Political correctness (also politically correct or PC) is a term used to describe language, or behavior, which is claimed to be calculated to provide a minimum of offense, particularly to the racial, cultural, or other identity groups being described. The concept is not exclusive to the English language. A text that conforms to the ideals of political correctness is said to be politically correct.
The existence of PC has been alleged and denounced by conservative, (Lind, Buchanan, Sobran), liberal (Hentoff 1992, Schlesinger 1998), and other (Brandt 1992) authors. The term itself and its usage is hotly contested. Some left-wing authors (Messer-Davidow 1993, Schultz 1993, Glassner 1999) have argued that "political correctness" is a straw man, meant to discredit what they consider progressive social change, especially around issues of race and gender.
The term PC is sometimes used in a pejorative or ironic sense to satirise either the idea that carefully chosen language can encourage, promote, or establish certain social outcomes and relationships, or the belief that the resulting changes benefit society. This satire often comments on certain forms of identity politics, including gay rights, feminism, multiculturalism and the disability rights movement. For example, the use of "gender-neutral" job titles ("lineworker" instead of "lineman," "chairperson" or "chair" instead of "chairman," etc.), the use of the expression "differently abled" rather than "disabled", or the use of "Native American" rather than "Indian", are all sometimes referred to as "politically correct". 'PC terms are also applied to objects, such as "maintenance cover" instead of "manhole cover".
Since the 1990s the concept has often been a target of certain kinds of comedians and satirists, partly because they equate political correctness with euphemism.
Political correctness as a linguistic concept
The modern concept of political correctness arose in the 1970s-80s; at this time, it was becoming socially acceptable in the West for women and non-Caucasians to pursue lifestyles that had previously been held (nearly) exclusively by Caucasian men, such as a senior management position within a large corporation. It was therefore argued that the English language must change its male-centred nouns such as "chairman" to more inclusive terms such as "chairperson".
Other common examples include the use of person with a disability or preferably "differently abled" in preference to "handicapped or crippled; mentally ill in preference to crazy.
The goal of changing language and terminology consists of several points, including:
1. Certain people have their rights, opportunities, or freedoms restricted due to their categorization as members of a group with a derogatory stereotype.
2. This categorization is largely implicit and unconscious, and is facilitated by the easy availability of labeling terminology.
3. By making the labeling terminology problematic, people are made to think consciously about how they describe someone.
4. Once labeling is a conscious activity, individual merits of a person, rather than their perceived membership in a group, become more apparent.
Critics of political correctness
Critics of political language choice argue the new terms are often awkward, euphemistic substitutes for the original stark language concerning differences such as race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, and political views. Politically correct language has been compared to George Orwell's invented language Newspeak.
It is often argued that political correctness amounts to censorship and endangers free speech, as limits are placed on public debate, especially in universities and political forums. It is also often argued that politically-correct terminology (such as "collateral damage") can be misappropriated to soften concepts that would be unacceptable in normal language, and as such is a key technique employed by Spin doctors to massage and manipulate the masses; this is in agreement with the writings of Noam Chomsky that describe "media lies and manipulation.