Monday, September 21, 2009

everything that's fit to print (on)

On a technology blog called "The Gadget blog from CNET," a blogger posted about a new, very small printer called "The Eensy PrintBrush." The printer is a hand held device that allows the user to print on to small surfaces. Writing about the printer, the blogger wrote, "you can print on notebooks, greetings cards, boxes, sleeping midgets . . . "

As a person of short stature, once the word midget appears in this context, or almost in any context, it takes my attention and interest away from what may be the point of the article. I imagine the writer didn't intend harm. The word was used as a joke. These days, the word midget most often appears in reports about Pop Warner Youth Leagues or, as in the case of the blog about the small printer, as a joke that is supposed to express how big or small something. I imagine the jokes are often supposed to carry some sort of shock value also. In this instance, the joke didn't express any original thought, and wasn't particularly surprising considering that when the word midget is used, it's often used in this context.

What is pleasantly surprising about the Eensy Printbrush blog post is the comment section, dominated not by endorsements or criticisms of the printer, but by debate around the word midget. Soon after the piece went live, someone wrote in, explaining that the word midget is offensive to most people of short stature. That comment inspired many others to write in, some in support of being sensitive to language impacting, and potentially offending, a particular social group; and some expressing outrage against what they believe to be out of control political correctness.

I doubt the comment section on that blog will change the world. I never would have read the blog if I didn't know ahead of time the post included use of the word midget. But of the people who read the blog, and participated in the comment section, perhaps a few, in the future, will stop to think about the language they use. If so, then the Eensy Printbrush blog was a conversation worth having.

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