A few weeks ago I read an article somewhere (I know, my citing abilities are incredible) about how using the word “crazy” to describe things was insulting to people who have a mental illness. The article got my attention because I call everything crazy. If someone tells me something absurd I say, “That’s just crazy.” If I see a wild pattern on a shirt I say, “Look at that crazy shirt!” If my dog turns into a rabid, rage machine I say, “He just went crazy!” If someone asks me if I like chocolate I reply, “Are you crazy? I’m crazy about chocolate!”
So, yeah, me and crazy have a long history. I also use the word insane. A lot. Like, “That is insane.” I say that for everything. The teacher wants your kid to do twelve worksheets for homework? Well, that is just insane. The insurance company wants to raise the premium by $100, well, that is insane. The store was mobbed? It was insane. The kids pestering me every second: They drove me insane. You want to go to South America this summer? That would be an insane trip.
I know. It’s some weird shorthand I’ve developed to replace all of the other words. It’s kind of sad that this is what I have to show for my many years of education.
I’m not a bad person. I promise. I’m mostly good. I never even think about people with mental illness when I am using these two words. Mostly I use “crazy” to describe things that seem extreme. I’d argue that I am using a different definition of the word crazy. I don’t use it to mean deranged, lunatic, or mad (words I found when looking up the definition of crazy). Ouch. That would be insulting.
But really, this is what I tell myself to justify my word choices. I’m not trying to be cruel or heartless, but It’s not up to me to decide what is hurtful to other people, so I have to pause. I have to think. I have to empathize. I mean, people used to call things retarded without even thinking about the implications. I’m pretty much doing the same thing with the word crazy. I have to wonder, would it kill me to use a different word? Would putting a little more effort into how I describe things be that much of an imposition? It’s important to me that people feel safe and comfortable around me. Choosing a different word seems a small price to pay for that comfort.
Besides, when it comes down to it, I use the words crazy and insane because I am lazy. I mean, I have a much bigger vocabulary than that. I could use any of the following words instead: foolish, silly, absurd, ridiculous, ludicrous, preposterous, farcical, laughable, risible, nonsensical, harebrained, cockamamie, half-baked, impracticable, unworkable, ill-conceived, senseless…
I could say I am passionate about chocolate. I could say my dog barked until his voice went hoarse because he was so angry that someone knocked on the door. Sure, it takes a little longer sometimes, but I could say all sorts of things instead of “crazy” and sound smarter doing it.
I’m working on that. Old habits don’t break easily. I have to stop mid-sentence sometimes and rephrase what I want to say. I forget too and an occasional “that’s just crazy” will slip out. I’m a work in progress. I am putting in the effort though so I hope that counts for something. I heard your complaint and I am trying to rectify the situation as best I can. One sentence at a time.
My daughter just had “crazy hair and sock day” at school. How cool would it be if next year they called it “cockamamie hair and sock day” instead? Or even just the simple version: Silly sock and hair day.
There are plenty of good options that don’t make people feel bad. I’m up for the challenge, how about you?