Political correctness (adjectively, politically correct; both forms commonly abbreviated to PC) is a term used to describe language, ideas, politics, or behavior seen as seeking to minimize offense to racial, cultural, or other identity groups. Conversely, the term politically incorrect is used to refer to language or ideas hat may cause offense or that are unconstrained by orthodoxy.
The term itself and its usage are hotly contested. The term “political correctness” is used almost exclusively in a pejorative sense, while “politically incorrect” is used as a self – description, as in the series of “politically incorrect guides,” produced by conservative publisher Regnery.
Some commentators have argued that the term “political correctness” is a straw man invented by conservatives in the 1990s in order to challenge progressive social change, especially with respect to issues of race, religion and gender. Ruth Perry traces the term back to Mao’s little red book. According to Perry, the term was later adopted by the radical left in the 1960s. In the 1990s, because of the term’s association with radical politics and communist censorship, it was used y the political right in the United States to discredit the political left, including liberals and Democrats.
The term “political correctness” is derived from Marxist – Leninist vocabulary, and was used to describe the appropriate “party line.“ Those people who opposed (or were seen as opposing) the “correct line” were often punished.
The term was adopted by some proponents of the US New Left. One example cited by Ruth Perry is in 1990, in Toni Cade Barbara’s essay The Black Woman where she stated,”a man cannot be politically correct and a chauvinist too.” This example illustrates the later usage of the term to focus on gender and identity politics rather than on political orthodoxy in general.
Within a few years, however, the term “political correctness” had been
re – appropriated within the New Left as a form of satirical self-critique. According to Debra Shultz, “Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the New Left, feminists, and progressives…used their term ’politically correct’ ironically, as a guard against their own orthodoxy in social change efforts.” It was in this sense that a popular usage of the phrase in English derived and was employed by Bobby London in his underground comic Merton of the Movement. The alternative term “ideologically sound” followed a similar trajectory and appeared in such works of satire as the comic strips of Bart Dickon.
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In an example typical of use within the left, Ellen Willis records that “in the early ‘80s, when feminists used the term ‘political correctness’ it was used to refer sarcastically to the anti – pornography movement’s efforts to define a ‘feminist sexuality’.”
The phrase “politically correct” has become popular in other countries as well, including several Scandinavian countries, Portugal, Spain and Latin America, New Zealand, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Russia. Although the dominant use is pejorative, a few authors use the term “political correctness” to describe inclusive language or civility, and thus praise language that they see as “politically correct.”
According to Andrews, the practice of using “inclusive’ or “neutral” language is based on the idea that “language represents thought, and may even control thought.” One form of this thesis is the Sapir – Whorf hypothesis, which states that a language’s grammatical categories shape its speaker’s ideas and actions, though Andrews holds that more moderate conceptions of the relation between language and thought are sufficient to support the “reasonable deduction” or “ cultural change via linguistic change.” Other work in cognitive psychology and cognitive linguistics also indicates that word –choices can have significant “framing effects” on the perceptions, memories, and attitudes of speakers and hearers. The relevant empirical question is whether these efforts extend to “sexist language” promoting sexist thought.
What critics call political correctness is in some cases defended by advocates as attempt to use non – offensive language? The goal of changing language and terminology consists of several points, including:
*Certain people have their rights, opportunities, or freedoms restricted due to their categorization as members of a group with a derogatory stereotype.
*This categorization is largely implicit and unconscious, and is facilitated by the easy availability of labeling terminology
*By making the labeling terminology problematic, people are made to think consciously about how they describe someone.
*Once labeling is a conscious activity, individual merits of a person, rather than their perceived membership in a group, become more apparent
The situation is complicated by the fact that members of identity groups sometimes embrace terms that others seek to change. For example, deaf culture has always considered the label “Deaf” as an affirming statement of group membership and not insulting or disparaging in any way. The term now often substituted for the term “deaf,” hearing –impaired, was developed to include people with hearing loss due to aging, accidents, and other causes. While more accurate for those uses, the term “hearing – impaired” is considered highly derogatory for many deaf people. The term “Hard of Hearing,” however, is considered an acceptable descriptive term for a limited – to non – hearing person.
A further issue is that terms selected by identity group as more acceptable descriptors will then pass into common use, including use by people whose attitudes are those formerly associated with words which the new terms were designed to supersede. The new terms thus become devalued, and a further set of expressions must be coined. This can give rise to lengthy progressions such as “negro,” ”colored,” : black,” “African – American.”
Critics argue that political correctness implies censorship and endangers free speech by limiting what is in the public discourse, especially in universities and political forums. University of Pennsylvania professor Ala Charles Kors and a lawyer Harvey A. Silverglate connect political correctness to the ideas of Marxist Herbert Marcuse, in particular his claim that liberal ideas of free speech were in fact repressive. They see this “Marcusean logic” as being at the basis of hundreds of college speech codes formulated on American university campus.
Others contend that political correct terms are awkward, euphemistic substitutes for original stark language. They also draw comparisons to George Orwell’s Newspeak.
