Monday, July 11, 2011

Lame is so gay -- a rant

If you don't find the title offensive, you need to read this post. If you find it offensive only because I appear to use gay as an insult, you need to read this post. If you find the title bitterly amusing, welcome to Enlightenment, but please read the post so you can explain it to lesser beings.

Using lame as a derogatory term is as dangerous and ill-considered as using the term gay in the same context. I know. I'm both: I'm a dyke and I have MS. I walk with elbow crutches. I am, literally, lame.

It might seem harmless to you to call a bad movie lame, a poorly-designed website lame, an outdated notion of publishing lame. Perhaps it seems harmless to your children to call their friend's nerdiness gay, their bad songs gay, their ugly clothes gay. But we all know what happens when gay kids get that casual insult hurled at them every day. Their self-esteem plummets. Sometimes they kill themselves.

Words matter. Like icebergs, nine-tenths of their heft lies out of sight. Insults like gay and lame can kill. If you're not gay or lame, you might not see the grinding damage that's occurring below the waterline to those who are.

So think before you apply the label lame to something you find bad, poor, sucky,* naff, laughable, clueless, or generally displeasing. Think of all us people in a wheelchair, with a cane, with crutches, with a limp, in a scooter. Think of us being scraped at and battered and cut by that cold jagged ice, every day, day in day out.

If you hear others making this mistake, point out to them that using the lame as an insult is making fun of cripples, and that making fun of cripples is no more acceptable than making fun of queers.

Tell them it's dangerous.

It's dangerous because I'm not a child. I don't have a problem with self-esteem. If you use the word lame to mean anything but some version of can't walk well, I won't kill myself. I'll come after you.

Let me be very, very clear: It is not acceptable to use lame as a term of ridicule. Ever. If you use it, I will call you on it. As none of us is perfect, the first time I'll try to not to assume ill intent. I'll try to be reasonable. But, as I say, none of us is perfect, and there'll be days when I'm not particularly reasonable, or careful, or kind. But if you correct the usage instantly (preferably with an apology), I'll forgive and forget. If you don't, I will cut you: I'll cut you out of my life, off my party list, and possibly through an artery. I will name and shame. I will call the internet down on your head.

So think before you speak. You've been warned.

ETA: I've turned off comments on this post. It's been up for six months. I don't have time to monitor everything. Thanks for all your feedback so far.

* It's been pointed out to me that sucky could be problematic



  1. Good blog, Nicola. I used to work with developmentally challenged persons and it would incense me when someone would use the term "retard" in a derogatory way. You're right: "words matter". Best wishes, David

  2. P.S. My partner had MS for 30 years. We were a gay couple for 33 years - he died of pancreatic cancer recently - the subject of my memoir "August Farewell."

  3. David, I'm so sorry to hear that. Good luck with your memoir.

  4. An excellent point, Nicola. I don't use "gay" as a pejorative, but hadn't considered the implications of using "lame" in the same fashion.

    Most importantly, thank you for providing a whole list of more precise terms to use when one wishes to express dissatisfaction with or displeasure with something. People, myself included, seem to have that need on occasion, and having a word that doesn't simultaneously denigrate a group of people is going to be very useful.

  5. Utterly and completely agreed.

    I'm probably the only high school teacher I know who constantly calls kids out on the words "lame," "gay," "retarded," "queer," and so on...I will call them out on the front lawn, in the hallway, the cafeteria, the classroom...anywhere.

    Thank you for your rant. As a consequence of my actions at school, many students and teachers perceive me as insufferably too sensitive; even my friends have asked me "What's the problem with calling something retarded if that's what it is??"

    And so I begin again.
    Next time I will talk about icebergs and see if that drives anything into their thick skulls. If people need to talk about something or someone in a negative way, do it with intelligence and coherence...or for god's sake, not at all.

    If I'm insufferably too sensitive, then so be it.

    Thanks again for your words, Friend.

  6. icedrake, I've use 'lame' myself, then started feeling hinky about it, then seriously uncomfortable, then quite cross. Now I generally use 'naff', a very handy English word.

    Janine, yeah, like all us humourless feminists...

  7. I agree and try to educate people on this as well. I'm an "out" gay man and I find for the most part that it is kids that use this term and therefore I think of it as a juvenile insult. However, adults also seem to use it from time-to-time and I'm swift to point out how rude they are being.

