It's a PC World, By Edward Stourton

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The Independent Culture

Edward Stourton is an urbane and humane guide through the tricky terrain of the politically correct. Is the notion of PC speech and behaviour an enlightened, civilised way of fighting unfair discrimination; or is it a bullying, unjustified form of censorship? Good manners, or plain stupid? Stourton's aims are admirably clear: to identify what, exactly, "PC" means, and to distinguish between when it's appropriate and when it has lapsed into its alter ego, "PC gone mad".

The book's tone is thoughtful, amiable, erudite: there are disquisitions on the origins of terms such as "nitty-gritty" and "beyond the pale" and a consideration of the chairman question (oddly, Stourton doesn't consider the solution of using "chairman" or "chairwoman" for the incumbent and "chair" for the office). He digs up and analyses some marmalade-dropping stories of PC gone mad, and in many cases shows that the "madness" was manufactured by journalists with an axe to grind. Stourton's conclusion that PC is born of good intentions but can sometimes go too far is not exactly surprising, but the journey there is an enjoyable one.