Politically Correct English
POLITICALLY CORRECT [c. 1990]. Short forms PC, P.C. Marked by or adhering to a typically progressive orthodoxy on issues involving esp. race, gender, sexual affinity, or ecology.
(Webster's College Dictionary, 1991).
Really, 'politically correct' and 'political correctness' are the wrong terms for the idea, in that they may make people think it has to do with Politics with a capital P, whereas it has much more to do with social concerns. Why not 'socially correct', then? - because that would make it sound as though it had something to do with manners and etiquette. 'Ideologically correct' would give the game away, of course, and lead us back to politics. As it is, 'political' hints at the coercion that is all too much part of the PC movement. In short, there cannot be a proper term for such a false concept.
(Nigel Rees, The Politically Correct Phrasebook, 1993).
Is English Sexist?
French: le la les
German: der die das die
Italian: il (lo) la i (gli) le
Complete the following lists (in some cases, no answer is possible):
Consider your answers for the above lists and come to some further conclusions about whether English is a sexist language or not, and how easy it is to avoid being sexist.
Problems with Pronouns
Fill in the gaps, first being "sexist" and then being politically correct:
A Code of Practice?
It is always your duty to 'desex' language ('they' for 'he', 'humanity for 'Man'), tactfully, without being counter-productive.
(Peter Newmark, A Textbook of Translation, 1988)
Other Areas of Political Correctness.
Which words or expressions do you consider not to be politically correct in each area?
- a henpecked husband - the weaker sex - Mrs John Smith - The car wouldn't start, so we gave her a push - Stop nagging me! - Mr and Mrs Brown - Son of a bitch!
- gay - queer - queen - mummy's boy - lesbian - les - dyke- butch
- white supremacy - black - nigger - negro - coloured - barbarian - Asian - aborigine
- Pakistani - paki - chink - wop - frog - kraut - jap - eye-tie (I-ti) - pommy - aussie - yankee - Jew - dago - polak
- You old fool! - You're past it! - the old girl - the old man
- You silly little idiot! - Pigmy - shorty - dwarf - a walking lampost - giraffe
- Are you deaf or daft?- handicapped - blind - cripple - Mongoloid - Down's syndrome
- You Communist! - Communist - commie - Red - Socialist - Leftie - Fascist - Nazi - Liberal - Conservative - Tory - wet
Is It All Just a Question of Lip Service?
When someone says 'Asian', they very seldom mean 'Asian'; they mean 'Indian' or 'Pakistani'. 'Ethnic' should be able to signify any cultural area, but when was the last time it was used to mean 'French' or 'Scottish'? When was the term 'the Asian community' used to refer to the Japanese in Britain? … That's the way that political correctness works. You say only the numbers, but you think of the sandwiches by name.
(The Independent, 20th January 1992)
The Use of Euphemisms
Match the euphemism to the more usual (offensive?) word or expression.
|Euphemisms||More Usual Term|
|freedom fighter||under-developed countries|
|under the influence of alcohol||stupid|
|rationalization of the workforce||ghettos|
|affected by cerebral palsy||toilet|
|people with learning difficulties||old-aged pensioner (OAP)|
|rodent officer||Red Indian|
|little room||go to the lavatory|
|someone on income-support||lodger / boarder|
|powder your nose||terrorist|
|wheelchair user||lunatic asylum|
|partner||dustman / dustbinman|
Going Too Far? Doublespeak.
© Nigel J. Ross, 2003