41 AM
We always used that term growing up and I had no idea it referred to people with disabilities until recently. I try not to use it today, and probably wouldn't correct someone else's kid who did. If I heard my dd using it, I would make sure she understood how some people would take it, and I think she would decide not to use it because she's pretty sensitive.

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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:07:53 AM
I've never heard the term used in connection with someone with a disability. So I wouldn't have reacted the way you did. It wouldn't even register to me. The term spaz has always been used to describe someone hyper or overly dramatic in my little world. But maybe it's usage has changed.
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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:07:55 AM

I'll probably be in the minority knowing how the peas fly but I would not have said anything about this to the kid. I don't believe saying someone is a spaz is "hate" language.
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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:08:28 AM
I would not think anything of it either, and have heard it used to mean hyper or crazy not disabled.

Kudos to the young man though in responding to your request in a respectful manner.

I would agree it's your house and therefore your rules.

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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:09:11 AM
Not a word I would've even noticed! I have 2 teens and have heard some interesting language come out of some of their friends mouths....but IMO that's a totally harmless word and I say it often.

But your house, your rules. And the kid sounds very polite and respectful even though he didn't agree that it was a word he shouldn't be using.





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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:10:44 AM

I've never heard the term used in connection with someone with a disability. So I wouldn't have reacted the way you did. It wouldn't even register to me. The term spaz has always been used to describe someone hyper or overly dramatic in my little world. But maybe it's usage has changed.


Same here. I wouldn't have thought a thing of it.




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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:10:55 AM
What disabilty does spastic refer to? I honestly can't think of what disabilty everyone is referring to.


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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:14:03 AM
I know what the word can refer to but it long ago became slang for overreacting, flipping out, and being hyper. If you look on dictionary.com, one of the definitions for the word "spazzing" is to become more angry than the situation warrants. I don't think that 99% of the people who use that word associate it all with people who have spasms or other disabilities. I wouldn't have said anything to that boy.



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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:15:16 AM
It would not have bothered me but your house, your rules.

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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:16:11 AM
While I get where you are coming from, I'm not sure that the teen would/did. He probably doesn't realize that spaz is short for spastic and that spastic can be a sign of certain physical disabilities. Or if he does, he certainly wasn't using it in that regard about someone with those types of disabilities.

I think that educating him about how it COULD be seen as derogatory (not hateful) might have been more effective.

Heck, it was only recently that I realized that the word jipped/gipped is actually gypped and is derogatory. I think many of us have used terms like that in our past that weren't meant in a derogatory way towards a specific group of people.


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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:16:38 AM

What disabilty does spastic refer to? I honestly can't think of what disabilty everyone is referring to.


I believe it is an older (and not as much used these days) term for Cerebral Palsy.

Personally, I don't like it. To me it's comparing a person who is clumsy/crazy/awkward with someone who has a disability - no different to calling someone who does something stupid a 'retard' or something you don't like 'gay'. I know most people don't agree with me on this though.


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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:19:49 AM
Your house, your rules...but considering you asked him to find another word that others might not find hurtful...it makes me wonder what that word would be? Any word meant to describe another person in a less than stellar way is hurtful within itself, right?

(shrug)

I wouldn't have said anything either...(shrug)

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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:20:07 AM

I'll probably be in the minority knowing how the peas fly but I would not have said anything about this to the kid. I don't believe saying someone is a spaz is "hate" language.


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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:22:13 AM
I think you over reacted. I would not have even noticed him saying it. I have only ever heard it to mean someone is acting hyper.

I have used the word spaz many times....mostly when I'm at my moms and I'm talking about her dog who comes running towards me and jumps on me all the time. I tell my mom all time her dog is a spaz!!

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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:27:45 AM
Overreaction. Calling something/someone gay or retarded gets me annoyed though.


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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:28:54 AM
I think complete overreaction on your part. Never have I thought Spaz was a derogatory term.

He sounds like a nice kid.


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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:33:45 AM
I don't see that term as derogatory at all. But, simply, that someone is goofy or acting goofy. Not even in a physical sense necessarily - just goofy/silly. I wouldn't have said anything.

I don't see this as "hate".


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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:38:19 AM
I think you overreacted. Spaz is not meant to be a hateful word. Just one of those words that teens use, overuse, and then discard.


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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:41:44 AM
I think you totally overreacted. I've heard the word used thousands of times. It just means hyper, silly, goofy etc.

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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:46:56 AM
Here's an interesting discussion from Wiki about the use of the term and different understandings of its meaning (in particular, British and American).



