‘The Elevation of Sensitivity over Truth’: Political Correctness and Related Phrases in the Time Magazine Corpus

‘The Elevation of Sensitivity over Truth’: Political Correctness and Related Phrases in the... Abstract This article is a quantitative and qualitative diachronic study of how the expression politically correct (PC) and related phrases are used in the American magazine Time from 1923 through 2006. The data show a dramatic increase in the frequency with which PC-phrases are used in the early 1990s. From this time onwards, the phrases are often used as a means of passing evaluative subjective opinions off as objectively reported facts, especially in reviews of cultural events, where they figure prominently. In contrast to earlier studies, our data show that PC-phrases are not inherently negative; this applies primarily to discourse on environment and business, where to be PC often implies being environmentally or socially conscious in a positive sense. Nevertheless, negative or ironic uses of the terms predominate. Most often they express criticism of unspoken cultural norms rather than being attempts to close down debate or criticizing the replacement of offensive terms by more neutral expressions. 1. INTRODUCTION In January 2015, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris, political correctness again became an issue of public debate in the USA.1 In an article in New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait claimed that ‘[a]fter political correctness burst onto the academic scene in the late ’80s and early ’90s, it went into a long remission. Now it has returned’. He then proceeded to define political correctness as ‘a style of politics in which the more radical members of the left attempt to regulate political discourse by defining opposing views as bigoted and illegitimate’ (Chait 2015). This stirred up a debate about political correctness, most of it critical of Chait’s stand (see for instance Bowman 2015; Hartman 2015). Hartman, whose article appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, sums up the debate by saying that ‘[t]he history of political correctness is more complex than Chait seems to realize’ (Hartman 2015: 19). Evidently, what to make of the concept of political correctness—or PC, for short—remains very much a contested issue. Academically, too, PC is still a highly contentious subject. At least four distinct positions can be readily identified. First, there are those who critique political correctness as a phenomenon, charging it with stifling public debate and restricting free speech (D’Souza 1991; Woodward 1992). Secondly, there are those who defend political correctness as a set of valid intellectual assumptions (Choi and Murphy 1992; Feldstein 1997) that by no means have the dire consequences ascribed to them by the first group. Among linguists, for instance, PC is often regarded as a reasonable discursive practice (Cameron 1995; Lakoff 2000; Allan and Burridge 2006; Halmari 2011; Curzan 2014), a contemporary equivalent of what classical rhetoricians called decorum. Thirdly, there are those who question the very existence of political correctness, claiming that the entire notion is a wholesale fabrication of right-wing forces designed to wrest interpretive authority away from the left (Wilson 1995). Finally, there are those who insist, as do we, that what is interesting to pursue is not only the phenomenon but also the way political correctness and related phrases are used in discourse (Johnson and Suhr 2003; Toolan 2003). In accordance with this last, analytical approach, we are concerned in the present study with explicit mentions of political correctness rather than with PC language per se, however that may be defined. Henceforth, PC will be used as an abbreviation both for political correctness and politically correct, while PC-phrases will be used as an umbrella term for political correctness, politically correct, and their abbreviated and negated equivalents. The four positions identified above—protesters, defenders, deniers, and analysts—differ in terms of their basic assumptions, but they all agree that whether as myth or reality, PC very much affects public debate. As to how it does so, however, there is no consensus. While Chait, a typical representative of the protesters, refers to political correctness as ‘a style of politics’, others see it mainly as a tool for concealing the truth (‘the drive for politically correct language is […] a progression from honesty and clarity to dishonesty and obscurity’; O’Neill 2011: 285) or a rhetorical device (a way of ‘stifling the ‘real’ debates’; Suhr and Johnson 2003: 5). In all of these characterizations, there is criticism of the phenomenon of political correctness. Yet, one should be wary of conceiving of PC-phrases as inherently negatively loaded, for, as we have already mentioned above, there are those who are willing to defend PC as a set of positive values, or a consciously devised ‘way of talking about taboo topics’ (Allan and Burridge 2006: 111). Much of the debate about PC is and has been about reforming language use, especially to avoid bias and to promote the use of more respectful language. Curzan (2014: 53) points to the charged nature of the term politically correct and suggests that the phrase socially and politically responsive prescriptivism be used instead. As early as 1995, Cameron referred to such practices as verbal hygiene, a term which never really caught on. From a semantic perspective, the phrase political correctness is problematic. As Hughes (2010: 17) points out, it does not have ‘an agreed, clear, literal meaning in the way that grammatical correctness or political corruption do’. In line with Gallie (1956; see also Connolly 1993: 9–44), one could say that like political concepts in general, PC is an essentially contested concept, with the added complication that it has evolved quite recently. One option might be to study the semantic prosody of the phrase (Louw 1993), which suggests that words may have some sort of ‘hidden meaning’ which they receive from the context in which they are used. In the case of political correctness, which is often said to occur in negative contexts, one might therefore assume that it typically occurs with words with negative connotations. A similar idea is expressed by Channell’s term evaluative lexis (Channell 2000), used in her corpus analysis of the evaluative function of words and expressions. For instance, she shows that regime, which in the dictionary definition means ‘method or system of government’, ‘includes in its meaning that a speaker disapproves of the government or system of authority so designated’ and that it ‘is used to attack one’s opponents’ (Channell 2000: 46). A further complication of the issue is that the use of PC-phrases changed in the wake of the PC-debate that broke out with the publication of a series of articles in the American press in the early 1990s (see Aufderheide 1992). In this article we examine PC from a diachronic perspective by analysing all occurrences of political correctness and related phrases which appear in the Time magazine corpus (Davies 2007), which includes all issues from its inception in March 1923 until 2006. Our choice of data was largely a matter of convenience. Time magazine is the only publication of its kind for which there exists a complete corpus; constructed by Mark Davies, it also has the benefit of being freely available. Since our results inevitably reflect the biases of their source, they cannot be claimed to be representative of US publications in general. Nevertheless, Time magazine remains of great interest for a study like ours. A nationally well-known, non-specialist publication with an educated readership, the magazine covers subjects of general importance and interest, such as national and international affairs, education, business, religion, and culture, all of which are subject areas, where it is likely that political correctness will be mentioned. Equally importantly, while it originally had a moderately conservative stance, by the 1970s the magazine ‘had assumed a more neutral, centrist stance in the tone of its reportage’ (Encyclopedia Britannica, online), thus setting it off from more conservative magazines that arguably had a vested interest in promoting the notion of PC. Thus whereas its main competitor, Newsweek, actively promoted the equation of PC with Orwellian notions of ‘Thought Control’, as on the cover of its December 24 1990 issue, Time covered PC at a remove, as it were. For that very reason, it is a particularly apt source of data for getting a sense of how the notion of PC has migrated from the more specific contexts in which it was first used to wider areas of public discourse, and how it has been transformed in the process. Robin Lakoff (2000) includes a short quantitative study of PC-phrases in an American news database, but to our knowledge, no study has combined a quantitative with a qualitative investigation of the discourses framed as ‘politically correct’ in an American magazine like Time. An analysis of such terms from a linguistic as well as a cultural-theoretic perspective can shed light not only on popular discourses but also reveal whether these phrases may serve as descriptive terms rather than as rhetorical tools used in debates about social issues. In the first, quantitative part of the results we look at what types of text PC-phrases are used in and in reference to what topics. In the qualitative part we analyse a number of examples from the corpus in the light of previous claims regarding the function of PC-phrases. Furthermore, we attempt to determine whether the claim that PC-phrases are inherently negative (Toolan 2003) can be supported by the results. 2. ORIGINS OF PC While ‘political correctness’ as a concept is usually said to hark back to the second half of the 20th century (Perry 1992), many of the citations in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) are much older. Hence, three of five citations of political correctness are of earlier date (1805, 1840, and 1935). The same goes for politically correct, with four early citations (the first one from 1793—in a record from the US Supreme Court—and the next three from 1875, 1934, and 1939), which make up half the citations of the phrase. Even politically incorrect is recorded as early as in the 1930s (two citations). Only political incorrectness and PC (pc, p.c.) were not attested prior to the 1980s. The first (neutral) sense given in the OED for politically correct is ‘appropriate to the prevailing political or social circumstances’. It is noted that in early use the phrase did not occur ‘as a fixed collocation’. The second sense, said to be ‘sometimes depreciative’ (italics in original) and to have originated in the USA, is given as ‘conforming to a body of liberal or radical opinion, esp. on social matters, usually characterized by the advocacy of approved causes or views, and often by the rejection of language, behaviour, etc., considered discriminatory or offensive’. In this article, we will include the few early uses of PC-phrases in the survey of total occurrences in the Time corpus but not in the quantitative analysis of genre and topic. According to the Oxford English Dictionary political correctness became an established phrase only in the last couple of decades of the 20th century. Whereas the early occurrences are examples of two separate elements, functioning as modifier + head, the majority of the more recent occurrences can arguably be regarded as fixed phrases. What spurred the debate on political correctness was the issue of curricula and affirmative action in American academia (Hughes 2010: 3), often centring on race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. Other issues often mentioned in connection with the political correctness debate are multiculturalism, disability, the environment, culture, and animal rights (Johnson and Suhr 2003: 50f.; Hughes 2010:3, 58). The measures taken at many universities to revise curricula to include readings on previously marginalized groups, and through affirmative action ensure that there was equality between genders and different ethnic groups both when it came to hiring staff and admitting students, were seen by some as threats to academic freedom. One such group, the National Association of Scholars, argued vehemently against such policies and practices, which they depicted in some of their publications as a sort of brainwashing: Thus, ‘sensitivity training’ programs designed to cultivate ‘correct thought’ about complicated normative, social, and political issues do not teach tolerance but impose orthodoxy. And when these programs favor manipulative psychological techniques over honest discussion, they also undermine the intellectual purposes of higher education and anger those subjected to them. (The National Association of Scholars 1992: 9) Probably the most famous outcry against this alleged restriction of academic freedom was the commencement address by President George H. Bush at the University of Michigan on 4 May 1991, where he said that ‘free speech’ was now ‘under assault throughout the United States, including on some college campuses’ (Bush 1992: 227). The same year, Dinesh D’Souza’s book Illiberal education: The politics of race and sex on campus appeared, a publication by a right-wing Indian-American writer highly critical of the changes in American education. It quickly became evident that D’Souza’s account was largely a fabrication (Wilson 1995); yet the image of political correctness run amok on American campuses which it presented proved too attractive to those critical of new theoretical paradigms to renounce. Thus even when admitting that ‘the book turned out to contain some serious and irresponsible factual errors’ (Woodward 1992: 29), reviewers who had originally endorsed it kept on advancing it as evidence of Bush’s claim, namely, that the ‘most critical issue raised by the current academic upheaval is the denial of freedom—freedom of thought, speech, and teaching—academic freedom’ (Woodward 1992: 30). In a more general sense, protesters often argue that PC makes certain areas ‘off-limits for discussion’ (Epstein 1992: 151). Allan and Burridge (2006: 105) mention gender, sexuality, disability, religion, race, and ethnicity as topics that are currently taboo. One example of such a taboo is that the press usually refrains from mentioning the race of criminals in reports. Yet another perceived restriction of personal freedom is the feeling that people have of not being able to call things by their ‘right names’ (Allan and Burridge 2006: 101). This association of PC with restrictions on freedom of speech would seem to be corroborated by the genealogy of the phrase. Several sources trace the concept of political correctness back to the dissemination, in translated form, of Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, more popularly known as the Little Red Book, in the 1960s, and suggest that the phrase roughly translates into ‘conforming to the party line or expectations’ (Hughes 2010: 63; see also Perry 1992: 72; Feldstein 1997: 4). Perry (1992: 71) claims that the phrase appears to have gained currency in the USA in the late 1960s within the Black Power movement and the New Left. Although her account is almost entirely anecdotal, it is often cited as authoritative. Some sources mention that the phrase originally appears to have been used in a positive sense (Suhr and Johnson 2003: 9; Allan and Burridge 2006: 92; Hughes 2010: 1) and that it only later took on negative or ironic senses; Perry, on the other hand, says that even though there may have been some who used it ‘straight up’, it was ‘picked up and parodied’ almost from the start (Perry 1992: 75). This part of her account is questionable; she is on safer ground in noting that ‘politically correct’ (usually within quotation marks) turned up in the debate about female sexuality in the early 1980s (Perry 1992: 75). From Perry’s examples, it is clear that being politically incorrect had positive connotations: ‘Within Lesbian circles, being ‘politically incorrect’, like being a ‘bad girl’, was coming to mean hip, sophisticated, rebellious, impulsive’ (Perry 1992: 77). Perry’s conclusion is that the phrase politically correct has always been double-edged, and that its use among radical groups indicates ‘a suspiciousness of orthodoxy of any sort’; according to Perry (1992: 77), it is primarily used for self-criticism. The same view is expressed by Epstein (1992: 148). As will be seen, our study does not confirm these claims, but it does support Perry’s claim that the term was picked up early in feminist circles. However, there is no trace of irony in any of the examples in our corpus until 1986, when, in an article on feminism and female sexuality, it is asked, should ‘women really have to limit themselves to politically correct orgasms?’ 