One small grouchy request

I will preface this gripe with two disclaimers:

  1. I have been irritable lately, I think in part because we've hit the crazy-busy time of year.
  2. I can't remember what the second one was.
It's tenure and promotion time, and now that I have tenure I'm assessing other people's work. I'm currently reading a published article by a colleague (and I won't specify which department this colleague is in, because I'm on two T&P committees this fall). In the article this colleague refers to a character as "a Down Syndrome boy" and later as "a Down's child."

My small, grouchy request is this: if you are writing about people with Down syndrome, please call them people with Down syndrome, not "Down syndrome people." What is "a Down Syndrome boy" anyway? Not only does it not make sense grammatically, but it implies that a particular diagnosis is the primary characteristic of a person, rather than implying that this is a person first and foremost, with a diagnosis that's secondary. If you were writing about a character with heartburn, would you call him "a heartburn boy"?

I won't be bringing this up in the tenure interview because I suspect it would just make my colleague get all shamefaced and apologetic, but I'm putting it out here on the blog for you lovely readers to carry out into the world.


Jims said...

This reminds me of a book I'm reading currently (Rights of Inclusion) the role of rights in identity formations of people with disabilities. There is a good discussion in the beginning of the book on the difference between using the terms "people with disabilities" and "disabled people."

Also, congratulations on tenure! I didn't know you had it yet.

Jan said...

I think it makes sense grammatically, and matches our usage when it comes to red-headed boy, black boy, Chinese boy. Parents of these children use these expressions. I hope for you and your child it ends up mattering just as little how the words are arranged because whatever condition is referred to only for good reason and in a very normal case. Different is beautiful. Your little boy might be very proud to have DS someday.

Biffle said...

alison's politically correct antenna are a might sensitive.

maybelle kicks ass!

Yo Mamma Mamma! said...


I'm the mother of a child with Down syndrome, and I just blogged about this, and other terms.

Quiche said...

Alison, I so love your subtle approach (:
Alison kicks ass too!