    You know...a funny unrelated comment (funny to me) is that my mother thought that "gay" meant happy. She used to use it in a sentence like, "I had such a gay time today."

  8. I've been calling people on saying "retard" since 5th grade because I have a developmentally disabled cousin. I constantly call people (kids usually) on using "gay" as an insult. I hadn't thought about "lame" that way but I will now, forever. I aspire never to use pejorative terms and this has taught me. Thank you

  9. Michael, even in your mother's time (and her mother's) 'gay' could be used to mean queer. But only by those who were :)

    Antigone's, we all have to learn these things. I wish we could just do all that learning as children but, eh, life keeps changing and we just have to muddle along and keep up as best we can.

  10. I respectfully disagree.'s 2nd definition of the word lame is ": lacking needful or desirable substance : weak, ineffectual (a lame excuse)" - and when I refer to something as lame that is often what I mean.

    I am the parent of a child with autism. My best friend came out of the closet to me in high school. I worked at my university's Women's Center in college. I believe that words have power and that "gay", "bitch", "retard", "nigger", etc should not be used as insults. That said, I believe that while someone may be lame as a handicap, my son telling me that he got in trouble at school because he didn't think I'd care is also lame.

    Words have power and we need to remember that. But we need to also remember that words may have more than one definition, and when we latch onto a single meaning and disallow others the right or ability to use other legitimate meanings we actually weaken our argument against using words that can be so very hurtful.

  11. Anon, the word 'lame' as a derogatory term is very hurtful, to me and to millions of others. Being compared to something weak and ineffectual is an insult and I take it as such. Don't do it again here.

  12. On the one hand I'm appalled at the younger generation using "gay" as an insult, because to my generation it's long been a synonym for "homosexual". I hadn't thought of "lame" in the same light, perhaps because, like anonymous, I think of it as having an established meaning that isn't intentionally un-PC.

    It's not a word I use myself, admittedly, except in idiomatic phrases like "lame excuse". I'm more likely to say "pathetic". I can see how it could cause offence, though, even if totally unintentionally.

  13. Yay Nicola! You are so right. I think many people don't realize the power words have - the iceberg thing is so true.

    When words have more than one meaning they are generally related for a reason! Sheesh.

  14. Maybe Merriam-Webster needs to look into changing the definition of the word to suit your sensibilities, then.

  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. Nicola, I agree completely. You posted a comment to this effect some time ago, and it gave me pause for thought.

    "Lame" was something I used on occasion, in the same way others did, and it wasn't until you said what you did then, that I even considered how offensive it could be. Since then, I've made a deliberate effort to remove this word from usage where it could be offensive, and I point out the same to others. I thank you for this, as sensitivity to such things is something many of us need.

    (I always wonder why some people make contentious remarks, and then sign off as Anonymous.)

  17. And I accidentally deleted my comment d'oh

    What I said was

    anonymous - "retard" and "nigger" were once acceptable too.

    You know what *isn't* acceptable though?? When somebody from a particular group - whether that group is LGBT, ethnic minority, developmentally challenged, or differently abled - tells you they find an expression hurtful and derogatory and you say "yeah well - tough - I'm using it anyway".

    Here's another few words for you to look up in your book - rude, dismissive, arrogant.

  18. I think people make contentious remarks via anonymity because they've been shamed and can't abide being so.

    I also never connected the term to a derogatory meaning, but I have enough words in my vocabulary that I can delete it. Since I can easily delete it, why would I insist on using it just because there's a meaning that isn't derogatory? You have a *right* to hurt people, but why would you when you can easily avoid it?

  19. Crap. Guilty - or at least, characters are. I'm not sure if I've said it aloud, or just used it in writing. Either way - now informed, and hopefully not guilty again.

    I have to ask though - when I was introduced to "naff" it was a group of less-than-pleasant people who taught me the term, and it was a word used by we gay folk as a derogatory slap on the straight people. Naff was, yes, supposed to be something rather dumb or an unoriginal and common thing, but it was described to me as another way to put down straight folk, or to describe something as so incredibly straight (meaning: boring).

  20. Anon --

    Just because a word / definition is included in the dictionary does not mean we should use it in polite conversation. For example, "gay" is defined in the Oxford-American College Dictionary as "foolish; stupid."

    It would be gay (not to mention inconsiderate) to use gay in this sense around a bunch of gays.

