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LOLMIDGETS January 31, 2008 11:01 AM   Subscribe

LOLMIDGETS

I don't have a personal dog in this fight, but this is really distasteful:

Oh, maybe you think it’s funny when a little person’s penis gets glued to a vaccum cleaner or a Mexican midget gets eaten by a pelican or a hippo eats a dwarf...

Huh huh.. Didja hear the one about the nigger and the wood chipper LOLNOTRACISTCUZCHAPELLEUSESNIGGERTOO!?one!

tkchrist, Smedleyman, you know better than this. Let's make this brief.
posted by LordSludge to Etiquette/Policy at 11:01 AM (203 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

I wish there was some way I could've bet money on this MeTa being written. 'Cuz I woulda totally won so much money.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:09 AM on January 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


We can make it brief by not getting started.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:10 AM on January 31, 2008


And tkchrist, if truly you didn't know that "midget" is offensive, a simple "my bad, I didn't realize that term was offensive" rather than a pre-emptive meltdown would suffice. I already pointed out the difference between AZ's post (mildly offensive, IMO, but at least he offered an explanation) and this. Sorry if you missed that.
posted by LordSludge at 11:10 AM on January 31, 2008


As long as I'm here, I would like to continue my public apology to the dude from Willow, though.
I know, it's 20 years late. But everybody needs a hug.

posted by miss lynnster at 11:12 AM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think it's all right to give short shrift to the post, but let's not belittle the poster.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:15 AM on January 31, 2008 [7 favorites]


you know, I didn't know midget is considered a slur and no longer used medically. I just found that out this very instant when I checked it on wikipedia. I even did a high school health class report on the difference between midgets and dwarves back in the day. I had no idea. They need to have memos for that shit.

also, overblown comparisons to using the N word help nobody. Either your argument can stand on its own merits or it can't.

for instance: "potatoes are usually brown and smell like the dirt they were grown in."

anyone can then say "that's fucked up! why don't you try replacing potatoes with the n word and see what you think then!" that doesn't mean it's wrong to say potatoes. please argue against the post in question without making logically fallacious comparisons. thanks both in advance and in retrospect.
posted by shmegegge at 11:17 AM on January 31, 2008 [9 favorites]


“Smedleyman, you know better than this. Let's make this brief.”

Ok. I meant no offense. My mistake. Suggestion?
posted by Smedleyman at 11:18 AM on January 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


IANALP, but I think the term now preferred by the group in question is "little people", but then I'm getting that from an old episode of CSI so who knows.

Some years ago, I worked for a magazine that dealt with housing and homelessness. Being social care types, the readership were a highly PC bunch. One Hallowe'en, we had reason to include a little picture of the Wicked Witch from the film the Wizard of Oz. I remember someone - it might have been me - saying "it's not as if we'll get any irate letters from real Witches".

We totally got a letter from someone claiming to be a real Witch. And it was irate.

You know, when I started writing this story I could have sworn there was a moral to it, but now it eludes me. You may resume your flambe.
posted by WPW at 11:18 AM on January 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


The difference between this post and AZ's post is that AZ's post was about actors who happen to be little people. This post is about the inevitability of little people engaging in criminal behavior (and the lulz that apparently ensue). If you can't see the difference, then I don't know what to say.
posted by desjardins at 11:25 AM on January 31, 2008


LOLMIDGETS

Very true.
posted by dersins at 11:27 AM on January 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


shmegegge: anyone can then say "that's fucked up! why don't you try replacing potatoes with the n word and see what you think then!" that doesn't mean it's wrong to say potatoes.

Except that "potatoes" is not an offensive term for a class of people, as in "midget" and as in "nigger".

Smedleyman: Ok. I meant no offense. My mistake. Suggestion?

Ummm, you were pretty much pointing and laughing at little people (because they're LITTLE, SEE???) while using an insulting term. Very inappropriate. But since you ask, I suggest apologizing, mailing the mods to strike the post, and let's lock/delete this call-out thread and forget the whole thing.
posted by LordSludge at 11:29 AM on January 31, 2008


I think the term now preferred by the group in question is "little people"

Despite the protests of both Fisher and Price.
posted by bondcliff at 11:29 AM on January 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


"In some circles, a midget is the term used for a proportionate dwarf. However, the term has fallen into disfavor and is considered offensive by most people of short stature. The term dates back to 1865, the height of the "freak show" era, and was generally applied only to short-statured persons who were displayed for public amusement, which is why it is considered so unacceptable today.

Such terms as dwarf, little person, LP, and person of short stature are all acceptable, but most people would rather be referred to by their name than by a label."
(source)
posted by blue_beetle at 11:34 AM on January 31, 2008


Sod off ye tossers.
posted by Mister_A at 11:46 AM on January 31, 2008


Except that "potatoes" is not an offensive term for a class of people, as in "midget" and as in "nigger".

Yes, but midget (being offensive) doesn't have to be compared to other slurs to be seen as offensive. It being offensive in and of itself is enough. You do not need to make a comparison that doesn't prove anything to defend the position of not using the term.
posted by shmegegge at 11:51 AM on January 31, 2008


fuck.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:53 AM on January 31, 2008


I thought miss lynnster's story was adorably awkward.
A good thing to come out of an awkward post.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 11:53 AM on January 31, 2008


Let's look at it this way... replace all references to little people (no matter what term you use) to "normal sized white people" and would this be a post at all? If not, then isn't the whole point to make fun of/laugh at people because they are not tall?

As to the solution...what LordSludge said...
posted by HuronBob at 12:02 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, LordSludge, the n-word comparison is a pretty good way to get yourself not taken seriously. Any comparison will strike a lot of people as extremely ignorant.

And maybe you think that it's bad that most people will see you as ignorant for using the n-word in that way. Fine, that's a discussion to have in another place. Here, it's nothing but a self-Godwin.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:02 PM on January 31, 2008


“Ummm, you were pretty much pointing and laughing at little people (because they're LITTLE, SEE???) while using an insulting term. Very inappropriate.”

Funny. I’d’ve thought saying “my mistake” was an apology. Hm.

My reasoning:
I think it’s interesting that little people were hiding in luggage and stealing from people on Swedish trains. So I decided to post that.

I found that it had been done before and there were gangs of folks of small stature in Malaysia robbing people.
This made me consider the Randy Newman song - which I titled with a Swedish chef accent.
I thought the ‘allaboutmidgets’ site was ridiculous - and I mean that term precisely - and expanded on the theme of those folks under bizarre and/or exploitive circumstances (in the ‘small time gangsters’ link from the star the term ‘midget’ is used, so I reiterated it, where I might have balked in just looking at the ‘allaboutmidgets’ site - I figure it’s a newspaper so it’s more authoritative - and it’s right there if you read it ‘midgets ’ in the newspaper. Y’know who else prints the term? The New. York. Times. And I remember reading it in there. If it’s really offensive, I wouldn’t figure they’d print it even in quote, I don’t see them reprinting profanity or other racial slurs - but WTF do I know?)

The midgets vs centenarians site is reflective of the many ‘vs’ contests we’ve seen on metafilter (eg. 1 man vs. many many cats; bear vs. guy with knife, raptors, etc. etc.) so I posted that as well.

Whatever the actual result - it was meant to be fun in the sense of laughing at people (of whatever type) in odd circumstances, not in reviling or ridiculing anyone because of whatever their inherent traits. They’re people. They fuck up and get fucked up like anyone else, I figure. It didn’t come out that way, so, as I said, my mistake. Because that’s not how - obviously - it came off to some folks.

But - since we’re bringing it up on the level of ‘niggers’ (and y’all know how much I hate them, amirite!? I’m such a racist that I hate my own mixed ethnicity kids, burn a cross on my own damn lawn) in such an accusitory manner, that it was meant out of malice instead of ignorance - then I’m going to have to say go fuck yourself and this PC shit and take a walk.

I really have a lot of work to do anyway.

C-ya.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:04 PM on January 31, 2008 [4 favorites]


replace all references to little people (no matter what term you use) to "normal sized white people" and would this be a post at all?

Maybe if normal sized white people were found to have been hiding in suitcases and stealing stuff.
posted by goo at 12:11 PM on January 31, 2008


shmegegge: Yes, but midget (being offensive) doesn't have to be compared to other slurs to be seen as offensive. It being offensive in and of itself is enough. You do not need to make a comparison that doesn't prove anything to defend the position of not using the term.

roll truck roll: [T]he n-word comparison is a pretty good way to get yourself not taken seriously.

Lots of folks don't know that the term "midget" is offensive. Or they don't believe that it is. Or they know, but they don't care. The n-bomb was an attempt to get through to those people, to get them to go "OH. Oooooooh. I *get* it now. My bad."

Wishful thinking, probably.
posted by LordSludge at 12:19 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


First they came for the little people, and I didn't speak out; because their little arms and legs flailing around when they were being carried off was actually pretty darn funny.
posted by yhbc at 12:23 PM on January 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


For fuck's sake, I read the FPP and thought it was a citation of some midgety humor from a recent movie, or something, and just walked on by, uninterested. Those words are YOUR creative genius, Smedleyman? Faugh. Funny, maybe, but really heinous. Delete it.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:25 PM on January 31, 2008


I thought only Dirty Midgets was offensive? Who knew?

Oh that's right. Fucking pretty much EVERYBODY.

But please go ahead and keep arguing with yourself in claiming I (or anybody is) am some how anti-dwarf or what ever the hell it is your doing.

So Lord sludge. Why didn't you do this call out to AZ on the 21st? Hmmmm?
posted by tkchrist at 12:26 PM on January 31, 2008


Obligatory Poe story.
posted by everichon at 12:26 PM on January 31, 2008


"Maybe if normal sized white people were found to have been hiding in suitcases and stealing stuff."

let me try one last time... had there been ONE link to the story about the suitcases... I would have thought..."oh, another fark worthy post"...but with multiple links to bad sites about little people, along with references to glue and a penis, it became, as noted, lollittlepeople.........

ya know, I'm thinking there was probably no ill intent in the original ffp... perhaps just not thought through enough...

I've got work to do too.... bye ya'll...
posted by HuronBob at 12:28 PM on January 31, 2008


The n-bomb was an attempt to get through to those people

Sort of like using a shotgun to hunt mice in your living room, IMO.
posted by hermitosis at 12:30 PM on January 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


"but most people would rather be referred to by their name than by a label"

Bears repeating, I think.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:30 PM on January 31, 2008


I removed the FPP for what it's worth. Some of those links were interesting, but the LOLframing was really sort of icky and the thread was a trainwreck.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:31 PM on January 31, 2008


No matter how "ridiculous" you find the site, it is pretty hard to interpret linking (with the word "funny" no less) to a blog titled "Funny Midget Pics - All About Little Midgets: Funny pictures and news about midgets, dwarfs and little people" as anything other than LOLMIDGETS. Linking to a picture of a little person in biker garb for no good reason is more of the same.

Here is another handy guideline if a site devoted to making fun of people doesn't trip your crappy link alarm: If the site in question has porn ads with spelling errors, it probably isn't the best of the web.
posted by ssg at 12:32 PM on January 31, 2008


Ermmm when did midget become an offensive word for a class of people? I have such trouble keeping up with the hypersensitivity of the world these days.
posted by xmutex at 12:34 PM on January 31, 2008


If the site in question has porn ads with spelling errors, it probably isn't the best of the web.

I was wondering what a "PINIS" was.
posted by tkchrist at 12:35 PM on January 31, 2008


If you don't get how midget is, and always has been as offensive as cripple, faggot, or the "n-word," you are, well, a retard.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:40 PM on January 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


Lots of folks don't know that the term "midget" is offensive. Or they don't believe that it is. Or they know, but they don't care. The n-bomb was an attempt to get through to those people, to get them to go "OH. Oooooooh. I *get* it now. My bad."

