Let’s stop the “crazy” talk


There’s a lot of “crazy” talk in the fitness world. See above.

We all tend to call the person who does more than us “crazy.” My friend who does Devil’s Week, I’ve called him that. But when I mention the Bike Rally, 600 km from Toronto to Montreal, friends call me “crazy.” Your marathon is “crazy” for a friend but you think it’s the ultra marathoners who are are really “crazy.”

It’s not helpful. It’s hurtful. And it’s not what we mean.

It’s time to end the “crazy” talk. Why? It’s ableist. See the following, social justice and ableism.

Disability metaphors abound in our culture, and they exist almost entirely as pejoratives. You see something wrong? Compare it to a disabled body or mind:Paralyzed. Lame. Crippled. Schizophrenic. Diseased. Sick. Want to launch an insult? The words are seemingly endless: Deaf. Dumb. Blind. Idiot. Moron. Imbecile. Crazy. Insane. Retard. Lunatic. Psycho. Spaz.

I see these terms everywhere: in comment threads on major news stories, on social justice sites, in everyday speech. These words seem so “natural” to people that they go uncorrected a great deal of the time. I tend to remark on this kind of speech wherever I see it. In some very rare places, my critique is welcome. In most places, it is not.”

There’s an excellent discussion of alternatives here.


12 thoughts on “Let’s stop the “crazy” talk

  1. I love this! Am I right in thinking that the “say this, not that” is not to say that those ablist words mean, for example, that someone who might carry one of those labels on the right can be described with their replacement on the left, but that the words on the left are what people actually mean when they say the words on the right? Does that make sense?? I just wanted to clarify because this is a brilliant post, and even with my severe mental health diagnoses (or perhaps because of them) I am totally guilty of using the words “crazy” or “cray-cray” for example.

  2. Yes, yes, yes. This is one of my missions. People like to accuse and talk about the language police. But I think it’s a good thing to think about the social impact of our language and whether it excludes. Most people don’t intend to do that, but unintended harm is still harm. Thank you for this post.

    1. The one I struggle with is “stupid” or “idiot.” Harper, for example, has lots of problems. Ditto Trump. But being an idiot isn’t one of them. There are lots of good, nice people with low IQs. That’s not the issue. Rather, it’s that he’s mean spirited, or maybe just wrong, perhaps a not very good person. I don’t know. I do know that “stupid” isn’t it.

      1. I talked to Daphne Gray-Grant about this one once and she said “stupid” is okay but “idiot” is not. I can’t remember the reasoning. For Harper-type stuff, I think “ridiculous” is pretty safe.

      2. Interesting. I’m not convinced “stupid” is okay when we don’t actually mean that…. If by stupid we mean, lower than normal IQ or bad reasoner.

      3. I’m also not convinced about “stupid” but I slip up with it quite a bit more than with any of the others, usually as a comment on my own behavior (which doesn’t make it better).

      4. Political commentary becomes harder and more interesting once we stop using derogatory shorthand words like “crazy” or “idiot”. We actually have to critique someone’s actions or policies!

  3. I love this conversation! I’ve been pissing off the internet for a few years with regular conversation about ableist language. I’m not free from it myself. I’m also a work in progress but it’s rare that I utter any of these examples out loud, and when I even think the words ‘crazy’ or ‘stupid’ about someone (or something) else, I have an immediate reflective moment about how that was not the best choice of words and why. It’s work.

    Other words that get tossed around a lot that need to be on that list are OCD and ADD/ADHD. They are real disorders with actual diagnoses. We use them as if they’re nothing more than an insult, a joke, or self-descriptor for that ‘one time we did that thing’. Meanwhile, people who have had those labels imposed upon them for actual, difficult to live with reasons on a daily basis are lost in the shuffle of able-minded people ripping off what is less than real and suggesting that it is.

  4. I found this blog interesting as I actually have used that image in reference to myself as I really do run to ‘burn off the crazy’. I have issues with anxiety and depression and I run regularly in the mornings and sometimes spontaneously in the afternoons depending on what type of day I have had.
    Is it possible that some words are experiencing a shift in meaning? The word ‘gay’ comes to mind as it has metamorphosed from meaning ‘happy/cheery’ into its present day usage?
    However I do agree with general innapropriate of terms… No people, you are not ‘depressed’ if you are just having a down day…

Comments are closed.