‘Can I say that?’ The dichotomy of ‘Political Correctness’ and Free Speech, by RICHARD STOTT

Emotions have always run high in the debate surrounding ‘Political Correctness’, ever since its rise from an American culture obsessed with freedom of speech in the 1980s. Let’s first consider the positive motive behind the idea. ‘PC’ is a phenomenon which seeks to demonstrate “progressive ideals, esp by avoiding vocabulary that is considered offensive, discriminatory, or judgmental, esp concerning race and gender” as defined in the Collins Dictionary. However, from a philosophical perspective, how do we actually place a restrictive boundary on what we can and can’t say in language?

In recent years, stand-up comedians are just one group to have suffered in an age of sensitive language. A few days ago, Newsweek reported the views of comedian Jim Norton from a documentary issuing concern about stand-up comedy and the policing of speech. Norton sensitively regards this hot topic as no laughing matter, claiming the offence taken from those labelled ‘PC zealots’ to be ridiculous. Norton claims: “If you think you have the right not to be offended, either change the parameters of what offends you or realize you’re wrong. Those are your two choices.”

There is a sense of emotive hyperbole in his words, but how annoying must it be when people are oversensitive and can’t take mere jokes? However, you could say Norton is playing with fire drawing material from topics areas such as ‘transsexuality’ and ‘body dysmorphia’. Although, aside from Norton who seems to embrace offensive comedy, other comedians are ever more conscious of crossing such boundaries, concerned that with the technology available to audiences today, they will be publically shamed in doing so.

Along with stand-up comedians, many other groups find themselves at the centre of a war with ‘PC’, particularly within the social network Twitter. In April 2013, American football quarterback Robert Griffin tweeted “[i]n a land of freedom we are held hostage by the tyranny of political correctness”. Subsequently, the tweet went viral and has over 13,000 retweets and almost 6000 likes, displaying the sheer number of support for the claim that ‘PC’ is suppressing free speech which should be a given right. Additionally, there is an emotional, personified notion that ‘PC’ binds language use against our will. Politician Donald Trump has also been criticised for a number of tweets in the media, and is openly averse to ‘PC’ conformity. For instance, he tweeted “[s]o many ‘politically correct’ fools in our country. We have to all get back to work and stop wasting time and energy on nonsense”, supporting the pejorative mood surrounding ‘PC’, and disregarding it as human oversensitivity.

To flip the coin, Lindy West reported last month in the Guardian, that “Political Correctness doesn’t hinder free speech [but] expands it”. The article instantly attracted public attention with almost 12,500 shares to date on various social networks, due to the presentation of ‘PC’ in a completely opposite light. Details of the report claim ‘PC’ enhances free speech for ‘marginalised groups’ rather than ‘the status quo’. For example, Lindy sheds light on the culture war within the American university system when she claims that “[i]f you’re genuinely concerned about ‘free speech’, take a step back and look at what’s actually happening here: a bunch of college students, on the cusp of finding their voices, being publicly berated by high-profile writers in national publications because they don’t like what they have to say. Are you sure you know who’s silencing whom?”

Instances of journalists and right wing elites exercising their power over the speech used from students have made campuses a hostile environment. For example, ‘silencing tactics’ used against American students have triggered backlashes. Lindy questions how ‘PC’ is suppressing speech as evident protests show they know their given right in the first amendment permitting them to exercise their voices.

The past few decades can be characterised by Western society’s ever growing concern in a number of sensitive areas. However, to stay neutral, isn’t it time we accept that the control and conformity ‘PC’ enforces is essential to keep order in language, and suppress anarchy across highly sensitive domains? Let’s think rationally, open up to understanding different cultural and social relationships, and in turn consider ‘PC’ in specific contexts to channel our language more positively for others. With this in mind, let’s not naively dismiss the concept comprehensively, screaming the wild claim… ‘PC has gone mad!’ We should assess each case individually, and attempt to stay neutral on a unique phenomenon. ‘Political Correctness’ draws so much pejorative attention due to sensitive propagandists abusing the system, that we quickly overlook the positive intention at its core, and its essential presence embedded within a language which would run far too freely without it.