  21. n8an, I'd forgotten it was old Polari slang! I'm guessing most straight people don't know that, though, and so wouldn't find it hurtful. But I'm happy to be corrected.

  22. Anon --

    Where do you think definitions come from? They come from people using words in particular ways, sometimes insensitively and stupidly and flat-out pejoratively, so often that such meanings become common usage. They come from people insisting on their right to continue using words in ways they know are hurtful to others.

    Do you really think that M-W is the Final Authority Forever And Ever on what something means? Yikes. Go read language theory. Dictionaries don't assign permanent, incontestable meaning -- they reflect usage.

  23. Never thought of it in this way....I suppose because in society we no longer refer to people with handicaps as being "lame" whereas we do refer to ppl as gay or the n word.. I can understand where anon is coming from with the usage but also understand that u see from where u stand....and I respect that there are ppl with disabilities that could be offended. Interesting topic for discussion.lots of layers.

  24. olivia, that's a good point, that some people's vocabulary might be a bit rusty. I hope this serves as a reminder. As for usage, as Kelley points out, usage changes. Language is a living thing. It didn't spring fully-formed from the head of the Dictionary God.

  25. I find the term straight offensive, I've heard it a few times. First time was in a mandatory H&R meeting to teach heterosexuals on how to work with homosexuals. Where I listened to someone tell me that you straights shouldn't say this, or you straights shouldn't do this. I have no problem talking with, working with people who're no problem to talk to or work with, whatever their sexual orientation.

    Both hetero and homosexual people use the terms gay and lame, it doesn't need to be specified, nor does the term straight need to be used, especially given the connotations of the word.

  26. charliex2, thanks for the input. It never occurred to me that the label 'straight' might feel perjorative. I will ponder that.

  27. Heh. Just a different perspective - one of my distant medieval ancestors came home from some bloody battle limping, and promptly had the moniker "The Lame" added after his name. It kind of stuck, and his son carried a surname which translates as "Son of Lame". This is the surname which I was born under, and which I carried as my maiden name for many many years. So you might say... I was born "lame"...

  28. anghara, but you're not lame. It never mattered to me, either, before I was lame.

  29. I'm curious to know the history of the word "lame" and when it came to me something other than a physical ailment. If you read titles from the 18th or 19th centuries it is always a physical term (most commonly as in a "lame horse"). So when and why did that second definition come to be? When did it transcend it's initial meaning (which had endured for so long)?

    Of course that's like asking why "gay" which meant happy/joyful well into the 20th century shifted to mean homosexual as well.

    I guess I want to know who the guy is that starts this stuff and how on earth he decides on certain words! ha!

    But your larger point is well taken and I agree. We can play semantics all we want and say "I was referring to the second definition and not the first" but it still hurts the folks who are part of the first definition just as much. And we all know it. So why do it in the first place?

  30. What a timely discussion. A teacher here in NZ is attempting to start a drive to remove "gay" from the perjorative lexicon, and the kids are grizzling that means they'd have to remove "lame" and "retarded" from their language too if you really want to go "that far". Why yes! Fancy that.

    And Anon's defence of keeping the word because it's in a dictionary: Did you ever consider in a society that privileges able-bodiedness that privileged able-bodied people are in positions to influence academia, law, and societal conversation, and how dehumanizing this is?

    You argue, rightly, that words have power. So why are you intent of taking that power from people who are already disenfranchized by society. As someone who understands the disabled and gay communities, why would you hold on to your final bastion like this. Because you feel powerless without the word? And what does that say about how you view non-ablebodied people? That you have power over then if you're allowed this word?

  31. Colleen, I just wrote a huge response which Blogger ate. Mutter mutter. Short reply: according to the OED, the root of 'lame' can be traced back to Bede and his translators (c. 725). Chaucer used it in the sense of 'Maimed, halting; imperfect or defective, unsatisfactory as wanting a part or parts. Said esp. of an argument, excuse, account, narrative, or the like.' The transition to 'lame-brained' occurred in the 20th C. (They cite Wodehouse, 1929.) They also discuss, from Nov 1959, an Esquire piece, tracing 'lame' in "Negro street life."

    Language changes. I just want people to listen and learn.

  32. Iroshi WindwalkerJuly 11, 2011 at 11:17 PM

    While I wholeheartedly agree with the meaning behind the post, and I admire how well-written it is, I have to disagree with the actual content. Words, especially in the English language, frequently have more than one meaning. There's even a word *for* words that are spelled the same, sound the same, but have two different meanings. They're called homonyms.

