Projekt:European Sociolinguistics/Political Correctness

Are there prominent examples for word-coinages due to “political correctness”?


For Belgium, this is a special case. As the Belgians do not have one common language such as Belgian, these word-coinages are hard to find. It is to remark that such French word-coinages like “afro-américan” have been taken over from French or respectively from Dutch and German.

But -for example- there are some “Belgicismes” (words in Belgian French) which replace the standard French words, e.g. mayor is translated into maire (French) / bourgmestre (1) (Belgicisme). Another one is town hall means in French mairie but the Belgians say maison de maire (2) (Belgicisme). There exist more examples for Belgicismes, but they do not replace the French words on the basis of political correctness. They were formed by language contact (Dutch). And some such as sport expressions mainly anglicisms (keeper, goal, clubman, extra-time) are perhaps used to differ from France language policy.

This can also be observed for Dutch and Flemish.

(1) cf. Narr, Gunter (Hrsg.): Tübinger Beiträge zur Linguistik. Germanisch und Romanisch in Belgien und Luxemburg.1992. p. 106

(2) Ibid.

Marion Abel

Czech Republic


"Nowadays medias are trying to avoid the reality and they express in metaphors. For example when immigrants destroy the houses in which they live, the medias write that the inadaptable citizens have problems with keeping the order. It’s the same with gipsies who are called Romany fellow-citizens. If are fired because of some troubles, they usually say that Mr or Mrs “was left”. When some rich manager or director is fired, he’s given so called a golden parachute. It means that he was given a great deal of compensation money. An example from these days: Ministress of Education Dana Kuchtová was fired because of her inability in the matter of getting money from the European Union. Then they said she didn’t manage her resort. Czech medias are influenced by western medias and especially by the situation in the USA."

Source: Andrea Novotná (student)

Word coinage due to political correctness happens all the time in the sense that individuals propose to use this or that word for this or that referent since this is the more 'correct' or less discriminating use. Some examples for word coinages due to political correctness are words like “fremmedarbejdere” (alien employee) where the political correct word would be “gæstearbejdere”, “indvandrere” (immigrant) with the political correct word “nydanskere” and “vanfør” (handicapped) where the political correct expression would be “handikappet”

Nevertheless, the official Danish language policy doesn’t contain any of these examples. The Danish Language Board has in several instances been called upon to delimit the sense of specific words or has been asked to pronounce an official definition of a word.

A most recent example is the word used to refer to the intentional killing (murder) of a close relative in order to protect family honour. This has been referred to using a word that is derived for the Danish word for killing (drab) and a word meaning honour: ære, hence: æresdrab. A private organization tried to further a debate on whether the 'correct' word to use would instead be something like kin murder og family murder. The Language Board concluded that there was not any indication that people misunderstood the nature of the crime or the referent when using æresdrab and thus declined to make any statement in favour of the new coinage. Recently, two professors at the University of Copenhagen have compared the naming practices of the present government with the 'Newspeak' of George Orwell referring to instances such as the renaming of the official authority which is in charge of administering the very strict immigration to Denmark to foreigner service (udlængeservice). It is the job of the department for foreigner service among other things to return refugee seekers and asylum seekers to their homeland and this cannot in any sense be seen as a 'service' to them.



There is some kind of "political-correctness" with view to taboo-topics or expulsion, e.g. when people ar talking about the countries Hungary is surrounded by, jews or homosexuals. In these cases euphemisms are used.

E.g.: Instead of saying the "hungarian-germans" were displaced after WW2 they consequently talk about resettlement.

Im Ungarischen gibt es keine grammatischen Geschlechter, oft macht man zwischen Mann und Frau auch nur bei der Anrede einen Unterschied, z.B. Eine Lehrerin würde als einfache Berufsbezeichnung angeben: "Tanár vagyok" (dt: Ich bin Lehrer), sie wird aber mit "tanárnő" (dt. Lehrerfrau) angeredet. Im 19. Jahrhundert wollte man nach deutschem Beispiel die grammatischen Geschlechter im Ungarischen einführen, dies ist aber gescheitert.

There are some prominent examples for word-coinages due to political correctness in the Italian language. These have been formed to avoid offence to racial or other groups of people. For instance, the politically correct form

• for ritardato mentale ("mentally retarded") is handicappato psichico ("psychically handicapped").

• for la donna delle pulizie ("cleaning lady") is l’addetta alle pulizie ("the one responsible for the cleaning").

• for il netturbino ("binman/garbageman") is l’operatore ecologico ("ecological operator").

