Why has this become an acceptable term?

I’ve noticed a lot of people I otherwise respect (e.g. waypoint crew) saying (CW: ableism) smooth brain as like a meme and it seems pretty ableist. Is this something that is just normal now?


I think a lot of well meaning folk reach for this kind of terminology to explain why they dislike something or that someone’s ideas or opinion are wrong in part because they wish to avoid other ableist terms or phrases. It’s out of a desire to be concise, I think. However, I think that people who work in a critical space should go out of their way to creatively work around the problem of language and avoid going toward the new, easy, short-hand for saying they dislike the way another person thinks. They should just explain why the idea is bad instead.


Forgive my ignorance but how is it abelist? Are there people with actual smooth brains?

It’s a rare brain disorder stemming from a birth defect. Here’s the wiki article on it: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lissencephaly

Needless to say, it’s less than funny once you know what it’s actually in reference to.

I’ll be mindful of that and try not to use it in a derogatory way but I don’t think that specific birth defect is what the term refers to. Lots of animals have smooth brains, it just means that the brain has lower density of neurons and can’t form as complex thoughts as one with wrinkles. It’s basic principle of neuroanatomy.

While I do think we should always try to be constructive and specific sometimes things are just self-evidently bad. To use an innocuous example, when I try to carry too many things and drop one of them there’s no need to explain why it was a bad idea. Before I even started I knew it was a bad idea. Having terminology for that is useful. Sadly these days we constantly encounter people saying things that are self-evidently bad, in obvious bad faith, or attempting to re-litigate a long settled argument. And because it happens so frequently it useful to have a bunch of terms or else you just say “bad” over and over again like I just did.

I generally think that when and where a term has a specific link to a disability, it’s not a great idea to use it in a derogatory form regardless of how direct that link is.

The r-slur is based in - and in some cases is still used for - the diagnosis of developmental disorders. That doesn’t mean it has a place in civil or even uncivil discourse because of how it’s used in the vernacular.

At the end of the day, who cares if it’s directly referring to Lissencephaly? Now you know that, would you drop that term into a conversation with someone who’s kid or relative might have that condition? That’s what I always come back to - who I might be hurting by using that term carelessly.


Yeah, this is what I was trying to get at. If you know what the link is and you make an effort to avoid using the term after you’ve learned that than that’s… good?

Don’t get me wrong, we all screw up. I use some of the more commonly used neuro-related terms more often than I’d like myself, but the thing for me is that I’m trying to be conscious of it and I’m trying to change that behavior because I believe in being a more caring and empathetic person. This is just one more way to try and do that.

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I always thought it was in reference to koalas, so may I propose “koala brain” as an alternative if it’s harmful?

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I don’t think this is a foreign concept to many on the forums, but one thing that is pushed at my job (I work for a state mental healthcare system) is the concept of person centered thinking. In short, always center the individual ( person with access and mobility issues, not handicapped person).

I really have grown to think that PCT has been a really beneficial way to shift some of my perspectives, and one of the big lessons I’ve taken from use is it’s OK to criticize someone’s ideas or actions, but never anything related to that individuals physical or neurological traits, or social identity. Of course the biggest rule is don’t be an asshole.

I think on the left there is a trap where some assume changing or softening the language used is somehow the right way to address some of this discrimination ( calling someone smooth brained instead of r**** is woke!). And I can tell you some stories about people in high places arguing over the meaning of a few words or the name of a thing instead of actually addressing any real discrimination or inequality.


I just thought it was an FLCL reference…