RICHARD STOTT, English language undergraduate, University of Chester, UK


Gillespie, N. (2015, November 26). Political Correctness Gone Mad. It’s No Laughing Matter. Newsweek. Retrieved December 01, 2015.

Griffin, R. (2013). Twitter. Retrieved November 19, 2015.

Hughes, G. (2010). Political Correctness: A history of semantics and culture. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Political Correctness. (2015). Collins Dictionary Online.

Trump, D. J. (2015). Twitter. Retrieved December 04 2015.

West, L. (2015, November 15). ‘Political correctness’ doesn’t hinder free speech – it expands it. The Guardian.


DOMINIQUE HITCHEN asks: ‘Has political correctness taken a word too far?’

Political correctness is, and probably always will be, a contested issue. For a long time now, political correctness has been considered by many as a restriction of speech, a control mechanism and a total waste of time. But to what extent are these views entirely true?

Political correctness (PC) is defined by the OED as “[t]he avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against” (The Oxford Dictionary of English, 2015). Nothing wrong here. It can just be summarized as being nice to each other.

There are many views that support this definition. Yes, they were much harder to find but I found them… eventually.

Hugh Muir (The Guardian, 2009) describes PC as “a good thing” and continues to explain reasons for using PC – “[…] to have respect, to be civil, to be inclusive, to avoid unnecessary offence, to try to act to give the various sections of society equal opportunities”. Sounds great! Views like this are also linked with the discussions about the relationship between language and thought. Hughes (2010, pp. 62) portrays the idea that PC is “[…] not just doing the right thing but thinking the right thoughts”, suggesting that by using PC language it will encourage the users to construct better thoughts. Okay… somehow I don’t believe this. We still think the ‘politically incorrect’ terms, we just try and figure out a better way to say it. So is it just me that thinks thoughts don’t change with language?

Anyway, on the other side of the fence, some views about PC contradict and disagree with all of the above. Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail (2012) points out that political correctness is not a fair system; it is one rule for one and one rule for another; “[…] others manage to get away with vile remarks — while still others are attacked for the use of words whose meaning has been wrenched out of context”. Other remarks range from PC limiting our human right to freedom of speech to PC acting as a control mechanism (debate.org, 2015). Ally Ross in The Sun (2012) simply states “[t]here is…no limit to the stupidity or madness of…political correctness”. Very emotive – but how have we got to this point in the debate?

Political correctness has changed as regards to meaning, relation and interpretation. In earlier years, PC was consider to consist of strict guidelines that were believed to be important and universal; “[…] in the 1980s, PC was very serious. It didn’t do jokes” (Sawyer, 2012), whereas, today people tend not to be so ‘serious’ about it. Sawyer (2012) later explains a bus journey where she hears teenagers calling each other ‘politically incorrect’ labels. In the defence of political correctness, I think it is much more effective within professions and in the public eye; teachers, tutors, presenters, comedians and many more, have to be extra careful in what they say as it could offend pupils and listeners and cause various disputes. However, as regards non-professional people, PC is a broad term which doesn’t really mean as much to us. Without us knowing, I think we are ‘politically correct’. We try and say things in different ways to try not to cause offence. Basically political correctness, right? Political correctness and its meaning changes from person to person, from generation to generation and will continue to change throughout the years. There will be no regularity regarding political correctness nor two views that are the same. The opinions that relate to PC create anxieties about language. People will begin to say not what they want but what they believe people want to hear. What kind of society is that?

As a generation, there will always be a divide between those who believe political correctness is what shapes our thought and creates a harmonious society and those that see PC as a restriction of our human rights. It is not what we say, it is what people infer from what we say The connotations that relate to what has been said. How far people take what is said out of context to be offensive. Are we being too sensitive? Has political correctness gone that word, phrase, sentence too far? Maybe PC is just infinity….

