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In today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Leonard Pittls writes about "political correctness." His point is that we use the term way too much these days for things that are just plain rude. His example was about a judge kidding in the courtroom about a teenager who had allegedly been sexually assaulted by a man. They were asking about what position the boy played on his football game, and the crass judge cracked that he must have been a "wide receiver." When the female prosecutor said it wasn't amusing, he then said that he was sorry he was "politically incorrect." What? That was just plain offensive! Then of course there was James Watson's recent "politically incorrect" comment about African-Americans being intellectually inferior; or Rush Limbaugh's making fun of Michael J. Fox's Parkinsonian symtoms; or Rosie O'Donnell's remarks about the Chinese. These have all been called "politically incorrect."

I fully agree with Pitts that the media uses that term wrong. As he said in the article: "The net effect is to equate that which is demeaning, malicious and mean with that which is merely risqué."

I really hadn't thought about it this way.
 
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Careful, Kalleh, or somebody will accuse you of being politically correct. I often thought that the term is poorly and too widely applied.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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I agree. Those comments you quote aren't poltically incorrect they are plain offensive.

That's not how I'd use the term "politically incorrect". As I see it the term refers specifically to when a comment that isn't in itself offensive (but some people think ought to be offensive) is jumped on by people who have taken offense where a moment's rational thought would indicate that none was intended and none could sensibly be inferred.
 
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My favorite example of political correctness in the article is that some people object to the Biblical phrase, "on the right hand of God."

What about those poor left-handed people? Roll Eyes

The judge in the case, if he has a conscience, must have been mortified. I suspect he purposely belittled his statement by calling it "politically incorrect" so that he'd not get into trouble with the superior court. Frankly, I think he should get in trouble.
 
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The judge's making such a comment in public was deplorable. In general I agree with Bob's opinion. All too often those who use the term are attempting to stifle freedom of expression and/or put forward their own agenda.

While I feel that Rush Limberger is a jerk, he's nevertheless a bright, funny jerk, and the "PC" types are clearly grist for his mill.
 
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quote:

What about those poor left-handed people? Roll Eyes


I'd give my right arm to be ambidextrous.
 
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While I feel that Rush Limberger is a jerk, he's nevertheless a bright, funny jerk,
I'd have to disagree with that, though I don't listen to him often. Whenever I have, he is reactionary, and I've certainly never thought him funny.
 
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I think Pitts gets it backwards--the term political correctness was invented by conservatives to call down liberals for being "too" tolerant, tactful, understanding or proper. The term political correctness itself
is offensive to me. Just remove the "political" and it's not quite as scathing.


WM
 
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the term political correctness was invented by conservatives to call down liberals for being "too" tolerant

No, the term is much older and its meaning has changed over the years. I remember it first being used sarcastically by leftists about other leftists who went overboard in toeing the line. I heard the Bobs sing a song in the late '80s about somebody who was politically correct. According to this Wikipedia article, which cites some references, it started out as a Marxist-Lenist term that was not (in context) pejorative.
quote:
Please Let Me Be Your Third World Country
The Bobs

I was sensitive before it was in style
But that was never enough
Ever new philosophy that you'd adopt
Seemed to make sense to me too
When we tripped together I thought we were in love
When I saw colors, you saw pigs
Then you took me to the sit-in at the Pentagon
How you opened up my eyes
You got into knowing yourself
I got into knowing myself
Everything I did was
Everything you did
I always was one step behind
In my personal growth
When we pulled the last troops out of Vietnam
I thought you'd have more time for screwing
How could I have been so blind to women's rights and such
There's always so much to be doing
It was so hard for me to give up wearing fur
But in my heart I feel much better
The whales are safe for now, but Nicaragua burns
I just can't share your concern any more
Just give some attention to me
The world is O.K., let it be
Just give some attention to me
Please let me be your third world country
And I'll be:
Politically Correct
Donate all your co-op dividends to me
Politically Correct
Hold a benefit for me, a benefit for me
Politically Correct
You and Jackson Browne can write a song for me
Politically Correct
Honk if you love me
Politically Correct
I'll build a wheelchair ramp to your heart
Politically Correct
I'm an endangered species, so save me
Politically Correct
I have 70,000 signatures demanding you go home
with me tonight
Politically Correct
Taste me, taste me, I'm organic!
Politically Correct
Take off your hats, this is the climax


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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From the OED Online:
quote:
politically correct adj. (a) appropriate to the prevailing political or social circumstances (in early use not as a fixed collocation); (b) spec. (orig. U.S., sometimes depreciative) conforming to a body of liberal or radical opinion, esp. on social matters, usually characterized by the advocacy of approved causes or views, and often by the rejection of language, behaviour, etc., considered discriminatory or offensive (cf. CORRECT adj.); abbreviated PC.

