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Randy Cassingham

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Sundays are writing day around here: it's the day I write This is True each week. This week, I had the usual line-up of stories about stupid people doing stupid things (or, as the case may be, smart people doing stupid things!) when I came across the story of Mark Rimkufski from the weirdest state in the union, which is of course Florida.

(Many seem to think that California is the weirdest state. It's not; not by far.)

Whenever I write a story, I try to remember to check for updates -- I do a Google News search for something unique in a story. As it happens, Mark Rimkufski is a reasonably unusual name, and I found two things: 1) there were no updates, but 2) a French web site had translated the newspaper story, and it was a good thing I wasn't drinking coffee when I spotted their headline. It was:

"Le Crétin de la Semaine Avait un Beau Badge de Policier"

-- for the Franco-impaired, that translates to "The Cretin of the Week Had a Beautiful Police Badge".

Unfortunately, no one that I found had a photo of the badge, but who wouldn't immediately love the "Cretin of the Week" label? But I can't just steal it; I want my own label. In fact, I've been thinking lately that I need my own "word" for the morons I write about, but nothing had come to mind yet. This story pushed me into doing it. I needed a word that immediately brought to mind a certain mental image of an absolutely wanton moron, wasn't really in use yet (not in the Urban Dictionary) -- and certainly not registered as a domain name. I thought about it for hours, and got suggestions from my wife (her idea, "f'idiot" -- and yeah, the f' stands for what you think it does -- but fidiot.com was taken, darn it!)

There's a real need for such a word. I mean, what sort of retard or dimwit would think, in this era of security (especially on airliners!) that he could get away with what Rimkufski tried? But let's pause here for the story, as I wrote it today:

Beats the Old Bomb Threat Gambit

Mark Rimkufski, 49, was late for his flight from Miami, Fla., to Los Angeles, Calif., and arrived at the gate after the doors were closed. He allegedly whipped out a badge reading "Fisher Island Chief of Police" and told airline employees he was a federal air marshal, so the doors were opened and he boarded the flight. But there were actual air marshals onboard who demanded to inspect the badge; there is no police department on Fisher Island, which has fewer than 500 inhabitants. After Rimkufski was tossed back off the plane, he retired to an airport bar where he was heard complaining about his treatment. He faces state charges of impersonating a law enforcement officer, and federal charges of impersonating an air marshal. (Miami Herald) ...And Internet charges of being an tardwit obliviot.

 Mark Rimkufski's mug shot
 Le Tardwit Obliviot of the Week -- Mark Rimkufski's mug shot.
"Tardwit" is, of course, a portmanteau of retard and dimwit.

And no, I'm not going to bow to anyone who whines that the use of "tard" Just Isn't Politically Correct. There are no retards who read my work. Except, maybe, some politically correct whiners.

OK, that's flippant; I don't really expect everyone will like the word, and I certainly know that children (and immature adults) have a long history of misusing the word "retarded" -- and a lot of other words. The solution cannot be that mature people can't use the word anymore. We must argue against irrationality. We must argue against stupid reactions. We must demand common sense. We MUST take back our language.

As I said in response to one of the comments below, my point in using such a word (and I think the vast majority will understand it implicitly and immediately) is that political correctness demands that we shy away from perfectly good and valid words. "Crippled" became "handicapped" -- which was great until people started objecting to that word, too. Then came "differently abled" and other horrible constructions. I can walk today thanks to multiple surgeries; before that I was crippled, and to hell with anyone who wanted to patronize me with garbage like "differently abled". I can stand now, thank you, but won't stand for politically correct weasel-wording. "Retarded" is a fine and useful word; it was not created as an epithet (as are a lot of words that are proper to disparage, such as racial insults). You don't have to like "tardwit", but I used it, I stand by it, and I'll likely use it again at some point.

While there have been many tardwits featured in True over the last almost-15 years, I hope you'll agree that this guy is worthy recipient of my first use of the word. And as for the slug (title), here's an example from True from 1995 of the old bomb threat gambit.

(And yes, I snagged the domain name. I don't know for sure what I'll do with tardwit.com, but meanwhile it's pointed to this page.)

So, I'm fairly happy with the "new word". My first real chuckle, though, was when I searched it on Google, and this was their top suggestion:

Google search suggests I probably really meant 'Target stores'

Satisfactory!

(Le Crétin de la Semaine Avait un Beau Badge de Policier)



March 24 Update

I wasn't fully satisfied with "tardwit" when I shut down Monday night, after the Premium edition went out. And while the overnight feedback has been mostly terrific, I couldn't put my finger on why I wasn't satisfied with the word until I read the note from Premium subscriber Joe in New York. Before I get to that, I want to share a few of the other letters I got -- and be sure to read the comments on this entry, too: there are some terrific and interesting opinions expressed.

But there was sputtering, too. One reader was especially clueless, appealing to me as "a Mensan" (translation: "I'm really, really smart and therefore you should listen to me") to withdraw the word, and then writing back minutes later to say she demands to be unsubscribed. Well, if she's so smart, why doesn't she immediately grasp that I obviously provoke people on purpose sometimes, since getting people a bit angry is a way to get them to think? Yes, well, I guess she decided that thinking was Just Too Hard, and let herself get so angry that she couldn't think at all. Burn your Mensa card, Angela in Texas!

Now for the more thoughtful letters:

Suggested alternatives for "tardwit": [several clipped] and remember our eternal watchword, Idiopathic -- from the Greek Idios (I do not know) and Pathos (what's more I do not care). --Dr. Marc, Illinois

With my medical background, it fits.

I like your "new word" tardwit. My wife teaches special education and sometimes flinches when I call bad drivers "retarded", so I started calling them cartard, which she said was better. My 11-year-old daughter had heard me use cartard several times, and when someone cut me off in traffic, I called him an a$$hole. She said, don't you mean Gashole? It brings a smile to your face when you see your children following in your footsteps. --Brent, Arizona

It gets me right there, Brent.

Stupid people deserve the ridicule they bring upon themselves. To compare them with the mentally retarded is insulting to retarded people. Just my two cents. I trust you'll read it with an open mind. --Deidre, Texas

We'll see if your trust is being upheld here, Deidre....

Hey Randy, just an FYI, unless your statement "There are no retards who read my work" was tongue-in-cheek, which I suspect it was, you're wrong. As one of your other readers pointed out this week, sometimes families read This is True together, and I read it to my daughter, Tesla, who has been diagnosed as mentally retarded due to brain injuries at birth. Despite her handicap, she is strong-willed and determined to succeed, and though she is later than our other children, at age 8 she is starting to read herself. So, I can verify for you that families do read This is True together, other kids grow up with it... and retards do read your newsletter. Keep up the good work. --Rusty, Kansas

You are correct, that was tongue-in-cheek.

I think tardwit is a good word, especially because I just assumed it was a U.S. word I hadn't heard before (I'm English). Naturally, as with any new word I see, I tried to work out the derivation. "Clearly," I thought to myself, "it means 'a slow-witted person', because tard has the same root as 'tardy' meaning late (as in the French 'plus tard' - later). Therefore a tardwit is a person who understands things a lot later than the rest of us." There, no mention of retards. That'll keep all the politically correct people from throwing a spaz. --Sarah, England

You have more faith than I, Sarah!

I thought "tardwit" was a stroke of genius but I beg you to decribe it as a blend of "retard" and "fuckwit" rather that "retard" and "dimwit". It was certainly the first thing I thought of when I saw tardwit. Your explanation suggested that you really didn't want the "f" word to be part of it, but I don't think it has nearly the negative effect these days that it used to. --Shaun, Victoria, Australia

Yeah, that'll settle people down!

Despite all that, here, finally, is the argument that made me decide to drop the word -- the one from Joe in New York:

Your stance starts on the false assumption that you are not also misusing the word "retarded" -- you're applying it to people who are dumb, not people who have mental handicaps (for the purpose of this discussion, I am assuming "retarded" to be a shortened form of "mentally retarded" - yes, I work with a lot of lawyers...). So technically, you are misusing it. Your call to "take back" the language is really just a call to be allowed to misuse a word at the expense of people with a real handicap. That "political correctness demands that we shy away from perfectly good and valid words" is a great argument for other words, but "retarded" is not a perfectly good and valid word to describe people who aren't actually retarded. You're swinging the pendulum too far in response to political correctness. "Mentally retarded" didn't start out as an insult to be used against people who do stupid things, it started as a label for people who have legitimate mental problems. I don't know how many other readers will feel this way, and if the overwhelming majority doesn't mind, then I would expect you to go ahead with it. [But] the word "retard" is disrespectful to people who are actually retarded when used to describe people who are stupid or mean-spirited. Thanks for taking the time to read this. --Respectfully, Joe in New York

My Conclusion

So here's what I think: 80 percent of my readers don't care one whit one way or the other. And I'd guess somewhere over 19.9 percent absolutely love the "tardwit" concept. Therefore, screw the 0.02ish percent? Well, no: Deidra in Texas and Joe in New York are right: calling stupid people (or, as I said from the start, smart people doing dumb things) "retards" -- or a derivation of the word -- may be insulting to them, but it's more insulting to people who are, in fact, mentally retarded, and I certainly had no intention of insulting them.