In American slang, the term "spaz" is largely inoffensive, and is generally understood as a casual word for clumsiness, sometimes associated with overexcitability, excessive startle response ("jumpiness", excessive energy, or hyperactivity. Its usage has been documented as far back as the mid 1950s.[5] In 1965, film critic Pauline Kael, explained to her readers, "The term that American teenagers now use as the opposite of 'tough' is 'spaz'. A spaz is a person who is courteous to teachers, plans for a career, and believes in official values. A spaz is something like what adults still call a square."[5] The New York Times columnist similarly explained to readers that spaz meant "You're strictly from 23-skidoo."[5] Benjamin Zimmer, editor for American dictionaries at Oxford University Press and researcher at the University of Pennsylvania's Institute for Research in Cognitive Sciences, writes that by the mid 1960s the American usage of the term spaz shifted from "its original sense of 'spastic or physically uncoordinated person' to something more like 'nerdy, weird or uncool person.'"[6] By contrast, in a June 2005 newsletter for "American Dialect Society", Zimmer reports that the "earliest [written] occurrence of uncoordinated "spaz" (as opposed to uncool "spaz"?" is found in The Elastik Band's 1967 "undeniably tasteless garage-rock single" "Spazz".[7]

Later in 1978, Steve Martin introduced a character Charles Knerlman, aka "Chaz the Spaz" on Saturday Night Live, in a skit with Bill Murray called "Nerds". Bill Murray later starred in the movie Meatballs which had a character named "Spaz."[8] Both shows portrayed a spaz as a nerd or somebody uncool in a comic setting. Thus, while Blue Peter shaped the modern British understanding of the term, American viewers were being bombarded with a different image.[5] In time, the term spaz, like its counterparts nerd and geek, lost its offensive nature and evolved into a term often used in self-deprecation.

The term occasionally appears in other North American movies or TV series such as Friends and receives a different reaction from British and American audiences. In one episode, Rachel refers to herself as a "laundry spaz" due to her inability to do the laundry. This comment was deemed offensive enough by the British Board of Film Classification to give the episode a 12 rating. Other episodes in the series are rated a step lower at PG.[9]

The difference in understanding of the term between British and American audiences was highlighted by an incident with the golfer Tiger Woods; after losing the US Masters Tournament in 2006, he said, "I was so in control from tee to green, the best I've played for years... But as soon as I got on the green I was a spaz." His remarks were broadcast and drew no attention in America. But they were widely reported in Britain, where they caused offence and were condemned by a representative of Scope and Tanni Grey-Thompson, a prominent paralympian. On learning of the furor over his comments, Woods' representative promptly apologized.[10][11]

Most Americans were surprised[citation needed] when they learned about the controversy. In fact, at least one American dictionary (Merriam Webster's) makes no reference to cerebral palsy in its definition or word origins. It simply defines "spaz" as a shortening of the word "spastic" and "one who is inept".[12]





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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:49:35 AM
I have an uncle with severe developmental disabilities whom I used to care for daily, for whom I will be guardian one day. I did my legal internship at the Association for Retarded Citizens back in the day in NYC and I am hypersensitive to misuse of the word retarded.

That said, this would not have upset me and I would not have interjected. (UNLESS the kids he ridiculed really DID have disabilities. Which you didn't indicate.) KWIM?

That doesn't mean you were wrong. But it would not have been a blip on my mom radar. I just wanted to let you know where someone involved and sensitive stands on it.


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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:50:30 AM
"spaz" is not a bad word/hate speech IMO.

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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:50:47 AM
My understanding , as a UK pea, is that it is very insulting and I certainly would pull anyone up for using it.....but then I find people being "pissed" to be a coarse reference to them being very drunk!!!


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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:52:06 AM
Assuming he was not speaking about someone with disabilities, I think you over-reacted.

I never thought or heard of spaz as a derogatory term.

I would not have said anything.

The kid sounds very respectful though.

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Posted: 11/26/2012 10:52:24 AM
That term doesn't bother me at all. I definitely would not have said anything.

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Posted: 11/26/2012 11:02:26 AM
Another UK Pea here who would have done the same as you.

Unlike many of the posters here I would find using it to refer to a person without disabilities (and who is hyper or goofy) to be more offensive than if it was used colloquially to refer to a person with Cerebral Palsy

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Posted: 11/26/2012 11:03:37 AM
You over reacted. I have never heard of spaz or spastic being used to refer to someone with special needs.



gar
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Posted: 11/26/2012 11:05:23 AM

The difference in understanding of the term between British and American audiences was highlighted by an incident with the golfer Tiger Woods; after losing the US Masters Tournament in 2006, he said, "I was so in control from tee to green, the best I've played for years... But as soon as I got on the green I was a spaz." His remarks were broadcast and drew no attention in America. But they were widely reported in Britain, where they caused offence and were condemned by a representative of Scope and Tanni Grey-Thompson, a prominent paralympian. On learning of the furor over his comments, Woods' representative promptly apologized.[10][11]




That's where I'm coming from. The Spastic Society is a very old charity (now renamed Scope) founded to help people with cerebal palsy and other disabilities.

Spastic is the 'old' term for someone with a disability and although younger people here too now use it without knowing it's history (and therefore not in a hateful way IMO) I still find it a little uncomfortable to hear.






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Posted: 11/26/2012 11:07:26 AM

I do have to say, sometimes we just the word "spaz" referring to someone who is normal (ie, not disabled) but being goofy or crazy about something.


That's what it meant when I was in highschool (early-mid 80's). Didn't know it changed meanings.


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Posted: 11/26/2012 11:08:36 AM

I have never heard or thought of the word spastic as being derogatory.

