What is my Country-nymic? July 21, 2017 12:41 PM   Subscribe

Okay, so I'm from the United States Of America. More than once now I've been typing a comment about a topic that has to do with Mexico or Canada or somewhere in this hemisphere, and I start to type "American" to describe myself, but then I stop, because we're all Americans over here. I think I remember that USian fell out of favor a while back. So... what do I call myself? Most recently I used the awkward term "US person". Is there any descriptor for someone who is from the USA that doesn't has cultural superiority assumptions ("I'm American, none of the rest of you from the Americas get to say that!") or the negative associations that I remember this site associating with USian? I don't have any answer, but I'm genuinely curious if anyone here has a good word to use. Because I'd use it.
posted by hippybear to Etiquette/Policy at 12:41 PM (128 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Estadouinedense
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:47 PM on July 21 [8 favorites]


Earthling.
posted by jonmc at 12:48 PM on July 21


I use "American" to denote a resident of the US, and "North American" for residents of the continent at large.

For what it's worth, it would just feel weird to me to refer to someone living in Mexico, Canada, Guatemala, etc as "American" because there's such a strong colloquial US-centric association with the term. That would feel more disrespectful to me, though I'm sure there are other perspectives on it.
posted by superfluousm at 12:50 PM on July 21 [22 favorites]


US citizen or US resident seem like reasonably specific and neutral alternatives if it's a context where you need to specifically note that aspect of your identity but prefer to avoid American for contextual or cultural reasons. For me, the local conversational context drives a lot of this, because as with a lot of established usage it's a lot easier to note critical issues with a given phrase than it is to actually change the usage at a large scale. And "American" is a very deeply established demonym in the US.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:53 PM on July 21 [5 favorites]


I often say "I'm from/in the U.S." but that's mostly a matter of my personal taste. USian sounds silly to me, although of course I don't begrudge anyone using it.

"American" is fine. It is a commonly accepted descriptor for people from a country with "America" in its name. People from other countries in the American continents are of course welcome to call themselves American as well.
posted by lalex at 12:54 PM on July 21 [9 favorites]


I hear "US citizen," "US resident," "US native," "US national," etc a lot in journalism when this sort of ambiguity is an issue. If I were editing something you'd written and this came up, I'd try to steer you towards one of those words. None of them are exact synonyms for American, so you can't just do a mental search-and-replace, but they at least don't get into the "who has the right to the word America" thing.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:55 PM on July 21 [1 favorite]


American is, I'm pretty sure, the most commonly recognized and accepted term for US citizens. (If you want to make a Canadian mad, tell them they're Americans because we're all on this continent together.)
posted by rtha at 12:59 PM on July 21 [28 favorites]


Honest question, because I am apparently ignorant on this topic - what's wrong with "USian"? Where was the discussion about that term?
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:05 PM on July 21


There's nothing wrong with USian, and I say that as a Minnesotian.
posted by maxsparber at 1:07 PM on July 21 [6 favorites]


what's wrong with "USian"?

I don't care about it, but to my ear it sounds silly and made up. It really rankles some people! And is maybe a little confusing because it's not in widespread use.

I actually remember a long-ago thread about the (Jamaican) runner Usain Bolt where someone who hates the term came out swinging with "you sound ignorant when you say 'USian'" and had to be told that "Usain" was indeed the first name of the athlete.
posted by lalex at 1:11 PM on July 21 [22 favorites]


Heh, yes.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:14 PM on July 21 [4 favorites]


Thanks!
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:24 PM on July 21


If you call yourself American no-one is going to think you are from anywhere other than the US. No-one is sitting in Canada wondering how they can reclaim 'American'.
posted by biffa at 1:29 PM on July 21 [8 favorites]


I use "American" to denote a resident of the US, and "North American" for residents of the continent at large.

Yeah, this is how I think about it.

Data point of one here - but as a Canadian I automatically assume anyone saying "American" is referring to someone who is a U.S. citizen.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:30 PM on July 21 [2 favorites]


Unionized Statist.
posted by lazugod at 1:34 PM on July 21 [4 favorites]


American is, I'm pretty sure, the most commonly recognized and accepted term for US citizens. (If you want to make a Canadian mad, tell them they're Americans because we're all on this continent together.)

And yet, it kinda pisses people in Brazil off that only US-Americans get to be called that.

There is, after all, an entire other continent in the Americas, and those people have opinions on this issue, too.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:35 PM on July 21 [2 favorites]


try YANKEE, in all caps, with US flag emojis at the beginning and end of the word. when communicating verbally, say it loud, then repeat it even louder and more slowly, pointing to yourself: "YAN-KEE" (confirm that your interlocutor has understood you by asking, "comprende?" afterward, even if they do not speak Spanish or any other latinate language)

follow the PBO method and no-one will ever be left wondering what country you're from!
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:44 PM on July 21 [5 favorites]


Can I just say that the image of the American flag has become so bastardized that I saw it on inoffensive (afaik) journalist Norah O'Donnell's Twitter handle and immediately thought "omg, when did she cross over to the alt-right?!"
posted by lalex at 1:48 PM on July 21 [3 favorites]


jacquilynne: exactly what I'm talking about.
posted by hippybear at 1:55 PM on July 21


US citizen or US resident seem like reasonably specific and neutral alternatives

On a slight side note, when I was doing some slightly grumpy policing of a UK politics thread which had a few people unaffected by UK politics in it, I was thoughtless enough to say British people instead of UK residents, and a few people pointed out that as UK residents who weren't British, their voices on xenophobia in the UK were pretty important, and that my rudeness had hurt them.

