So it's "ranty" when a non-American calls out US behaviour, hey? March 28, 2010 6:40 PM   Subscribe

Thanks for proving the point of this deleted post, people.

Also mathowie et al: Calling out US-centrism because it erases the experiences of people outside the US and US commentors expect the rest of us to catch up with US culture is "just kind of ranty"? What, and there's never been a "ranty" post here - or is it not "ranty" if it is from an American perspective?

Good job on the derailing too, textbook responses.

Jesus. It was bad enough when posts about political events outside US media hardly get any comments - but when legit concerns get deleted as "ranty" I'm not sure voices like mine are valued anymore.
posted by divabat to Etiquette/Policy at 6:40 PM (1186 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

I didn't delete it because I was offended by any of it, and not because I live in the US. As you can see from the responses in the thread itself, not a single person seemed to like any of it, everyone found fault with it, and it got a metric ton of flags from people saying it was a bad post. I took a look at the post and it's a fairly garden variety rant from someone. It's not particularly noteworthy or well-written, and we remove ranty stuff from the front page with regularity when it's not compelling (see many previous LOLxtians, LOLrepublicans, and LOLPalin posts that were nuked).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 6:43 PM on March 28, 2010 [17 favorites]


Take a deep breath and realize that whatever it is that you're upset about, shouting on metatalk won't make it better.
posted by Nothing... and like it at 6:44 PM on March 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


And it's not derailing per se when everyone is talking about the subject itself. It's not like the thread was overrun with talk about some tiny aspect of it, as a classic derail would, it was more editorial but I think it's pretty clear it wasn't an impressive piece of writing and people weren't offended by it because they were the subject of the writer's scorn, they just thought it was a lame post.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 6:45 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm American and thought it was pretty accurate and that it made good points which line up well with what I've seen online. The responses appear to be from people who skimmed the article, refused to engage its arguments, and generally were more interested in feeling put-upon for being Americans than in actually listening to an argument.

That said, the purpose of this MeTa post appears to be to get a second chance at a comments thread for that post, which I don't think MeTa is for.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:47 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mathowie - You don't think that was the tiniest bit weird?
posted by Artw at 6:47 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm American and thought it was pretty accurate and that it made good points which line up well with what I've seen online. The responses appear to be from people who skimmed the article, refused to engage its arguments, and generally were more interested in feeling put-upon for being Americans than in actually listening to an argument.

Well, that. It was got very nasty very fast without even slightly touching on anything of substance.
posted by Artw at 6:49 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Americans are like this and everyone else is like that right yeah right
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:49 PM on March 28, 2010


It was bad enough when posts about political events outside US media hardly get any comments

I was intentionally not commenting on them just to make you angry. Looks like it worked!
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:49 PM on March 28, 2010 [16 favorites]


Also, the GRAR on divabat's thread is nothing compared to the sheer stoush going on on the feministe.us site. It's like the last fifteen minutes of Blazing Saddles over there.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:51 PM on March 28, 2010


I'm not sure voices like mine are valued anymore.
posted by divabat


eponysterical.
posted by unSane at 6:52 PM on March 28, 2010 [7 favorites]


Eponysterical.

Yes, it's ranty when a non-"USian" calls out US behavior in an over-the-top angrily ranty manner.
posted by sallybrown at 6:53 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I went over and read the article. I thought it was poorly written and existed only to rail on and on about the problem without shedding any real light on it. So, yeah. Delete-worthy.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:54 PM on March 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


*Rants at unSane's fast fingers.*
posted by sallybrown at 6:54 PM on March 28, 2010


Thank you Pope Guilty and Artw for articulating what I wanted to say.

Mathowie: Just because "everybody" (35 comments, really) reacted badly doesn't mean the post doesn't have any merit. Rather, it proves the post nicely. It was hardly even an hour after I posted; most other "ranty" posts have had some time to simmer.

Yes it's angry, it's emotional. That doesn't make it a bad post. Claiming that the only posts worth reading are those that are completely devoid of emotion, that the only way the Feministe post would have been OK is if she wasn't "ranty" - that buys completely into tone arguments and devalues important points to consider just because the writer is expressing human emotion.
posted by divabat at 6:54 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


there are good ways to talk about cultural hegemony. I am all for that and can bean plate with the best of them about it. The post that was deleted read (to me) like a Sophomore Cultural Studies rant that gives Culture Studies a bad name. My personal beef with it wasn't the general idea, it was the execution of the idea.

