David Weinberger’s boat and archaic language

While I wait for my copy of Everything is Miscellaneous to wend its way across the oceans to Australia; after ordering it via Amazon, as the local book stores tell me it’s not released here in Australia yet (cough); I while away my miscellaneous time reading about the book in Mr Weinberger’s blog.

While deeply immersed in an excellent story of registering his recently purchased boat, I nearly fell out my wheelchair when I read his recounting what was on the registration form.

‘One of the checkboxes on the registration form asks if I’m “retarded.” I thought we were done lumping the various ways our intelligences fail us into that particular bucket…’

Like him, I too assumed we were done with that use of classification (ie: labelling). I’m surprised that they just don’t be done with it and ask another question using that other archaic label that the US seems to have forgotten to leave behind (along with inches, pounds, miles and gallons) – “are you handicapped?”.

As one definition of retarded is conveyed as “to slow up especially by preventing or hindering advance or accomplishment”, I was left wondering if it was referring to the 90 horsepower motor that Mr Weinberger’s poor boat was afflicted with.

But alas, that’d be wishful thinking. I am unfortunately left with the conclusion it’s the actual people who made the registration form itself.

I mean really, if you were ‘retarded’ and wanting to register for a hunting permit or register a boat, would you answer yes to that question?

Mr Weinberger’s point is that “Requests for metadata are expressive”. Well, he’s dead right. That request certainly expresses some attitudes held by the ‘authorities’ behind the form.

I was impressed by Mr Weinberger’s awareness and the deft expression he uses. I’m looking forward to “Everything is Miscellaneous” even more now!

Dave

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