Publication Details

McKay, K., Wark, S., Mapedzahama, V., Dune, T., Rahman, S. & MacPhail, C. (2015). Sticks and stones: How words and language impact upon social inclusion. Journal of Social Inclusion, 6 (1), 146-162.


Language framed as derogatory names and symbols can have implications for people and their life experiences. Within a Saussurian-inspired frame, and looking at ideas of stigma and social inclusion, this paper examines the use of language as a weapon within a social context of (changing) intent and meaning. Three examples of language use in mainstream society are analysed: 'retarded' which evolved from scientific diagnosis to insult; 'gay' as a derogatory adjective within popular culture; and, the way language around suicide is used to both trivialise and stigmatise those who are suicidal, as well as those who are bereaved.