USDA will no longer refer to small raisins as “midgets,” after Little People petition

And an administrative committee as well! There truly is nothing left to cut.

The second paragraph of Wikipedia certainly suggests that there are other uses of the word midget, but these all come after and are derived from the use of midget as a term for little people. It’s as if the term “nigger” we’re used to refer to a particular type of car, food or sport that related to being black. Not appropriate at all.

Says who? There are too many self-appointed wannabe language cops.

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So it seems that the word was originally used to describe little people. I’m not seeing anywhere that the word was originally a slur though, it was a correct term, and as WikiPedia states “As of the 21st century, the word became considered by some as a pejorative term”.
So it would seem that it’s had a similar history to the word ‘Spastic’ in that it was a correct usage until it started to be used out of context as a slur and only recently became pejorative.
This presents a slight problem, as it appears that many correct terms and phrases get used out of context and rapidly become insulting to many. Changing the word simply gives those doing the insulting another word in their armoury. ‘Special needs’ is a term recently that has been used in this way.
It’s like playing linguistic whack-a-mole.

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Well, some folk complain about calling a spade a spade. We all know it should be called a flat-ended shovel. And didn’t some teacher get in trouble for using the word “niggardly”?

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Motorhead - The Ace of flat-ended shovels.

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Isn’t spastic a british term? As far as I know, in American english, spastic (along with ataxic, athetoid and mixed) is used as a qualifier to differentiate the various subtypes of cerebral palsy into therapeutically useful units, but outside of specialized jargon , was never widely used.

Says the people to whom the term refers. I’m a firm believer that any person or people has a right to decide what they consider to be a pejorative or offensive term, and to consider those who use it to be insulting. You’re welcome to continue talking about little people, little raisins or little cars as midgets, but knowing where the term comes from and how it is viewed by the little people community, I cannot in good conscience use that word, any more than I can use words like “retard” “kike” or “fag.”

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I think the non-medical usage in British isn’t as divorced from the medical term as it is in American; i.e. when you call someone a spastic in England, you’re using a disease as an insult, whereas in America calling someone a spaz just means they’re clumsy or committed a faux pas or acted uncool. There’s no connection to cerebral palsy sufferers, so while it is derogatory, it’s not derogatory at their expense.

Pretty much as @L_Mariachi says.
The WikiPedia page goes into detail.

The term itself was not originally condescending though and was more just a descriptive term, like ‘little people’.
And there are others in the little people community who don’t consider it a slur.
The WikiPedia page has more
And whilst it seems that the The Little People of America as a community may consider it so, it’s certainly not a slur worldwide and it’s often people who take offence on behalf of others that seems to be an issue.
It’s not a term I often use myself, especially regarding people, but not 6 months ago I bought a midget trowel to do some fine-edge plastering.
So in summary, whilst I don’t call small people midgets, because respect, I see no reason to ban the entire word or refrain from using it in relation to other things.

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From what I’ve read, the term comes from a tiny, biting fly aka a “midge” - I cannot imagine that is used in anything but pejoratively, especially considering the historical discrimination against little people. In the intervening years, we’ve expanded the term to refer to other things little, but as a way of referencing people - midget cars, midget trowels, whatever are referring to the little people for whom the term was coined. Taking the view that this is a sort of fruit-of-the-poisonous-tree situation, it seems right to me that it should not be used in other contexts. Obviously others are free to disagree, but shouldn’t be surprised if others are offended.

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Then you haven’t read the Wiki article. The original origin of a word is its root and often has only a resemblance to the recognised definition, sometimes it’s completely different.
The word ‘spastic’ comes from the Greek spastikos (“drawing in” or “tugging”). Can you not imagine that being used in anything other than a pejorative sense either?

This has waxed and waned, at times there was discrimination, and at other times little people were elevated to high regard. It’s also in the Wiki article you didn’t read.

Oh, I’m not surprised people are offended. People love to be offended and it doesn’t surprise me one bit. In fact I’ve come to expect it.
People are free to feel offended, but that doesn’t mean that we should take on board everyone’s offence and change our society on a whim where it’s not warranted.
If that were the case then we’d all live in fear of blasphemy.
And I do love me some blasphemy.

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Don’t boast of your limitations.

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Community leader: “Gentlemen, it’s time for a good old-fashioned barn-raisin’!”
Government official: (whispers into leader’s ear)
Community leader: “Gentlemen, it’s time for a good old-fashioned raisin barn!”


It is subsidiary to the National Waldorf Salad Reserve.


A small but disproportionately noisy subset. There are people who thrive on feeling insulted, and are willing to bend the linguistics and selectively read the etymologies to reach their goal. Then they get to manipulate others to follow their will out of “respect” or whatever, and get to experience their addictive rush of power over others. Then, after achieving a victory, they move on to feeling insulted about something else. And peddle that idea to others who never had a clue about the new word being “wrong”, and build their Linguistic Police of Righteousness.

You cannot win that fight. The goalposts keep moving. Better dig in and make it a trench war where you know what the adversary will feel insulted about tomorrow, as it will be the same thing as today.

I’m a firm believer that they have the choice to feel not insulted. Many do it with great success. It generally works better as you don’t have other people to get on the bandwagon to follow your whims.

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I assume the right-wing blogosphere hasn’t got wind of this yet?


If somebody’s feelings are treated with respect, that’s exactly the same as Stalin, with a side order of Hitler! The jackbooted thugs will be rounding up raisin lovers and putting them in FEMA internment camps…


Totally unrelated, but hail and farewell Stan Freberg.


For every person who thrives on feeling insulted, there is someone else who insists on being insulting, who ignores the linguistics and selectively reads the etymologies to reach their goal. Then they get to manipulate others to follow their will out of “respect” or whatever, and get to experience their addictive rush of power over others. Then, after achieving a victory, they move on to being insulting about something else…

Look, I get that you’re up in arms about being “corrected” around someone else’s sensitivities - in many cases I would agree with you. But on this particular word and this particular issue, I think the etymology supports the idea that some might find it offensive and I personally will strive not to use the word any more. Even if it’s a minority of little people who are offended, I still won’t use the word. I’ve done the same thing with words like “gyp” and “retard” and “handicapped” because I didn’t feel like it was worth offending people just to prove a point.