What not to say 1: How’s the weather down there? Hey short stuff!
Why not to say it: it’s rude.
What to say instead: Say hello. Call someone by their first name, as you would anyone else.
What not to say 2: Do you have kids? Are they normal?
Why not to say it: Normal is a hard word. Being little is normal for us. Seriously…..the only thing you can ask about our children is their height?
What to say instead: Same thing you would ask about anyone else’s kid. How old are they? What books are they into, etc.
What not to say 3: what kind of dwarfism does your spouse have?
Why not to say it: it’s ableist. There are so many things much more important than height! Thinking you need to marry someone the same height is dehuminzing. It implies height height is a major factor in finding a spouse.
What to say instead: The same thing you’d ask about anyone else’s spouse.
What not to say 4: are you a midget?
Why not to say it: Midget is an offensive term. Midget refers to to midge or small bug.
What to say instead: Ask the person what they like to be called.
What not to say 5: What are you so short? What’s wrong with you?
Why not to say it: it’s not polite to ask someone personal medical questions. Also, there is nothing wrong with us. We are shorter than you and different. However, being short doesn’t mean anything is wrong with us..
What to say instead: I am curious about your height because (fill in reason such as I am a teacher and one of my students looks like you). Would it be OK if I ask you about your medical condition?
What not to say 6: pat someone on the head. Try to pick them up.
Why not to do it: Don’t touch anyone without their permission. Picking someone up without their consent is assault. It can also cause injury to the person with dwarfism.
What to say instead: Treat a little person as you would anyone else
What not to say 7: you’re so brave.
Why not to say it: We’ve always been short. We are not any braver then you are for living our lives. Admiring us simply for living our daily lives is ableist. Putting disabled people on a pedestal and saying we are brave just for existing is also known as inspiration porn.
What to say instead: Admire us for our individual talents and skills, not for looking different.
What not to say 8: have you ever been thrown?
Why not to say it: Dwarf tossing dangerous and exploitative. Entertainment companies that try to hire dwarves underpay them and rarely provider health insurance. Dwarf tossing is illegal in at least two states.
What to say instead: What sports do you like? See list of dwarf athletes, http://www.daaa.org/.
What not to say 9: Good things come in small packages.
Why not to say it: It’s condescending.
What to say instead: Speak to us the same way you would speak to anyone else.
What not to say 10: God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. God loves you more
Why not to say it: Being a dwarf not a burden or something you have to ‘handle.’ Also, this verse is taken out of context from the bible. This is based off a verse in Corinthians about resisting temptation. The full bible verse talks about asking for help when you need it.
What to say instead: Nothing. Please never say this. It’s not helpful at all.
Thank you for reading this!
Now you are on your way to a wonderful encounter with a little person. If you have already said one of more of these things, double thank you for reading this! We appreciate that you took the time to read this.
Here’s more information one disability etiquette and things not to say to a person with dwarfism:
- Great BBC video on things not to say to people with dwarfism.
- The mighty article on 10 things you shouldn’t say to a person with dwarfism.
- DisabilityIN’s post on disability etiquette.