Since its inception in 1876, the American Association on Mental Retardation (AAMR) has operated under a series of names featuring the standard professional terms of each historical era: feeble minded, idiot, mental deficiency, and mental retardation. These sound more like the barbed taunts of third graders than the professional jargon of physicians, psychologists, or educators. They have been, or are, both.

In order to consider the question of what the AAMR might name itself now, I will explore the historical and linguistic roots of the mental retardation terms that have been used by leading organizations and the professions. My reason for moving backward in order to look forward arises out of a serious hunch that Professor Ferguson is unfortunately correct about both the past and the future. Terms such as moron, idiot, and retard have originated within the circles of respectable professional jargon only...

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