3. DATA The data used in the present study is the Time magazine corpus (Davies 2007), which includes all issues of the American news magazine Time from 1923 until 2006.2 The total size of the corpus is 106,418,475 words. Here it needs to be pointed out that although all issues of Time are included in the corpus, only the first page of many articles are included (Mark Davies, personal communication). This is both an advantage and a drawback for a study such as ours. It is a drawback in that the statistics do not correctly reflect the number of times PC-phrases are used, at the same time as it is an advantage that frequencies will not be skewed by long articles in which the phrases are used numerous times. All instances of the phrases political correctness, political incorrectness, politically correct, politically incorrect, and PC (upper and lower case, with or without full stops, when the abbreviation represents either politically correct or political correctness) were retrieved, including three instances of hyphenated politically-correct (there were no corresponding occurrences of hyphenated politically-incorrect). In total, the search produced 261 hits, 239 of which were included in the study (the 22 references to the television show ‘Politically Incorrect’ were excluded). All instances were saved with as much context as possible (10 lines), including information about the title of the article as well as the author. Next, they were categorized according to genre and topic. We used Toolan’s (2003) categorization as our starting point. Toolan distinguished between ‘analytical commentary’ and three types of review—books, television, and films. However, we decided to include all reviews in one category, as there were several more types of cultural events that were reviewed, like exhibitions, musicals, plays, and journals. To the two categories ‘analytical commentary’ and ‘reviews’, we added the categories ‘letters’, ‘interviews, quoted text’ (which means that the writer clearly attributes the phrases to someone else), and finally ‘other’. The latter category includes occurrences of PC-phrases in the table of contents, cross-word puzzles, etc. The categorization of genre was straightforward. Determining the topic was trickier. Toolan (2003: 82) attempted to record the ‘whole-article topic’ by trying to determine ‘what the article is about’. When analysing our data, we found that in many cases, this proved impossible to do, as PC simultaneously referred to more than one topic, none of which appeared to be more prominent than any other. Therefore, we decided to acknowledge this problem by dividing the results into three separate groups, depending on whether PC in each particular context referred to one, two, or more than two topics (single/dual/multiple topics). In this part of the analysis, we made use of the immediate context in conjunction with the larger context. Each of us identified the topic/s of each article before comparing our results. We agreed in 90 per cent of the cases, which we considered sufficient. We then discussed the ones that we had originally analysed differently and arrived at consensus about what topics were raised. It needs to be pointed out that since the Time magazine corpus is not divided into any subcorpora (such as genres), it is not possible to calculate frequency per million words for each genre. 4. RESULTS: PC IN TIME MAGAZINE 4.1 Survey of frequencies The results show, first of all, that the PC-phrases were not used to any great extent before the 1990s, when they peaked, and that usage decreased during the next decade (Table 1). (Since the size of the corpus varies for each decade, and since it does not include the full first decade of the 21st century, the figures per million words (pmw) give a more correct picture of the frequency than the actual numbers.) Table 1: Total frequency of PC-phrases in the Time magazine corpusa,b Decade Politically correct (N pmw) Politically incorrect (N pmw) Political(-) correctness (N pmw) Political incorrectness (N pmw) PC (N pmw) Total (N pmw) 1940s 0 (0) 1 (0.07) 1 (0.07) 0 (0) 0 (0) 2 (0.13) 1950s 1 (0.06) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 1 (0.06) 1960s 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 1970s 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 1980s 4 (0.36) 0 (0) 0 (0 0 (0) 0 (0) 4 (0.36) 1990s 64 (6.79) 21 (2.22) 57 (6.05) 6 (0.64) 23 (2.44) 171 (18.14) 2000s 26 (3.85) 9 (1.33) 20 (2.96) 1 (0.15) 5 (0.74) 61 (9.03) Total 95 (0.89) 31 (0.29) 78 (0.73) 7 (0.07) 28 (0.26) 239 (2.24) Decade Politically correct (N pmw) Politically incorrect (N pmw) Political(-) correctness (N pmw) Political incorrectness (N pmw) PC (N pmw) Total (N pmw) 1940s 0 (0) 1 (0.07) 1 (0.07) 0 (0) 0 (0) 2 (0.13) 1950s 1 (0.06) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 1 (0.06) 1960s 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 1970s 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 1980s 4 (0.36) 0 (0) 0 (0 0 (0) 0 (0) 4 (0.36) 1990s 64 (6.79) 21 (2.22) 57 (6.05) 6 (0.64) 23 (2.44) 171 (18.14) 2000s 26 (3.85) 9 (1.33) 20 (2.96) 1 (0.15) 5 (0.74) 61 (9.03) Total 95 (0.89) 31 (0.29) 78 (0.73) 7 (0.07) 28 (0.26) 239 (2.24) Note: pmw = per million words. a PC can stand for either politically correct or political correctness. A close examination of the instances revealed that the majority, or 22 of 28 instances, represented politically correct and only five political correctness. There was one more occurrence of PC where it was impossible to decide which of these was intended (‘But the book has been updated by Peter Stone (Titanic) in ways that pass p.c. muster without losing all the fun’. Time, 3 March 1999). b All references to the 1990s TV-show ‘Politically Incorrect’ were excluded (22 in all). Table 1: Total frequency of PC-phrases in the Time magazine corpusa,b Decade Politically correct (N pmw) Politically incorrect (N pmw) Political(-) correctness (N pmw) Political incorrectness (N pmw) PC (N pmw) Total (N pmw) 1940s 0 (0) 1 (0.07) 1 (0.07) 0 (0) 0 (0) 2 (0.13) 1950s 1 (0.06) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 1 (0.06) 1960s 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 1970s 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 1980s 4 (0.36) 0 (0) 0 (0 0 (0) 0 (0) 4 (0.36) 1990s 64 (6.79) 21 (2.22) 57 (6.05) 6 (0.64) 23 (2.44) 171 (18.14) 2000s 26 (3.85) 9 (1.33) 20 (2.96) 1 (0.15) 5 (0.74) 61 (9.03) Total 95 (0.89) 31 (0.29) 78 (0.73) 7 (0.07) 28 (0.26) 239 (2.24) Decade Politically correct (N pmw) Politically incorrect (N pmw) Political(-) correctness (N pmw) Political incorrectness (N pmw) PC (N pmw) Total (N pmw) 1940s 0 (0) 1 (0.07) 1 (0.07) 0 (0) 0 (0) 2 (0.13) 1950s 1 (0.06) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 1 (0.06) 1960s 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 1970s 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 1980s 4 (0.36) 0 (0) 0 (0 0 (0) 0 (0) 4 (0.36) 1990s 64 (6.79) 21 (2.22) 57 (6.05) 6 (0.64) 23 (2.44) 171 (18.14) 2000s 26 (3.85) 9 (1.33) 20 (2.96) 1 (0.15) 5 (0.74) 61 (9.03) Total 95 (0.89) 31 (0.29) 78 (0.73) 7 (0.07) 28 (0.26) 239 (2.24) Note: pmw = per million words. a PC can stand for either politically correct or political correctness. A close examination of the instances revealed that the majority, or 22 of 28 instances, represented politically correct and only five political correctness. There was one more occurrence of PC where it was impossible to decide which of these was intended (‘But the book has been updated by Peter Stone (Titanic) in ways that pass p.c. muster without losing all the fun’. Time, 3 March 1999). b All references to the 1990s TV-show ‘Politically Incorrect’ were excluded (22 in all). It is noteworthy that even in the 1990s, if the figures for all the PC-phrases are added up, they only occur with a frequency of a little over 18 per million words. At the same time, the statistics given by Lakoff (2000: 94f.) are corroborated in the present study. She used the LexisNexis News database and showed that PC-phrases peaked in the early 1990s. This trend was furthermore supported in a pilot study where the much larger Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA; Davies 2008) was used. In COCA, frequencies per million words declined from 7.79 in the first half of the 1990s to a little over 3 in the time span 2010–12. The instances in COCA are fairly evenly divided among the spoken, magazine, news, and academic genres, the only genre where they appear less often being fiction. The overall conclusion is thus that these PC-phrases are comparatively rare, and that, in line with previous studies (Lakoff 2000; Johnson et al. 2003), the use of them peaked in the early 1990s. In fact, of the 169 PC-phrases in the Time corpus during the 1990s, 114 occur in the four-year period 1991–4, and only 56 in the following five years (Table 2 and Figure 1). After that the drop was much less pronounced; during the seven-year period 2000–06 there were 61 occurrences of PC-phrases in Time. Table 2: Survey of frequency of PC-phrases per year in relation to number of articles in which they are used 1980–2006 Year Total number of PC-phrases Total number of articles Ratio instances/article 1980 1 1 1 1986 1 1 1 1988 1 1 1 1989 1 1 1 1990 1 1 1 1991 27 25 1.08 1992 34 33 1.06 1993 39 31 1 1994 14 11 1.27 1995 21 18 1.17 1996 11 10 1.1 1997 9 9 1 1998 6 6 1 1999 9 8 1.13 2000 19 19 1 2001 11 10 1.1 2002 13 13 1 2003 3 3 1 2004 8 8 1 2005 6 6 1 2006 1 1 1 Total 236 216 1.09 Year Total number of PC-phrases Total number of articles Ratio instances/article 1980 1 1 1 1986 1 1 1 1988 1 1 1 1989 1 1 1 1990 1 1 1 1991 27 25 1.08 1992 34 33 1.06 1993 39 31 1 1994 14 11 1.27 1995 21 18 1.17 1996 11 10 1.1 1997 9 9 1 1998 6 6 1 1999 9 8 1.13 2000 19 19 1 2001 11 10 1.1 2002 13 13 1 2003 3 3 1 2004 8 8 1 2005 6 6 1 2006 1 1 1 Total 236 216 1.09 Note: Only years when PC-phrases occurred are included. Table 2: Survey of frequency of PC-phrases per year in relation to number of articles in which they are used 1980–2006 Year Total number of PC-phrases Total number of articles Ratio instances/article 1980 1 1 1 1986 1 1 1 1988 1 1 1 1989 1 1 1 1990 1 1 1 1991 27 25 1.08 1992 34 33 1.06 1993 39 31 1 1994 14 11 1.27 1995 21 18 1.17 1996 11 10 1.1 1997 9 9 1 1998 6 6 1 1999 9 8 1.13 2000 19 19 1 2001 11 10 1.1 2002 13 13 1 2003 3 3 1 2004 8 8 1 2005 6 6 1 2006 1 1 1 Total 236 216 1.09 Year Total number of PC-phrases Total number of articles Ratio instances/article 1980 1 1 1 1986 1 1 1 1988 1 1 1 1989 1 1 1 1990 1 1 1 1991 27 25 1.08 1992 34 33 1.06 1993 39 31 1 1994 14 11 1.27 1995 21 18 1.17 1996 11 10 1.1 1997 9 9 1 1998 6 6 1 1999 9 8 1.13 2000 19 19 1 2001 11 10 1.1 2002 13 13 1 2003 3 3 1 2004 8 8 1 2005 6 6 1 2006 1 1 1 Total 236 216 1.09 Note: Only years when PC-phrases occurred are included. Figure 1: View largeDownload slide Statistics per year for PC-phrases and number of articles in which they appear from 1980 onwards Figure 1: View largeDownload slide Statistics per year for PC-phrases and number of articles in which they appear from 1980 onwards Perhaps more important than the early peak is the fact that PC-phrases still occur at 9.03 pmw in the period 2000–06, whereas in the 1980s, the ratio was only 0.36 pmw. These findings would seem to suggest that although usage peaked in the first half of the 1990s, PC remains an established notion in media discourse. 4.2 Early instances There were only three instances of any PC-phrases from the 1950s or earlier, that is before the time when these phrases had become fixed. At least one of them supports the claim made in previous literature that the original meaning was something like ‘following party line’. That it was not necessarily in line with the communist party line, as claimed by Feldstein (1997: 4) and others, is shown in Example (1), where being PC is explained as being anti-Communist (the text is about an attempt to find Italian workers that can be recruited to work in Argentina during the time when Juan Peron was president). (1) All had to sign affidavits of their political correctness (meaning anti-Communist). (27 January 1947) The second instance from the 1940s is an apology for a ‘politically incorrect column’ about a case ‘involving a white and a Negro’ where the writer later admits that there should have been no discussion of the issue ‘without linking it to the main question of white chauvinism inherent in the whole case’ (16 February 1949). Insofar as this early instance registers sensitivity to racial relations, it would seem to anticipate a meaning of the phrase that does not appear to have become firmly established until well into the 1980s. In this particular case, however, the PC-phrase is used indexically, that is to say, in reference to a norm specific to the given case. Finally, the instance from the 1950s mentions a man who gives ‘big loans to politically correct companies and individuals’; what sort of companies they are is not clear from the text, but it is obvious that this man is giving these loans to the companies in return for an appointment received from President Truman. Accordingly, as in the other early instances, the meaning of the phrase is dependent upon the context in which it occurs, rather than upon some preconception of what PC entails. Here, it would thus seem that the phrase functions like a word rather than a concept proper, at least if we follow Koselleck (2004: 85) in assuming that ‘a word becomes a concept only when the entirety of meaning and experience within a sociopolitical context within which and for which a word is used can be condensed into one word’. Or, to formulate the same point in the terminology of traditional theoretical semantics, the semantics and pragmatics of the phrase are compositional: the nature of the relationship between the modifier and the head is lexically unspecified/underspecified and, thus, contextually determined; whereas when PC-phrases become a fixed item, the relationship between the ‘political’ and the ‘correct’ is fully lexically determined and thus the phrase overall is semantically non-compositional (the bigram means more than just the sum of the two words’ independent meanings interpreted in context).3 4.3 Genres and topics Altogether, PC-phrases were used in 216 articles (Table 2). Only 11 of these contained more than one occurrence of PC-phrases (two articles had four occurrences, three had three occurrences, and six articles had two occurrences each). In Tables 3–7, only the first occurrence in each article has been included, to avoid skewing of the results. Table 3: Genre analysis of PC-phrases in the Time magazine corpus (excluding occurrences other than the first in each article) Genres Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Analytical commentary 49 15 35 4 8 111 Reviews 25 11 27 2 8 73 Interview, quotation 11 – 6 – 3 20 Letters 4 1 4 - – 9 Othera 1 1 – 1 – 3 Total 90 28 72 7 19 216 Genres Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Analytical commentary 49 15 35 4 8 111 Reviews 25 11 27 2 8 73 Interview, quotation 11 – 6 – 3 20 Letters 4 1 4 - – 9 Othera 1 1 – 1 – 3 Total 90 28 72 7 19 216 a Table of contents, crossword puzzle, part of a limerick were such ‘other’ genres. Table 3: Genre analysis of PC-phrases in the Time magazine corpus (excluding occurrences other than the first in each article) Genres Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Analytical commentary 49 15 35 4 8 111 Reviews 25 11 27 2 8 73 Interview, quotation 11 – 6 – 3 20 Letters 4 1 4 - – 9 Othera 1 1 – 1 – 3 Total 90 28 72 7 19 216 Genres Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Analytical commentary 49 15 35 4 8 111 Reviews 25 11 27 2 8 73 Interview, quotation 11 – 6 – 3 20 Letters 4 1 4 - – 9 Othera 1 1 – 1 – 3 Total 90 28 72 7 19 216 a Table of contents, crossword puzzle, part of a limerick were such ‘other’ genres. Table 4: Content analysis per article: single, dual, and multiple topics Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political(-) correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Single 51 15 31 3 12 112 Dual 28 11 20 3 5 67 Multiple 11 2 21 1 2 37 Total 90 28 72 7 19 216 Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political(-) correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Single 51 15 31 3 12 112 Dual 28 11 20 3 5 67 Multiple 11 2 21 1 2 37 Total 90 28 72 7 19 216 Table 4: Content analysis per article: single, dual, and multiple topics Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political(-) correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Single 51 15 31 3 12 112 Dual 28 11 20 3 5 67 Multiple 11 2 21 1 2 37 Total 90 28 72 7 19 216 Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political(-) correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Single 51 15 31 3 12 112 Dual 28 11 20 3 5 67 Multiple 11 2 21 1 2 37 Total 90 28 72 7 19 216 Table 5: Content analysis per article: single topics in order of total frequency Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Arts 14 5 10 2 3 34 Language use 10 3 8 – 5 26 Politics 4 3 4 – 3 14 Environment 6 1 - – – 7 Business 1 1 2 – 1 5 Biologism 3 – 1 – – 4 Gender, sexuality 3 – 1 – – 4 Education 2 – 2 – – 4 Religion 2 – 2 – – 4 Ethnicity 1 – 1 1 – 3 Freedom of speech 1 – – – – 1 Class 1 – – – – 1 Othera 3 2 – – – 5 Total 51 15 31 3 12 112 Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Arts 14 5 10 2 3 34 Language use 10 3 8 – 5 26 Politics 4 3 4 – 3 14 Environment 6 1 - – – 7 Business 1 1 2 – 1 5 Biologism 3 – 1 – – 4 Gender, sexuality 3 – 1 – – 4 Education 2 – 2 – – 4 Religion 2 – 2 – – 4 Ethnicity 1 – 1 1 – 3 Freedom of speech 1 – – – – 1 Class 1 – – – – 1 Othera 3 2 – – – 5 Total 51 15 31 3 12 112 a Table of contents, crossword puzzle, part of a limerick were such ‘other’ genres. Table 5: Content analysis per article: single topics in order of total frequency Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Arts 14 5 10 2 3 34 Language use 10 3 8 – 5 26 Politics 4 3 4 – 3 14 Environment 6 1 - – – 7 Business 1 1 2 – 1 5 Biologism 3 – 1 – – 4 Gender, sexuality 3 – 1 – – 4 Education 2 – 2 – – 4 Religion 2 – 2 – – 4 Ethnicity 1 – 1 1 – 3 Freedom of speech 1 – – – – 1 Class 1 – – – – 1 Othera 3 2 – – – 5 Total 51 15 31 3 12 112 Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Arts 14 5 10 2 3 34 Language use 10 3 8 – 5 26 Politics 4 3 4 – 3 14 Environment 6 1 - – – 7 Business 1 1 2 – 1 5 Biologism 3 – 1 – – 4 Gender, sexuality 3 – 1 – – 4 Education 2 – 2 – – 4 Religion 2 – 2 – – 4 Ethnicity 1 – 1 1 – 3 Freedom of speech 1 – – – – 1 Class 1 – – – – 1 Othera 3 2 – – – 5 Total 51 15 31 3 12 112 a Table of contents, crossword puzzle, part of a limerick were such ‘other’ genres. Table 6: Content analysis per article: dual topics in order of total frequencya Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Arts 10 4 10 2 5 31 Ethnicity 8 6 9 – 1 24 Politics 7 2 10 1 – 20 Gender, sexuality 3 2 7 1 4 17 Education 9 1 2 - – 12 Language use 4 5 – 2 – 11 Business 6 1 – - – 7 Environment 5 1 – - – 6 Religion 3 – 2 - – 5 Biologism 1 – – - – 1 Total 56 22 40 6 10 134 Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Arts 10 4 10 2 5 31 Ethnicity 8 6 9 – 1 24 Politics 7 2 10 1 – 20 Gender, sexuality 3 2 7 1 4 17 Education 9 1 2 - – 12 Language use 4 5 – 2 – 11 Business 6 1 – - – 7 Environment 5 1 – - – 6 Religion 3 – 2 - – 5 Biologism 1 – – - – 1 Total 56 22 40 6 10 134 a Dual topics, frequency of combinations: arts + ethnicity (13), arts + gender/sex (11), arts + education (3), arts + politics (2), arts + religion (1), business + environment (6), business + ethnicity (1), education + ethnicity (4), education + gender/sex (2), politics + education (4), politics + gender (4), politics + ethnicity (3), politics + religion (2), ethnicity + biologism (1), language use + politics (5), language use + ethnicity (3), language use + religion (2), and language use + education (1). Table 6: Content analysis per article: dual topics in order of total frequencya Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Arts 10 4 10 2 5 31 Ethnicity 8 6 9 – 1 24 Politics 7 2 10 1 – 20 Gender, sexuality 3 2 7 1 4 17 Education 9 1 2 - – 12 Language use 4 5 – 2 – 11 Business 6 1 – - – 7 Environment 5 1 – - – 6 Religion 3 – 2 - – 5 Biologism 1 – – - – 1 Total 56 22 40 6 10 134 Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Arts 10 4 10 2 5 31 Ethnicity 8 6 9 – 1 24 Politics 7 2 10 1 – 20 Gender, sexuality 3 2 7 1 4 17 Education 9 1 2 - – 12 Language use 4 5 – 2 – 11 Business 6 1 – - – 7 Environment 5 1 – - – 6 Religion 3 – 2 - – 5 Biologism 1 – – - – 1 Total 56 22 40 6 10 134 a Dual topics, frequency of combinations: arts + ethnicity (13), arts + gender/sex (11), arts + education (3), arts + politics (2), arts + religion (1), business + environment (6), business + ethnicity (1), education + ethnicity (4), education + gender/sex (2), politics + education (4), politics + gender (4), politics + ethnicity (3), politics + religion (2), ethnicity + biologism (1), language use + politics (5), language use + ethnicity (3), language use + religion (2), and language use + education (1). Table 7: Content analysis per article: multiple topics in order of total frequency Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness p.c. Total Ethnicity 7 3 17 1 7 35 Gender, sexuality 8 3 9 – 7 27 Arts 5 2 12 1 1 21 Education 4 – 10 1 4 19 Politics 3 – 10 1 5 19 Environment 5 – 1 – – 6 Age 1 – 3 – – 4 Business 2 1 1 – – 4 Freedom of speech – – 2 – 2 4 History – – 3 – 1 4 Language use 1 – 1 – 2 4 Religion – – 2 – – 2 Othera 1 – 2 – 3 6 Total 37 9 73 4 32 155 Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness p.c. Total Ethnicity 7 3 17 1 7 35 Gender, sexuality 8 3 9 – 7 27 Arts 5 2 12 1 1 21 Education 4 – 10 1 4 19 Politics 3 – 10 1 5 19 Environment 5 – 1 – – 6 Age 1 – 3 – – 4 Business 2 1 1 – – 4 Freedom of speech – – 2 – 2 4 History – – 3 – 1 4 Language use 1 – 1 – 2 4 Religion – – 2 – – 2 Othera 1 – 2 – 3 6 Total 37 9 73 4 32 155 a Abortion, animal rights, crime, taxes, vegetarianism, and voter registration. Table 7: Content analysis per article: multiple topics in order of total frequency Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness p.c. Total Ethnicity 7 3 17 1 7 35 Gender, sexuality 8 3 9 – 7 27 Arts 5 2 12 1 1 21 Education 4 – 10 1 4 19 Politics 3 – 10 1 5 19 Environment 5 – 1 – – 6 Age 1 – 3 – – 4 Business 2 1 1 – – 4 Freedom of speech – – 2 – 2 4 History – – 3 – 1 4 Language use 1 – 1 – 2 4 Religion – – 2 – – 2 Othera 1 – 2 – 3 6 Total 37 9 73 4 32 155 Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness p.c. Total Ethnicity 7 3 17 1 7 35 Gender, sexuality 8 3 9 – 7 27 Arts 5 2 12 1 1 21 Education 4 – 10 1 4 19 Politics 3 – 10 1 5 19 Environment 5 – 1 – – 6 Age 1 – 3 – – 4 Business 2 1 1 – – 4 Freedom of speech – – 2 – 2 4 History – – 3 – 1 4 Language use 1 – 1 – 2 4 Religion – – 2 – – 2 Othera 1 – 2 – 3 6 Total 37 9 73 4 32 155 a Abortion, animal rights, crime, taxes, vegetarianism, and voter registration. Table 3 shows the result of the genre analysis. The results are similar to Toolan’s 2003 study not only in that analytical commentary is the most common type but also in the frequency with which PC is referred to in reviews. In our material, the reviews were of a variety of cultural productions, such as books, films, plays, operas, exhibitions, magazines, and music. Tables 4–7 display the results of the content analysis. Whereas the genre analysis was done by checking the global context, the immediate context was examined for the topic analysis. Inevitably, our topic categorization is to some extent arbitrary, but we have attempted in each case to base it upon what issues were in focus in each article. One could certainly argue that since PC-phrases generally appear to refer to language practice, all instances must in some sense be said to deal with language; yet we have assigned instances to that category only when language use was explicitly the topic. Similarly, although one might argue that ‘freedom of speech’ is better seen as a sub-category of ‘language use’ than a topic in its own right, we treat it as such because the PC-debate is often said to revolve ultimately around what people are allowed to say, whereas ‘language use’ normally refers to specific references to words that replace ‘taboo’ words in today’s society. It is thus of interest that our results suggest that ‘freedom of speech’ was only rarely the explicit topic when PC-phrases were used. About half of the instances could be assigned to a single topic (Table 4). Example (2) is an analytical commentary on the topic of language. (2) Those who believe dictionaries should not merely reflect the times but also protect English from the mindless assaults of the trendy will find that the Random House Webster’s lends authority to scores of questionable usages, many of them tinged with ‘politically correct’ views. (24 June 1991) Often, the commentary was on a combination of two topics, such as education and ethnicity, business and environment, and language and religion. Rather than trying to determine which one appeared to be the main topic globally, like Toolan (2003), we categorized these examples as ‘dual’. One example of the dual language–religion topic is shown in Example (3). Table 4 shows that we identified dual topics in almost one-third of the instances. (3) Politically correct holiday greetings are all the rage this year, so much so that Christian groups are slamming each other—not to mention our born-again President—for insufficient reverence. (19 December 2005) However, in a number of cases—especially when the term used was politically correct or political correctness—three or more topics were mentioned. Such instances were categorized under the heading ‘multiple’ topics. The satirical ‘review’ of an imagined prequel to The Last of the Mohicans is a good example of such topic listing, comprising the arts (the imaginary novel), ethnicity (Eurocentrism vs. indigenous Americans), ageism, gender, and health: (4) THE NEXT TO THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. In this politically correct prequel, Hawkeye displays the Eurocentric tendencies to hunt and waste. Local Americans lecture him on ageism, gender bias, affirmative action and ecological consciousness until he has a nervous collapse, jettisons his rifle and opens a frontier health-food store. (7 October 1991) Multiple topics were identified in 37 of the 216 articles, or approximately 17 per cent (Table 4). For instances with single topics, arts and language outnumber the other topics, with politics also high up on the list. It is also noteworthy that some topics which one might expect to be frequent, given the supposedly political nature of the correctness asked for, such as class, are in fact very rare. Even freedom of speech, the subject at the heart of the PC-debate according to Bush Sr. and others, is the immediate topic only on one occasion. Other topics which are said to be commonly referred to as being PC, like ethnicity, education, and gender and sexuality, are more often mentioned in combination with one another than on their own, as a comparison of Table 5 with Table 6 (dual topics) shows. Since there are two topics for each of the 67 instances classified as ‘dual’, the total in Table 6 is 134. Contrary to what one might expect, given the frequency with which issues of ‘freedom of speech’ are mentioned in the discourse surrounding political correctness, the number of times this topic was referred to in the data was very low. In an earlier study of PC in the German newspaper Die Welt, Johnson and Suhr (2003) noted that this issue is in many ways what appears to spark the political correctness debate. Example (5) shows that in Time, too, PC is occasionally described as a discursive practice which ultimately serves to close down debate and restrict freedom of speech. (5) What exactly is p.c.? By now it has degenerated into an all-purpose term of political abuse that means little more than ‘a view I disagree with’. But it is meant to suggest a stifling orthodoxy, an intolerance of opposing views that verges on censorship, victimization chic and a stagy oversensitivity to robust remarks. (9 August 1993) Another side of the same coin is that simultaneously, such conformity may ultimately limit personal expression and hence freedom: (6) The liberty to obey the caprices of our emotions, no matter how politically incorrect, should be one of the few bastions of freedom we allow ourselves to defend. (Letter to the editor, 23 October 1995) As Tables 5–7 show, however, freedom of speech was the immediate topic in only five cases. What stands out in the results, rather, is that so many instances were used in comments on artistic productions—most frequently referring to plots, characters, or other aspects of films, plays, etc., which were (or were not) depicted as PC. This is similar to Toolan’s (2003: 82) findings on the use of politiquement correct in Le Monde. However, when it comes to multiple topics (Table 7), the topics which figure most prominently are ethnicity, along with gender and sexuality, with arts in third place. Education and politics are also prominent topics. In short, the statistics in Tables 5–7 show that in Time such phrases are predominantly used in comments on societal norms. When the results from Tables 5 to 7 are collapsed, it is noteworthy that PC-phrases are used most frequently in relation to the arts (in as much as 40 per cent of the articles), ethnicity (29 per cent), politics (25 per cent), gender and sexuality (22 per cent), language usage in general (19 per cent), and education (12 per cent). None of the other topics exceed 9 per cent. Sections 4.3.1–4.3.5 contain the qualitative analysis of examples from the most prominent categories. 4.3.1 Arts Our results corroborate claims made in previous studies (Toolan 2003; Reinelt 2011) that artistic productions are frequently evaluated in terms of PC: arts is the most frequent topic in both Tables 5 and 6 and ranks third in Table 7. At times, what is PC is depicted as detracting from a production’s positive qualities as shown in Example (7), whereas political incorrectness may ‘spice up’ a piece as shown in Example (8). (7) This Biennial, […], is not a survey but a theme show. A saturnalia of political correctness, a long-winded immersion course in marginality—the only cultural condition, as far as its reborn curators are concerned, that matters in the 90’s. The aesthetic quality […] is for the most part feeble. (22 March 1993) (8) Schmidt may not live up to today’s strict standards of political correctness, but he more than meets the requirements of convincing fiction. (16 September 1996) However, the picture that emerges is more multifaceted than that. Hence, a little political correctness may enhance a work of art, as shown in the two citations in Examples (9) and (10). (9) This time out, the trio has added some substance to its style with politically correct lyrics on safe sex, voter registration and the environment. The deee-lightful result: good message, great dance beat. (29 June 1992) (10) Movie composer Marc Shaiman […] makes his Broadway debut with a score that skillfully mimics the era’s perky pop ditties, and director Jack O’Brien has put together a slick, high-spirited production. Add to that a politically correct story line about a girl who fights to integrate the dance show, and you have an unbeatable combination: desegregation and doo-wop. (26 August 2002) Such usage has not been noted in previous studies on political correctness. Rather, many sources seem to agree with Allan and Burridge (2006: 98) that ‘euphemism and political correctness are now so mired in pejorative connotations that they seem always to imply criticism’. The present study shows that neutral and even positive uses of PC-phrases do occur, as shown in the latter two examples. 4.3.2 Language use Hughes’ claim that much of the PC-debate was and continues to be about the changing of names, in his words ‘Orwellian substitutions’ (Hughes 2010: 4), was not corroborated in the quantitative part of our study, as in only 19 per cent of the articles, PC-phrases referred to language use in general or to the replacement of ‘politically incorrect’ terms with ‘neutral’ designations (very often commented on in a facetious tone). This latter type predominates; only five instances contain general comments on the effect of PC on English. One of them is Example (11), from a review of Robert Hughes’ polemical commentary on America, The Culture of Complaint, which appeared in 1993. As it happens, this quote succinctly sums up the views of the groups who were the most vociferous in the PC-debates in the early 1990s. (11) Among his complaints: the distortion of the ideals of multiculturalism, the erosion of the English language by partisans of the Politically Correct, the decline of education, the damage to politics and the culture in general wrought by extremists on both the left and the right. (19 April 1993) Note that in this example the adjectival phrase is nominalized (and also capitalized) as if ‘the Politically Correct’ formed a homogeneous movement. As Fairclough (2003: 21) points out, few people identify themselves as being PC; rather, it is a label imposed on people by their political opponents. A few instances contain the speaker’s definition of PC. The quotation in the title of this article is taken from an interview with Bill Maher, the host of the late-night TV show ‘Politically Incorrect’, which ran on ABC from 1993 until 2002. (12) In a sense, we are all victims of the most successful society ever. Society has become effete and soft as a result. Therefore, sensitivity—feelings, not wanting to experience any kind of pain—has become inflated. I have always defined political correctness as the elevation of sensitivity over truth. (24 December 2001) However, the majority of the instances are mocking comments on the ‘newspeak’ which is the result of PC. Example (13) begins with the mention of the renaming of a play, and continues with the writer’s own suggestions of what the titles of well-known plays and films may be in the future. (The hash symbols in Example (13) represent line breaks in the article.) (13) The drama department at Manhattan’s ritzy Dalton School is so politically correct that a recent production of Bertolt Brecht’s classic The Good Woman of Sichuan, the story of a young woman who disguises herself as a man, was titled The Good Person of Sichuan. Watch for other revisions in these hypersensitive times: # THEATER # Death of a Salesperson # Two People of Verona # Person and Superperson # The Person of La Mancha # FILM # The Person Vanishes # Pretty Person # White People Can’t Jump (etc.; 7 December 1992) In fact, the renaming of Brecht’s play in this particular case is not the result of political correctness, but rather a more literal translation of the German original title, Der gute Mensch von Sezuan. As such, Example (13) also suggests how the charge of PC in practice may often be the result of ignorance and misunderstanding rather than of any genuine attempt to police the social imagination (cf. Wilson 1995). Example (14) is more typical, both in its irony (‘endlessly inventive’) and in its implicit criticism of the type of renaming which is typically done under the umbrella of PC language. (14) The politically correct are endlessly inventive. A high school in Portland, Ore., described a song as a ‘spiritual of color’. (22 June 1992) As in the other categories, there are also instances where positive aspects of speech codes and political correctness are highlighted, as Example (15) shows. (15) After reviewing Buchanan’s quotations over the years, even one who loathes political correctness and hate-speech codes is likely to start seeing their usefulness. (4 March 1996) 4.3.3 Politics There appears to be a widespread notion that PC-phrases are usually used in a derogatory way about liberal policies. However, in the Time magazine corpus, these phrases appear more often in discussions of right-wing politics: (16) Pressure groups from the right demand a political correctness of their own, but somehow the name p.c. is never applied to them. (7 November 1994) (17) It is shocking to read President Johnson’s words from the 1960s. He spoke bluntly about ‘white guilt’ and ‘equality (of) result’. These phrases violate the taboos of 1992’s conservative political correctness. And of course anything as grandiose as a ‘war on poverty’ is unthinkable today. (1 June 1992) (18) And now, having spent recent years diagnosing a virus of democracy they label ‘political correctness’, some conservatives seem to be succumbing themselves. (9 August 1993) Granted, this may have to do with the fact that the Examples (16), (17), and (18) are all from a period when the debate was still ongoing, and could thus be attempts to wrest the privilege of defining what PC is back from the right. Even so, the examples make evident that one should be wary of associating those who accuse PC of causing harm solely with the right. Unlike Toolan (2003: 84), who in his French data observed that in political commentary, PC was only used when referring to foreign countries—never to France—we found that the majority of our instances did refer to American politics. For example, candidates for political posts often appeared to be reviewed in terms of their political correctness. Of the 53 instances where PC referred to politics, only 5 referred to foreign countries (Afghanistan, China, Korea, South Africa, and France). These five instances either referred to the way representatives of these countries expressed themselves officially, as the French official pronouncement on NATO in Example (19), or to the politics of the country, as for Example (20), which follows a list of atrocities committed by North Korea. (19) [T]he French keep saying the politically correct things about the importance of the Atlantic alliance. (11 November 1991) (20) After Kim Il Sung died in 1994, his son and apparent successor Kim Jong Il displayed the same steely confidence in his own political correctness. (13 January 1997) Example (20) is of special interest in that it makes evident that the neutral, descriptive function of PC that characterized all of the early instances in our corpus do not disappear completely with the emergence of the notion of PC as a preconceived set of values. 