I do think "mentally retarded" (or, colloquially, "retarded") is a valid word, and like I choose to be fine with "crippled" and "handicapped" (and some segments of the gay community have taken back "queer", and some rural southerners have taken back "hillbilly"), I would support the community if they wanted to take back retarded, too (and, in fact, there's a comment from last night from someone who notes some Special Olympians have embraced "retard"). But I'm not going to fight that fight today.

Joe is correct: I did make the mistake of "swinging the pendulum too far in response to political correctness" -- that PC types go too far is no reason to go too far in reply. And while I don't think I went way too far, Deidra's succinct conclusion is right on.

And then some magic happened.

I had already made the decision this morning to back away from "tardwit" when I got yet another great letter:

I've enjoyed your newsletter for years -- it is always humorous and thought-provoking, which is a fabulous combination. And I love "tardwit"! Thought you might enjoy a word my husband and I came up with for one of the worst types of idiot -- the oblivious idiot, a creature completely unaware of its own idiocy. There are quite a few idiots who have some faint, glimmering knowledge of their own idiocy, but there are always the ones who have no idea. Hence the term, obliviot. (If you like it, "steal" away!) --Anne, Washington

Why yes, yes I do like it, Anne! It's even better than my wife's "F'idiot" concept. It's exactly what I was grasping for when I was writing the story, since indeed the "creature completely unaware of its own idiocy" is exactly who I want to lampoon. Thank you for permission to "steal" it -- I have, and the domain obliviot.com is pointed to this site (not to this specific page).

I have a rule against rewriting taglines once they're published, but I'm going to break it in this instance -- I believe for the first time. I'll be replacing "tardwit" with "obviliot" in this week's story, so it'll appear that way in the free edition (if that story is chosen), the archive, and (eventually) the book compilation.

Thanks, all, for your feedback -- pro and con.

Oh, and yeah: I fully expect some percentage of my readers to be "disappointed" that I "caved in" -- in other words, I'll be damned for changing my mind, just as I would have been continued to be castigated if I hadn't. It's sort of a "can't win", so I may as well do what I want, eh?

112 Comments on This Entry

All comments in this blog are reviewed prior to being published. Spammers: don't waste your time. The posting criteria are simple: if a comment is worth visitors' time to read, it's approved. If not, it's not.


Posted by Charles, Texas on March 22, 2009:

You just *know* you are going to be crucified for even using the word "retard". Yet, the word "a la francaise" of cretin would seem much more appropriate. Have you considered that domain nom de plume? Sounds apprapot, maintenant. Vive la differance!

---

I did already address the political correctness of the term; I'll bold it to make it a little more obvious, but I shall not bow. -rc

Posted by Phil, San Antonio, TX, USA on March 22, 2009:

Despite my initials being "P.C.", I am far from it, and I totally agree with your creation and usage of the term "tardwit". My only other comment on this story is that I misread this tardwit's last name the first time I saw it and thought it was highly appropriate for where he will be spending the next few years.

Posted by Walter in Washington on March 22, 2009:

Reminds me of a scene on the FX TV show "Rescue Me".

twunt

You can't say tw@t on TV. You can't say c*nt on TV.

By you can say twunt All You Want!

(They manufactured a discussion where they "created" the word and then went to town.)

---

Heh! Of course, "Battlestar Galactica" also used the explicative "frack" -- way back in the late '70s, and on network TV, not cable! -rc

Posted by Cory, Kansas on March 22, 2009:

What kind of retarded tardwit would complain about such a fabulous word?

Cue short bus jokes!

---

I got a big complaint from one guy on Facebook, where I posted a link to this page. My response was, "Please don't put words in my mouth, Ed: I didn't call people who objected 'politically correct whiners', I called them 'retards'. If any of your family members is mentally retarded -- like a member of MY family is -- your objection is noted. If not, then your objection is flatly rejected." So there. -rc

Posted by Ken, Nevada on March 22, 2009:

Tardwit is a recently coined unique word, and as such is not part or parcel of any other word, therefore must not have the readers own flawed opinion thrust upon it.

If the use of the word retard is not acceptable in today's language, then that would negate the Prestigious Award bestowed upon me when I was the head of Special Olympics Area Three for Nevada in the 1980's, by my own athletes, who blessed me with the title "Honorary Retard". Meaning to them that we were equal in respect and standing with each other. Now if these people with different or diminished abilities could understand the word and not panic when it was spoken and you can't, well, I will reserve you a place somewhere below their ability to comprehend.

Posted by Greg, Washington on March 22, 2009:

The issue at hand is the negative connotation for "retarded" that you're reinforcing. A "retarded" person is merely slow. The people you're singling out are perniciously stupid megatwits hurt themselves and others, and you're associating "tard" with that kind of harmful, hurtful stupidity.

"There are no retards who read my work." - So if you found out no Black people read your work, that would be an excuse to use racial epithets? I can't believe you even made that argument. Right and wrong are not dependent on who's watching.

More to the point, how many readers do you have who know someone who is retarded, care about someone who is retarded, and would take offense to you grouping a loving, caring disabled person in with the professional grade shmucks you're writing about?

Forget political correctness. It's common human decency. You're promoting a hurtful stereotype while taking a backhanded swipe at a class of people who are least able to defend themselves.

You're better than that and you can do better at coming up with a word that means what you're trying to convey.

---

Your "right and wrong" argument is a good one, but your definition is wrong -- "retarded" in a psycho-medical sense doesn't mean "slow". My point, and I think the vast majority will understand it implicitly and immediately, is that political correctness demands that we shy away from perfectly good and valid words. "Crippled" became "handicapped" -- which was great until people started objecting to that word, too. Then came "differently abled" and other steaming bullshit. I can walk today thanks to multiple surgeries; before that I was crippled, and to hell with anyone who wanted to patronize me with garbage like "differently abled". I can stand now, thank you, but won't stand for politically correct weasel-wording. "Retarded" is a fine and useful word; it was not created as an epithet (as are the sort of words you have in mind with your almost, but not quite, parallel concept). I stand by the word. -rc

Posted by Cory, Topeka Kansas on March 22, 2009:

Dear Greg in Washington:

I grew up with and loved very much a very retarded uncle who finally died from complications stemming from his lifestyle. When I got old enough, I fed him, gave him drink, used a crane to lift him in and out of bed, used a crane to lift him in and out of his van.

Russel (We called him RTD as this was not only his initial, but RTD is the name of the Denver bus service that he relied on heavily for transportation) could not go anywhere or do anything on his own. He pissed in a jar and shat in a bag. If he messed his face while eating, somebody had to clean him.

Russel stands to this day as great inspiration to me. Not only did he not sit around the house (even though all he could do is sit around) bemoaning his lot in life and resenting those who made him the way he was (his retardation was a result of a doctor's error during birth), but he lived life to the fullest that he was capable - and this includes having a sense of humor about himself and those around him. His laugh was very unique - like nothing you have ever heard. Sounded more like a short reverse sneeze. But this never prevented him from laughing and enjoying everything around him. He realized that life was too short for that.

Growing up in the environment that I did, I saw plenty of handicapped and retarded children grow bitter about their position in life. Note that I say grow. They grew this way because people taught them that they were lesser and that they should be bitter. People that think the way you do cause more harm to these people who struggle the way they do. They don't need bitterness, they need quite the opposite. And if it turns out that you are one of these people - I'm sorry that you have developed the attitude you have.

Now I'm all teary eyed remember Russel. Thanks for reminding me of such a great person. I needed that.

Posted by Walter, Hialeah FL on March 23, 2009:

Your term "Fidiot" should be changed to "Fudiot".

And I am not taking you to task because the term "retard" is used universally but for us parents who have mentally challenged (not retarded) children take a deep breath when we see the word used.

Posted by Dan in Florida on March 23, 2009:

Now you're even registering separate domains for individual blog postings? Personally, I believe in using domain names logically as the founding geeks of the Internet intended, and have most of my own sites in logical subdomains; I haven't registered any new domains in years. I also avoid using .com addresses for sites that aren't commercial in intent.

