An epithet? Do you mean “…a defamatory or abusive word or phrase…”? I don’t know the context of the arguement, but when abusive comes up in the meaning, even second hand, it seems as though the point was not to provide clarity to an issue, but to defame, to debase, marginalize the other party. Perhaps the use of “crazy”, then, served it’s intended purpose.In the comments section Joel relates an experience he had when a woman diagnosed with schizophrenia questioned his use of "crazy". He thought about it agreed it was inappropriate and was more thoughtful of how he used the word in the future.
One does not have to be a clinician to use the word “crazy” in a manner that is intended to negatively characterize another. I work in a maximum security psychiatric facility and, unfortunately, I hear clinicians frequently use the word and, yes, they intend the listener interpret it as a diagnostic ..albeit a horribly inarticulate one.
On the other hand, my own belief is that the term “crazy” can and ought to be used by those labeled, rather the same way the N-word and “Queer” get utilized by members of the target groups; in a reverse, in-your-face out-and-proud kind of way.
So, to get personal, based upon my life history and present circumstances I could call myself a “crazy queer” but someone else who had never been identified in either of those groups, could not.
Words, and their use are powerful and sometime hurtful tools that mental health system clinical personnel use in a disparaging way. Likewise, and it’s only rarely challenged, the general populace uses words against citizens with psychiartic disabilities without thought or concern as to how deep and hurtful the use of a particular epithet can be. At times, words, such as "crazy" are intended to pathologize.
I know of many times where people have used words such as “Crazy” or “Queer” when refering to others and knew that their purpose was to demean and render invalid comments and values of those who were so addressed or referred to.
Never underestimate the power of words. The spoken language, like the pen, can be more powerful and damaging than any blunt instrument.