4.3.4 Ethnicity, gender, and education When education is the topic, comments are on such aspects as the curriculum, the selection of textbooks, programs to increase the number of minority students at universities, etc. Often such instances involve dual topics, like Example (21), which is a comment on ethnicity and education. (21) Curriculum changes like these—which really amount to what is required to be an informed citizen—have become commonplace since the twin phenomena of political correctness and prescribed multiculturalism emerged into national consciousness at the end of the 80s. (18 November 1993) Some of the comments on gender show up in examples with multiple topics, like Example (22), which combines the topics education, ethnicity, and gender. Both the Examples (21) and (22) are neutral in their stance towards PC. A slightly different view is expressed in Example (23)—one that recurs a couple of times in the material—namely, that white heterosexual males are exempt from being treated sensitively in the PC discourse. (22) There [at universities in California] Hispanic and Asian presences have both fueled and complicated the p.c. and multicultural debates that initially arose out of polar conflicts between blacks and whites or men and women. (18 November 1993) (23) Is it possible to be so politically correct that one becomes politically incorrect? Or to put it another way, Are some groups of people so inherently villainous that it is perfectly acceptable to stereotype, ridicule and otherwise bash them? Anyone who has followed American political discourse of late knows that the answer to both questions is yes—as long as the bashee is a white heterosexual male. (29 September 1995) 4.3.5 Business and environment A topic where a different type of PC discourse appears is environment—being environmentally conscious means being PC, and in these contexts the PC-phrases generally appear to lose their negative ring. Example (24) is one of four instances of politically correct dating back to the 1980s. Here, being PC is presented as something appealing: (24) Over the years the magazine has gradually increased its cultural coverage, a trend that will continue in its new incarnation. But the new Mother Jones will also try to appeal to its older readers by introducing columns about politically correct travel and even personal finance. (12 December 1988) Similarly, in Example (25) we see political correctness as something that will attract customers to an environmentally conscious company: (25) ‘Give Racism the Boot’. That politically correct advertising slogan, combined with environmentally conscious products, has turned Timberland Co. of Hampton, New Hampshire, into a hot marketer and a torrid stock. (29 November 1993) Cars are variously presented as PC as in Example (26) and politically incorrect as in Example (27), depending on their price and on how much and what type of fuel they consume. (26) Next year Ford, which has produced a string of electric cars, is expected to be the first U.S. manufacturer to introduce a hybrid vehicle. I took the politically correct version of the six-cylinder Escape for an exclusive spin earlier this year. (29 April 2002) (27) The Viper, a politically incorrect, 10-cylinder roadster ($50,000), is the most sought-after sports car in years. (9 November 1992) In finance, political correctness may equal social responsibility, as Example (28) demonstrates. (28) There’s a small but growing industry of politically correct stock funds in Europe, with an estimated $40 billion under management, that invest only in companies they consider socially responsible. (26 January 2004) Hence, social and environmental consciousness is often presented as PC in positive terms, with little or no tint of irony or criticism. It is noteworthy that these examples span the whole period of the PC-debate—from the 1980s until the 2000s, that is no trend in any particular direction can be observed. In contrast to Toolan, who found that the phrases ‘politically correct and political correctness have […] acquired too entrenched a negative semantic for them to be used […] without implicit criticism of the activity so described’ (Toolan 2003: 71), we found no such clear-cut tendency. Although the majority of our instances referring to other topics than environment signal either criticism or irony, the examples cited above demonstrate that the phrases have not acquired some kind of inherent negative meaning but that they are pliable enough to be used when describing topics from a neutral or even positive perspective. 5. DISCUSSION As we have already noted, PC-phrases most frequently refer to the arts in the Time magazine corpus: in 40 per cent of the articles, arts is the topic, either alone or in combination with one or more other topics. Given that cultural events may be seen as mirrors of contemporary society, reflecting social norms and cultural doxa (Barthes 1972), this is perhaps not very remarkable, nor is it remarkable that almost 34 per cent of the instances appear in reviews, even though reviews normally make up less than 15 per cent of Time magazine’s total number of items.4 But it does seem to underscore that when PC becomes established as a fixed phrase in the 1990s, it takes on an evaluative function lacking in earlier instances, none of which, notably, concern the arts. Arguably, as a consequence of having acquired such an evaluative function, PC-phrases contribute to what one might perhaps call an aestheticization of public discourse, in two ways. First, PC-phrases charge seemingly objective statements with the subjective opinions of the speaker. Our data confirm that even while they purport to describe objective facts, PC-phrases are often fraught with subjective opinion. Thus, Example (5) above suggests that the term ‘means little more than “a view I disagree with,”’ a notion that Example (6), in presenting ‘the caprices of our emotions, no matter how politically incorrect’ as something we should defend, appears to validate: the right to be politically incorrect is the right to express one’s subjective experience. Secondly, as a result of this subjectivization, the focus of the debate is displaced from factual matters to how those matters are perceived. The discussion in effect turns inward on itself, focusing on the form of the debate (what one may or may not say) rather than upon the issues that prompted the discussion in the first place. To illustrate how this aestheticization works in practice, let us return to Example (12), in which Bill Maher claims always to have ‘defined political correctness as the elevation of sensitivity over truth’. The statement imposes a distinction between those who proceed subjectively, from their feelings, and the more thick-skinned people who are not afraid to face objective truth. Maher’s argument, however, rests on a series of highly contentious claims, for which he notably provides no empirical evidence: our society is the most successful ever; as a result, society has gone soft; therefore, the discrimination that the PC movement protests against is not real but imagined. Although nominally championing objective truth, in practice Maher’s statement is thus clearly an example of a subjective opinion set on directing attention away from social issues, towards people’s perception of those issues. As such, it also illustrates the performative paradox that many of the instances in the Time corpus engender: since the charge that political correctness ignores objective truth often proceeds from assumptions for which little or no empirical support is provided, it often in practice enacts the very fault it would counter.5 6. CONCLUSION Our results confirm what has long been suggested but not previously empirically substantiated, namely, that the PC discourse demonstrably underwent something of a semantic sea change around 1991. Before that year, PC-phrases are very infrequent, and carry no conceptual charge; in the wake of the debate about academic freedom on American college campuses, what was originally an indexical phrase, dependent for its meaning upon context, turns into a non-indexical term, which is taken to suggest, roughly, a kind of unarticulated left-wing ideology. Still, when discussing the term, no less than when discussing the phenomenon, it is important to remember that there is no wholesale semantic shift from PC designating particular policies or cultural norms in particular contexts to PC being used as a blanket term to denounce efforts at avoiding offending behaviour. While our results show that PC is typically negatively loaded, they also demonstrate that the reverse is sometimes the case. Our survey shows that the stereotypical notion that PC-phrases are mainly used to attack ‘liberal’ or ‘leftist’ views does not hold true for the usage in Time magazine. In the latter, rather, such phrases are used in a multifaceted fashion, the majority of which imply a criticism of emerging norms in a more equal and multicultural society. Our results likewise contradict Hughes (2010: 15), according to whom political correctness and related phrases are used mainly in references to naming or renaming ‘outsiders’ in society. Instead, our data show that they are used especially frequently in relation to arts, followed by ethnicity, politics, gender and sexuality, language use, and education. Hence, only a small portion of the phrases are used in criticizing normative language use or how it restricts personal freedom, which are the two uses most often commented on in previous literature. Furthermore, PC-phrases are sometimes used in neutral or even positive contexts—this appears to be the case particularly in discourse on the environment. In conclusion, our corpus analysis of PC-phrases in Time magazine shows that in the period studied, they mainly concern societal norms and the changes that they have undergone and are undergoing. ‘Political correctness’, Hughes (2010: 38) claims, ‘is fundamentally concerned with changing norms in behavior and language. Norms are not cultural universals, but socially conditioned forms and expectations of correct social behavior’. This neatly, if perhaps unintentionally, captures a dialectic which Fairclough (2003) discusses at some length. On the one hand, the change in societal norms is reflected in language use; on the other hand, there are interventions aiming to change societal norms (which simultaneously require a change in the labels used). It thus seems reasonable to look upon political correctness simply as an expression that many people use to designate such efforts to affect norms via language, and to defend it on such grounds, as Fairclough and others do. As this study has suggested, however, studying the ways PC-phrases are used in specific corpora may well be a more productive approach to the question of political correctness than arguing about whether the concept is defensible. Conflict of interest statement. None declared. Solveig Granath’s major research interest is English syntax, especially the interplay of syntactic structures with semantic and pragmatic factors. Several of her papers deal with the role that word order plays in expressing meaning in English, as for example when it comes to adverb placement and clause-initial thus. Recent research together with Michael Wherrity focuses on the use of the English progressive aspect with so-called stative verbs. Address for correspondence: Solveig Granath, Department of Language, Literature and Intercultural Studies, Karlstad University, Universitetsgatan 1, SE-651 88 Karlstad, Sweden <solveig.granath@kau.se> Magnus Ullén is Professor of English at Karlstad University, Sweden. He is the author of The Half-Vanished Structure: Hawthorne’s Allegorical Dialectics (2004), and Bara för dig: pornografi, konsumtion, berättande (2009), a study on pornography and narrativity in consumer society. His articles on American literature, pornography, and literary theory have appeared in Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, Critical Quarterly, Jump Cut, Studies in the Novel, New Literary History, and several other journals. NOTES 1 On 7 January 7 2015, 10 journalists were killed at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, allegedly for their ‘politically incorrect brand of satire’ (retrieved from www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/07/charlie-hebdo-satire-intimidation-analysis; last accessed November 2016), in which they targeted Islam. This was by many regarded as an attack on free speech. 2 An alternative to using the Time magazine corpus would have been to use the Corpus of Historical American English (COHA; Davies (2010)). However, COHA turned out to have only slightly more instances than the Time magazine corpus (in all, 274 compared to 261), many of which were actually from Time magazine. Also, there was a scarcity of instances prior to the 1990s in both corpora, but Time had a few more than COHA. 3 We are grateful to one of our reviewers for pointing this out. 4 To estimate the size of Time’s review section, we counted the entire text of the first June issues of 1992, 1997, and 2002, respectively. The text was copied manually from the Ebsco database which provides access to all original items of all issues of Time (headlines, photograph captions, names of authors, and all non-original material were excluded from this count). Reviews made up 9, 7, and less than 9 per cent of the total number of words. In 1992, 10 of 57 items (18 per cent); in 1997, 5 of 43 (16 per cent); and in 2002, 4 of 36 items (11 per cent) were reviews. We also counted all items in the September issues of 1992, 1997, and 2002. In 1992, 38 of 198 items were reviews (19 per cent), in 1997, 27 of 233 items were (9 per cent), and in 2002, there were 23 reviews among 206 items (11 per cent). 5 Many critics have noted ‘that there is a sort of performative contradiction in critiques of ‘PC’ because they would seem themselves to be instances of the sort of cultural politics which is the object of critique’ (Fairclough 2003: 17–18; see also Cameron 1995). REFERENCES Allan K. , Burridge. K. 2006 . Forbidden Words: Taboo and the Censoring of Language . Cambridge University Press . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Aufderheide P. (ed.). 1992 . Beyond PC: Toward a Politics of Understanding . Graywolf Press . Barthes R. 1972 . Mythologies . J. Cape . Bowman J. 2015 . ‘The irony of PC,’ The New Criterion, March 2015, pp. 51 – 54 . Bush G. H. 1992 . ‘May 1991 commencement address,’ in Aufderheide (ed.), p. 227 . Cameron D. 1995 . Verbal Hygiene . Routledge . Chait J. 2015 . ‘Not a very P.C. thing to say,’ The New York Magazine, January 27, 2015. available at http://www.nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/01/not-a-very-pc-thing-to-say.html. Accessed November 2016. Channell J. 2000 . ‘Corpus-based analysis of evaluative lexis,' in Hunston S. , Thompson G. (eds.), Evaluation in Text . Oxford University Press , pp. 38 – 55 . Choi J. M. , Murphy J. W.. 1992 . The Politics and Philosophy of Political Correctness . Praeger . Connolly W. E. 1993 . [1974]. The Terms of Political Discourse . 3rd edn Blackwell . Curzan A. 2014 . Fixing English: Prescriptivism and Language History . Cambridge University Press . Davies M. 2007 . TIME Magazine Corpus: 100 million words, 1920s–2000s, available at http://www.corpus.byu.edu/Time/. Davies M. 2008 . The Corpus of Contemporary American English: 450 million words, 1990–present, available at http://corpus.byu.edu/coca/. Davies M. 2010 . The Corpus of Historical American English: 400 million words, 1810-2009, available at http://corpus.byu.edu/coha/. D’Souza D. 1991 . Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus . Vintage . Epstein B. 1992 . ‘Political correctness and identity politics’ in Aufderheide (ed.), pp. 148 – 154 . Fairclough N. 2003 . ‘ Political correctness’: The politics of culture and language ,’ Discourse & Society 14 : 17 – 28 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Feldstein R. 1997 . Political Correctness: A Response from the Cultural Left . Foreword by Brennan Teresa . University of Minnesota Press . Gallie W. B. 1956 . ‘Essentially contested concepts Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 56 : 167 – 98 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Halmari H. 2011 . ‘ Political correctness, euphemism, and language change: The case of ‘people first ,’ Journal of Pragmatics 43 : 828 – 40 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Hartman A. 2015 . ‘ PC isn’t back: It never went away ,’ Chronicle of Higher Education 61 : 10 – 1 . Hughes G. 2010 . Political Correctness: A History of Semantics and Culture . Wiley-Blackwell . Johnson S. , Suhr S. . 2003 . ‘ From ‘political correctness’ to ‘politische Korrektheit’: Discourses of ‘PC’ in the German newspaper, Die Welt ,’ Discourse & Society 14 : 49 – 68 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Johnson S. , Culpeper J. , Suhr S.. 2003 . ‘ From ‘politically correct councillors’ to ‘Blairite nonsense’: Discourses of ‘political correctness’ in three British newspapers ,’ Discourse & Society 14 : 29 – 47 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Koselleck R. 2004 . Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time . Columbia University Press . Lakoff R. T. 2000 . The Language War . University of California Press . Louw B. 1993 . ‘Irony in the text or insincerity in the writer? The diagnostic potential of semantic prosodies,’ in Baker M. , Francis G. , Tognini-Bonelli E. (eds), Text and Technology: In Honour of John Sinclair . John Benjamins, pp . 157 – 76 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS O’Neill B. 2011 . ‘ A critique of politically correct language ,’ The Independent Review 16 : 279 – 91 . Perry R. 1992 . ‘A short history of the term Politically Correct’ in Aufderheide (ed.), pp. 71 – 9 . Reinelt J. 2011 . ‘ The performance of political correctness ,’ Theatre Research International 36 : 134 – 47 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Suhr S. , Johnson S. . 2003 . ‘ Re-visiting ‘PC’: Introduction to special issue on ‘political correctness ,’ Discourse & Society 14 : 5 – 16 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS The National Association of Scholars. 1992 . ‘The wrong way to reduce campus tensions’ in Aufderheide (ed.), pp. 7 – 10 . Toolan M. 2003 . ‘Le politiquement correct dans le Monde français Discourse & Society 14 : 69 – 86 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Wilson J. K. 1995 . The Myth of Political Correctness: The Conservative Attack on Higher Education . Duke University Press . Woodward C. V. 1992 . ‘Freedom at the universities’ in Aufderheide (ed.), pp. 27 – 49 . © Oxford University Press 2017 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Applied Linguistics Oxford University Press

