The meaning of, and background to, the well-known expression "Politically Correct.

Well-Known Expressions

Politically Correct

Meaning:

See below ...

Background:

Contrary to popular opinion, the expression "politically correct" did not originate in recent years but actually dates back at least to the 18th century. Although its perceived meaning has shifted over the years.

For example, Justice James Wilson used the term in 1793 to distinguish something that was politically correct from something that was literally correct ….

"The states, rather than the People, for whose sakes the States exist, are frequently the objects which attract and arrest our principal attention [...]. 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."

More recently, in In The Steps of St Paul (1936), Henry Vollam Morton referred to the term "Galatians" as a politically correct way to address anyone subject to Roman rule.

The modern concept of "politically correctness" arose in the 1970s to describe words that were used to redress (perceived or otherwise) historical injustices in matters of race, class, gender and sexual orientation. For example, the entry of large numbers of women into jobs that had previously been held by men caused a shift from the use of male-orientated nouns such as chairman to chairperson.

To quote the OED, political correct defines "a body of liberal or radical opinion, esp. on social matters, characterized by the advocacy of approved causes or views, and often by the rejection of language, behaviour, etc. considered discriminatory or offensive."

The first recorded use of the abbreviation PC appeared in the New York Times in 1986.

During the 1990s the term twisted in meaning again, to the point where today being described as politically correct is generally a derogratory term implying that one is overly concerned with euphemisms to the exclusion of what really matters.

Alphabetical list of expressions

Challenge yourself with BookBrowse Wordplays

Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Hundred-Year House
    The Hundred-Year House
    by Rebecca Makkai
    Rebecca Makkai's sophomore novel The Hundred-Year House could just have easily been titled ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Valley of Amazement
    by Amy Tan
    "Mirror, Mirror on the wall
    I am my mother after all!"


    In my pre-retirement days as a professor ...
  • Book Jacket: A Man Called Ove
    A Man Called Ove
    by Fredrik Backman
    Reading A Man Called Ove was like having Christmas arrive early. Set in Sweden, this debut novel is ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

Tomlinson Hill
by Chris Tomlinson

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.