So, yeah, definitely remember that especially on a site like this, citizen of x ≠ resident of x, and it's worth using the right one.
posted by ambrosen at 1:55 PM on July 21


This topic is so contentious on one of my internet hangouts that I nearly broke out into hives when I saw it in MeTa. I'm delighted to see it's been pretty calm here so far!

Anyway, when I need to specify, depending on the context I go with "(US) American" or "from the US" or "in the US".

(And yes, in Spanish--and I'm guessing also Portuguese, though I don't speak it--it's absolutely estadounidense and not americano/a. Which is why this bothers people from Latin America a lot!)
posted by capricorn at 1:57 PM on July 21


Oh, unless it's a coffee, then it's an americano. And now I want coffee, which is bad because it's 5PM here.
posted by capricorn at 1:59 PM on July 21 [1 favorite]


"I'm American, none of the rest of you from the Americas get to say that!"

I guess it depends on how many continents there are.

If there are seven continents, then we could refer to:
North Americans
South Americans
Europeans
Africans
Asians
Antarcticans
Australians (Australasians? Australians and Zeelandians? Oceanaians? Categories are analog, and I shall proceed.)

If there are six continents, then we could refer to:
North Americans
South Americans
Eurasians
Africans
Antarcticans
Australians

OR

Americans
Europeans
Africans
Asians
Antarcticans
Australians

If there are five continents, we could refer to:
Americans
Eurasians
Africans
Antarcticans
Australians

If there are four continents, we could refer to:
Americans
Afro-Eurasians
Australians
Antarcticans

I think that, based on historical usage and current geopolitical ties, my preference is for seven continents. But there are good reasons to count them differently. After all, categories are analog.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:02 PM on July 21


There is only one continent. My continent. We refer to the rest of you as Outsiders. We refer to ourselves as Incontinent.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:09 PM on July 21 [22 favorites]


I often think of Canadians as being Incontinent. And then they apologize.
posted by hippybear at 2:14 PM on July 21


Honest question, because I am apparently ignorant on this topic - what's wrong with "USian"?

It fundamentally comes down to: if a nation of people calls themselves something, you don't get to tell them they're wrong. If the push for "USian" was coming primarily from inside the house, so to speak, then whatever -- I still don't personally like it, but people get to self-identify as they wish. When "USian" first hit the scene though (way, way back) it was being pushed primarily by people not from the U.S. who were demanding that those who are from the U.S. change how they talk about themselves, and that's super bullshit.
posted by tocts at 2:33 PM on July 21 [26 favorites]


American. Call people what they call themselves.
posted by Justinian at 2:47 PM on July 21 [13 favorites]


Also, the country is the United States of America, not of the continent of North America. It is actually the country's name. (What I was taught in school, decades ago. This may be false, but probably many Americans have a similar belief.)
posted by Malla at 2:47 PM on July 21 [4 favorites]


I call myself a Californian, but not California-born; my parents fled Ohio when I was 5½.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:53 PM on July 21 [1 favorite]


Yeah, you can totally have American.
Stop putting our flag on your stuff when you travel, though. That shit is gross.
posted by chococat at 2:55 PM on July 21 [5 favorites]


My folks are both from Ohio, they moved to New Mexico and then got me. I think of myself primarily as a New Mexican (Southern New Mexican if you want to get technical, green chile FTW), but also as a person who lives in the US as a country. So, American? that feels insulting to all the other countries that exist in the hemisphere we collectively refer to as "the Americas".

I'm struggling with this, and appreciate the real discussion here despite my own flippant jokes.
posted by hippybear at 2:57 PM on July 21


I am struggling to see what is insulting about me calling myself and American when that is what I am. Brazilians can call themselves American if they wish; likewise Chileans and Peruvians and any other person resident on these continents. I do not feel insulted if they wish to do so. I am also a resident of one of these American continents, so I will call myself so.
posted by rtha at 3:25 PM on July 21 [11 favorites]


I'm not sure if I'm actually adding to this conversation but I'll share my sentiments anyways.

Born in India, raised in Texas, USA, and now a Canadian citizen.

I used to say Texan quite frequently because for the longest time it was where I felt most of my identity stemmed from but that has since changed as I've now spent more time in Canada than I did when I was living in the United States of America.

When I was identifying as someone from the United States, I don't believe I ever used the word American because my sense of self as a Texan so very clearly overwrote that. As they say, everything is bigger in Texas, including our EGOs.