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My work is obviously commercial. Obviously I'm not registering domains for every concept I write about, but if something has commercial intent, it'd be stupid not to back up my investment. And I do try not to be stupid. -rc

Posted by Brandon from South Carolina on March 23, 2009:

Hmmm... I could see this word catching on.

I'm surprised that there's only one commenter criticizing your use of the word "retard." I'm also disappointed that the PC tardwit that DID show up was one of the "less mentally capable" members of the class. A few families at my church include retarded children, and they use the term retarded. Some of the kids of average intelligence in those families use the term retarded in the common vernacular way. One of my best friends has an uncle who is mentally retarded, and she HATES the politically correct people who insist on ceasing use of the word retarded altogether, AND the politically correct people who insist it should only be used in the medical sense.

Posted by Tom in Pittsburgh on March 23, 2009:

I certainly know that children (and immature adults) have a long history of misusing the word "retarded" -- and a lot of other words. The solution cannot be that mature people can't use the word anymore.

I can and do agree with that.

"Retarded" is a fine and useful word; it was not created as an epithet

But I am disappointed that, rather than use a fine and useful word, you choose instead to misuse it, and in the creation of an epithet. Do you really think "tardwit" will speak against the use of "retard" as an epithet!? Or will it reinforce that unfortunate and immature usage?

Perhaps, as a former cripple yourself, you might reconsider this coinage, in favor of "cripwit"?

---

I don't think "tardwit" will speak for or against the use of "retard" as an epithet. -rc

Posted by Don, Ontario, Canada on March 23, 2009:

If I may quote the late, great George Carlin:

"There is no such thing as bad language, folks, bad thoughts, bad intentions, but not bad words."

[...] (or, a longer version of the same concept, for those with a longer attention span:)

"...there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of those words in and of themselves. They're only words. It's the context that counts. It's the user. It's the intention behind the words that makes them good or bad. The words are completely neutral. The words are innocent. I get tired of people talking about bad words and bad language. B******t! It's the context that makes them good or bad. The context. That makes them good or bad. For instance, you take the word "N****r." There is absolutely nothing wrong with the word "N****r" in and of itself. It's the racist a**hole who's using it that you ought to be concerned about."

Posted by Dinah Australia on March 23, 2009:

I think it is such a good word it might even replace 'drongo' in the Australian 'slanguage'.

Posted by Jim in Ontario, Canada on March 24, 2009:

Sorry - I look at the word tardwit and immediately think of Doctor Who. What can I say?

Posted by Johanna, Bay Area, California on March 24, 2009:

My first thought when I saw the word tardwit was that the first vowel was "u" -- which would be even more appropriate!

Posted by Brad USA on March 24, 2009:

I received a degree from UC Santa Cruz in Literature and Creative Writing. There is no such thing as a word that is sacred or remotely obscene. Tardwit is brilliant!

Posted by Bill in Altadena, CA on March 24, 2009:

I agree that it's not the word, it's the attitude of the speaker. Back in the 1960's my Grandmother taught in the Pasadena Unified School District. In those days they had different levels of instruction depending on the child's capabilities. One level for bright kids, another for average kids etc. My Grandmother taught Junior High for the level they called "Educable Mentally Retarded". This was for kids with IQs from 60 to 80 if I remember right. She taught them English, Social Studies and pratical day-to-day things to help them when they became adults. Practical things like balancing a checkbook for example. My Grandmother loved her 'tards unconditionally and they loved her right back. They would come back to her for years afterwards and tell her how much she helped them and how much they loved her. What kids today would tell that to a Middle School teacher??

Now, I'm not advocating using hurtful words because that's what you used in your childhood, but if you love others and treat them well, words become just words and I think that's what Randy is pointing out over and over again.

Posted by Jordan from Los Angeles on March 24, 2009:

I personally never felt the lack that you seem to find - "idiot" and its ilk seemed quite adequate. Making up a word seems unnecessary.

I have to agree with the other posters (for instance, Tom in Pittsburgh) who bemoaned your use of a derivative of "retarded" as an epithet. I agree - use the word for what it's for. Using it as an epithet makes the problem *worse* because then the overly sensitive types say "we can't use XXX to describe these poor people, because XXX has such a negative connotation". There are plenty of other words that mean "somebody who is perfectly capable of thinking but doesn't"; there's no need to use one that means "somebody whose ability to think is impaired".

---

Well, you know what "idiot" originally meant, right? Retarded. Or, more specifically, "A person of profound mental retardation having a mental age below three years and generally being unable to learn connected speech or guard against common dangers." (American Heritage dictionary). So indeed writers have constantly struggled to come up with new ways of saying the same things. It's part of what we do. -rc

Posted by Jorn, Delaware on March 24, 2009:

I love your new word, and I'm sure I'll have plenty of opportunities to use it (I work in tech support) - I'll be sure to give proper credit if someone notices (just another way to spread the good word of True)

Speaking of good words, I agree with you completely that we must fight to take back our language; I can be kind of a jerk about it sometimes, but it's important to me. And hey, maybe tardwit will overtake the incorrect vernacular usage of the word retard, so people can go back to using that word correctly.

Have you determined an official definition yet? My head is currently defining it thus: Tardwit, noun. A person in a temporary mental state that demonstrates a complete lack of sense and rational thought.

One final note, (sorry if I'm rambling) I just added tardwit to the spell-check dictionary on my computer. It's now officially in my lexicon.

Posted by Paul, Texas on March 24, 2009:

Ken in Nevada, Greg in Washington, and you, Randy, all got me to thinking about Randy's coined word, "tardwit", and more specifically, the word "retard" from which Randy partially derives his own word. Thanks to all of you.

When I saw the word "tardwit" here for the first time, I winced, and, upon further reading of Randy's blog entry, I found myself unpleasantly surprised at his coining of the term, as well as his justification for it. However, upon further reflection, I believe he has a point: the PC movement has taken so many words away, preventing the rest of us from using them in the way they were originally intended.

I myself am not retarded, but I used to work with a group of "developmentally handicapped" adults as a member of a touring theatre troupe which performs using a technique called "black light theatre". (The "developmentally handicapped" label is the Artistic Director's term, not mine.) We were based in a large Canadian city. It may be likely that some people in that fine city on the lake will know the name of the troupe to which I refer.

The Artistic Director treated everyone the same in public or when the press was present, and those of us who were not retarded (10 of 13 troup members at the time were), as both staff members and fellow performers, were instructed to follow suit. I believed in that philosophy then and still do now. When you treat someone a certain way, he or she comes to expect it and will act accordingly.

In private, the story was a little different. We "non-handicapped" folks were "norms", and the "developmentally handicapped" folks were referred to as either just that, or simply as "the kids".

Sometimes the term "kids" was used in public as an endearment. Even the "kids" bought into the PC language. As an example, I remember one retarded woman at the time who referred to herself in a TV interview as "just a little slow", but not retarded, oh, no.

How condescending that was! How they must have resented such a term as "the kids"! Most of them were older than I was at the time, some of them by ten years or more. The word "retard" was NEVER, EVER uttered; to do so could be a firing offense. Ironically, and in the name of equal treatment, the Artistic Director and the press referred to them with the quaint, politically correct term, "special people". How nice.

Oh, did I mention that the time I worked with this troupe was over 25 years ago? I think I will start using the word "retarded" again as it was originally meant to be used. Maybe I can help bring it back without its PC-induced stigma.

---

Of course, "special" is considered offensive now too. Bottom line: you're thinking about this whole issue. Perfect: that's what I try to do every week. -rc

Posted by Guy in Big Rock, TN on March 24, 2009:

Picked up on the word "tardwit" in the article and figured it out for myself. Seems my description and yours match completely. As for the PC crowd, cancel their GOOHF cards imediately! I am not "hearing challenged," I'm flippin' deaf! Nor am I: "vertically challenged" (tall), "optically challenged", "folically challenged" or "age challenged" (damned near blind, bald and old.) Nor am I that wonder of words, "handicapped!" Yes, I lost some body functions as a result of being shot at in Vietnam, but I learned to work around that, and I function quite well, thank you very much! I agree with George Carlin, bad thoughts, bad intentions, but there is no such thing as a bad word.

Besides, is Mr. Tardwit going to be able to do anything about your use of the word and his picture? Noooo! He's in (or soon will be) jail.

