usage of the word "American"

Discussion in 'Culture' started by Sova, Jun 17, 2004.

  1. Sova

    Sova Well-Known Member

    I'm surprised at how much resentment/anger/criticism has been expressed on these boards about the practice of people from the United States using the term "Americans" in the context of only citizens/residents of the United States. I assure that you 99.9% of the time someone from the U.S. uses the word "American" in this context, it is NOT an attempt to belittle or neglect the other citizens of the American continents. Rather it is a description of our nationality given in the name of our country and NOT refering to the continent! Have we forgotten that the U.S. is actually the U.S.A. ("A" for "America"). To my knowledge, no any other county in the Americas uses the word "America" in its official name.

    Now, of course, there is no alternative term for our nationality, such as "Unitedstatesian of America" as I suspect there is no term "Republicano/a Argentino/a" or "českorepubličan/ka." To my knowledge, this holds true not only for the English language, but also for Spanish, Czech, Russian, and probably most or even all languages for which there exists a term for a citizen of the U.S.A. Case in point:
    I find it surprising that someone who is so offended by this practice 1) is not from America (in either sense of the word) and 2) uses this same term in this sense that is presumably so offensive to her. So I ask those of you who object to this usage, how else should we call ourselves, such as to distinguish our nationality from those of other American countries? The citizens of the U.S.A. have been called Americans for over 200 years, when residents of other parts of the Americas were still calling themselves Spaniards, Frenchmen, Portuguese, etc. I don't cite this to justify the practice, but rather to point out that it's been accepted for so long, and that there was no such presumed conflict at the time the identifier was brought into general usage. The term "American" in this sense is a statement of nationality/citizenship, and not one of geographic residence (if you don't understand the difference, get a Greek person to explain it in terms of the word "Macedonian").

    Now, I don't say all this to belittle the sentiments of South, Central and other North Americans. I can see that they might take this expression out of the context intended by Americans (in the U.S. sense). Rather, I wanted to point out justification and context for the usage of the word American in the sense of being from the United States of America, and to defend our usage of it. There is no name to replace "American" in this context, and likely will never be. Just get used to it. The rest of the world has.

    P.S. I'm sure someone will try and label me an egocentric "American" for this one.
  2. wow..ok maybe im just completey stupid, but whats wrong with calling yourself an american if your from america? if someone asks me what i am, i say american...if they ask me where im from i say im from america. why is that offending to people? i never thought it was offending, and no one i have ever talked to has found that offensive either, thats really weird...i dont get why that would be conisdered offensive? so when i get to the czech republic in august, what am i supposed to say when people ask where i am from or what i am? wow im majorly confused...

  3. Sova

    Sova Well-Known Member

    That's my point. I think what I'm hearing on this site is just a small, yet vocal, minority of America-bashers. I never had any problems in the C.R. with calling myself an American.
  4. Leah

    Leah Active Member

    Good points, Sova, especially utilizing the excerpt to demonstrate that even those who proclaim disgust against the usage of "American" to describe one's nationality can't avoid it...I guess someone could say that they were a citizen of the United States to avoid using the term American - but that's 5 words vs. one!

    Everyone has a point of view, and I must admit that I can bash with the best of them if needs be, and sometimes I too get frustrated by some Americans' tendency to be rather exclusive rather than inclusive in their perception of the world, but this is not solely an issue for Americans, and I doubt that the majority of the people who use the term American (meaning most of the world) are using it in a vindictive manner; like you said, its the term that has been used for 200 years...but I do also like the fact that there are those who question thigns even though they have been around for 200 years
  5. what do you mean by people being exclusive rather than inclusive? ok so for example...if i ask where someones from and they say "im german"...theres nothing wrong with that, why would there be something wrong with using the term american? its the same as anyone else saying THEIR nationailty. thats how i see it anyways but i dont know what you mean by exclusive and inclusive?
  6. Leah

    Leah Active Member

    I was referring to Identidem's problem with the usage of "American" describing people solely from the United States and not from the other countries in the Americas...I am assuming identidem doesn't like it because it is exclusive and does not include other people outside of the US...I personally do not have a problem with the term "American" and its most common interpretaion, meaning someone from the US...

    I was using the terms exclusive and inclusive in a general sense that could be hypothetically be applied to various venues...sometimes I do think that some Americans apply the mentlaity "us and them" (exclusive - US vs. outsiders) rather than simply "us" (inclusive - citizens of the world) too frequently
  7. Eva2

    Eva2 Well-Known Member

    Don't worry, Americans, I think no one else here will begrudge you the right to call yourselves Americans. You are kind and warmhearted people with lots of good will. Warm regards,

  8. Meme

    Meme Member

    Years ago I had my consciousness raised about using "America" or "American" to refer exclusively to U.S. citizens. Since I'm a teacher, I try to demonstrate awareness of the distinctions that can be made, and usually use "the U.S." or "U.S. students" or "domestic students" (when that doesn't weigh down a sentence more than necessary!).