‘The Elevation of Sensitivity over Truth’: Political Correctness and Related Phrases in the Time Magazine Corpus

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Abstract

Abstract This article is a quantitative and qualitative diachronic study of how the expression politically correct (PC) and related phrases are used in the American magazine Time from 1923 through 2006. The data show a dramatic increase in the frequency with which PC-phrases are used in the early 1990s. From this time onwards, the phrases are often used as a means of passing evaluative subjective opinions off as objectively reported facts, especially in reviews of cultural events, where they figure prominently. In contrast to earlier studies, our data show that PC-phrases are not inherently negative; this applies primarily to discourse on environment and business, where to be PC often implies being environmentally or socially conscious in a positive sense. Nevertheless, negative or ironic uses of the terms predominate. Most often they express criticism of unspoken cultural norms rather than being attempts to close down debate or criticizing the replacement of offensive terms by more neutral expressions. 1. INTRODUCTION In January 2015, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris, political correctness again became an issue of public debate in the USA.1 In an article in New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait claimed that ‘[a]fter political correctness burst onto the academic scene in the late ’80s and early ’90s, it went into a long remission. Now it has returned’. He then proceeded to define political correctness as ‘a style of politics in which the more radical members of the left attempt to regulate political discourse by defining opposing views as bigoted and illegitimate’ (Chait 2015). This stirred up a debate about political correctness, most of it critical of Chait’s stand (see for instance Bowman 2015; Hartman 2015). Hartman, whose article appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, sums up the debate by saying that ‘[t]he history of political correctness is more complex than Chait seems to realize’ (Hartman 2015: 19). Evidently, what to make of the concept of political correctness—or PC, for short—remains very much a contested issue. Academically, too, PC is still a highly contentious subject. At least four distinct positions can be readily identified. First, there are those who critique political correctness as a phenomenon, charging it with stifling public debate and restricting free speech (D’Souza 1991; Woodward 1992). Secondly, there are those who defend political correctness as a set of valid intellectual assumptions (Choi and Murphy 1992; Feldstein 1997) that by no means have the dire consequences ascribed to them by the first group. Among linguists, for instance, PC is often regarded as a reasonable discursive practice (Cameron 1995; Lakoff 2000; Allan and Burridge 2006; Halmari 2011; Curzan 2014), a contemporary equivalent of what classical rhetoricians called decorum. Thirdly, there are those who question the very existence of political correctness, claiming that the entire notion is a wholesale fabrication of right-wing forces designed to wrest interpretive authority away from the left (Wilson 1995). Finally, there are those who insist, as do we, that what is interesting to pursue is not only the phenomenon but also the way political correctness and related phrases are used in discourse (Johnson and Suhr 2003; Toolan 2003). In accordance with this last, analytical approach, we are concerned in the present study with explicit mentions of political correctness rather than with PC language per se, however that may be defined. Henceforth, PC will be used as an abbreviation both for political correctness and politically correct, while PC-phrases will be used as an umbrella term for political correctness, politically correct, and their abbreviated and negated equivalents. The four positions identified above—protesters, defenders, deniers, and analysts—differ in terms of their basic assumptions, but they all agree that whether as myth or reality, PC very much affects public debate. As to how it does so, however, there is no consensus. While Chait, a typical representative of the protesters, refers to political correctness as ‘a style of politics’, others see it mainly as a tool for concealing the truth (‘the drive for politically correct language is […] a progression from honesty and clarity to dishonesty and obscurity’; O’Neill 2011: 285) or a rhetorical device (a way of ‘stifling the ‘real’ debates’; Suhr and Johnson 2003: 5). In all of these characterizations, there is criticism of the phenomenon of political correctness. Yet, one should be wary of conceiving of PC-phrases as inherently negatively loaded, for, as we have already mentioned above, there are those who are willing to defend PC as a set of positive values, or a consciously devised ‘way of talking about taboo topics’ (Allan and Burridge 2006: 111). Much of the debate about PC is and has been about reforming language use, especially to avoid bias and to promote the use of more respectful language. Curzan (2014: 53) points to the charged nature of the term politically correct and suggests that the phrase socially and politically responsive prescriptivism be used instead. As early as 1995, Cameron referred to such practices as verbal hygiene, a term which never really caught on. From a semantic perspective, the phrase political correctness is problematic. As Hughes (2010: 17) points out, it does not have ‘an agreed, clear, literal meaning in the way that grammatical correctness or political corruption do’. In line with Gallie (1956; see also Connolly 1993: 9–44), one could say that like political concepts in general, PC is an essentially contested concept, with the added complication that it has evolved quite recently. One option might be to study the semantic prosody of the phrase (Louw 1993), which suggests that words may have some sort of ‘hidden meaning’ which they receive from the context in which they are used. In the case of political correctness, which is often said to occur in negative contexts, one might therefore assume that it typically occurs with words with negative connotations. A similar idea is expressed by Channell’s term evaluative lexis (Channell 2000), used in her corpus analysis of the evaluative function of words and expressions. For instance, she shows that regime, which in the dictionary definition means ‘method or system of government’, ‘includes in its meaning that a speaker disapproves of the government or system of authority so designated’ and that it ‘is used to attack one’s opponents’ (Channell 2000: 46). A further complication of the issue is that the use of PC-phrases changed in the wake of the PC-debate that broke out with the publication of a series of articles in the American press in the early 1990s (see Aufderheide 1992). In this article we examine PC from a diachronic perspective by analysing all occurrences of political correctness and related phrases which appear in the Time magazine corpus (Davies 2007), which includes all issues from its inception in March 1923 until 2006. Our choice of data was largely a matter of convenience. Time magazine is the only publication of its kind for which there exists a complete corpus; constructed by Mark Davies, it also has the benefit of being freely available. Since our results inevitably reflect the biases of their source, they cannot be claimed to be representative of US publications in general. Nevertheless, Time magazine remains of great interest for a study like ours. A nationally well-known, non-specialist publication with an educated readership, the magazine covers subjects of general importance and interest, such as national and international affairs, education, business, religion, and culture, all of which are subject areas, where it is likely that political correctness will be mentioned. Equally importantly, while it originally had a moderately conservative stance, by the 1970s the magazine ‘had assumed a more neutral, centrist stance in the tone of its reportage’ (Encyclopedia Britannica, online), thus setting it off from more conservative magazines that arguably had a vested interest in promoting the notion of PC. Thus whereas its main competitor, Newsweek, actively promoted the equation of PC with Orwellian notions of ‘Thought Control’, as on the cover of its December 24 1990 issue, Time covered PC at a remove, as it were. For that very reason, it is a particularly apt source of data for getting a sense of how the notion of PC has migrated from the more specific contexts in which it was first used to wider areas of public discourse, and how it has been transformed in the process. Robin Lakoff (2000) includes a short quantitative study of PC-phrases in an American news database, but to our knowledge, no study has combined a quantitative with a qualitative investigation of the discourses framed as ‘politically correct’ in an American magazine like Time. An analysis of such terms from a linguistic as well as a cultural-theoretic perspective can shed light not only on popular discourses but also reveal whether these phrases may serve as descriptive terms rather than as rhetorical tools used in debates about social issues. In the first, quantitative part of the results we look at what types of text PC-phrases are used in and in reference to what topics. In the qualitative part we analyse a number of examples from the corpus in the light of previous claims regarding the function of PC-phrases. Furthermore, we attempt to determine whether the claim that PC-phrases are inherently negative (Toolan 2003) can be supported by the results. 2. ORIGINS OF PC While ‘political correctness’ as a concept is usually said to hark back to the second half of the 20th century (Perry 1992), many of the citations in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) are much older. Hence, three of five citations of political correctness are of earlier date (1805, 1840, and 1935). The same goes for politically correct, with four early citations (the first one from 1793—in a record from the US Supreme Court—and the next three from 1875, 1934, and 1939), which make up half the citations of the phrase. Even politically incorrect is recorded as early as in the 1930s (two citations). Only political incorrectness and PC (pc, p.c.) were not attested prior to the 1980s. The first (neutral) sense given in the OED for politically correct is ‘appropriate to the prevailing political or social circumstances’. It is noted that in early use the phrase did not occur ‘as a fixed collocation’. The second sense, said to be ‘sometimes depreciative’ (italics in original) and to have originated in the USA, is given as ‘conforming to a body of liberal or radical opinion, esp. on social matters, usually characterized by the advocacy of approved causes or views, and often by the rejection of language, behaviour, etc., considered discriminatory or offensive’. In this article, we will include the few early uses of PC-phrases in the survey of total occurrences in the Time corpus but not in the quantitative analysis of genre and topic. According to the Oxford English Dictionary political correctness became an established phrase only in the last couple of decades of the 20th century. Whereas the early occurrences are examples of two separate elements, functioning as modifier + head, the majority of the more recent occurrences can arguably be regarded as fixed phrases. What spurred the debate on political correctness was the issue of curricula and affirmative action in American academia (Hughes 2010: 3), often centring on race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. Other issues often mentioned in connection with the political correctness debate are multiculturalism, disability, the environment, culture, and animal rights (Johnson and Suhr 2003: 50f.; Hughes 2010:3, 58). The measures taken at many universities to revise curricula to include readings on previously marginalized groups, and through affirmative action ensure that there was equality between genders and different ethnic groups both when it came to hiring staff and admitting students, were seen by some as threats to academic freedom. One such group, the National Association of Scholars, argued vehemently against such policies and practices, which they depicted in some of their publications as a sort of brainwashing: Thus, ‘sensitivity training’ programs designed to cultivate ‘correct thought’ about complicated normative, social, and political issues do not teach tolerance but impose orthodoxy. And when these programs favor manipulative psychological techniques over honest discussion, they also undermine the intellectual purposes of higher education and anger those subjected to them. (The National Association of Scholars 1992: 9) Probably the most famous outcry against this alleged restriction of academic freedom was the commencement address by President George H. Bush at the University of Michigan on 4 May 1991, where he said that ‘free speech’ was now ‘under assault throughout the United States, including on some college campuses’ (Bush 1992: 227). The same year, Dinesh D’Souza’s book Illiberal education: The politics of race and sex on campus appeared, a publication by a right-wing Indian-American writer highly critical of the changes in American education. It quickly became evident that D’Souza’s account was largely a fabrication (Wilson 1995); yet the image of political correctness run amok on American campuses which it presented proved too attractive to those critical of new theoretical paradigms to renounce. Thus even when admitting that ‘the book turned out to contain some serious and irresponsible factual errors’ (Woodward 1992: 29), reviewers who had originally endorsed it kept on advancing it as evidence of Bush’s claim, namely, that the ‘most critical issue raised by the current academic upheaval is the denial of freedom—freedom of thought, speech, and teaching—academic freedom’ (Woodward 1992: 30). In a more general sense, protesters often argue that PC makes certain areas ‘off-limits for discussion’ (Epstein 1992: 151). Allan and Burridge (2006: 105) mention gender, sexuality, disability, religion, race, and ethnicity as topics that are currently taboo. One example of such a taboo is that the press usually refrains from mentioning the race of criminals in reports. Yet another perceived restriction of personal freedom is the feeling that people have of not being able to call things by their ‘right names’ (Allan and Burridge 2006: 101). This association of PC with restrictions on freedom of speech would seem to be corroborated by the genealogy of the phrase. Several sources trace the concept of political correctness back to the dissemination, in translated form, of Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, more popularly known as the Little Red Book, in the 1960s, and suggest that the phrase roughly translates into ‘conforming to the party line or expectations’ (Hughes 2010: 63; see also Perry 1992: 72; Feldstein 1997: 4). Perry (1992: 71) claims that the phrase appears to have gained currency in the USA in the late 1960s within the Black Power movement and the New Left. Although her account is almost entirely anecdotal, it is often cited as authoritative. Some sources mention that the phrase originally appears to have been used in a positive sense (Suhr and Johnson 2003: 9; Allan and Burridge 2006: 92; Hughes 2010: 1) and that it only later took on negative or ironic senses; Perry, on the other hand, says that even though there may have been some who used it ‘straight up’, it was ‘picked up and parodied’ almost from the start (Perry 1992: 75). This part of her account is questionable; she is on safer ground in noting that ‘politically correct’ (usually within quotation marks) turned up in the debate about female sexuality in the early 1980s (Perry 1992: 75). From Perry’s examples, it is clear that being politically incorrect had positive connotations: ‘Within Lesbian circles, being ‘politically incorrect’, like being a ‘bad girl’, was coming to mean hip, sophisticated, rebellious, impulsive’ (Perry 1992: 77). Perry’s conclusion is that the phrase politically correct has always been double-edged, and that its use among radical groups indicates ‘a suspiciousness of orthodoxy of any sort’; according to Perry (1992: 77), it is primarily used for self-criticism. The same view is expressed by Epstein (1992: 148). As will be seen, our study does not confirm these claims, but it does support Perry’s claim that the term was picked up early in feminist circles. However, there is no trace of irony in any of the examples in our corpus until 1986, when, in an article on feminism and female sexuality, it is asked, should ‘women really have to limit themselves to politically correct orgasms?’ 