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Sunday, 5 August 2012

Midgets, Dwarves, Little People and Make Believe Worlds

When I first wrote Emeline and the Mutants I had no idea that I was using politically correct terms in it. While in Australia it is okay to refer to someone who is small in stature as a midget, I was soon to discover that to other countries, this is a BIG no-no.

Now any 'Find and Replace' function can be used to change the offending word to dwarf, but here is where it gets tricky. In Emeline and the Mutants I have several types of mythical creatures. While there are no dwarfs (as in creatures similar to gnomes) in the story, when I described Emeline's friend, Gwennie, as a dwarf, people might automatically assume I am taking about a magical creature and not a human being who is less than regular height. After all, just off the top of my head, the following creatures turned up in my book: humans, vampires, werewolves, trolls, fairies, witches, mermaids and harpies. It was easy to make the mistake with a list like that.

So what is one to do in this sort of situation? I was tempted to just leave in the references to midgets and cop the flack, but since I used those words unintentionally, I didn't really want to inadvertently put people off my books. If I were planning to offend or cause a ruckus (as I am doing now with the title of this blog), then to hell with all the precious souls out there and the word would have stayed, but I wanted a word that was descriptive and not confusing to the reader.

Finally, I settled on little people. Am I happy with the term? No, I'm not. To me, personally, I find this descriptive more offensive than midgets. If I were a dwarf and someone called me a little person, I would be tempted to punch them at waist height. Really, the phrase reminds me of the reference to 'teacup humans' in True Blood.

But, at the end of the day, this is the least offensive and least confusing word to use in the make believe world that Emeline lives in. So why don't you check out what all the fuss is about by downloading the new and improved version of Emeline and the Mutants today - it even has shiny new pictures in it!

Available on now on Amazon.



8 comments:

Connie J Jasperson said...

It's a slippery slope, writing for political correctness. Next thing you know you'll be trying to turn the wild world of Aussie-land into Seattle - land of carefully phrased conversations designed to offend no one.

Sigh.

Johanna Garth said...

I have to say I agree. Little People always sounds really offensive to me but then again, I'm not one of them so....

Rachel Tsoumbakos said...

Agreed Johanna. I guess if that is what they want to be called, I can only respect that. And Connie, Aussies are good at putting their feet in their mouths, so we will never be civilized ;-P

Jane Marie said...

I caught a lot of flack for the use of the word midget in my novel, A Little Hair of the Dog (soon to be published). It wasn't a fantasy world, but I didn't know it was a politically incorrect word. So, I went and looked it up. I don't think they particularly like the term, Little People, either, though I'm not sure about that. Person of Small (or Short) Stature is apparently the latest term-but you're right-I can't imagine you using that in your fantasy novel! Mine isn't fantasy, and I did find a way to work it in without making it sound silly.

Rachel Tsoumbakos said...

Jane,
Let me know when your book is released - I'd love to read it :-D But you're right, it is hard to make it all work, for so long I just left the word midget in there, but the topic kept getting bought up, so I decided something had to be done about it.

Kathleen Barker said...

These are such lose-lose situations, aren't they? "Little people" makes me think of someone less than an actual person, but "statuarily challenged" or something equally ridiculous doesn't exactly trip off the tongue easily.

Jane Marie said...

I know, I know, my older son has severe autism, and I can tell you I feel some sympathy here for the people who get their backs up over stuff like this. I will go ballistic on you if you use the word retard, or savant idiots, etc. Most people when they use those words, aren't even thinking of people like my son. And when I used the word midget, I didn't know it wasn't correct, I thought it was the appropriate word. I didn't mean to insult anyone, but man, I had some sample readers go off on me like mad. At first I wasn't going to change it, then I decided I would change it and had the main character not be sure of the correct term, and the Person of Short Stature helped her out with what she should say! And thank you, I will be sure and let you know when it comes out. I gave up (fairly quickly) on the Charm An Agent into representing you process. I thought, What the heck? I'm going with Amazon DIY.

Rachel Tsoumbakos said...

Yes, Kathleen, 'Little person' sounds so condescending to me :-/ Jane, I (luckily) haven't had people go off at me, but I have seen some of my American friends be completely insulted by the term 'midget'. I did read a really good article (can't remember where from though) about the history of the terms 'midget' and 'dwarf'. Ironically, originally, a midget was used to describe a small person who was more 'human-like' in appearance and the term 'dwarf' was used to describe was was then considered the more deformed version of dwarfism. Now, it seems the tides had changed.