Apparently one of my and Mephistopheles limericks is being criticized as being insensitive to autistic children on an autism Web site. What do Wordcrafters think?
Asperger's Syndrome does share
Several symptoms with autism where
And friendship's rejected —
The cause of a parent's despair.
Author's Note: (AHS-per-gerz, AWE-tiz-em) Asperger's Syndrome (some say that it should be called "Disorder") was named after an Austrian psychiatrist, Hans Asperger (1906–1980), who first described it in a 1944 paper.
Asperger's Syndrome may be equivalent to a high-functioning form of autism and often is seen in highly intelligent individuals. Like autism, Asperger's Syndrome begins in childhood and is characterized by a severe impairment of social interactions and by restricted interests and behaviors. However, it lacks the delays in development of language, cognitive function, and self-help skills that additionally define autistic disorder.
I read the thread and I agree with pretty much everything there from the OEDILF contributers. It isn't offensive but, as with the other two being discussed, one person (not from the OEDILF) has chosen to take single words out of context (in your case "despair") and suggest that they make the limericks offensive.
It's like looking at the sentence, "My mother's long illness was a source of great distress to the whole family." and suggest that the use of the word "distress" makes this somehow offensive to everyone who has ever had a sick relative.
I'm actually a little surprised that anyone who works with Asperger's sufferers or autistics could find the limericks being question anything other than sensitive handlings, especially with the AN attachd and I wonder if perhaps it isn't just a knee-jerk reaction of "limericks are trivial, you can't use them to write about serious subjects" by someone who may not even have read them.
"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
I agree with Bob, that this is probably a case of someone pulling one limerick out of the entire OEDILF collection and not understanding the entire concept of the OEDILF and assuming that because it is in limerick form, it is trying to make fun of Asperger's.
I assume the line to which they take offence is the last, The cause of a parent's despair. Presumably they feel it wrong that Asperger's should affect parents in this way, and that it should minimise the very real difficulties encountered by parents of a child with this syndrome.
Possibly "despair" is rather strong, but there can be levels of despair, from a deep pit of depression to mild worry, as exemplified by "I was the despair of my parents; I was always getting my new clothes dirty".
Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
Are you sure it isn't the "friendship's rejected" that they are offended by? This could be infer to mean that Autistic children don't have friends. Obviously, children with autism have great difficult making relationships due to the condition, and should be nothing to be offended about.
The way I look at it is, you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. It is a testament to the reach of the OEDILF that there are people reading and being offended by limericks. You can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time.
Unless of course, they're trolling search engines for mentions of autism to catch anything remotely offensive, in which case I might feel obligated to go troll their forum, despite the noble cause. That's the first time for me using two different meanings of troll in the same sentence.
An aggressive autistic attorney
Set out on an interesting journey
He succeeded at length
Through superior strength
To travel around on a gurney.
My kneejerk reaction to Seanahan's post is outrage! Is he saying that autistic people are trolls?? How offensive! Some of my best friends are trolls and they are certainly not autistic. (Though they do have trouble making friends sometimes...)
I have a brother (50 years old) who has Asperger's Syndrome... believe me, there was lots of parent despair. He wasn't diagnosed until late in life.. and now there is lots of sibling despair...We are having a difficult time dealing with his disability..
The limerick is great... leave it alone.
Thanks, everyone, and TrossL, you are cracking me up!
Here is the discussion on OEDILF and the one on the autistic Web site. I've tried to post on the autismvox Web site, but it doesn't seem to take my posts.
I am going to email my friend who is a nursing professor and has an autistic child to see what she thinks. If she thinks it's insensitive, I will take my name off of it; if not, I will leave it.
As I have said in the past, some people take offence remarkably easily. I did once suggest that there might be national differences and suggested that to check for differences in "sensitivity levels" would be an interesting research project for someone to undertake.
Well, folks, I have to sound a different note here. Read the thread;... just don't see how you're ever going to find a way to "define" a mental illness with any form of light verse-- limerick or other-- regardless of whether you're engaged in the attempt to put together an exhaustive dictionary of the language in said light verse format & hence can't avoid such words-- & not strike a sour note. Can't wait to see what y'all do with cancer!
First, Bethree, these are limericks. And it is recognized that they cannot possibly be comprehensive definitions in 5 lines, with correct meter, rhyming, and with a bit of humor (if possible, considering the subject). We do try to be sensitive, though, for sensitive issues like cancer or Auschwitz, for example. Note that if the limerick isn't approved (see "Status"), if may not stay with the project.
It's meant to be a lighthearted, entertaining dictionary. Some of the words are defined quite complexly in 5 lines.
Bethree, there are people who don't think that swear words should be in the dictionary. Similarly with words describing certain parts of the body. I consider this issue to be one and the same.
On another note, Cancer, and Auschwitz, and Autism are all terrible things. So we do what we can, we struggle, we cry, we even laugh, because that's how human beings get through tough times. I don't think it's a coincidence that the Jewish people survived centuries of persecution and the very worst mankind could do, and now they form the majority of the best comedians. I had a professor who survived cancer with a mug saying "F*** Cancer". A nurse told him, "That's a bad word", and he said, "Yes, but since that's the word that's the name of the disease, I think it's ok".