3. DATA The data used in the present study is the Time magazine corpus (Davies 2007), which includes all issues of the American news magazine Time from 1923 until 2006.2 The total size of the corpus is 106,418,475 words. Here it needs to be pointed out that although all issues of Time are included in the corpus, only the first page of many articles are included (Mark Davies, personal communication). This is both an advantage and a drawback for a study such as ours. It is a drawback in that the statistics do not correctly reflect the number of times PC-phrases are used, at the same time as it is an advantage that frequencies will not be skewed by long articles in which the phrases are used numerous times. All instances of the phrases political correctness, political incorrectness, politically correct, politically incorrect, and PC (upper and lower case, with or without full stops, when the abbreviation represents either politically correct or political correctness) were retrieved, including three instances of hyphenated politically-correct (there were no corresponding occurrences of hyphenated politically-incorrect). In total, the search produced 261 hits, 239 of which were included in the study (the 22 references to the television show ‘Politically Incorrect’ were excluded). All instances were saved with as much context as possible (10 lines), including information about the title of the article as well as the author. Next, they were categorized according to genre and topic. We used Toolan’s (2003) categorization as our starting point. Toolan distinguished between ‘analytical commentary’ and three types of review—books, television, and films. However, we decided to include all reviews in one category, as there were several more types of cultural events that were reviewed, like exhibitions, musicals, plays, and journals. To the two categories ‘analytical commentary’ and ‘reviews’, we added the categories ‘letters’, ‘interviews, quoted text’ (which means that the writer clearly attributes the phrases to someone else), and finally ‘other’. The latter category includes occurrences of PC-phrases in the table of contents, cross-word puzzles, etc. The categorization of genre was straightforward. Determining the topic was trickier. Toolan (2003: 82) attempted to record the ‘whole-article topic’ by trying to determine ‘what the article is about’. When analysing our data, we found that in many cases, this proved impossible to do, as PC simultaneously referred to more than one topic, none of which appeared to be more prominent than any other. Therefore, we decided to acknowledge this problem by dividing the results into three separate groups, depending on whether PC in each particular context referred to one, two, or more than two topics (single/dual/multiple topics). In this part of the analysis, we made use of the immediate context in conjunction with the larger context. Each of us identified the topic/s of each article before comparing our results. We agreed in 90 per cent of the cases, which we considered sufficient. We then discussed the ones that we had originally analysed differently and arrived at consensus about what topics were raised. It needs to be pointed out that since the Time magazine corpus is not divided into any subcorpora (such as genres), it is not possible to calculate frequency per million words for each genre. 4. RESULTS: PC IN TIME MAGAZINE 4.1 Survey of frequencies The results show, first of all, that the PC-phrases were not used to any great extent before the 1990s, when they peaked, and that usage decreased during the next decade (Table 1). (Since the size of the corpus varies for each decade, and since it does not include the full first decade of the 21st century, the figures per million words (pmw) give a more correct picture of the frequency than the actual numbers.) Table 1: Total frequency of PC-phrases in the Time magazine corpusa,b Decade Politically correct (N pmw) Politically incorrect (N pmw) Political(-) correctness (N pmw) Political incorrectness (N pmw) PC (N pmw) Total (N pmw) 1940s 0 (0) 1 (0.07) 1 (0.07) 0 (0) 0 (0) 2 (0.13) 1950s 1 (0.06) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 1 (0.06) 1960s 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 1970s 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 1980s 4 (0.36) 0 (0) 0 (0 0 (0) 0 (0) 4 (0.36) 1990s 64 (6.79) 21 (2.22) 57 (6.05) 6 (0.64) 23 (2.44) 171 (18.14) 2000s 26 (3.85) 9 (1.33) 20 (2.96) 1 (0.15) 5 (0.74) 61 (9.03) Total 95 (0.89) 31 (0.29) 78 (0.73) 7 (0.07) 28 (0.26) 239 (2.24) Decade Politically correct (N pmw) Politically incorrect (N pmw) Political(-) correctness (N pmw) Political incorrectness (N pmw) PC (N pmw) Total (N pmw) 1940s 0 (0) 1 (0.07) 1 (0.07) 0 (0) 0 (0) 2 (0.13) 1950s 1 (0.06) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 1 (0.06) 1960s 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 1970s 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 1980s 4 (0.36) 0 (0) 0 (0 0 (0) 0 (0) 4 (0.36) 1990s 64 (6.79) 21 (2.22) 57 (6.05) 6 (0.64) 23 (2.44) 171 (18.14) 2000s 26 (3.85) 9 (1.33) 20 (2.96) 1 (0.15) 5 (0.74) 61 (9.03) Total 95 (0.89) 31 (0.29) 78 (0.73) 7 (0.07) 28 (0.26) 239 (2.24) Note: pmw = per million words. a PC can stand for either politically correct or political correctness. A close examination of the instances revealed that the majority, or 22 of 28 instances, represented politically correct and only five political correctness. There was one more occurrence of PC where it was impossible to decide which of these was intended (‘But the book has been updated by Peter Stone (Titanic) in ways that pass p.c. muster without losing all the fun’. Time, 3 March 1999). b All references to the 1990s TV-show ‘Politically Incorrect’ were excluded (22 in all). Table 1: Total frequency of PC-phrases in the Time magazine corpusa,b Decade Politically correct (N pmw) Politically incorrect (N pmw) Political(-) correctness (N pmw) Political incorrectness (N pmw) PC (N pmw) Total (N pmw) 1940s 0 (0) 1 (0.07) 1 (0.07) 0 (0) 0 (0) 2 (0.13) 1950s 1 (0.06) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 1 (0.06) 1960s 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 1970s 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 1980s 4 (0.36) 0 (0) 0 (0 0 (0) 0 (0) 4 (0.36) 1990s 64 (6.79) 21 (2.22) 57 (6.05) 6 (0.64) 23 (2.44) 171 (18.14) 2000s 26 (3.85) 9 (1.33) 20 (2.96) 1 (0.15) 5 (0.74) 61 (9.03) Total 95 (0.89) 31 (0.29) 78 (0.73) 7 (0.07) 28 (0.26) 239 (2.24) Decade Politically correct (N pmw) Politically incorrect (N pmw) Political(-) correctness (N pmw) Political incorrectness (N pmw) PC (N pmw) Total (N pmw) 1940s 0 (0) 1 (0.07) 1 (0.07) 0 (0) 0 (0) 2 (0.13) 1950s 1 (0.06) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 1 (0.06) 1960s 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 1970s 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 1980s 4 (0.36) 0 (0) 0 (0 0 (0) 0 (0) 4 (0.36) 1990s 64 (6.79) 21 (2.22) 57 (6.05) 6 (0.64) 23 (2.44) 171 (18.14) 2000s 26 (3.85) 9 (1.33) 20 (2.96) 1 (0.15) 5 (0.74) 61 (9.03) Total 95 (0.89) 31 (0.29) 78 (0.73) 7 (0.07) 28 (0.26) 239 (2.24) Note: pmw = per million words. a PC can stand for either politically correct or political correctness. A close examination of the instances revealed that the majority, or 22 of 28 instances, represented politically correct and only five political correctness. There was one more occurrence of PC where it was impossible to decide which of these was intended (‘But the book has been updated by Peter Stone (Titanic) in ways that pass p.c. muster without losing all the fun’. Time, 3 March 1999). b All references to the 1990s TV-show ‘Politically Incorrect’ were excluded (22 in all). It is noteworthy that even in the 1990s, if the figures for all the PC-phrases are added up, they only occur with a frequency of a little over 18 per million words. At the same time, the statistics given by Lakoff (2000: 94f.) are corroborated in the present study. She used the LexisNexis News database and showed that PC-phrases peaked in the early 1990s. This trend was furthermore supported in a pilot study where the much larger Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA; Davies 2008) was used. In COCA, frequencies per million words declined from 7.79 in the first half of the 1990s to a little over 3 in the time span 2010–12. The instances in COCA are fairly evenly divided among the spoken, magazine, news, and academic genres, the only genre where they appear less often being fiction. The overall conclusion is thus that these PC-phrases are comparatively rare, and that, in line with previous studies (Lakoff 2000; Johnson et al. 2003), the use of them peaked in the early 1990s. In fact, of the 169 PC-phrases in the Time corpus during the 1990s, 114 occur in the four-year period 1991–4, and only 56 in the following five years (Table 2 and Figure 1). After that the drop was much less pronounced; during the seven-year period 2000–06 there were 61 occurrences of PC-phrases in Time. Table 2: Survey of frequency of PC-phrases per year in relation to number of articles in which they are used 1980–2006 Year Total number of PC-phrases Total number of articles Ratio instances/article 1980 1 1 1 1986 1 1 1 1988 1 1 1 1989 1 1 1 1990 1 1 1 1991 27 25 1.08 1992 34 33 1.06 1993 39 31 1 1994 14 11 1.27 1995 21 18 1.17 1996 11 10 1.1 1997 9 9 1 1998 6 6 1 1999 9 8 1.13 2000 19 19 1 2001 11 10 1.1 2002 13 13 1 2003 3 3 1 2004 8 8 1 2005 6 6 1 2006 1 1 1 Total 236 216 1.09 Year Total number of PC-phrases Total number of articles Ratio instances/article 1980 1 1 1 1986 1 1 1 1988 1 1 1 1989 1 1 1 1990 1 1 1 1991 27 25 1.08 1992 34 33 1.06 1993 39 31 1 1994 14 11 1.27 1995 21 18 1.17 1996 11 10 1.1 1997 9 9 1 1998 6 6 1 1999 9 8 1.13 2000 19 19 1 2001 11 10 1.1 2002 13 13 1 2003 3 3 1 2004 8 8 1 2005 6 6 1 2006 1 1 1 Total 236 216 1.09 Note: Only years when PC-phrases occurred are included. Table 2: Survey of frequency of PC-phrases per year in relation to number of articles in which they are used 1980–2006 Year Total number of PC-phrases Total number of articles Ratio instances/article 1980 1 1 1 1986 1 1 1 1988 1 1 1 1989 1 1 1 1990 1 1 1 1991 27 25 1.08 1992 34 33 1.06 1993 39 31 1 1994 14 11 1.27 1995 21 18 1.17 1996 11 10 1.1 1997 9 9 1 1998 6 6 1 1999 9 8 1.13 2000 19 19 1 2001 11 10 1.1 2002 13 13 1 2003 3 3 1 2004 8 8 1 2005 6 6 1 2006 1 1 1 Total 236 216 1.09 Year Total number of PC-phrases Total number of articles Ratio instances/article 1980 1 1 1 1986 1 1 1 1988 1 1 1 1989 1 1 1 1990 1 1 1 1991 27 25 1.08 1992 34 33 1.06 1993 39 31 1 1994 14 11 1.27 1995 21 18 1.17 1996 11 10 1.1 1997 9 9 1 1998 6 6 1 1999 9 8 1.13 2000 19 19 1 2001 11 10 1.1 2002 13 13 1 2003 3 3 1 2004 8 8 1 2005 6 6 1 2006 1 1 1 Total 236 216 1.09 Note: Only years when PC-phrases occurred are included. Figure 1: View largeDownload slide Statistics per year for PC-phrases and number of articles in which they appear from 1980 onwards Figure 1: View largeDownload slide Statistics per year for PC-phrases and number of articles in which they appear from 1980 onwards Perhaps more important than the early peak is the fact that PC-phrases still occur at 9.03 pmw in the period 2000–06, whereas in the 1980s, the ratio was only 0.36 pmw. These findings would seem to suggest that although usage peaked in the first half of the 1990s, PC remains an established notion in media discourse. 4.2 Early instances There were only three instances of any PC-phrases from the 1950s or earlier, that is before the time when these phrases had become fixed. At least one of them supports the claim made in previous literature that the original meaning was something like ‘following party line’. That it was not necessarily in line with the communist party line, as claimed by Feldstein (1997: 4) and others, is shown in Example (1), where being PC is explained as being anti-Communist (the text is about an attempt to find Italian workers that can be recruited to work in Argentina during the time when Juan Peron was president). (1) All had to sign affidavits of their political correctness (meaning anti-Communist). (27 January 1947) The second instance from the 1940s is an apology for a ‘politically incorrect column’ about a case ‘involving a white and a Negro’ where the writer later admits that there should have been no discussion of the issue ‘without linking it to the main question of white chauvinism inherent in the whole case’ (16 February 1949). Insofar as this early instance registers sensitivity to racial relations, it would seem to anticipate a meaning of the phrase that does not appear to have become firmly established until well into the 1980s. In this particular case, however, the PC-phrase is used indexically, that is to say, in reference to a norm specific to the given case. Finally, the instance from the 1950s mentions a man who gives ‘big loans to politically correct companies and individuals’; what sort of companies they are is not clear from the text, but it is obvious that this man is giving these loans to the companies in return for an appointment received from President Truman. Accordingly, as in the other early instances, the meaning of the phrase is dependent upon the context in which it occurs, rather than upon some preconception of what PC entails. Here, it would thus seem that the phrase functions like a word rather than a concept proper, at least if we follow Koselleck (2004: 85) in assuming that ‘a word becomes a concept only when the entirety of meaning and experience within a sociopolitical context within which and for which a word is used can be condensed into one word’. Or, to formulate the same point in the terminology of traditional theoretical semantics, the semantics and pragmatics of the phrase are compositional: the nature of the relationship between the modifier and the head is lexically unspecified/underspecified and, thus, contextually determined; whereas when PC-phrases become a fixed item, the relationship between the ‘political’ and the ‘correct’ is fully lexically determined and thus the phrase overall is semantically non-compositional (the bigram means more than just the sum of the two words’ independent meanings interpreted in context).3 4.3 Genres and topics Altogether, PC-phrases were used in 216 articles (Table 2). Only 11 of these contained more than one occurrence of PC-phrases (two articles had four occurrences, three had three occurrences, and six articles had two occurrences each). In Tables 3–7, only the first occurrence in each article has been included, to avoid skewing of the results. Table 3: Genre analysis of PC-phrases in the Time magazine corpus (excluding occurrences other than the first in each article) Genres Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Analytical commentary 49 15 35 4 8 111 Reviews 25 11 27 2 8 73 Interview, quotation 11 – 6 – 3 20 Letters 4 1 4 - – 9 Othera 1 1 – 1 – 3 Total 90 28 72 7 19 216 Genres Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Analytical commentary 49 15 35 4 8 111 Reviews 25 11 27 2 8 73 Interview, quotation 11 – 6 – 3 20 Letters 4 1 4 - – 9 Othera 1 1 – 1 – 3 Total 90 28 72 7 19 216 a Table of contents, crossword puzzle, part of a limerick were such ‘other’ genres. Table 3: Genre analysis of PC-phrases in the Time magazine corpus (excluding occurrences other than the first in each article) Genres Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Analytical commentary 49 15 35 4 8 111 Reviews 25 11 27 2 8 73 Interview, quotation 11 – 6 – 3 20 Letters 4 1 4 - – 9 Othera 1 1 – 1 – 3 Total 90 28 72 7 19 216 Genres Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Analytical commentary 49 15 35 4 8 111 Reviews 25 11 27 2 8 73 Interview, quotation 11 – 6 – 3 20 Letters 4 1 4 - – 9 Othera 1 1 – 1 – 3 Total 90 28 72 7 19 216 a Table of contents, crossword puzzle, part of a limerick were such ‘other’ genres. Table 4: Content analysis per article: single, dual, and multiple topics Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political(-) correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Single 51 15 31 3 12 112 Dual 28 11 20 3 5 67 Multiple 11 2 21 1 2 37 Total 90 28 72 7 19 216 Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political(-) correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Single 51 15 31 3 12 112 Dual 28 11 20 3 5 67 Multiple 11 2 21 1 2 37 Total 90 28 72 7 19 216 Table 4: Content analysis per article: single, dual, and multiple topics Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political(-) correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Single 51 15 31 3 12 112 Dual 28 11 20 3 5 67 Multiple 11 2 21 1 2 37 Total 90 28 72 7 19 216 Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political(-) correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Single 51 15 31 3 12 112 Dual 28 11 20 3 5 67 Multiple 11 2 21 1 2 37 Total 90 28 72 7 19 216 Table 5: Content analysis per article: single topics in order of total frequency Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Arts 14 5 10 2 3 34 Language use 10 3 8 – 5 26 Politics 4 3 4 – 3 14 Environment 6 1 - – – 7 Business 1 1 2 – 1 5 Biologism 3 – 1 – – 4 Gender, sexuality 3 – 1 – – 4 Education 2 – 2 – – 4 Religion 2 – 2 – – 4 Ethnicity 1 – 1 1 – 3 Freedom of speech 1 – – – – 1 Class 1 – – – – 1 Othera 3 2 – – – 5 Total 51 15 31 3 12 112 Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Arts 14 5 10 2 3 34 Language use 10 3 8 – 5 26 Politics 4 3 4 – 3 14 Environment 6 1 - – – 7 Business 1 1 2 – 1 5 Biologism 3 – 1 – – 4 Gender, sexuality 3 – 1 – – 4 Education 2 – 2 – – 4 Religion 2 – 2 – – 4 Ethnicity 1 – 1 1 – 3 Freedom of speech 1 – – – – 1 Class 1 – – – – 1 Othera 3 2 – – – 5 Total 51 15 31 3 12 112 a Table of contents, crossword puzzle, part of a limerick were such ‘other’ genres. Table 5: Content analysis per article: single topics in order of total frequency Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Arts 14 5 10 2 3 34 Language use 10 3 8 – 5 26 Politics 4 3 4 – 3 14 Environment 6 1 - – – 7 Business 1 1 2 – 1 5 Biologism 3 – 1 – – 4 Gender, sexuality 3 – 1 – – 4 Education 2 – 2 – – 4 Religion 2 – 2 – – 4 Ethnicity 1 – 1 1 – 3 Freedom of speech 1 – – – – 1 Class 1 – – – – 1 Othera 3 2 – – – 5 Total 51 15 31 3 12 112 Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Arts 14 5 10 2 3 34 Language use 10 3 8 – 5 26 Politics 4 3 4 – 3 14 Environment 6 1 - – – 7 Business 1 1 2 – 1 5 Biologism 3 – 1 – – 4 Gender, sexuality 3 – 1 – – 4 Education 2 – 2 – – 4 Religion 2 – 2 – – 4 Ethnicity 1 – 1 1 – 3 Freedom of speech 1 – – – – 1 Class 1 – – – – 1 Othera 3 2 – – – 5 Total 51 15 31 3 12 112 a Table of contents, crossword puzzle, part of a limerick were such ‘other’ genres. Table 6: Content analysis per article: dual topics in order of total frequencya Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Arts 10 4 10 2 5 31 Ethnicity 8 6 9 – 1 24 Politics 7 2 10 1 – 20 Gender, sexuality 3 2 7 1 4 17 Education 9 1 2 - – 12 Language use 4 5 – 2 – 11 Business 6 1 – - – 7 Environment 5 1 – - – 6 Religion 3 – 2 - – 5 Biologism 1 – – - – 1 Total 56 22 40 6 10 134 Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Arts 10 4 10 2 5 31 Ethnicity 8 6 9 – 1 24 Politics 7 2 10 1 – 20 Gender, sexuality 3 2 7 1 4 17 Education 9 1 2 - – 12 Language use 4 5 – 2 – 11 Business 6 1 – - – 7 Environment 5 1 – - – 6 Religion 3 – 2 - – 5 Biologism 1 – – - – 1 Total 56 22 40 6 10 134 a Dual topics, frequency of combinations: arts + ethnicity (13), arts + gender/sex (11), arts + education (3), arts + politics (2), arts + religion (1), business + environment (6), business + ethnicity (1), education + ethnicity (4), education + gender/sex (2), politics + education (4), politics + gender (4), politics + ethnicity (3), politics + religion (2), ethnicity + biologism (1), language use + politics (5), language use + ethnicity (3), language use + religion (2), and language use + education (1). Table 6: Content analysis per article: dual topics in order of total frequencya Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Arts 10 4 10 2 5 31 Ethnicity 8 6 9 – 1 24 Politics 7 2 10 1 – 20 Gender, sexuality 3 2 7 1 4 17 Education 9 1 2 - – 12 Language use 4 5 – 2 – 11 Business 6 1 – - – 7 Environment 5 1 – - – 6 Religion 3 – 2 - – 5 Biologism 