We must never allow the richness of that language [English] to be diluted by bending the knee to the tyranny of political correctness.
— former British Home Secretary Michael Howard

When Political Correctness Goes Too Far

Dr. Phillip M. Feldman

Some of the items below are humorous; others are not. All serve as indicators of the boundaries where free expression is under pressure in our society. This pressure is particularly worrisome when it produces self-censorship that distorts or hides the truth, as in the last example below.

Readers are encouraged to submit suitable items for inclusion on this page. Note that the topic is political correctness in English language usage—not political correctness in general. Items to be published must be free of bigotry, stereotyping, and the like.

From Reuters and CNN.com, Nov 26, 2003:

'Master' and 'slave' computer labels unacceptable, officials say

Los Angeles officials have asked that manufacturers, suppliers and contractors stop using the terms "master" and "slave" on computer equipment, saying such terms are unacceptable and offensive.

from Eric v. d. Luft, Ph.D., M.L.S.:

The etymologically ignorant can make some really ridiculous errors when they get on their political hobbyhorses. I once heard one of them say that the word manual was sexist. I tried in vain to explain that it comes from the Latin word which means hand. [Editor's comment: We all know how sexist the Romans were.]

from Andrew T. Nadell, M.D.:

Do you recall a few months ago [in 1999], a local political appointee was fired for correctly using the word niggardly to mean stingy? It was deemed racist, but when someone with a little more education finally stepped forward, he was given another job.

from the reference at the end of this page:

The extreme polarity of views on this topic [of gender bias] is encapsulated in the [false] story that radical feminists lobbied the UK government to have Manchester renamed as Personchester.

from the Associated Press and Fox News, March 8, 2013:

Vermont newspaper defends 'fry Rice' poster supporting local team

A Vermont newspaper defended itself Saturday against accusations of racism over a poster [see below] it published in support of a local sports team that read "fry Rice" in type associated with Chinese calligraphy, saying it meant no offense and simply wanted to play on words. The back-page poster, printed in Thursday's editions, was intended to support St. Johnsbury Academy's basketball team in its game against Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington, the Caledonian Record wrote in an unsigned editorial. The editorial acknowledged that the poster's wordplay, punctuated by the chosen font, "evoked a particular ethnic cuisine" but [argued that it] did not constitute racism. ... "We don't concede, however, that the use of imagery with any racial, ethnic or religious inference is to inherently debase that race/ethnicity/religion," the paper said.

dictionary.com provides several definitions of the word shirk. Two of these refer to the meaning of the word in Islam. As of April 2015, these are worded as follows:

   a. the fundamental sin of regarding anything as equal to Allah
   b. any belief that is considered to be in opposition to Allah and Islam
Item a. above is inaccurate. Shirk refers to the sin of polytheism, punishable by death. (See, for example, The Complete Infidel's Guide to the Koran by Robert Spencer).

For a serious and reasonably balanced discussion of political correctness in the English language, read the following:


Last update: 18 April, 2015