We exist to improve the lives
of everyone affected by epilepsy

Is the word 'brainstorming' offensive to people with epilepsy?

The word 'brainstorming' is not offensive to the vast majority of people with epilepsy, according to a survey carried out by Epilepsy Society in 2005.

The word has been used since the 1940s to describe the method of problem-solving or generating ideas where all present at a meeting make spontaneous suggestions. In the last year, it has been reported in the press that both the Welsh Development Agency and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Belfast have deemed the word brainstorming to be politically incorrect, with 'thought-showers' suggested as a suitable replacement.

However, in the survey, 93 per cent of people with epilepsy did not find the term derogatory or offensive in any way and many felt that this sort of political correctness singled out people with epilepsy as being easily offended.

In separate research, we asked for the views of people with epilepsy on the matter. One commented:

"I have no objection whatsoever to the term brainstorming. I am sure the public do not, in any way, associate this with epilepsy so why should we?"

Our view is that it depends upon the context: if the word is being used to describe a meeting where participants are suggesting ideas, then its use is not offensive to people with epilepsy. However, it should not be used to describe a seizure or the electrical activity within the brain during a seizure.

Take two minutes to help someone. Watch our epilepsy first aid video

Comments: read the 2 comments or add yours


As a person with epilepsy I couldn't feel more patronized or insulted by the notion that the term 'brainstorm' would offend me, as it implies that epileptics are thin skinned and too shy to speak up for themselves. This motive to ban such words from everyday life goes beyond political correctness, it marginalizes those of us with such conditions and brands us as special cases.

Submitted by Sam Wildig on

Hi Sam, just thought I'd say how insightful and so well articulated your comment is, I hope you won't mind but I have quoted your comment in a part of my writing folio on a piece regarding the evolution of language.

Submitted by Charlotte S. on