humor.pngWhat is the problem with “politically correct”? Well, that phrase is useful, but the meaning of that phrase has been somewhat distorted, and the origin of the phrase is not especially clear.  Consider the following and see for yourself.

So how is the term used today? The Wikipedia article goes into a large number of examples, include some from other nations. For the sake of brevity, here are a couple examples from the Reason article.

For some on the right, “P.C.” began to be a vague way to refer to anything left of center. “Un-P.C.,” meanwhile, became a phrase people used to pat themselves on the back, not just on the right but in the culture at large. By proclaiming yourself politically incorrect, you were announcing that you were a brave opponent of stultifying orthodoxies, even if your actual opinions were as vanilla as the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.

On the left, some people embraced the term defensively (at Michigan, several student groups opened the 1991-92 school year by adopting the slogan “PC and Proud”), while others foreshadowed Taub by declaring political correctness a myth. More recently, it’s become common to claim that what conservatives call political correctness is really “just politeness.” (And indeed, if someone uneducated in the jargon of the week unwittingly uses the wrong language, he may receive the same reaction he’d get at a society dinner for using the wrong fork. But I don’t think that’s what they mean.) (from here)

So what word should we use instead? How about “obsequious”? Here is the etymology.

obsequious (adj.)
late 15c., “prompt to serve,” from Middle French obséquieux (15c.), from Latin obsequiosus “compliant, obedient,” from obsequium “compliance, dutiful service,” from obsequi “to accommodate oneself to the will of another,” from ob “after” (see ob-) + sequi “to follow” (see sequel). Pejorative sense of “fawning, sycophantic” had emerged by 1590s. Related: Obsequiously; obsequiousness (mid-15c.).
Consider that pejorative sense. Isn’t that the real problem that Conservatives have with political correctness? Don’t Liberal Democrats fawn over the government and our leaders?

Consider the dictionary.com definition.

obsequious [uh b-see-kwee-uh s] adjective

  1. characterized by or showing servile complaisance or deference; fawning:

    an obsequious bow.

  2. servilely compliant or deferential:

    obsequious servants.

  3. obedient; dutiful.

The first and second definitions are the relevant ones. That last one goes back to the word’s older definition. Like “politically correct”, the word’s meaning has flip-flopped; it has just taken longer. Funny how words do that, but it probably has to do with our pride and our hypocrisy. We don’t usually live up to the labels we apply to ourselvess.

Anyway, calling someone obsequious has two fringe benefits.

  • Most people don’t know what the word means.
  • It sounds even more awful than it is.

So please make certain that if you call someone obsequious you are not immediately within reach. Better yet, may I suggest that you label behavior and not people.


  1. I’m not sure why we need a word of phrase to replace “politically correct.” It’s a useful phrase IF (and I use caps because “if” is often an extremely important word) it is understood to vary with context. Every group or political spectrum has its own PC terms. Your wikipedia discussion points that out – things that are PC to the American political “left ” are different than those things that are PC to the American “right”. Pols of all stripes try to pick up on the buzzwords and phrases that excite the less informed, less analytically inclined of their electorates. Trump is a master of this use of political correctness, and his opponent is no slouch in her own right.

    I don’t see “obsequious”, a very good word in its proper place, as a direct synonym for “Politically Correct” . Obsequy is a kind of servile flattery. Sure, people like Trump and Clinton are attempting to ingratiate themselves with people who lack information or reasoning powers, but they do it from a position of perceived power, superiority. But that is just manipulation. The people I think of as obsequious are people who would demean themselves to make a favorable impression on others whom they perceive to be in superior positions. The Reverend Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice strikes me as a good example. Uriah Heep, perhaps.

    I think you can continue to use PC and its cognates so long as you and your readers understand that this is not a particular property of the left or right. It’s a marketing trick that both parties use to prey on the uninformed.



  2. The only caution I would give is to cultivate the prudence to know what is obsequious and what is simply bad manners.


  3. How about politicians just be truthful and let everyone decide for themselves whether or not what they say is correct.

    Voters are supposed to have reached an age of maturity to be eligible to vote.

    In other words, we voters do not need politicians to babysit us anymore and decide what is appropriate to hear or not.

    Regards and goodwilll blogging.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @scatterwisdom

      Well, if we could our leaders to do what is truly politically correct, obey the Constitution, this would not be much of an issue. Unfortunately, the history of mankind tells us that it has always been an issue.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Your post implies that political correctness sets a boundary on a statement. That is contradictory of the statement “truth has no boundaries.”

        I wrote a post a while back about how politicians justify to themselves by believing they must be politically correct because “voters cannot handle the truth.”
        Or, they want to hide the truth to protect their party or someone.

        The Constitution is a guideline of boundaries . When truth is masked, it makes a mockery of the Constitution boundaries ,same as it makes a mockery of truth, in my opinion..


        Regards and goodwill blogging.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. “In other words, we voters do not need politicians to babysit us anymore and decide what is appropriate to hear or not.” Yet, in any society, there are such things as decorum, respect, and loving your neighbor as yourself.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Also, perhaps society, including politicians, might act with more decorum, respect and loving because they will be aware that no fellow politicians will “cover up” with their actions to protect what they say , do, or act.?


        Regards and goodwill blogging.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Only prudence could determine such a thing. But then we would compelling the people to act virtuously and we all know that is the death of America as we know it, right?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I would presume that the virtue of wisdom would compel American people to resurrect a better more meaningful life rather than their death. After all we are the masters of our own disasters.

            Regards and goodwill blogging.

            Liked by 1 person

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