I get that, I'm just saying you're shooting yourself in the foot because you're actually getting those people to go "Oh for fuck's sake, fuck off and stop comparing me to a racist." It's self defeating and unnecessary. You're right about the post, but you're doing damage to your point. Frankly, it's a form of argumentation that gets thrown around a lot in meta, and I wish people would stop doing it. It's like every time someone says something someone else disagrees with the n bomb gets dropped like it wins every argument when in fact it doesn't win any.
posted by shmegegge at 12:40 PM on January 31, 2008


a retard.

Uhhh. What?
posted by tkchrist at 12:42 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


So Lord sludge. Why didn't you do this call out to AZ on the 21st? Hmmmm?

Maybe he didn't see it until you linked to it - regardless, LC responded to your gotcha! the first time you said it.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:47 PM on January 31, 2008


Whoops, LS.

I know a lot of Lords, okay? Hard to keep 'em straight sometimes.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:48 PM on January 31, 2008


It's like every time someone says something someone else disagrees with the n bomb gets dropped like it wins every argument when in fact it doesn't win any.

What's even better is that NOBODY in the original thread said they didn't know.

Except ME.

BEING A SMART ASS.

Me. Who, BTW, me, also being the one who POINTED to it's use in AZ's thread (regardless of his explanation) knowing it was potentially offensive there, as well as in this last thread. The point was context of it's use by the posters (NOT the links). Which Lord Sludge seems to have missed in his mad rush to paint everybody as a bigot and, naturally, the inevitable obligatory racist.

But still I'm waiting for some more people to point out more racist and bigoted terms. I wonder if doing so gives an angel his wings?
posted by tkchrist at 12:50 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you don't get how midget is, and always has been as offensive as cripple, faggot, or the "n-word," you are, well, a retard.

it's my understanding that it has not always been offensive, and that it was, in fact, a medical term until recent history. recent history is, granted, decades ago apparently, but still. you should be a little more accurate with your sweeping judgements.
posted by shmegegge at 12:51 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Then he should have called out AZ then thus providing us all with this informative moral lesson and help us avoid THIS thread now.
posted by tkchrist at 12:52 PM on January 31, 2008


Maybe he didn't see it until you linked to it - regardless, LC responded to your gotcha! the first time you said it.

Yeah. And it was stupid hysterical response that missed the point entirely.
posted by tkchrist at 12:53 PM on January 31, 2008


I find it mildly curious that people prefer the term 'n-word' to simply saying 'nigger,' since I doubt discussing the word itself with get you branded as racist.

Also if the point you're making is that 'midget' and 'faggot' and such-like are equally crude and offensive, why does no one say 'm-word' and 'f-word'?
posted by shakespeherian at 12:53 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


because no one would know what they were talking about?
posted by shmegegge at 12:54 PM on January 31, 2008


"Retard"is pretty offensive too. Because that is a derogatory word used for people with mental handicaps and birth defects. If you didn't know. Did you know. Because if you didn't then you must be a racist.
posted by tkchrist at 12:55 PM on January 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Is cripple an offensive word? I'm not an english speaker so there may be some meaning I'm unaware of.
posted by Catfry at 12:55 PM on January 31, 2008


Sorry, feelin' my post-structuralist oats. *sigh* I mean that all those nicknames for groups of people which are associated with the era of their unchecked disempowerment need to be rendered flaccid, stat. Swords to Plowshares Silly String. And that doesn't mean now we get to use them to passive-aggressively lollerpopguild at the same groups they were meant to patronize, rather it means working to detourn the very idea of "an offensive word for a class of people." To me. I don't want to be overly strident, dark, or flip here without that intent being clear.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:55 PM on January 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


NATIVE english speaker.
posted by Catfry at 12:56 PM on January 31, 2008


tkchrist, you're such a bastard doubleplusungoodnik.
posted by cog_nate at 12:56 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow, I totally forgot to refresh there. When do we get comment editing again?
posted by Catfry at 12:57 PM on January 31, 2008


because no one would know what they were talking about?

What? Sure they would. The M-word? The f-g-t word? In common usage by self righteous passive aggressives everywhere. [rolls eyes].

posted by tkchrist at 12:58 PM on January 31, 2008


Whoa. There was something worse than the "Unions OR Corportations are the Devil, and so is Hillary Clinton" thread? I have so been painfully reading the wrong thread.
posted by Tehanu at 12:59 PM on January 31, 2008


Tehanu: Where's that? I want to read a trainwreck thread!
posted by shakespeherian at 1:00 PM on January 31, 2008


Catfry -- It is out of fashion, yes. Disabled is the preferred term.
posted by Bookhouse at 1:01 PM on January 31, 2008


Ambrosia Voyeur writes "If you don't get how midget is, and always has been as offensive as cripple, faggot, or the 'n-word,' you are, well, a retard."

Well, that's just the problem. It hasn't "always" been considered offensive, just like at least some your other examples.

"Cripple" used to be a non-offensive descriptive. It's only in my lifetime it's become "offensive". The n-word began as descriptive. When I was a kid, "asian" people could still be called "oriental", and no disrespect was meant.

My great-grandmother was definitely not "a retard." (And frankly, I find casual use of "retard" to refer to people not of clinically subnormal intelligence to be offensive.)

A registered nurse and later one of the first female judges in her state, she was an accomplished and progressive woman with attitudes toward race and gender that were "ahead of" her time. But when I was young, I was disturbed to hear her use the phrase "colored people". Of course, I loved my great-grandmother and never brought that up with her, as I knew she'd have been offended if I'd implied she was racist.

It was only after her death that I belatedly realized that for a women of her era, "colored" was the progressive, respectful, anti-racist term of respect for black people. Far from being racist, she was proclaiming her opposition to racism every time she used the word "colored". But I guess you'd just dismiss her as a 'retard'.
posted by orthogonality at 1:01 PM on January 31, 2008 [8 favorites]


Tehanu: Where's that? I want to read a trainwreck thread!

Yeah. Me too. Because evidentially we are not going to get the self righteous flame out I so desired in this one.
posted by tkchrist at 1:02 PM on January 31, 2008


Threads like this remind me of the food fight scene from Animal House.
posted by everichon at 1:09 PM on January 31, 2008


othogonality, it hasn't always been considered offensive, but I argue that the sort of modern pseudo-anthropology which brought us "mongoloid" and "midget" was offensive even if not intended or seen as so. I could be wrong - that's maybe a matter of historiography? Don't for a second think I was being serious by calling someone a retard, okay? Not a chance.

wrt to saying nigger or not, there's such a fraught history over who says n-word and who says nigger at this point in the discourse, indicating that the choice is still much tied to privilege, that in short I took the n-word tack personally, as a sign of respect for the weight of this ongoing process and the challenge of this choice itself. But again, I see that using other slurs is equally read as cavalier, so my "token" ha-ha, use of "n-word" wasn't, on balance, a serious enough note to communicate a caring but cavalier idealism of destroying that category of words' power. It was arrogant. Got it. I just reaaaally want to start playing with the silly string.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:09 PM on January 31, 2008


Let's see if we can milk this stupid call out for another 400 comments, becuase we know people only really read the most vain and emotional appealing posts. Especially those that go after people for being racist or sexist. So let's do a little experiment and see...

Oh my GOD. orthogonality you are an apologist for the racist oppressor!

Did you guys hear? orthogonality's grandma was in the KKK!
posted by tkchrist at 1:14 PM on January 31, 2008


Hillary Clinton at Wal-Mart.
I was pondering calling it out, but the main starting-to-get-personal argument seems to have stopped, which is a big improvement. Still kind of a mess, but politicsfilter does that.

posted by Tehanu at 1:16 PM on January 31, 2008


What's the m-word?
posted by xmutex at 1:20 PM on January 31, 2008


hermitosis: Sort of like using a shotgun to hunt mice in your living room, IMO.

But I kept missing with my Smith & Wesson!!

Point taken. Sorry if I offended anybody with the n-bombs. It was the first perjorative that's widely known and accepted to be offensive that popped into my head, and probably a bit attention-whorish. But my point remains: the n-word offends black people, "midget" offends little people. (for different reasons, to be sure.)

tkchrist, I already pointed out the difference between AZ's post (mildly offensive, IMO, but at least he offered an explanation of historical context) and this. Twice. Make that three times. Four, if you count somebody else paraphrasing. And I'm probably missing five and six. If you have a problem with my explanation, that's okay -- address that, rather than demanding an explanation.. yet again. It's just frustrating.

I thought only Dirty Midgets was offensive? Who knew?

Oh that's right. Fucking pretty much EVERYBODY.


I'm confused... You knew the term "midget" was offensive, but you chose to use it anyhow? Why? That's not a rhetorical'. I'm asking you a direct question.

As jessamyn points out, it was the LOL framing that was "icky". So I probably wasn't clear: I found the pointing and laughing at a whole class of people to be far more offensive than the actual m-word. That's just... really shitty behavior, IMO, and as somebody else said, more "fark" than "mefi". Hence, this call-out.

On preview, nobody called you a racist. The comparison to the n-word was made to demonstrate that both terms were offensive to their respective subjects. I don't think you're a racist. I do think you're insensitive to little people. Clear?
posted by LordSludge at 1:20 PM on January 31, 2008


What's the m-word?

Moo.
posted by LordSludge at 1:21 PM on January 31, 2008


What's the m-word?

The m-bird. The m-bird, m-bird, m-bird.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:24 PM on January 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm confused... You knew the term "midget" was offensive, but you chose to use it anyhow? Why? That's not a rhetorical'. I'm asking you a direct question.

I didn't "use" it. Except to refer to AZ's post. What the hell are you talking about?

The comparison to the n-word was made to demonstrate that both terms were offensive to their respective subjects. I don't think you're a racist. I do think you're insensitive to little people. Clear?

Not only did I NOT make a single "midget" joke (in either thread) nor did I use the term midget in a derogatory fashion. I pointed to the other thread to show that there indeed CAN be a post about Dwarfism that is not a 400+ trainwreck.

You are a liar, a hysterical ass, and an idiot. Clear?
posted by tkchrist at 1:30 PM on January 31, 2008


God, someone should just put those horrible little goblins into camps.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 1:32 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


rather it means working to detourn

Please don't say that. It makes my midget ears bleed.
posted by Wolof at 1:32 PM on January 31, 2008


tkchrist, to be fair, in the original post you did say 'But thanks for trying to drum [controversy] up where none exists.' Thus implying that your feeling is that there is nothing wrong with the usage of the term 'midget,' and potentially that there was nothing wrong with the post (other than its being 'cryptic' with 'no real pay-off'). That doesn't really square with you being on the side of Right and Good.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:38 PM on January 31, 2008


"little people" sounds more patronizing and insulting than midget. It somehow seems to imply that you're not even a total person.
posted by xmutex at 1:38 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is offensive and I"M GOING TO SEW YOU!!
posted by hermitosis at 1:42 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Before Metafilter, I didn't even know that mongoloid was offensive because it meant retard. I thought it was offensive because it meant oriental.

It was interesting for me to talk to a friend who's a professor of disability studies, and who comes from Germany—in Europe, apparently, "spaz" and "mongoloid" are big no-nos, but "gimp" wasn't something that bothered her.
posted by klangklangston at 1:47 PM on January 31, 2008


sigh.

Shakesperian I was replying to Huronbobs post. Which the word midget never came up.

And yes. I think there was nothing "wrong" or bigot with the post in the sense that I doubt very much, and he himself said, he intended to offended anybody.

I smelled a pile on. It's funny that LordSludge is attempting that said pile-on be on me when there were FAR more egregious uses of bigoted slurs and snark in the thread by other posters.

The "controversy" that was attempting to be born, and to which we are now witnessed, did not NEED to happen if it did not happen with AZ's post.

Especially given that if: Midget is equally as offensive as the "n-word".

Think about it. Then ANY post titled : If your beer keg runs out early, there is probably a drunk midget nigger inside.

Would cause widespread outrage. REGARDLESS if it was rationalized inside the post or not. But it didn't. And Smed's, who only used to the word in reference to link that used (he also ussed little person and dwarf), did not obviously intend to make the word offensive.