Now I'm as Canadian as apple pie Maple syrup .
posted by Fizz at 3:30 PM on July 21 [4 favorites]


Soon "Solar Systemite"

erk that just sounds wrong and skanky
posted by sammyo at 4:21 PM on July 21


That's the mineral they're going after in the next Avatar movie.
posted by hippybear at 4:28 PM on July 21 [1 favorite]


Now I'm as Canadian as apple pie Maple syrup .

Quit trolling me!
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 5:00 PM on July 21 [13 favorites]


I go with American. Also, if you were to ask a French speaker what I am, they would say "Elle est américaine" instead of "Elle est états-unisiane" or whatever that would even be. And I trust the French to be direct.

I never see or hear the term USian offline.
posted by kimberussell at 5:05 PM on July 21 [3 favorites]


I am struggling to see what is insulting about me calling myself and American when that is what I am. Brazilians can call themselves American if they wish; likewise Chileans and Peruvians and any other person resident on these continents. I do not feel insulted if they wish to do so. I am also a resident of one of these American continents, so I will call myself so.

This is how I feel. Call yourself whatever you want, I won't object. I won't object to any of the inhabitants of North or South America calling themselves "American," either, however unclear that might sound to English-speaking ears. What I do object to is the suggestion, often made when this topic is broached, that it's somehow improper or impolite or inaccurate for inhabitants of the United States of America to call themselves "Americans."
posted by octobersurprise at 5:21 PM on July 21 [11 favorites]


Quit trolling me!

*stares into distance with cowboy eyes*

Vermont, well...Vermont is a foreign country, sorta.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:28 PM on July 21 [9 favorites]


Ah, look at me. I'm ramblin' again.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:31 PM on July 21


I'm going to start prefacing all my political comments on Metafilter with "As an American, I think..."
posted by jacquilynne at 5:38 PM on July 21 [2 favorites]


Everyone needs a hobby.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:42 PM on July 21 [3 favorites]


I haven't been asked lately but in my head I call myself a United Statesian. I'm probably the only person that does that though, so...
posted by Rufous-headed Towhee heehee at 5:44 PM on July 21 [1 favorite]


I am struggling to see what is insulting about me calling myself and American when that is what I am. Brazilians can call themselves American if they wish; likewise Chileans and Peruvians and any other person resident on these continents. I do not feel insulted if they wish to do so. I am also a resident of one of these American continents, so I will call myself so.

The problem is when US citizens use the term in a way that is clearly intended to exclude people who aren't US citizens or residents. So for example saying "I'm an American and I didn't vote for Trump!" would implicitly restrict the word to US citizens, because the statement is pretty meaningless as applied to non-US citizens.

Ultimately I'm on the fence on this one. I think it's a little weird and colonial for one country to claim the demonym for a whole continent, but at the same time there's a long history, there isn't a really good, widely accepted alternative, and the alternative meaning is used rarely enough that the meaning is almost always clear.
posted by firechicago at 5:54 PM on July 21


One remains open minded; therefore, either "South Canadian" or "West British" are perfectly acceptable.
posted by Wordshore at 6:06 PM on July 21 [7 favorites]


Relevant.
posted by teatime at 6:09 PM on July 21


I think I'm going to go with South Canadian. :)
posted by hippybear at 6:13 PM on July 21 [2 favorites]


The problem is when US citizens use the term in a way that is clearly intended to exclude people who aren't US citizens or residents.

Why is this a problem? The word "American" has multiple meanings. One of those meanings does describe US citizens to the exclusion of co-continental inhabitants. Another meaning describes continental inhabitants collectively. A third meaning can describe the indigenous inhabitants of the American continents. Why it's as if people have never heard of words with multiple meanings before.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:15 PM on July 21 [15 favorites]


It's more like being on MetaFilter for a number of years has me a bit gun shy about using words with multiple meanings and then ending up in a complete derail in a thread about how I used a word ONE way while someone else took it ANOTHER way and then the shit started falling.

I love y'all, truly.
posted by hippybear at 6:25 PM on July 21 [2 favorites]


In my meatspace life where, if I'm abroad and where I'm from comes up, I am usually specific (state and/or city in the US), at least when the context allows for me to know that my audience will know that California is in the US. But when I've been in France, for example, the construct "Je suis Americaine" is the way to construct it.
posted by rtha at 6:36 PM on July 21

And yet, it kinda pisses people in Brazil off that only US-Americans get to be called that.
True story: When a friend of ours from Ukraine escaped with his family from the USSR, they paid the eastern European equivalent of a coyote beaucoup bucks to go to "America." And that's how he ended up fluent in Russian, Ukrainian, Spanish, Portuguese, AND English.

As to the question, I call myself American. I am from the Unites States of America, therefore I am American in the same way that Mexicans are from Estados Unidos Mexicanos. "USian" is a bit bullshit because Mexico is also "The United States" of something, right? I am also North American in the same way that French people are European or Brazilians are South American.

If you truly object to the term "American" because it excludes Canadians, Mexicans, and anyone from a South American country referring to themselves as "Americans," "US citizen" conveys all the necessary information.
posted by xyzzy at 6:47 PM on July 21 [11 favorites]


The only time I've been lectured in real life about how calling myself "American" was ignoring that all of South America is also America, was in Italy, after answering an Italian that "sono americana," so I don't know that the debate goes away off the American continents.

