My apologies to all who have been offended by the –tard suffix. Let it be known I personally attach no significance to the matrimonial status of anyone’s parents.
As it happens, the great fucktard/bastard/retard debate, tedious though it has been, has prompted a reexamination of the etymology of the word ‘bastard’ here at the Twisty Institute for Neologistic Research. As a result, I am happy to announce that I, ignorant chump that I am, have been getting it wrong all along. No, it’s true! It turns out that –tard is not quite the suffix I thought it was; –ard, in fact, is the appendage for which the word ‘fuck’ has been calling out lo these many years. If only I had listened to its anguished cries! For had I bothered to give it five minutes’ thought, it would have dawned on me that it makes far more sense without the ‘T’. But you show me the spinster aunt who has five minutes to spare for thought, and I’ll show you a spinster aunt with a staff of twelve fawning minions and a red-lining IQ.
Anyway, the story of –ard began life, as has so much eurotrash, in Germany, where it was known as –hart, meaning ‘hardy,’ and formed the ending of dudely personal names (Ã la ‘Reinhart’). As sands passed through the hourglass, our restless protagonist wandered across borders hither and yon, acquiring a pejorative sense along the way (perhaps an homage to the winning personalities of those German dudes). One fine spring day it landed in France, where it metamorphosed into –ard, and was reborn as a handy way to diss and derogate pretty much anything: couard, canard, vieillard, etc. When it crossed the channel it retained this depreciatory quality, and came to be pretty exclusively deployed as a formative indicating “one who does to excess, or who does what is discreditable.”
As in ‘drunkard’ or ‘sluggard,’ names to which spinster aunts have been known to answer.
As for ‘bastard,’ the epithet’s root derives from the Latin bastum, a sort of pack-saddle used as a bed by ancient travelers. Hence, fils de bast, or pack-saddle-baby.
Note that though ‘bastard’ and ‘retard’ share four letters, their etymology is different. ‘Retard’, from a French word meaning ‘delay’, does not appear to have sprung from the loins of the aforementioned suffix. It hails from the Latin tardus, meaning ‘slow.’ As a term of derision ‘retard’ has existed for fewer than 40 years, mostly in the US.
In conclusion, the word ‘fucktard’, for patriarchy-blaming purposes, is hereby formally expunged, and will in future appear as the more accurate, if markedly geekier, ‘fuckard’, which should soothe the prickled nerve-endings of unwed mother and exceptional citizen alike.
[I cribbed considerably from the indispensable OED for this post]