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February 28, 2023

My daughter works at a climbing wall in Walthamstow, in the cafeteria. Last week she was chatting to a colleague about some object of her disapproval or other, and several times used the word ‘lame’, meaning substandard and pathetic. The third time she said it, the colleague turned round and said ‘I don’t think you should use that word. It’s disablist.’ 

            Well, there’s no denying that it is. If I actually were lame, and heard someone using the word in this sense, I’d think… well, I don’t know what I’d think. Would I be offended? I’d like to think that I wouldn’t be. I also think that compared to some of the disablist terms that were common currency when I was young – spaz, mong etc – lame is pretty tame. However, I can see that there is the potential for offence here. Ros was suitably chastened, anyway, and won’t use the word in that way again. 

            Are the Offence Police over-zealous? There’s no doubt that sometimes they are. But in this case? I’m really not sure. Views welcome. 


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  1. David Abbott permalink

    Your lame attempt to find some decent coffee did not improve things!. That’s ok.

  2. Deborah Smith permalink

    It’s not a bad thing at all that some commonly used words and phrases that were used in the past are now frowned upon by some, but it feels as though it’s becoming a bit silly at times now. I say that with reference to the word “lame” Ros used and as someone with (slight) mobility issues, I wouldn’t have been offended if I’d heard her say that in my presence.

  3. Simon Carter permalink

    Was she asked to halt?

  4. Oh, good one, Simon.

  5. Anne permalink

    Or is that just a lame excuse? Are we at risk of changing multiple use of one word used in a different context and only attributing the word lame to a physical disability when its meaning can vary. I would not wish to offend anyone who has difficulty with their mobility, I have close relatives who do, but it does seem over sensitive to think every time lame is used it pertains to them.

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