21 February 2013

Is the word "midget" per se offensive ?

Excerpts from the story reported in the StarTribune:
Chelley Martinka, a Rhode Island mom... noticed that Cains, a popular pickle brand in New England made by Minnesota’s own M.A. Gedney Co., had an offering called “midgets.” It’s a term that’s offensive to people born with dwarfism, as well as their families. And Martinka’s daughter, now 10 months old, had been diagnosed with the condition soon after birth.

So, she blogged about the issue, made a YouTube video and contacted Gedney, the 132-year-old pickle maker with a national presence and a brand particularly well-known in the Twin Cities. Gedney’s CEO, Barry Spector, called her earlier this month and said the company would indeed junk the midget moniker...

Martinka’s daughter Adelaide, has achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism, which is caused by a genetic mutation. For those who have it, their preferred name is “little people.”..

Chaska-based Gedney has used the midget appellation in a version of its Del Monte brand of pickles, as well as in one item under the Gedney brand. But with its namesake brand — a big seller in local supermarkets — Gedney uses “Babies” and “Mini-Munchers” to describe most of its small pickles...

The United States Department of Agriculture defined the standards for grades and sizes of pickles in the United States. According to the USDA, a ‘midget’ pickle was the word designation for a pickle with a diameter of 19 mm or less.”
My dictionary shows midget as having been derived from midge (a tiny insect), in common use since the early 19th century.  From Wikipedia:
The term "midget" came into prominence in the mid-19th century after Harriet Beecher Stowe used it in her novels Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands and Old Town Folks where she described children and an extremely short man, respectively. P. T. Barnum indirectly helped popularize the term "midget" when he began featuring General Tom Thumb in his circus. "Midget" became linked to referencing short people put on public display for curiosity and sport.
I fully understand that the term is now considered perjorative when applied to people, but I'm surprised it would be offensive when used to refer to other items. 

Photo cropped from the original at the Daily News.

23 comments:

  1. I saw this story on our local news here in Boston last night and she said she's on a crusade to remove the word midget from every product that she can. I kind of feel like this is PC gone too far..

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  2. This reminds me of the Taco Bell adverts w/ Shaq where his neck became permanently tilted because of eating so many tacos. People who suffered from an ailment called Torticollis protested and the ad campaign was discontinued. (I don't think they were discontinued because of the pressure but rather that the commercials were silly and not well received.)

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  3. I don't feel that this is "PC gone too far" at all. Let's imagine another example: okay, I'm selling sausages that are blackish in colour due to the spices and molasses that I use. Is it okay if I call them Nigger as a brand name? It may be okay to a lot of people but to others, it certainly would be offensive. If any small or large group of people are likely to be upset by the use of this or that adjective, we ought to respect their feelings. There is great value in the free advertising and brand loyalty created by a case like this, and there are always alternatives in the language. Mini Pickles, for one. Teeny Pickles, for another.

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    1. You have got to be shi**ing me here..... I walked down the chip aisle yesterday and saw the word 'cracker' displayed on a number of food items. I was appalled and disgusted. I am going to write the Keebler Cracker company as well as some other companies listed below and demand they change the name of Saltine Crackers, Animal Crackers, Ritz Crackers, Cracker Barrel Cheese and Graham Crackers. Did I forget any?

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  4. I'm never surprised at the lengths people go to pretend to be offended.

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  5. I think I'd rather be called a "midget" than to be called a dwarf. "Midget" has a more friendly and cheerful connotation to me. However, I do not understand at all why the pickles' name must be changed. I don't think the pickles are offended no matter what you call them.

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  6. I don't condone calling anyone a mocking or stereotyping term, but 'midget' has many everyday generic uses, as do many other words that can be offensive if used against a person with intent to demean them.

    The n word has no other generic usage.
    Shall we also ban the words "small" or "tiny" because someone might have used them to refer to a little person? What about dwarf and dwarfism? Shall we ban my dwarf plants to a lifetime of being called plants of reduced stature?
    Will blind people soon demand all others stop using the phrase, "Oh, I see."?

    Methinks there's a whole lotta other things more important to fight for in this life of reduced temporal character (I almost said "Life is too short" then thought better of it).

    BTW, Vlasic has "Sweet Midgets" as well. (Don't know if that's the same company.) Would that be more offending? Why does a little person perceive him or herself as a pickle, anyway?

