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Have you ever had a guest come into your house and start criticizing you, your children or some other aspect of your house like how you take care of it?  If you have, you know the normal reaction is to become defensive, and if it gets too much you want to or will toss them out the door onto their ear.

Painting with a big brush will almost always get us into trouble.  So will generalizations, especially if there are no qualifiers.  Northerners criticizing, or more accurately stereotyping, Southerners are sure to get a negative response, and the reverse is true.  Gun Regulation advocates who generalize about Gun Owning advocates and visa verse will get a negative response.  The same goes for urban and rural dwellers. The list is endless.

What I have learned since I have started writing here is there are two types of diary writing. One is the kind where someone wants to start a dialogue and discuss an issue. The other kind is where someone wants to just tweak the people on the other side.  

The latter type is so very nonconstructive, and sadly I have realized that I have written this type of diary in addition to the first kind.  I believed what I had written, but I am certain that I could have written it in a less confrontational way. And doing so would have left many more minds open to what I was saying. My hope is that I will do better in the future.

I have also realized that there are two different ways of writing.  There is writing for a diary, and there is the writing for comments.  In the future, I will endeavor to keep the "snark" out of my diaries. I will also attempt to do the same in my comments but I fear I will be less effective in the latter endeavor, my attempts at humor sometimes misfire.

I realize that this is not a debate society.  It is a blog.  On the other hand, except for the real trolls, most of us are progressives, and even if we don't agree on all issues (guns, abortion, idealist/pragmatist) there are lots of issues we agree on.  It amazes me how willing we are to alienate someone on one issue we feel very passionately about when we will need that person on many more issues where we agree.  

We can have our convictions, but why do we have to use words that do not do anything to further the debate, but are intended to hurt feelings instead?  Why is it that we are so quick to question someones motivations and intentions as opposed to just talking about the issues on their merits?  Sadly the answer is quite simple.  We have a natural instinct to try to feel superior to other people.  To make ourselves feel good, we strive to make the opposition feel lesser.  We challenge their character.  We challenge their morality.  We challenge their grip on reality.  We even question their knowledge of an issue and/or their intelligence even if we have no basis to do so.  They didn't agree with us, so we must do these things, and just for good measure lets point out some meaningless mistake they mad so we can embarrass them.

In writing, it is very important to look closely at the words we use.  I used "scared" in the title of one of my diaries.  Upon further consideration, I could have used a much less loaded word.  Alas, I used it so that I would catch peoples' attention. One of my goals will be to not do that anymore.  I now realize that the benefit I get from writing here is the chance to write, and talk with other people.  If I never make the Rec list again, so what.

Word choice is really important.  I have seen the suggestion of not using racist, bigoted, or homophobic words.  Clearly this is a good start, but I do not believe this goes far enough.  Racist and homophobic are, or should be self-explanatory, but what does bigoted mean?  Are words that are sexist fall under bigoted, or is that a separate category?  What about words that are offensive to people with disabilities?  

The following words are used in everyday language and may to some degree or other, be used here, although I do not claim all of them are or have been.  They don't mean anything to most people.  They are just words.  

They are actually more than just words.  I went  to this site for a reference guide. The Online Etymology Dictionary

Crazy:  1570s, "diseased, sickly," from craze + -y (2). Meaning "full of cracks or flaws" is from 1580s; that of "of unsound mind, or behaving as so" is from 1610s
stir-crazy (adj.)  
1908, from crazy + stir "prison" (1851), probably from Start Newgate (1757), prison in London, later any prison (1823), probably from Romany stardo "imprisoned," related to staripen "a prison." Mid-19c. sturaban, sturbin "state prison" seem to be transitional forms.
wack (n.)  
"crazy person," 1938, back-formation from from wacky. Adjective in slang sense of "worthless, stupid," is attested from late 1990s.
gaga (adj.)  
"crazy, silly," 1920, probably from French gaga "senile, foolish," probably imitative of meaningless babbling.
ding-a-ling (n.)  
"one who is crazy," 1935, from notion of hearing bells in the head (see ding (v.)).
bonkers (adj.)  
"crazy," 1957, British slang, perhaps from earlier naval slang meaning "slightly drunk" (1948), from notion of a thump ("bonk") on the head.
loopy (adj.)  
"full of loops," 1856, from loop + -y (2). Slang sense "crazy" is attested from 1923. Earlier figurative sense was "cunning, deceitful" (by 1825).
loon (n.2)  
"crazy person," mid-15c., lowen "rascal," of uncertain origin, perhaps related to Dutch loen "stupid person."
meshuga (adj.)  
"mad, crazy, stupid," 1892, from Hebrew meshugga, part. of shagag "to go astray, wander." The adjective has forms meshugener, meshugenah before a noun.
dippy (adj.)  
"mad, insane, crazy," 1903, perhaps from dip + -y (2), but the exact signification is unclear. Another theory connects it with dipsomania.
loco (adj.)  
1844, American English, from Spanish loco (adj.) "insane," of uncertain origin, perhaps from Arabic lauqa, fem. of 'alwaq "fool, crazy person." Loco-weed (1877) was name given to species of western U.S. plants that cause cattle and horse diseases that make them stagger and act strangely.
crackpot (n.)  
"mentally unbalanced person," by 1900, probably from crack + pot (n.1) in a slang sense of "head." Cf. crack-brain "crazy fellow" (late 16c.). Earlier it was used in a slang sense "a small-time big-shot" (1883), and by medical doctors in reference to a "metallic chinking sometimes heard when percussion is made over a cavity which communicates with a bronchus."
crackhead (n.)  
slang, "crack cocaine addict," by 1986, from crack (n.) in the drug slang sense + head (n.). In earlier slang, crack-headed meant "crazy" (1796), from the literal sense of crack.
mental (adj.)  
early 15c., "pertaining to the mind," from Middle French mental, from Late Latin mentalis "of the mind," from Latin mens (genitive mentis) "mind," from PIE root *men- "to think" (cf. Sanskrit matih "thought, mind," Gothic gamunds, Old English gemynd "memory, remembrance;" see mind (n.)). Meaning "crazy, deranged" is from 1927, probably from combinations such as mental hospital.
nuts (adj.)  
"crazy," 1846, from earlier be nutts upon "be very fond of" (1785), which is possibly from nuts (plural noun) "any source of pleasure" (1610s), from nut (q.v.). Sense influenced probably by metaphoric application of nut to "head" (1846, e.g. to be off one's nut "be insane," 1860). Nuts as a derisive retort is attested from 1931.

