Words have the power we give them. What is no big deal to use for one, is a very big deal to another. I use all words equally, and I definitely put my foot in it all the time. A lot of how a word is used is the context. I can definitely laugh at words used in humor; and I am livid when the same word is used in anger or meanness.
I only have one word that I personally find offensive each and every time it's used. It doesn't matter if it's used in humor or in meanness, I loathe this word. Just one. And, I am smart enough to now if someone's intention is humor or ugliness and I process it accordingly.
I have only heard this word used in anger. There is a lot of hate when I've heard this word. And I've been called this word by people who supposedly love me.
When I was growing up, 'retard' was a word that could get you into trouble at school. I'm 44 and I KNEW as a child that you didn't use that word. Some of the other kids in school tried to circumvent the rules and started saying 'retread' instead. I'm a mechanic's kid so I kept asking what it had to do with putting new treads on tires. Name calling is just not fun.
And some, go beyond name calling.http://www.wdtn.com/dpp/news/ohio/oh...l#.ULYD-MvNmSoName calling is just not fun.
I am watching a 2007 (Marriage Deal Breakers) Dr. Phil show as I write this. He has used "retarded" twice since I've been watching. In context, he's using the word to designate someone being stupid. He is not labeling a whole group of people. The use doesn't bother me, but I understand that the use bothers others.
I think a lot of how and when a word is used has to do with your audience. We must be sensitive to who is listening.