Posted by Diane, California on March 24, 2009:

I'm glad you were told about the word 'obliviot', not because of any sputtering about the correct usage of words or PCness, but because 'tardwit' does not roll off the tounge or sound like a word that will ever become bigger than the memberbase of True. Sorry Randy, but Ann and her husband are better at making up new words than you are :)

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One can't really tell from one attempt, but indeed in this case, I find theirs a much better word. -rc

Posted by Charlie, Michigan on March 24, 2009:

While 'obliviot' is indeed a howler, and perfectly describes many people I (like everyone else!) encounter on a daily basis, I must say I really did love 'idiopathic'. --Thank you Dr. Marc in Illinois!

I've often told my children that the difference between a moron and an idiot is this: A moron is someone who doesn't know any better, while an idiot is someone who knows better but just doesn't care.

Tongue in cheek, of course!

I think I'll adopt both obliviot and idiopathic. I'm always looking for new words to describe the hopelessly clueless.

Thanks again for the laughs you bring!

---

Just before anyone goes away with the wrong idea, "idiopathic" is a "real" medical word, and it has nothing to do with intelligence. The actual definition is a disease or condition with an unknown cause. -rc

Posted by Chip - West Long Branch, NJ on March 24, 2009:

Personally, I don't think you caved at all -- someone sent you a better option! And just so you know, I'm going to use the word tomorrow at my staff meeting. Don't worry, I'm going to use air quotes and properly cite you and Anne's husband.

Thanks for all your articles and thought provoking diatribes!

Posted by Martin, Hopatcong, NJ on March 24, 2009:

The difference between ignorance and stupidity...

Ignorance is when you just don't know any better.

Stupidity is when you know better and you still screw it up.

I have often said "If it wasn't for apathy, I wouldn't have any opinion at all." However, now being more fully informed, I shall call myself "idiopathic". Gotta love that word.

While Tardwit has a bit of a stabbing sound to it and could easily be taken as an insult. I believe that Obliviot sounds more compassionate, which is something we should be when dealing with people of infantile minds.

Tardwit, Idopathic and Obliviot. I learned three new words today. Now ain't I mortelligent.

Posted by Tom, Florida on March 24, 2009:

Medical words can be wonderful stoppers. For instance, calling an annoying person "A great borborygmus" can be a satisfying rejoinder to imply he or she may be full of "wind."

Posted by Rob in Bedford, TX on March 24, 2009:

Reminds me of the Britcom series Red Dwarf, where the creators wanted a futuristic swear word and came up with "smeg", which they then used in such phrases as "smeghead", "smeg off", and "smeggin' 'ell".

Must say, obiviot does roll off the tongue a bit better, doesn't it?

---

It does indeed. And Red Dwarf was terrific! -rc

Posted by Jen in Victoria BC on March 25, 2009:

I for one am glad that you reconsidered ... first because I didn't like the term in principle, and second because it shows you really pay attention to reader feedback *and* are capable of changing your position when presented with a convincing argument. How I wish more people - notably politicians and policy-makers - would exhibit the same rational approach.

Posted by Brandon, a hillbilly from South Carolina on March 25, 2009:

As I said in an earlier comment, I was all for the word "tardwit," at first. However, after reading the comments of Deidre and Joe, I must agree with them. The comment that I responded to last, I believe, was only interested in political correctness and irritated me. However, these two commenters seem to be genuinely concerned with showing respect for the mentally retarded, and make a good enough argument for me to agree that, unless the mentally retarded get together and make a public announcement saying it's okay to use the word in that way, it actually might be insensitive (a crime which I'm also guilty of). I think I'll actually try to stop using the word in the colloquial way... Probably by replacing it with "obliviot." So, way to go, Anne from Washington!

Posted by Carly, Rhode Island on March 25, 2009:

Even as a cripple myself, I tend to reject most of the PC word banishment (I'm sure you've seen the campaigns to ban the use of "retarded" altogether after the Tropic Thunder fallout) and cutesy words made up to replace them. (Differently-abled? *gag*) You can call me disabled, gimpy, crippled, handicapped (okay, that one bothers me some but it's a personal thing and I don't fault anyone for using it), whatever you think accurately describes me.

Still, "tardwit" bothered me and I kept quiet about it because I couldn't really articulate why it did. But I think Deidre and Joe nailed it. I'm relieved to see someone was able to put into words what I could not, and that you took what they had to say to heart.

Posted by Derek in New Mexico on March 25, 2009:

The world of words is a curious place. A Google search turned up a use of "tardwit" from 2005 and another from 2007, among the first ten hits. And I got one link to a Chaucer site, but I couldn't locate the word on it. "Obliviot" is wonderful, and has hits from at least as early as 2004. I'm glad you were able to register the domain name, Randy. It gets harder to coin a new word every year.

As a bird watcher, I imagined that a tardwit was some relative of the chickadee. There is little hope for people like me.

Posted by Tom from Illinois on March 25, 2009:

I seem to remember reading years ago that part of the evolution of the word "idiot" included meaning a lay person, as in one who was not going to be in a religious order.

Posted by Michael in Cokedale, CO on March 25, 2009:

@Rob in Bedford

The word "smeg" in Red Dwarf is a contraction of the real word "smegma". I will not define it; the dictionary tells it much better than I.

And, obliviot is a very good word for the people Randy writes about! I love it!

Posted by Don, Ontario, Canada on March 26, 2009:

After posting my earlier comment I realized I'd missed a quote. A perfect quote, really, and one that I quote all the time.

Unfortunately, I can't attribute this one, save that it's not mine. I read it on a random blog a long time ago, and it seems that blog has since been deleted because I can't find it to give credit. That being said, the quote is this:

"The right to offend is central to the right to free speech."

I can't think of a more appropriate place to use it than right here.

---

It might have been my blog. I know I've addressed it a couple of times (the one I found is here, from 2004). Free speech is specifically about speech you don't like -- we don't need a free speech law about speech you agree with. -rc

Posted by Michael, UK on March 26, 2009:

I love that word "obliviot" - for some reason it reminds me of "ignoranus" as someone who's both stupid and an @rsehole.

Posted by Wilhelm, upper NY on March 26, 2009:

I was not offended by "tardwit" but... it just didn't have a ring to it. What is great about this evolution you've gone thru, you made YOURSELF think, not just your readers. You took suggestions and well voiced opinions and changed because of them. Lastly, you gave credit where credit is due. (wasn't it you who invented the internet?)

---

No, I didn't invent the Internet -- I simply "took the initiative in creating the content," as I put it in my 1999 press conference. -rc

Posted by Eliezer in Jerusalem on March 26, 2009:

The ability to recognize a better solution and adopt is a sign of maturity. Anyone who thinks you "caved" is an insecure, narrow-minded ideologue. Bravo to you for taking a superior word!

Posted by Mike (Edmonton, AB) on March 26, 2009:

I love that Sarah finished her comment with the "have a spaz" comment, I have to assume very tongue in cheek. In light of the fuss over Tiger Woods using the term a while back, it was perfectly appropriate to this article.

A brief history of Spaz: http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003020.html

Posted by Chris, NJ on March 26, 2009:

Once again you demonstrate that you have some of the smartest readers on the planet. Despite my being as disdainful of nonsensical PC as you can get, I was uncomfortable with "tardwit", but lacked the capacity to explain why. Joe's comment summed it up perfectly.

Thanks for keeping an open mind and for the record I love obliviot!

---

Yes indeed, my readers are the cream of the crop. -rc

Posted by Thor, Atlanta on March 26, 2009:

The only thing weird about obliviot to me is that it is close to obliviate. If you screw up big enough, the pain lasts for mere seconds...

Posted by Karen, Buffalo NY on March 26, 2009:

I applaud you for having the courage to listen to opposing points of view and then change your mind when an argument is compelling. Thanks also to Joe in New York, who encapsulated my feelings in eloquent and persuasive language. In education, we hear the term "critical thinking" quite often, but in the real world, very little critical thinking is actually done. Too many people have their minds made up and no amount of logic or common sense will change them. You, Randy, are a critical thinker!

---

All people should be. It needs to be taught in school. Not all would master it, but at least it would cease to be a remarkable thing. -rc

Posted by Tom, Fairbanks on March 26, 2009:

Once again you have shown that reasoned discussion without invective and epithets can be instructive and enlightening. It is so refreshing.

