Re: offensive words in the cohousing game
From: R Philip Dowds (
Date: Sat, 6 Mar 2021 07:32:05 -0800 (PST)
There was a time when “moron”, “cretin”, and “imbecile” were all established 
medical diagnoses.  But when they entered the vernacular as pejoratives, they 
were eventually displaced by other terms, like “developmentally disabled”.  
Similar for “senile” versus “memory-impaired”.

But wait: It seems to be getting harder.  It looks as though I (a mere 
architect, not a pediatric or geriatric specialist) must be very careful about 
using terms like “developmentally disabled”.  It may be that I am simply not 
qualified to speak these words … especially when others might discern a 
possible negative connotation in my speaking.

Actually, this restriction seems to run in parallel with the views some have 
about widely known ethnic / cultural terms, like “pow wow”, “wallah”, or “tar 
baby”.  I’ve sometimes been cautioned that it’s OK for members of that 
ethnicity and culture to use such words, but not OK for me to use them.

Now that I think about it, if I had gotten a dollar for each time I heard a 
poorly trained civilian, newscaster, or property deed improperly use the word 
“structure”, I could have retired a lot sooner than I did.

Or … are we perhaps being a little too harsh with each other?

Philip Dowds
Cornerstone Village Cohousing
Cambridge, MA

mobile: 617.460.4549
email:   rphilipdowds [at]

> On Mar 6, 2021, at 9:02 AM, Chris Hansen <itschrishansen [at]> 
> wrote:
> Thank you Abe, I agree with you.
> These words are often used in a careless and dismissive fashion by
> professionals also, and people on the receiving end end up being treated
> poorly in mental health services or, at times, not at all.
> As a disability activist, I'd like to make sure that cohousing is inclusive
> regardless of whatever labels a person has or has not been given. It's
> frequently 'the luck of the draw'. People with this diagnosis (among
> others) are frequently survivors of trauma,. Trauma is not a life sentence,
> and neither is a psychiatric diagnosis.
> Just because someone has written it doesn't make it OK
> Iive specifically requested these words be removed for these reasons, and
> will not endorse this game, nor endorse it being in the national archives
> with these words in it.
> Thanks
> Chris
> On Sat, 6 Mar 2021 at 08:06, Abe Ross <cohoyote [at]> wrote:
>> The term is not offensive if used by a professional as part of a diagnosis
>> after a thorough examination. However,  when it is tossed around by a
>> person with no expertise, it is insulting (as it is probably meant to be by
>> the user).
>> Abe Ross
>> Treehouse Village Ecohousing
>> Bridgewater Nova Scotia
>> _________________________________________________________________
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> -- 
> Chris Hansen
> 32 East Village Drive
> Burlington
> Vermont 05401
> Ph 603 3988730
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