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

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