My Uses of the Word Cripple, and Other Labels

By Thane Pullan, Grumpy Cripple

Grumpy Cripple

Firstly, the word cripple would be offensive to many in the disability community. However, the fact is there is a large disagreement with language and what's offensive to one may not be to others. In general, the word can cause offense so you should know that the person is comfortable with the term before using it. I am completely comfortable with the word; in fact, I trade off it.

Confessions of a Grumpy Cripple

My name is Thane Pullan, I am known as the Grumpy Cripple. I never intended that nickname to stick. I created the Grumpy Cripple meme page on Facebook as a kind of version of the Grumpy Cat. After a TV appearance got me 3,000 likes on Facebook, I just stuck with it and later authored books about disability called The Teachings of a Grumpy Cripple.

IGrumpy Cripplef you call me a cripple, I won't care. As problems, words are mostly not on my radar. What is important to me is improving people's lives through technology, accessibility and fighting to reduce inequality for people with disability. Visibility is also a problem and arguably I am making people with disabilities and the issues (slightly) more visible because of my unconventional ways. Even though cripple is technically offensive. Nobody has complained about it.

Perhaps it's not as offensive as it once was. There are moves by some in the disability community to take the term back. I have fallen into this camp by accident. I am not on a conquest to take the term back; my conquests are bigger than labels. There is no universal agreement on labels, so why on focus on them? I think we should push the message that that people will be called whatever they want to be called. That's my final conclusion.

I guess the real problem is accepting other people's desires of being called something you vigorously dislike. For example, I read a blog post that the poster preferred to be called handicapped, but that word is almost universally hated. In the post, they argued that they associated the word disability with a person on disability benefits. I could not disagree with their reasoning more, but I really have better things to do than be the language police. Respecting how people want to be referred to is worthwhile even if it goes against your beliefs. 

Grumpy CrippleThey say language can be disempowering. However, some people such as myself simply do not feel this way. There are a variety of things that I cannot do: walk, talk, etc. Surely if someone says that I shouldn't refer to myself as a cripple or handicapped, they are taking away another ability—the ability to express myself. I view language as empowering and I should be able to have the freedom to express myself how I like. Let's move forward to a future of trying to increase people's ability and be respectful of how different people express themselves.

About the author:

Blogger, comedian and author Thane Pullan is The Grumpy Cripple. Visit him online at or, follow him on Facebook, or read his insightful book series, Teachings of a Grumpy Cripple.

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