America and American

Discuss word origins and meanings.

America and American

Post by Neil » Tue Jan 30, 2007 5:34 pm

On a topic I have not seen here, I wonder,

if one uses the words "America and "American" to denote the country named the United States of America and its citizens, what words should one use to denote the continents of North, South, and Central America and their citizens?
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America and American

Post by dalehileman » Tue Jan 30, 2007 6:10 pm

Welcome

Western Hemisphere
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America and American

Post by trolley » Tue Jan 30, 2007 6:17 pm

Neil
How zit goin, eh? I guess in the broader sense we are all North, South or Central Americans. I think your question comes from the fact that ,up here anyway, "American" is used exclusively to refer to someone from "The States" ( I'm not even sure if the term "The States" is OK, anymore). While we are North Americans, we never call ourselves Americans(not that there would be anything wrong with that.)The same question crossed my mind the other day when I heard an "Aboriginal Canadian" being called an "American Indian"
" What? Now they're trying to claim my " Indigenious Peoples" as their own? Harrumph!" It all depends upon who's listening. After coming here for the past month, I realize I'll likely never be able to keep up. Be safe. Call'em "People".
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America and American

Post by DJHampson » Wed Jan 31, 2007 10:21 am

American means pertaining to the Americas or the Western Hemisphere, which is the broader and most correct sense. The usage as citizen of the United States of America is correct as well, but only as a secondary definition. In other languages the broader term can still be used; Spanish speakers refer to all Americans as such...while people from the U.S. are North Americans for them. In the company of people from South or Central America, a U.S. citizen would be most correct to think of them as his fellow Americans.
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America and American

Post by gdwdwrkr » Wed Jan 31, 2007 10:48 am

I realize I'll likely never be able to keep up. Be safe. Call'em "People". -trolley

Absolutely right! It bolsters the mob mentality of insecure individuals to keep
the target well-out-of-range, so that their tyranny of sensitivity may be maintained
by the revelation of your bigoted ignorance. In the end, their statistical
categorizations benefit only their politicians, who prey upon the compassions of the
truly-caring.
I refuse their propaganda...call 'em "people" and deal with one individual relationship
at a time.
The following is a bit far afield, but once in a conversation with a former professor
who taught about the rise of the welfare-state in England, I stated that all
entitlements should be abolished, and the professor declared, "But Jim, people
won't let people starve in the streets!" To which I could only respond, "You have
just made the perfect arguement for my view." And to which the professor had
no answer.
How much more efficient than tax-and-welfare is personal involvement?

Back to the topic, I have wondered about our national identifier. "American" never
did sound specific enough, and does seem to be an arrogant appropriation of the more
general term. I guess "U.S. citizen", as DJH said, is clearest.
As a WASP I resent being thrown on the generic "American" pile. I'm as "Native-"
and "African-" as most who claim those hyphenations!
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America and American

Post by DJHampson » Wed Jan 31, 2007 11:04 am

gdwdwrkr, keep going far afield. You get nothing but applause from here!
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America and American

Post by nicktecky » Wed Jan 31, 2007 12:03 pm

I'm not entirely sure what the problem is.
Citizenship is conferred by a state, so American = Citizen of the US, Mexican = Citizen of Mexico etc. There is no 'citizenship of South America' to describe.
If discussing people collectively in this context surely "the people of South and Central America...", for example, would suffice.
The Spanish have a word 'Hispanoamerica' for the countries of the two continents where Spanish is the official language.
America as equivalent to "Western Hemisphere" is odd.
I've certainly never heard the term before, 'the Americas' being favoured.
All I can find is the US Department of State website and a rather strangely worded Wiki reference. As this ignores half of Antarctica, huge tracts of Africa and Europe, all of Oceania, not to mention both Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, I somewhat doubt its usefulness.
Western Hemisphere is to me a geopolitical term describing all the countries which are 'Western" ie Capitalist/Democratic. This term seems to be dying since the Iron Curtain fell (or is it rose?).
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America and American

Post by DJHampson » Wed Jan 31, 2007 12:29 pm

What you are missing is that American IS NOT EQUAL TO citizen of the United States except in common usage by some people. I'd say that "American" cannot be DEFINED as "citizen of the U.S.A." in a strict sense. However, as it almost never results in confusion, the usage is perfectly valid, as long as you are aware that it is not universal.

