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My name is Nicolas Steenhout.
I speak, train, and consult about inclusion, accessibility and disability.

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Why I Do Not Like The Word ‘Lame’

The word "lame" is used a lot by many people. Usualy to refer to something that is of poor quality, no fun, not working properly, etc. Most people wouldn’t see a negative connotation to the word. But I do.

Does that make me upset with people who use the word "lame"? No, it doesn’t. Because most people have no way of being aware as to why I find the word offensive. I do have more of a problem when I express the fact that I find it offensive, and the people I speak to just won’t hear my point of view.

Obviously, I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. But it would be nice to have a sense that I was taken seriously when I explain my position. This is not always the case, unfortunately.

So, why do I find it offensive?

The word lame was originaly used to describe someone with a physical impairment, particularly in the foot or leg. First came into English language somewhere before the XIIth Century, from Old High German (lam) and Lithuanian (limthi – broken down). That is still a valid definition of the word. It is in fact a definition that literally applies to me – I use a wheelchair. The word ‘lame’ describes an aspect of me in a neutral way.

So when someone says of a piece of software that isn’t doing what they want that it is "lame", or think it’s "lame" that they can’t purchase Kindle eBooks from Amazon in New Zealand, they are making a *negative* value judgement, using the word "lame" to express that negative value judgement.

As I *am* lame, when someone uses the word "lame" to describe something as a negative, whether they intend to or not, the implication is that *I* am imparted with a negative value for being "lame".

I’m not worried about the Political Correctness (PC) of the word. I readily admit to being non-PC and irreverant myself. My dislike of the word has nothing to do with being PC. It has everything to do with getting a real nasty feeling in the pit of my stomach when I hear it though.

Some of my readers will say I am splitting hair. Or that I am too sensitive. Or that I should harden up. Be that as it may, the fact is, every time I hear the word "lame" used as a qualifier of negative value judgement, it hits me deep. It is not even an intelectual reaction, it’s visceral.

I’m not saying we should ban the use of the word "lame", but I certainly would appreciate if people considered the use, and the meaning of the word, before using it.

2 thoughts on “Why I Do Not Like The Word ‘Lame’

  1. I have a better appreciation for the word Lame now and when to appropriately use it.

    I will certainly be more cognizant when I chose to use the word from now on.

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