Political Correctness


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 Maos little red book. According to Perry, the term was later adopted by the radical left in the 1960s. In the 1990s, because of the terms 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 Barbaras 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 progressivesused 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.

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 movements 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 languages grammatical categories shape its speakers 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 Orwells 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 Shepherds 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, were 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, were on the good side with yall. We do not want this war, this violence, and were 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 youd better watch what you say. Williams noted that Ann Coulter and Bill OReilly called it treason.

Similar examples include attempts to rename French fries as Freedom Fries and to boycott French wine retaliation for Frances 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

China porcelain

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

Mankind humankind

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


Task 7:


Make up a politically correct story or translate a well known story into a politically correct one using the expressions from Task6.


Task 8:


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.


Task 9:


Read an article from David Crystals The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language and learn more about sexism in language and gender issues in general



  1. Economic and Political Unification. Conditions for Linguistic Unity
  3. Political groups and parties
  4. Political map of the USA
  5. Political parties of Great Britain
  6. Political system
  7. Political system
  9. Political system of Australia
  10. Political system of Great Britain

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Unit IX. | Gender Issues

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