politically correct

English edit

Alternative forms edit

Etymology edit

The earliest known attestation is in late 18th century United States, in response to a toast made to “the United States” instead of to “the people of the United States”.[1]

In the early twentieth century the term was associated with the dogmatic application of Stalinist and Communist Party doctrine, and later popularised by Mao Zedong in his 1963 essay Where Do Correct Ideas Come From? which equated “correct” with “the disciplined acceptance of a party line”.[1]

In the 1970s it was adopted by wider left-wing politics. The first known use in this sense was by Toni Cade in her 1970 anthology The Black Woman. It was subsequently used in a statement by Karen DeCrow in December 1975 in her capacity as president of the National Organization for Women.[1]

In the 1980s it acquired the pejorative sense when used to mock conformist liberal academics, their stereotypical political views and alleged attempts to control language.[1]

Pronunciation edit

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Adjective edit

politically correct (comparative more politically correct, superlative most politically correct)

  1. (politics) Possessing or conforming to the correct political positions; following the official policies of the government or a political party.
    Synonyms: dogmatic, orthodox
    Antonyms: heretical, unorthodox, politically incorrect
    • 1793, U.S. Supreme Court, Chisholm v State of GA, 2 US 419 (1793)
      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.
    • 1934/1970, Walter Benjamin, "The Author as Producer" (address at the Institute for the Study of Fascism, Paris, April 27, 1934), as translated by John Heckman for New Left Review 1/62, July-August 1970:
      [On] the one hand we should demand that the poet's work conform to the correct political tendency, on the other hand we have the right to expect that his work be of high quality. [...] I want to show you that the political tendency of a work can only be politically correct if it is also literarily correct. That means that the correct political tendency includes a literary tendency. For, just to clarify things right away, this literary tendency, which is implicitly or explicitly contained in every correct political tendency – that, and nothing else constitutes the quality of a work.
    • 1964 March 23, Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks in Atlantic City at the Convention of the United Auto Workers[1]:
      I am here to tell you that we are going to do those things which need to be done, not because they are politically correct, but because they are right. We are going to pass a civil rights bill if it takes all summer.
    • 1969, Y. F. Sopin, chapter 5, in The Bolshevik Party's Struggle Against Trotskyism[2], page 214:
      Lenin gave an all-round substantiation of the impossibility of implementing the United States of Europe slogan under capitalism. He said this slogan merged with socialism and acquired political meaning only under socialism. It was politically correct also from the standpoint of the need to overthrow the three reactionary monarchies of Europe—that of Russia, of Germany and of Austria-Hungary.
  2. (idiomatic, sometimes derogatory) Sensitive to giving offense on the grounds of race, sex, etc.
    • 1970, Toni Cade, The Black Woman:
      A man cannot be politically correct and a chauvinist too.
    • 1981 December 14, G:kirk, “Yet Another Camel Joke”, in net.jokes[3] (Usenet), message-ID <anews.Apopuli.106>:
      Why do they call camels "Ships-of-the-desert" ?
      Because they're full of Iranian seamen.
      (NOW, being politically correct you must, of course, substitute "martian"
      What a clever joke this becomes! Hopefully, there are no martians listening. )
    • 2008, BioWare, Mass Effect (Science Fiction), Redwood City: Electronic Arts, →ISBN, →OCLC, PC, scene: Computers: Artificial Intelligence (AI) Codex entry:
      The geth serve as a cautionary tale against the dangers of rogue AI, and in Citadel Space they are technically illegal. Advocacy groups argue, however, that an AI is a living, conscious entity deserving the same rights as organics. They argue that continued use of the term "artificial" is institutionalized racism on the part of organic life, the term "synthetic" is considered the politically correct alternative.
    • 2024, Zoe Kleinman (technology editor), "Why Google's 'woke' AI problem won't be an easy fix" [4] (BBC News)
      It appears that in trying to solve one problem - bias - the tech giant has created another: output which tries so hard to be politically correct that it ends up being absurd.
  3. (idiomatic, politics, derogatory) Stereotypically left-wing; possessing or conforming to stereotypical left-wing social views.
    Synonym: (British) right-on
    • 2007 May 3, Daniel Henninger, “After Imus: End the Executions”, in Wall Street Journal[5]:
      Don Imus, Bernard McGuirk, Trent Lott, Larry Summers, the Duke lacrosse team, Jimmy the Greek, the kid who yelled "water buffalo" at Penn, Howard Cosell, Jon Stewart, Chief Illiniwek, Jackie Mason and "South Park" all have in common only one thing: They have not been Politically Correct.
    • 2010, “Politically correct food on the menu in Britain”, in The Independent[6]:
      From foie gras produced without making birds suffer to "sustainable" fish, British retailers and restaurants are fast embracing politically correct food, helped by celebrity-fuelled pressure.
    • 2017, Linda Kalof, The Oxford Handbook of Animal Studies, page 434:
      Even when mounted in the context of animal-centric conferences or events, exhibits of “animal art” routinely display works consisting of animal parts or taxidermied animals—most of which can be viewed while people are eating their politically correct vegan lunch.

Usage notes edit

While "politically correct" frequently refers to a linguistic phenomenon, it is sometimes extended to cover political ideology and behavior, curriculum content, and many areas affected by law, regulation, and public pressure. Like "woke" and "social justice warrior", "politically correct" started off as a positive term used by people to describe themselves and their behavior but, in some contexts, gained negative connotations over time. Some derogatory uses of "politically correct" refer to people who would self-identify as politically correct or to people whose actions are deemed to be overzealous, performative, or insincere.

Related terms edit

Translations edit

Verb edit

politically correct (third-person singular simple present politically corrects, present participle politically correcting, simple past and past participle politically corrected)

  1. (transitive) To modify in a way that is considered more respectful to minorities.
    • 1998, Humphrey McQueen, Temper Democratic: How Exceptional is Australia?, Wakefield Press, →ISBN, page 190:
      There is nothing new or progressive in the politically corrected vocabularies that now amuse the prejudiced.
    • 2005, Lone Fatum, “Christ Domesticated”, in Jostein Ådna, editor, The Formation of the Early Church, Mohr Siebeck, →ISBN, page 196:
      Thus, although Pastoral Paul contradicts, updates, and politically corrects Paul of the authentic letters in accordance with the horizontalized, non-sectarian interest of the Pastorals, he does this as an extension of a decidedly this-worldly, conservative paraenesis which may be seen as Paul's own contradiction of his apocalyptic eschatological interpretation.
    • 2016 February 26, Ben Brantley, “Review: You See ‘The Encounter’ With Your Ears”, in New York Times[7]:
      Yet we follow McIntyre into the jungles as eagerly as if we were children lost in an adventure novel by (a politically corrected) H. Rider Haggard.
  2. (transitive) To modify in a way that conforms more to the official position of a government or political party.
    • 2013, Andrew Martin Fischer, “Preface”, in The Disempowered Development of Tibet in China, Lexington Books, →ISBN, page xxxiv:
      Even a senior Chinese scholar-official who had been politically correcting my arguments and opinions throughout the conference smiled and accepted that the academic standards to which we both had to comply were quite different—I would be ridiculed by my own colleagues were I to adopt the standards of China, which he nonetheless deemed the (officially sanctioned) correct ones.

See also edit

References edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Safire, William (2008) Safire's Political Dictionary, Oxford University Press, →ISBN, pages 555–556

Further reading edit