DOMINIQUE HITCHEN, English Language undergraduate, University of Chester, UK


Debate.Org. (2015). Is political correctness a good thing? 

Hughes, G. (2010). Political Correctness: A history of semantics and culture. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell

Muir, H. (2009, December 21). In defence of political correctness. 

Phillips, M. (2012, January 9). Tourettes and how David Cameron fell victim to the ‘sensitivity police’. Retrieved from Daily Mail.

Ross, A. (2012, January 11). Premier Bin, Len.  Retrieved from The Sun

Sawyer, M. (2012, January 8). Your Mum is so fat: when she fell in love she broke it. Retrieved from Observer Magazine.

The Oxford Dictionary of English. (2015). Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Orwellian Newspeak or respect for others? CHRISTINA SOMMERVILLE explores ‘political correctness’

The debate on political correctness can be a sore subject for most, as it is such a controversial topic on which everyone seems to have a different opinion. It has been simmering away for decades, however, it seems that the debate has reached its peak in the 21st Century. Social media, online newspaper comment sections, blogs – these are all platforms for people from any background to express themselves, a modern luxury which gives everyone a voice.  Of course freedom of expression isn’t a bad thing, it is our legal right after all, but the controversy lies in the way we utilise our freedom of expression. In the following, I will be addressing both sides of the argument regarding political correctness from a primarily linguistic perspective, drawing on modern topical issues to support my arguments.

Merriam-Webster.com (2015) defines political correctness as “agreeing with the idea that people should be careful to not use language or behave in a way that could offend a particular group of people” whereas Collinsdictionary.com (2015) defines it as “demonstrating progressive ideals, esp. by avoiding vocabulary that is considered offensive, discriminatory, or judgemental, esp. concerning race and gender.” Both definitions ultimately state a very similar point, however there are subtle differences between the two. Notice how Merriam-Webster.com say “to not use language or behave in a way that could offend […]”. This suggests that we should restrict our language and behaviour and eliminate words from our language that could, at any time, cause offence, even where offence wasn’t intended. Collinsdictionary.com address the definition slightly differently, as they use terms such as “demonstrating progressive ideals”, and “avoiding vocabulary that is considered offensive…”. Unlike Merriam-Webster.com, Collins-dictionary.com has more of a descriptive approach, suggesting that our language should expand and adapt to our modern culture, that we should avoid certain vocabulary which is already deemed as offensive in today’s society. These two definitions represent the two main arguments I am addressing. Has political correctness gone that far that we need to eliminate words from our vocabulary and be conscious of our language at all times in case we cause offense? Or should we celebrate the positive influences and progression that political correctness has brought to our language?

The BBC caused outrage when it was revealed that they had edited out the word ‘girl’ in their coverage of the Commonwealth Games, in which Mark Beaumont said “I am not sure I can live that down – being beaten by a 19-year-old-girl” (Marsden, 2014). Some members of the public reacted, saying that it is “finding offence where none is taken” (Marsden, 2014) whereas the BBC felt that they needed to edit the word out ‘just in case’. This is where political correctness goes too far. The media have an immense privilege in that what they publish or broadcast does influence/manipulate the thoughts and behaviors of its recipients, however this time the BBC were trying too hard to remain politically correct by conjuring up an issue that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Browne (2006, p.49) summarizes this point, stating that “[o]ne tactic of political correctness is to follow the Orwellian Newspeak approach of trying to eliminate thoughts by eliminating the words, or even unintended associations.”