1793 J. WILSON in U.S. Rep. (U.S. Supreme Court) 2 (1798) 462 Sentiments and expressions of this inaccurate kind prevail in our..language... ‘The United States’, instead of the ‘People of the United States’, is the toast given. This is not *politically correct. 1875 N.Y. Times 19 Dec. 2 The other ninety odd thousand charges are all true, and politically correct. 1934 J. STRACHEY Lit. & Dialectical Materialism 47 We are sometimes a little apt to pretend, to wish, to suggest that such writers [sc. Marxists] are necessarily better writers, because they are more politically correct, than are our fellow travelers. 1936 H. V. MORTON In Steps of St. Paul vi. 211 ‘Galatians’, a term that was politically correct, embraced everyone under Roman rule. 1970 T. CADE Black Woman 73 A man cannot be politically correct and a chauvinist too. 1979 Economist 6 Jan. 17/2 His judgement that the time and place called for an attack on the quality and efficiency of the municipal government proved to be politically correct. 1987 Nation 6 June 769/3 Some readers are going to be disappointed by Poirier's insistent effort to keep literature from becoming a weapon-he would say casualty-of the politically correct or incorrect. 2001 Guardian 25 Aug. I. 13/1 Teenage boys are at the least politically correct stage of their lives.

politically incorrect adj. orig. U.S. not politically correct; flouting liberal convention; discriminatory.

1933 Christian Sci. Monitor 28 Nov. 8 The results of a recent investigation of the knowledge of 65,000 Soviet pupils are candidly summed up in the official newspaper, Izvestia, in the following terms: ‘Bad grammar, abundance of mistakes in spelling,..superficial and often *politically incorrect information in civics and social sciences’. 1939 New Republic 9 Aug. 20/1 It isn't just because of rapidly shifting times and attitudes-going back to ‘Lives of a Bengal Lancer’ almost five years afterward, you will find it just as politically incorrect and marvelous as ever. 1977 Washington Post 29 May D2/3 The African Liberation Day Coalition explained that both the other groups held politically incorrect positions. 2000 K. SEWELL in J. Thomas Catwomen from Hell 17 This bike of mine was parked outside in the street,..its genuine, politically incorrect crocodile-skin panniers shining with layers of beeswax polish.

political correctness n. orig. U.S. advocacy of or conformity to politically correct views; politically correct language or behaviour; cf. CORRECTNESS n. 2, politically correct adj. at POLITICALLY adv. Special uses b.

1805 Witness (Litchfield, Conn.) 25 Sept. 3 The constitution presumes that the people are the judges of *political correctness, and has accordingly left the decision to them. 1840 J. D. HAMMOND Hist. Polit. Parties in State of N.Y. 307 Although Mr. Clinton announced that he was against the bank, he was very careful to protest against making a support or opposition to it a test of..political correctness. 1935 Ironwood (Mich.) Daily Globe 28 May 4/8 The effect on wages in private industry would be nil, a circumstance which..presumably does not mitigate against the political correctness of the AFL's position. 1979 Washington Post 16 Sept. (Book World) 13/3 No matter what criticisms are hurled at this feminist fiction, no doubt the author will be cushioned by her political correctness. 2002 N.Y. Rev. Bks. 27 June 47/2 Political correctness as well as varied economic interests and anti-Semitism dictate that no third-world people can do wrong and no first-world people, right.

ADDITIONS SERIES 1997

correctness, n.

Add: 2. Conformation to a dominant political or ideological orthodoxy: a. spec. in Communist China, adherence to Maoist doctrine (now chiefly hist.). b. In recent (chiefly N. Amer.) use, ellipt. for political correctness; hence with other defining terms, as eco-correctness, environmental correctness, etc.

1955 F. T. C. YU Strategy & Tactics of Chinese Communist Propaganda vi. 59 When professors and scholars praise the ‘correctness’..of Marxism-Leninism, the communists hope that the common people will be more inclined to accept the new ideology. 1957 New Republic 13 May 24/1 The group is also fortified by..an absolute doctrinal authority for the ‘correctness’ of all of its solutions. 1960 T. CHEN Thought Reform of Chinese Intellectuals ii. 9 There is another and more important reason for Communist insistence on ideological correctness. 1977 P. FULLER Jrnl. 29 Mar. in Marches Past (1986) 117 The jostling for rarefied, nuanced, over-tuned theoretical [Marxist] ‘positions’ heats up. As one might expect of 7 Carlisle Street [sc. office of the New Left Review]..everyone vies with each other for the most perverse and punishing ‘correctness’. 1992 N.Y. Times 12 Feb. C1/1 The brilliant new vehicle for environmental correctness, health consciousness and graphic self-expression: toothpaste. 1993 Fort Collins (Colorado) Triangle Rev. 21 Oct. 4/3 The elementary school fanfare is the last hurrah before social correctness cuts them off at the right brain. 1993 USA Weekend 24 Oct. 2/2 He has a broad agenda for eco-correctness.


