America and American

Discuss word origins and meanings.

America and American

Post by Shelley » Wed Jan 31, 2007 10:24 pm

trolley wrote: . . . I heard an "Aboriginal Canadian" being called an "American Indian"
" What? Now they're trying to claim my " Indigenious Peoples" as their own? Harrumph!"
trolley, you might be referring to our PC conversation in which I responded to your "countryman Eskimo/Inuit" post with my "indigenous Native American/Indian" post. If so, I agree it was a very bumpy segue from Canadian to United Statesian(?) population. I did it anyway. Didn't mean to imply that they are the same peoples.
By the way, is Canada called "the Provinces" in the same way the USA is called "the States"?
It's awkward -- there really is no one word to describe citizens of the USA that works like, for example, "Mexicans", "Brazilians", or "Chileans". Not that I can think of, anyway, except Americans. There is an avenue in New York called Avenue of the Americas, incidentally. People mostly call it Sixth Avenue.
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America and American

Post by Neil » Wed Jan 31, 2007 10:34 pm

This quote from ,I think, an authoritive source is similar to what you have said.

Neil

In the entry for America, The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage (1999) says that the "terms America, American(s) and Americas refer not only to the United States, but to all of North America and South America. They may be used in any of their senses, including references to just the United States, if the context is clear. The countries of the Western Hemisphere are collectively the Americas."



DJHampson wrote: 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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America and American

Post by Neil » Wed Jan 31, 2007 10:39 pm

Relative to your statement about country names from which an adjective can not be derived, there are very few countries who use geographical references for names. Besides the US of A, there is The Union of South Africa. There may be others but we recently lost the biggest one -- the USSR.
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America and American

Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Jan 31, 2007 10:42 pm

Neil, USSR = Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I don't see the geographical reference...
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America and American

Post by Phil White » Thu Feb 01, 2007 12:16 am

For what it's worth, if I ever think it's necessary to make it absolutely clear in a text I'm translating, I use "U.S. American(s)". That said, I've probably only done it a half a dozen times in twenty years, as I generally assume that readers will understand "Americans" (in context) as referring to U.S. citizens.

A source I regularly rely on for the correct naming of countries, spellings of cities etc. is (flame me if you will) the CIA World Factbook, and they use "American" as the noun and adjective describing the nationality. This only partially accords with the guideline in the Economist Style Guide (another source I like to use):

In most contexts favour simplicity over precision and use Britain rather than Great Britain or the United Kingdom, and America rather than the United States. (“In all pointed sentences, some degree of accuracy must be sacrificed to conciseness.” Dr Johnson.)

...

Remember too that, although it is usually all right to talk about the inhabitants of the United States as Americans, the term also applies to everyone from Canada to Cape Horn. It may sometimes be necessary to write United States and even United States citizens.
http://www.economist.com/research/style ... age=805709
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America and American

Post by Shelley » Thu Feb 01, 2007 12:37 am

Ding, ding, ding, ding!! Two thousand posts! Ladies and gentlemen -- hats off to Mr. Kowal. When our car turns over a thousand miles, we usually sing the "Happy Birthday" song. Perhaps, "America, the Beautiful" might serve in this case.
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America and American

Post by Wizard of Oz » Thu Feb 01, 2007 2:58 am

..if you told anybody in Aus that a person was an American or that something was American there would be no doubt in their minds that you were talking about somebody or something from the United States of America .. all the other countries that are located in North or South America are referred to by name .. in fact I have come close on several occasions to getting a short one on the nose for incorrectly identifying a Canadian as an American .. as to the use of Yank as a friendly term of endearment for an American there is no problem in Australia .. it does seem that Aussies have little problem with the use of these terms .. they DO NOT automatically carry any perjorative meaning and in fact the reverse is the case .. as with any name it is the adjective and tone of voice that identifies the intent of the speaker .. of course saying the American President, Mr Bush does open up a can of worms as to what part of the World you are referring to .. *smile* ..

WoZ of Aus 01/02/07
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America and American

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Feb 01, 2007 4:18 am

Well thank you, Shelley, that's very gracious of you. I've not been striving to reach any sort of mileposting, mind you, but if I were then I suppose I should be setting off on a space odyssey right now and taking my lumps for the team by dragging Mr Bush along for the ride.

