What’s wrong with the word diabetic?

What’s wrong with the word diabetic?

I made the mistake of going on Twitter the other day, even though it does little else but make me doubt the future of humanity. We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters. This was no exception. Some diabetic was thrilled after discovering that Grammarly flags the word diabetic as potentially sensitive language. What does this mean? If you don’t know Grammarly, it’s a very good text editor that people like me use to schmooze up the language in our blogs. It uses an AI that reads through your text and scores it on things like engagement and clarity. Like most things aimed at the public, Grammarly is politically correct, so it will alert you when you use words that some people might find offensive like gypsy or Indian. The question here is if diabetic is such a word?

The issue was first raised by DiabetesUK in the 1980s when the word police were going mad on the language. They were of the opinion that people weren’t defined by their disease and therefore it was insensitive to define someone as diabetic. Better was to refer to a diabetic as a person with diabetes, as this meant the person also had other qualities.

What I fail to see is how defining me as diabetic would exclude me from being other things. A mother doesn’t need to be referred to as a person with a child in order to be many other things. You need to ask yourself where you draw the line when you start policing the language. My disease is still just one aspect of me, regardless if you call me diabetic or a person with diabetes. And let’s face it, it’s a pretty important aspect because type 1 diabetes is a life-altering experience. After insulin, you’ll never look at food in quite the same way. 

I use the word diabetic a lot in my blog and my day-to-day life. It’s convenient, everyone gets it, and it’s a lot less convoluted than the mouthful person with diabetes. In my opinion, anything that simplifies the language and makes it more accessible is a good thing. And unlike many other words that we perhaps rightly should stay away from, there’s no stigma attached to the word diabetic. Well, other than the one you attach to it yourself. Defining yourself by your disease has nothing to do with how you label it and everything to do with how you live with it.

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