---

Yep. And as I pointed out in my update, the only one who really got bent out of shape was a (claimed) Mensan, who are all supposed to be in the upper 2% of the population, intelligence-wise. Just goes to show "smart" and "reasoned discussion" don't always go hand in hand. -rc

Posted by Tim in Michigan on March 26, 2009:

I loved your update and am 100% behind the change to obliviot. I, too, feel that much of the PC re-naming is (and I use the next word deliberately) horsesh!t. Having worked with the mentally handicapped (er, retarded) and volunteering in music and horsemanship (see the connection now) programs for them, it was hard for me to support your tardwit suggestion. I read fully your explanation but still didn't like it for the same reasons as Joe in New York. His reasoned approach expressed perfectly my concern. I think you made the right choice, and I applaud your reasoning. THANKS! And kudos to Anne in Washington. I like that she shared with your community. BRILLIANT!

Posted by Ed, California on March 26, 2009:

I didn't write in, but I was a bit concerned about tardwit. I believe retard, with the accent on re, is considered offensive to mentally retarded people.

I think mentally retarded is OK. The Mercury News just used it yesterday, talking about a person whose condition made them newsworthy. But _re_tard is not OK.

I'm glad you saw fit to abandon it.

Posted by Curt Frye from Portland, Oregon on March 26, 2009:

If you haven't read Unskilled and Unaware of It (PDF, 500K), a research study conducted by two (then) Cornell faculty members, you should. The paper substantiates the reasoning behind the new word "obliviot".

---

Thanks for the link. I indeed reported on the study shortly after it came out. -rc

Posted by Jill, Rochester on March 26, 2009:

I like obliviot, but prior to reading that was going to suggest one my husband coined a few years ago: foron -- a fucking moron.

Posted by Stu (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) on March 26, 2009:

I'm not trying to be the PC "police" (I'm actually quite the opposite), but the word "dumb" has been used in this discussion several times.

Wasn't that word used to describe people incapable of speech because it was assumed they were too stupid to speak?

Just something to ponder...

---

My favorite dictionary, American Heritage, has a usage note in its "dumb" entry: "In ordinary spoken English, a sentence such as 'He is dumb' will be interpreted to mean 'He is stupid' rather than 'He lacks the power of speech.' 'Lacking the power of speech' is, however, the original sense of the word, but it has been eclipsed by the meaning 'stupid.' For this change in meaning, it appears that the Germans are responsible. German has a similar and related word dumm that means 'stupid,' and over time, as a result of the waves of German immigrants to the United States, it has come to influence the meaning of English dumb. This is one of dozens of marks left by German on American English." -rc

Posted by Ernest, Junee, Australia on March 26, 2009:

A good word for people of the type you mention is THALIUM as this is a dense metal that's highly toxic and poisonous - just like the people it's aimed at. Because it's frequently used as a rodent poison that lets them get away before they die, I've often heard people describe is as 'a slow working dope.' Which would also be appropriate.

Posted by Dean, Oregon on March 26, 2009:

Although I had no big objection to tardwit, it just didn't roll off the tongue easily. But obliviot is a wonderful smooth word and is even a better description of who you are talking about. Good choice!

Posted by Greg (Chicago) on March 26, 2009:

I would recommend "doorknob", a term I picked up from my ex-wife, whom seemed to think it fit better than cursing out someone, or calling them a f-tard, or dip-s. I use it frequently, and find that it makes people stop and think when you apply the word "doorknob" to describe a person. It's new, different, not worn out, and it gets people to think, which, if I am not mistaken, is the point of TiT anyhow, yes?

---

I'm deeply offended by your abbreviating "This is True" as "TiT", which is sexist and rude. I'm going to call the PC Police (or is that PC PD?)! -rc

Posted by Dave, Colorado on March 26, 2009:

One then goes full circle. The word "idiot" has a technical meaning in the mental capacity department, with a now-obsolete meaning of "a retarded person mentally equal or inferior to a child two years old." But, as noted, that's obsolete. The current meaning is "a very foolish or stupid person." That's a long way of saying that "obliviot" is wonderful!

Posted by Alex in Rochester Hills, MI on March 26, 2009:

I have to admit that I cringed a bit when I first read the "tardwit" word, and that I hoped you, or your great readers would come up with something better, and of course they did. Although I like both the "obliviot" and the "idiopathic", my all time favorite (and most used) is still "you Maroon" (a la Bugs Bunny).

Posted by Ray, Colorado on March 26, 2009:

I can no longer restrain myself. Something inside of me is forcing me (against my will, naturally) to tell you about my daughter-in-law who was so fed up with Utah drivers that she started calling them "Utards."

Okay, now I've told you. The urge is satisfied.

---

Love it! -rc

Posted by Grace in California on March 26, 2009:

I already miss 'tardwit'! I thought it was very apropos to this particular individual ... not because of the reference to 'retarded', but because he was 'tardy' and became a nitwit about it. However, if you want it to apply to an entire class of individuals, the 'obviliot' does make better sense. Sigh, isn't it fun coining new words, only to have them shot down!

---

Well, I've actually had great fun with this brainstorming. I put out a word, and someone else had a better idea. Beautiful!

By the way, in 2005 "Brainstorm" was held up as an "offensive" word by the PC types in a government agency in Ireland "on the grounds that it may be deemed pejorative." Their suggested replacement? "Thought-shower". Yeah, really -- some of the most ludicrous examples of extreme PC come out of the United Kingdom. -rc

Posted by DeeDee, Houston on March 26, 2009:

I was totally with ya on "tardwit," which is close to my own favorite epithet, f***tard. Like you, I abhor mindless PC actions, but was hit right between the eyes by Joe & Deidre's well-reasoned arguments that using the term in this context is in fact unfair to the retarded.

Wow. I may not completely abandon my beloved insult, but I'm going to try. "Obliviot" will help, though it lacks the crucial hard syllables that make most curse words so satisfying. Gashole is another good one (outta the mouths of babes ...).

Rock on, Randy.

Posted by Deb, Massachusetts on March 26, 2009:

I love your new word!

For some time now, I have been wanting someone to invent a sort of 'common sense' Tazer for clueless idiots. (Zap! "Wow, I've been such an obliviot...") But then you'd be out of work, Randy.

---

I'm not worried. But it'd be such a better world without obliviots in it that I'd be fine with it. In such a world, I'm sure I could get productive, meaningful work instantly. -rc

Posted by Valerie, Port Orford, Oregon on March 26, 2009:

I was uncomfortable with "tardwit" though it wasn't enough discomfort to warrant an email. I'm also not comfortable with "obliviot" to about the same degree but for different reasons. It doesn't have the vicereal power of "tardwit" nor is its meaning as quickly obvious. (BTW, my first thought was that "tardwit" was a mix of "retard" and "half-wit" rather than "dimwit".) It is, as someone pointed out, too close to the word "obliviate". I'd be inclined to read it and think someone's spell checker had just screwed up somehow rather than taking it as a new word.

Ah well, it's much easier to criticize the words proposed by others than to create one of my own. In the grander scheme of things, it probably doesn't much matter how you designate such people. We all know what you mean and they're probably never going to "get it". Of course, today's "they" and "we" may well be tomorrow's "we" and "they". We all do something stupid once in a while although few of us manage to make the national or international news and usually we eventually realize the fact (often just the tinyest bit too late).

The bottom line as far as I'm concerned is that what we need isn't more words to describe such behavior but fewer examples of it.

Posted by Sal, Pennsylvania on March 26, 2009:

My first reaction when I read that some people were upset about your new word was "it figures, the heck with the tardwits", but after reading the thoughtful responses in your blog, I've reconsidered.

The fact that you can keep an open mind and change your stance when a logical, well-thought-out argument is presented gives your opinions more weight when you do chose to stick to your guns.

So, for the people who are upset that you "caved", the heck with the obliviots!

Love the word - thanks Anne.

Love the Premium edition -- well worth the money.

Posted by Pete Richmond VA on March 26, 2009:

I'm one of the 19.9 percent who liked the "tardwit" but I have to admit I really like the "obliviot" word far better. I don't think you "caved in" to anyone by making the change, I see it as more of a refinement! Keep up the excellent work.

Posted by Mary Ellen, NewCastle, UT on March 26, 2009:

Thanks for backing off the tardwit - it just rubbed me the wrong way, probably because of the obliviots that do use "retarded" in a rude way.

But I love the replacement!

Posted by Ray, Colorado on March 26, 2009:

I'm not trying to be the PC "police" (I'm actually quite the opposite), but the word "dumb" has been used in this discussion several times.

Wasn't that word used to describe people incapable of speech because it was assumed they were too stupid to speak?

It's interesting that most of the (non-obscene) words we use to describe, um, this kind of people have (or once had) real meaning in the mental-health profession?

Posted by Mercy in NE Ohio on March 26, 2009:

It reminded of the one created by my little brother (then about 9, now 44), who came up with: "igneurotic," a combination of (of course) "ignorant" an "neurotic." Out of the mouths of babes!

