Friday, April 24, 2009

Who says April is the cruelest month?

First of all, I really appreciate the people who read this blog. From what I know, there are not many of you, but you are loyal. The way I see it, this is kind like a new start up company that hasn't gone public yet. When we go public, the loyalists will be rewarded with the big dividends. Don't expect cash though.

I mention this because my goal is to make at least three entries a month. At that pace, I'll hit the 100th entry in a year or so. That's when we'll really take off! (If this were a text or an email, I would write something like laughing out loud here). The problem is, I write about pretty much the same thing over and over again. And that's language. Language as it relates to disability and dwarfism is one of the focuses of this blog, but nevertheless I wonder if the people who read this would like something new. With this in mind, in May, I will try to expand the subject area a little bit within the context of disability.

But, it's not yet May. I want to end April with another positive entry about language. Last, week, just after I had learned that the New York Times planned to run a column announcing that the word dwarf would replace the m-word in their style guide (thanks NY Times), I got an email from a researcher at ESPN magazine. He was digging up information about Eddie Gaedel, the little person who Bill Veeck, the owner of the St. Louis Browns Baseball Team, inserted into a game as a pinch hitter in 1951. The move was a gimmick to increase attendance for the St. Louis club, which had been doing pretty poorly in the standings and in attendance. Any paper that covered the event in 1951, or basically any story written about the incident since 1951, referred to Gaedel as a midget. This usage doesn't fall into the same category as "Celebrity Apprentice," especially since in the 1950's, from what I understand, the word was acceptable. But the story is often retold these days, and even though there is no harmful intent when a story about Gaedel uses the m-word, it gets a little tiring. In his email, the researcher wanted my opinion about acceptable terminology within the community of people of short stature. I replied to the email, giving the researcher a little bit of the history of language within the dwarfism community and answering his question.

I didn't think much about the email correspondance until tonight. I went onto the ESPN Magazine website and searched under the word midget. There were 101 entries in the past year. That was disconcerting. To be fair though, many of them appeared to be in reference to car racing, and I couldn't find any recent references connected to Gaedel. Then I searched under Gaedel, which I should have done in the first place. The latest an entry was April 22 in a column called "Life of Reilly." Sure enough, there was mention of Eddie Gaedel in the column. The m-word was nowhere to be found. Instead, Reily used the word dwarf to describe him. Maybe some day people of short stature won't need any labels, but until that time, kudos to the researcher at ESPN for using an appropriate label. And, as April draws to a close, good work to The Simpsons, the New York Times and ESPN Magazine, who have helped make a month that started with snow not so bad after all.

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