But I agree "American" is the word in common use and while I think it's lovely if people want to be more careful about its use, it's not so lovely if people are policing those who are using the word as it's commonly used in American English (and likely other Englishes, but I don't know enough to make that claim).

My Italian friend suggested the Italian equivalent of "I'm from the US," which seems both reasonably careful and reasonably everyday language, but it is, of course, a bit more unwieldy than a single adjective.
posted by lazuli at 6:54 PM on July 21 [1 favorite]


I'm in Maine, and we'd be pleased if Canada would annex us. Maine, not the U.S., unless everybody wants to come along, though I think that would defeat the purpose.
posted by theora55 at 7:48 PM on July 21 [1 favorite]


I used to use USian, but these days I strongly prefer Washingtonion, Left Coaster, or, preferably, Cascadian.

Unrelated, but extremely relevant: the Sounders, Whitecaps, and Timbers are all tied in the MLS Western division. In true Cascadian fashion, this year we *all* win the Cascadia Cup.



Actually, no. Fuck the Timbers.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:48 PM on July 21 [1 favorite]


So for example saying "I'm an American and I didn't vote for Trump!" would implicitly restrict the word to US citizens, because the statement is pretty meaningless as applied to non-US citizens.

It's clear from the context. No one other than US American [voters] can vote for Trump. Confusion is not really possible here.
posted by Miko at 7:48 PM on July 21 [6 favorites]


Seppo?
posted by Segundus at 8:37 PM on July 21 [2 favorites]


1980 my dad married a Salvadoran woman who worked for the UN and going there meant being around a bunch of people from central and South America who once had a long conversation about how they were Americans too and it made an impression on me.

When I started my years of travel things got weird. In France people said I didn't seem like an American and I'd read The Ugly American and took that as a complement. Really curious. France had a problem with white socks and people too busy with their cameras to see anything and then I've got the entire staff of the restaurant wanting to know about Monica Lewinski and they had fun with that. They were teasing me and I knew enough about French history to tease them right back. You people tried to come over here and take Mexico with a fake Napoleon while we were having a civil war. We were in there a long time after the place was supposed to be closed and they gave me an umbrella and hugs and saw us to our hotel.

South America got pretty odd. The correct answer in that tri-national river delta where terrorist organizations were making bank was "I am. You are too." Broke the ice.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 8:47 PM on July 21 [2 favorites]


Zeppo? He's the least appreciated of the Marx Brothers.

Well, okay, there's also Gummo.
posted by hippybear at 8:48 PM on July 21 [2 favorites]


Indian. American. Texan. Canadian. I really hate that I have to choose an identity. I reject them all.

Human. Barely.
posted by Fizz at 8:49 PM on July 21


Where do we stand on Canadan?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:50 PM on July 21 [1 favorite]


The opposite of where we stand on Can'tadan.
posted by hippybear at 8:51 PM on July 21 [3 favorites]


Oh, unless it's a coffee, then it's an americano.

Um...
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:52 PM on July 21


Oh, unless it's a coffee, then it's an americano.

This one time I was at a Starbucks and I ordered an Americano and the guy behind me started screaming that I was just ordering water and coffee and that I was an abomination. It was a very uncomfortable situation. He wasn't wrong. But still...
posted by Fizz at 8:54 PM on July 21 [2 favorites]


the guy behind me started screaming that I was just ordering water and coffee

But that's... coffee? Water and coffee are pretty much required for coffee? Yes?
posted by lazuli at 9:08 PM on July 21 [8 favorites]


Right. I imagine that's what the "just" is for. After all, just water and coffee at Starbucks is going to taste pretty awful, which they get away with because most people load it up with oversized portions of steamed milk, sugar, and syrup.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:54 PM on July 21


The modish thing now is just ordering a small cup of dry whole beans. It's quicker and costs are down, though the seating areas are a lot louder than they used to be on account of all the crunching noises; you can barely hear Norah Jones anymore.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:54 PM on July 21 [14 favorites]


The modish thing now is just ordering a small cup of dry whole beans.
Um, last week much? Cup of whole beans with cold mist sprayed over it and then you wait 8 months.
Ultra Cold Brew. Poser.
posted by chococat at 9:59 PM on July 21 [5 favorites]


Only gentrifiers crunch. The real aficionados suck on the beans: dour, genteel.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:00 PM on July 21 [2 favorites]


Come crunch beans with me in the night
Come crunch beans with me
And I will steam you a saucer o' grounds.
posted by lazuli at 10:09 PM on July 21


I can't speak for all Canadians, but among the ones I know, the ones who would insist on being noted as "American" are precisely the ones worth pissing off by not doing so. But that said, I recall seeing the movie Motorcycle Diaries and being struck how very much the various peoples of South America identified as American ...
posted by philip-random at 10:19 PM on July 21 [2 favorites]


Hippies used to say Amerikan.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:58 PM on July 21


True connoisseurs sew a live civet cat to their lips, human centipede style.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:15 PM on July 21 [7 favorites]


