Each new generation of kids comes up with their own slang, which can sound slightly ridiculous and often confusing to the previous generation. In recent years, I’ve had to learn what “yeet” means and what the hell a “VSCO girl” is. I know that when you think someone is the imposter in Among Us, it’s because they are acting rather suss. But a new one I learned fairly recently seemed innocent enough at first—until I did a little more digging. Kids are calling people and things “derpy,” and it’s not cool.
I heard this word for the first time from my 10-year-old, and the way he used it made it sound like a synonym for “silly” or “goofy.” When I asked him if that’s what it meant, he said yes but also kind of “stupid.” That last tidbit sent me on a search for clarification in which I discovered that while Merriam-Webster doesn’t acknowledge “derpy” as a word, dictionary. com says it means “foolish or awkward,” and Urban Dictionary defines it as “ridiculous, random or silly.”
But then I found Derpy Hooves, a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic character who was originally named “Muffins” but quickly garnered the nickname “Derpy Hooves” from some bronies (adult fans of the show) largely for her cross-eyed expression and demeanor.
As the Daily Mail reported:
Critics of Derpy said her name refers to ‘derp’—an explicit word used to mock the disabled—and described her as a ‘giant retard joke’.
This is said to stem from the sound some children make to each other at schools, making fun of those with Down Syndrome and other disabilities.
In other words, it’s this generation’s equivalent of “retarded,” which also was (and is) very much Not Okay, and which is why it’s mind-boggling that this deep dive into the history of the word “derpy” ends with an endorsement that will make you cringe:
And then there are the memes. Oh, God, the memes.
I do not think most 10-year-olds are trying to be ableist and mock people with disabilities when they use this word; however, that is what they’re doing. So it’s important for parents to sit their kids down if they hear it and explain why it can be offensive and hurtful to people with disabilities and the people who love them.