Political correctness in Speech
Political correctness (also politically correct or PC) is a term used
to describe language, or behavior, which is claimed to be calculated to
provide a minimum of offense, particularly to the racial, cultural, or
other identity groups being described. The concept is not exclusive to
the English language. A text that conforms to the ideals of political
correctness is said to be politically correct.
The existence of PC has been alleged and denounced by conservative,
(Lind, Buchanan, Sobran), liberal (Hentoff 1992, Schlesinger 1998), and
other (Brandt 1992) authors. The term itself and its usage is hotly
contested. Some left-wing authors (Messer-Davidow 1993, Schultz 1993,
Glassner 1999) have argued that «political correctness» is a straw man,
meant to discredit what they consider progressive social change,
especially around issues of race and gender.
The term PC is sometimes used in a pejorative or ironic sense to
satirise either the idea that carefully chosen language can encourage,
promote, or establish certain social outcomes and relationships, or the
belief that the resulting changes benefit society. This satire often
comments on certain forms of identity politics, including gay rights,
feminism, multiculturalism and the disability rights movement. For
example, the use of «gender-neutral» job titles («lineworker» instead of
«lineman,» «chairperson» or «chair» instead of «chairman,» etc.), the
use of the expression «differently abled» rather than «disabled», or the
use of «Native American» rather than «Indian», are all sometimes
referred to as «politically correct». ‘PC terms are also applied to
objects, such as «maintenance cover» instead of «manhole cover».
Since the 1990s the concept has often been a target of certain kinds of
comedians and satirists, partly because they equate political
correctness with euphemism.
Political correctness as a linguistic concept
The modern concept of political correctness arose in the 1970s-80s; at
this time, it was becoming socially acceptable in the West for women and
non-Caucasians to pursue lifestyles that had previously been held
(nearly) exclusively by Caucasian men, such as a senior management
position within a large corporation. It was therefore argued that the
English language must change its male-centred nouns such as «chairman»
to more inclusive terms such as «chairperson».
Other common examples include the use of person with a disability or
preferably «differently abled» in preference to «handicapped or
crippled; mentally ill in preference to crazy.
The goal of changing language and terminology consists of several
1. Certain people have their rights, opportunities, or freedoms
restricted due to their categorization as members of a group with a
2. This categorization is largely implicit and unconscious, and is
facilitated by the easy availability of labeling terminology.
3. By making the labeling terminology problematic, people are made to
think consciously about how they describe someone.
4. Once labeling is a conscious activity, individual merits of a person,
rather than their perceived membership in a group, become more apparent.
Critics of political correctness
Critics of political language choice argue the new terms are often
awkward, euphemistic substitutes for the original stark language
concerning differences such as race, gender, sexual orientation,
disability, religion, and political views. Politically correct language
has been compared to George Orwell’s invented language Newspeak.
It is often argued that political correctness amounts to censorship and
endangers free speech, as limits are placed on public debate, especially
in universities and political forums. It is also often argued that
politically-correct terminology (such as «collateral damage») can be
misappropriated to soften concepts that would be unacceptable in normal
language, and as such is a key technique employed by Spin doctors to
massage and manipulate the masses; this is in agreement with the
writings of Noam Chomsky that describe «media lies and manipulation.»
Conservatives often view many politically correct terms as being
linguistic cover for an evasion of personal responsibility,, for
instance when «juvenile delinquents» became «children at risk» or when
«illegal aliens» became «undocumented workers».
Critics allege that political correctness can often detect offensive
language when there is none. One example is the feminised «herstory»
instead of «history» (although the word derives from the Greek for an
«account of events»). (dubious assertion)
Criticism of political correctness is often associated with the claim
that the Left has lost touch with the working class and has instead
turned toward such things as postmodernism and post-structuralism, which
are seen as incomprehensible to the general public, or has replaced
their former emphasis on social class with multiculturalism and identity