Same here. We have a dog we call "Spaz" all the time.

I never would have crossed my mind.

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Posted: 11/26/2012 11:11:12 AM

I have never heard or thought of the word spastic as being derogatory. I don't think it refers to a disability at all



IF I use it at all, it is used this way.




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Posted: 11/26/2012 11:11:39 AM
I'm going out on a limb here and say I don't think that you overreacted but kudos to the young man for his apology. It might have been beneficial to explain to him why you found it unacceptable though as I'm sure he had no idea why you found it so.

I agree with what Sue has said here


I believe it is an older (and not as much used these days) term for Cerebral Palsy.

Personally, I don't like it. To me it's comparing a person who is clumsy/crazy/awkward with someone who has a disability - no different to calling someone who does something stupid a 'retard'.



This is where a different culture come in. It is a derogatory ( not hate )word in the UK and has been for some years for the reasons that Sue has pointed out.






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Posted: 11/26/2012 11:15:13 AM
I am generally pretty sensitive about these kinds of things, and "spaz" is not something on my radar.

You didn't do anything wrong, but I wouldn't have reacted the same way.

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Posted: 11/26/2012 11:18:24 AM

no different to calling someone who does something stupid a 'retard' or something you don't like 'gay'.
That was sort of where my brain was. And I do have a few boys in the circle of friends between my two boys that use those words and they DO know not to say it in front of me unless they are using it clinically or to describe happiness.

It was like a grain of sand in my eye and I felt myself getting irritated each time he said it. I don't know either of the kids he was referring to and don't know if they have disabilities, but that would have gotten me upset pretty fast if I knew they did.

Sounds like I may have gone off the deep end in the PC world on this one though--I appreciate the feedback! And yes, he was very respectful in his response to me and I do think he is a nice young man. I am hoping he and my son forge a friendship, because their #1 college picks are the same and it would be nice for them to have a friend before they even got there (assuming they both get in).

Thanks Peas--always appreciate knowing I am going to get a frank response!




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Posted: 11/26/2012 11:19:46 AM
Your heart was in the right place. And the boy sounded respectful.


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Posted: 11/26/2012 11:22:27 AM
Yet another UK Pea chiming in to say yes (here anyway) it is an offensive word.
My friend has cerebral palsy and when she was younger her condition was called 'Spastic Quadriplegia' by the medical profession.
If anyone said the word 'spas' or anything like it in my hearing they would definitely be getting a telling off, ditto 'retard'.


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Posted: 11/26/2012 11:22:58 AM
Totally depends on who he was talking about. If the students had disbilities, then spazzes / spastic is incredibly offensive. If it was just part of the typical population, then it was an over-reaction.


Spaz / spastic haven't, for me at least, crossed the same line as the 'r' word has. I get what you are saying though. Spastic is a medical diagnosis. To use it to mean out of control or whatever the current use is does demean kids diagnosed as spastic because the use is a result of the medical term. Does that make sense? Spastic is the term for tight muscle tone that causes uncontrollable movements. Calling someone spastic for being out of control IS using the medical diagnosis to describe someone in a less than flattering way based on the spastic movements of kids with that diagnosis. I don't think many people know the origin of the saying though. With the 'r' word, everyone clearly does. Does it make it any better? Not sure.

Epeanymous
PeaFixture

PeaNut 15,108
May 2001
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Posted: 11/26/2012 11:26:47 AM
I wonder if perhaps this is a situation where the awareness lags. Certainly when I was a kid (70s/80s) people did not hesitate to use "retarded" when they meant "stupid" or "annoying," and, while some people are holdouts, we have mostly as a society come around to the position that using that word in that way is hurtful so should not be done.

I actually do not know where we are on "spaz." I have not heard of similar awareness campaigns here and do not know if people who have disabilities that cause spasms are offended by the term. I think of a term like "lame" and imagine that you could make similar arguments on behalf of people who have limitations in walking. I am not saying you are wrong--I honestly do not know. But, assuming you are correct, public awareness is far behind where you are, so proceed accordingly.

Simply_Lovely
AncestralPea

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April 2010
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Posted: 11/26/2012 11:27:23 AM
I grew up with both spaz and the r-word having no idea they even pertain to disabilities. To this day I don't associate the r-word with people either. It was musical terminology to me first and then a synonim for something (not someone) dumb. I try not to use the r-word since people get all up in arms about it, and I don't use spaz because it's not part of my jargon anymore.
BUT, if OP finds that word offensive then she did not overreact. (the hate speech part was a tad too much, but pointing out that she didn't want to hear that word is fine IMO). Just because many of you didn't know it was a derogatory word, it doesn't mean it isn't. I don't think the r-word is derogatory, but I understand others do think that, so I do my best not to use it.




Meow!

UkSue
AncestralPea

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June 2009
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Posted: 11/26/2012 11:28:58 AM
Maybe it's a cultural thing, but none of my friends or family would be happy with their child using those words. I would have said something also- and I think you handled it in a calm way from how you described it here. I appreciate that what happens here may be very different to where you live, however.


It's not the passage of time that heals. It's what you do with that time.
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