Americanist, amirite
posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:26 PM on July 21 [2 favorites]


(seppo -> septic tank -> tank/yank ->yankee -> american)
posted by freethefeet at 2:04 AM on July 22


I use American most of the time in its colloquial sense of US citizen/resident, but I was raised that when abroad or when in a mixed group of North and South Americans, it's most polite to talk around it at first and say "I'm from the US" or "I'm a US citizen" so as not to lay immediate claim to "American" when there are South Americans present who have Feelings on the topic. But that once you've signaled your awareness that it's not an exclusive term to the US, you can go back to the colloquial American without hard feelings. Also that in many cases where it might be rude you can talk about being a Chicagoan (or New Yorker, etc), which avoids questions of citizenship entirely and turns it to awesome city and region identities.

(I do like estadounidense, which is specific and pretty. And a fairly good way to troll America First sorts.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 3:24 AM on July 22


When I lived close to Montreal, I was corrected for using "American" to describe myself and got in the habit of saying I was "from the US" or, preferably, the part of the US I lived in. A lot of Canadians seem-- both in Canada and in the US-- to say the province and/or city they come from rather than saying "Canadian" and so saying "Burlington, Vermont" or "Chicago, Illinois" felt more like using the common parlance and like saying I was a neighbor. This is what I've continued to do when in face to face conversations elsewhere.

In online discussions, I think often it's about literally explaining where you are coming from. The most unfortunate thing, to me, is not thinking you have to mention if you are in the US or a US citizen, because it's a default somehow. But I think "American" carries ever more baggage and it doesn't mean the same thing to everyone. I have been surprised at friends and family members saying emphatically that they are "not American" even if they live in LA or Chicago, and have paperwork to give them rights here. So I'm going to think twice about using it as a shorthand.
posted by BibiRose at 6:19 AM on July 22


I don't know, saying "US, fuck yeah!" doesn't quite have the same ring to it as "America, fuck yeah!" when I'm riding a bald eagle while firing a machine gun with the Stars and Stripes sticking out of the hamburger in my mouth.
posted by charred husk at 6:24 AM on July 22 [7 favorites]


This is an evergreen MeFi/MeTa discussion topic! I wonder when it first came up in MetaFilter history.

"U.S. American" is silly. No one says "Brazil American" or "Canada American". And USian has always seemed like an intentional thumb in the eye from outside.

If you must avoid "American", "U.S. citizen" or "U.S. resident" is non-awkward and has the bonus of being more precise.

God save us from objections that we can't use "U.S." because there are other countries that are also "united states".

And God bless America.
posted by grouse at 6:47 AM on July 22 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I know it's a discussion that's been had before. But it feels like something that is worth talking about from time to time because attitudes shift and communities develop different ways to approach it over time.

Honestly, this has been a much more thoughtful and insightful discussion than I was expecting and I hope it continues because I'm learning a lot!
posted by hippybear at 6:54 AM on July 22 [1 favorite]


Not criticizing for bringing it up now. I predict we will have this discussion again in the not-too-distant future.
posted by grouse at 6:55 AM on July 22


Greg_Ace: "Honest question, because I am apparently ignorant on this topic - what's wrong with "USian"? Where was the discussion about that term?"

I don't know if there's anything objectively wrong with it but I don't know if anyone is going to know what you're talking about when you say it. Actually, I'm not even sure how to say the word since I've never heard it spoken and have only seen it on the internets and probably 90% of that has been here on Metafilter. Is it "Yoos-ian" or "You-Es-ian" or maybe "Us-ian"? I verbalized it myself for the first time while writing the previous sentence and I don't think that I could use it in a conversation without sounding stupid.
posted by octothorpe at 7:41 AM on July 22 [1 favorite]


Just use "American" Everyone here in Europe understands what that means.

In Mexico they often refer to "Americanos" or even "NorteAmericanos" meaning people from the United States. Mexicans are proud to be Mexicans and not out to reclaim the Americas.

Has anyone here had a Canadian or Mexican seriously object to that? Because otherwise this seems like something people are just making up in their head.
posted by vacapinta at 8:20 AM on July 22 [1 favorite]


Apparently people in Brazil object to it. And other South America countries. As reported upthread.
posted by hippybear at 8:27 AM on July 22


If you happen to be in South America then, call yourself "EstadoUnidense"
posted by vacapinta at 8:30 AM on July 22


Um... have you even read this thread? The first comment suggests that name for US people and many agree that it is appropriate.
posted by hippybear at 8:35 AM on July 22


Please don't use "US citizen" or "US resident" as a substitute for American. If you are actually speaking about citizenship or immigration status, then be precise. But otherwise, please find something else to describe what you actually mean.

