In 1940 it was proper to refer to the “mental deficient” as the idiot, the imbecile and the moron. A textbook titled “Psychiatry for Nurses” by Karnosh and Gage (1940) carefully instructs the student the correct classifications that have evolved into today’s insult. Below is a direct quote from Psychiatry of Nurses (1940 - p. 237.)
“Types of Mental Deficiency
The idiot is one whose mental capacity is below the third-year level; they are clumsy, awkward, untidy and require constant supervision in the performance of the simplest requirement of living. Most idiots learn a few simple words but rarely learn to talk intelligently.
The imbecile may attain a mental level of six or seven years. Imbeciles can generally talk with a very crude vocabulary, can be taught simple manual tasks.
The moron ranges in mental accomplishment between the eighty-year level and the lower adult normal which is ordinarily reached at about the fifteenth year. Constituting more than 80 percent of all forms of mental defect, the morons are one of the serious problems of modern times. Having no gross physical defects, they present themselves as a shiftless, unstable group which gravitates to the lowest level of manual labor and social activity. Out of this class are the recruited, the petty criminal, the prostitute, and the ne’er-do-well.”