Several political figures claim that political correctness is a serious movement aiming to change the nature of Western society. Thus, Peter Hitchens wrote in his book The Abolition of Britain, “What Americans describe with casual phrase political correctness is the most intolerant system of thought to dominate the British Isles since the Reformation.”Lind and Buchanan have characterized PC as a technique originated by the Frankfurt School. According to Lind and Buchanan, the work of the Frankfurt School aimed at undermining western values by influencing popular culture through Cultural Marxism. Buchanan says in his book The Death of the West: “Political Correctness is Cultural Marxism, a regime to punish dissent and to stigmatize social heresy as the Inquisition punished religious heresy.”
Some conservative critics of political correctness argue that it is a form of coercion rooted in the assumption that in a political context, power refers to dominion of some men over others, or the human control of human life; by this argument, ultimately, it means force or compulsion. This argument holds that correctness in this context is subjective, and corresponds to the sponsored view of the government, minority, or special interest group that these conservative critics oppose. They claim that by silencing contradiction, their opponents entrench their views as orthodox, and eventually cause it to be accepted as true, as freedom of thought requires the ability to choose between more than one viewpoints. Some conservatives refer to political correctness as “The Scourge of Our Times.”
Opponents of mainstream scientific views on evolution, global warming, passive smoking, AIDS and other issues have claimed that political correctness is responsible for the future of their views to get a fair hearing.
Allegation of political correctness has been directed against the political rights.
During the run – up to the invasion of Iraq, several weeks after their Grammy success the country band the Dixie Chicks performed in concert in London on March 10, 2003, at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire theatre. During this concert, the band gave a monologue to introduce their song Travelin’ Soldier, during which Natalie Maines, a Texas native, was quoted by The Guardian as saying, “Just so you know, we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” Though this is the official circulation of the comment, the full text of the statement Natalie Maines made was as follows:” Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”
The resulting backlash against the band was described by columnist Don Williams as an example of enforcing politically correct views from the right. Williams wrote, “The ugliest form of political correctness occurs whenever there is a war on. Then you’d better watch what you say. “Williams noted that Ann Coulter and Bill O’Reilly called it treason.
Similar examples include attempts to rename French fries as Freedom Fries and to boycott French wine retaliation for France’s decision to not support the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Give answers to the comprehension questions on the text.
1. What does the term “political correctness” mean?
2. How is the term “political incorrect” used to refer to?
3. Where is the term derived from?
4. What is the citation by Ruth Berry given in the article?
5. How are the terms “politically correct” and “ideologically sound” related?
6. Which other countries, besides the United States, has the term become popular in?
7. What is the essence of Sapir – Whorf hypothesis?
8. How do cognitive linguists view political correctness?
9. How do critics of political correctness argue in favor of their views?
10. What is the conservatives’ view on political correctness?
11 .What did Don Williams say about “political correctness”?
Look at the list of politically correct terms and their common language equivalents below.
Politically Correct (PC) Terms:
A Criminal - unsavory character
A Crook - morally (ethically) challenged
Alcoholic - anti-sobriety activist
An Immigrant - a newcomer
Assassination - involuntary term limitation
Bald - comb –free
Blind visually challenged
Broken down Automobile mechanically challenged
Broken Home dysfunctional family
Cheating academic dishonesty
Chronically Late temporarily challenged
Computer Illiterate technologically challenged
Crime Rate street activity index
Dead biologically challenged
Deaf visually oriented
Dish Washer utensil sanitizer
Dishonest ethically disoriented
Dorm residence hall
Drug Addict chemically challenged
Earthquake geological correction
Fat horizontally gifted
Fat person of substance
Gang young group
Garbage Man sanitation engineer
Gas Station Attendant petroleum transfer technician
Handicapped differently abled, handy – capable
Homeless outdoor urban dweller
Housewife domestic engineer
Incompetent differently qualified
Insane People mental explorers
Insult emotional rape
Large Nose nasally gifted
Lazy motivationally dispossessed
Not with somebody at the moment romantically challenged
Old chronologically gifted
Old Person/Elderly gerontologically advanced
Old Person/Elderly senior citizens
Plagiarism previously owned prose
Policeman, Policewoman law enforcement officer
Poor monetarily challenged
Poor economically unprepared
Prisoner client of the correctional system
Racist genetically discriminating
Rudeness tact avoidance
Shoplifter cost –of – living adjustment specialist
Stupid differently –brained
Thin horizontally challenged
Ugly facially challenged
White American racially challenged
Wrong differently logical
Make up a politically correct story or translate a well – known story into a politically –correct one using the expressions from Task6.
Nowadays we do not use the term “cleaner” and prefer “a cleaning lady” to this. Why do you think people do this? Why do not we say, for instance, “a doctor lady” (mind that “a lady doctor” would mean something very different).
How do you understand the term “sexism”? Think of both linguistic and social aspects.
Read an article from David Crystal’s “The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language” and learn more about sexism in language and gender issues in general
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