what’s in a name?

Lunatic Fringe is a term coined by Theodore Roosevelt, used to characterize members of a political or social movement as extremists with eccentric or fanatical views. It was also a title for a 1981 song by Red Rider. But if you didn’t know any of that, when you hear the term ‘Lunatic Fringe,’ what comes up for you?  Well, apparently, it’s the name for a chain of hair salons in the United States.

On their website, the salon defines ‘lunatic fringe’ as “A group of people who share a set of radical principles and strive to create a like-minded atmosphere.” I came across this salon and its name when they were offering a generous groupon for their services. When I noticed that their name was ‘lunatic fringe,’ I could only picture this term as talking about a group of ‘crazy’ people who have been pushed aside to the skirts of society. While the offer was really good, I hesitated to purchase the groupon because I couldn’t get over the name of the salon. Can I really support a salon that uses the word ‘lunatic’ in its name? I eventually bought the groupon, and today, I redeemed the coupon by getting a haircut.

The place was nice, and the haircut went well. But I still haven’t decided if I want to come back for another haircut, not because of the cut itself (it’s the best of the last three cuts that I’ve had at other places), but because the name still bothers me. I don’t consider myself a part of the “PC police” or anything, because I understand that most people are not necessarily aware that they might be using a certain word that comes across as offensive to some others. But I think that my experiences as a mentally ill person has affected how I react to certain terms, even when I know, logically speaking, that the phrase itself is a benign one. Just as the most random things can provoke one’s memory, either good or bad, words can induce a similar reaction, too.

Have I become too sensitive for my own good? I don’t know, but I can see how people sometimes become a bit ‘oversensitive’ about the use of certain terms.  It’s never easy to dismiss all of your experiences when having to place meaning on anything, including words.


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