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“Retard” is a slang term for someone who is born with mental retardation, also known as intellectual disability or mental handicap, a condition marked by impaired cognition and functional skill. The term’s use as an insult is considered an example of the “euphemism treadmill,”  a linguistic process which results in any labels used for the condition eventually turning into a pejorative. Some have argued the term is politically incorrect and ableist, resulting in many online debates over whether it is appropriate to use.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the term “retard” originally comes from the French word “retarder,” meaning to restrain or “make slow.” As early as 1970, “retard” became a slang term for “retarded person” in American English.
On June 29th, 2003, an entry for “retard” was submitted to Urban Dictionary, defining it was “a person born with a mental condition.” On December 14th, 2007, YouTuber Cate Rose uploaded an animation of a two-legged horse running with the 2006 reggaeton song Chacarron Macarron by El Chombo playing in the background (shown below). In the first seven years, the video gained over 56 million views and 56,000 comments.
On October 13th, 2009, CollegeHumor uploaded a video in which a physician performs a variety of tests on a patient to determine if he is “retarded.” In the next five years, the video garnered more than 10.4 million views and 20,300 comments.
On September 19th, 2007, the MediocreFilms YouTube channel launched the “Retarded Policeman” web series, which stars an actor with down syndrome performing the role of an incompetent policeman (shown below). Over the next five years, a total of 34 episodes were released in the series.
Full Retard is a memorable quote uttered by the character Kirk Lazarus (played by Robert Downey Jr.) from the 2008 film Tropic Thunder. The expression is normally used as a reply to illogical or inaccurate statements.
During the 2009 Special Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit, the campaign “Spread the Word to End the Word” was launched to encourage people to refrain from using the word “retard,” claiming it is offensive and hurtful to those suffering from intellectual disabilities. On February 14th, 2010, The Washington Post published an opinion piece against banning the word, arguing that new insults would arise to take its place. On May 20th, 2011, the campaign released a public service announcement, which compares the word “retard” to various ethnic slurs (shown below).
On August 16th, 2013, the Smosh YouTube channel uploaded a video titled “Retarded Cats: The Movie,” in which a company makes videos with disabled cats but is sabotaged by an employee who finds the word “retarded” offensive (shown below).
On August 26th, Redditor Domer2012 submitted a post arguing that he did not think “ending the R-word” was a worthwhile goal. Domer2012 subsequently edited the post claiming that two users managed to sway his opinion. Prior to being archived, the post accumulated upwards of 1,000 votes (91% upvoted) in the /r/changemyview subreddit.
On April 19th, 2014, Redditor Broodd submitted a clip from the animated television show Rick & Morty, in which Rick defends his use of using the word “retarded” in a literal sense (shown below). In three months, the video gained over 3,000 votes (87% upvoted) and 420 comments on the /r/videos subreddit.
JonTron’s PlayStation Tweet
In response, Twitter user Ben Huber asked Jafari to refrain from using the word, claiming it was “pretty rude.” After Jafari replied by calling Huber “retarded,” Huber posted the conversation on his Tumblr blog (shown below).
On the following day, Jafari addressed the criticism he had received in a post on the microblogging site TwitLonger, in which he refused to apologize for using the word and urged those who were offended to focus on more pressing matters in the world.
“I don’t usually respond to this kind of criticism, but this has gotten so out of hand and always happens when I make some sort of ‘controversial’ statement on twitter. To you people who get offended at every turn: Why don’t you try focusing your civil unrest at something that dearly needs it, like the fact that today the Israeli air force struck a school with a missile killing 10 people, most of which were children. I suppose you’re all ok with that, as long as the missile didn’t call the school ‘retarded’ first, right? My job as a comedian is to make people laugh and feel better about their lives. So no, in the midst of so many other pressing matters in the world, I will not apologize for calling a PS4 retarded. I encourage you to look at yourselves and think about what really matters.”
Also on August 4th, Redditor Blackberry_Rosemary posted a screenshot of the Twitter exchange along with Jafari’s response to the /r/TumblrInAction subreddit, where it received upwards of 3,700 votes (92% upvoted) in 72 hours.