BOTH threads can be contextualized. The LOLMIDGETS thing. Okay. That one link was pretty bad. But as Jessymen said that post had some interesting links. Though not enough by my standards. But eh. But not enough for a fucking shit storm or call out. which people like Lord Sludge just LOVE.

Get me?

Anyway. This call out is stupid. This argument is stupid. If you want to continue. Continue without me.
posted by tkchrist at 1:50 PM on January 31, 2008


Who wants to continue without tkchrist?
posted by xmutex at 1:51 PM on January 31, 2008


FWIW, I still routinely meet people that use "midget", "cripple", "oriental", "retard", and, yes the n-word and its many derivatives. Some of them are good people who don't mean anything by it, who genuinely don't want to be using offensive terms. I try to take the time to inform them that, say, "oriental" is considered rude, "asian" is preferred. The response is generally not a digging in of heels, but a "Really? Since when? Huh. Damn, didn't know that."

But some people know damned well that they're being offensive. They revel in it, and fuck you if you don't like it. I don't bother correcting them, because they're shitty people who derive self-esteem by putting down others. Why waste my time? Their behavior says more about them than it does about anybody they're insulting. I avoid them, I've literally cut several of these people out of my life, and I'm sure we're both happier for it.

tkchrist, I don't believe I'm wasting my time here. I don't believe you fall into that second group. This really isn't like you, from what I can recall.

If I've falsely accused you, I apologize. Sincerely. My beef was with the thread, not you, per se. Your defense of the offensive thread, particularly of the term "midget", rang hollow to me, and I called you on it. I thought was self-evident. I didn't mean for it to go beyond that. Flame out if you like, but this ain't personal, at least not from this end.

On second thought... don't flame out. Too many cool people abandoning this joint nowadays. If you were local, I'd invite you to spar with me. We could film it, put it on YouTube, and put up a single link YT FPP.

MetaTalk Cage Match!! ONLY IN AMERICA!!!
posted by LordSludge at 1:52 PM on January 31, 2008


Well shit, looks like I just missed him.
posted by LordSludge at 1:52 PM on January 31, 2008


I call the subjects of the Original Post "people small enough to fit in a duffel bag". I try to avoid derogatory categorizations of people in all my communications (example), but it is so tempting to identify some of my fellow MeFites as Mental Midgets.
posted by wendell at 1:56 PM on January 31, 2008


FWIW, I still routinely meet people that use "midget", "cripple", "oriental", "retard", and, yes the n-word and its many derivatives. Some of them are good people who don't mean anything by it, who genuinely don't want to be using offensive terms.

My lord man newsflash: simply because you find something offensive doesn't therefore mean it's objectively offensive. People and their opinions vary! You, alas, are not the sole arbiter of offensive.
posted by xmutex at 1:56 PM on January 31, 2008


While you're in here arguing, uncaring duffel bag men are going through the luggage compartment of your subconscious minds and stealing your precious memories.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:59 PM on January 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Who wants to continue without tkchrist?

I do!





DOH! SHIT.
Sockpuppet next time. Damn it. Sockpuppet!

posted by tkchrist at 2:03 PM on January 31, 2008


I routinely meet people here on MetaFilter who genuinely DO want to be using offensive terms. They consider it "daring" or even "courageous" to be "Politically Incorrect". Most, if not all, of them are merely getting their enjoyment from being cruel. Shorthand labels are lazy, whether you're calling someone a "midget" or a "giant". There are some disputes over the propriety of describing people certain ways that have gone too far, and often there is a lack of useful alternatives to borderline-cruel terminology. But it's no excuse for intentional offensiveness.

I much prefer generally nonsensical insults like "nincompoop", "asshat" and "xmutex".
posted by wendell at 2:14 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Disabled is the preferred term.

I heard it's "Differently Abled" or "Handicapable."
posted by shmegegge at 2:15 PM on January 31, 2008


“If you have a problem with my explanation, that's okay -- address that, rather than demanding an explanation.. yet again. It's just frustrating.”

Welcome to the party, pal.
There’s a difference between the justifiabe criticizism of the post as it was and castigating someone.

I said I meant no offense. I apologized. I universally ceded it was a lousy post (y’all been up 28 hours? not an excuse, but I should have anticipated poor performance out of a dulled wit).

I explained my reasoning, cited and linked to where the term has been used elsewhere in print - which led to my misunderstanding - you’re still telling me no I’m pointing and laughing at little people. (Only time I’ve heard that is on Seinfeld, but maybe it had some validity I thought)
But no, I’m a liar as well as hateful because you don’t want to take my word for it that I screwed the pooch on this?

“If you were local, I'd invite you to spar with me.”

Yeah? Why don’t you come spar with me. I’ll fly you out.
...nah, probably not a good idea.
I respect the hell out of tkchrist for - obviously and visibly - defending a principle while kicking the quality of my post (justifiably) in the ass. But this wanna make nice bullshit really pisses me off.

Because meanwhile he gets (albeit deserved) apologies, I get -“So I probably wasn't clear: I found the pointing and laughing at a whole class of people to be far more offensive than the actual m-word. That's just... really shitty behavior, IMO, and as somebody else said, more "fark" than "mefi". Hence, this call-out”

So y’all not being clear, misunderstanding something - whoops. Hey it’s a whole post-structuralist thing, man.

I do it, shitty behavior and I must be a racist ‘retard’ deserving of whatever derogation is handed my way (because I wouldn’t be offended at the use of the word ‘retard,’ even if someone in my family is autistic, amirite?).

I take a break and this crap is still going on? God damn some people just never ever make any mistakes themselves do they?
What’s that old line about attibuting to stupidity vs. malice? What, y’all refuse to believe I’m stupid?
Well, chalk up today as another day the sun just refuses to shine out my own asshole. Guess I’ll have to bathe in the light of yours.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:17 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


shmegegge, by coming up with shorthand labels that go way too far in avoiding negative connotations, doesn't that just prove the lack of value of shorthand labels?
posted by wendell at 2:19 PM on January 31, 2008


Smed your a stand up guy. I think everybody here knows that.
posted by tkchrist at 2:20 PM on January 31, 2008


tkchrist, I think the key difference between Astro Zombie's post and the deleted one is that AZ's post read as a sort of 'look at the interesting historical achievements and activities of a certain overlooked class of people'— I can easily imagine a similar post about black actors (which might even feature the word 'Negro,' for historical accuracy)— whereas the deleted post read much more as 'let's chuckle at how bizarre and different from normal folk a certain class of people is.' I don't really see how you can make an equivalence.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:20 PM on January 31, 2008


mmmmmaybe? I'm not sure if you're saying I came up with those terms (I didn't) or if you're just criticizing the disabled community for having come up with them.

on the whole I would agree with you, but in the particulars I'll say "it may be lazy, but no one wants to specifically have to say 'paraplegics, quadraplegics, those with osteoporosis and other people deserving of a bumper sticker that allows them to park closer to the movie theater for medical reasons.' every time they want to refer to a handicapped person."
posted by shmegegge at 2:22 PM on January 31, 2008


Bears repeating, I think.

Oh, great...another label being brought into the thread. What about "twinkies?"
posted by ericb at 2:22 PM on January 31, 2008


Sticker People? Too crass?
posted by Burhanistan at 2:24 PM on January 31, 2008


My lord man newsflash: simply because you find something offensive doesn't therefore mean it's objectively offensive. People and their opinions vary! You, alas, are not the sole arbiter of offensive.

Nothing is "objectively offensive", and I'm not trying to be the the PC Police or anything. But come on -- if you had a good friend who you *knew* wasn't racist -- maybe they came from a different country, or just lived a culturally isolated existance -- and they dropped the n-bomb or some other offensive term routinely NOT REALIZING it was offensive... wouldn't you tell them?? (Or would you sit back and enjoy the show? heh)

I'm dating a girl from Russia, and at some point I plan to visit her country with her. She's already told me that I do things here that would be very inappropriate there: hugging women as a greeting, being overtly friendly to strangers, etc. I'm counting on her to keep me culturally appropriate.

Ah, I see you're back, tkchrist. We cool? I'm cool, regardless. Don't be pissed. No reason to. We can swap e-mails if you still want to hash some things out. Quick, say something mean. I gotta go to the dojo and hit stuff now, and I sorta wish I had some anger to channel.

Smed: Bring it! Will you pay me for my time, too? I'm pretty cheap nowadays. Sounds like fun. :) <-- oh hell yes I used a smiley!

Gotta run, y'all be good...
posted by LordSludge at 2:29 PM on January 31, 2008


Smedleyman: Ok. I meant no offense. My mistake. Suggestion?

LordSludge: Ummm, you were pretty much pointing and laughing at little people (because they're LITTLE, SEE???) while using an insulting term. Very inappropriate. But since you ask, I suggest apologizing, mailing the mods to strike the post, and let's lock/delete this call-out thread and forget the whole thing.


You know, LordSludge, I was trying to give you the benefit of the doubt up to that point, annoyed as I am with the spate of recent dumbfuck callouts. But your response to Smed's "Ok. I meant no offense. My mistake" is so nasty and ungenerous it makes you look like a complete jerk. I express no opinion on whether you are, in fact, a complete jerk, but I know from Smed's years of contributions here that he is a good guy. I advise you to pick your fights, your opponents, and your rhetoric more carefully.
posted by languagehat at 2:35 PM on January 31, 2008


Whoa wait we have black people on MetaFilter?
posted by xmutex at 2:39 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


On non-preview:

I'm dating a girl from Russia, and at some point I plan to visit her country with her. She's already told me that I do things here that would be very inappropriate there


News flash: Russians say and do things that will spin your head around and make you puke technicolor. If you go to Russia you will hear casual talk about women, Jews, people from the Caucasus (whom the Russians call "blacks"), East Asians, small people, and any imaginable other groups. If you visit Russia and decide to show your righteousness by making an insulting public callout like this, please have a bystander make a video and post the resulting bloodbath to MetaFilter!
posted by languagehat at 2:39 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


or hell, just tell them you like Dream Theater and film the results of that.

oh snap! No I di-in't!
posted by shmegegge at 2:47 PM on January 31, 2008


Well, there goes my post about Heeb magazine.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:50 PM on January 31, 2008


I saw Peter Dinklage near Union Square a few weeks ago, and, little or not, he looked (in both mien and carriage) like he could whup my ass up to 42nd Street. Not that I'm Hulk Hogan or anything, but dag, Peter Dinklage, you are bad.
posted by Bookhouse at 2:51 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


The words themselves are the offensive symptom, not the offensive disease. We all understand that, don't we? One can "sneeze," calling someone oriental, unwittingly offending, and not BE institutionalized orientalism incarnate. Words that become tools of categorization for the purpose of derision, degredeation, disempowerment, ad nauseum, are just tools of evil, and we try to repurpose them because language is additive, mostly, so they can't be eradicated. Injustice has always been offensive, and its tools have as well, no matter how acceptable, or scientific, or whatever, the words were deemed. This strikes me as intuitive and quite logical, so I get confused about why people defend words compared to others based on their contemporaneous location in the reclamation process,why for some itnot okay to call the DMV lines retarded but still maybe okay to call someone with trisomy 21 a retard. wtf. Then again, I see this approach to language as a uniquely "postmodern" conceit, too, so I get the inherent subjectivity I wield, but, well, one can't collapse time. By the way, I am really tired right now, and possibly not making optimal levels of sense.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:54 PM on January 31, 2008


“By the way, I am really tired right now, and possibly not making optimal levels of sense.”

Yeah, well, that cut no slack for me. I say ‘midget’ along with the star paper and the NYT and I’m a racist pure and simple.
You call me (indirectly) a ‘retard’ and it’s “contemporaneous location in the reclamation process.” Uh huh.


“Bring it! Will you pay me for my time, too? I'm pretty cheap nowadays. Sounds like fun. :) <> Yeah, I wasn’t talking about trading hands in a ring. My office is a little further out.
But ok, we’re all hardcore badasses.
So it’s ok to tell someone to go to hell if you smile? I’m missing the admission of error part of the equation here. I’ve got no harsh words for you. I’ve ceded I blew it. That’s universally agreed.(Maybe you’re trying to make amends and I’m missing it, but make it clear for me, I’m slow today).
YOU (et.al.) are the one kicking over MY tea wagon slick. I did give you “a simple my bad, I didn't realize that term was offensive” (as you stated to tkchrist) and that cut zero ice with you.

