IN YESTERDAY’S “Pearls Before Swine,”, creator Stephan Pastis used his characters to engage in a playful dialogue over word choice. In the strip, Rat is talking to Goat about how certain words fall out of favor for more politically correct or gender-neutral terms. The culturally obsolete terms, Rat says, include “maid,” “stewardess,” “secretary” and “midget.”
Post editors were with Pastis … right up until “midget.” The M-word was enough to get the strip spiked. The print edition of Sunday’s comics ran an old “Pearls Before Swine” instead. (The “midget” strip did run, however, in the online version of The Post. Pastis said he had not heard of the strip being spiked by any other of his 600-plus newspaper clients.)
Post comics producer Donna Peremes flagged the strip and discussed it with Deputy Style Editor Eva Rodriguez. “We thought that ‘midget’ just wasn’t the same as ‘secretary.’ … Sort of apples and oranges,” Peremes explains to Comic Riffs. ” ‘Midget’ just carried a lot more of a charge — seemed more of a slur — than ‘stewardess’ or ‘secretary.’ ”
The strip’s joke, Pastis notes to Comic Riffs, turns on one person — in this case, a deskbound man perched guru-like on a mountaintop — being the “word decider.” (In the strip, this bearded would-be Zenmaster goes by the name Willy — as in, say, “willy-nilly.”)
From there, the Bay Area-based cartoonist (and 2014 Reuben Award nominee) has to travel a shorter distance than Rat and Goat to draw the connection.
“The oddity is that the strip is about these word decisions and how they’re enforced like gospel,” Pastis tells Comic Riffs on Monday. “And here, they got enforced on the strip that was trying to have that very discussion.”
Judging by the strip’s last panel, we know what Goat would tell The Post about the decision.