Oct 31, 2014

Idiot, Imbecile, Moron

We often hear these words during an election cycle. Each of these words has a different meaning. The medical definitions have been mostly abandoned and the words are now used more in a pejorative sense, rather than diagnostic.

In psychology, an idiot has the least intelligence on the IQ scale, equivalent to someone who is mentally challenged. Idiot derives from the ancient Greek, 'idio', meaning “person lacking professional skill” or “mentally deficient person incapable of ordinary reasoning.” Those who have an IQ between 0 and 25 are considered idiots.

From Middle French imbécile, from Latin imbēcillus meaning weak or feeble, literally “without a staff.” An imbecile is considered equivalent to moderate retardation or moderately mentally challenged. People with IQs between 26 and 50 are considered imbeciles.

The word 'moron' was coined in 1910 by psychologist Henry H. Goddard and derived from the ancient Greek word 'moros', which meant 'dull'. Those who have an IQ between 51 and 70 are considered morons. A moron is the highest level of intelligence for someone who is mildly mentally challenged.

These terms were popular in psychology as associated with intelligence on an IQ test until the 1960s. They were then replaced with the terms mild retardation, moderate retardation, severe retardation, and profound retardation. Other factors besides IQ are now used in diagnosing these levels of mental deficiency.

Retarded comes from the Latin 'retardare', which means “to make slow, delay, keep back, or hinder.”  The term retarded was used to replace the terms idiot, moron, and imbecile as these terms gradually became thought of as derogatory. Now 'retarded' is considered a derogatory term.

Many old words seem to pop up around election time as politicians seek to differentiate themselves, while preaching the same drivel. Even politician used to be a good word, which has now become thought of as derogatory.