Definition of political correctness noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary


political correctness

BrE BrE//pəˌlɪtɪkl kəˈrektnəs//
; NAmE NAmE//pəˌlɪtɪkl kəˈrektnəs//
[uncountable] (sometimes disapproving)
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the principle of avoiding language and behaviour that may offend particular groups of people For reasons of political correctness we have been asked to withdraw our advertisement from the national press. Culturepolitical correctnessPolitical correctness or being 'politically correct', often called simply PC, is concerned with avoiding certain attitudes, actions and, above all, forms of expression which suggest prejudice and are likely to cause offence. This may be against men or women, against older people, or against people with a particular skin colour, racial background or physical disability.The idea of political correctness developed in the 1980s and 1990s and was based on the belief that the language we use influences the way we think. Later the phrase was often used in a negative way to refer to politically correct expressions that people thought were clumsy or an unnecessary change. Some people doubt whether changing words will remove prejudice in people's minds or in the social system.In the 1960s and 1970s public debate caused many people to accept the principle that discrimination (= treating some people worse than others) is wrong. Changes of many kinds happened in schools and offices. History has been traditionally taught from the point of view of white people, but now more children learn about the history and culture of other groups in the community. In offices sexual and racial harassment (= comments or behaviour intended to worry or upset somebody) are not allowed. The PC movement has also been against stereotyping (= having fixed ideas about people), especially of women and black people, and making jokes against minority groups.A major concern of political correctness has been to avoid racist or sexist language (= language suggesting that one sex or race is superior) that will offend particular groups. However some language changes are much older than the PC movement. Ms has been used for a long time as a title for women who do not wish to identify themselves as being either married (Mrs) or single (Miss). Other PC phrases, notably chair or chairperson instead of chairman, are also common. Changes in the US include saying African American instead of Black, Native American instead of Indian and using the term people of colour to refer to people who are not white.Other changes have been less widely accepted. For example, the words blind and deaf were felt to suggest something negative, so people began using visually impaired and hearing impaired, which, they believed, did not carry the same negative associations. Less acceptable PC terms include vertically challenged (short), differently sized (fat), physically challenged (disabled), economically exploited (poor), involuntarily leisured (unemployed), and domestic operative (housewife). People who are against the idea of political correctness use such examples to argue against it.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: political correctness