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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Splitting Hairs

americans unitedstatesians south americans

I know Columbus didn't really discover America. George Q. Ameriquá did!


  1. I'm from Argentina and I have to say I agree with my fellow american from Colombia. :)

    This is a common subject of argument on the internet (what isn't?) and almost always it's "unitedstatesians" who defend the America = country posture while people from south and central America are on the America = continent side. I don't know the Canadian or Mexican opinion.

    In spanish we have a proper word "estadounidense" to call people from the United States (Estados Unidos). That doesn't stop many people here to just call them "americanos" (americans) but some find it quite offensive (and a sign of greatly misunderstood snobbism) when they do.

    While "unitedstatesians" would seem like a proper word, of course it's not practical to use everyday.
    I think, and I mean no offense, that the problem is that "United States of America" does not have any unique name/word, it's more like a description.
    People from the Republic of Colombia would not call them "republicans", they use the unique word Colombia to call themselves. Same for almost every other country, save some exceptions.

    So, to my point, if a country were called "Unified Provinces of Africa", how would you call the people born there? Africans? Unitedprovincians?

    If they started using the term "african" to designate themselves only, would it be wrong for some Somali to find it offensive?

    Just my two centavos

    1. Well, "America" isn't really a place, is it? Africa is a continent, but there's no America. There's North America and South America. If it were called the United States of Both North and South America, I could see your point about the Unified Provinces of Africa.

      But you're exactly right, it's just that USA'ns don't have another word to describe themselves. I think no one should take offense at any of this, since it's really just an oddity in the nomenclature.

    2. Well, that's the other key of the issue. "America" actually IS a place for us (spanish-speakers at least). We see America as a continent, being South, Central and North a sort of sub-division, much like Europe = Eastern Europe + Western Europe.
      That raises the question -how many continents are there in the world?-. For us it's undoubtedly six.

      To add, we still have (stronger in some regions, weak in others) some deep feeling of belonging and brotherhood called "americanismo" or "latino americanismo", so you can imagine it can feel a bit harsh to some when that term is used for USA'ns only.

      So I guess it can all be summed up to those two factors, for one USA doesn't really have a unique word in its name that would make it easier to name its people, and second, the difference in meaning of the same word, "America", in spanish and english.

      This is a subject I find very interesting :)

    3. Most of my fellow Canadians take the opposite view when being called 'Americans': We typically get angry, since in English and French the term refers normally to people from the United States. For a lot of historical and cultural reasons we resent being treated like part of the USA, or forgotten about. Think of how the Welsh or Scots think of being called 'English' - or a Walloon being called 'French' - and you get the idea.

      Like you, I'm in no position to speak on behalf of Mexicans on the matter.

    4. Funny - I didn't realize that in Spanish-speaking North and South America, "America" is in fact one continent. Wikipedia agrees with you, Juan, so it must be right!

      Also interesting that Canadians don't like being called Americans. So there you go, nobody can win!

  2. Unitedstatesian isn't really good either, because Mexico is the officially the Estados Unidos Mexicanos.

  3. In German American ("Amerikaner") means in most cases Unitedstatesian. If we want to be exactly, we use the word "US-Amerikaner" (US-American) to make clear of which American people we are talking about. But I'm quite sure, that most people in Germany wouldn't think of Canada, Mexico or even South American when they hear "America".

    1. Same in Finnish, although we also have a word "unitedstatean', but most people use "American"; the USA is the only country (as far as I know) which has "America" in its name, so it is quite natural to use the word American of its citizens. We also say North American or South American, when we talk about people living in the respective continents.

  4. it is so nice to read a post about one of the things you see in Colombia, I hope you do more post about your point of view about our culture and I hope you had or having a great time in Colombia.

    I will be looking forward to see more comics about my lovely country.

    Cheers from un Colombiano mas :)...

  5. Wait a second, what about Leif Erikson and his discovery of Newfoundland? Doesn't he deserve some credit? Maybe we should call ourselves Eriksons! All those in favor?

  6. In Mandarin we get a roundabout solution that is nevertheless quite neat in my opinion: people from the USA are called 美國人 ("America-nation-people") and people from the continent of America as a whole can be referred to as 美洲人 ("America-continent-people").

    In Africa there is a country called Central African Republic which could cause similar problems: on Wikipedia the demonym is listed as "Central African", but I guess that Congoleses and Chadians would have a problem with that? (To complicate matters even more, Congolese could mean people from two different countries...)

    1. I like the Mandarin solution quite a bit, I'd say it more or less solves it!

      Maybe if we'd been a bit more creative with naming countries, this wouldn't be a problem. I mean come on, "South Africa"? "Central African Republic"? "United States of America"? Boooooring.

  7. United Statesian or Usanian.