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meatball42 in dw_britglish

DO people use 'retard' as an insult in Britain? Specifically Wales?

Thanks for your responses, people! To be more specific, I am looking for intentionally hurtful language; the circumstances in my fic include physical/mental violence against the character also being called whatever insult I end up picking, and it's set in the early 90s.

In my experience, retard is considered really offensive in the US, although in the sense of 'the teachers hate it when we say it so let's just say it as much as we can.' In college, I mainly hear it on sports teams, for what that's worth.


No. We also don't use the word in an actual mental health context.
Thanks. In that case, is there a word with a similar connotation?
I thought about spaz as well, but on reflection I'm inclined to feel it's a poor choice for the OP to use. AFAIK, the offensiveness of retard in the US doesn't reach anything like the degree to which spaz can be considered offensive in the UK (on a par with racist slurs), so the risk of getting it wrong is high.
idk, I was under the impression that "retard" in the US was similarly offensive - there are campaigns to end the use of "the r-word", it's widely referred to as a slur, and it's not something you hear on mainstream television.

It's hard to compare offensiveness cross-culturally sometimes, so maybe my perception is off, but I would have at least have said that "retard" in the US is a lot more offensive than things like "moron" or "special" are in the UK (...meaning no offence to the commentors who suggested them - my point is that "retard" in the UK seems milder than it is in the US, and equally "spaz" is much milder in the US than in the UK (I was pretty surprised to hear Jessica use it on an episode of Suits recently), so it's all a bit confusing).

OP, this Separated By a Common Language post might be helpful in at least gauging whether "spaz" is too offensive for your needs or not.
Hey, this is a really helpful comment, but it got labeled suspicious for the link. Just so more people can see it, maybe you could edit with a url instead, or something? Thanks, and sorry @ lj.
I'm fairly sure that you as the OP have the option to unscreen "suspicious" comments. Whatever, I can see it now so perhaps your replying to it unscreens it automatically?
"Special". It's a bit more affectionate, perhaps. More teasing your friends rather than insulting your enemies.

(It's short for Special Needs, which itself is short for the legal/official term Special Educational Needs. SEN covers many things including autism, blindness, dyslexia, use of wheelchair, ADHD, very low IQ or emotional difficulties, but it's those last two meanings which are being invoked here.)

When I first heard my kids using it a couple of years ago they would say "Ah, you're so special. Needs." Now they don't include the "needs" because it's become understood in "special".
Can't answer for Wales, only Southern England, but yes, teenagers do. I think it's an American import, because I've only heard it in the last ten years or so.
Not really a British term, though I agree I have occasionally heard it used by teenagers. Not by anyone else though.
Yes, definitely. I'm 26 and from Cardiff and I would never use it, but I've heard various of my peers do so, and younger people. There are various other metal health derived insults I remember hearing, which I could detail if you need them.
How old are these people? That's likely to have a big influence on what insults they use. "Moron" is one possibility, but I suspect that it's not much used by the young.
If this isn't set now or "nearly now" then basically no. I'm in my 30s, and I certainly never heard it during my school days. There were insuts with mental health connotations, but almost without exception they were considered very offensive. ("Mong" was used a fair bit, and that one would most definitely have got someone into serious trouble if a teacher had overheard it.)

You don't seem to hear it much now, but "prat" was probably the most common general-purpose, relatively minor insult in my school career. (Worcestershire.)
I was a teacher at that time, and we took mental health/ability insults as seriously as racial ones.
Some people in England (I can't speak for the rest of the UK) do. However, many people (myself included) find it extremely offensive and wouldn't ever consider using it. Think carefully about what you're trying to convey about your character.
I agree with Little Red. There are people everywhere who will use that word, but that doesn't mean you want to add it to your fan fiction--unless, that is, you are writing a very uncouth and rude character.