We live in a politically correct era, and as one who happens to think it’s a good thing and we should be mindful of words that make someone feel “less than,” I’m throwing open to input this controversial topic: should charged words such as “retard” be used in novels if they are accurate according to the time period?
It began like this: A writer friend of mine has written a story set in the early 1970’s, when the idea of political correctness was unknown and the word “retard” was the word commonly used to describe someone who was intellectually challenged, mentally handicapped, or developmentally disabled – not sure which term is preferable. I said I was in the process of going through the manuscript of my novel (published more than a decade ago, which will be re-released as an e-book this summer) and found the word uttered by one of my child characters. Feeling chagrined, I changed it. My writer friend forcefully defended his leaving the term retard in his book, saying it was accurate for the time period and we, as writers, should not go back and sanitize history.
Your input? Given the issue of accuracy for the time period, is it acceptable for an author to use the word retard or would an alternative word be preferable and still maintain the integrity of the piece? Which word is appropriate for replacing retard or retarded? Would you be offended if you read the word retard in the context of chronological accuracy?