The Words Moron, Imbecile, and Idiot Mean Different Things
Today I found out the words moron, imbecile, and idiot mean different things. In psychology, an idiot has the least intelligence on the IQ scale (this now is equivalent to someone who is mentally retarded or the more politically correct “mentally challenged”); an imbecile is not quite as dumb as an idiot and is now considered equivalent to moderate retardation; a moron is then the highest level of intelligence for someone who is mentally retarded, thus considered as being mildly mentally retarded. Specifically, those who have an IQ between 0 and 25 are idiots; IQs between 26 and 50 are considered imbeciles; and those who have an IQ between 51 and 70 are considered morons.
These terms were popular in psychology as associated with intelligence on an IQ test until around the 1960s. They were then replaced with the terms mild retardation, moderate retardation, severe retardation, and profound retardation. In addition to this, other factors besides IQ are now used in diagnosing these levels of mental deficiency.
If you liked this article and the Bonus Facts below, you might also enjoy:
- How “Gay” Came to Mean “Homosexual”
- Why Turkeys are Called Turkeys
- Origin of “Catch-22” and Other Common Phrases
- Before “Down’s Syndrome” was called such, people with Down’s syndrome were called “Mongolian idiots” and the syndrome itself was called “mongolism”. This comes from the fact that people thought that Down’s syndrome individuals resembled Mongolians.
- In Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Ohio, idiots don’t have the right to vote.
- Ironically, the term retarded was used to replace the terms idiot, moron, and imbecile due to the fact that these terms gradually became thought of as derogatory. This obviously only worked for a while and now “retarded” is itself considered a derogatory term. It seems any word that basically means “low intelligence” is fated to be thought of as derogatory eventually. So it’s only a matter of time before politically correct terms like “mentally handicapped” will come to be derogatory themselves.
- Retarded comes from the Latin “retardare”, which means “to make slow, delay, keep back, or hinder”. The first record of its use for someone considered mentally deficient was in 1895.
- The first IQ test was created by French psychologists Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon in 1911. This initial test measure intelligence by having children point to their nose and count pennies.
- In California, idiots are one of six types of people who are not capable of committing any form of crime. In 2007 the term “idiot” was replace with “persons who are mentally incapacitated” in the California legal wording of the penal code on this issue.
- The word “moron” was coined in 1910 by psychologist Henry H. Goddard and was derived from the ancient Greek word “moros”, which meant “dull”.
- “Idiot” derives from the ancient Greek, “idio”, meaning “person lacking professional skill” or “mentally deficient person incapable of ordinary reasoning”.
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