Why do we say "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

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Gateway to the Moon
    Gateway to the Moon
    by Mary Morris
    Miguel Torres is a teenager living in Entrada de la Luna, a poverty-stricken dot on the New Mexico ...
  • Book Jacket: New World, Inc.
    New World, Inc.
    by Simon Targett, John Butman
    When we think about the founding of America, we typically envision Pilgrims in black garb and boxy ...
  • Book Jacket: New World, Inc.
    New World, Inc.
    by Simon Targett, John Butman
    When we think about the founding of America, we typically envision Pilgrims in black garb and boxy ...
  • Book Jacket: The Ensemble
    The Ensemble
    by Aja Gabel
    In May 1994, the members of the Van Ness String Quartet are completing their final graduate recital ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Harbor of Spies by Robin Lloyd

A captivating thriller-at-sea set in Spanish colonial Havana in the 1860s.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Eternal Life
    by Dara Horn

    The award-winning author returns with an ingenious novel about what it would mean to live forever.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Comedown

The Comedown by Rebekah Frumkin

A blistering dark comedy that explores delineating lines of race, class, religion, and time.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I Wouldn't T H W A T-F P

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

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

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.