August: Find a Synonym
Respectful disability language is a (much!) bigger and more complex conversation than we can share in an access tip. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get started!
This month, here is a small way to be part of the movement around eliminating ableist language and creating conversations that are respectful to all:
Stop using the word crazy.
The word crazy, both historically and today, has been used to dehumanize those of us with mental health disabilities and discredit our experiences. Even when someone who uses the word claims they “aren’t talking about a person,” that word (and related ones, like insane, lunatic, mental, and psycho) are dismissing a person or idea by comparing it to a slur for mental health disability.
So what can we do? We can find a synonym. Often, we’re using “crazy” as a not so specific or descriptive fill-in for:
a chaotic day,
an unpredictable or unsettling situation,
a vile person,
a disgusting characteristic,
a startling event,
a ridiculous comment,
a bizarre interaction,
and the list goes on…
By finding a synonym, we won’t be contributing to the interpersonal and systemic ableism that people with mental health disabilities navigate every day, and (bonus!) our language will become more accurate, varied, and powerful.
Pro-tip: Language is a habit, and it takes a while to change. Many times, we won’t notice right away that a word-we-use-all-the-time-but-don’t-want-to-use-anymore has slipped out. If you’ve accidentally used an ableist word, it is a great first step restate your sentence with a synonym as soon as you realize it. AND you’ll be supporting people around you to learn synonyms too. Nice.
Looking for a way to share this idea with your friends? Check out this 30 second video to Stop the Crazy Talk.
Ready for a few more synonyms? Try 10 Phrases I’ve Stopped Saying.
Cheers to new ways of speaking and thinking!