Midget

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Singer's Midgets toured the US from 1910-1935 and were "enormously successful".[1]

Midget (from midge, a sand fly[2]) is defined by Webster's dictionary as "an extremely small person who is otherwise normally proportioned."[3] While not a medical term, it has been applied to persons of unusually short stature, often with the medical condition dwarfism,[4] particularly proportionate dwarfism.[5][6]

However, when applied as an adjective, it can also refer to anything of much smaller than normal size, as a synonym for "miniature,"[7] such as a midget cell, a midget crabapple, MG's Midget, Daihatsu's Midget, and the Midget Mustang airplane; or to anything that regularly uses anything that is smaller than normal (other than a person), such as midget car racing and quarter midget racing; or a smaller version of play or participation, such as midget golf; or to anything designed for very young (i.e., small) participants - in many cases children - such as Disneyland's Midget Autopia, Midget AA hockey, and Midget football.[8]

The expression can also be used as a term of endearment applied to individuals, as in the cases of Gidget, Midget Farrelly, Bridget the Midget, Eric the Midget and Midget Molly.

History

Merriam-Webster dictionary states that the first use of the term "midget" was in 1816.[5] 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.[9] P. T. Barnum indirectly helped popularize the term "midget" when he began featuring General Tom Thumb in his circus.[10] "Midget" became linked to referencing short people put on public display for curiosity and sport.[9]

Such performances continued to be widespread through the mid part of the twentieth century, with Hermines Midgets brought from their performances in Paris to appear at the 1939 New York World's Fair.[11]

When interviewed for a 1999 piece, performers engaged in ongoing "Midget Wrestling" events stated that they did not view the term "Midget Wrestling" as derogatory, but merely descriptive of their small size;[1] however, others responding to the piece disagreed, with one stating that the performances themselves perpetuated an outdated and demeaning image.[1]

As of the 21st century, the word became considered by some as a pejorative term when in reference to people with dwarfism.[9][1][4][12]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d Adelson, Betty M. (2005). The Lives Of Dwarfs: Their Journey From Public Curiosity Toward Social Liberation. Rutgers University Press. pp. 295–. ISBN 9780813535487. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  2. ^ Harper, Douglas. "midget". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2008-04-03. 
  3. ^ Webster's II New Collegiate Dictionary (2nd expanded ed.). Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. 1999. p. 693. ISBN 0395962145.  Entry for midget: "1. An extremely small person who is otherwise normally proportioned."
  4. ^ a b Shapiro, Arthur H. (2000-09-01). Everybody Belongs: Changing Negative Attitudes Toward Classmates With Disabilities. Psychology Press. pp. 284–. ISBN 9780815339601. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Merriam-Webster Dictionary Entry for midget: sometimes offensive : a very small person; specifically : a person of unusually small size who is physically well-proportioned.
  6. ^ Kennedy, Dan (2005-05-23). "What is Dwarfism?". American Documentary. Retrieved 2008-10-11. 
  7. ^ The World Book Dictionary. World Book .com. 2003. pp. 1315–. ISBN 9780716602996. 
  8. ^ Driver, Bruce; Wharton, Clare (2004-10-20). The Baffled Parent's Guide to Coaching Youth Hockey. McGraw Hill Professional. pp. 15–. ISBN 9780071430111. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  9. ^ a b c Kennedy, Dan. "P.O.V. - Big Enough. What is Dwarfism?". Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved 2008-11-18. 
  10. ^ Thomson, Rosemarie Garland (1996). Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body. NYU Press. pp. 191–. ISBN 9780814782224. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  11. ^ Cullen, Frank (2004). Vaudeville Old & New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America. Psychology Press. pp. 507–. ISBN 9780415938532. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  12. ^ Ross, Susan Dente; Lester, Paul Martin (2011-04-19). Images That Injure: Pictorial Stereotypes in the Media. ABC-CLIO. pp. 285–. ISBN 9780313378928. Retrieved 14 December 2012.