Also, the Spanish also have the word America which refers to all of America as does the definition in English of American. Hispanoamerica is a part of America.

You make a good point on Western Hemisphere, but that distinction and so usage is fading rapidly in this Golden Global Age in which we are so fortunate to live. (yes, that was sarcasm)
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Post by nicktecky » Wed Jan 31, 2007 1:56 pm

The point surely is that if you asked an English speaking person what a citizen of the US is called, a substantial majority of them would say 'American'.
So in English, an American is always understood to be a citizen of the US.
As you point out it is not confusing even if not universal.
What is a US citizen called otherwise?
(I am aware of Americans calling themselves a whole host of hyphenated heritage titles, (Italian-American, Irish-American etc) but I'm assuming this is irrelevant to the current discussion.)
Isn't Spanish America a term reserved for the historical parts of Spain which are currently in North, South and Central America as well as various islands in the Caribbean? Obviously, in spanish speech, the word 'Spanish' would be dropped.
Isn't Hispanoamerica today's Spanish speaking area? There is of course a huge overlap with Spanish America, but they are not identical.
Neil's original question presupposed the use of 'American' and 'America' in their more restricted US sense. So that was my starting point.
In my limited experience, the collection of land masses constituting N,S & C America are referred to in a variety of ways depending on context.
As previously, 'The Americas' is the most commonly used in the UK.
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Post by DJHampson » Wed Jan 31, 2007 2:26 pm

First off, let me formally accept Wordwizard's proffered (or at least appearing in written form each time I post) thanks for this post. Let me also formally thank Wordwizard and its administration for giving me the opportunity to post, something, no doubt, of value to me, and I hope to others. I have no bad intentions.

nick, I would venture to say that a substantial majority of English-speaking folk outside the States would refer to an U.S. citizen as "Yank", but that does not make it perfectly correct.
Beyond that, I think that usage "the Americas" substantiates what I have been saying. Your observation about dropping the word Spanish in "Spanish America" is a very good one. As for what a U.S. citizen is called otherwise, I believe the U.S. government refers to a citizen of the U.S. as a "U.S. citizen", hopefully someone can confirm that.
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Post by nicktecky » Wed Jan 31, 2007 2:53 pm

DJ

Yank has almost passed out of conversational use here.
Along with a whole host of variously perjorative terms for people's nationality.

My guess is that Yank has somewhat different connotations either side of the pond.
I am incompetent to comment on the use of 'Yankee' within the US.

I have to admit, I have never heard the term US Citizen in conversation.
In the same way, I think of myself as English and British but rarely "a citizen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland".
Unless I'm trying to tunnel my way out of a foreign police station!
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America and American

Post by hsargent » Wed Jan 31, 2007 3:15 pm

Yank is a term Europeans would use for Americans.

Yankee in American is someone from the Northeast.

It was a Canadian in Calgary that made me feel comfortable referring to myself as American while in Canada.

From the Americans refers to Western Hemisphere.

People in Hawaii and Alaska are Americans ... Right?

It is this way from usage and not from pride. United States does not lend itself to a easy reference.

I've always wondered about British versus English. What was the origin of Britain verus England?
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America and American

Post by Phil White » Wed Jan 31, 2007 4:53 pm


Originally posted by hsargentI've always wondered about British versus English. What was the origin of Britain verus England?
Harry, try this discussion for starters.
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America and American

Post by JANE DOErell » Wed Jan 31, 2007 5:47 pm

An aside perhaps, FWIW etc, Trolly writes ""The States" ( I'm not even sure if the term "The States" is OK, anymore)". As recently as '97 or so it was not uncommon in Western Alaska in conversation to refer to the "contiguous 48" as "The States".
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America and American

Post by Meirav Micklem » Wed Jan 31, 2007 6:01 pm

hsargent wrote:
United States does not lend itself to a easy reference.
That is the problem - these people have gone and given their country a name which does not enable the easy creation of an adjective, and so they have had to appropriate the name of a whole continent for this purpose, thus potentially annoying Canadians, Mexicans, Peruvians, etc etc. (See how I show off my scant knowledge of geography!)
Surely this is just a form of verbal imperialism. I say the UN should pass a resolution to force the USA to change its name to something from which an adjective can be derived. And I would word the resolution very carefully to ensure that they know they can't use a name that belongs to anybody else.
And don't mention Iraq.
:-)
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