The post is gone. History. I’ve been looking to settle this. Thought it would just peter out if I split, but no we gotta go after folks who don’t like to see bullying. And they get apologies and their arguments and citations addressed, but far you’ve been ducking my comments and questions (you grow some huge balls when it comes to sparing with me though, eh badass?). The term ‘midgets’ being bad or not I’m willing to let go (despite it being published in the NYT, et.al.) because really, I had and still have no idea. But it pisses someone off violently, maybe it’s a personal thing, ok, so I won’t use it. Wrong or right it’s disruptive to communication - here at least, so I’ll bend with the wind.

But what’s at issue is what you (et.al) are calling me - you’re either calling me a lying racist scumbag or you believe me when I say I screwed up and didn’t mean to offend anyone (as I said). Your call. Settle it.

(also: generally speaking, I very much appreciate the support. I don’t wish to involve anyone in this however, nor am I looking for some sort of popular... thing (sorry, my brain isn’t on today - obvious, really). However many folks of whatever esteem on whomever’s side doesn’t prove a point right or wrong. Again, grateful as I am.)

posted by Smedleyman at 3:15 PM on January 31, 2008


I didn't call you a retard, dude. It was patently facetious, but if you want to be offended anyway, go nuts.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:28 PM on January 31, 2008


Go to hell, Smed, I'LL DEFEND YOU IF I FUCKING WANT TO. Got that? You bastard.
posted by languagehat at 3:34 PM on January 31, 2008


go nuts.

Nuts? NUTS!?

I AM OFFENDED!!!

Mon Dieu ! Vous paysan insultant !

Mental Illness is no joking matter. I should know. For I am the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.
posted by tkchrist at 3:35 PM on January 31, 2008


"based on their contemporaneous location in the reclamation process"?! Wow. Do you talk like that all the time, professor? ; )

But yes, I get what you are saying, AV. Only I think I would stop using the word retard completely, if I were you. The accepted term is moron. or MORAN, if you are making a sign.
posted by misha at 3:36 PM on January 31, 2008


I much prefer generally nonsensical insults like "nincompoop", "asshat" and "xmutex".

I support this. If you can't play with language, what can you play with? Other than yourself, of course.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:43 PM on January 31, 2008


I don't have a personal dog in this fight,
...

tkchrist, Smedleyman, you know better than this. Let's make this brief.


You know, after reading this thread, I don't think this callout has anything at all to do with "midgets" or any other groups which might sensitive about terms used to describe them, or anything at all to do with proper terms of any kind.

As we all know, Smedlleyman and tkchrist are very competent and experienced in the martial arts. I would say, in fact, that they are our two members who have the greatest reputations as tough guys.

Ah, I see you're back, tkchrist. We cool? I'm cool, regardless. Don't be pissed. No reason to. We can swap e-mails if you still want to hash some things out. Quick, say something mean. I gotta go to the dojo and hit stuff now, and I sorta wish I had some anger to channel.

This is only the last of many posts just in this thread which display LordSludge's desire to be a tough guy, too (and to be seen that way here, of course). It must have been frustrating for LordSludge to see these two old bulls get all these props when there is a tough young dude like him around. How great it would be to pull them down off that pedestal and rub their noses in it a little bit.

Mmm, mmm, mmm-- what's a tough young dude to do?

This callout, apparently.
posted by jamjam at 3:43 PM on January 31, 2008


On preview: please don't waste any more of your time on this little fool, Smedleyman.

I don't think even your extravagant verbal talents could make me want to read one more word about him.
posted by jamjam at 3:56 PM on January 31, 2008


Once lost but I was found
When I heard the stained glass
shatter all around me
I sent those midgets tumbling
down the hill
But I will hold this one on high
above me still
She whispers words to clear my mind
I once could see but now at last
I'm blind
posted by psmith at 3:59 PM on January 31, 2008


King of the Midgets
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:59 PM on January 31, 2008


“I didn't call you a retard, dude. It was patently facetious, but if you want to be offended anyway, go nuts.”

I said I made a mistake regarding the thing. I didn’t know the term “midgets” was offensive.
*then*
*later*
You said “If you don't get how midget is, and always has been as offensive as cripple, faggot, or the "n-word," you are, well, a retard.”

Can you follow the logic where a reasonable individual would connect these two pieces of information?

It was not “patently facetious” to me.

You, as the originator of the comment, are telling me however *later* you meant it as such.
Therefore I must logically conclude you meant what you said, meant no offense, meant the thing in another spirit entirely - and that my reading is therefore wrong - in order to form a cogent dialogue between us.

My objection to the phrase itself might stand (as I do have an autistic cousin whom I love very much and I dislike the use of the word retard) and I could expound (generally) on the why's and wherefores of my objections, but given some slack, given the limitations of the medium. (such as: no inflection)and since you have made clear that I've mistaken your position, and the point is made, why not cut it loose.

Ergo - no sweat. My mistake.
(Jeeze, I had to admit I was mistaken and let something go. What an f'ing nightmare.)

“I'LL DEFEND YOU IF I FUCKING WANT TO. Got that? You bastard.” -posted by languagehat

I don’t want no part of that, LH. I’d rather fight a legion of armored bears armed with a herring*.

(*DISCLAIMER: no offense to blacksmiths, bears - both the feral animal and the colloquially addressed homosexuals**, Monty Python or Golden Compass fans (film, book series or video game) or the small oily fish of the genus Clupea harengus found in the shallow, temperate waters of the Atlantic, the the Mediterranean*** and other oceans).

(**DISCLAIMER: Not a comment on whether it is correct or accurate to refer to any human in such a manner, merely that this seems to be a self-identifying monicker among certain groups of individuals with certain distinctive, but perfectly acceptable, features.)

(***DISCLAIMER: this is not to imply the inhabitants of any specific region of the Earth are by nature small or oily or shallow or temperate or fish like in any way or that living in an oceanic environment is a bad thing)
posted by Smedleyman at 4:06 PM on January 31, 2008


some people in this thread need a nap.
posted by desjardins at 4:11 PM on January 31, 2008


If only Smilla had not closed her account, perhaps his or her small treasure would have prevented this trainwreck from happening...
posted by jasper411 at 4:39 PM on January 31, 2008


I’d rather fight a legion of armored bears armed with a herring

Excellent, because I happen to have a legion of armored bears armed with a herring right here. Step this way, please!
posted by languagehat at 4:45 PM on January 31, 2008


Before Metafilter, I didn't even know that mongoloid was offensive because it meant retard. I thought it was offensive because it meant oriental.

Fun fact! "Oriental" is also offensive.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:49 PM on January 31, 2008


“I don't think even your extravagant verbal talents could make me want to read one more word about him.”

Appreciated. And, much as I hate to target my own foot - I have to admit, I wasn’t all that extravagant today, verbally, in that post.
The criticism of the post is valid. What else can I do but admit that and apologize? Out of line is out of line.

And again, thanks for the support, but let’s not make this a personal thing. I don’t know LordSludge's motives. (And y’know, the veracity of one’s words thing. tkchrist has his real name out there, I don’t. So while he’s said, and I like to think I’ve said, some valid things concerning physical violence, I could be some nerd sitting in mom’s basement with Mas Oyama’s book or something.)

I can’t argue with him on those. Indeed, that’s exactly the point I’m championing. I can only address his words. The veracity of what he’s said. I’m not looking to win (to be clear, I’m not asserting that is your or anyone else’s goal either) I’m simply looking to preserve the idea over the form. Principle over person.

While I agree some forms of speech have the purpose of making one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human, that is often very dependant on the ideas behind them.
What occured here was the form of that, without the intent.

And that from might indeed be distasteful (and, ok, it was, again, I beg everyone’s pardon).
But distaste does not absolve someone of the obligation of tolerance in discourse at least to the extent that the discover the speakers’ intent.
Query not admonition.
Otherwise the ideas themselves become secondary to the form they take. And if me, or anyone, mistakenly or otherwise tries to make a point about something and are reviled for it without an understanding of the ideas behind the words then it’s not exactly communication we’re doing here it’s just a society of brutality and gainsaying.

There’s a lot of folks here I’m rather fond of. But I have to adhere to that point. It has to be about what we say - and importantly - what we say in earnest that defines a dialogue.
Folks can’t be afraid to tell me I’m wrong or full of crap because I’m “Smedleyman” but neither should they, I, or anyone else defend from that position.

It’s about sharing ideas. Some folks expressed the thought that I packaged my ideas incorrectly. That’s right.

A few people seem to be tagging me with ideas I explicitly stated that I don’t hold. That’s wrong.
It’d be wrong if I were anyone else here who didn’t have the good fortune I have in support.

Again, much as I appreciate the good will

Only difference is I admit when I’m wrong and I apologize.

I will say some folks are right about a lot of things though - Is the accuser always holy now?

(These are new times, sir. There is a misty plot afoot so subtle we should be criminal to cling to old respect and ancient friendships. I have seen too many frightful proofs in court — racism is alive on metafilter and we dare not quail to follow wherever the accusing finger points!)


(LH I wish I could find a picture of bears fencing with herrings)
posted by Smedleyman at 4:59 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you don't get how midget is, and always has been as offensive as cripple, faggot, or the "n-word," you are, well, a retard.

well said, irony boy.
posted by jonmc at 5:01 PM on January 31, 2008


Excellent, because I happen to have a legion of armored bears armed with a herring right here.

This cannot be true, because bears enjoy fish and have poor impulse control and would have devoured the herring, rendering it useless as a weapon.

[NOT BEARIST]
posted by jonmc at 5:02 PM on January 31, 2008



I heard it's "Differently Abled" or "Handicapable."
posted by shmegegge at 4:15 PM on January 31 [+] [!]


Actually, "persons with disabilities" is current usage. The idea is that people have disabilities. They are NOT their disabilities.

There are some individuals with disabilities, however, who argue with this usage, just as there are Native Americans who still call themselves "Indian". For example, people who are deaf see themselves as having a culture distinct from "hearing culture" and call themselves "deaf", not "people with deafness". Some people with Aspergers say that because their condition is inseperable from how they see the world, they ARE "aspies" or "autistic" rather than "people with Aspergers/autism".

Sorry for the derail, folks
posted by lleachie at 5:03 PM on January 31, 2008


"Fun fact! "Oriental" is also offensive."

For my Middle East Politics class, we all had to read a work of theory about the region, along with a couple supporters and detractors, and give a presentation for the class. The class then had to give us anonymous notes.

I chose Said's Orientalism, and ran through a brief history of Orientalism and did my piece regarding its continuing relevance (especially regarding the rhetoric surrounding the then-nascent move to attack Iraq).

One of the longest notes I got as feedback read, in its entirety, "Good job, but you're not supposed to call them Orientals anymore—they're Asians."

Neither the student who wrote me that note nor you were paying attention.
posted by klangklangston at 5:05 PM on January 31, 2008


Oh, and, dude, Chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature. Asian-American, if you please.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:06 PM on January 31, 2008


My people prefer to be referred to as The Studly Hungwells. Please be sensitive to our needs.
posted by middleclasstool at 5:17 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have been consistently impressed by Smedleyman's thoughtful contributions to the site, and am happy to take the man at his word. FWIW, Smedleyman, I didn't read LordSludge as so much continuing to have a go at you, more he carried on trying to fight his corner when challenged and that inevitably involved dredging up the various perceived grievances.
It's entirely mainstream hear in China to use the cognate of "oriental" (东方) about cultures and so on (and be proud to do so), and 东方人 about persons; and by sweet Christ do the academic types like to bang on about the "occident" and "occidental" in a variety of ill-informed ways. (Also, the term for disabled has recently changed from 残废人 to 残疾人 which is kind of like the shift from "cripple" to "disabled person.") Not particularly relevant here I realise, but I watch words for a living so I find this stuff interesting.
posted by Abiezer at 5:30 PM on January 31, 2008


Oh, and, dude, Chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature. Asian-American, if you please.

