Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Welcome to Tourettes

The contents of this post include language not safe for work.
Note: If you're looking for where to buy one of these shirts online, I can't help you. Try the next search result.

This is a problem:

Here's why:
I've seen a few friends posting the green t-shirt with the phrase, "we want a cure for Tourette syndrome, when do we want it, (explative)" I won't say what the word is. Keep in mind that Tourette syndrome (which I have) is more than just a swearing disease. In fact, the uncontrollable swearing is the rarest form of Tourette Syndrome but of course gets the most publicity. It affects the nervous system, causing uncontrollable movements and sounds. Along with it come other problems like OCD (obsessive Compulsive Disorder), ADHD and other problems and should not be taken lightly. I wonder if the people posting this would be as quick to make fun of other nervous system diseases. If you wouldn't post this stuff about a disease like cancer than you really should not post it about Tourettes or any other disease for that matter.
(Explanation courtesy of Keith Z.)

Basically, this is only funny if you know almost nothing about Tourette Syndrome. And if all you know is that is causes people to swear randomly, do yourself a favor and get some basic information on the topic; or look at some of the resources for people affected by it.



  1. Doh! My ass of a husband reposted that. Also sent it to his friend who has tourette syndrome. :(

  2. What is a problem to a few people is a funny t-shirt to many.


  3. My first bf had Tourettes, but in his case it didn't involve swearing (iirc this is true for the majority of cases), so I generally associate it with the kind of tics he had. When people use "Tourettes" as basically a synonym for "foul-mouthed" it causes me a moment of confusion.

    "What is a problem to a few people is a funny t-shirt to many."
    This attitude can seriously go fuck itself. And to save you making the obvious joke: not Tourettes, just flaming angry.

  4. apparently another side effect of Tourettes is the loss of a sense of humour!

  5. Nope. I know the fellow who wrote that explanation; his sense of humor is fine.

  6. Personally I find a t-shirt which intentionally, briefly misunderstands the exact nature of Tourettes a hell of a lot more amusing than a film which unintentionally confuses schizophrenia with multiple personality syndrome and makes light of it for 2 hours. (Me, Myself and Irene) This will be a meme for 10 minutes whilst that was shown in cinemas worldwide and made a huge profit.

  7. The biggest question is, "where do I get this shirt?"

  8. @ pudseypumper - Two thoughts: 1. How is the shirt's misrepresentation Tourettes different from the film's misrepresentation of schizophrenia? I haven't seen Me Myself and Irene, but it sounds like they're both using humor based on ignorance and popular misconceptions. 2. Supposing, for the sake of argument, that the film is in fact less funny/more offensive than the shirt, what difference does that make? Does the fact that there are things in the world that are more offensive - and I'll freely admit that they're out there - somehow make the shirt less offensive?

    @ John - as the link you put in your name suggests, if you really want one it shouldn't be hard to find.

  9. Well here's another one that's been doing the rounds that seems quite appropriate to this forum: http://saraoflaherty.com/files/2011/10/offended.jpg

  10. Appropriate in what way? I'd agree with Stephen Fry: by itself, "I find that offensive" is a pretty meaningless thing to say. However, that's not the point of this post, nor of Keith Z's original complaint.

    In order to be funny, that shirt relies on a largely-inaccurate stereotype about a condition that is actually a genuine difficulty for the people who have it. That's a problem. It's a problem because the fact that most people know very little about Tourette's makes life even more difficult for people with Tourettes.

    Most people only know that Tourette's makes you curse uncontrollably, which is an additional problem for people with Tourette's. As it happens, that perception of Tourette's is A) usually not true, and B) not even remotely all there is to it.

  11. So if it's not mocking the actual problem just uneducated people's perception of it why do you take offense?

    "What did the leper say to the prostitute after having sex with her?

    Keep the tip"

    Real leprosy doesn't make body parts spontaneously fall off but people often believe that it does because they don't understand much about the disease. However it's this lack of understanding that makes that particular joke work. Do you find that one offensive?

  12. It's not mocking uneducated people's perception of the problem; it's making a joke of the problem itself.

    Look, I understand that humor is, by its nature, not socially appropriate. It's almost impossible to be funny without violating some standard of politeness - in fact, that's one of the things that makes humor such an effective sort of communication.

