Yes words are just collections of syllables or phonemes that one utters from ones mouth. It is not physically striking someone or disenfranchising them or taking there homes and property or enslaving them. But words carry with them all the power of history and potentially all the things I just mentioned.
Like other people when I hear a word I go back into the file of words in my brain and bring up what that word means to me. For example if I hear a word like "file" it makes me think of manila folders, file systems, methods of organizing data, etc. When I hear a word like "gimp", as a disabled person, my primary exposure and association to that word is as a weapon being used against me. It can bring up all the pain, sadness and anger of being attacked over and over again my entire life for things I can do nothing about. Of being pervasively, systemically and viscerally devalued not just by institutions that have no concept of accommodation or dignity for people unlike themselves but by bigoted and patronizing attitudes of the public as a whole.
In short "It's the person being offended's choice to be offended" is fucking bullshit. All the trauma of a life time can be brought to bare in just a few words. It sounds like some of the folks on this thread have a lot of privilege when it comes to things like ability, ethnicity, gender, etc. You may not have experienced pervasive attitudes of prejudice so you don't know what it is like. But unless you die young you will. Eventually you will experience what it means to have ability loss and to be old in this society that no longer wants to have anything to do with you. Good luck getting a sympathetic ear when people have attitudes like what you have displayed here.