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According to American educator Herbert Kohl, writing about debates in New York in the late 1940s and early 1950s, The term "politically correct" was used disparagingly, to refer to someone whose loyalty to the CP line overrode compassion, and led to bad politics.

or to p.c.) in modern usage, is used to describe language, policies, or measures that are intended to avoid offense or disadvantage to particular groups in society.

Roger Kimball, in Tenured Radicals, endorsed Frederick Crews's view that PC is best described as "Left Eclecticism", a term defined by Kimball as "any of a wide variety of anti-establishment modes of thought from structuralism and poststructuralism, deconstruction, and Lacanian analyst to feminist, homosexual, black, and other patently political forms of criticism." Jan Narveson wrote that "that phrase was born to live between scare-quotes: it suggests that the operative considerations in the area so called are merely political, steamrolling the genuine reasons of principle for which we ought to be acting..." In the American Speech journal article "Cultural Sensitivity and Political Correctness: The Linguistic Problem of Naming" (1996), Edna Andrews said that the usage of culturally inclusive and gender-neutral language is based upon the concept that "language represents thought, and may even control thought".

Andrews' proposition is conceptually derived from the Sapir–Whorf Hypothesis, which proposes that the grammatical categories of a language shape the ideas, thoughts, and actions of the speaker.

At this time, the term was mainly being used within academia: "Across the country the term p.c., as it is commonly abbreviated, is being heard more and more in debates over what should be taught at the universities".