I don't find a lot of humor in autism. Obviously, there is very little humor in cancer and none in the Holocaust. Still, if it is language that separates us from animals, it is our humor which helps us understand exactly why this is so. So yes, a serious limerick may be mistaken for making light of a difficult condition, but believe me, life is a difficult condition. If you take away even the suggestion of a humor, it becomes a far bleaker place.
Nicely said, Sean.
I could be wrong because I am not very active there anymore, but I think they still want to define every word, be it a swear word or other "naughty" word or not. It's my understanding that they are handling X-rated limericks and words by keeping them "behind the curtain." On the other hand, I just went over there to see the "behind the curtain" limericks, and didn't find those. Therefore, I just asked one of the active members over there if they do want to define every word and whether the "bad" ones go "behind the curtain." I will get back to you.
I did see other designations, such as limericks held in the category of "bone yard" or "bottom drawer" or "held." I am not sure what those categories mean, though I think a limerick on "hold" means that we are holding it from public view until the author can fix it.
Needless to say, there are a lot of processes over there, and they change with their changing membership...as is the case with any discussion board/Web project.
Boneyard means scrapped for whatever reason.
Bottom drawer is usually for limericks that are OK but outside the current alphabetic spread. Its use is not encouraged.
Held can be anything that needs work for whatever reason and may be applied by the author if he/she isn't happy or by someone else if they feel there is a problem of some sort offensiveness/ metre/rhyme/whatever.
"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
I heard back from the people on OEDILF, and we are supposed to define every word, including swear words and the like, though the latter will be placed "behind the curtain," as decided by the workshoppers. Behind the curtain is a filter anyone can turn on which filters out all the "dirty" or "violent" limericks from those who turn it on. It's a voluntary censorship, so to speak. I know they've had many conversations about what should be "behind the curtain," including one member who wanted a limerick with "hell" there. I don't believe that was done.
Here is what my colleague, who is an expert in autism and who has an autistic child, said:
"Your Limerick seems both sensitive and accurate to me. Thanks for sending the web site. I think your "Author's note" helps show others that nurses are both intellligent and creative."
Therefore, I am going to leave it alone. I appreciate your thoughts on it.
Sorry to have dropped the ball here. Blame it on my slow vacation connection; everything takes so long I usually don't make it past the Q&A About Words forum in any session. May we continue our conversation?
Are you talking about the Limerick Dictionary, Seanahan? Or do you mean there are those so narrow-minded that they don't want to see swear-words or sexually-associated words in a "regular" dictionary?... In only the broadest sense can one place mental illness in the same category as swearing and sex-- that would be the category of things that "are not (or 'were not', in the case of swearing)discussed in polite society." I share your distaste for such squeamishness, which only adds to the harm done by keeping anything in wraps, allowing it to fester; in the case of abuse, allowing it to continue; in the case of illness as yet incurable, allowing it to remain that way.
Indeed, humor is the way in which we humans eventually manage to gain perspective on the seemingly hopeless, gathering courage to persevere. When I on occasion have sufficient wherewithal to view the manner in which both mental and physical illnesses have played havoc with my family life, I consider it an achievement. Such humor, sadly, cannot be shared with most. The ordinary man (regardless of intelligence-- we're talking about maturity and humanity here) shuns that which he fears. The mentally ill are treated with cruelty on a daily basis, and are routinely denied jobs, health insurance, and the rest of the so-called American dream. Humor is routinely made at their expense and it's not even considered politically incorrect. I fail to see how a limerick about a particular mental diagnosis is going to be taken in any other way.
I don't think you can escape the difficulties of the question at hand so easily. Like it or not, limericks are perceived by the general public as humorous. They have a sing-songy rhythm and rhyme, just like the ditties used by playground bullies. It will be quite a challenge to produce limericks about situations which are already handled very poorly by your average citizen, without striking a false or mean note. I understand the complications of selecting words for omission and don't propose to know how to solve it.
I doubt this will ever happen with OEDILF. Certain "offensive" words have been "curtained" so that those who wish to avoid seeing them can set their preferences so they won't display. But that's as far as I'd like to see "censorship" go.
I'm speaking of dictionaries in general, of which the OEDILF is but one.
My point was referring to people thinking autism is not an appropriate topic for a limerick. Just because we stick our heads in the sand, doesn't mean such things go away.
While writing a limerick today
I was filled with surprise and dismay
My bad hair's behavior
Sought a Tempter as Savior
And now I've the Devil's toupée.
Why Jerry, how do you dare
To mix religion with hair?
It makes me sick
When you blame Old Nick
For the looks of your latest headwear.
But Bethree, the point of this rhyme
Is not just religious (this time)
It's that wonderful wordplay
On the homonym "toupee"
A lexical trick quite sublime!