Tuesday, April 09, 2013

cliché: a basket case

Meaning: One who is of a hopeless or useless physical or mental state (definition).

Example: He was so upset by the accident, he had become a mental basket case.

Origins: World War I, describing a soldier who returned from war having lost both arms and both legs. (Source.) Offensive slang. (Source.)

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Discussion: I’m going to take the unusual step of suggesting we not rewrite this cliché but because of its offensive nature we discard it. Offensive why? Because it treats the physically or mentally disabled as “hopeless” and “useless” instead of as honored and hopeful members of society. Even in its original use, officials used the term to deny that such individuals even existed. I suggest we deny the offense and not describe anyone in these or similar terms.

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