If we read Uuganaa Ramsay’s blog “The Meaning of Mongol” (Ramsay, 2014) we see how one word, “Mongol”, can be received so differently depending on the context. Initially, the term was used in a derogatory way to describe people with Down’s syndrome before a diagnosis had been discovered, because the physical appearances of the Down’s syndrome patients (then known simply as “idiots”) were similar to those of Mongols. Ramsay’s main point in this article is to use the term as it is intended, the name of a race, rather than as an insult. Here we see a positive use of politically correct language, as instead of blaming people for using the term or wanting the term abolished, she understands that some people are unaware of the etymology of the term and hopes that, by making them aware, the usage of the term will change over time. Hughes (2009, p.3) makes a point which summarises Ramsay’s views quite well, that political correctness is a “…slightly puritanical intervention to sanitize the language by suppressing some of its uglier prejudicial features, thereby undoing some past injustices […] with the hope of improving social relations.”  The main point to take away from both arguments is that context is key. A word is just letters, it is just a signifier. The offence is caused when the word is given meaning when used in a particular context.

CHRISTINA SOMMERVILLE, English Language undergraduate, University of Chester, UK


Browne, A. (2006). The retreat of reason. London: Civitas.

Collinsdictionary.com,. (2015). Definition of “politically correct” | Collins English Dictionary. Retrieved 8 December 2015.

Hughes, Geoffrey. (2009). Political Correctness. Wiley-Blackwell. 

Marsden, S. (2014). BBC mauled for ruling ‘girl’ is offensive word. Mail Online. Retrieved 8 December 2015.

Merriam-webster.com,. (2015). politically correct | agreeing with the idea that people should be careful to not use language or behave in a way that could offend a particular group of people. Retrieved 8 December 2015.

Ramsay, U. (2014). The meaning of Mongol – BBC News. BBC News. Retrieved 8 December 2015.



THOMAS BARBERA asks: ‘Should we rejoice over political correctness?’

How many times have we heard “Oh no, you should not say that!”? We are taught to watch what we say because it might offend someone and be deemed as “politically incorrect”. Does political correctness serve a good cause or does it only prove to limit our freedom of speech?

Nowadays it seems that everything that we say is under the magnifying glass of political correctness. However, is it a bad thing in itself? It could be the case, to some extent, if we consider the concept of ‘victim status’.

According to Browne (2006), claiming to have victim status is finding a statement that is deemed offensive – or not – towards one’s community and using it against the utterer. It is also a device to kill two birds with one stone: The reply to the first comment serves to elevate the group that has been affected by the utterance that was perceived derogatory. A good example of the use of victim status was what the controversial Jeremy Clarkson said in reference to the tragic accident that happened to Chinese cockle pickers in Morecambe Beach in 2004. With very questionable humour he compared the 2012 Olympic synchronised swimmers “as nothing more than Chinese women in hats, upside down, in a bit of water”. He added: “You can see that sort of thing on Morecambe Beach. For free” (The Huffington Post UK, 2012). The backlash came from the family of the casualities but also from the Chinese community and the anti-racist groups, saying that “he had no right to offend communities in this country who live and work here and provide more to Britain than he does” (Phillips, 2012). He was in no point referring to the race of the cockle-pickers, yet his comment received backlash and media attention. This was also the occasion for a particular anti-racism group to value and highlight the Chinese community’s worth whilst lowering Clarkson’s. This suggests that political correctness can be taken to the extreme and that people can be offended by statements that are not intended to be politically incorrect. Nonetheless, it does not make what Clarkson said any less abhorrent.

However, is political correctness always going too far? Sometimes it can be put to great use and help the minority and the ones who are discriminated against. It is undeniable that policing what people say can be, from time to time, quite beneficial. It is especially valid for people in the public eye. They serve as role models for the young and need to be more aware of what they can and cannot say. Their words are heard, analysed and repeated multiple times. The role of the “thought police” can turn out to be crucial. Discovering that your favourite football player, John Terry (Chelsea), needs to pay almost £250, 000 for some racist comments should make you question racism and correct language – hopefully.

