Carol Oman of Wells Fargo asked about political correctness: “When did politically correct speech come into play and since we’re not schooled in it, what’s the criteria for determining whether something is politically correct or not?”
“Political correctness” originally meant language, ideas, and behavior designed not to offend. Certain words—usually related to race, gender, ability, or sexual orientation—hurt or offend, and civilized people don’t use them.
The term is more than two hundred years old (it appears in a 1793 Supreme Court Decision, Georgia vs. Chisholm). It moved into public discussion during the 1960s and 70s and has become part of the left-and-right, red-states-and-blue-states culture wars.
The focus, though, is on respect. Think of it in customer-service terms: What does the customer want? What does the customer think is appropriate? When in doubt, ask. “I need your advice. I want to be respectful. How would you prefer me to address this?”
Respect. Sensitivity. Service. That’s what it boils down to.
(Our thanks to Carol for the question and to Wikipedia for some of the details.)