I think you'll find they prefer 'Chinese.' For American-born Chinese, it's sometimes 'ABC.' Asian-American? No.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:31 PM on January 31, 2008


Also, Leyton Orient are almost as shit as my beloved Crewe Alex.
posted by Abiezer at 5:36 PM on January 31, 2008


I just call 'em all the Chinee.
posted by klangklangston at 5:38 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Or "Hey, railroad worker!"
posted by klangklangston at 5:38 PM on January 31, 2008


Kirth Gerson, I'm guessing you've never seen The Big Lebowski.
posted by jonmc at 5:39 PM on January 31, 2008


Appropos of nothing, does anyone remember the TV series Kung Fu? And how everyone on the show, when first meeting David Carradine, would call him "Chinaman"? Does anyone look less like a Chinaman (by which I mean Asian/Occidental/ABC, etc.) than David Carradine?
posted by misha at 5:52 PM on January 31, 2008


I just call 'em all the Chinee.

Celestials.
posted by jonmc at 5:58 PM on January 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Celestials.

Cocksucker!
posted by middleclasstool at 6:01 PM on January 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


>>>> Is cripple an offensive word?

>>> It is out of fashion, yes. Disabled is the preferred term.

>> I heard it's "Differently Abled"

> Actually, "persons with disabilities" is current usage.

For now. But check back in fifteen minutes or you'll totally miss it when the euphemism of the moment is superseded by the euphemism of the next moment.
posted by jfuller at 6:08 PM on January 31, 2008


Does anyone look less like a Chinaman (by which I mean Asian/Occidental/ABC, etc.) than David Carradine?

Marlon Brando looks less like an Asian than David Carradine, but it didn't stop him from playing one in Teahouse Of The August Moon.
posted by jonmc at 6:11 PM on January 31, 2008


Does anyone look less like a Chinaman (by which I mean Asian/Occidental/ABC, etc.) than David Carradine?

Ron Howard.
posted by shmegegge at 6:12 PM on January 31, 2008


Mickey Rooney. "But", you object, "he was playing Japanese." But, I rebut, he was playing the Japanese flavor of a caricature that wasn't exactly hanging its hat on careful Asian cultural distinctions.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:17 PM on January 31, 2008


I'll see your Rooney and raise. All in. I've got a full house: Katharine Hepburn, John Wayne and Marlon Brando.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:23 PM on January 31, 2008


I am not a Korean, but I play one on Metafilter.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:28 PM on January 31, 2008


But check back in fifteen minutes or you'll totally miss it when the euphemism of the moment is superseded by the euphemism of the next moment.

Actually why bother if you're just going to make a new dig about how to refer to people different from yourself because you have some position of privilege that doesn't require you to be polite to other people you don't need something from?

Seriously, you can call people ANY NAME YOU WANT if you don't care what they think of you or what other people think about you for calling them that. This gets somewhat codified with hate speech legislation and other legalistic things that do impinge on your right to be as assholish as you want, but generally speaking you don't not call people racial slurs because you're afraid you're going to get arrested or get your ass kicked, you do it because it's the right thing to do if you're trying to get along with people and not flaunt the fact that you don't give a shit about them and don't have to.

The number of women on this site who have gotten memail/email from men on this site calling them "cunts" this week is two, which may or may not be related to this general name-calling jag the site seems to be on. That number should be and should remain zero. I sort of feel like people casually bandying about shitty racial epithets in this thread just because they can is icky. Acting like it's some sort of hassle to try to at least make an effort to figure out a decent term for the group you are trying to refer to just betrays a position or privilege where you don't have to care.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:35 PM on January 31, 2008 [7 favorites]


Mefi's own bokane is often mistaken for a Chinese man despite being Irish via Philadelphia. People can't imagine a foreigner could speak and write the language as well as he does. Somehow, that's never an issue with me. Ahem.
posted by Abiezer at 6:35 PM on January 31, 2008


Wait, don't we just know the number of mefi men who have called mefi women cunts via memail/email and also told on those men to mommy or daddy admins? I'm just thinking the number could be higher.
posted by psmith at 6:52 PM on January 31, 2008


Seriously, you can call people ANY NAME YOU WANT if you don't care what they think of you or what other people think about you for calling them that.

Precisely, and this is why I always tend to argue that it's not worth it to become upset or offended over the words people use, which are, at the end of the day, only words. The fact that people will use them blithely or in anger, or in attempts at humour of varying degrees of lameness, or to be all edgy and shocking and stuff -- that reflects only on those people, and not in any positive way. They dig their own social graves without us calling down heavenly fire on their head, or shouting them down or whatever.

The way we use language, especially in the texty world we inhabit here, tells other people everything they can know about us. If someone uses language in such a way that they expose their cruelty or insensitivity or boorishness or whatever, repeatedly, well, we know enough not to engage them in future, or at the very least have our perception of what they have to say about other things made more negative, which is as it should be, perhaps. Getting upset and offended, and maybe calling for language that offends us to be prohibited, is just self-defeating. People are different, and much as we might like to, we can't love all of them.

As a moderator, jessamyn, you're in a difficult position in that it is your role to some extent to try and throw a firewall around the worst of the nastiness and stupidity, or at least make it clear that it's not something that we as a community are all that keen on. But I think for the rest of us, discouraging by disdain or just ignoring deliberate or language-provocateur hijinks, while noting to ourselves for the future the people that perenially seem to enjoy it and interacting with them accordingly, is a lot wiser than getting upset.

Too many good people have left this site in recent times over stuff like this (and, of course, disagreement over the deeper issues involved), and that really sucks.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:56 PM on January 31, 2008


> told on those men to mommy or daddy admins?

a word to the wise, psmith. "mommy and daddy" is considered offensive.
posted by jfuller at 7:04 PM on January 31, 2008


jfuller: I'd be the last person on earth to deny that linguistic sensitivity can get a little precious at times, but shooting your mouth off for it's own sake in the other direction gets old pretty quick, too, especially when it seems to be all that someone has to offer. just saying.
posted by jonmc at 7:09 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


As one of the original complainers (and flaggers, and, oh yeah, a dwarf), I think LS has gone a bit overboard here. The post was arguably in bad taste; it got taken down; Smedleyman agreed that maybe it was a lapse in judgment. Those of us who work to change peoples' attitudes and ways of expressing themselves sometimes do latch on and not let go. In the end, though, I feel that it's more powerful to, as Wikipedia puts it, assume good faith. Everyone ends up happier that way.

And eeryone needs a hug.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 7:10 PM on January 31, 2008


Linking to the Daily Mail in itself puts your argument outside of rational discourse, jfuller. Single parent asylum seekers paid me to say this with Moscow gold.
posted by Abiezer at 7:21 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


paid me to say this with Moscow gold

is that as good as Maui Wowee?
posted by jonmc at 7:22 PM on January 31, 2008


The wages of sin aren't great but the hours are flexible.
posted by Abiezer at 7:23 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


"The wages of sin are death, but after taxes it's just a tired feeling, really" - Paula Poundstone
posted by jonmc at 7:24 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


OK, but "Bridget the Little Person" just has no vim to it at all.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 8:36 PM on January 31, 2008


Let's make this brief.

FAIL
posted by brain_drain at 8:42 PM on January 31, 2008


I sprained my knee last week helping a man in a wheelchair off the bus. I didn't notice whether he had legs or not. I don't think I'll need surgery but it'll be months before my knee heals. But I was damned if I was going to make a big stink about fucking up my knee to him, so I stood there until he turned the corner before I limped away.

Once, this motherfucker on the corner called me "temporarily abled." I'm still mad about that. So I guess we can all be addressed in a way that offends.

I expect "little people" to be superseded soon in favor of something more dignified, though.
posted by breezeway at 8:45 PM on January 31, 2008


The number of women on this site who have gotten memail/email from men on this site calling them "cunts" this week is two

Oh hellllllllllll to the no.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:45 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


jessamyn: Just curious, do these c-word emails get detected by a filter or did they get forwarded to you? Because if it's the latter then there are probably more that don't get reported. No comment if it's the former.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:49 PM on January 31, 2008


Finally back. Look, my biggest regret about this call-out thread is that I didn't set my own tone correctly. The tone I wanted to set was "Dude. Not cool." along with a sense of "WTF??" frustration that two guys who showed no history of asshattedness, and I generally consider as cool fellows, were conducting themselves as bigots and bullies, IMO. I'll try to be more explicit about this in the future. But, hey, this is my first (hopefully last) call-out thread, so cut me a little slack! (This supports my theory about social skills being "skills" that can be developed through practice -- having never done a call-out before, I kinda suck at it. Then again, if I get good at it..., we have a problem.)

I wanted, also, to be clear: The "I'd love to spar tkchrist" comment was not in any way meant as a threat -- rather, it was meant in a similar spirit to "I'd love to jam with XX musician". Hence the smiley face. Martial arts is something I love, and from past posts I know it's something he loves. You can't be pissed at a guy after sparring (in good faith, of course) to exhaustion, you just can't. Given his experience, I'd probably lose, and I'm okay with that -- I'm only now training for my yellow belt, but the form I train is, I believe, very effective (a great hybrid form, kinda like a non-sport MMA), I'm pretty strong (but not that young: 37) and have good cardio, so I bet I could at least make it interesting. I *love* sparring with superior opponents -- even when you lose, *especially* when you lose, you learn something! (Rolled with my sensei for the first time tonight, actually, and besides it being the most fun I've had ever at the dojo, I'm still processing all I learned and likely will be for days.) Again, it was an offer to engage in sport. I'm sorry I wasn't clear about that, and I see how an offer to spar could be interpreted as a threat, especially with emotions running hot as they were.

And, to be crystal clear, I won't "fight" anyone here. "Fighting", as opposed to "sparring", is something I would only do if I, or somebody I care about, is threatened with serious injury or death, and I think tkchrist would agree with that philosophy. I won't fight for pride, and I certainly won't fight over a MeFi thread. If I fight, somebody is going to the hospital or morgue, and somebody is going to jail. Neither is a place I want to be. And, really, I won't even spar anybody who doesn't know what they're doing, because they'd get themselves hurt (say, by not knowing how to break a fall) and then I'd feel like shit.

I think everybody who took the time to critique my own behavior deserves a response. After the break...
posted by LordSludge at 8:50 PM on January 31, 2008


The number of women on this site who have gotten memail/email from men on this site calling them "cunts" this week is two

Seriously? Guys? I want to punch you. In the nuts. With Hitler's nuts. And then take your nuts and punch Hitler. In the nuts. And then...I dunno, something emasculating that really underscores the fact that I hate you. Really really really hate you. With guns.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:01 PM on January 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


jessamyn: Just curious, do these c-word emails get detected by a filter or did they get forwarded to you? Because if it's the latter then there are probably more that don't get reported. No comment if it's the former.

It's the latter; we don't do any sort of tracking or filtering of mefimail, and it's a moot point for external email regardless.

Obviously we have no way of knowing what nasty things people might or might not be saying to each other via mefimail or email or IM or etc; I'm optimistically inclined to think there's really not a whole lot of it going on, and that whatever does go on is a little more confined to actual interpersonal squabbles between users who sort of know each other rather than the fucked-up driveby nastygrammery we've seen this week.

And while slow-burn interpersonal email stuff isn't something we generally need or want to hear about, really weird and abusive stuff is pretty much something we want to know about, and I'd hope that in most (hopefully rare) cases, we are hearing about it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:02 PM on January 31, 2008


did they get forwarded to you?