Political correctness can help change the mentalities and could broaden the narrowest minds in some occasions. Consciously choosing another words instead of one that could be deemed rude takes half of a second but makes a whole world of difference for your interlocutor. I agree with what Steven Pedrow (2014) wrote in his article for the Washington Post: “Language is about respect”. Choosing words correctly proves that you care about the person you are speaking to. Moreover, as Hughes (2010, p. 289) claims, linguistic adjustments can have a positive effect on one’s behaviour in some measure. It makes little sense to use nice and respectful words to talk to someone with the idea of hurting them. Even though it is not a question of getting rid of all the bad words, of course, it can prevent someone from being openly rude. Perhaps, if we start to talk in a more “politically correct” manner, we would, in the end, start acting as such.

As Browne (2006, p. 40) rightly said, “[o]ne of the main purposes of civilisation is that it protects the weak and curbs abuses by the strong. Few could oppose the basic underlying aim of political correctness, to redistribute power from the strong to the weak”. For that reason, we should be glad political correctness exists. Beside its advantages, political correctness has to face some disadvantages as well. We can note, for example, the creation of a “victim mentality”. Browne (2006, p.41) points out that political correctness, instead of protecting the weak, can cause more harm than intended.

THOMAS BARBERA, English Language undergraduate, University of Chester, UK


Browne, A. (2006). The retreat of reason. London: Civitas.

Hughes, G. (2010). Political correctness. Maldon, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell.

Petrow, S. (2015). From ‘he’ and ‘she’ to ‘they’ and ‘ze,’ a shift to more gender-neutral pronouns. Washington Post. Retrieved 27 November 2015

Phillips, M. (2012). Tourette’s and how David Cameron fell victim to the “sensivity police.” Daily Mail. 
Schatten, R. (2015). What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Political Correctness? – Blurtit. Business-finance.blurtit.com. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
The Huffington Post UK,. (2012). Jeremy Clarkson Jokes About Dead Chinese Cockle-Pickers. Retrieved 25 November 2015

Are the ‘PC brigade’ curbing are rights to freedom of speech? asks DAISY PHELAN

Political correctness has fast become one of, if not the, most talked about debate surrounding the accepted codes of speech. The Right often views it as a control tactic that impinges our rights to free speech. Is the real purpose of political correctness to control language and thereby control thought? This question has caused moral outrage amongst the public due to it becoming such a widespread phenomenon.

Using polite and cautious euphemisms to control language is seeing freedom of speech slowly diminish. We could ask, with growing anxieties and our conscious efforts to not violate the accepted code of our utterances, are we to blame for being too cautious about defying the ‘norm’ and conforming to politically correct language and a controlled society?

Allan and Burridge (2006:90) acknowledge this by reiterating the questions surrounding our tolerance to blatant language manipulation, claiming ‘[…] political correctness has been extremely successful in getting people to change their linguistic behaviour. Even many of the deliberate efforts to shift the meanings and connotations of words have come up roses.’ They support the view that as a nation we have been too accepting and accommodating towards politically correct language.

Battistella (2005:111) claims that ‘the politically correct restrictions on speech are mostly self-imposed, with speakers unwilling to run the risk of being judged to violate the accepted code for their context of utterance.’ Therefore, is it a question of thought control, or self-censorship? Are the Left manipulating our thoughts, or are we only too happy to toe the line?

I believe that you can’t have one without the other. Self-censorship has been motivated by a rational fear. Political correctness has become so powerful that it affects the way we think and express ideas. Therefore, the anxieties that have arisen from political correctness have led to self-censorship. We are constantly questioning the language we are using and are required to use imposed speech codes.

In 2011, Ricky Gervais was hounded by the PC Brigade because of a picture he uploaded to his Twitter account. He named this photo ‘mong’.  He claimed he had not realised it was still a derogatory term used to insult disabled people. Ricky Gervais probably didn’t intend for this to cause offense and yet he was bombarded with angry protests that he had dared to use this word. This highlights the ‘thought police’s’ intentions of seeking to eliminate any view, which resists conforming to a strict liberal perspective. It also raises questions. Are we not allowed to speak freely and use language humorously when we have no intention of it meaning to cause offense?