Furthermore, the term l'uomo di colore ("man of colour") is considered among most Italians a politically correct form.





man darf keine Frechheiten sagen oder Aussagen welche für den anderen zum Nachteil verwendet werden könnte...aber sonst das hängt immer vom Kontext ab... (Student of the University of Luxemburg)

--Miriam B. 13:07, 3. Sep. 2007 (CEST)

Word-coinages due to political correctness can also be found in the Maltese language. There are a number of words that changed recently because of greater awareness of sensitive issues or respect for different people.

Some examples are:

'pogguti' (Maltese for two people living together without actually being married) = 'konviventi"

'iblah' / 'mignun' (Maltese for a mentally disabled person) = 'persuna marida mentalment'

'xih' / 'xiha' (old person; male and female form) = Maltese nowadays still refer to xih or xiha, but a more general term 'anzjan' (m) or 'anzjana' (f) is used

compare: 'Karta anzjan' NOT 'Karta xjuh' (an identity card for people over 60 years that would grant them special attention when they go to a bank or discounts, or when using private transport)



"There has been a long discussion about the terms 'allochtoon' (foreigner) and 'autochtoon' (native resident). These terms were introduced in the seventies in order to avoid the negative term 'immigrant'. However, especially since 9/11 the term 'allochtoon' has a very negative connotation and one seeks to replace it by a new neutral set of terms. What I found interesting from a German point of view is that the names for professions are usually only given in the masculine form, even if it is clear from the context that the person in question is female. Thus, while 'Sie arbeitet als Pilot' would be considered sexist in Germany, it is the other way round in Holland: 'zij werkt als piloot (m)' is correct, 'zij werkt als pilote (f)' stresses her being female and is thus discriminating." (Dr. Simone Sprenger; Universität Groningen)

"Commonly used words such as: multi-cultural; afro; allochtoon; autochtoon. Bad one, not politically correct but used secretly: kut marrokanantjes." (A. Ashworth-Kadwell; Universität Leiden)

"Da fällt mir jetzt nur 'minder valide' oder 'anders-valide' ein. Ist politisch korrekt für 'gehandicapt' (behindert) oder 'invalide'." (Ulrike Vogl; FU Berlin)

"Ja: z.B. Bezeichnungen für alte Leute dürfen nicht mehr negativ sein: nicht: 'ouden van dagen', 'bejaarden', aber: 'senioren', '55plussers'." (Prof. Dr. Ann Marynissen; Uni Köln)

--Marina Liebel 20:30, 9. Sep. 2007 (CEST)

There are examples for word-coinages in the Polish Language: - "komuch" and "czerwony" are discriminating words for a communist; the political correct terms are "komunistyczny" or "komunista"

- "Zydek" is a discriminating word for jew; correct word is "Zyd"

- "Zoltek" is discriminating for Japanese, correct is "Japonczyk"

- "Asfalt" and "Czarnuch" are politically incorrect for Afro-American, correct is "Afroamerikansky"

- "spaslak" is discriminating for a thick person, correct is "gruby osoba"

- poltically incorrect: "homoseksualista", "homo" (guy); correct: "mniejszość seksualna" (sexual minority)

- incorrect: "kaleka, inwalida" (disabled person); correct: "niepełnosprawny"

So also in Poland discriminating words or words that have become negatively connotated are avoided. However, the extend of this practice can´t be compared to the United States where this is extremely popular.



2. Frage Es gibt natürlich dauernd neue Ausdrücke, die eine political correctness widerspiegeln, und das Problem wird viel diskutiert (siehe Internet), meist recht kritisch und vor allem gegen die Linken gerichtet. Konkret sind mir jedoch nicht sehr viel eingefallen, übrigens auch meinen ArbeitskollegInnen und Freunden nicht. Bei Berufen handelt es sich gleichzeitig oft um erweiterte, neue Aufgaben. Zu nennen wären auch die Selbstbeschreibung der konservativen Partei Moderaterna als neue Arbeiterpartei und die euphemistischen Formulierungen von Politikern, der Regierung, von Behörden und in der Presse. Aber das ist – wie ja auch bei Berufsbezeichnungen – nichts für Schweden Typisches.

