Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Word Choice Wednesday: Idiot


Merriam-Webster says:
1 usually offensive : a person affected with extreme mental retardation 2: a foolish or stupid person

Back to the controversial words. It's a penny word, though. Gets thrown around a lot, gets objected to a lot.

More specific than:
Idiot has a medical definition, yes, and it gets so over-used that its impact is pretty dilute unless you hit somebody who's in a position to be offended by it. So it's a less specific word with very specific underpinnings.

The medical definition is an IQ of under 30. Though the whole concept of "IQ" is fraught with its own problems...

Word relationships:
Somehow the adjective stupid  has dodged the offensive label. Not sure how it did that -- or is it just me? Idiot and moron are shades of the same thing, I think, whereas fool is less about intelligence and more about behavior or wisdom. Which is worse: idiot or moron? The former sounds a little sharper, thanks to the d and the t, and the latter draws out more because of the two o's. So maybe moron comes across just a little dumber and more insulting.

What comes to your mind? Does intelligence-based insulting offend you? How do your characters insult each other?

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