People forward them. And they're not like "OMG FIX IT, I am super offended!" they're like "I am having a bad week and this isn't helping so I'm going to take some time off from MetaFilter, just thought I'd let you know" or whatever. Either way it seems like a damned shame. We'd like to encourage people to share contact info and be contactable (all people, this isn't just a guy/gal thing) and having people send nastygrams just because they don't like someone's question or don't like the way someone was talking about something in a thread is just weak. I know it sounds a little weird, but I'd prefer people were jerkish in MeTa in "public" than just secretly attack folks over email/memail.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:04 PM on January 31, 2008


LordSludge, you sound a little like a Mark Leyner protagonist.
posted by breezeway at 9:09 PM on January 31, 2008


I know it sounds a little weird, but I'd prefer people were jerkish in MeTa in "public" than just secretly attack folks over email/memail.

This doesn't sound weird at all.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:19 PM on January 31, 2008


Didn't set your tone correctly. Lot of that going around lately. Huh. Everyone gets asshat. It's common to the human condition. Putting someone on a pedistal pretty much assures they're gonna fall. Why the hell you think I'm so resistant to compliments? I'm cool? Only standard I want to live up to is my own.Fuck "Smedleyman" just a name on a board like everyone else's what I say is what counts. I said. It was pointed out to me it was out of line. So I apologized and restated. You don't like the revision apparently. I don't much like the idea of having to dance to anyone's tune to get back into their good graces. But I don't much care for leaving things unsettled.

"I think everybody who took the time to critique my own behavior deserves a response."

That's swell. Wanna address mine? Simple straightforward proposition. Or am I still on the pay no mind list?
Fact you addressed this sparring bullshit shows a lot more about where you head is at and what you're really concerned with here. I don't care if you're Moni Aizik, cut the pussyfooting, either stand by what you said and call me a liar or have the balls to apologize. It's that simple. Or keep ducking it and live with ambiguity, but I doubt I'll ever have thing one to say to you again. That'd be a first for me.

"If someone uses language in such a way that they expose their cruelty or insensitivity or boorishness or whatever, repeatedly, well, we know enough not to engage them in future, or at the very least have our perception of what they have to say about other things made more negative, which is as it should be, perhaps. Getting upset and offended, and maybe calling for language that offends us to be prohibited, is just self-defeating."

Well said. And, precisely differentiates what is useful criticism from acrimony. For me, the call out was notification that I was being insensitive. I had no idea I was. So I considered it a service. Saving me from future errors. I have no interest in being cruel to anyone.
Didn't stop there tho. Kinda the problem. Big difference between confrontation and aggression. Foul language doesn't always denote one or the other. To quote - prosecutor asks Steven Biko: "But your own words ask for direct confrontation, isn't that a direct call for violence?" Biko replies "Well you and I are in confrontation now, but I see no violence"
posted by Smedleyman at 9:21 PM on January 31, 2008


Meh. Hell with it. I'm off. Lots to do tomorrow anyway and I'm already past running on fumes. (Odd how you get a little high, innit? After not sleeping for a bit)
posted by Smedleyman at 9:31 PM on January 31, 2008


jessamyn: Just curious, do these c-word emails get detected by a filter or did they get forwarded to you? Because if it's the latter then there are probably more that don't get reported. No comment if it's the former.

Duh, they read all our emails manually, with the stupidest & funniest shared with their friends at riotous spliff sessions.

Don't you know anything?
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:39 PM on January 31, 2008


Canadians still call them midgets.
posted by hootch at 9:49 PM on January 31, 2008


Canadians still call them midgets.

No, no, that's midgettes, en francais!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:15 PM on January 31, 2008


(Smedleyman, my little fingers can only move so fast -- it's a long-ass comment!)
posted by LordSludge at 10:43 PM on January 31, 2008


languagehat: You know, LordSludge, I was trying to give you the benefit of the doubt up to that point, annoyed as I am with the spate of recent dumbfuck callouts. But your response to Smed's "Ok. I meant no offense. My mistake" is so nasty and ungenerous it makes you look like a complete jerk.

My issue with "I meant no offense" was that, wow, how could you NOT REALIZE that pointing and laughing at little people, including two that died grisly deaths (!), was offensive. It's like punching your brother repeatedly in the face, then saying "I didn't mean to hurt him". It struck me as disengenuous and somewhat dismissive.

I express no opinion on whether you are, in fact, a complete jerk, but I know from Smed's years of contributions here that he is a good guy.

I agree -- I truly was all like... "WTF???"

I advise you to pick your fights, your opponents, and your rhetoric more carefully.

The fight is appropriate, the opponents were unexpected, and my rhetoric overblown. So your advice is... *partially* taken at least.

News flash: Russians say and do things that will spin your head around and make you puke technicolor. If you go to Russia you will hear casual talk about women, Jews, people from the Caucasus (whom the Russians call "blacks"), East Asians, small people, and any imaginable other groups.

It's entirely possible that Russia and I (and, indeed, this Russian girl and I) will not get along. I've already heard some crazy stories. But, sincerely, thanks for the tip. I may have some crazy stories of my own to tell.

If you visit Russia and decide to show your righteousness by making an insulting public callout like this, please have a bystander make a video and post the resulting bloodbath to MetaFilter!

Metafilter and real life are different. I live in the Deep South, so I'm accustomed to a certain amount of bigotry in my real-life peers. N-word jokes are still common around here. Ya RLY. But I like to think that Metafilter holds themselves to a higher standard than the general public. That's why I'm here. If that ceases to be the case, I will leave. I don't want to leave.

This community is important to me. It's past 2am, I still have to shower, and I have to be at work at 8:30 tomorrow morning. This is important to me.

On a slightly related topic, languagehat, I would love to hear your take on how certain words such as "cripple" or "midget" (that were, at one time, acceptable) become offensive. I have my own theory, but it's late, and I want to address some other things.

Smedleyman: I say ‘midget’ along with the star paper and the NYT and I’m a racist pure and simple.

I never called you "racist". I apologize if that's how it came across.

But what’s at issue is what you (et.al) are calling me - you’re either calling me a lying racist scumbag or you believe me when I say I screwed up and didn’t mean to offend anyone (as I said). Your call. Settle it.

Ya know, I wrote a whole lot in response to this. I talked about false dichotomies and oily fish and breakfast cereals (don't ask)... but then I read this:

The criticism of the post is valid. What else can I do but admit that and apologize? Out of line is out of line.

Rock on, man. Rock on. ::offers hand::

on preview: That's swell. Wanna address mine? Simple straightforward proposition. Or am I still on the pay no mind list?
Fact you addressed this sparring bullshit shows a lot more about where you head is at and what you're really concerned with here. I don't care if you're Moni Aizik, cut the pussyfooting, either stand by what you said and call me a liar or have the balls to apologize. It's that simple. Or keep ducking it and live with ambiguity, but I doubt I'll ever have thing one to say to you again. That'd be a first for me.


The sparring comment was an attempt at comradery -- a competitive sport, to be sure, but by no means a threat. I apologize if I came across wrong. (more below) Please memail me if you feel there's something still hanging.

jamjam: You know, after reading this thread, I don't think this callout has anything at all to do with "midgets" or any other groups which might sensitive about terms used to describe them, or anything at all to do with proper terms of any kind.

No, that's what it's about. (Well, the general LOLMIDGETS vibe, really.) I have no ulterior motives and would have been, personally, better served by using a sock-puppet account for this call-out.

As we all know, Smedlleyman and tkchrist are very competent and experienced in the martial arts. I would say, in fact, that they are our two members who have the greatest reputations as tough guys.

I had no idea about Smedleyman, but I did know that about tkchrist -- and I'll take your word (and other info in this thread) that Smedleyman is well-versed. I addressed the offer to spar in my last post. It wasn't a threat; it was an offer of sport.

This is only the last of many posts just in this thread which display LordSludge's desire to be a tough guy, too (and to be seen that way here, of course). It must have been frustrating for LordSludge to see these two old bulls get all these props when there is a tough young dude like him around. How great it would be to pull them down off that pedestal and rub their noses in it a little bit.

You are incorrect. I would have made the same call-out if the post had been by you, by jessamyn, by a friend of mine, or anybody. Secondly, I don't boost my self-esteem by tearing strips off of others. I used to, but I think I've finally gotten past that. I think that's fairly transparent, generally vile behavior. But I do think it's appropriate to say "Dude. Not cool." when somebody is behaving poorly and way out of character.

Mmm, mmm, mmm-- what's a tough young dude to do?

37 is "young"?? Hell, I'll take it! And thanks!

Abiezer: FWIW, Smedleyman, I didn't read LordSludge as so much continuing to have a go at you, more he carried on trying to fight his corner when challenged and that inevitably involved dredging up the various perceived grievances.

Exactly. Sorry to Smedleyman, tkchrist, and the entire Metafilter community if it seemed personal. It wasn't meant to be.

jessamyn: The number of women on this site who have gotten memail/email from men on this site calling them "cunts" this week is two...

That's really, really fucked up.

I sort of feel like people casually bandying about shitty racial epithets in this thread just because they can is icky.

That's probably meant for me, and I apologize. I was trying to make a point about offensiveness. I wasn't intending to be offensive, myself.

I'm curious, though -- the reason for thread deletion has been changed, removing the objection to the "icky LOL" feel of the post and, instead, framing it as "plain old stupid". Why? It seems clear that you also feel the post was offensive.

breezeway: I expect "little people" to be superseded soon in favor of something more dignified, though.

I would think so, too.

LordSludge, you sound a little like a Mark Leyner protagonist.

I have no idea what that means. Should I be pissed or flattered? (How about confused? I'll go with confused.)

And shmegegge: LEAVE DREAM THEATER ALONE!!! ::bursts into tears, runs from room::
posted by LordSludge at 11:16 PM on January 31, 2008


As long as I'm here, I would like to continue my public apology to the dude from Willow, though.

I did not read this thread, but I came in here to ask that you not refer to Wicket the mothalippin' Ewok as some "dude from Willow." That's like calling Paul McCartney the dude from Wings, or something.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:27 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Little people" is only undignified because bigness is goodness in this crazy world. No other reason. They are indeed little. people.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:38 PM on January 31, 2008


I did not read this thread, but I came in here to ask that you not refer to Wicket the mothalippin' Ewok as some "dude from Willow." That's like calling Paul McCartney the dude from Wings, or something.

Right. Because "Hey, I'm sorry for ignoring you, little Ewok" would sound just SOOOO much less insulting.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:05 AM on February 1, 2008


I'm going to SEW you!

Waaa laaaa!
posted by miss lynnster at 12:06 AM on February 1, 2008


It's a damned thing, language. I'm hypotesizing that words garner meaning according to their intent.
posted by Catfry at 12:57 AM on February 1, 2008


If overweight folks or people with down’s syndrome were organizing into thematic gangs and coming up with unique ways to rob folks, or being exploited into doing it, I think that’d be a valid post.

I belong to an all-white gang in New England. We lie naked on top of snow banks and mug passing non-Caucasians, who cannot see us because of the camouflage.
posted by XMLicious at 12:59 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


As an oriental person...oriental is offensive? really? Somebody needs to put me on that mailing list. Asian seems so vague; it lumps me in with all manner of filthy riff raff who don't even have epicanthic folds etc.
posted by juv3nal at 3:17 AM on February 1, 2008


Kirth Gerson, I'm guessing you've never seen The Big Lebowski.
posted by jonmc

Right you are, Ken. If that movie somehow rebuts my point and supports calling Chinese people 'Asian-Americans,' then I will reply by saying, "I'm guessing you're not married to a Chinese person, or have a lot of Chinese friends." They do say 'Asian,' but only when they don't know the subject's heritage. If they know it, they use it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:30 AM on February 1, 2008


Obviously, you're not a golfer.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:01 AM on February 1, 2008


Kirth, it doesn't so much rebut or condone it as deploy it in an ironic exchange. Pop culture referenciana.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:03 AM on February 1, 2008


My issue with "I meant no offense" was that, wow, how could you NOT REALIZE that [offensive stuff] was offensive

Followed by:

I wasn't intending to be offensive, myself.