    But last year when I was teaching in the Czech Republic and my university students wanted to ask me about my background, my culture, my plans for the future, they'd almost always use "America": e.g., "After you return to America, what will you be doing?"

    Ah, well. Now to find out what's the most-often-used name for that country I love so much: the Czech Republic (which is what I use), Chechia (too close to Chechnya, I think!), Czech (that's an adjective to me!), Czechoslavia (rather too much like the former Republic but I believe it had historical use), or just what..... Guess that's another topic thread.
  9. Eva2

    Eva2 Well-Known Member

    I know, it's a linguistic disaster any way you look at it. We call the country 'Cesko' so Czechia is the closest to it. So much the worse for the geographically challenged foreigners. :wink: :?
  10. cenicienta

    cenicienta Member

    Hi everybody. I think I am who offended by calling "america" to USA. I will explain my point... I feel it as necessary because I like to speak about these themes... I need it :wink: .
    Well... Someone wrote that USA has last A from America. Yes, that's true, but... you took it OUT from context. USA = United States of America. OF America.
    No matter, that's not the point... In fact, I never felt as ofense that any american call his self AMERICAN.
    This theme is really deep... I am interested in HIDDEN MESSAGES in speechs, publicities, movies. The empires aren't created only by wars or economical succes. Empire are builded by a long time WORK. To use the word AMERICA to call U.S.A. is a premeditated strategy. By a fast view it looks like... exaggerated. Of course it does. But the strongest weapon is the CULTURE, and changing the culture, and installing new "tips", new "values", new "customs", you are able to control a society.
    The human being has a subconscious, and a conscious. To call USA America is not only that. Calling it America means lot of things more, in your subconscious you are agreeing with lot of hided things:
    - America IS USA (although you consciously know, of course, that USA is not America)
    - USA is BIG (in your subconscious America is big... so... USA is too)
    - The big things are POWERFULL (it is an automatic reaction... since child ages. So... USA is big, USA is powerfull)
    etc. etc. etc...
    It is interesting theme for me. I have lot of examples, public ones, about how A WORD is installed as GOOD or BAD, and how its meaning can change all the IDEA you had about something. Example... About USA, to make it closer of this theme.
    Don't remember when, but there was some publicity, political one, about bureaucrats. Against them in fact. Something like, for example... "Bureaucrats are worse, don't choose bureaucrats"... really don't remember.
    Publicity was a BLACK background and RED types over it saying those things about bureaucrats. The text was "flying" acroos screen, from right to left. The last word was "bureaucrats", and the last 4 types (RATS) were totally imperceptibly SLOWER in the screen. It was very CLEVER strategy how to INSTALL in public subconscious that bureaucrats are RATS.
    The politic party that created this publicity had a judge and so on... if I remember it well.
    No matter... point is that an EMPIRE is not only builded by wars... it is builded by INSTALLING IDEALS.

    Why there are psychologists, socialists, etc. working with publicity companies? You think that is it necessary for anything else than TO KNOW WHAT and HOW COULD SHOCK THE PUBLIC SUBCONSCIOUS?? And as in publicities for comercial things, in politic, in movies, in EVERYTHING is always a ... hidded message.
    Speaking about movies... I remember how the "BAD BOY" in movies was changing during times. First it was JAPAN bad ugly and totally cruel japanese who killing nice and sweet families.
    Later were totally ugly bad and cruel Russian people, maffia, killers, with drugs. Killing nice and good families, destroying houses...
    Later Iran, Irak people... ugly, bad, blah blah blah...
    Later Cuban people... blah blah... What a coincidence that all those nationalities were later, or sooner in a war (army or by words) with USA.
    You think that those "sterotypes" were a coincidence? :roll: ...

    Do You think that to call USA: America, is not premeditated? I think that to think like this is ingenuous, innocent... I dont want to be respectless.