    I find three separate definitions for the adjective "lame" in multiple dictionaries. They boil down to:
    1. crippled or physically disabled, especially in the foot or leg so as to limp or walk with difficulty.
    2. impaired or disabled through defect or injury: a lame arm.
    3. weak; inadequate; unsatisfactory; clumsy

    Definition 3 is the one clearly used in the context you are complaining about. One would not claim that a movie is crippled or cannot walk. A poor choice of clothing or words cannot be said to be disabled. They -can- be weak, inadequate, and unsatisfactory. Things can be said to be lame without being insulting to disabled people.

    I am sorry to say that I think you are finding correlational insult where there is no causation. If someone were to refer to an inadequate crispy bread product and say it's a terrible cracker, should I then, as an apparent white person, be offended? The word was not being used in its definition as a derogatory reference to a Caucasian, it was referring to "a thin, crisp biscuit."

    I am assiduously, arduosly, and to some, annoyingly insistent about not being insulting to groups of people without specifism. I am known to hit my husband when he makes racist jokes (I slap him on the arm, and pretty much he only makes racist jokes now when he wants to get on my nerves and he laughs when I smack him - he's actually conscious of not being casually racist now. It worked. ;) I get especially offended when gay friends use the term "breeder" derogatorally, for instance, and not because I've had several children. Because they're using it specifically as a derogatory term against heterosexuals. I won't sit quietly when people make derogatory statements against homosexuals, and I don't sit quietly when peopel make derogatory statements against heterosexuals either.

    However, taking insult with a completely definitionally valid use of a word that also *happens* to mean someone with an impairment, but is not the word that's actually being used contextually? That's going overboard.

    Don't take insult where it's not meant. Saying a movie is lame, i.e., weak or inadequate, is not insulting to lame, i.e., crippled or disabled people. It's only insulting to the movie.

  33. I have never met a person with, or friend or family member of a person with, a dev disability describe him/herself as retarded. Ever. Why then is retard insulting to them? I take your word for it you describe your own physical condition as "lame" but I've never heard that one either. In my world these words just don't have practical uses at all. They are slurs like bitch, slut, asshole, etc which of course can be hurtful but usually tell much more about the speaker than the person they are talking about. Why render these words with more power than that?

  34. Oh horseapples, I never even realized that.

  35. Iroshi, Anon@11.52, to me and millions like me, use of the word 'lame' is hurtful. If, after having this explained, you continue to use it, I assume ill-intent or stupidity.


    This is a picture of my friend Lawrence and his wife (newlyweds) wearing their 'Love is Lame' t-shirts. They are disabled activists -- Lawrence works for the National Council on Disability -- and both of them limp. (Lawrence also wears the 'Piss on Pity' t-shirt, which you might prefer). I am no longer lame, since I use a motorized wheelchair now, and I don't (and never did) share your feelings about that word (I cannot say that I ever thought about it before, however). But I hate the pejorative use of 'spastic,' even though the vast majority of the people who use the word that way have no idea what spasticity is, so I understand and respect your feelings. I hope that you never again have to hear that word used in a way that pains or angers you. I also hope that I think about it the next time I utter it. I guess I would save my anger for other causes, but thanks for giving me this to think about.

  37. I wrote an article with some of this history, and showing the link between the "older" and "newer" meanings with relation to disability. If you have access through a university or library: here. If not, I can send you a copy if you're interested: jeaaron at ufl dot edu. Unfortunately, the article is written with some jargon from linguistics, but hopefully it is still useful.

  38. Jessi, I'd love to see that article! I'll email you.


  40. Lisa, that's a good post. And great comments.

  41. i used "lameass" and "fucking lame" a lot, have paused to think another word a few times this week seems to always be a contraction. Has never entered my head as referring to a person no more than "mad" (going to the madhouse) or consumptive. Interesting to think if words can ever age out.

  42. Antigone, I think they can, but this one hasn't.

  43. And what enters my head is different than many people, my Dad is a Dr. and from an early age we were taken to vist the hospital and told how to behave. I have always been the person to speak up about "retard", inclduing to my 5th grade teacher. Helped that discipline in that school was pathestic and me and a friend yelled at him to shut up when he said it.

    I believe that if one person is hurt by a word so I've stopped using "lame" it is always good to have to stretch one's vocabulary. Just hope "fuck" remains appropriate, my vocabulary may not extend that far.

