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