Sunday, 24 February 2008

You learn something new every day, part 2

Inspired by my discovery (1) that the phrase 'useful idiots,' usually attributed to Lenin, is of unknown origin, I decided to have a quick look at the origins of another phraseused to discredit liberal ideas and make them instantly laughable - the dread phrase 'politcally correct.'

How many times has a perfectly good idea been described as 'politically correct,' which seems to immediately close any discussion on it? As Marcus Lush pointed out, calling something politcally correct is a lzy way of dismissing it, without having to think about the idea, or the issues behind it. Targetted funding for Maori is 'politcally correct,' so it's wrong, so it has to go. Never mind that it is an attempt to address very real problems in New Zealand society, whcih make Don Brashes 'mainstream New Zealanders' uncomfortable. Or Civil Unions. Political correctness gone mad! Lets forget that it is insane and wrong that heterosexuals can have special rights and privileges that are denied to other adults who just happen to be homosexual. Its politically correct. Case dismissed.

Another silly, leftwing, politically correct idea. Only, to my eternal delight, the phrase seems to originate (2) in 18th Century AMERICA, not (as previously has been put about) the Soviet Union, or college campuses in thrall to Marxism. Wikipedia advises that
[t]he earliest citation is not politically correct, in the U.S. Supreme Court decision Chisholm Vs Georgia (1793), denoting the statement to which it refers is literally incorrect, owing to the U.S.'s political status as then understood. (3)
While it may have been adopted by Marxist-Leninists and come of age in the increasingly bizarre world of college campuses from the 1960s onwards, the phrase and the concept it embodies is a true exemplar of the American Way.

1 - As described previosuly on lefthandpalm:
2 - 'Political correctness: history in the United States,' Wikipedia article, retreived 4th of February, 2008. (
3 - ibid.

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