1 – – - – 1 Total 56 22 40 6 10 134 Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness PC Total Arts 10 4 10 2 5 31 Ethnicity 8 6 9 – 1 24 Politics 7 2 10 1 – 20 Gender, sexuality 3 2 7 1 4 17 Education 9 1 2 - – 12 Language use 4 5 – 2 – 11 Business 6 1 – - – 7 Environment 5 1 – - – 6 Religion 3 – 2 - – 5 Biologism 1 – – - – 1 Total 56 22 40 6 10 134 a Dual topics, frequency of combinations: arts + ethnicity (13), arts + gender/sex (11), arts + education (3), arts + politics (2), arts + religion (1), business + environment (6), business + ethnicity (1), education + ethnicity (4), education + gender/sex (2), politics + education (4), politics + gender (4), politics + ethnicity (3), politics + religion (2), ethnicity + biologism (1), language use + politics (5), language use + ethnicity (3), language use + religion (2), and language use + education (1). Table 7: Content analysis per article: multiple topics in order of total frequency Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness p.c. Total Ethnicity 7 3 17 1 7 35 Gender, sexuality 8 3 9 – 7 27 Arts 5 2 12 1 1 21 Education 4 – 10 1 4 19 Politics 3 – 10 1 5 19 Environment 5 – 1 – – 6 Age 1 – 3 – – 4 Business 2 1 1 – – 4 Freedom of speech – – 2 – 2 4 History – – 3 – 1 4 Language use 1 – 1 – 2 4 Religion – – 2 – – 2 Othera 1 – 2 – 3 6 Total 37 9 73 4 32 155 Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness p.c. Total Ethnicity 7 3 17 1 7 35 Gender, sexuality 8 3 9 – 7 27 Arts 5 2 12 1 1 21 Education 4 – 10 1 4 19 Politics 3 – 10 1 5 19 Environment 5 – 1 – – 6 Age 1 – 3 – – 4 Business 2 1 1 – – 4 Freedom of speech – – 2 – 2 4 History – – 3 – 1 4 Language use 1 – 1 – 2 4 Religion – – 2 – – 2 Othera 1 – 2 – 3 6 Total 37 9 73 4 32 155 a Abortion, animal rights, crime, taxes, vegetarianism, and voter registration. Table 7: Content analysis per article: multiple topics in order of total frequency Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness p.c. Total Ethnicity 7 3 17 1 7 35 Gender, sexuality 8 3 9 – 7 27 Arts 5 2 12 1 1 21 Education 4 – 10 1 4 19 Politics 3 – 10 1 5 19 Environment 5 – 1 – – 6 Age 1 – 3 – – 4 Business 2 1 1 – – 4 Freedom of speech – – 2 – 2 4 History – – 3 – 1 4 Language use 1 – 1 – 2 4 Religion – – 2 – – 2 Othera 1 – 2 – 3 6 Total 37 9 73 4 32 155 Topics Politically correct Politically incorrect Political correctness Political incorrectness p.c. Total Ethnicity 7 3 17 1 7 35 Gender, sexuality 8 3 9 – 7 27 Arts 5 2 12 1 1 21 Education 4 – 10 1 4 19 Politics 3 – 10 1 5 19 Environment 5 – 1 – – 6 Age 1 – 3 – – 4 Business 2 1 1 – – 4 Freedom of speech – – 2 – 2 4 History – – 3 – 1 4 Language use 1 – 1 – 2 4 Religion – – 2 – – 2 Othera 1 – 2 – 3 6 Total 37 9 73 4 32 155 a Abortion, animal rights, crime, taxes, vegetarianism, and voter registration. Table 3 shows the result of the genre analysis. The results are similar to Toolan’s 2003 study not only in that analytical commentary is the most common type but also in the frequency with which PC is referred to in reviews. In our material, the reviews were of a variety of cultural productions, such as books, films, plays, operas, exhibitions, magazines, and music. Tables 4–7 display the results of the content analysis. Whereas the genre analysis was done by checking the global context, the immediate context was examined for the topic analysis. Inevitably, our topic categorization is to some extent arbitrary, but we have attempted in each case to base it upon what issues were in focus in each article. One could certainly argue that since PC-phrases generally appear to refer to language practice, all instances must in some sense be said to deal with language; yet we have assigned instances to that category only when language use was explicitly the topic. Similarly, although one might argue that ‘freedom of speech’ is better seen as a sub-category of ‘language use’ than a topic in its own right, we treat it as such because the PC-debate is often said to revolve ultimately around what people are allowed to say, whereas ‘language use’ normally refers to specific references to words that replace ‘taboo’ words in today’s society. It is thus of interest that our results suggest that ‘freedom of speech’ was only rarely the explicit topic when PC-phrases were used. About half of the instances could be assigned to a single topic (Table 4). Example (2) is an analytical commentary on the topic of language. (2) Those who believe dictionaries should not merely reflect the times but also protect English from the mindless assaults of the trendy will find that the Random House Webster’s lends authority to scores of questionable usages, many of them tinged with ‘politically correct’ views. (24 June 1991) Often, the commentary was on a combination of two topics, such as education and ethnicity, business and environment, and language and religion. Rather than trying to determine which one appeared to be the main topic globally, like Toolan (2003), we categorized these examples as ‘dual’. One example of the dual language–religion topic is shown in Example (3). Table 4 shows that we identified dual topics in almost one-third of the instances. (3) Politically correct holiday greetings are all the rage this year, so much so that Christian groups are slamming each other—not to mention our born-again President—for insufficient reverence. (19 December 2005) However, in a number of cases—especially when the term used was politically correct or political correctness—three or more topics were mentioned. Such instances were categorized under the heading ‘multiple’ topics. The satirical ‘review’ of an imagined prequel to The Last of the Mohicans is a good example of such topic listing, comprising the arts (the imaginary novel), ethnicity (Eurocentrism vs. indigenous Americans), ageism, gender, and health: (4) THE NEXT TO THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. In this politically correct prequel, Hawkeye displays the Eurocentric tendencies to hunt and waste. Local Americans lecture him on ageism, gender bias, affirmative action and ecological consciousness until he has a nervous collapse, jettisons his rifle and opens a frontier health-food store. (7 October 1991) Multiple topics were identified in 37 of the 216 articles, or approximately 17 per cent (Table 4). For instances with single topics, arts and language outnumber the other topics, with politics also high up on the list. It is also noteworthy that some topics which one might expect to be frequent, given the supposedly political nature of the correctness asked for, such as class, are in fact very rare. Even freedom of speech, the subject at the heart of the PC-debate according to Bush Sr. and others, is the immediate topic only on one occasion. Other topics which are said to be commonly referred to as being PC, like ethnicity, education, and gender and sexuality, are more often mentioned in combination with one another than on their own, as a comparison of Table 5 with Table 6 (dual topics) shows. Since there are two topics for each of the 67 instances classified as ‘dual’, the total in Table 6 is 134. Contrary to what one might expect, given the frequency with which issues of ‘freedom of speech’ are mentioned in the discourse surrounding political correctness, the number of times this topic was referred to in the data was very low. In an earlier study of PC in the German newspaper Die Welt, Johnson and Suhr (2003) noted that this issue is in many ways what appears to spark the political correctness debate. Example (5) shows that in Time, too, PC is occasionally described as a discursive practice which ultimately serves to close down debate and restrict freedom of speech. (5) What exactly is p.c.? By now it has degenerated into an all-purpose term of political abuse that means little more than ‘a view I disagree with’. But it is meant to suggest a stifling orthodoxy, an intolerance of opposing views that verges on censorship, victimization chic and a stagy oversensitivity to robust remarks. (9 August 1993) Another side of the same coin is that simultaneously, such conformity may ultimately limit personal expression and hence freedom: (6) The liberty to obey the caprices of our emotions, no matter how politically incorrect, should be one of the few bastions of freedom we allow ourselves to defend. (Letter to the editor, 23 October 1995) As Tables 5–7 show, however, freedom of speech was the immediate topic in only five cases. What stands out in the results, rather, is that so many instances were used in comments on artistic productions—most frequently referring to plots, characters, or other aspects of films, plays, etc., which were (or were not) depicted as PC. This is similar to Toolan’s (2003: 82) findings on the use of politiquement correct in Le Monde. However, when it comes to multiple topics (Table 7), the topics which figure most prominently are ethnicity, along with gender and sexuality, with arts in third place. Education and politics are also prominent topics. In short, the statistics in Tables 5–7 show that in Time such phrases are predominantly used in comments on societal norms. When the results from Tables 5 to 7 are collapsed, it is noteworthy that PC-phrases are used most frequently in relation to the arts (in as much as 40 per cent of the articles), ethnicity (29 per cent), politics (25 per cent), gender and sexuality (22 per cent), language usage in general (19 per cent), and education (12 per cent). None of the other topics exceed 9 per cent. Sections 4.3.1–4.3.5 contain the qualitative analysis of examples from the most prominent categories. 4.3.1 Arts Our results corroborate claims made in previous studies (Toolan 2003; Reinelt 2011) that artistic productions are frequently evaluated in terms of PC: arts is the most frequent topic in both Tables 5 and 6 and ranks third in Table 7. At times, what is PC is depicted as detracting from a production’s positive qualities as shown in Example (7), whereas political incorrectness may ‘spice up’ a piece as shown in Example (8). (7) This Biennial, […], is not a survey but a theme show. A saturnalia of political correctness, a long-winded immersion course in marginality—the only cultural condition, as far as its reborn curators are concerned, that matters in the 90’s. The aesthetic quality […] is for the most part feeble. (22 March 1993) (8) Schmidt may not live up to today’s strict standards of political correctness, but he more than meets the requirements of convincing fiction. (16 September 1996) However, the picture that emerges is more multifaceted than that. Hence, a little political correctness may enhance a work of art, as shown in the two citations in Examples (9) and (10). (9) This time out, the trio has added some substance to its style with politically correct lyrics on safe sex, voter registration and the environment. The deee-lightful result: good message, great dance beat. (29 June 1992) (10) Movie composer Marc Shaiman […] makes his Broadway debut with a score that skillfully mimics the era’s perky pop ditties, and director Jack O’Brien has put together a slick, high-spirited production. Add to that a politically correct story line about a girl who fights to integrate the dance show, and you have an unbeatable combination: desegregation and doo-wop. (26 August 2002) Such usage has not been noted in previous studies on political correctness. Rather, many sources seem to agree with Allan and Burridge (2006: 98) that ‘euphemism and political correctness are now so mired in pejorative connotations that they seem always to imply criticism’. The present study shows that neutral and even positive uses of PC-phrases do occur, as shown in the latter two examples. 4.3.2 Language use Hughes’ claim that much of the PC-debate was and continues to be about the changing of names, in his words ‘Orwellian substitutions’ (Hughes 2010: 4), was not corroborated in the quantitative part of our study, as in only 19 per cent of the articles, PC-phrases referred to language use in general or to the replacement of ‘politically incorrect’ terms with ‘neutral’ designations (very often commented on in a facetious tone). This latter type predominates; only five instances contain general comments on the effect of PC on English. One of them is Example (11), from a review of Robert Hughes’ polemical commentary on America, The Culture of Complaint, which appeared in 1993. As it happens, this quote succinctly sums up the views of the groups who were the most vociferous in the PC-debates in the early 1990s. (11) Among his complaints: the distortion of the ideals of multiculturalism, the erosion of the English language by partisans of the Politically Correct, the decline of education, the damage to politics and the culture in general wrought by extremists on both the left and the right. (19 April 1993) Note that in this example the adjectival phrase is nominalized (and also capitalized) as if ‘the Politically Correct’ formed a homogeneous movement. As Fairclough (2003: 21) points out, few people identify themselves as being PC; rather, it is a label imposed on people by their political opponents. A few instances contain the speaker’s definition of PC. The quotation in the title of this article is taken from an interview with Bill Maher, the host of the late-night TV show ‘Politically Incorrect’, which ran on ABC from 1993 until 2002. (12) In a sense, we are all victims of the most successful society ever. Society has become effete and soft as a result. Therefore, sensitivity—feelings, not wanting to experience any kind of pain—has become inflated. I have always defined political correctness as the elevation of sensitivity over truth. (24 December 2001) However, the majority of the instances are mocking comments on the ‘newspeak’ which is the result of PC. Example (13) begins with the mention of the renaming of a play, and continues with the writer’s own suggestions of what the titles of well-known plays and films may be in the future. (The hash symbols in Example (13) represent line breaks in the article.) (13) The drama department at Manhattan’s ritzy Dalton School is so politically correct that a recent production of Bertolt Brecht’s classic The Good Woman of Sichuan, the story of a young woman who disguises herself as a man, was titled The Good Person of Sichuan. Watch for other revisions in these hypersensitive times: # THEATER # Death of a Salesperson # Two People of Verona # Person and Superperson # The Person of La Mancha # FILM # The Person Vanishes # Pretty Person # White People Can’t Jump (etc.; 7 December 1992) In fact, the renaming of Brecht’s play in this particular case is not the result of political correctness, but rather a more literal translation of the German original title, Der gute Mensch von Sezuan. As such, Example (13) also suggests how the charge of PC in practice may often be the result of ignorance and misunderstanding rather than of any genuine attempt to police the social imagination (cf. Wilson 1995). Example (14) is more typical, both in its irony (‘endlessly inventive’) and in its implicit criticism of the type of renaming which is typically done under the umbrella of PC language. (14) The politically correct are endlessly inventive. A high school in Portland, Ore., described a song as a ‘spiritual of color’. (22 June 1992) As in the other categories, there are also instances where positive aspects of speech codes and political correctness are highlighted, as Example (15) shows. (15) After reviewing Buchanan’s quotations over the years, even one who loathes political correctness and hate-speech codes is likely to start seeing their usefulness. (4 March 1996) 4.3.3 Politics There appears to be a widespread notion that PC-phrases are usually used in a derogatory way about liberal policies. However, in the Time magazine corpus, these phrases appear more often in discussions of right-wing politics: (16) Pressure groups from the right demand a political correctness of their own, but somehow the name p.c. is never applied to them. (7 November 1994) (17) It is shocking to read President Johnson’s words from the 1960s. He spoke bluntly about ‘white guilt’ and ‘equality (of) result’. These phrases violate the taboos of 1992’s conservative political correctness. And of course anything as grandiose as a ‘war on poverty’ is unthinkable today. (1 June 1992) (18) And now, having spent recent years diagnosing a virus of democracy they label ‘political correctness’, some conservatives seem to be succumbing themselves. (9 August 1993) Granted, this may have to do with the fact that the Examples (16), (17), and (18) are all from a period when the debate was still ongoing, and could thus be attempts to wrest the privilege of defining what PC is back from the right. Even so, the examples make evident that one should be wary of associating those who accuse PC of causing harm solely with the right. Unlike Toolan (2003: 84), who in his French data observed that in political commentary, PC was only used when referring to foreign countries—never to France—we found that the majority of our instances did refer to American politics. For example, candidates for political posts often appeared to be reviewed in terms of their political correctness. Of the 53 instances where PC referred to politics, only 5 referred to foreign countries (Afghanistan, China, Korea, South Africa, and France). These five instances either referred to the way representatives of these countries expressed themselves officially, as the French official pronouncement on NATO in Example (19), or to the politics of the country, as for Example (20), which follows a list of atrocities committed by North Korea. (19) [T]he French keep saying the politically correct things about the importance of the Atlantic alliance. (11 November 1991) (20) After Kim Il Sung died in 1994, his son and apparent successor Kim Jong Il displayed the same steely confidence in his own political correctness. (13 January 1997) Example (20) is of special interest in that it makes evident that the neutral, descriptive function of PC that characterized all of the early instances in our corpus do not disappear completely with the emergence of the notion of PC as a preconceived set of values. 