ADDITIONS SERIES 1997

correct, a.

Add: 4. Conforming to a dominant political or ideological orthodoxy: [b]a.spec. in Communist China, according with or adhering to Maoist doctrine (now chiefly hist.).

1932 M. SHACTMAN tr. L. Trotsky Probl. Chinese Revol. 198 The party will utilize quite differently the discontentment of the masses, if it considers it by reckoning with a correct political perspective. 1950 tr. Liu Shao-Chi On the Party 52 Our Party's correct political line cannot be separated from its correct organisational line. 1951 Ann. Amer. Acad. Pol. & Social Sci. CCLXXVII. 80/2 Another essential idea is the Marxist dogma that there is only one ‘correct’ line of thought and action... The central authorities define what is correct, and..the entire mass membership of any organization is expected to think and act ‘correctly’. 1953 tr. Mao Tse-Tung On Rectification of Incorrect Ideas in Party 1 The failure of the Party's leading bodies..to educate the members along the correct line is also an important cause of the existence and growth of such incorrect ideas. 1960 T. CHEN Thought Reform of Chinese Intellectuals ii. 9 An ideologically correct person..is likely to overcome old habits of thought and action. 1966 TUNG CHI-PING & H. EVANS Thought Revolution iii. 47 Despite his ‘correct’ political attitude, the teachers singled him out for criticism.

b. In recent (chiefly N. Amer.) use, ellipt. for politically correct; hence, with other defining terms, as eco-correct, environmentally correct, gender-correct, socially correct, etc.

1973 S. DAVIDSON in Esquire July 74/1 The mood of the original feminists changed utterly... People recount the rise and fall of groups, the setting up and toppling of ‘correct political lines’, the purges and counter-purges. 1973 A. WALKER in J. O'Brien Interviews with Black Writers 207 To be ‘correct’ she should consider it her duty to let ugliness reign. The most ‘incorrect’ thing about Sammy Lou is that she loves flowers... Whenever you hear a black person talking about the beauties of nature, that person is not a black person at all. 1986 H. J. MARONEY in Mitchell & Oakley What is Feminism? 113 Unable to agree upon a ‘correct’ and effective programme of action, they have dwindled into theoreticism, split, or been reduced to passivity. 1990 Taxation & Environmental Policy (Inst. Fiscal Stud. Commentary No. 19) 3 Ideally, the economically correct procedure in introducing an environmental tax would be to value the economic costs of activities which take place outside of any market, and to calculate a tax level per unit output to reflect these costs. 1991 Raritan Summer 41 Are we..in the business of granting degrees that mean: ‘Your son or daughter has turned out correct. Politically, morally, socially correct; at least, by this year's standards. 1991 New Yorker 16 Dec. 120/2 Not only the merchandise but all the materials used in the construction of the store are about as environmentally correct as is possible these days. 1992 J. & M. STERN Encycl. Pop Culture 398/1 Potato chips are not exactly in style{em}they are too fatty and too salty to be N.C. (‘nutritionally correct’, as determined by health-food killjoys). 1993 Albuquerque (New Mexico) Jrnl. 6 Jan. B2/4 For the most part, message toys are geared to parents, not to children, and most environmental- and gender-correct toys haven't made much of a dent. 1994 USA Weekend 9 Jan. 28/2 How do you pack the car for an eco-correct family vacation?


 
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The Bobs!?!?!? Gosh, I hadn't heard of them for twenty years! I've seen them live twice, and they're DEEEEEElightful! I've never seen them dead, though.
 
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I hadn't heard The Bobs. Asa is correct; it is marvelous! Thanks, Z.

I am amazed that "political correctness" was used as early as it was (1793).

One question: The online OED cite that Tinman posted says, "in early use not as a fixed collocation." I hadn't heard of "collocation" before, but the dictionary says its linguistic definition is "a co-occurrence of lexical items, as perform with operation or commit with crime." With that "colocation" comment, is the OED talking about the definition of "correct" being "accurate?" I mean I could see "political correctness" meaning just that, it is not an accurate political statement. Then perhaps it began to evolve.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Kalleh:
I am amazed that "political correctness" was used as early as it was (1793). One question: The online OED cite that Tinman posted says, "in early use not as a fixed collocation."


I wonder whether the citations are apt. For example, "dark horse" means, roughly, a long-shot candidate with potential to emerge from the pack. Early usages of the phrase doubtless exist, but would be relevant if they were using it to mean simply "a horse of a dark color."

I suspect whether some of OED's early citations may be similarly inapt. And perhaps OED's "collocation" comment means they too have some doubt about those early citations.

I'm off to see if any of those citations can be found on-line, and read in context.
 
