"Retarded"- I still remember the first time I heard someone use that word and understood what it meant. I was in 5th grade waiting for the bus in front of our little house in Macon, Ga. The person using the word was a boy with my same last name that I had to sit next to in class. He was not exactly popular and he was not exactly nice and he was making fun of someone else at the bus stop (who was not, in fact, "retarded"). But all of a sudden a light bulb went off in my head and I understood the population group he was referring to. And I was angry. Angry because he was a bully. Angry because my uncle, one of the funniest people I knew and owner of the best movie collection, also happened to be rocking an extra chromosome. That day I promised myself I would not use that awful word... ever. Years later I had a friend tell me,"it's okay if I use that word because, you know, I work with those kids, too." No, I'm sorry- it is not okay.
In my household the R-word is akin to the F-word. I will be more shocked and disappointed to hear that derogatory term come out of my children's mouths than any other (partially because my 2-year old has broken me in already with an inability to say "fork").