4.3.4 Ethnicity, gender, and education When education is the topic, comments are on such aspects as the curriculum, the selection of textbooks, programs to increase the number of minority students at universities, etc. Often such instances involve dual topics, like Example (21), which is a comment on ethnicity and education. (21) Curriculum changes like these—which really amount to what is required to be an informed citizen—have become commonplace since the twin phenomena of political correctness and prescribed multiculturalism emerged into national consciousness at the end of the 80s. (18 November 1993) Some of the comments on gender show up in examples with multiple topics, like Example (22), which combines the topics education, ethnicity, and gender. Both the Examples (21) and (22) are neutral in their stance towards PC. A slightly different view is expressed in Example (23)—one that recurs a couple of times in the material—namely, that white heterosexual males are exempt from being treated sensitively in the PC discourse. (22) There [at universities in California] Hispanic and Asian presences have both fueled and complicated the p.c. and multicultural debates that initially arose out of polar conflicts between blacks and whites or men and women. (18 November 1993) (23) Is it possible to be so politically correct that one becomes politically incorrect? Or to put it another way, Are some groups of people so inherently villainous that it is perfectly acceptable to stereotype, ridicule and otherwise bash them? Anyone who has followed American political discourse of late knows that the answer to both questions is yes—as long as the bashee is a white heterosexual male. (29 September 1995) 4.3.5 Business and environment A topic where a different type of PC discourse appears is environment—being environmentally conscious means being PC, and in these contexts the PC-phrases generally appear to lose their negative ring. Example (24) is one of four instances of politically correct dating back to the 1980s. Here, being PC is presented as something appealing: (24) Over the years the magazine has gradually increased its cultural coverage, a trend that will continue in its new incarnation. But the new Mother Jones will also try to appeal to its older readers by introducing columns about politically correct travel and even personal finance. (12 December 1988) Similarly, in Example (25) we see political correctness as something that will attract customers to an environmentally conscious company: (25) ‘Give Racism the Boot’. That politically correct advertising slogan, combined with environmentally conscious products, has turned Timberland Co. of Hampton, New Hampshire, into a hot marketer and a torrid stock. (29 November 1993) Cars are variously presented as PC as in Example (26) and politically incorrect as in Example (27), depending on their price and on how much and what type of fuel they consume. (26) Next year Ford, which has produced a string of electric cars, is expected to be the first U.S. manufacturer to introduce a hybrid vehicle. I took the politically correct version of the six-cylinder Escape for an exclusive spin earlier this year. (29 April 2002) (27) The Viper, a politically incorrect, 10-cylinder roadster ($50,000), is the most sought-after sports car in years. (9 November 1992) In finance, political correctness may equal social responsibility, as Example (28) demonstrates. (28) There’s a small but growing industry of politically correct stock funds in Europe, with an estimated $40 billion under management, that invest only in companies they consider socially responsible. (26 January 2004) Hence, social and environmental consciousness is often presented as PC in positive terms, with little or no tint of irony or criticism. It is noteworthy that these examples span the whole period of the PC-debate—from the 1980s until the 2000s, that is no trend in any particular direction can be observed. In contrast to Toolan, who found that the phrases ‘politically correct and political correctness have […] acquired too entrenched a negative semantic for them to be used […] without implicit criticism of the activity so described’ (Toolan 2003: 71), we found no such clear-cut tendency. Although the majority of our instances referring to other topics than environment signal either criticism or irony, the examples cited above demonstrate that the phrases have not acquired some kind of inherent negative meaning but that they are pliable enough to be used when describing topics from a neutral or even positive perspective. 5. DISCUSSION As we have already noted, PC-phrases most frequently refer to the arts in the Time magazine corpus: in 40 per cent of the articles, arts is the topic, either alone or in combination with one or more other topics. Given that cultural events may be seen as mirrors of contemporary society, reflecting social norms and cultural doxa (Barthes 1972), this is perhaps not very remarkable, nor is it remarkable that almost 34 per cent of the instances appear in reviews, even though reviews normally make up less than 15 per cent of Time magazine’s total number of items.4 But it does seem to underscore that when PC becomes established as a fixed phrase in the 1990s, it takes on an evaluative function lacking in earlier instances, none of which, notably, concern the arts. Arguably, as a consequence of having acquired such an evaluative function, PC-phrases contribute to what one might perhaps call an aestheticization of public discourse, in two ways. First, PC-phrases charge seemingly objective statements with the subjective opinions of the speaker. Our data confirm that even while they purport to describe objective facts, PC-phrases are often fraught with subjective opinion. Thus, Example (5) above suggests that the term ‘means little more than “a view I disagree with,”’ a notion that Example (6), in presenting ‘the caprices of our emotions, no matter how politically incorrect’ as something we should defend, appears to validate: the right to be politically incorrect is the right to express one’s subjective experience. Secondly, as a result of this subjectivization, the focus of the debate is displaced from factual matters to how those matters are perceived. The discussion in effect turns inward on itself, focusing on the form of the debate (what one may or may not say) rather than upon the issues that prompted the discussion in the first place. To illustrate how this aestheticization works in practice, let us return to Example (12), in which Bill Maher claims always to have ‘defined political correctness as the elevation of sensitivity over truth’. The statement imposes a distinction between those who proceed subjectively, from their feelings, and the more thick-skinned people who are not afraid to face objective truth. Maher’s argument, however, rests on a series of highly contentious claims, for which he notably provides no empirical evidence: our society is the most successful ever; as a result, society has gone soft; therefore, the discrimination that the PC movement protests against is not real but imagined. Although nominally championing objective truth, in practice Maher’s statement is thus clearly an example of a subjective opinion set on directing attention away from social issues, towards people’s perception of those issues. As such, it also illustrates the performative paradox that many of the instances in the Time corpus engender: since the charge that political correctness ignores objective truth often proceeds from assumptions for which little or no empirical support is provided, it often in practice enacts the very fault it would counter.5 6. CONCLUSION Our results confirm what has long been suggested but not previously empirically substantiated, namely, that the PC discourse demonstrably underwent something of a semantic sea change around 1991. Before that year, PC-phrases are very infrequent, and carry no conceptual charge; in the wake of the debate about academic freedom on American college campuses, what was originally an indexical phrase, dependent for its meaning upon context, turns into a non-indexical term, which is taken to suggest, roughly, a kind of unarticulated left-wing ideology. Still, when discussing the term, no less than when discussing the phenomenon, it is important to remember that there is no wholesale semantic shift from PC designating particular policies or cultural norms in particular contexts to PC being used as a blanket term to denounce efforts at avoiding offending behaviour. While our results show that PC is typically negatively loaded, they also demonstrate that the reverse is sometimes the case. Our survey shows that the stereotypical notion that PC-phrases are mainly used to attack ‘liberal’ or ‘leftist’ views does not hold true for the usage in Time magazine. In the latter, rather, such phrases are used in a multifaceted fashion, the majority of which imply a criticism of emerging norms in a more equal and multicultural society. Our results likewise contradict Hughes (2010: 15), according to whom political correctness and related phrases are used mainly in references to naming or renaming ‘outsiders’ in society. Instead, our data show that they are used especially frequently in relation to arts, followed by ethnicity, politics, gender and sexuality, language use, and education. Hence, only a small portion of the phrases are used in criticizing normative language use or how it restricts personal freedom, which are the two uses most often commented on in previous literature. Furthermore, PC-phrases are sometimes used in neutral or even positive contexts—this appears to be the case particularly in discourse on the environment. In conclusion, our corpus analysis of PC-phrases in Time magazine shows that in the period studied, they mainly concern societal norms and the changes that they have undergone and are undergoing. ‘Political correctness’, Hughes (2010: 38) claims, ‘is fundamentally concerned with changing norms in behavior and language. Norms are not cultural universals, but socially conditioned forms and expectations of correct social behavior’. This neatly, if perhaps unintentionally, captures a dialectic which Fairclough (2003) discusses at some length. On the one hand, the change in societal norms is reflected in language use; on the other hand, there are interventions aiming to change societal norms (which simultaneously require a change in the labels used). It thus seems reasonable to look upon political correctness simply as an expression that many people use to designate such efforts to affect norms via language, and to defend it on such grounds, as Fairclough and others do. As this study has suggested, however, studying the ways PC-phrases are used in specific corpora may well be a more productive approach to the question of political correctness than arguing about whether the concept is defensible. Conflict of interest statement. None declared. Solveig Granath’s major research interest is English syntax, especially the interplay of syntactic structures with semantic and pragmatic factors. Several of her papers deal with the role that word order plays in expressing meaning in English, as for example when it comes to adverb placement and clause-initial thus. Recent research together with Michael Wherrity focuses on the use of the English progressive aspect with so-called stative verbs. Address for correspondence: Solveig Granath, Department of Language, Literature and Intercultural Studies, Karlstad University, Universitetsgatan 1, SE-651 88 Karlstad, Sweden <solveig.granath@kau.se> Magnus Ullén is Professor of English at Karlstad University, Sweden. He is the author of The Half-Vanished Structure: Hawthorne’s Allegorical Dialectics (2004), and Bara för dig: pornografi, konsumtion, berättande (2009), a study on pornography and narrativity in consumer society. His articles on American literature, pornography, and literary theory have appeared in Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, Critical Quarterly, Jump Cut, Studies in the Novel, New Literary History, and several other journals. NOTES 1 On 7 January 7 2015, 10 journalists were killed at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, allegedly for their ‘politically incorrect brand of satire’ (retrieved from www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/07/charlie-hebdo-satire-intimidation-analysis; last accessed November 2016), in which they targeted Islam. This was by many regarded as an attack on free speech. 2 An alternative to using the Time magazine corpus would have been to use the Corpus of Historical American English (COHA; Davies (2010)). However, COHA turned out to have only slightly more instances than the Time magazine corpus (in all, 274 compared to 261), many of which were actually from Time magazine. Also, there was a scarcity of instances prior to the 1990s in both corpora, but Time had a few more than COHA. 3 We are grateful to one of our reviewers for pointing this out. 4 To estimate the size of Time’s review section, we counted the entire text of the first June issues of 1992, 1997, and 2002, respectively. The text was copied manually from the Ebsco database which provides access to all original items of all issues of Time (headlines, photograph captions, names of authors, and all non-original material were excluded from this count). Reviews made up 9, 7, and less than 9 per cent of the total number of words. In 1992, 10 of 57 items (18 per cent); in 1997, 5 of 43 (16 per cent); and in 2002, 4 of 36 items (11 per cent) were reviews. We also counted all items in the September issues of 1992, 1997, and 2002. In 1992, 38 of 198 items were reviews (19 per cent), in 1997, 27 of 233 items were (9 per cent), and in 2002, there were 23 reviews among 206 items (11 per cent). 5 Many critics have noted ‘that there is a sort of performative contradiction in critiques of ‘PC’ because they would seem themselves to be instances of the sort of cultural politics which is the object of critique’ (Fairclough 2003: 17–18; see also Cameron 1995). REFERENCES Allan K. , Burridge. K. 2006 . Forbidden Words: Taboo and the Censoring of Language . Cambridge University Press . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Aufderheide P. (ed.). 1992 . Beyond PC: Toward a Politics of Understanding . Graywolf Press . Barthes R. 1972 . Mythologies . J. Cape . Bowman J. 2015 . ‘The irony of PC,’ The New Criterion, March 2015, pp. 51 – 54 . Bush G. H. 1992 . ‘May 1991 commencement address,’ in Aufderheide (ed.), p. 227 . Cameron D. 1995 . Verbal Hygiene . Routledge . Chait J. 2015 . ‘Not a very P.C. thing to say,’ The New York Magazine, January 27, 2015. available at http://www.nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/01/not-a-very-pc-thing-to-say.html. Accessed November 2016. Channell J. 2000 . ‘Corpus-based analysis of evaluative lexis,' in Hunston S. , Thompson G. (eds.), Evaluation in Text . Oxford University Press , pp. 38 – 55 . Choi J. M. , Murphy J. W.. 1992 . The Politics and Philosophy of Political Correctness . Praeger . Connolly W. E. 1993 . [1974]. The Terms of Political Discourse . 3rd edn Blackwell . Curzan A. 2014 . Fixing English: Prescriptivism and Language History . Cambridge University Press . Davies M. 2007 . TIME Magazine Corpus: 100 million words, 1920s–2000s, available at http://www.corpus.byu.edu/Time/. Davies M. 2008 . The Corpus of Contemporary American English: 450 million words, 1990–present, available at http://corpus.byu.edu/coca/. Davies M. 2010 . The Corpus of Historical American English: 400 million words, 1810-2009, available at http://corpus.byu.edu/coha/. D’Souza D. 1991 . Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus . Vintage . Epstein B. 1992 . ‘Political correctness and identity politics’ in Aufderheide (ed.), pp. 148 – 154 . Fairclough N. 2003 . ‘ Political correctness’: The politics of culture and language ,’ Discourse & Society 14 : 17 – 28 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Feldstein R. 1997 . Political Correctness: A Response from the Cultural Left . Foreword by Brennan Teresa . University of Minnesota Press . Gallie W. B. 1956 . ‘Essentially contested concepts Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 56 : 167 – 98 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Halmari H. 2011 . ‘ Political correctness, euphemism, and language change: The case of ‘people first ,’ Journal of Pragmatics 43 : 828 – 40 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Hartman A. 2015 . ‘ PC isn’t back: It never went away ,’ Chronicle of Higher Education 61 : 10 – 1 . Hughes G. 2010 . Political Correctness: A History of Semantics and Culture . Wiley-Blackwell . Johnson S. , Suhr S. . 2003 . ‘ From ‘political correctness’ to ‘politische Korrektheit’: Discourses of ‘PC’ in the German newspaper, Die Welt ,’ Discourse & Society 14 : 49 – 68 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Johnson S. , Culpeper J. , Suhr S.. 2003 . ‘ From ‘politically correct councillors’ to ‘Blairite nonsense’: Discourses of ‘political correctness’ in three British newspapers ,’ Discourse & Society 14 : 29 – 47 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Koselleck R. 2004 . Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time . Columbia University Press . Lakoff R. T. 2000 . The Language War . University of California Press . Louw B. 1993 . ‘Irony in the text or insincerity in the writer? The diagnostic potential of semantic prosodies,’ in Baker M. , Francis G. , Tognini-Bonelli E. (eds), Text and Technology: In Honour of John Sinclair . John Benjamins, pp . 157 – 76 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS O’Neill B. 2011 . ‘ A critique of politically correct language ,’ The Independent Review 16 : 279 – 91 . Perry R. 1992 . ‘A short history of the term Politically Correct’ in Aufderheide (ed.), pp. 71 – 9 . Reinelt J. 2011 . ‘ The performance of political correctness ,’ Theatre Research International 36 : 134 – 47 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Suhr S. , Johnson S. . 2003 . ‘ Re-visiting ‘PC’: Introduction to special issue on ‘political correctness ,’ Discourse & Society 14 : 5 – 16 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS The National Association of Scholars. 1992 . ‘The wrong way to reduce campus tensions’ in Aufderheide (ed.), pp. 7 – 10 . Toolan M. 2003 . ‘Le politiquement correct dans le Monde français Discourse & Society 14 : 69 – 86 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Wilson J. K. 1995 . The Myth of Political Correctness: The Conservative Attack on Higher Education . Duke University Press . Woodward C. V. 1992 . ‘Freedom at the universities’ in Aufderheide (ed.), pp. 27 – 49 . © Oxford University Press 2017

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Applied LinguisticsOxford University Press

Published: Jul 18, 2017

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