Connection with the slang "testicle" sense has tended to nudge it toward taboo. "On the N.B.C. network, it is forbidden to call any character a nut; you have to call him a screwball." ["New Yorker," Dec. 23, 1950] "Please eliminate the expression 'nuts to you' from Egbert's speech." [Request from the Hays Office regarding the script of "The Bank Dick," 1940] This desire for avoidance accounts for the euphemism nerts (c.1925).

insane (adj.)  
1550s, from Latin insanus "mad, insane; outrageous, excessive, extravagant," from in- "not" (see in- (1)) + sanus "well, healthy, sane." Originally only of persons; of actions, from 1842. Cf. lunatic; and Italian pazzo "insane," originally a euphemism, from Latin patiens "suffering." German verrückt, lit. pp. of verrücken "to displace," "applied to the brain as to a clock that is 'out of order' " [Buck]. The noun meaning "insane person" is attested from 1786.
deranged (adj.)  
c.1790, "insane;" of things, "out of order," from 1796; pp. adjective from derange (v.).
certifiable (adj.)  
1846, from certify + -able. Meaning "so deranged as to be certifiably insane" is recorded from 1912.
common sense (n.)  
14c., originally the power of uniting mentally the impressions conveyed by the five physical senses, thus "ordinary understanding, without which one is foolish or insane" (Latin sensus communis, Greek koine aisthesis); meaning "good sense" is from 1726. Also, as an adjective, commonsense.
mad (adj.)  
late 13c., from Old English gemædde (plural) "out of one's mind" (usually implying also violent excitement), also "foolish, extremely stupid," earlier gemæded "rendered insane," pp. of a lost verb *gemædan "to make insane or foolish," from P.Gmc. *ga-maid-jan, demonstrative form of *ga-maid-az "changed (for the worse), abnormal" (cf. Old Saxon gimed "foolish," Old High German gimeit "foolish, vain, boastful," Gothic gamaiþs "crippled, wounded," Old Norse meiða "to hurt, maim"), from intensive prefix *ga- + PIE *moito-, pp. of root *mei- "to change" (cf. Latin mutare "to change," mutuus "done in exchange," migrare "to change one's place of residence;" see mutable).

Emerged in Middle English to replace the more usual Old English word, wod (see wood (adj.)). Sense of "beside oneself with excitement or enthusiasm" is from early 14c. Meaning "beside oneself with anger" is attested from early 14c., but deplored by Rev. John Witherspoon (1781) as an Americanism. It now competes in American English with angry for this sense. Of animals, "affected with rabies," from late 13c. Phrase mad as a March hare is attested from 1520s, via notion of breeding season; mad as a hatter is from 1829 as "demented," 1837 as "enraged," according to a modern theory supposedly from erratic behavior caused by prolonged exposure to poison mercuric nitrate, used in making felt hats. For mad as a wet hen see hen. Mad money is attested from 1922; mad scientist is from 1891.
maniac (adj.)  
c.1600, "pertaining to mania; insane," from French maniaque (14c.), from Late Latin maniacus, from Greek maniakos, from mania (see mania). Borrowed at first in French form; Latinized in English from 1727. The noun is attested from 1763, from the adjective.
demoniac (adj.)  
c.1400, "possessed, insane," earlier (late 14c.) as a noun, "one who is possessed," from Late Latin daemoniacus (c.200), from Greek daimoniakos "possessed by a demon," from diamon (see demon).
fanatic (n.)  
1520s, "insane person," from Latin fanaticus "mad, enthusiastic, inspired by a god," also "furious, mad," originally, "pertaining to a temple," from fanum "temple," related to festus "festive" (see feast). Meaning "zealous person" is mid-17c. As an adjective, in English, 1530s, "furious;" meaning "characterized by excessive enthusiasm," especially in religion (of Nonconformists), is from 1640s.
A fanatic is someone who can't change his mind and won't change the subject. [attributed to Winston Churchill]

I have seen many of these words used in diaries or comments.  I have seen people ask that some of these words not be used because they are offensive to people with mental illness.  They are offensive to people with mental illness because they lump all people with mental illness into one group.  There is no distinction between diagnosis when they are use.  Maybe there is no ill intent to anyone other than the one it is directed at, but that is not they way it is perceived by others.  

Unfortunately, I have seen people who have been asked not to use some of these words respond with the old retort that it isn't meant to be offensive, it is "just a word".  Sadly, that has been the response many have received when asked not to use racist, sexist, homophobic, or other bigoted language, not at DKos, but clearly throughout our historical culture.

I am not trying to be the "language police.  People will use what they will use.  I do not want to imply that these words are HRable.  I do ask that you think about how these words will be interpreted by other people and ask yourself how you would feel if you were in their place.

Thanks for your consideration

Originally posted to kaminpdx on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 12:47 PM PST.

Also republished by Mental Health Awareness.

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