POLITICALLY CORRECT: “Political correctness (adjectivally, politically correct; both forms commonly abbreviated to PC) is a term which denotes language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, certain other religions, beliefs or ideologies, disability, and age-related contexts, and doing so to an excessive extent.” — from the Wikipedia entry for political correctness.
Political correctness is much like obscenity. You can’t define it, but you know it when you see, read or hear it. As with obscenity, the boundaries of political correctness differ for each person. For some people, referring to a person as “African-American” is preferable to “black.” For other more sensitive types, even “black” is verboten. (These are usually the same people who then go on trying to describe a person as “you know, tall, wearing a blue shirt, sits over by accounting — I think he plays tennis,” as if this will help you find him.)
What politically correct does not mean is “socially graceful,” as in “Did you just ask Janet if she was pregnant? That was so not politically correct.” While uttering a politically incorrect statement may be a faux pas, not all faux pas are politically incorrect. Oh sure, some will argue that opposing the boss’s proposal to outsource interoffice mail to flying monkeys is indeed politically incorrect. After all, office politics are involved here. But that is not what both the detractors and defenders of PC mean they use the term. Don’t ask them to define it. But we all know it when we see it.
— Otto E. Mezzo