  44. Antigone, I'd be lost without my favourite expletives. Finding my way around them for radio interviews can be, ah, interesting. "Nah, I don't give a flying fig what that reviewer said about..." Etc.

  45. Great post. I stumbled onto this right after having just gone through an epic saga with someone on the exact same exchange.

    For older people it was race and xenophobia. The response to political correctness was to switch to media commentary about other groups. Slacker culture movies did have relevance, but the problems came when ninety percent of the underage audience missed the intended irony of the intolerance in them.

    At the time I knew people with downs syndrome, felt the strain of learning to interact with older family members while not making them feel compared. The freedom to laugh and not find it so important when someone did something retarded was such a relief, it was an easy word to grab in regular conversation.

    Lame rolled in, and suddenly there was this sort of educated but easy word that meant weak but was somehow more of a gentle reprimand where lame invoked the image of a baby animal or an old horse while weak was outright calling a spade.

    When I first heard gay used as a behavioral insult I was shocked, trying to decide if it was playful, insulting to my friend, or insulting to gay people to take it as an insult.

    All my gay friends were using it. Gay too was becoming sort of a relief, to be able to point out differences, make light of them while making a statement that they existed, all while moving on. It all seemed very high brow and sophisticated and rebellious at the time. I don't know that I agree now. At the time I still thought it could be rude to gay people, but I used it to send a message that I was not intimidated when I heard it used, and that I wasn't so far above everyone that I couldn't get a little edgy.

    It's not that I'm offended by either word, nor would I have the original satirical use that drew me to them removed from use. It's that I'm too busy seeking out what there is to appreciate in the world to bother criticizing people over things stupid enough where those words could be used to encapsulate the situation. It's the whole act of being aggressively critical that's the problem. The words just carousel around that problem.

    Lame, and gay, and retard were all training wheels in my opinion. They're the attempt by the socially inexperienced to say something about the world that might have needed to be said in a better, conscious way so that it did not get tied to groups that were not actually the progenitors of oppression an denial. It's ectoplasmic proto-humor from people not yet equipped to really analyze what they're saying. Those words are conversational crutches. So there's a certain amount of empathy that goes along with dealing with people using them. I agree though, people who can't explain why they're choosing to use loaded language probably have some work to do.

    Enjoying your blog. Will check back more.

  46. MC, I like 'ectoplasmic proto-humour' :)

  47. Sigh. I'm mobility impaired and I never considered the issue of using "lame." Thanks for making me think.

  48. ds, your welcome. Don't you just hate 'learning experiences'??

  49. What's funny is that someone can cite a dictionary definition of "lame" that, as far as I can see, shows how related the pejorative is to the more clinical (?) meaning. Plus the childish notion that "If the word is in the dictionary, it's okay for me to use it!" This is why the original text of Huckleberry Finn is problematic in schools. I also like "One would not claim that a movie is crippled or cannot walk." Indeed, so why do people say just that? When schoolkids started using "gay" as a general pejorative, they didn't pull it out of nowhere. The pejorative sense of "gay" emerged just a few years after "gay" became the standard term for homosexuals; I don't believe that's an accident.

    A few years ago I had a student helper in the dishroom where I worked, a gay boy. One night he became outraged at the amount of wasted food that came in on the plates, and he screamed, "This is retarded!" I made fun of him, and let the matter drop. A week later I saw him sitting with some friends in the dining room, declaring self-righteously, "Nobody says 'That's so gay' around me! I don't stand for that kind of talk!" Ah, but he did.

    More recently, I read in C. J. Pascoe's very fine book Dude, You're a Fag that high school students in the school she observed claimed that they would never call a gay person a fag, because "fag" meant something else for them. But as she saw, they did call gay students fags, constantly.

    I don't agree, though, that gay kids kill themselves because they hear their friends using "that's gay" as a pejorative; from the research and other accounts I've seen, they kill themselves because they've been harassed and assaulted for a very long time, by their peers and by teachers and other adults. Most often they're gender nonconformists, too. (What really disturbs me is the number of gay people who continue to put down "stereotypical" gay people: if demonizing people causes them to commit suicide, then the gay community itself has a lot to answer for.) I do call people out for using "gay" (and "retarded" and "lame") in that way, but I don't think they're the biggest part of the problem.

