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A midget is an extremely short person. The term generally describes a person with the medical condition dwarfism or other rare genetic desiese. The terms midget and dwarf are often used synonymously, because both terms mean someone who has been short in stature since birth, but they were not originally synonyms.

Midget was coined in 1865 to describe an extremely short person with body proportions similar to those of a normal-sized person’s.[1] P. T. Barnum indirectly helped popularize midget when he began featuring General Tom Thumb in his circus. Dwarf originally denoted people with disproportionately short limbs.

Like many other older terms, midget has become part of popular language, although it is sometimes used in a derogatory sense.[2] When applied to a person who is very short, midget is an example of the euphemism treadmill.[3] Actor Hervé Villechaize insisted on being called a “midget” as opposed to a “little person”, which irritated some dwarf activists of the time.

Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (Merriam-Webster, 1961) defines midget in the noun form as “a very diminutive person”, and in the adjective form as “like a midget in size; very diminutive”, hence its usage as a synonym for “miniature”, as with cars.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the term midget comes from midge, a sand fly, and the diminutive suffix -et.[4]

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References

1. ^ Kennedy, Dan (2005-05-23). “What is Dwarfism?”. American Documentary. http://www.pbs.org/pov/pov2005/bigenough/special_dwarfism_ety.html. Retrieved 2008-10-11.
2. ^ “OED Online”. DRAFT REVISION June 2010. http://dictionary.oed.com/. Retrieved 27 November 2010.
3. ^ “The “M” word”. Arturo Gil and GilArt Designs. http://www.arturogil.com/m_word.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-07.
4. ^ Harper, Douglas. “midget”. Online Etymology Dictionary. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=midget. Retrieved 2008-04-03.

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