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The Canine in Conversation
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a photograph of General Tom Thumb and his wife
figure 1  


runt. A short-statured person.

The comparison is with the smallest pup in a litter or an undersized animal of any species. This pup often has a hard time competing with his or her siblings for attention and food.

While this may not seem like one of those dog terms that refers to the otherness of the one so named, consider this: among men, short stature is easily documented as a factor for systematic discrimination. “As study after study has shown, tall men give nearly all the orders, win most elections, monopolize girls... Men who are considerably shorter than the average American guy height of 5-foot-9½ are at elevated risk of dropping out of school, drinking heavily, dating sparsely, getting sick or depressed. They have a lower chance of marrying or fathering children than do taller men, and their salaries tend to be as modest as their stature.”reference 1 Not that I can affirm any of this from personal experience, though I stand at a mere 5' 7" in my stocking feet.

1. Angier, Natalie. 2003. Short Men, Short Shrift. Are Drugs the Answer? New York Times, Jun 22. Accessed Apr 22 2008 from http:// gst/ fullpage.html? res= 9B07E7D 7163BF931 A15755C0A 9659C8B63.

About the illustration: General and Mrs. Tom Thumb. General Thumb was a celebrated short person, and he died young. From Abraham Lincoln: The War Years Vol 2.reference 2 © 2008 Jupiterimages Corporation. 2. Sandburg, Carl. 1939. Abraham Lincoln: The War Years. New York: Harcourt.
see also: litter
cf: whelp; pick of the litter; puppy dog; son of a bitch
Last updated: July 28, 2008
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