I was born in and grew up in the US. It wasn't until I went to college that I was able to call myself 'American' without worrying that someone was going to try and take it away from me and tell me I wasn't a 'real' American, just like they'd done throughout my childhood. This shit is messy in a way that I don't think people realise until someone contests their American-ness.
posted by hoyland at 8:35 AM on July 22 [9 favorites]


It was when I was 18-19 and I was an exchange student in (then West) Germany and I was being challenged by 16-17 year olds about the policies of Reagan and the whole "Star Wars" missile defense system that was being developed at the time that I truly realized that 1) I didn't have any clue about how US people would be received in Europe, 2) that I didn't have enough information to respond to such challenges and 3) that I felt alienated by my national identity stereotype abroad laid over me by people in Europe.

It was, to say the least, a heady time of my existence.
posted by hippybear at 8:47 AM on July 22


87 comments in and nobody has suggested "Merkin"? What even is the world coming to.
posted by genehack at 9:13 AM on July 22 [2 favorites]


The first comment suggests that name for US people and many agree that it is appropriate.

Were I to find myself among Spanish-speakers where I needed to make my nationality clear I might use "EstadoUnidense." But I don't speak Spanish and I wasn't raised in a majority Spanish-speaking country so calling myself "Estado Unidense" seems silly at best and culturally appropriative at worst.

I'm not sure what you're looking for here, hippybear. And I don't understand why you seem determined to assert that every inhabitant of the American continents except those in the US can call themselves "Americans."
posted by octobersurprise at 9:14 AM on July 22 [2 favorites]


Has anyone here had a Canadian or Mexican seriously object to that? Because otherwise this seems like something people are just making up in their head.

The number of objections I've heard to "American" from people actually from the Americas are far, far outpaced by those who are not but want to object anyway.
posted by grouse at 9:25 AM on July 22 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I've actually never been chided on this by a Canadian or (heaven forfend) a European national, but I had a Colombian coworker who was a bit of a dick about it, and I've had other people get irritated about it, too. Generally I've found that the topic of whether a citizen and resident of the United States of America should be called a "USian" or an "American" to be most contentious in disagreements between residents of (or people with ties to) countries in Central America, South America, and Mexico--my experience is that most Canadians really just chime in in order to make fun but otherwise don't care too much.

That being said, the cultural/continental divides can get kind of weird: for example, when people are talking about "North Americans," do they have Mexico in mind? They should! And I can see how that sort of thing might cause a national sore spot. (And then you get to people like my friend, whose family abruptly became Americans and had previously been Mexicans about a hundred and fifty years ago; who tends to be cheerfully snide about who owns the land she grew up in. National allegiances are fucking complicated, especially when you have as much immigration, abduction and colonialism in your history as every nation on both Americas does.) If you're talking about Anglos, just say Anglos and call it good. God knows it ought to be as marked a cultural experience as "Latinx" is, and that seems to be what people are often groping for with umbrella terms anyway.

(....on further thought, I imagine many Quebecois would perk up at this and begin to froth with rage immediately, so perhaps not.)

On the gripping hand: USians makes no sense to me, because it's such a common part of the full name of so many countries; for example, while we're the United States of America, our neighbors to the South are the United States of Mexico. Estadounidenses is a fine word, but it's got nine syllables to Americans' four, and I mostly only use it if I (like Eyebrows) am aiming to piss off my own countrymen for being assholes to other people.

The USA got the name because it was the first country on either of the American continents to declare independence, and we tend to be kind of uncreative. It's worth noting--and I did point this out to my Colombian colleague--that "Colombia," the other name used at the time for the Americas, was also snapped up quickly by his own country despite having originally been used with connotations of standing for all Latin America. It's never been about imposing our dominion on the world, it's a historical quirk that's a bit hard to change now, and arguing about it has always vaguely irritated me.

Sometimes I wonder if we would run into this problem half as badly if we had "America" and "Colombia" rather than "North America" "South America" and "Central America who always gets forgotten, plus maybe the Caribbean".

In short: eh, there's no good words, so fuck it; let's argue about the more important ways my country's been a fucking dick to the other nations on our end of the Atlantic, and maybe apologize some more for all that "destabilizing your sovereignity" and "actively undercutting your people's self-determination" and "conquering your people and keeping them as weird satellite nations without either independence or full statehood" stuff. I usually figure that's the underlying reason people get pissed about words, anyway; if you want humility, let's talk about the many, many things the USA has to feel guilty about. Christ knows now's a great time to do it.
posted by sciatrix at 9:51 AM on July 22 [6 favorites]


87 comments in and nobody has suggested "Merkin"? What even is the world coming to.

excuse you, the correct spelling is 'murrrrrrican, to be pronounced with a slightly drunken drawl because not enough Americans know what merkins are to make the joke funny anymore
posted by sciatrix at 9:54 AM on July 22 [1 favorite]


Isn't a Merkin a wig for your privates?

On reflection, that's possibly the perfect word.
posted by hippybear at 9:58 AM on July 22 [2 favorites]


Also the first name of the president in Dr. Strangelove.
posted by octothorpe at 10:00 AM on July 22


That being said, the cultural/continental divides can get kind of weird: for example, when people are talking about "North Americans," do they have Mexico in mind?

