It is odd the way certain homonyms evoke wildly different emotions:
Take for example: “Retard”
If you call a mentally challenged person a “retard” it is considered a scurrilous act and rightly so.
If you call a person of average mentality who does something mentally inept a “retard” it is considered humorous, at least in my book.
Of course you could get technical and “retard” the timing on the ignition position of your car’s engine from its optimal 20 degrees before top dead center. But that just makes you a motorhead. Yet Robert Pirsig found inner peace with such things as he described in his 1974 masterpiece, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
Or you could “retard” the advancing flames of a brush fire and that would make you a firefighting pilot. A “retard” pilot so to speak. I defy you to find anything more honorable.
I suppose you could push the envelope here a bit and examine the consequences of being late to a court appearance twice, labeling you as “re-tardy” but then Lindsey Lohan has already claimed that honor.
So then I had to consider whether she is mentally challenged and therefore the “re-tardy” label is scurrilous, or if she is just an average Joe doing stupid stuff which qualifies her as being “re-tardy” in a funny kind of way. I’m banking on the latter.
Sadly I do not speak any other languages, so I have no idea whether other cultures have to wrestle with these oddities. I do know that some foreign homonym equivalents don’t translate all that well across languages. For example, take “dim sum”, that delicious Chinese dumpling. Now compare that with my upcoming miniscule tax refund; truly a “dim sum.”
Isn’t that simply retarded?
Copyright 2011 Patrick Granfors