1) Crazy/insane/batshit/mental etc.
I know most of you know this one. What I wanted to address here is not the use of these terms as a negative, but the use of them in “neutral” or “positive” ways (e.g. “Insanely beautiful”). If it’s not a term that has applied to you, then you have no business reclaiming it and using it in any way at all, even if you don’t mean it as a negative.
When I want to add emphasis, I usually fall back on “ridiculously”, but here are a few other words that will get your meaning across just as well:
Amazingly, incredibly, extremely, unbelievably, remarkably, exceedingly.
[Note: I know that “crazy” is often used to dismiss women, but I don’t believe this makes it a term for all women to reclaim, any more than a man who was told to “stop being a little bitch” gets to reclaim that insult]
2) M*ron, cr*tin, idi*t, imb*cile, r*tard/t*rd.
I don’t remember any of you ever using the r word here, because I think at this point it’s understood that this is an ableist term. There are totally valid ways to use it (e.g. “flame retardant” and “tardy” as in late), so this is just addressing its use as an insult. Dropping the first two letters makes no difference, and neither does tacking the last four letters onto another word (e.g. fuckt*rd).
This is a medical diagnosis and the insult is closely connected, if not directly connected, to that. The other words on this list have also been medical diagnoses at some point and the insults have stemmed directly from this. [Recommended reading: One and two].
Substitutions depend on what you actually have a problem with, but here are some that tend to work:
Illogical, ignorant/willfully ignorant, irrational.
[Note: “Irrational” is often used to dismiss in the same way “crazy” is, so be careful with this one.]
Don’t be confused, I’m not trying to tell you that any and every use of “special” is ableist! “Special” is a euphemism often used to refer to accomodations made for disabled people (e.g. “special needs”) and sometimes disabled people themselves. I had a bit of a misunderstanding over this in a conversation with someone the other day when they used “special soul” to mean “special snowflake”. The latter is clearly intended to mean “unique”, whereas the former sounds like the euphemism used mockingly. “Special” is still in use sometimes (see: Special Olympics, not to be confused with the Paralympics), but you should generally steer clear of referring to anyone with an intellectual disability with that term until you know if they’re okay with it/prefer it.
None. As an insult, it is always ableist.
4) L*me and d*mb
These still mean someone who limps and someone who is unable to speak, respectively, even if they aren’t much in use that way anymore due to the negative connotations they’ve acquired thanks to people using both terms as insults. You understand why using “gay” to mean “bad” is wrong, so there’s no excuse for this.
Uncool, unoriginal, uninteresting, boring, dull.
5) Deaf to/falling on deaf ears/blind to/blind.
These are real disabilities, please don’t use them to refer to negative behaviors.
Looking the other way on, refusing to listen, refusing to acknowledge, ignoring, selective hearing.
6) Cr*pple/cr*p, cr*ppled by, cr*ppling.
It is a slur. Cr*ppled by/cr*ppling should also not be used.
Substitutes for cr*pple/cr*p:
Substitutes for cr*ppled by/cr*ppling:
Comes from “spastic”, as in muscle spasms.
9) -wit, dense, thick, slow, simple, stupid, daft etc.
Most of these have other, non-ableist meanings and uses, but are ableist when used to insult someone’s intelligence.
10) Duh/herp derp/durr
There are a couple of different beliefs as to where the last two originated (see this and this), but it’s agreed that these are used to mock intelligence.
11) The “ermahgerd” meme
There’s some debate on this one, as it was apparently supposed to mock the way people with retainers speak, which isn’t really a speech impediment exactly as it’s only temporary. That said, there are people with far more permanent speech impediments, so steer clear. “Stahp" is apparently mocking an accent and is its own meme, but they’re paired together so often that it is frequently ableist and should be avoided as well.
None. Don’t mock speech impediments.
Other non-ableist insults:
"I cherish mental images I have of three perfectly happy people. One collects stones. Another- an Englishman, say- watches clouds. The third lives on a coast and collects drops of seawater which he examines microscopically and mounts. But I don’t see what the specialist sees, and so I cut myself off, not only from the total picture, but from the various forms of happiness."