Posted by Brett in Texas on March 26, 2009:

Fantastic! Obliviot really is a better word to coin, and I don't find myself cringing a little when I think of using the word myself (unlike tardwit), for exactly the reasons you yourself chose to recognize.

Best of all, even retarded people can laugh at it, since idiocy is not limited to retarded folks!

Posted by Nigel / London, UK on March 26, 2009:

Loving the furor this kind of thing engenders! :-) When one hits your thumb accidently with a four pound club hammer one might cry 'Sugar!' but we all appreciate the true sentiment. I was told not to use words I did not know the meaning of when young, being a schoolboy I went straight to my dictionary only to discover the rude words were missing - I then went on to discover Libraries and the full Oxford Dictionary and was dissappointed to find that the rude words were not rude at all (including the rudest!!!) but take great glee in the fact that most people do not bother to find out for themselves such definitions. IQ is one thing, Wisdom another.

I might also point out your own Washington Posts' 'Invitational' has one of my favourite new words... IGNORANUS; someone both stupid And an A$$hole! along with SARCHASM: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

Sarah's 'PC types throwing a spaz' was brilliant! I can't tell if it's innocent or deliberate but it's the best laugh I've had in absolute ages - Spaz is a contraction of Spastic, one of those very words we cannot use anymore. Sublime.

Keep it coming RC, pure genius :-)

Posted by James, TX on March 26, 2009:

I'm with Johanna in CA...turdwit is appropriate and much nicer than 'shit for brains' which is so appropriate for folks like this.

Posted by William, California on March 26, 2009:

Heyyyy, wait a minute!

I've been enjoying this thread so much I've been hitting "refresh" to see the new comments as they're coming in. I finally got down to Nigel in London's "pure genius" comment, which reminded me of something Randy said (scrolling up for cut and paste. Ah, here it is: "why doesn't she immediately grasp that I obviously provoke people on purpose sometimes, since getting people a bit angry is a way to get them to think?")

And now it hits me. Randy does stuff like this on purpose! I remember several years ago in the Premium edition, when he even said he was going to do something to provoke the free readers that coming Friday, and there was a "furor" then, too, that was *fantastic* reading. My god, Randy, Nigel is right: you ARE a freaking genius! As if the stories alone weren't enough to make people think, you actually take the risk of goading people into complaining so you can pull a switcheroo and boggle us all the more! It's like watching a championship debater, who argues one side so persuasively that you think "I've made up my mind, nothing can change it!" -- and then he switches, argues the other side, and you feel almost ashamed you agreed with the first argument.

I read TRUE for entertainment, but I get so much more -- it makes me THINK without even trying. And that, sir, is the most brilliant part of TRUE. How ironic that Angela in Texas, your Mensa reader, was so smart that she didn't get it!

Posted by Jo Ellen, Florida on March 26, 2009:

I have worked in the field of developmental disabilities for 16 years. When I read the rationalization for "tardwit" in the Premium Edition, I was not amused. I was trying to wait until I'd cooled down enough to write a thought-filled answer instead of a knee-jerk response.

My thanks to Joe for his thought-filled answer that says it so well. I couldn't have said it better, "the word 'retard' is disrespectful to people who are actually retarded when used to describe people who are stupid or mean-spirited."

Posted by Judy, Alabama on March 26, 2009:

Changing your mind is not "caving;" it simply means you are weighing all sides of a debate and using common sense to reach a conclusion. Your column is certainly helping me in that regard. I don't always agree with your point of view, but appreciate the challenge of thinking about it. I kind of like the pairing of "clueless" and "idiot" from Deb's comment to form "clidiot."

Posted by Crystal; Albany, OR on March 26, 2009:

I am very impressed with the result of your new word proposal, and the chain of reasoning that resulted in its replacement. The use of the word retard bothered me for the same reasons Joe, from NY, presented so well. I am impressed by the overall calm, thoughtfulness in your readership as well as your response to them.

We need a lot more of this kind of thoughtful discussion and a lot less bickering and posturing in the world. Maybe then we could actually get something worthile accomplished, at least occasionally.

I have my own word, I think it describes a subgroup of obliviots, I call them secemojacrats. (se)lf (ce)ntered, (mo)ronic, (ja)ckasses who want to legislate their stupidity so that everyone will have to behave as they dictate. (No, I'm not particularly slamming democrats. I think there are an abundance of morons on both sides of that fence, and I include both politicians and voters in that group. Sadly, the third parties are no better.) I tacked on the suffix -crat to indicate an advocate of a particular form of government.

While I was writing this I started thinking about the need for a term to describe secemojacrats who use religion as a justification for their idiocy, or who's idiocy is based on religious or quasi-religious tenets. (pun intended)

Posted by Bruce, Honolulu on March 26, 2009:

Randy, I'm one of the 80% who doesn't give a whit about the word tardwit but I wasn't crazy about it and didn't think it was a word I would ever use myself (a little too "cutsey" for me. However, the word "obliviet" renoates well, hits the nail on the head and, as you intended, conveys the obliviousness that would be welcome by natural predators out hunting.

So, you are to be commended for putting "pride of authorship" aside and making the change. And thanks to Anne in Washington who so graciously offered it to you.

Posted by George, Colorado on March 26, 2009:

I had no real opinion about tardwit (after all I use the term f*cktard for bad drivers). That is, until I read the arguments against it. The thoughtful responses mirror the best things that This Is True represents. That is to encourage your readers to do what so many don't, and that is to think.

I can no longer condone tardwit (and promise to do my best to erase f*cktard from my vocabulary). AND I absolutely LOVE obliviot! So 3 cheers to Anne in Washington (and her husband). And 3 cheers for you for being smart enough and strong enough to do the other thing that so few do, admit when you are wrong.

Posted by Deborah, San Jose on March 26, 2009:

I understand the reasonings behind both using and abandoning "tardwit". I also like obliviots. Have you considered using "lackwit"?

By the way, Randy: You Rock! Thanks for all the enlightenment and humor!

Posted by Maria, MD on March 26, 2009:

I have a friend who has a 5-year old daughter with Down's Syndrome. She has changed my opinion on the flippant use of "retard." I didn't contact you because I got the feeling you would just think I was overly politically correct, but I cringed and winced as I read it.

I think that it is truly unfair to compare a sweet, mentally retarded little girl to the morons that would be labeled "tardwits." She is, in fact, much smarter than any of them!

Posted by Ron, New Jersey on March 26, 2009:

I didn't care for the word tardwit. I also don't use the word retard to describe anyone that isn't actually mentally retarded. I was one of the eighty percent that did not care one way or the other about the new work, until I read your replies. Then I felt guilty about not speaking out against the derogatory use of retarded. Thank you to the rest of you for doing so and teaching some people about respecting some other people.

Posted by Jordan, Adelaide, Australia on March 26, 2009:

I love the "new new word" - but for linguistic reasons! I thought "tardwit" was ugly-looking and hard to say - the "dw" combo in the middle trips my tongue. "Obliviot", on the other hand, is pure magic - easy to read, clear in meaning and trips off the tongue like a dream.
Nice work on starting the process of creating a new word, and congratulations on being mentally flexible enough to make a change when you decided one was warranted. :-)

Posted by Cam in Baltimore on March 26, 2009:

A couple of days ago I started to reply to you about 'tardwit.' At the time I really didn't like the word, but could not come up with the reason. Maybe it was too esoteric. Maybe I didn't know what. Finally after reading through this batch of letters that expressed their displeasure, I think a light dawned and I think the reason I didn't like it before (and still do not--while I appreciate obliviot) is that the word just doesn't have any class. It is not an intelligent play on words, and for the most part really needs to be explained. If it isn't obvious, it doesn't work. While I expected you to come up with the new word, the couple that suggested obliviot hit the nail on the head. You read the word and no not need a translation.

Posted by Ken, Nevada on March 26, 2009:

One of the things that distinguishes those of us in the Mensa family from the rest of the population, with some noted exceptions, is the ongoing process of thought. We do not parrot what others say, or chant the popular verses just to be heard. We actually think and quite frequently too. This constant reception of new data, or input, means that our analysis process is also ongoing.

I am speaking of your choice of the word tardwit and the selection of the new word obliviot to replace it. I agree with the reader who thought that tardwit was hard to say and that obliviot rolls right off of the tongue. It IS much smoother. I like what it expresses too. Not because tardwit was bad, but because Obliviot is better.

I also stand beside you concerning the right to use our language to the fullest extent possible, and to change one's mind should a better descriptive word evolve, as has happened.