    Humor also requires a certain emotional distance. The leprosy joke works for most people because most people don't know anyone with leprosy. I don't find it especially funny myself, and I hadn't heard it in decades, but I can see the humor in it. I can see the humor in the shirt, too, but since I actually know someone who has Tourette's, I don't have the separation to find it funny myself. I can't stop being aware that that isn't how Tourette's works, or that it can be a rather more serious condition than the shirt would indicate.

    It's not a matter of being offended (and in particular, it's not a matter of being offended for the sake of being offended), it's a matter of being aware enough that I don't like seeing the real problem trivialized. I'd probably feel the same way about the leprosy joke if I knew anyone with any form of leprosy; as it is, I mainly don't think it's funny because it doesn't say anything especially clever. ("Oh look, part of his penis fell off! Herp derp!")

    Now, if you can skate past that and find the shirt funny anyway, go ahead. You certainly don't need my permission. But if you want to sit here and try to convince me that I don't have any legitimate reason to find the joke unfunny or offensive, well... no, I'm not buying it.

    Stephen Fry pointed out that saying "I'm offended by that" doesn't give you the right not to hear it, and I largely agree; it isn't some sort of magic armor. But in much the same way, saying "it's just a joke," isn't some sort of magic armor that means people can't disagree or be offended by it.

  13. No, Steven Fry was saying that the fact you're offended by it doesn't matter, you're not special, your opinion is not more important than anyone else's. (And no, I don't mean YOU personally, I'm just clarifying his statement)

    Of course tourette's is a more serious problem to those suffering from it or people who are knowledgeable on the subject. But your friend needs to remember that if people find this funny they're not laughing at him personally, they're laughing at the (whether you like it or not) popular belief that tourette's sufferers swear a lot. I find this T-Shirt amusing, I stumbled on this blog while trying to find out if they were actually really on sale. I'm well aware that i maybe wouldn't if I knew someone with the problem. Actually I'm not so sure since I'm able to make a distinction between what's obviously a joke and real life. My nephew has autism but Ricky Gervais' "Rain Man" sketch still makes me laugh. You can be offended if you like, that's entirely up to you.

  14. I know someone who has Tourette's myself, and finds it funny. I seriously think some people need to lighten up and not become so sensitive to everything they find on the internet.. a lot of you have this feeling of self-worth by trying to fight these things online.. there's no point. An old saying, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen..

  15. Anonymous commented: "But your friend needs to remember that if people find this funny they're not laughing at him personally, they're laughing at the (whether you like it or not) popular belief that tourette's sufferers swear a lot."

    But that's the thing. They're not laughing at the popular belief, they're laughing because of the popular belief. They're laughing because their understanding of the issue is largely wrong. To my mind, that's something of a problem in itself. The humor relies on ignorance; it treats a legitimate problem as if all it did was make people say rude things. (And if that actually was all there was to it, I'd agree: it would be a really funny shirt.)

    I don't think either Keith or I even hinted at the idea that anyone was laughing at Keith; that isn't and hasn't been what either of us is saying.

    Anonymous also said: "Actually I'm not so sure since I'm able to make a distinction between what's obviously a joke and real life."

    1. If you're really saying that the only reason I could possibly find this shirt offensive is because I can't tell the difference between a joke and real life, then we're pretty much done talking.
    2. Again, the fact that something is a joke does not mean that people can't be legitimately offended by it.

    Sperky said: "I know someone who has Tourette's myself, and finds it funny."

    Wonderful. (Yes, I actually mean that; no sarcasm.) That doesn't mean that everyone else should find it funny, of course.

    Sperky also said: "I seriously think some people need to lighten up and not become so sensitive to everything they find on the internet."

    As I told Anonymous earlier, if you want to tell me that you find it funny anyway, go ahead. Humor's different for everybody. If you want to tell me that I shouldn't object to it or can't possibly have a legitimate problem with it - which seems to be the point you're trying to make - then, no: I don't agree with that.

    And before you accuse me of being too sensitive, or cultivating self-worth by fighting quixotic battles online, have a look at the rest of this blog. Maybe just glance at a little bit here and there. It's not exactly a guide on how to be politically correct.

  16. It is a pretty politically correct blog, though, and also a pretty funny on e. Humor doesn't have to be offensive. I'm actually a fan of political correctness, and here's a quote that explains it all nicely: "Avoiding discriminatory and hurtful language isn't some partisan posture. It's just a basic step in not being a dickhead."