Man, this thread is a comic goldmine.

languagehat, I would love to hear your take on how certain words such as "cripple" or "midget" (that were, at one time, acceptable) become offensive

People "on top" in whatever way (ruling class, bigger and stronger, of a preferred race or religion, etc.) tend to treat the people "beneath" them badly. This can include everything from denial of privileges to physical violence, but it always includes verbal contempt. Since language is very important to people—it's how we understand the world—the latter weighs far more heavily on its recipients than you might think if you don't have to deal with it yourself. (Amusingly, the people on top always counter complains with variants on "Hey, I get called an asshole every day, and it doesn't bother me," as if that were remotely comparable.) One of the first and most insistent demands of the soldiers who made the February Revolution in 1917 was that their officers not be allowed to curse at them.

Now, obvious insults are an obvious problem. Where it gets interesting is the use of words intended as objective names or descriptions. Because the general attitude of those on top is one of contempt, the language they use becomes tainted with that contempt, and is eventually rejected by those it's directed at (when and if they are able to protest effectively). Thus (to simplify a complicated story, and ignoring "the n word," which was never anything but an insult) the people forcibly brought from Africa and their descendants were called "black" in the nineteenth century; they resented this and many preferred "colored," which was used by well-meaning white folks in the early twentieth century until it too became tainted and "Negro" became preferred, itself giving way (in one of those ironies of history) to "black" in the late '60s, which was partly superseded by "African American"—current usage seems to be a mix of the last two. Whites who enjoy their privileged status and have no conception of what it's like to be treated as an Untermensch also enjoy mocking the parade of "political correctness" and ask "What are we going to have to call them next?" as though it were a clever and incisive point. But in fact using PC language is a cheap substitute for actually treating people equally, so they usually go ahead and do it.

Now, the same principle applies to "cripple" and "midget." There's nothing inherently offensive about these terms, but the contempt that goes with them taints them and makes the people so described insist on replacements, imagining (because we ascribe such importance to language) that "better" words will mean better treatment. But the new words get tainted too. The only permanent solution is to treat everyone as decently as we would like to be treated ourselves. Sadly, this in unlikely to occur in the foreseeable feature, so as long as we have a society in which equal treatment is an ideal and the people treated badly have the right to make their feelings known, the cycle of nomenclature will continue.

True fact: in the 19th century "secretary" was an honored term, because secretaries were men. In the latter part of the century, as such positions became the province of women, the term itself took on a patronizing feel, and with the later rise of feminism it was replaced by "administrative assistant." Does anyone think this actually produces more respect for the jobs and the people who hold them? But the desire for at least formal respect is deep-rooted and should be acknowledged even if, realistically, a change in nomenclature won't change anything that actually makes a difference. (For similar reasons, although I roll my eyes at the misunderstanding that underlies the atttacks on the word "niggardly," I accept the necessity of not using the word, because the minor value of having an extra term for "stingy" is far outweighed by the value of not giving offense to people who have to take far more shit than I do on a daily basis.)

All that said, words are only words, and the best attitude remains "sticks and stones can break my bones," if you can manage it. I resolutely oppose hate-speech legislation and think that if people could get themselves to not let "bad language" distract them from the fight for better treatment in general, the world would be a better place. And although I deplore the racist treatment of Chinese in the America of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, I still get a kick out of "Plain Language from Truthful James." YMMV.
posted by languagehat at 8:54 AM on February 1, 2008 [11 favorites]


I will always say asian. Have for years. But sometimes I kinda miss the word "oriental" solely because whenever I hear or think of it, I picture food in this package and I hear this in my head. And I just wish politically correct stuff could have its own soundtrack in my head too. But it doesn't.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:55 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


And no, I'm not going to tell a story about how I accidentally bumped into Jackie Chan's ass as he was asking me to dance or something.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:56 AM on February 1, 2008


LordSludge, don't worry, I wasn't being nasty, really. You had just written a bunch about martial arts and beliefs and there's a certain (laudable) element to your writing in which you find it necessary to respond to all comers, leave no stone unturned etc. In Mark Leyner's novels, specifically Et Tu, Babe, there are these hyperbolic protagonists who boast of wild feats of physicality and reveal their characters through wild displays of wit (and dullness). I have to warn you, if you read it, that I didn't say you were exactly like these guys, and certainly there are plenty of moments where you'd say, "Breezeway compared me to this?. What an asshole!" but that's not what I'm saying at all. Somehow the athletic injection into the highly detailed rights-and-wrongs-of-language conversation seemed Leyneresque, that's all. So if you do read Et Tu, Babe and you do get offended, please keep in mind that I'm only comparing a general feeling here to a general feeling there, and I truly mean no offense.

And as far as "little people" being an undignified term, well, "big" and "little" are kiddy terms for "large" and "small;" I was called a "little man" all through elementary school; "little" is often used to describe small things that are also cute. I'm not saying I prefer midget. I'm not saying I'm blind to the idea that "big" is standard (though I think it's an overused and increasingly inaccurate trope in the today's divided and divisive pluralistic society). I just won't be surprised when someone comes along and says "'Little People' is yet another in a long line of undignified terms for a group of people who are no different from the rest of the world, beyond size, which is as significant as skin color or length of nose in determining Who We Are."

Of course, I don't get to dictate what people different from me call themselves. But I don't think these people are all that different from me, and I'm merely predicting that someday they'll call themselves something less panderous. Until then, I'll call them "people," just like anyone else.
posted by breezeway at 9:01 AM on February 1, 2008


ignoring "the n word," which was never anything but an insult

Really? I'll be damned. I remember reading somewhere (somewhere non-scholarly, I'm sure) that it originally wasn't an insult. I guess every day's a school day after all.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:13 AM on February 1, 2008


miss lynnster, can't you just make an ass bumping story up then? We're all so cold and hungry.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:27 AM on February 1, 2008


a group of people who are no different from the rest of the world...

Of course, I don't get to dictate what people different from me call themselves.


So which is it, breezeway? What's your excuse?

You can't fail if you don't try. You can't succeed, either. Back to the drawing board, boyo.
posted by breezeway at 9:46 AM on February 1, 2008


And as far as "little people" being an undignified term, well, "big" and "little" are kiddy terms for "large" and "small;" I was called a "little man" all through elementary school; "little" is often used to describe small things that are also cute. I'm not saying I prefer midget. I'm not saying I'm blind to the idea that "big" is standard (though I think it's an overused and increasingly inaccurate trope in the today's divided and divisive pluralistic society). I just won't be surprised when someone comes along and says "'Little People' is yet another in a long line of undignified terms for a group of people who are no different from the rest of the world, beyond size, which is as significant as skin color or length of nose in determining Who We Are."

Which is why a lot of us refer to ourselves as dwarfs. Both LP and dwarf are in common usage, and generally considered acceptable; but ther are those of us who have a slight preference for dwarf because we think it is a bit more dignified.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 10:09 AM on February 1, 2008


languagehat, is there not a difference between: 1. making X offensive comment/post, and 2. when people repeatedly deny that X is offensive, saying "X is offensive in a similar way to Y", where Y is something that most everybody finds offensive? (Apologies for the tortured syntax. I'm switching between LotusScript and MeTa. Tell me if fall into a recursive "Do" loop...)

Thanks for the reply on the origins of perjoratives. It's basically what I had in mind: word starts out as an okay word to describe a particular group, assholes use the word to put down people by comparing them to the supposedly inferior group, the word becomes an insult, and now the group doesn't want to be called by that word. You filled in a lot of blanks and provided some historical context. Again, thanks.

One last question, and I'm revealing my own ignorance here. I know "oriental" is no longer appropriate when referring to people (items/food/culture still okay?), but I don't know why? Is it because it lumps all Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc. together into one indistinguishable group? (I suppose I could always ask my Okinawan sister-in-law...)

breezeway: No hard feelings, I promise, and I appreciate the observation. I don't want to make this thread about me -- like I said, I probably should have sock-puppeted it. I know I have my own debate style, and, yep, I really like to parse and explore **EVERYTHING**. Frustrates me when people respond to unstated accusations or ignore explicit statements. Re: the physical thing, I've been an adreneline junkie since I can remember, but only recently got back into the martial arts thing -- spurred on, I'll admit, by watching UFC fights from the very beginning and watching MMA evolve. I remember seeing Joyce Gracie do his Brazillian jiujitsu, defeating opponents without injuring them, then later watching the BJJ chessmatches... that was a WOW moment, as all I had done before was a few years of light-contact sport Tae Kwon Do, wholly unsuitable for fighting. So I was like, whoa, I've GOT to learn that! I'm like a dry sponge now, soaking up all I can, and there's just so much to learn.

...I'm rambling, sorry...

Anyhow, I probably won't get to the book anytime soon -- there's a long list of books between here and there -- but I welcome any chance to learn about myself. As an atheist, I feel that I have this one life and nothing else, so I really have to make the best of it. There's a very good chance that my life will take a very unusual (mostly positive, I hope!) turn in the next half-year, and I'm looking forward to seeing how I deal with it and what I learn.

And, again, I agree that "little people" seems a bit panderous, but (we're on the same page here, I think) I generally call people what they want to be called. I'd even call Smedleyman "King Smedleyman, Master of the Universe" if he wanted.

on preview: a group of people who are no different from the rest of the world...

People *are* different. Some are short, some tall, some black, some white, and everywhere in between.... I'm different from you, and you're different from XXX. (Vin Diesel? Yes. Vin Diesel.) But we're all *people*. That's what should bring us together, not separate us arbitrary physical difference.

(God damn, I'm such a liberal. *gag*)

spaceman_spiff: "Dwarf" it is, then. Thanks.
posted by LordSludge at 10:19 AM on February 1, 2008


I thought "dwarf" referred only to one of several types of small-statured people, and that LP was an umbrella term. No?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:33 AM on February 1, 2008


ROYCE Gracie. ROYCE.

Got my international "H"-sound phonics in a knot, I did...
posted by LordSludge at 10:59 AM on February 1, 2008


I thought "dwarf" referred only to one of several types of small-statured people, and that LP was an umbrella term. No?

No. It used to be - and I think someone might've mentioned in passing this above - that midgets were short-statured but proportionate, and dwarfs were disproportionately short-statured. To be honest, I'd guess it had more to do with how close someone was to being "small, but normal-looking" than with any sort of legitimate medical diagnosis - I believe at one point, there was a social hierarchy in which midgets were higher-status than others. That might be what you're thinking of. I do sometimes see achondroplasia used (incorrectly) as a blanket term for dwarfism, when it's just one form of dwarfism.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 11:07 AM on February 1, 2008


I guess what I meant by "no difference" was that there's only a cosmetic difference between people physically; if we had no corporeal manifestation, we'd have a lively exchange of ideas and find our real differences (something like the way it works online; there's no telling what any of us look like unless we've made that available). If we had no mental manifestation, we'd be a bunch of husks, all apparently different, all uniformly brainless.

Which is a tortured way of getting at a nice piece of wishful thinking, but I really think physical differences are only as important as we make them. To some, that is very important. To me, not so important at all.

I will grant that, being over six feet tall, white, and relatively physically strong, I posit these notions from the luxury of one whose identity isn't constantly questioned or poked at; a life of increasing caution and wearing of others' shoes has led me to disregard things I haven't been forced to regard in the first place. That's my path, simplified, and those are my stripes, for better or worse.
posted by breezeway at 11:41 AM on February 1, 2008


I remember reading somewhere (somewhere non-scholarly, I'm sure) that [nigger] originally wasn't an insult.

Well, it's complicated (naturally). It wasn't always used as a direct insult, true, but it was used in the context of contempt, and the OED in its first definition ("Used by whites or other non-blacks as a relatively neutral (or occas. positive) term, with no specifically hostile intent") adds that certain citations "expressing patronizing views, reflect underlying attitudes rather than a hostile use of the word itself." The examples they give are:
1608 A. MARLOWE Let. 22 June in E. India Co. Factory Rec. (1896) I. 10 The King and People [of ‘Serro Leona’] Niggers, simple and harmless
1788 S. LOW Politician Out-witted III. i. 27 Toupee. By gar, I get de satisfaction! Humphry. He talks as crooked as a Guinea niger.