Finally, let me say to those who think that your aim was to be hurtful, you obviously don't know the man behind This is True. The goal both stated and implied of the author and the site is to provoke thought. Thought, people, not hurt or pain, the excitement of the the little gray cells, the realization that the neurons and synapses are working, a cognizant awakening.

Posted by Mark, Atwater, CA on March 27, 2009:

Well as you are to be damned for changing your mind in a 'can't win' situation, I sugest that you use one of your very own 'GOOHF' cards. I believe this type of situation is why you designed the cards in the first place. Personally though, I will probably continue to use 'Tardwit' over 'Obliviot'. 'Tardwit' just has the feeling of a boxer throwing a good jab where 'obliviot' just sounds like something the elitist snobs that I work around could just brush off. I am a flight instructor and I see people do stupid things on an hourly basis. Not only the students, but other instructors as well. Keep up the great work Randy!

Posted by Todd, NJ on March 27, 2009:

Well in these economic times I feel compelled to add my 1-cents worth. I LIKED tardwit. I immediately understood it. I didn't flinch or hesitate when reading it. It just made sense and I kept reading. However, I have to say I actually laughed out loud at "obliviot". This word is now a part of my vocabulary. Thanks!

Posted by Jim, Toronto on March 27, 2009:

Adding to what Ken in Nevada just wrote:

"Finally, let me say to those who think that your aim was to be hurtful, you obviously don't know the man behind This is True. The goal both stated and implied of the author and the site is to provoke thought. Thought, people, not hurt or pain, the excitement of the the little gray cells, the realization that the neurons and synapses are working, a cognizant awakening."

I would say that Randy is also willing to think in return, and even change his mind, especially when called out on something as in this case. Obviously not a "do as I say, not as I do" kind of guy.

From a happy True subscriber.

Posted by Valerie in Ohio on March 27, 2009:

Not to rain on the parade, but Mike Straka of FoxNews has been using the term OBLIVIOT since at least 2004, so you might want to give a nod to him in this blog.

---

You just did, even though others used it before he did. -rc

Posted by Mike from Dallas on March 27, 2009:

I really had no interest in responding to this issue (and I should have maintained that throught). I mean, really, I don't care if the term retard, whether in clinical or pejorative use, is used correctly or not. So if somebody takes offense over the exact, precise, correct, proper, acceptable, etc use of the word, too bad.

Still, not only are there retarded people who do have some limitations in intellectual or learning capacity, there are other, outwardly "normal", people who are definitely Social Retards. Often, those are the ones who complain immediately and LOUDLY about how insensitively or incorrectly all the others are acting.

Still, Tardwit almost had a cutesy, "Isn't that just precious", sound to it. But Obliviot really hits it well. Especially a shortened Bliviot. Shades of Don Rickles.

Posted by Jim - Tallahassee, FL on March 27, 2009:

I liked "obliviot", and after reading you blog, REALLY liked "tardwit", but what my addled brain read was "turdwit", which I understood to be "shitwit", or another was of saying "shit for brains"

Posted by Carl in Georgia on March 27, 2009:

Well, you know, Randy, the more stories of idiots which keep popping up in your research, the more you will think of new and better ways to label them. For better or for worse, there is almost certainly an unlimited number of idiots, some of whom, even at this very minute, are rushing headlong to be the star of your future stories. "Obliviot" is fine, but of course it's not necessary for you to be married to its use. I, for one, look forward to seeing what you come up with each week.

That said, there was a time in my life when I was fond of calling determined 'tardwits' members of "the ______ of the month club." You can fill in the blank with anything you like - idiot of the month club was always a handy generic term, but situations often inspired more apt & specific appelations, like 'open our mouth just long enough to change feet club;' well, you get the idea - calling it a club always made me feel better about having just dealt with an idiot, and I always loved thinking of them as voluntary members of such a ridiculous group who were vying for the #1 spot. It's our duty to report foolishness, but it's our reward to ridicule it.

Posted by Jorgie - MO USA on March 28, 2009:

I have been reading True longer than I have been reading Fark.com, but Fark is ahead when it comes to a good label for iditots. Asshat just rolls off the toungue! Obliviot is just fine, but asshat is more satisfying. :) (Now I am off to see if I can figure out who actuly coined the phrase asshat.)

Posted by Lisa (formerly of CA, currently of FL, doomed either way!) on March 28, 2009:

One of the most marvelous things about the English language is its ability to blend words together to create new ones. In this case Anne and her husband have created a *much* needed single word to use where several were needed in the past. Go Anne! And go, Randy, for publicizing it (and for the ability to put your own word aside for a different one).

I suspect I will be using this new word as a standard part of my daily commute commentary.

Posted by Cris, South Africa on March 28, 2009:

Is "Tardwit" really derived from retarded?

It seems more closely derived from tardy, which means slow, late in arriving somewhere. Someone who is slow witted. And this seems to be exactly the connotation that you're aiming at...

I like it because it brings us an effective new description - idiopathic tardwit. Whereas I don't know that the adjective "idiopathic" fits so well with obliviot.

And for the real ring of an ultimate insult - ~ "What an idiopathic tardwit. A real obliviot!"

Posted by chet in maine on March 28, 2009:

1st of all i have no problem with tardwit, even while having a daughter who is mentally retarded (angelman syndrome,look it up).

i find it funny that joe in new york can write such a clear mind changing letter all the while mis-using definitions of the words dumb and stupid to make his point.

thisl is not a complaint, just a funny observation about joe's P.C. statement.

i am not bothered by this, but, he shows how easy it is to maybe offend someone in the same way RC did while not trying to.

Posted by Bruce, Texas on March 28, 2009:

Oh, I sympathize with your struggle! I'm a preacher, and I find the English language to be both wonderful and frustrating. I can't count the times I know what I want to say, but can't muddle my way through the myriad permutations of words to find the right word, turn of phrase, or that new word that everybody will instantly recognize and say, "Yes! That's the word I would use too!" And so many times I'm stuck at almost right, but I know I'm not there. "Retard" means to hold back, and "mentally retarded" really means to have been held back in mental function, not to choose to be stupid. But obliviot! Perfect!

Posted by Michelle TX on March 28, 2009:

The word retard means slow or impeded. Someone who is mentally retarded is slow or impeded in their mental development. In music, retardando means to play slowly. The word retard has connotations relating to the mentally impaired merely because of it's frequent use but retard is is a valid word with many uses. I personally love the word tardwit and will be incorporating it into my vocabulary. It's genius!

Posted by Dave from Houston, TX on March 28, 2009:

I'd like to take a moment to shunt aside the arguments over wording and verify one point that you made in your very first paragraph above, RC. Florida is, in fact, the weirdest state. I don't know how familiar you are with the weird-news (not-news) aggregator site Fark.com, but each of their user-submitted entries gets some kind of a tag, like Asinine, Obvious, NewsFlash, etc. To this day, Floriduh is the only one of the fifty States that rates its own tag, due to the regularity of, um, interesting submissions arising from it.

I expect my current home state to be next. ;)

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I rest my case. -rc

Posted by Michael in Phoenix, AZ on March 28, 2009:

Statistically, this guy wasn't really an obliviot. Since less than 2% of all domestic U.S. airline flights have an air marshal aboard, he had a 98% chance of success given that the less-than-fully-informed gate agent couldn't see through the ruse of a Fisher Island police force.

Too bad the Obama administration wants to end the Federal Flight Deck Officers program which allows trained pilots to arm themselves in order to protect the other 98% of flights.

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Just because there's only a small chance that a real air marshal was on board doesn't mean he's not an obliviot. The gate agents failed and should be disciplined. Badges are easy to buy; a proper ID is less easy, and I'll bet they didn't ask to see it, and I'll bet he didn't have any to back up that dime-store badge. -rc

Posted by Ron, Nevada on March 28, 2009:

Just finished reading your discussion of the origins and tribulations of the "word" tardwit. And now I agree that obliviot is a better word for your intended usage.

However, I LOVE Dr. Marc's word "idiopathic" (I don't know and I don't care). For me, the feel of that word is much more political, as in "Congress".

---

Ah yes: Congress -- the opposite of Progress. And again, that's not the "real" definition of "idiopathic", but it's a fun alternative. -rc

Posted by Rhino, Greensboro, NC on March 28, 2009:

Idiopathic means: arising spontaneously or from an obscure or unknown cause, not I don't know and I don't care. Maybe idioapatheia?

I offer my word since I haven't used it since my TV show left the cable: "tardmo". Retarded Moron, for slow witted and stupid. I used the term on many stupid criminals, especially to their person when they would call to complain about being put on TV. It really enraged them, which was my purpose. I would then play their ranting and screaming on the next episode.

