Can You Say Retarded? Yes, But Just This One Time.

I’ve known for many years that it is inappropriate to use the word retarded. In the vast majority of senses that most people tend to use it, that is. Rene is always quick to remind me if I ever forget. So, when can you say retarded? I’ve figured it’s usually just best to use a different word. That’s because if it comes to the tip of my tongue, it’s usually regarding somebody’s stupid behavior. And that’s just wrong.

This whole retarded discussion is not a PC thing. And don’t event think this is “woke” because that’s another word we don’t need to discuss. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not referring to this discussion as retarded. That would be wrong. I mean this discussion about the word retarded.

Wrangell-St. Elias
Wrangell – St Elias National Park & Preserve, Alaska

But why am I even mentioning this here? Well, the topic came up on our recent visit to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Bear with me here. I’ll explain. Or rather, I’ll let the interpretive display we saw do the talking. that provided a perfect example of when you can say retarded.

interpretive display
Interpretive display explains trees retarded growth.

When Can You Say Retarded?

According to the bot: Using the word “retarded” is inappropriate because it is an outdated and offensive term that has historically been used to demean and stigmatize individuals with intellectual disabilities. It perpetuates negative stereotypes and can be deeply hurtful to those affected and their families.

Duh. I might have been able to put that more eloquently myself, but I guess I’m just…uh, lazy.

can you say retarded
Retarded root growth defines the spruce trees’ scrawny stature.

Proper use of the word “retarded” is normally in a technical or historical context. It should specifically refer to something being delayed or slowed down, just not related to people. A chemical reaction, for example, can be retarded by the addition of a stabilizer. Or, there are the retarded trees we see everywhere in these parts of Alaska. And yes, you can say retarded in this sense. Because that’s what they are. I read it at a National Park visitors center. It must be true.

I noticed upon first arriving in the Mat-Su valley, that most of the trees looked – uh, well…can you say retarded here? No, I can’t use the R word in that sense because I had not yet learned about why these Black Spruce common to the area look the way they do. The evergreens in these parts are not the mighty pines, fir, and spruce I’m used to down in the Rocky mountains. That’s because they really are retarded. No, really.

Why Are Black Spruce So Retarded

You see, in areas like this permafrost remained near the surface during the tree’s early growth. This caused cold, shallow and nutrient poor soils which retarded root growth. As a result, this shallow retarded root system then reaches out sideways, unable to grow downward through the frozen ground. So, can you say retarded in this case? No, you can’t say these trees look retarded. Except in this one case, once you understand that their growth has been retarded due to a lack of nutrients in the soil stunting their growth.

retarded trees
Willow trees are so strong, for being so…weak.

Don’t get me wrong. Personally, I love these trees. Even if they are technically retarded. I spent a lot of time running trudging through these scraggly stands all winter. Remind me someday to show you just how much I love them, and what we’ve done to remember them for the rest of our lives.


However: No matter what you think about some of the people you see, things they’ve said or the certain decisions they’ve acted; no. Regardless of whether you think their development may have been stunted due to poor education or lack of socialization; no. You cannot call Willowbillys [sic] “retarded”.

6 thoughts on “Can You Say Retarded? Yes, But Just This One Time.”

  1. Of course people are still here and reading. We still want to hear about all the good adventures and that time you took those beautiful dogs out into the woods!

  2. Hi Jim: Yep, some folks are still here. I have enjoyed and followed your blog for years. It does kind of amaze me that blogs and some forums are still around. It seems that most people have moved on to other forms of social media (YouTube, Facebook, etc.) and I will admit there are some folks I follow via those platforms. I guess I am old school, I actually prefer blogs.

  3. Glad to catch up with you two. Someone is reading…. Albeit my reading of blog posts lately has been retarded by the growth of plants in my garden. Ha. We are finally getting to use our new Class A that has spent more time in the shop during its first year of life than being out on the road. Baker Lake, here we come!!

    • Thanks for the comment! Funny you mention reading, since I almost wrote the other post I’m mulling over wondering if anyone is still out there – considering the recent changes with Google search that are seriously impacting niche websites… So, thank you!


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