Oh wait -- I've just remembered who'd be in charge if Bush was not around...
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America and American

Post by nicktecky » Thu Feb 01, 2007 9:47 am

WoZ,
It's my impression that here in the smoke at least we are heading in the direction of Ozzie enlightenment. A term like Yank is becoming more as you describe, that is used affectionately rather than perjoratively. However, lacking your native brashness and self-assuredness, we are taking it slowly for the moment, after all this is very iffy territory for us reserved, self effacing Brits.
Having looked into the topic, I can now report that certainly in French, Spanish and IIRC German there exist words for UnitedStates-ian. All the sources I've looked up report however that it is falling into disuse in favour of the various spellings of "Americain".
So, I think we can say it's stuck.
Just to throw a little more confusion, no-one's mentioned the term pan-American.
I still don't get this whole "Western Hemisphere" thing though, it reads so like a Cold War retrospective. Perhaps I'm oversensitive on this one, I was brought up with maps of the globe drawn in two hemispheres... guess what, one was pink for the Empire/Commonwealth, the other was blue for the Pacific Ocean. If you're wondering, Canada came in big time because the 'viewpoint' was above the equator, thus giving the home country an exaggerated perspective. So, no change there then! ;-)
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America and American

Post by DJHampson » Thu Feb 01, 2007 12:56 pm

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

Bravo! While all the rest of us were beating about the bush...or is that beating around...?


I imagine, hs, you've gotten the response on Britain vs England, but think I could explain if you didn't. Personally, I'd say it was England's greatest fortune to unite the fine people of Wales, Scotland, and N.Ireland to itself, albeit by force, murder and treachery. The result, I think, is why Englishmen are so proud to be "British". Englishmen would have far less to be proud of today if our ancestors hadn't acted quite so badly.

Of course, before being British or English, we were Britons...or at least had invaded and taken their lands away.
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America and American

Post by nicktecky » Thu Feb 01, 2007 2:20 pm

DJ

Oooh, you're such a tease!

;-)
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America and American

Post by DJHampson » Thu Feb 01, 2007 2:59 pm

You don't know my serious side, nicky?


quoting you: "Yank has almost passed out of conversational use here."

May have passed out... :-)... of your conversations. But you don't have MY AK'cent. Do people in the U.S. pronounce accent incorrectly on purpose, knowing its meaning? (that's one for Wordwizard!) And curiously, though the Yanks waged an illegal war for the wrong reasons and more than a million U.S. citizens died to advance social progress perhaps twenty years, i.e. tragically and needlessly...including, perhaps, most of the best, I never considered it an insult.

quoting you again: "Along with a whole host of variously perjorative terms for peoples nationality."

Are we here to defend the English language or to destroy it? Personally, I would have found it hard to slap a hockey player on the back and wish him the best forever without using the word Cannuck. He would not have enjoyed it so much, either. I would not edit some of the warmest treasures of my memory in exchanging congratulations and shared successes with black friends and exclude the word nigger. They would have considered me an ass for not returning it.
A word is not offensive unless you mean it to be offensive. A word takes on new meanings and grows with a culture. When we "eliminate", we tend often to devalue and degrade. When words "pass out" of our language, our language is poorer.
Give me any perjorative term you wish, and I can give you ten examples of people who have smashed the attempted insult with their actions, with their value as persons.

Those who most are insulted by perjorative terms are those who live up to them.

I say, call a spade a spade and bid two clubs.
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America and American

Post by nicktecky » Thu Feb 01, 2007 3:50 pm

Sorry if I hit some sort of nerve, but I had assumed you were teasing, especially us Brits, in your previous post, to quote:
.....................
I imagine, hs, you've gotten the response on Britain vs England, but think I could explain if you didn't. Personally, I'd say it was England's greatest fortune to unite the fine people of Wales, Scotland, and N.Ireland to itself, albeit by force, murder and treachery. The result, I think, is why Englishmen are so proud to be "British". Englishmen would have far less to be proud of today if our ancestors hadn't acted quite so badly.

Of course, before being British or English, we were Britons...or at least had invaded and taken their lands away.
(end quote)
....................
If you weren't teasing us, I have to confess to being baffled at the reference.
I'm equally baffled by your later reference to an illegal war.

If your linguistic point is that the English language lives by a process of accumulation only, then I have to disagree. As a living language, English gains and loses words all the time on a continuous basis. Words pass in and out of conversational use at an even higher rate, for various reasons, and our 'connected' society seems to 'churn' new words at an ever increasing tempo. Youth and street 'patois' is an especial joy, however incomprehensible to this old timer.
As for Wordwizard, I have no impression that is a self appointed body formed to 'protect' the English language. Rather it appears to be the work of a precious few linguists who are prepared to give their time helping out those who have an interest in various aspects of the English language, as shown by the structure of the forums. As such I'm sure we are all grateful for their effort and time.
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America and American

Post by DJHampson » Thu Feb 01, 2007 3:54 pm

No, no, nicky. You touched no nerve. Have something urgent to attend to now, but will be back to explain.
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Post by trolley » Thu Feb 01, 2007 4:09 pm

I'd be OK with "Blustery Nor'Wester" as a collective term for North Americans.
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