Redskins and reason

Years ago, the word “retarded” emerged as the enlightened substitute for such cruel terms as “feeble-minded” or “mongoloid.” Today, however, it is considered a form of denigration, having been replaced by the clumsy but now conventional “developmentally disabled.” There is no particular logic to this evolution. But it’s a social fact. Unless you’re looking to give gratuitous offense, you don’t call someone “retarded.”

Let’s recognize that there are many people of good will for whom “Washington Redskins” contains sentimental and historical attachment — and not an ounce of intended animus. So let’s turn down the temperature. What’s at issue is not high principle but adaptation to a change in linguistic nuance. A close call, though I personally would err on the side of not using the word if others are available.

How about “Skins,” a contraction already applied to the Washington football team? And that carries a sports connotation, as in “skins vs. shirts” in pickup basketball.