Hollow-Point Insults   Leave a comment

I, like most, have dished out my fair share of verbal assessments concerning the intellect of others. To evaluate the mental acuity of another person, it’s common to fit them with a title like “stupid”, “retard”, “dumbass” or “idiot”. Pretty mean stuff. My current choice assessment that I employ when I encounter underwhelming insight is “moron”.

I like how Vizzini refers to Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates as such in The Princess Bride.

And I like that “moron” is an outdated medical term referring to someone with the intelligence of an 8-year-old. The advantages of “moron”s history is that it is less relative than merely calling someone “stupid”, and represents a medical misdiagnosis, the error of which I hope is implicit.

Because words are hurtful. This may be common knowledge, but it’s not an easy concept for me to personally understand. I believe that words are only powerful insomuch as we personally give them meaning and that we’re allowed to determine the idea conveyed by any word or phrase. As such, insults levied against my mind are mostly dismissed and ring hollow.

But calling someone stupid can act like a hollow-point bullet (the ones that expand when they hit you so it causes a lot more damage than if it stayed slender and went straight through). People call you stupid, meaning only that the last thing you did or said was stupid, not that your brain is in a perpetual state of malfunctioning incompetence. It’s when someone talks behind your back and says “he’s so stupid” that that person means to apply it to you in your entirety. But what we don’t know can’t hurt our feelings.

Mean words leave the chamber bullet-shaped, but enter your body as a shredding stud of destruction.

So if I can’t correctly mutiply small numbers, mistake salt for sugar in a recipe, mention that I think the sun sets to the north, or demonstrate oblivious insensitivity to the hardships a guest is undergoing, I’m going to get called stupid. But it only really means that I acted stupidly in that instance, not that I’m overall a mentally dismissable person. But getting called stupid sucks, and we sometimes give it the meaning that we are thoroughly inadequate and give it the power to destroy our self esteem. That’s unnecessary, but it happens.

Being called stupid sucks, and can be taken much more personally than intended, because there’s no “but at least” for “I’m stupid” (possible exception: “at least I’m a good person”). If I’m fat, ugly, unathletic, poor, shrill, or clumsy, I can think to myself “well, that sucks for me, but at least I’m smart”. I’m not sure that it works in the other direction- “Well, it sucks that I’m stupid, but at least I’m rich and handsome,” is flashy but substanceless compensation. Intelligence is one of those things we value most about ourselves and is irreplaceable if attacked.

But people don’t usually mean to harm your overall self-worth when they say “you’re so stupid” in a serious manner. Just need to point out that a recent action of yours lacked wisdom and understanding. I’m not quite sure why it can hurt so much more than intended, but it can. Don’t take it personally, it’s mostly a demonstration of frustration by the name-caller. I’m discovering these elementary emotional mechanisms as I type because I guess I’m not very in tune with them. People don’t usually mean to hurt your feelings and don’t actually believe you’re a stupid person when they call you stupid.

And “moron” is a better word anyways.


Posted July 24, 2010 by Wada in Uncategorized

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