The problem with political correctness is that it is purely subjective. What I take offence to, might not necessarily offend somebody else. Therefore, how do we realistically define what is politically correct or incorrect?

Whilst I believe that people should be aware of different cultures, societies and health issues, we need to refuse to conform to the exaggerated speech codes that are imposed upon us in order to stop it. If political correctness is allowed to perpetuate, it will curb our right to free speech.

DAISY PHELAN, English Language undergraduate, University of Chester, UK


Allen. K, Burridge. K, 2006. Forbidden Words: Taboo and the Censoring of Language, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Battistella, L, E,. (2005) Bad Language. New York: Oxford University Press.

BECKY DEWHURST considers whether flying the flag for political correctness is a good thing

Political correctness came into the forefront of media attention during the 1970s and 1980s, with much prominence developing during the 1980s when the phenomenon was introduced by students in universities across America (Hughes 2010:5).

Since then there has been widespread debate about PC. Some argue it is censoring and controlling the language, dominating what should be freedom of speech (Dunant 1994). Others argue it is necessary to adopt approaches that are simply terms of politeness and there is nothing wrong with not causing offence (Muir 2009).

So, is political correctness a good thing, or not?

PC is heavily related to taboo, as taboos are the polar opposite of what political correctness encapsulates. Whereas PC uses lexis that is euphemistic, polite and (in theory) inoffensive, taboos are dysphemistic, impolite, offensive and derogatory (Allan and Burridge 2006:2). You could argue that without taboo, there would be no call for political correctness, for, as Allan and Burridge state, taboos motivate lexical change through the consequent censoring of a taboo, thus terms of taboo change to inoffensive PC terms.

Many taboo terms in today’s Western society are related to etiquette, and language speakers have a tendency to carefully censor their own lexical choices as a way of preventing ‘losing face’ by offending others (Allan and Burridge 2006:237).

However, this creates negative connotations for the Political Correctness phenomenon, as language users grow increasingly more anxious about their own use of lexis (Hughes 2010). It now appears that being seen as offensive and un-PC is equally just as bad as being described as ‘politically correct’.

Those who are against Political Correctness argue it threatens freedom of expression (Dunant 1994:23), as PC is a way in which to ‘police’ thoughts, telling people what to say; and consequently, what to think.

Media coverage of Political Correctness has also helped increase its unpopularity. News stories create an ‘us and them’ approach to PC, reporting on events such as the alleged change of lyrics in ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ (Dunant 1994:173) and local councils disallowing the flying of the St George’s Flag (Daily Mail Online 2013). Popular headlines relating to PC often state it has ‘gone mad’.

It is now argued that political correctness has become a problem within its own right (Gallagher 2013). Whereby PC was originally a way to ‘encourage tact and sensitivity’ regarding topics considered as taboo, people now choose to avoid topics such as race, gender, religion etc. all together.

However, those in favour of PC do not agree that it polices thoughts. Instead, a more innocent opinion is held, referring to PC as ‘verbal hygiene’, ironically a euphemism. According to Muir (2009) PC creates an inclusive society in which people from different backgrounds are offered equal opportunities. Social interactions are generally respectful and courteous (Allan and Burridge 2006:238), therefore PC is regarded as a politeness strategy as opposed to anything more sinister.

Referring back to my question posed earlier (is political correctness a good thing?), it is difficult to form a clear answer. Many are divided, and will remain divided on the issue for the foreseeable future. To the vast majority, PC has gone too far and creates anxieties about language use, yet others see no harm in altering certain lexical choices to protect people from offence and encouraging politeness.

