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Good Question: When Does P.C. Go Too Far?


(WCCO) Some stores have begun leaving the term "Merry Christmas" off their advertising, and that has some critics blaming political correctness.

The trend turned up on a new list of the year's worse politically correct phrases. Yet, in a world where short people are "vertically challenged" and all Oscar nominees are winners, when does political correctness go too far?

The word "brainstorming" may offend people with brain disorders, so the politically correct term is now "thought shower".

It is one of the top 10 politically correct terms this year, according to the Global Language Monitor.

"Politically correct stuff drives me crazy," one woman said.

Another phrase on the list: "deferred success".

"Now, if your child came home with a report card with an 'F' on it, would you say, 'Jimmy, you have deferred success'?" WCCO-TV's Ben Tracy asked a woman.

"No, I would say 'you failed' and 'we need to improve'," the woman replied.

When asked why society uses words like this, the woman replied, "Because in this society, everybody has to be a winner, everybody has to have success, otherwise we feel terrible."

Political Correctness is defined as the avoidance of forms of expression or action that exclude, marginalize or insult certain racial or cultural groups, according to the Oxford Dictionary.

"At its best, political correctness shows sensitivity to the importance of language," said Dr. George Gaetano, a communications professor at Hamline University.

Gaetano said political correctness has been a good thing in terms of race.

"How we label people determines how we communicate with them, how we perceive them," Gaetano said. "We know that certain labels can empower people and certain labels can disempower people."

That is why crippled became handicapped, then disabled, then physically challenged and now the term is differently-abled. Gaetano said political correctness goes too far when it changes the meaning of the language.

The worst politically correct phrase, according to the study is "misguided criminals". The BBC used the phrase to refer to terrorists.

"This was a way of using words to disguise some harsh realities," Gaetano said. "They make us feel better about something we shouldn't necessarily feel better about."

The BBC said the survey took the phrase "misguided criminals" out of context. In the original editorial, the writer urges governments to stay calm when confronted by terrorism.

That might have been the writer's point, but he didn't call the London bombings terrorism. He called them "political violence".

(© MMV, CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

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