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YARNLADY's avatar

"PC" versus "Accurate and Non-prejudicial"?

Asked by YARNLADY (46425points) July 1st, 2010

How can you tell the difference. Is “delivery person” a more accurate term than mailman, or just PC? Is “underdeveloped” more meaningful than 3rd World, or just PC? Who decides when words are PC instead of more accurate and non-prejudicial? Why is PC such a bad thing, anyway?

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13 Answers

SmashTheState's avatar

The term “political correctness” was invented by right-wing US intellectuals during the height of the third-wave feminist domination of academia during the 1980s. It was used as a way of dismissing calls for denormalizing language which had traditionally been used to reinforce gender roles (fisherman, fireman, policeman, waitress, et al.). It was a classic bait-and-switch scheme in which changing, for example, “fireman” to “firefighter” was equivocated with something ridiculous like history/herstory or manhole/personhole. What’s interesting about the term “political correctness” is that it actually occurs far more often on the rigid and reactionary right than it ever did even on the farthest extremes of second-wave “all men are rapists” feminism, and as a result has in many causes been co-opted by the very people it was invented to be used against as a way of decrying conservative dogma.

Even I—a raging, unreconstructed and unapologetic anarchist revolutionary—have used the term PC occasionally, generally to refer to sacrosanct bourgeois sensibilities over language (such as referring to cops as “peace officers”).

YARNLADY's avatar

@SmashTheState That sounds more like ‘doublespeak’ to me, as in calling the trash collector a sanitation engineer. I was more thinking of the change from “Indian” to Native American

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plethora's avatar

PC terminology always carries an underlying, unspoken sermon directed at changing attitudes, thought patterns and behavior. For instance, from Indian, to Native American (who, under the PC terminology, are the original owners of the North American continent, who, centuries ago were unfairly displaced). Couldn’t make that argument if they were Indians.

From mailman to delivery person. Subtle shift so as not to offend any gender.

I think it’s the little unspoken sermons that drive me to despise any form of PC.

“more accurate and non-predjudicial”......ahhhh, the rational for all politically correct thinking, which, for some reason, always seems to flow from the radical left mindset.

gorillapaws's avatar

The reality is that language plays a powerful role in shaping our subconsious feelings about things. The “Indian” thing is just stupid, I mean Native Americans aren’t from India—Columbus made that mistake, and now an entire continent’s worth of indiginous people have had to suffer with a ridiculous name for centuries.

plethora's avatar

@gorillapaws Except the Indians don’t seem to mind given all the benefits (no taxes) of running casinos all over the land (for which I do not begrudge them. More power to them)

And do you know anyone in this day and age who confuses Indians with people from India?

gorillapaws's avatar

@plethora usually when I hear someone referring to an Indian, I have to interrupt and get clarification, it’s obnoxiously inefficient. Indians are from India, Native Americans are from the Americas.

Fyrius's avatar

“The reality is that language plays a powerful role in shaping our subconsious feelings about things.”
That does seem to be the underlying idea of politically correct nomenclature. But in practice it seems to work mostly the other way around – it’s not the words that give rise to prejudice, it’s existing prejudices that give negative connotations to the words.
Have you heard of the euphemism treadmill effect? It describes a process where a concept people disrespect but mustn’t be prejudiced about has to get a new word every once in a while, because the negative feelings will have rubbed off on the old one and made it sound like an insult.

I think it’s madness to keep this up. It’s fighting symptoms instead of addressing the underlying problem. It also evidently doesn’t work.

Of course, one does not preclude the other; maybe language does affect our feelings, too. But I think its mind-controlling properties are greatly overestimated.

gorillapaws's avatar

@Fyrius I didn’t realize that it had a name, but it certainly makes sense to me. I’m pretty sure that they’ve done studies that demonstrate that language powerfully affects the way we think (we think in our language after all). Things like aiming for gender neutrality, seem to be reasonable goals, however, I agree that it seems absurd in the case of the euphemism treadmill.

I mean how many little boys would want to grow up and drive trucks if the profession were truck drivettes?

YARNLADY's avatar

@plethora Yes, people confuse the word Indian. Whenever there is a question about what Indians want or think it has to be clarified which “Indians” they are asking about. I am a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and I can assure many people continue to confuse the two.

plethora's avatar

@YARNLADY I yield. Point made…:)

YARNLADY's avatar

So far, I’m getting the sense that language can be a powerful influence in the way people think, and those who are most aware of this often use it to convert or change our way of thinking. That is considered a reason to deride the use of words which are specifically meant to bring accuracy into the language.

I see this ‘hate’ of PC as misguided as the use of words to brainwash us. In my opinion, educating ourselves about the meaning and use of words is more effective.

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