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At 10:16 pm -0400 11/11/98, David G. Durand wrote:
>At 10:31 PM -0400 11/11/98, John Cowan wrote:
>>Yes, specifically applied to the hypothyroid.  But what is the link
>>from "Christian" to "stupid"?
>
>According to my wife's (plausible) folk etymology (for the same expression
>in Greek), the "mentally challenged" were called Christians because they
>were baptized (if nothing else) and so were better than animals and
>non-Christians.

Yes indeed, it wasn't just folk etymology either.  The term originally
applied to a people suffering a type of imbecillity accompanied by goiter
in certain Alpine regions.  The point was that they were Christians by
virtue of baptism and should be treated as such and not as animals.  There
was also, possibly, a secondary meaning that the were in a sense more
perfectly Christian since they'd been washed clean of original sin by
baptism and because of their imbecillity were incapable of actual sin.

But, as you say,  usage inevitably insured that the word became more
generalized and derogatory.

Ray.