Yes! And Central America! I am surprised to learn this isn't universally accepted!
posted by lalex at 10:10 AM on July 22 [1 favorite]



And God bless America.


why in heaven's name would She want to do that?
posted by philip-random at 10:17 AM on July 22


Because the rainforests are the lungs of the planet?
posted by hippybear at 10:25 AM on July 22

"(And yes, in Spanish--and I'm guessing also Portuguese, though I don't speak it--it's absolutely estadounidense and not americano/a. Which is why this bothers people from Latin America a lot!)"
While this works just as well as American, there is no smugly pedantic sense of superiority to be gained from it, as it is just as if not more non-specific in the same overly literal sense. The United States of America is not the only "United States" in the world, and it is not even the only "United States" in North America, our neighbor to the south is the Estados Unidos Mexicanos. The exact same problem exists for "USian" in English, only there is no real organic usage to lean on, its just the same kind of smug ignorance that causes teenagers to correct people saying octopuses using the perfectly valid Saxon pluralization by insisting on octopi, unaware that being a Greek word it would be pluralized as octopodes rather than using Latin grammar rules.

In basically the same way that no one calls Mexicans estadounidense, because thats something you can call Americans when speaking Spanish, no one actually self-identifies as an American in any of the languages spoken in the Western Hemisphere except for Americans. Indeed why would someone, at least in an authentic and organic sense, that would be confusing. There is no real confusion here, just a very shallow pretense of it used to make bullshit points about how stupid or self-centered Americans are that are perhaps a bit more self-revealing than intended, and which don't stand up to any real scrutiny. There are plenty of real things to criticize America and Americans generally for, and I've found that people around the world generally stick to them, but I've only ever seen USian in the wild from intrinsically smug Americans and people who had just read something online by one.

It is vaguely shitty that the US demonym in English crowds out a demonym that could otherwise be used for the whole Eastern Hemisphere, particularly when New World has so many fucked up colonial implications and we collectively could do with a good one, but there aren't really any good solutions for that which don't cause other problems.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:42 AM on July 22 [10 favorites]


MetaFilter: a wig for your privates.
posted by Wordshore at 10:52 AM on July 22 [1 favorite]


Yes! And Central America! I am surprised to learn this isn't universally accepted!

Having worked in Central America--it's actually a place where a lot of evolutionary biology and ecology from US scientists gets done, Costa Rica and Panama in particular are extremely popular fieldwork sites--my experience is that people talking about North America tend to just sort of lump it into South America along with everything south of Mexico, and people talking about South America tend to sort of lump it into North America, and no one really bothers to talk much about the region itself at all.

Which is a shame, to be sure. It's a wonderful part of the world for a whole host of reasons, and definitely the local people I worked near when I was there were (justifiably) very proud of their country for a whole host of reasons. The stewardship of local wildlife was the one I heard the most about for obvious reasons, of course!
posted by sciatrix at 11:29 AM on July 22 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I don't know, I never hear my family complaining about this and they frequently reference "becoming Americans", so I'm not sure this is a universal in Central America. I think honestly I'd feel differently about this if it seemed to be driven by a bunch of Central/South/non-US North Americans rather than seeming to be driven by a lot of US folk who just think they should feel bad.
posted by corb at 12:02 PM on July 22 [5 favorites]


It's both ridiculous and deeply revealing that we're having so much trouble figuring out what to call ourselves.

Because right now, I can hardly think of any essential aspect the country I was born in and have spent my life in that I want to claim as my identity.
posted by jamjam at 12:19 PM on July 22


I just identify myself as a Detroiter, nobody gets offended and they always know where I'm from. Sometimes they get scared or pity me but I can't fix how outsiders mispercieve my awesome home.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 12:26 PM on July 22 [1 favorite]


I always say I am from the United States. I've also been told off by a Colombian colleague for saying that I am American. It is accurate to call myself American, but I guess not particularly precise.
posted by ChuraChura at 12:56 PM on July 22


I can't believe no one has suggested gringo.
posted by Cobalt at 1:02 PM on July 22


Growing up in southern New Mexico, I've always regarded gringo as a word more about race than location.
posted by hippybear at 2:05 PM on July 22


I only use USian online to troll people who I know will be annoyed by it. Never in person, though, because it's hard to pronounce: you-aishan? you-essian? ishan? (that last one needlessly Welsh, I suppose). And a very Canadian chiding (quiet, but built to last) to those who say that they've never been chidden for assuming it's okay to assume that American = of the USA.
posted by scruss at 2:28 PM on July 22


I use USese.
posted by busted_crayons at 2:55 PM on July 22


Estadounidense

So, in my experience in Spain, the two words for people or things from the US, americana and estadounidense, have two different meanings. Estadounidense is neutral to positive, and americana is neutral to negative. Sometimes it can be positive, but McDonald's is "un restaurante americano", never "un restaurante estadounidense". And the term "americanadas" means all those over-the-top American cultural products that europeans (and the rest of the world, I guess) love to hate but secretly can't do without. Like yesterday, I put on Kanye West while I was washing the dishes, and my husband came in and said "noooooo, otra vez con las americanadas??" (we have different tastes in music).