Posted by Gary, Oregon on March 28, 2009:

Thanks to Vietnam I have only one leg. Handicapped never bothered me and this is the first I've heard of differently abled. In most forums you are asked to give yourself a user name and some of mine have made people remark about how insensitive I am like garydagimp and pegleggary, and gimpalong, but I would never use those names on someone else. It has never bothered me to have little kids stare at my stump or to have them ask me what happened to my leg -- it's just their natural curiosity. It seems to take an adult to instill stupidity and to make them rude. I think you changed your mind for all the right reasons but there's always room for more words to describe the people you are referring to, so I say keep adding to your list of domains.

Posted by Pierre, Ontario Canada on March 28, 2009:

Great discussion, Randy. And everyone was civil. Thanks Everyone.

The Battlestar Galactica comment made me think of Larry Niven and his words, like "Tanj". Although, didn't Heinlien use it first?

Anyway. I'll vote for obliviot, too, for now. But, something in me feels, that around the corner, you will likely come up with an even better word in a week or two, or three, or four.... Maybe Shakespeare did have the best insults in King Lear.

And what about smart people?

What is someone does something serendipitously smart?

Do we call them "Randys"? ("Cassinghams" is too long, and there is a ton of people called "Cunningham"...)

Meanwhile, this discussion makes me want to stop using the word Celebutards. Sigh.

Methinks he makes us think too much!

As for "the Mensan" did the person mean they were a Mensan, or that you were a Mensan? But are they not just another subset of people who think differently than the "general herd"? (Group? Norm? Mean? Mode?)

Maybe we need to be more open to both our similarities, and our differences.

I hope you live at least another 30 years, because somebody once told me they thought I would be around that long. (It would be a lonelier place [and more boring] without folks like you.)

Posted by Mike in Virginia on March 29, 2009:

For what it's worth, since this matter seems to have been "overtaken by events", there's a perfectly good word, Old English, I believe, since I have a vague memory of seeing it in a Shakesperian play I read in what would now be Junior High School (yes, they did have us read such material in the 9th grade in America "back in the day") that describes many of the people you report on and write comments about. The term is "lackwit".

Posted by Fanny, Port Perry, Canada on March 29, 2009:

I love the word obliviot. It absolutely marks the woman who was run over in Toronto while texting and crossing the street.

Posted by Samantha, Tennessee on March 29, 2009:

Reading all of this discussion on your "tardwit" comment makes me think to another "This is True" story. A couple weeks ago you posted a story about a school that named all the derogitory terms and listed them according to how offensive they were. Maybe tardwit, fuckwit, fucktard, etc. were included on that list?

My opinion? I like tardwit. Even though I have a niece with autism and work at her school with "special" children. (GASP!) I am not going to go up to one of these children and say, "hey tardwit!" but I might use it the same way I use "retarded" when referring to something especially ironic. I suppose everyone should have a sense of humor.

PS- I believe the PC term now is "special" or "exceptional" when referring to the mentally handicapped. "Mentally retarded" really is not used much anymore in the field!

Posted by Craig, Minnesota on March 29, 2009:

Amazing how big the response has been. Dave in Colorado brought up a good point, though, that Randy seems to be obliquely aware of: "idiot" was a medical-technical term before "retarded" was; as was "moron". I suppose that's why Randy feels the need to mutate it to a new term with less obvious historical baggage.

But "idiot" was a perfectly good word for Randy's situation before it was ever a medical term. Similarly, "retarded" wasn't coined by the medical community--just appropriated.

Maybe "obliviot" will achieve fad status. Then we might live to see the medical community adopt it to refer to people who regularly behave in stupid ways, despite having an average IQ. When someone does their dissertation exploring the reasons for this behavior, it will become un-PC to use the term colloquially. By then it may be okay to use "tardwit"....

Posted by Susan, Florida on March 30, 2009:

I believe the PC term for those who used to be called mentally retarded is "developmentally delayed." This covers people with physical, mental, and emotional delays. Not the kind of folks you were writing about, Randy.

I definitely like "obliviot" and think it suits better than "tardwit" (which wasn't bad!).

Posted by Alex - Spokane, WA on March 30, 2009:

I love the resistance to PC-idiocy. For similar reasons, I created (I think - haven't found it elsewhere) the label "commutards" to describe the drivers with whom I share the freeway every day.

Posted by Susan, Tallahassee, FL on March 30, 2009:

In response to Cory: I had a brother who was labeled "profoundly mentally retarded." He had a rare neurological disease called Cornelia Delange Syndrome. He was wheelchair bound and could not speak. In spite of that, he had a definite personality and a sense of humor. He would perk up when it was time for him to go to school or when one of us siblings played with him. If he didn't like what we were feeding him, he'd curl into a little ball in his wheelchair until we came up with something better. He died of complications from his syndrome many years ago, and I still miss him. Thanks, Cory, for reminding me of Michael and making me smile.

Posted by David, Eugene, Oregon on March 30, 2009:

The term we use here is "spherical idiot": no matter what direction you look at them from, they still look like an idiot.

Posted by Jenny, Tours, France on April 3, 2009:

I agree whole-heartedly with the anti-PC crowd that it's silly to take a word out of our language just because a bunch of vocal (and often white, affluent, and otherwise privileged) people have decided it's suddenly offensive. It's a different case, however, when the word has gained connotations that are actually offensive to the people concerned. In that case, is it really our place as outsiders to try to "take back our language"? That smacks uncomfortably of the ultra-PC who write in crying that, gasp, other people will be hurt by that word you just used. I agree with Randy that those people are being silly, and that's why I don't personally care if he uses the word "retarded." But the anti-PC protests are equally silly: outsiders crying that other people shouldn't be hurt by the words they use. Maybe those people shouldn't be hurt--but often, they are. Not because of your intent, but because of their history with the word.

I'm all for words being reclaimed, but the people doing the reclaiming should be those whom the word personally affects. If they choose not to reclaim a word, why should we be so desperate to hold onto it? Is our language really the poorer for lack of a word that's likely to hurt someone every time it's used?

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OK, but then what? We dump "mentally retarded" for "special", "mentally handicapped" and/or "mentally deficient". It was only a few years before those words also became politically incorrect. Currently(?) in favor is "developmentally disabled". When will that be "bad"? Yes, kids do use "retard" in cruel ways; they'll do that no matter what the word is. When do we stop allowing delinquents to shape our language? -rc

Posted by Joe in New Jersey on April 8, 2009:

I love your "THIS is TRUE" column and I look forward to reading it every week. I also enjoyed meeting you and being able to talk with you in Denver last July. When I read that you originally used the term "tardwit" to describe the obliviot du jour I thought that you had juxtaposed "tardy" and "dimwit" since this whole incident precipitated from his being late for his flight. In any case, I absolutely agree that "obliviot" is a much better and more descriptive term for such cretins.

Posted by Ian N (Australia) on April 29, 2009:

I like the word coprocephalic, which I first encountered in an Orson Scott Card novel (although I don't know if he invented it).

Posted by Elise, Idaho on July 14, 2009:

While I love your use of "tardwit", I think I love obliviot even more. I plan to use both terms regularly, so thanks for expanding my vocabulary! As for the PC rants, while shopping at Walmart last week, I was "put in my place" by a stranger eavesdropping on my conversation about my new "flame retardant" tent. As he passed me in the aisle, he screamed "mentally disabled" and shook his finger at me. All I could do was smile.

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I believe he was describing himself. -rc

Posted by BeckySue - CA on July 23, 2009:

Cretin and tardwit most certainly describe the perpetrator of the action documented. Can you believe that he apparently has already been tried and, since the government didn't put on a good enough case, the jury had enough "reasonable doubt"?

Posted by Dan in California on January 19, 2010:

I also like the term obliviot, but I just learned that it's older than we thought. The Urban Dictionary has definitions for obliviot as far back as 2003.

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It was "tardwit" that I considered new, not obliviot. I did look it up in the U.D. before I adopted it, In other words, it's not older than I thought, but of course I can't speak for the impressions of others. -rc

Posted by David, Berrien Springs on August 29, 2011:

You're a good man, Randy Cassingham.

Posted by Da'akh of Australia, Land Of Oz on October 14, 2011:

My 1960's school chum sent me a "get out of hell free" card. She told me about 7 foot tall Ridgway Randy and his wife. I said, "So, Pair O' Medics!"

Good night and Good Luck, and who else also misses Eric Sevareid in these Faux Days?

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Aussies know who Eric Sevareid was? Cool. Good night, Chet. -rc

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