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Language and Diabetes

Call me picky, but language matters to me. I believe words and grammar shape how we understand and experience the world (hello, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and linguistic determinism!). Which is why the word “diabetic,” can really rub me the wrong way in certain contexts.

"Diabetic" (Adj.) + Thing (Noun)

Sometimes the word "diabetic" describes a thing. Diabetic neuropathy, diabetic glucometer, diabetic low. No problem.

"Diabetic" (Adj.) + Person (Noun)

Other times people use the word "diabetic" to describe a person. The diabetic patient, my diabetic uncle, their diabetic colleague. That's when you may see me clearing my throat and shifting uneasily in my seat. The condition is starting to eclipse the person.

"Diabetic" (Noun)

Now, when people use "diabetic" as a full-on noun - as in the diabetic who lives down the street - oooof! It's fingers on a chalkboard to me. Not only is it reductive – the disease is defining the person - but there's a suggestion of permanence that I find wholly dispiriting. I suppose I still maintain some hope that “a person who has diabetes” may some day be rid of it.

This post is part of Diabetes Blog Week.
The Prompt:
Many advocate for the importance of using non-stigmatizing, inclusive and non-judgmental language when speaking about or to people with diabetes. Some don't care, others care passionately. Where do you stand?

For more perspectives on this topic, click here.

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