Politically Correct Language

Level: Advanced

Topic: General

Grammar Topic: Vocabulary

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Type: Lesson Plans

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Lesson Plan Text

Politically correct language

What do you think the following words and expressions mean, i.e. how are they said in  
normal or traditional English?

sanitation engineer

mail carrier

physically challenged

mentally challenged/ learning difficulties

hearing impaired

seniors

visually impaired

follically challenged/ comb free

fire fighter

visually challenged

lacking a formal education

living impaired

chair

banned

Try to find any that you weren’t sure about on the next page. 

Written by Alex Case for UsingEnglish.com © 2011

(Possibly) politically incorrect language
disabled/ handicapped
mentally disabled
blind/ going blind
deaf/ going deaf
short
bald/ balding
old people
uneducated
dead
ugly

negro/ coloured
American Indian
blacklisted
white lie
oriental

fireman
chairman
policeman
mankind
actress
air stewardess
postman/ mailman
garbage man/ bin man

Discussion questions

Which examples of politically correct language are ridiculous? Which ones are actually 
jokes, do you think?

Which expressions in the lists of politically incorrect language would you avoid using?

Do you have similar issues in your own language?

The words above and divided into three sections by how they are politically incorrect. 
What are the three sections? Are these all equally important?

What are the arguments for and against politically correct language? Which side do 
you fall on?

Practice
Without looking at the top of the last page, work together to say the things at the bottom in  
more indirect, polite or politically correct ways.

Try to think of politically correct expressions for other negative words, e.g. the ones above  
that you haven’t talked about yet, and see if the other groups can guess what you are  
talking about.  

Written by Alex Case for UsingEnglish.com © 2011