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The not-so ironic evolution of the term “politically correct”

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This month, we look at the term “politically correct.” The phrase has a long history in the twentieth century to describe those who hold to some ideological orthodoxy. The term shows up, for example, in the January 1930 issue of The Communist, the newspaper published by the Communist Party of the U.S.A. The newspaper reports on a resolution by Canadian students studying in Moscow who criticized the “opportunistic line” of one American socialist and endorsed the views of the Tenth Party Plenum as giving “a politically correct perspective.” What’s more, the students’ resolution noted that “an enlightenment campaign” would be required to overcome “erroneous conceptions.” “Politically correct” was being used unironically to denote conformity to official Party doctrine. However, other leftist writings from the 1930s seemed to use the term mockingly. West Coast communist leader Harrison George, writing in 1932 about the United Farmers’ League, critiqued the party for insisting that “all things be revamped to conform with the program for European peasants.” That program, he argued, would not be understood by American farmers though “Of course, it is politically ‘correct’ to the last letter.” George’s quotes around correct suggest his view of a gulf between political doctrine and practical solutions. By 1934, the New York Times had extended the phrase to refer to Nazi orthodoxy.  In an article titled “Personal Liberty Vanishes in Reich,” Frederick T. Birchall wrote that in Germany “All journalists must have a permit to function and such permits are granted only to pure ‘Aryans’ whose opinions are politically correct. Even after that they must watch their step.” In Birchall’s report, the phrase describes ideological line-toeing required under Hilter.  A 1940 Washington Post report similarly condemns Josef Stalin for replacing seasoned older officers with “politically correct zealots.” In the wave of social change that emerged in the post-World War II era, the mix of. . .

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News source: Linguistics – OUPblog

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