Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever has gone through a political correctness update which Bored Panda tells us about. I loved this book when I would look at it with my daughters. Luckily, the old rigidity over gender roles doesn’t seem to have damaged them.


With Donald Trump’s continuing flow of consciousness clogging the media these days, we are once again being forced to confront the question of political correctness. His supporters boast that he’s just saying things which “everyone thinks”. This seems less a reason to support him, than an utter disqualifier. Trump seems to suffer from political Tourette’s syndrome. Just because everyone thinks something that is not a reason for everyone to say it. I don’t, of course, know what goes on in your mind, but I do know mine contains lots and lots of thoughts, many of which it would not be wise to share. Violent, obscene, insulting, revolutionary thoughts fly hither and yon within all of our heads, but we have been socialized into the ability to sort out which can be expressed or even recognized, and which should get no more salience than the transient neuron tide embodying them. Trump’s calculation is that suppressing this self-editing mechanism will bring him attention. And it’s working — for the time being. But it is a doomed strategy because we all know deep down that this sort of inhibition-free raving is not something an adult should allow to happen.

Humor of the Archie Bunker racist rant type is not really humor, and should never have been allowed as popular television entertainment. Of course times change, and something which is offensive now may not have been offensive in previous centuries, but the “humor” in All in the Family resided mainly in the titillating conflict between what we all knew we shouldn’t say or believe and what he was being allowed to say. Norman Lear seems not to have spared a moment’s thought for the reaction of those who were the butts of Bunker rants — or if he did, he decided that that didn’t matter. For shame. As a Scotsman I have lived my life with people sniggeringly implying that the Scots are tight with their money. It’s not really a big deal, but at the time when I cared, it just meant that I could be relied on to buy more rounds at the pub than my English friends.

The Oxford English Dictionary has the first usage of the phrase “political correctness” in this non-specifically-political sense in 1979. Wikipedia tells us it gained wide currency as part of the debate around the publication of Alan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind in 1987. I guess the old U and non-U nonsense in Britain was a proto-political-correctness phenomenon. The embargo on mentioning the toilet or worse WC was a class-based phenomenon at bottom, but many/most people in Britain still refer to the politically correct euphemism “loo”.

I’d better shut up now: it is of course not politically correct to question political correctness.