BECKY DEWHURST, English Language undergraduate, University of Chester, UK


Allan, K & Burridge, K. (2006) Forbidden Words: Taboo and the Censoring of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Daily Mail. (2013) Daily Mail Online. [Accessed 14 November 2013]. Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2324999/Rural-council-stops-flying-flag-St-George-claiming-offensive-Muslims-links-Crusades.html

Dunant, S (ed). (1994) The War of the Words: The political correctness debate. London: Virago Press

Gallagher, B. (2013) Huffington Post. [Accessed 28 November 2013]. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bj-gallagher/the-problem-political-correctness_b_2746663.html

Hughes, G. (2010) Political Correctness: A History of Semantics and Culture. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Muir, H. (2009) [Accessed 08 November 2013]. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/dec/21/philip-davies-political-correctness

EMMA WILLIAMS explores whether political correctness is a restriction on freedom of speech

Political correctness initially occurred in politics but now it relates to many areas of language and linguistic behaviour such as race, culture, and feminism. To begin with it was used in the US supreme court but it never really took off until the 1960s. Political Correctness causes numerous disagreements as many see it as a matter of affecting free speech, whereas on the other hand some individuals think that it plays an important role in society.

Numerous people consider political correctness as a restriction on freedom of speech, which prevents us from saying what we really want to say, whereas others disagree with this and believe that actually it helps prevent bullying of the minority groups that Political correctness aims to protect, such as women, disabled people, black people and so on. A lot of why political correctness has such bad connotations, is because of the constant coverage it obtains from the media. Allan and Burridge (2006:92) declare that the media create a ‘PC scare’ which means that they report on ‘over-the-top speech codes’ which lead to a hostile attitude towards Political correctness.

Political Correctness is deemed by many people as taking away free speech; Becker and Becker (2001) suggest that ‘The term ‘politically correct’ partly in virtue of its historical association with the communist party, also implies that the democratic liberties are being interfered with, most notably free speech and academic freedom’. What they suggest here by referring to the Communist Party, is that political correctness is about wanting us all to be the ‘same’ in the way we speak and you could also go further and say it regards thought control too.

Battistella (2007: 111) claims that ‘[t]he politically correct restrictions on speech are mostly self-imposed, with speakers unwilling to run the risk of being judged to violate the accepted code for their context of utterance’. Here Battistella is suggesting that people are too afraid to say what they really mean to say in fear of being accused of being racist or sexist etc. where in actual case they don’t mean anything offensive by what they say. Gallagher (2013) states that while ‘the original intent of political correctness may have been good, the effect of political correctness has been to make everyone avoid the topics altogether’. Gallagher makes the point that the initial aim of political correctness had good intentions to protect people, but groups of people are now taking PC too far and are using the term subjectively.

Hughes, G (2010:4) suggests that ‘political Correctness inculcates a sense of obligation or conformity in areas which should be (or are) matters of choice’. Hughes’ point is that people feel obliged to say or think in a certain way, in order not to offend people. The whole notion of ‘Political Correctness’ could well and truly be linked to George Orwell’s 1984 novel. He predicted a world where everyone was controlled by the government, your freedom speech was taken away and you could be arrested for saying the wrong thing. Some aspects aside, I don’t think Orwell’s prediction was very far off.

EMMA WILLIAMS, English Language undergraduate, University of Chester, UK


Allan, K & Burridge, K. (2006) Forbidden Words: Taboo and the Censoring of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Battistella, L.E. (2007) Bad language: are some words better than others? Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Becker, C.L. & Becker, B.C. (eds.) (2001) Encyclopedia of Ethics. New York: Routledge.

Gallagher, B.J. (2013) The Problem with Political Correctness. The Huffington Post [Online], 25th February [Accessed 6th November 2013], 1. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bj-gallagher/the-problem-political-correctness_b_2746663.html

Hughes, G. (2010) Political Correctness: A History of Semantics and Culture. West Sussex: Blackwell Publishing.