I won’t even say “crazy” to my therapist. Not just because it’s an ableist slur (we’ll get to that) but because I know she’s going to ask me “What do you mean by that?” She knows that word is bullshit. And now you will too.
When someone describes something as “crazy, for lack of a better word,” alarm bells ring: NO. YOU’RE LYING. THERE’S DEFINITELY A BETTER WORD. In casual conversation, “crazy” means anything and everything.
Moment of honesty: I use the word “crazy” in one situation only: when I can’t hear what someone has just said. Ugh I hate bars. I have no idea what’s happening in bars, other than nobody should ever play “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” by Deep Blue Something at a volume level that makes my brain hurt. Trying to catch up with friends, or meet new people…I have fuck-all idea what anybody’s saying. So I just squint through the dingy lighting to discern when their lips stop moving to indicate that it’s time for me to speak:
Me: “Hi, how’s it going?”
Them: “Oh, this week was — YOU SAY WE’VE GOT NOTHING IN COMMON –“
Me: Huh. Crazy.
Them: “Yeah, on Monday, — THE WORLD HAS COME BETWEEN US –“
Me: Oh wow, crazy.
Them: “Yeah, so I’m thinking now I’m just gonna — STILL I KNOW YOU JUST DON’T CARE –“
Me: Hah! Crazy.
Them: “Yeah, maybe, I mean, do you think I should — WHAT ABOUT BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S SHE SAID —
Me: I don’t know. That’s pretty crazy.
Them: “You’re right. Do you wanna get a drink?”
Me: Oh, God, yes.
Did I pull it off? Luckily, the word “crazy” is so devoid of meaning, I can participate in conversation without hearing any of the context. Thanks, “crazy!”
Ding! That means it’s time for the FEMALE PERSPECTIVE. Women and craziness have been linked together hysterically – I mean, HISTORICALLY – for ages. The term “hysteria” is a play on our anatomy, and the idea that our genitals cast a magic spell of craziness is perpetuated every time someone (even well-meaning) utters those three letters, “P-M-S.” Maybe I chafe at the word “crazy” because, like “PMS,” it seems like a term used to dismiss women for having emotions or doing things. A woman is acting in a way that is not pleasing to a man: she is sad, angry, disappointed? SHE’S CRAZY OMG PMS DUDE WTF.
|Here’s a cute bunny to go with your adorable internalized misogyny. Crazy, huh?|
So what does “crazy” even mean? You say, duh, Meghan, “crazy” is slang for “mentally ill.” Oh, cool. Cool, because mental illness is something we should have jokey slang about? Yeah, when you put it that way, you definitely don’t sound like the douchiest douche who ever douched. Let’s take a minute to look at the range of mental health disorders that affect people during the course of their lifetime, and think about how different, say, substance abuse problems differ from PTSD differs from eating disorders differs from depression differs from *plops big-ass Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders on your lap* Yeah, you’re right, you can totally sum up ALL OF THESE things under the word, “crazy.” Sure. Cute. Cool. Go ahead.
Now you whine: I don’t mean literally “crazy”! I’m just using it to describe something, you know, crazy!”
Okay, so the thing you’re actually trying to describe is:
So if you tell me, Meghan, this movie was crazy. I’m sorry, I have no idea what you’re talking about! Is the movie a tense thriller? Did you not enjoy it? Was it so bad you can’t understand how it got made? Was it – Hold on, give me back the DSM – *flips through pages* —
“Crazy, for lack of a better word”? Naw, dude. There’s definitely a better word. If you can’t find a better word, I’ve got one to describe you: here’s a hint, it rhymes with “crazy,” Starts with an “L”, sound it out. “Lllllllaaaaaazzz-….”
12 Comments Add yours
I guess there's a lot of words like this that we don't really think about. They are meaningless in conversation, but also loaded with these other meanings that we don't think about. I'm definitely going to check myself to choose a better, more desciptive word than crazy from now on.
Awww thanks! Yeah since posting this, people have been keeping the dialogue going and I realized just how many words we say are like, sneaky offensive!!
I absolutely love this post! I'm guilty of saying it every now and then and when I do I actually catch myself and internally cringe. As a former Psychology major, it bugs the hell out of me when people use mental health words as a catch all. Sharing this 'til the cows come home!
Oh my goodness yes! People using "OCD" as a cute way to explain their predilection for neatness…NOT COOL. People saying "Bipolar" because they're dealing with conflicting emotions…inaccurate and offensive! Oh gosh it goes on and on…
There's a strong parallel here with a certain R word and G word.
Absolutely! The difference between the "R" word and "crazy" is that I don't think people who use "crazy" in everyday conversation are necessarily trying to be hurtful, but I don't know of too many people who AREN'T aware (aware & just don't care!) of the hurtful connotations behind the "R" word. As far as "G" which I assume you mean "gay," yes? Gay has a use: men can say, "I am gay." Women can say, "I am gay." I can say, "Oh, my friend Matt is gay," and not mean it in a hurtful way. If we were talking and I said, "RuPaul is so gay," you wouldn't be as shocked as if I dropped the R word or even (I never would) an N word. I can say "gay" all the time and mean "happy" or "homosexual" without necessarily incurring collateral hurt. I love this discussion we've started about the power of words!!!
Haha I say crazy way too often. I like your little list! I really should use more descriptive words more often.
Hah I mean even saying "BANANAS" is better – it's not descriptive at all but at least it's not offensive!!!
Another word that always makes me cringe a little when I hear it is "lame."
You're absolutely right. It's so sad and telling that we appropriate words like "lame," "gay," and worse to mean "bad." Almost makes me want to make up a new slang word to mean "bad!" My boyfriend says "Aw PANTS!" when things go wrong and it's ADORABLE. Now taking applications for a new word to mean "bad" that's fun to say…