I would love to hear how the words are used in Spanish-speaking America.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 2:57 PM on July 22 [2 favorites]


I mean, besides the strictly demonymic useage.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 2:57 PM on July 22


I think it's comrade-deplorable, isn't it? As in, Have you made America great today, comrade-deplorable XMLicious?
In Mexico they often refer to "Americanos" or even "NorteAmericanos" meaning people from the United States. Mexicans are proud to be Mexicans and not out to reclaim the Americas.
I read a science fiction novel years and years ago where "Norte" was the lingua franca in the future in another star system, a language primarily derived from a combination of English and Spanish, which I thought was an interesting device.
posted by XMLicious at 4:52 PM on July 22 [1 favorite]


It's both ridiculous and deeply revealing that we're having so much trouble figuring out what to call ourselves.

I really don't think it is. There isn't some supreme logic by which things should be named. I'd really be surprised if it isn't just a matter of path dependence, like people in Asia Minor in the 10th century CE who didn't speak Latin or any Romance or Italic language (and none of whose ancestors had spoken any of those languages) calling themselves "Romans" while living in polities completely unconnected to the rule of any part of the Apennine Peninsula and half a millenium after the first time the city of Rome fell to conquerors, or the subsequent Persianized Turkish rulers of the area calling themselves the "Sultanate of Rûm".
posted by XMLicious at 5:01 PM on July 22 [3 favorites]


I'd live in the Sultanate of Rum but I find it too sweet. What about the Sultanate of Bourbon?
posted by hippybear at 5:27 PM on July 22 [2 favorites]


“It's both ridiculous and deeply revealing that we're having so much trouble figuring out what to call ourselves.”

The trouble for me has never been about what to call myself, but the way in which other people feel the need to call me something specific, to fit into their pre-determined category.

I'm a cultural Jackson Pollock painting: Indian, Texan, American, Canadian. Depending on where you look at the canvas, you'll see a different part of myself. Sometimes I'm only one of those things, other times I'm all of them at once.
posted by Fizz at 6:36 PM on July 22


One remains open minded; therefore, either "South Canadian" or "West British" are perfectly acceptable.

I've only heard "West British" as a derogatory term used among the Irish.
posted by pompomtom at 7:32 PM on July 22


I'm a cultural Jackson Pollock painting

All this time I thought it was just that nobody had handed you a napkin.
posted by hippybear at 7:35 PM on July 22 [1 favorite]


Depending on where you look at the canvas, you'll see a different part of myself.

"Verily, Fizz is like unto a rope," said the first scryer.
"Nonsense," said the second scryer. "Fizz is like unto a large peach, or maybe a divided basketball."
"You are both idiots!" cried the third. "Fizz is naught but a hairy protuberance with a hole that emits noises."

In conclusion, Fizz is a man of contrasts.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:40 PM on July 22 [2 favorites]


Fizz is a LAND of contrasts.
posted by hippybear at 9:13 PM on July 22


The Susquehanna hat company is on Bagel Street.
posted by clavdivs at 9:37 PM on July 22


I see no real objections noted with regards to 'US Americans' except that it is apparently silly, which isn't much of a problem as problems go. Everything is silly until you're used to it. I've also never noticed anyone seeming insulted by it.
So I think that, as a European, I'll continue to use this term: it's just the familiar old name, that many people happily use for themselves, but with a tiny bit of extra specification to avoid confusion.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:00 AM on July 23


Do people who object to Americans calling themselves such refer to Koreans as Republicans because South Korea is technically the Republic of Korea and what about North Korea?
posted by zanni at 5:13 AM on July 23 [6 favorites]


…what about North Korea?

Well, it is officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, so obviously "Democrats."

If the alt-right actually gets that constitutional convention they've been talking about maybe they will change the name of the country and that will make the issue moot. We'd probably be called something like "Confederates" then.
posted by TedW at 1:46 PM on July 24 [1 favorite]


If you are commenting on where you're from, it is likely germane to the conversation, so you should be able to say "I live in the US" or "I used to live in the US" or "I lived most of my life in the US" as a prefix to your statement, I should think.
posted by davejay at 4:34 PM on July 24


I've been an expat for 15 years, so I get the question a lot. It's easy--"I'm from the US."
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:42 PM on July 24


I'm not sure about the norteamericano faction, but my friend Jim Cruz used to call them Bartels and James guys dos okies. (you gotta say it out loud.)
posted by mule98J at 8:23 AM on July 25 [1 favorite]


I've been an expat for 15 years, so I get the question a lot. It's easy--"I'm from the US."
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:42 on July 25


Yep. Same here. But, I make sure to follow up with a quick, "From Massachusetts." as in "Don't blame me..." On the other hand, if anyone would understand, I could just say I'm a Masshole and own it.
posted by Gotanda at 4:31 AM on July 26


I actually say "I am from San Francisco." or "I am from California."

They are both sort of international code for "I am from the US and yes I know, don't blame me." Just like when I mention I live in the English countryside I also hasten to add that it is near a town run by a Green mayor - so not *that* countryside.
posted by vacapinta at 4:53 AM on July 26 [3 favorites]


Usonian?
posted by Gordafarin at 4:51 AM on August 1


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