CORRECTION: I am shocked to learn this a hoax, because I would not expect the two sources involved, both of whom make a serious avocation of verifying quotes, to be fooled. Rees has written a book on the topic of political correctness, and Tom annoys his friends by checking Snopes on almost anything he runs across. I apologize, and as usual, I’m annoyed, because I hate web hoaxes to pieces. The Snopes debunking is here: my thanks to faithful reader Phlinn, who first flagged this.
Now I’m going to have a word with my old friend…
From my old friend (we go back to 1970 together) and frequent theatrical collaborator Tom Fuller, an intermittent contributor here, comes this fascinating historical snippet regarding the origin of the term “politically correct.” Tom’s British source, the author of the Politically Correct Phrasebook (1993), initially placed the phase’s origin to the 1980s, which is when I first recall hearing it and detesting it. However, Tom informs me that BBC’s Nigel Rees has uncovered much earlier source: President Harry S. Truman.
From Rees’ quotation newsletter, as relayed to me by Tom—and this is, if accurate, amazing…
“Now I have just been handed an explosive use of the term – apparently in its modern sense – but dating from 1945. It comes in an exchange of telegrams re the Japanese surrender between General Douglas MacArthur and President Harry S Truman on the day before the actual signing of the Surrender Agreement in September 1945. An unnamed source at the Truman Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri, provided them – and not a word has been added or deleted … I hope they are genuine:
(1) Tokyo, Japan 0800-September 1,1945
To: President Harry S Truman From: General D A MacArthur
Tomorrow we meet with those yellow-bellied bastards and sign the Surrender Documents, any last minute instructions?
(2) Washington, D C 1300-September 1, 1945
To: D A MacArthur
From: H S Truman
Congratulations, job well done, but you must tone down your obvious dislike of the Japanese when discussing the terms of the surrender with the press, because some of your remarks are fundamentally not politically correct!
(3) Tokyo, Japan 1630-September 1, 1945
To: H S Truman F
From: D A MacArthur and C H Nimitz
Wilco Sir, but both Chester and I are somewhat confused, exactly what does the term politically correct mean?
(4) Washington, D C 2120-September 1, 1945
To: D A MacArthur/C H Nimitz
From: H S Truman
Political Correctness is a doctrine, recently fostered by a delusional, illogical minority and promoted by a sick mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a piece of shit by the clean end!
Now that’s politically incorrect!