What is the Difference Between a Dwarf and a Midget?

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What is the difference between a midget and a dwarf? Who is the worlds shortest man? Who was the worlds shortest woman? How common is dwarfism? What causes people to be dwarfs? Do shorter people prefer to be called midgets, dwarfs, or little people?

The two terms, dwarf and midget, are often interchangeably used to describe any short person. However there are differences in regards to when these terms should be used.

What is a Midget

This term came into use in 1865 when it was used in a book to describe small, midge-like people, (a midge is a tiny insect).  The word soon became associated with short people who where exhibited as side show freaks. Even to this day the term has a negative connotation, and its use is frowned upon and many suggest phasing the word out altogether. In general, and when used correctly, the term midget is used in reference to a short person whose body is in good proportions to that of an average sized person.

What is a Dwarf

The term dwarf is actually a more professional term to medically describe a person with the condition known as dwarfism. A dwarf is a shorter person whose limbs are not in proportion to the rest of their body. From a medical standpoint the term dwarf is used to refer to a mature individual whose height is below 4ft 10 inches (147cm), however this classification is debated as it implies a medical abnormality for anyone under this height.

Although some people who suffer from dwarfism do not object to the term, many prefer to be called “little people”.

What Causes Dwarfism?

Although there are over 200 known causes of dwarfism the most common is a bone condition known as Achondroplasia. In this condition the torso is a normal size, but the arms and legs are shorter. The head is often larger with strong features. It occurs in about 1 in 15,000 to 1 in 40,000 births, and represents about 70% of all dwarfs.

Other causes include, but are not limited to, growth hormone problems, genetics, severe malnutrition, or exposure of the mother to certain chemicals while pregnant.

Dwarfism is also found in other animals, for example the world's shortest horse, Thumbelina, suffers from a form of dwarfism.

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The Dwarf Village in China

In China a community of dwarfs has been set up in Kunming, China, and serves as a tourist attraction while providing housing and employment for those living there. The requirement is not being taller than 4 ft. Other dwarf villages, or communities, can be found in other parts of the world.

Who are the World's Shortest People?

According to the Guinness World Records, the shortest known man is Chandra Bahadur Dangi (pictured above), standing 21.5 inches (54.6 cm), of Nepal. The world's shortest woman was Pauline Musters from the Netherlands who stood 23 inches (58 cm) tall.

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Posted on Apr 11, 2012