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ENG 101- Week 1 Discussion: Nancy Mairs’ essay “On Being Cripple”

Aug 28, 2023

In Nancy Mairs’ essay “On Being Cripple”, why is Mairs so concerned with terminology? Discuss the importance of naming or identifying with a specific term.

Week 1 Discussion: Nancy Mairs’ essay “On Being Cripple”

Nancy Mairs in her essay “On Being Cripple”, informs everyone about her preference for being called a cripple, rather than other terms like disabled or handicapped (Mairs, 83). She especially doesn’t want to be called differently abled. The reason Mairs is so concerned with terminology is that in her opinion it stands for something and represents a particular condition or a person. This representation in Mairs’ opinion is hugely important. She prefers the usage of the term ‘cripple’ for her because it represents her as a strong woman who despite everything, and the unfair deal she has been provided, she is still standing strong. It provides a firmness to her character which she believes is not provided by other terms. Handicapped in her opinion gives off a meaning, that it has been something that has been done to her by someone, specifically God.

Mairs does not believe in that notion and therefore does not want that notion to be attached to her. ‘Disabled’ as a term is vague for her as it does not specify what exactly she is suffering from. In her opinion, the incapacity implied by the term ‘Disabled’ could be mental or physical. Mairs is not comfortable with this vagueness and wants people to have clarity when it comes to her condition, therefore she prefers ‘cripple.’ The term that she dislikes the most is ‘differently-abled.’ She believes that this term provides a sense of hopefulness that does not match her condition at all. She wants the terminology associated with her to be apt, as it aids her and those around her to face the reality of life.

Naming or identifying with a particular term is hugely important. As clear with the opinion provided by Mairs’ names represent the standing of a phenomenon. It is also the first interaction anybody has with a particular phenomenon. If a person searches for a phenomenon the first thing they encounter is the name. Therefore a term is a hugely essential concept. The emotions that a particular term reflects are also necessary. Mairs is clear that she wants people to understand the reality of her situation when they meet her. She wants them to know the brutal truth. This might not be everybody’s preference. Everybody might not want people they encounter or themselves to always be in the company of the harsh truth.

They have the liberty or freedom to prefer terms like ‘disabled’ or ‘handicapped’, which is not that harsh in their perception by other people. People prefer particular pronouns because of the way they identify themselves. Therefore, a term also represents a person’s identity and hence is an important concept. A term reflects people’s standing in various situations. Names of people also oftentimes reveal their ethnicity. Therefore in the social sphere names and the terms people associate with have huge importance.

Works Cited

Mairs, Nancy. “On Being a Cripple.” The Norton Reader: An Anthology of Nonfiction, edited by Melissa A. Goldthwaite et al., shorter 15th ed., W. W. Norton, 2020, pp. 83– 92.

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