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  7. Doesn't the use of the name Babies for the midget pickles offend some other group of people?

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  8. Do MG and Triumph have to change the name of their model? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MG_Midget

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  9. "I fully understand that the term is now considered perjorative when applied to people, but I'm surprised it would be offensive when used to refer to other items."

    You wouldn't say that if you were a pickle!

    "Let's imagine another example: okay, I'm selling sausages that are blackish in colour due to the spices and molasses that I use."

    Guess Black Pudding will now be excluded from the Full Irish Breakfast. (Not much loss, to my thinking.)

    "I think I'd rather be called a 'midget'" than to be called a dwarf."

    If you used the "d" word, you'd owe royalties to Disney!

    Foolish responses, sure, but ain't the "issue" foolish, too?

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  10. PC running amok. It's good to be offended. Pro-tip: if you are not offended, fear not, my friend, there is still hope! Step 1: Choose some totally innocent, ordinary word (or practice) somehow related to you. Step 2: Make lot of noise about it, claiming that it's horribly offensive, so everybody in the whole Universe must stop using it. Like that pathetic 'We're a culture not a costume' thing. Step 3: Profit!

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    1. 'We're a culture not a costume' thing.

      That is actually real racism, pure and simple. It figures you'd take something like this story which is otherwise pretty harmless, and then compare to mocking other races. Luckily you're an anonymous person on the internet or we could all mock your heritage, religion etc. and see how you like it. Hint: People who cry about "PC running amok" are the very first to squeal like babies when somebody takes a shot at their own race, culture, religion etc.

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  11. Up here in Canada, Earl's restaurant was instructed by the Human Rights Commission to cease producing "Albino Rhino" beer after a woman with albinism complained.

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  12. Nigger sausage, really? I mean really (especially since many black Americans use the term daily... not saying it's right). This is nothing close to that. Wow, PC has gone way overboard. It's not even calling actual dwarve's or whatever the PC name for them is a bad name...... it's pickles people. Abnormally small, vertically challenged, is that better?, I don't even know where to begin. If it just takes one person to complain, then many many things are about to be forced to change. Like Limbaugh, I'm ashamed at our country. (and please don't assume I like Limbaugh). And no Steve, I'm white and would never ever complain about being called a "cracker" or whatever you think I will be the first to cry about. I simply don't care what people want to call me. Get over it and grow up and focus on real problems in the world. So funny.... "squeal like babies" so so far from the truth.

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    1. especially since many black Americans use the term daily

      Why do "they" get to use it when you as an oppressed white man do not?!

      Thanks for reminding us that you are indeed racist.

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    2. Very far from prejudice Steve, I simply believe if humanity could get over what other folks are calling them (and maybe look past a few religious differences as well), we could come together and have a greater chance at solving world problems.

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  13. dwarfs and little people are upset and rightly so. in the interest of political correctness, Classic Pickles has renamed their sweet midget gherkin pickles to be "Little People Pickles."

    press release here: http://classicpickles.com/

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  14. How is "Little ""People"" Pickles" any better?, that is a more direct slam to them by using "people" in the new name. Why can't "midget" be used for vegetables and/or thousands of other items? The word has been used for years to describe many things smaller than normal. Maybe the last comment is meant as a joke??? "little people pickles" is a step in the very wrong direction for political correctness. Wow, I'm extremely appalled at someone who thinks "little people pickles" are more PC than "midget" pickles.

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  15. I myself am extremely appalled at people who are unable to recognize satire of any size.

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  16. Haha, well face to face is much easier than text to recognize satire my friend. I lost count how many arguments my wife and I have been in based on misinterpreted sarcasm, etc exchanged in emails/texts. If you have suggestions on how to interpret this 100% successfully, I'd love the input for the sake of my marriage. Maybe, I'm just retarded? Oh snap, I just opened another can of controversial worms!!!

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  17. Often the term itself becomes offensive no matter what it's used to refer to--it is no longer acceptable to refer to Brazil nuts as nigger toes.

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  18. I am a "Little Person" with achondroplasia, and while I definitely do not appreciate being called "midget" by the strange little boy in the grocery store (in a tone that is intended to make me feel a sense of shame, no less)...I certainly am not offended when I am putting midget pickles in my cart.

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  19. Maybe some of us are so sick of being called it & hearing it we don't even want to see it referenced. Of course myself, if I could go without seeing another person I would. A bunch of arrogant, hurtful thieves.

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