This may be a fairly controversial question, but ...

I have known several people on the left (liberals, even radicals) who use the term "politically correct."

I also know a lot of people on the left (with a variety of different specific views) who are offended by the term "politically correct," seeing it as a derogatory way to refer to any attempt by people on the left to advocate for respect for those who differ from the majority. These people on the left tend to have a negative reaction to anyone using the terms "politically correct," or its noun equivalent, "political correctness"; and these people, after hearing anyone use it, are less likely to listen to anything they say.

I agree with the left's goal of respect for minorities and the historically oppressed. I think many people on the right do use the term as a way to attack the left, and as a way to get away with expressing prejudice.

As these quotes from the thread How has the meaning of "politically correct" changed? put it:

There are all kinds of things people say that are a little (or a lot) hurtful in this way. Sometimes, people who like to say these things ("lady doctor", for example) object when they're corrected and say "oh, sorry, guess that's not politically correct" implying that it is, however, just plain correct.

... it seems clear that the vast majority of derisive users of politically correct employ it to caricature and dismiss the views of political liberals.

Non-ironical usage of the phrase soon attracted mocking usage; and in the > past two decades, the phrase has broadened further—first to refer disapprovingly to liberal political views on any subject ...

I also think, though, that there are some on the left who can be rigid and doctrinaire, and sometimes have an us-and-them, with-us-or-against-us attitude. But I don't want to call what I think they can do "political correctness," because I don't want to use the same term as conservatives who use that to attack the entire left and principles of respect and equality.

So--does anyone know of any terms that liberals and others on the left can use, instead of "politically correct," without confusing people about what their meaning and their politics are? Any terms that suggest, "I agree with the principles of the left, I am not a conservative; but I find these particular people, or particular views, to be doctrinaire, strict, with-us-or-against-us, leading to infighting ..."?

closed as primarily opinion-based by David, Hellion, AmE speaker, Nigel J, Davo Nov 8 '17 at 14:25

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    I think this is an interesting but POB issue. Socially acceptable might be a more neutral expression : books.google.com/ngrams/… – user66974 Dec 13 '15 at 11:08
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    What are "liberals"? – Blessed Geek Dec 13 '15 at 11:38
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    Similar as @Josh61 suggestion: socially responsible. Note the rising slope. – Graffito Dec 17 '15 at 17:00
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    This question is not a request for opinions. It is a rare thing: a word request with substantial thought going into it and showing evidence of research. Voting to reopen. – MetaEd Jun 22 '16 at 15:31
  • I can not understand what liberal has to do with it. It refers to a type of universal pragmatism unrelated to the advancement of any particular agenda. It is the rhetorical equivalent of not picking your nose in public. – Phil Sweet Jun 22 '16 at 16:13

I don't think your question should be at all controversial. It'd be difficult to argue that the term "politically correct" itself hasnt' taken on more of a negative stigma than an instructive one.

That said, I think there are two main vectors from which to draw alternative terms to "politically correct". The first within a political context. The second, in reference to the always-changing lexicon of contemporary linguistic semantics.

So a simple alternative to "politically correct" within a political context might be "politically palatable"; and an alternate to "politically incorrect" might be "politically obnoxious".

I'm partial to reacting to terms perverted with political bias (especially when intended to deride the oppressed on a more subconscious level to maintain the status quo) directly, dismissively, and usually with levity. To that end, nobody likes to be called out as using "antiquated", "obnoxious", "old school", or "out of touch" terminology.

I don't know what hurt the opinion of the United States in Europe, our "rush" to war, or when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld divided the continent into what he branded "old Europe" vs. "new Europe."

I hope that makes sense.


You question is a very good one, albeit surprisingly confusing. When I first opened my eyes to politics, I considered myself a liberal, but I now despise U.S. liberals (though I'm even less a conservative). Furthermore, the term politically correct has different connotations and is viewed through different lens by liberals, conservatives and others.

In this spirit, it might help to have some examples of what you want to say. Consider this sentence, for example:

I don't want to say anything that isn't politically correct.

Does the author mean 1) he wants to speak the truth without using words that might hurt or offend others, or 2) he's willing to ignore or twist the truth if that's the only way to please listeners?

Although most intelligent, caring people obviously want to avoid saying hurtful things, I think there's a general feeling - even among many liberals - that there's a little BS in political correctness.

Then I went back and read the last sentence in your question, which I find confusing:

"I agree with the principles of the left, I am not a conservative; but I find these particular people, or particular views, to be doctrinaire, strict, with-us-or-against-us, leading to infighting ..."?

Are you sure you're talking about political correctness and not something else? In the U.S., the Left is very fragmented and has swung very far to the right, to the point that it's often hard to distinguish between liberals and conservatives.

In summary, I can't think of a good synonym for "politically correct" that liberals can use. About the closest I can come is fair speech. Or you could simply say "I speak the truth," or "I speak the truth, political correctness be damned."

Again, it might help if we had some examples of things you'd like to say.

  • The type of term I'm looking for is--well, around the 1970s, some people on the left took up the term "politically correct" to imply that some others on the left were too strict and doctrinaire. Then, in the late '80s, conservatives took up the term to attack the left with. Many people even use the term "politically correct" (or "... gone mad") to bash anyone who asks for respect for people who aren't in the minority. (An extreme example: "They're asking men not to call all women "stupid c*nts? I hate political correctness.") – user24353 Dec 25 '15 at 3:57
  • So I'm looking for a term to use that meant what "political correctness" meant before the right wing adopted it. Nowadays, many people who are left wing, when they hear the phrase "political correctness, assume the user is a reactionary who wants society to go back to how it was in the old days. I'm looking for a phrase that implies "I agree with the goal of improving society, getting rid of injustice and discrimination and abuse of power, reigning in corporations, etc. But I think that some people on the left are doctrinaire, harsh, us-and-them, with-us-or-against-us, etc." – user24353 Dec 25 '15 at 4:05

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