  50. Promiscuous, if queer weren't harassed, assaulted, and discriminated against, a few insults wouldn't matter. It's the combination that's so deadly.

    And, yes, many members of oppressed groups hate other members of the same group for being so 'flagrant' in their difference. It makes them feel better. One of those sad parts of human nature.

  51. Thank you, nicola, for writing this. As a woman with disabilities, I feel the stab of hearing "lame" and "spastic" being used in this way, and I get the same kind of slaps back when I call people on it that Anon and others are giving you, here.

    Again, thanks for speaking out!


  52. melissima, people get defensive. Sigh. But there are about 12 million of us--people with some kind of walking disability bad enough to require cane or crutch or wheelchair or scooter--so you're not alone. Hang in there.

  53. Iroshi Windwalker, you've based your argument on the fact that the dictionary defines lame as "disabled" (with regards to walking) or "weak; inadequate; unsatisfactory".

    And that *is* the problem. That is what we need to think about. Why do we, as a society, equate being disabled (with regards to walking) with being weak, inadequate, and unsatisfactory? Why do we accept this? Why would we think it's okay that a word used to describe a factual condition can also be used as a perjorative?

    If the dictionary defined the word woman as (1)"of the female gender" or (2) "weak, inadequate, and unsatisfactory" would we stand for it? Would we accept people describing a crappy movie as "womanly", or using the term "old woman" to describe an ineffectual, cowardly man? That was acceptable a hundred years ago, but not now. Society grows and changes, and language has to change with it. Individuals who refuse to change are (IMO) simply asserting their desire to retain their (undeserved) white/ heterosexual/ male/ able-bodied/ wealthy/ whatever privilege.

    Ms Griffith may be disabled (with regards to walking) but, though I've never met her, I am utterly sure that she is not weak, not unsatisfactory, and most definitely not inadequate.

  54. Stephen Hawking is about as lame (in the traditional sense of the word) as it is possible to get so perhaps lame should now be used for brilliant?

    I once beat a kid up (when I was little) for calling my brother a 'retard' and refusing to take it back. We thought my brother was brain damaged at the time because of a difficult birth, but he turned out OK fortunately. I feel bad about that beating and am probably guilty of sometimes using those words as pejorative, but thanks for mentioning it. So many of us us language in a common way, often without thinking about it, but....

    Words DO matter!

  55. Anon, hey, sometimes a good thrashing is what works. Words do matter.

  56. Thank you for this post.

    I'm ashamed to say that whilst I don't often - or ever, actually - use 'lame' as a derogatory term, I honestly hadn't thought through the implications. I'll vocally object to the use of 'gay', 'retard', 'cripple' but somehow hadn't made the same connection with 'lame'. Thank you for reminding me how important it is to actually THINK about the words that we use.

  57. Gem, you're welcome. It's good to think, sort, make the change, then forget, in my opinion.

  58. I feel like I need a protocol and etiquette specialist to talk to anyone these days. The concept that somebody with MS would take the saying "That's a lame excuse" as a hurtful insult is quite and truly disheartening.

    Do you have the impression that most people with MS would consider themselves "lame"? I know that homosexuals consider themselves gay, but I had no idea that the term lame was even used to describe people with medical conditions, I though that form of usage died sometime in the 19th century.

    I feel like I need to fall back on some kind of proper and formal Edwardian rhetorical style to avoid offending anyone. :-(

  59. Anon @9:38, no, the point is not to not make mistakes, the point is to apologise when we do. We all need to pay attention to and believe others when they tell us something is offensive. To them it is. It's not so difficult.

  60. Nicola, in an earlier comment you wrote:
    > Iroshi, Anon@11.52, to me and millions like me, use of the word 'lame' is hurtful. If, after having this explained, you continue to use it, I assume ill-intent or stupidity.

    I think you have to be willing to consider a third option, beyond ill-intent or stupidity. Suppose I said:

    "To me, use of the word 'tree' is hurtful. You may not use it because it offends me. If, after having this explained, you continue to use it, I assume ill-intent or stupidity."

    Suppose you decided that you would rather continue using the word 'tree'. Would it be accurate to call you ill-intentioned or stupid for doing so? Is it possible that you could do so, as an intelligent and compassionate person with no desire to hurt me?

    If you, indeed, would continue using the word 'tree' despite my request, I invite you to do the experiment of articulating your reasons why. It might yield some empathy or insight into the objections that other folks are raising here.