    One day... one day all was wrong. One day they thought that the ingenuous, innocent people is yet the majority... and that day they said: Irak must be punished because of the terrorism. And that day the "ingenuous, innocent" people showed to the world that PETROLEUM is another way how to keep being the empire.
  11. cenicienta

    cenicienta Member

    I want to say, write, that I never thought that everyone who calls AMERICA to USA is doing it for any bad reason. I understand that it is a CUSTOM, it's only a word for most people. I am sorry if it was apparent meaning of my words.
    I only think that there are few (many... in fact) words that we should try to use less often, if not never again, to mean some things.
    In spanish there are few of these words which I decided to don't use never again, although those words doesn't mean ALWAYS what basic meanings says (for example: NEGRO = black person, but when you tell it someone you are saying it as BAD term. Like someone from village, someone without culture, without values). In my sociecty people uses this term to call to STEALERS, RAPPERS, POOR PEOPLE, BAD STUDENTS. "They are black people". I honestly hate it, although I understand that most of people aren't racist. I think it doesn't matter to be or not to be racist when you use this word... for me it matters to SPEAK LIKE or not, in this specific case. Ufff... Is so difficult to express what I mean.
    I only want to let it clear that of course I don't think that everyone who uses the term AMERICAN for calling an USA citizen is doing it because a political reason, or any bad reason, exclusion... I don't think it. I only have an idea about WHY this term was established.

    "Divide and you will succeed" :roll:
  12. iluvuma1

    iluvuma1 Well-Known Member


    Are you perhaps Mexican or Canadian? It is obvious from a United States resident's perspective that are threads of hostility in your tone- and the only nations I can think of in the Western Hemisphere that would find offense in the "United Statians" (Is this what we're supposed to call ourselves???) calling themselves Americans are these two nations.
    In a politically charged climate right now, I assure you that the people of the United States have much more pertinent issues to wrestle than what a few nitpickers want us to label ourself as...
    Yes, we are an empire- but we are an empire that pours billions of dollars of aid all over the world, (including the Americas). Very few of us represent (or benefit) from the interests of the current administration. As far as other nations and their jealousy goes- this might sound cocky- but you shouldn't bite the hand that feeds you.
  13. cenicienta

    cenicienta Member

    - - iluvuma1

    Forgive me if You felt it from my words. I understand (realize would be better term) that I cannot control my feelings, and although sometimes I try to don't let my words mean what I know is stupid... I cannot avoid it.
    Believe me that I don't think that USA CITIZENS are s***. I often discuss with my father when he uses terms like "yankees" (in bad way) to call North American people (this is what, in my opinion, you should call your selves...). I don't like bad ways, because I think LANGUAGE is the strongest thing that characterize a culture, and it is the strongest thing that CONTROLS everything. This is my opinion. But, as I tryied to explain, I KNOW that most of people doesn't use such terms with bad feelings. I mean... I know that to call your self AMERICAN is not because You are trying to install anything in anyone's mind. I only wrote, in totally confusing way (because I am not english speaker), that EVERYTHING has a hidded reason.
    I know that life is worse when we are often looking on hidded meanings... sometimes I ask my self if it wouldn't be easier to STOP ANALYZING everything... sometimes I feel exhausted... But I cannot... I cannot close my eyes to something that I feel is REAL, I have grown with these attitudes around me.
    And... sorry again... but "you shouldn't bite the hand that feeds you."?? Believe me, the least they do is FEED US. We are going to be the poorest country in latin america. I am not mexican, neither canadian. I have spoken with bolivian, chilean, brasilian, uruguayan, etc. etc. etc... and I found out most same opinions than mines, an argentinian girl. My opinion is not against You, the people from USA. I have known people from USA. I know people living there, I have been chatting with many many people from North America, with all of them I have a good relation. By chat, by personal ways. This is not, I repeat, against You, the people from USA. Everything You wrote seemed as if I meant it. I only wanted to say my opinion about that EVERYTHING has a WHY. This is MY opinion. And it means ("it is an opinion") that it is not THE TRUE.
    Hope no grudges between us. :(
  14. idemtidem

    idemtidem Well-Known Member

    This is the problem with taking things out of context. I've never once said I was offended by the usage of the term American! I was simply referring to the practice of calling the country America, instead of the USA.

    I find it surprising you can build a whole argument around my post that had nothing to do with the term "American"...? You need to try and read more carefully, Sova and Leak.
  15. cenicienta

    cenicienta Member

    Idemtidem -
    Agree. It is very dangerous to take out from context anything. Everything has sense ONLY with WHOLE meaning.
  16. idemtidem

    idemtidem Well-Known Member

    If you think about it, even if the excerpt is taken out of context, it does not suggests that I have a problem with the term American in any way. Sova, however chose to put the words "American" in italics...implying that they have some hidden meaning within the excerpt. Hmm. I don't see it.

    Also, can anybody please explain what does this topic have to do with the Czech Republic?
  17. cenicienta

    cenicienta Member

    You are right, it is wasting space. Even is interesting to speak about such themes, we should not waste this valious space.

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