True, True about the changing idea of offensiveness over time. I can recall my grandmother being shocked that some of her black friends – people she knew, liked and respected as equals – were offended by her referring to members of their race as “darkies.” That was a term she grew up with as generic and without connotation. Over time it became, and with reasons I certainly can understand, viewed as offensive.
I myself have seen “black” change from a term positively associated with the “black is beautiful” movement, and a “good” alternative to “negro” to one with about a 50/50 shot of drawing offense from those who prefer the term African-American. Mind you, the other 50% of my friends with dark brown skin and descent from Africans somewhere back along the line find ‘African American’ offensive and want to be called black – especially those of carribean background.
I myself, while not offended by, don’t subscribe to the term “german-american” to represent my heritage. My relatives came over from Germany in the late 1600’s and while genetically I’m about as aryan & germanic as it gets; culturally and societally, I’m no more German than my neighbor from Kashmir, Mr. Gupta.
These things are truly descending to the point of ridiculousness. Why we feel the need to define people beyond “American” is beyond me.
If we have much more “progress” along those lines, saying “hello” will constitute a major risk of being branded offensive for some reason.