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OED's earliest cite is clearly not correct. It reads as follows (citing Justices Wilson in an early case of the US Supreme Court:
    1793 J. WILSON in U.S. Rep. (U.S. Supreme Court) 2 (1798) 462 Sentiments and expressions of this inaccurate kind prevail in our..language... ‘The United States’, instead of the ‘People of the United States’, is the toast given. This is not *politically correct.
But the full context here (scroll down to "Page 2 U.S. 419, 463") shows something very different. Justice Wilson is disputing the notion of L'etat, c'est moi, and saying that the State and the People are two different things -- and more importantly, that the People are superior, and though we often forget that primacy, our forgetting is an erroneous understanding of politics. He says (emphasis addded):
    The states, rather than the People, for whose sakes the States exist, are frequently the objects which attract and arrest our principal attention. This, I believe, has produced much of the confusion and perplexity, ... on the politics, too, of the United States. Sentiments and expressions of this inaccurate kind prevail in our common, even in our convivial, language. Is a toast asked? 'The United States,' instead of the 'People of the United States,' is the toast given. This is not politically correct. The toast is meant to present to view the first great object in the Union [the People]: It presents only the second [the State]: It presents only the artificial person, instead of the natural persons, who spoke it into existence. A State ... is the noblest work of Man: But, Man himself ... is ... the noblest work of God.
 
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I think the OED is saying that politically correct was not a common phrase. I think Shufitz is right, the words politically and correct just happened to be used side-by-side, but each word retains its own meaning, while the phrase, politically correct has a different meaning.

That is a problem with the citations in the OED. They are out of context and it's often hard to know what they really mean.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by tinman:
That is a problem with the citations in the OED. They are out of context and it's often hard to know what they really mean.


I find the OED citations are generally apt and have the merit of indicating the original uses of words or phrases as well as illustrating how the nuances of meaning often change over the years. Forgive me if that seems a politically correct stance.

To be serious, I agree the term is overused, and often conceals what is plainly wrong or offensive. It also has other implications as pointed out by the OED. "Conforming to a dominant political or ideological orthodoxy" is highly dangerous. For, such attitudes have a habit of permeating social and personal values and judgments, and thereby when accepted as the norm, exercising significant and often harmful effects on what we say and what we believe.
I may be wrong, but politically correctness often serves for euphemism, displacing conscience; and when it changes moral or ethical values it can be a corrupting force. I don't like being told what is right or wrong, nor (within certain limits) what I may or may not say or write.
 
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I too am surprised at how old the phrase is, even though its original meanings were nothing like today's. And though I was not aware of the term back when liberals were applying it to liberals, I have to say that I find it just as offensive and annoying in that context as in the conservative-on-liberal application!

Wordmatic
 
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The BBC's wordhunt programme, Balderdash and Piffle, shows that the OED takes great care in its choice of citations. Often Victoria Coren would go to the panel with a seemingly fine verifiable usage that had been unearthed, only to have it shot down in flames because it could be a mere accidental placement of the words, and the author in fact may heve meant something different.

I'm not saying they're perfect, and I'm sure John Simpson will agree.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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quote:
the OED takes great care in its choice of citations. I'm not saying they're perfect, and I'm sure John Simpson will agree.
But in a sense there are two different OEDs. I'd tend to agree that the current OED folk are quite careful, subject to the limits of what can be found with available resourses of technology and manpower. But OED is revised only on a slow bit-by-bit basis, so it will continue be full of whatever errors resulted from past editors, with whatever degree of care, technology and manpower they had.

My personal impression is that imperfections are not rare, that OED is riddled with them. Not to fault them. It's inevitable, and rooting out the errors is an Sisyphean [spelling?] chore.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by shufitz:
It's inevitable, and rooting out the errors is an Sisyphean [spelling?] chore.


Spelling seems fine. But to annoy the anti-presciptivists, would it be grammatically preferable to say:
…rooting out the errors is a Sisyphean chore?
 
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quote:
would it be grammatically preferable to say:
…rooting out the errors is a Sisyphean chore?
Quite preferable.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Kalleh:
quote:
would it be grammatically preferable to say:
…rooting out the errors is a Sisyphean chore?
Quite preferable.

Surely not!
It's preferable or not preferable. cf. pregnant or quite pregnant. Mad Smile
 
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From 2007 to 2015, and nothing much has changed. I opened this thread with a reference from Leonard Pitts.

Now in 2015 we're still talking, talking, talking about political correctness. Here is a quote from Clarence Page:
quote:
What does "PC" mean? It's a mostly pejorative term to describe language, rules and policies intended to avoid offending particular groups in society.

That also is a pretty good definition of what we used to call simply "good manners" and "common decency" before the smart-sounding "PC" label caught on in the early 1990s.
I think he's right; it's all about being polite. I also agree with z way up there in that we use the term way too broadly.

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