Political Correctness: A History of Semantics and Culture

Article excerpt

Geoffrey Hughes. Political Correctness: A History of Semantics and Culture. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

Political correctness has brought about a new vocabulary of words into our culture with terms like homophobic, multicultural, Eurocentric, disadvantaged, physically challenged, carbon footprint, sex worker, lookism, fattisi, phallocentric, waitron, wimmin, differently abled, and DWEM (dead white European males). According to Geoffrey Hughes, these are not simply new words in the way that Shakespeare's be-all and end-all, unmanned, assassination, and yesterdays, were original forms four centuries ago. He argues they are more like Orwell's artificial coinages in Newspeak (e.g., thoughtcrime, joycamp, and doublethink), carrying with them a different order of novelty, opaqueness, and oddity.

In this extensively-researched, thought-provoking book, Hughes explores the origins, progress, content, and style of politically correct language, scrutinizing the writings of authors as diverse as Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, Jonathan Swift, Philip Larkin, David Mamet, and J. …