The word “retarded” means “slow.” You buy flame-retardant sleepwear for your children, which means the fabric is very slow to catch fire, unlike cotton or linen. In printed music, if you see “ritardando” or its abbreviation “ritard.” it means you are to slow down. Retarded=slow. End of story. A long time ago, people with mental and/or physical disabilities were labeled as “slow” or “retarded” because they were slower to learn some things than their peers, slower to walk, etc.
But even back then “retarded” did not mean “stupid.” It is not synonymous with “beneath contempt” or “sub-human.” That is how it is used today. It is used as a cruel insult: one of the cruelest ones at that, because the cruelty of this insult is leveled at those who, more so than most others, will not or cannot retaliate or speak up for themselves.
Someone at work a while back did something stupid and said, “Wow, that was retarded.” I stopped him and said, “You know, I have a disabled child, and that sort of language is very hurtful.” He replied with, “Oh, I didn’t mean it like that!” Umm, yes you did. Did you mean it as a compliment? I didn’t think so.
Making fun of a disability is unspeakably cruel. It is the definition of inhuman, and it is completely inexcusable.