I work with a staunch Native American supporter. Yesterday at lunch, we were talking about the noise level for passing period during one of our classes (we are teaching, others are passing). I said, "By the time they get to our end of the hall, they are a pack of screaming banshees."
At which point my friend corrected me, asking that I not use words that might offend a group of people. Of course, I apologized immediately, not wanting to offend anyone, but added, "I thought it was a mythical creature, not a group of people." She said that may be the case, she was just sensitive to it. No problem.
But it bugged me all day, because I don't want to use phrases in my regular lexicon that are offensive. Turns out I'm in the clear:
banshee |ˈban sh ē|
(in Irish legend) a female spirit whose wailing warns of an impending death in a house : the little girl dropped her ice cream and began to howl like a banshee | [as adj. ] a horrible banshee wail.
*sigh of relief*
ORIGIN late 17th cent.: from Irish bean sídhe, from Old Irish ben síde ‘woman of the fairies.’