Einige Beispiele (der ersetzte Ausdruck zuerst): invandrare (Einwanderer) – nya svenskar (neue Schweden) handikappad (behindert) – funktionshindrad (in gewissen Funktionen behindert) arbetslös (arbeitslos) – arbetssökande (Arbeit suchend) rullstulsbunden (wörtlich an den Rollstuhl gebunden) – rullstolsburen (wörtlich vom Rollstuhl getragen) kalhygge (Kahlschlag) – föryngringsyta (Verjünguungsfläche) zigenare (Zigeuner) – romer (Romer) lappar (Lappen, in Lappland) – samer (Samen) städare (Reinmacher – früher gab es noch weniger ”korrekt” nur städerska – Putzfrau) – lokalvårdare (Raumpfleger) oder hygientekniker (Hygienetechniker) sophämtare (Müllwerker) – renhållningstekniker (Stadtreinigungstechniker)

Ein Beispiel für politische Korrekheit aus den 1970er Jahren war die Du-Reform, die einen demokratischeren Umgang – statt Sie (Ni) oder Titel und dritte Form – manifestieren sollte, vor allem auch zwischen Bürger und Behörden (bei Behörden gab es Schilder: hier sagen wir du), die sich allerdings auch an das englische you anlehnte, also eine Vereinfachung beinhaltete. (Hr. Dr Grass. deutscher,der aber schon seit 1964 in Uppsala wohnt)

At the moment most of the previously gender-associated work titles are worked over, you can´t put out for example ads for "nurses wanted" you have to write "nurses / male nurses wanted"Male nurse is one word in Swedish.



Feministische Sprachkritik


In der deutschsprachigen Schweiz (und in Österreich) ist das Binnen-I für Fälle, wo Frauen und Männer gemeint sind, häufiger anzutreffen.


In der Schweiz (und auch in Österreich) kommt es öfter zu überladenen Verdoppelungen wie Zuschauer und Zuschauerinnen, Snowborderinnen und Snowborder , Lehrlinge und Lehrfrauen, Motorfahrerinnen und Motorfahrer, die dem Wunsch entsprechen, sich politisch korrekt auszudrücken, vielfach aber sehr unnatürlich wirken. Vor allem Moderatoren bemühen sich sehr um eine Sprache, die alle einschließt, und verdppelen häufig.

Bei Fernsehauftritten konnte es sogar zur sonderbaren Situation führen, dass Politikerinnen oft nur noch die männliche Form verdoppelten. Die Verdoppelung wurde gleichsam zum Ritual, um Zeit zu gewinnen: "Alle Bewohner und Bewohner" "Liebe Zuschauer und Zuschauer"


--JohannaB 23:24, 22. Sep. 2007 (CEST)

United Kingdom


Although having been an American phenomenon in the beginning, political correctness is nowadays known all over the world to be the principle of avoiding language that may offend particular groups of people such as ethnic minorities or women, for example. As the phenomenon spread, lots of American word-coinages found their way to other English-speaking countries such as the UK.

The most prominent ones with regard to job titles are: chair or chairperson which has replaced the androcentric generic chairman and flight attendant which is used instead of steward or stewardess. As can easily be detected gender-neutral terms are en vogue. Moreover, many normal jobs have complicated titles now that make them sound more important, or skilled, than the common names would imply. The politically correct term for a binman in the UK, which is waste removal officer, may serve as an example here.

Prominent examples of word-coinages due to PC in the fields of mental health, old age and death are:

- Differently abled as politically correct term for disabled people.

- Temporarily abled to refer to those who are not differently abled.

- Thought shower or word shower substituting for brainstorm so as not to offend those with brain disorders such as epilepsy.

- Senior citizens (i. e. old people) are no longer referred to as old but as chronologically gifted or experientially enhanced.

- Terminally inconvenienced is politically correct for dead.

Politically correct terms with regard to one's outward appearance:

- Fat people are no longer fat but horizontally challenged.

- Small people have become vertically challenged.

- Besides, one should not think to be paid a compliment when someone tells you that you are cosmetically different, which is ugly.

Moreover, plenty of examples can be found in the field of war such as ethnic cleansing (former genocide), collateral damages, soft targets, terrain alteration, visiting a site, etc.

In 2005 John Simpson, BBC World Affairs Editor, used the term "misguided criminals" and "bombers" when referring to the perpetrators of the London blasts. The term terrorist was deliberately replaced as it can "carry emotional or value judgments" according to the BBC. This use of PC provoked an outcry because it was considered as ridiculous as the politically correct term which had once been suggested for a mass murderer, namely person with difficult-to-meet-needs.


Bonder, Michael. Ein Gespenst geht um die Welt: Political Correctness. Frankfurt a. M.: Eichborn, 1995.

Freese, Peter. Political Correctness: Zum Umgang mit der Sprache in einer globalisierten Welt. Paderborn: Niesel & Partner, 1999. Paderborner Universitätsreden 68

Romaine, Suzanne. Language in Society. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. 2nd ed. New York: OUP, 2000.

--SaskiaS 20:04, 17. Sep. 2007 (CEST)