A dead distinction, if there ever was one?

Mark Mandel thnidu at GMAIL.COM
Thu Apr 10 01:56:06 UTC 2008

On Wed, Apr 9, 2008 at 8:25 PM, Douglas Dee <AmateurLinguist at aol.com> wrote:
> hwgray at GMAIL.COM writes:
>  >Little people seen on TV, all of
>  >whom appear to be, by the above-mentioned definition, dwarves, say
>  >that they don't like to be known as "midgets," preferring to be
>  >referred to as "dwarves," given a choice restricted to those two terms
>  >only.
>  Did they actually say "dwarves"?  I've always been told that the plural for
>  referring to actual people is "dwarfs", "dwarves" being limited to mythical
>  creatures.
>  Doug

A lot of people do. I agree with you for my own usage -- as an early
member of the Tolkien Society of America, devoted to the work of the
man who *coined* the word "dwarves" -- but then, I was in my teens
when LotR appeared. I daresay that most people these days first
encountered any plural of "dwarf" in LotR or in fantasy ripped off
fromXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX influenced by it... well, or rather, that if we
could (impossibly) trace their usage's history back through who/where
they learned it from and so on, we'd wind up at such a source.

Mark Mandel

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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