But frankly I think "neutral" is a tendentious term in this case, and I'm damned if I know what they mean by "positive" unless that's how they're interpreting examples like these:

1867 H. LATHAM Black & White 127 Niggers (they are not ‘coloured persons’ yet in the South) are most artful flatterers.
1897 Outing 29 333/1 What is wanted is a genuine nigger—not a colored person.
1931 Good Housek. Dec. 126/1 You might think it funny for me, a white man, to say a nigger is the best preacher I ever heard.
1980 R. RHODES Last Safari I. i. 20 The Kaffir whore and the half-breed toto and the faithful nigger.

Which strikes me as a strange interpretation.

I think the attempt to separate out "neutral" usage from their second definition, "Used by whites or other non-blacks as a hostile term of abuse or contempt," is ultimately hopeless. But it's true you can interpret some early uses that way, so I would have qualified my statement in the previous comment if it hadn't been a quick parenthesis.
posted by languagehat at 12:11 PM on February 1, 2008


miss lynnster, can't you just make an ass bumping story up then? We're all so cold and hungry.

Okay, so in 1984 or so, I went to an orientation lecture at the Institute for Analytic Journalism at Hong Kong University. I went with my mom, and during the obligatoy pu pu platter luncheon and tea ceremony, I told my mom I had to go to the bathroom and excused myself. instead, I walked out into the rock garden because, frankly, I'm wasn't big on pu pu platter or college. As I explored the grounds, I decided to dance. Because I'm a hell of a dancer. But then I heard a really strange noise, which sounded like the fluttering of thousands of Post-It notes. It was at that moment that I noticed that there was a sporting event going on in a field on the horizon... and lo and behold... they were filming Battle of the Hong Kong Network Film Stars! No way!

Soooo I got as close as I could and hid myself behind a tree, hoping they wouldn't see me. What I witnessed was all a flurry of arms and legs so I didn't see much, actually. I wish I could tell you more detail but it was a long time ago so it's pretty hazy. Just a lot of blurry figures that were leaping in the air and occasionally freezing as they would kick eachother in the head & stuff. People kept turning invisible and leaping into trees and stuff. One guy was really drunk. Another guy was clearly old and blind, but he started trying to challenge the drunk guy and they were kicking eachother's asses. One guy kept taunting people with a pebble he would hold out in his hand, and I didn't really get that strategy at all. It was all just carazy! And the whole time, I was trying to make out what they were saying to eachother, but their lips weren't moving in sync with their english so it was difficult. There was just a lot of screeching and screaming and yelling, really. It was like a piranha feeding frenzy.

Anyhow, after a while I laid down on the grass to watch the spectacle, and suddenly something small and firm bumped into the back of my head. I turned around, and it was Jackie Chan's ass. Oh, and he was wearing a red fringe jacket, which wasn't a great look on him, but whatever.

Oh, and when I got back to my mom, she was really pissed. And I didn't go to school in Hong Kong. But whatever.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:18 PM on February 1, 2008 [6 favorites]


That'll do nicely, ma'am.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:34 PM on February 1, 2008


I have no problem using the term Asian and have done so for years. BUT I still don't understand why Oriental is considered derogatory. Wikipedia didn't clear it up for me either. And, for what it's worth, Oriental is still in use in Canada (BC anyway) and isn't considered derogatory.

The Roloffs, of Little People, Big World, use the term Little People.

PS: I really hate labels.
posted by deborah at 1:16 PM on February 1, 2008


deborah, I'm sorry, this thread is about ass bumping.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:23 PM on February 1, 2008


“My issue with "I meant no offense" was that, wow, how could you NOT REALIZE that pointing and laughing at little people”

And it was poorly executed and misunderstood - yeah, welcome to the club. I apologized b/c it came out wrong.

My thinking was here’s a group of people - who happen to be in ‘x’ class of people - in some pretty bizarre circumstances doing some pretty odd things. To me, it’s the things they were doing that I was poking fun at (and indeed, criminal behavior) and the incongruity. Not the folks themselves.

It’s my belief that respect is accorded at least in some measure by recognizing that anyone of any group with any trait or of any ethnic background can be an idiot or jerk.

(Buddy of mine who is gay gave me a huge smile a few months after he came out because I asked him why he was being a fucking jagoff. Everyone had apparently been walking on eggshells around him, first real insult he’d had devoid of any address of his sexuality. And, well, he was being a dick so he deserved it.)

My insulting tone was based on circumstance - e.g. these particular people are being assholes - it was not meant to be an insulting tone based on physical trait - e.g all these people are assholes.

Didn’t come across that way though. So I took responsibility for that and accepted that it was out of line and looked to make remedy.

Sounds to me like you’re not used to those kinds of signals or immediacy (hence your interpretation as disingenuity). We live in two very different worlds. In my circle you don’t recognize a mistake next to immediately there can be very serious and real world repercussions. So accepting feedback from all quarters is important. Mostly because there’s a great deal of close teamwork. But in part because we are equals (and dangerous).
It is not merely ‘some’ of my best friends are black. My *best* friend is (he prefers the term ‘black’ I suspect in part because his grandmother was from the Carribean and his dad was African descended French, plus the whole Charlize Theron thing). And my other close friends span a wide variety.
(When we’re together we look like the united colors of benetton - ultra white (w/red hair), white, off white, yellow, olive, carmel, brown, black, red, etc. etc.) I trust them with my life. Even if most of them couldn’t break me in half, I wouldn’t show them anything but the highest regard. Apart from the basic human respect I’ve developed from working in close quarters with a variety of folks from different backgrounds, it’s my neck too. I start thinking I’m better, hell, for any reason much less ‘race’, than anyone else I’m going to get a very serious and immediate reality check. Plus my wife and kids. I’d be seriously hosed in about 5 minutes if I bought into any of that.


“I was trying to make a point about offensiveness. I wasn't intending to be offensive, myself.”

Which, I think is part of the problem. We have to recognize when we’re sabotaging our own point. And I do mean “we.” I’ve done this myself. I may have done it here. I think several folks pointed it out to you and you appeared to just keep going.
(This is meant as helpful criticism - probably helps me typing it ‘out loud’ so to speak, since, again, we’re all prone to error.)
So the whole - query instead of assert - thing. I wouldn’t have gotten offended if you’d asked me if I was earnestly apologizing. What wrankled was the assumption (seemingly reiterated) that I was not.

“I never called you "racist". I apologize if that's how it came across.”
A good horse runs at the shadow of the whip. This truly would have been short had you said that from the beginning. I am truly sorry my post came across the way it did (in addition to being crummy in general).

So, fair enough. End of story.

“...if we had no corporeal manifestation, we'd have a lively exchange of ideas and find our real differences (something like the way it works online...”

Exactly why I like being online, and a degree of anonymity.
If no one knows you’re a - whatever from wherever - only the ideas and the veracity of your conclusions count.
Honestly - I mean, no disrespect meant to - asavage (purely for sake of example), but he is treated with a certain degree of deference.
Which, given his typical basis for commenting is perfectly reasonable. I say something about mythbusters, it’s speculation. He says it, it’s fact.
But if he wants to expound on, say, economics or politics or whatnot - what’s he to do if no one’s going to give him a straight answer because they’re fans?

So, there’s positive as well as negative prejudice that can impede communication.

“I will always say asian...”

Yeah, that’s an odd thing. Buddy of mine’s wife is from Moscow, so technically she’s Asian. ‘Oriental’ seems to stem from the regional designation (I defer of course to LH) of the ‘Orient.’
I wonder if Canadians and Mexicans get pissed at being called ‘Americans.’
I really have no idea. I figure if you indicate you mean no harm folks of whatever background will cut you some slack and maybe do you a favor and set you straight.
But allowances must be made for what’s in your head and heart vs. what comes out of your mouth.
That usually becomes apparent from continued dialogue, so, maybe it’s all a good thing.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:33 PM on February 1, 2008


The Roloffs, of Little People, Big World, use the term Little People.

They nearly always say "LP," and the one kid wears a lot of t-shirts with the word "dwarf" on them. In any case, they're probably not the best barometer -- Matt Roloff used to be president of Little People of America.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:10 PM on February 1, 2008


With Hitler's nuts.

Well, Hitler they say had only one ball, so....
posted by jonmc at 5:32 PM on February 1, 2008


Somebody had two but they were small, and somebody else had something similar. History class was so long ago...
posted by languagehat at 5:43 PM on February 1, 2008


Buddy of mine’s wife is from Moscow, so technically she’s Asian.

I'd suggest that when you go to Russia, you avoid calling it an Asian country. It's a sore and still-contested part of our national identity, and you're liable to get your ass beat as an arrogant American.
posted by nasreddin at 12:31 AM on February 2, 2008


Мильоны - вас. Нас - тьмы, и тьмы, и тьмы.
    Попробуйте, сразитесь с нами!
Да, скифы - мы! Да, азиаты - мы,
    С раскосыми и жадными очами!

(Blok could get away with it because he was a beloved national poet, but you can't, so yeah, what nasreddin said.)
posted by languagehat at 6:42 AM on February 2, 2008


I did not read this thread, but I came in here to ask that you not refer to Wicket the mothalippin' Ewok as some "dude from Willow."

No, the proper way to refer to him would be "Mr Davis", and "May I have your autograph, please?" Because he is a great actor, and cool guy, and I'd just be in awe if I ever met him.
posted by jb at 10:11 AM on February 2, 2008


"I'd suggest that when you go to Russia, you avoid calling it an Asian country"

Last time I was there, a lot of stuff sorta just blew up.

But that's my point exactly. It's in Asia. It is an Asian country. It is quite specificially on the Asian continent.
But folks there, and my buddy's wife, don't like being called 'Asian.' So I try to honor that. But it is possible to make unintended offense from otherwise reasonably derived reference points.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:56 AM on February 2, 2008


But that's my point exactly. It's in Asia. It is an Asian country. It is quite specificially on the Asian continent.
But folks there, and my buddy's wife, don't like being called 'Asian.' So I try to honor that. But it is possible to make unintended offense from otherwise reasonably derived reference points.


The part of Russia east of the Urals is on the Asian continent. The part of Russia west of the Urals--which includes Moscow--is on the European continent. Russia is not unambiguously an Asian country (certainly it is culturally much closer to Greece and France than to China and Japan), which is one of the reasons you should avoid discussing the issue with Russians.
posted by nasreddin at 12:37 PM on February 2, 2008


Gurdjieff used to call 'em confused crows and turkeys.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:06 PM on February 2, 2008


which is one of the reasons you should avoid discussing the issue with Russians

The other being, of course, beet-breath.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:09 PM on February 2, 2008


nasreddin - Maybe you’re an expert on the subject. I don’t know. I’m looking at maps of Asia. Russia is included there.

I’m certain there’s ambiguity on the subject. The fact that certain references disagree is precisely the point. The fact of the matter is I can google a map of “Asia” and first thing that comes up includes Russia and the text “Asia, the largest part of the Eurasian land mass, consists of over 40 countries, including Russia, the largest country in the world”

So - to spell it out - one can find a reasonable reference point and yet wind up offending someone in conversation. I’m not an expert on little people, dwarfs, etc nor am I an expert on exactly what people from what country like to be called what, I can merely make inquiry.

If that inquiry is wrong and someone from whatever group let’s me know - hey, we like being called ‘x’ - then that’s what I’ll call them.

And thanks all for being so concerned for my safety. I just put up almost 400 lbs this morning. I don’t catch much shit from a lot of people. (Which, again, is also why I try to be polite. Muscles aren’t going to stop some pissed off dude in a car or with a rifle, etc. etc finding me later)
posted by Smedleyman at 12:35 PM on February 4, 2008


Sorry, feelin' my post-structuralist oats.

posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:55 PM on January 31 [2 favorites +] [!]


Oh, god, I'm so sorry, I was just really getting in to the music, and I didn't notice you down there.

I mean there! Didn't notice you there! Geez this is awkward...
posted by oats at 2:16 PM on February 4, 2008


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