I want to say something about
It was bad enough when posts about political events outside US media hardly get any comments
but every time I start typing I have to delete it.
posted by edgeways at 6:55 PM on March 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


I am a citizen of the United States of America, and I am confused. You don't like us anymore?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:55 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's ranty because it's ranty. [NOT A RANT-IST]
posted by Juicy Avenger at 6:55 PM on March 28, 2010


I took a look at the post and it's a fairly garden variety rant from someone.

I hate the whole American-centric thing and have found the internet pretty alienating at times. But I agree with mathowie's assessment here and have no problems with this being deleted. The culture shock that many of us from smaller countries feel online is an overall interesting subject and I bet there's good writing out there that would make a decent post about it, but this wasn't it.
posted by shelleycat at 6:55 PM on March 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


People in the US are like this, LOL amirite?
posted by fixedgear at 6:57 PM on March 28, 2010


divabat: I'm not sure that article is worth linking to. It uses the term 'people of color', which I've recently learned is a no-no.
posted by TypographicalError at 6:58 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually I think edgeways sums it up well: My personal beef with it wasn't the general idea, it was the execution of the idea.

I don't have a problem with reading stuff that's emotional but there has to be some substance too. If I want bitching and whining I can just listen to myself.
posted by shelleycat at 6:58 PM on March 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


sallybrown and unsane: Woo, let's pick on usernames now! Ad hominem attacks instead of, say, considering whether Metafilter needs to check its US-centrism?
posted by divabat at 6:58 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


People aren't saying "ranty" to mean "with strong feeling" - they're saying "with strong feeling and without much content". I really hope you make another post about the topic.
posted by moxiedoll at 6:58 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


I thought it was a terrible post, but I do continually run into the problem of what to call citizens of the USA if I don't want to call them Americans, which I don't, since America -- or 'the Americas' if you prefer -- is/are a much bigger place than the US. I hate 'USians' but what alternatives are there?
posted by unSane at 6:59 PM on March 28, 2010


My suggestion at this point: find some other links about Americentrism on the internet and repost midday Tuesday. This is an interesting and vital topic, and I think there's got to be a way to have a civil conversation about it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:59 PM on March 28, 2010 [12 favorites]


Yeah, about USian, read this.
posted by mlis at 6:59 PM on March 28, 2010


Single link and-let-me-tell-you-another-thing-flavored editorials, regardless of subject, are powderkeg material on mefi. They tend to start fights, they often go very badly, and they usually get flagged to hell and back and deleted fairly quickly when they do get posted. This doesn't look like an exceptional case to me.

Whatever legitimate problems there are with e.g. American parochialism or US-centricism or so on (and I think there are plenty of legit things to discuss on that front), that doesn't make a ranty blog post, however justified the rant, suddenly good front-page post material for Metafilter. That's not a new idea. It's frustrating as hell to see a basically textbook deletion painted in that light, divabat.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:00 PM on March 28, 2010 [28 favorites]


My popcorn futures are doing pretty nicely. Think I'll hold them overnight.
posted by unSane at 7:00 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


bad enough when posts about political events outside US media hardly get any comments

What?
posted by chinston at 7:00 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


I thought it was a bad text raising worthwhile issues poorly. I don't know if the author had the expected negative response in mind as they wrote, but it came off as a bit too finger-jabby which is never a good start to a discussion for my money.
On preview - on a quick scan of the 'privilege of politeness' link, the arguments there don't apply to a more general polemic in the same way (as opposed to a response to some specific instance of racism) - if you're addressing a given audience and looking to achieve a given effect, how you go about it matters.
posted by Abiezer at 7:02 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mathowie: Just because "everybody" (35 comments, really) reacted badly doesn't mean the post doesn't have any merit. Rather, it proves the post nicely. It was hardly even an hour after I posted; most other "ranty" posts have had some time to simmer.

There are very few threads that stick around when not a single comment is made in support of the post. It was removed quickly due to the tremendous flagging as well, it was one of the most flagged things in recent memory. When I'm moderating and I see 35 comments, all picking something apart and generally saying something is without merit along with many, many flags saying it breaks guidelines, I tend to listen to the feedback and remove it.

And again, that doesn't prove the point of the post at all, rather, people are saying it wasn't well-argued.

Claiming that the only posts worth reading are those that are completely devoid of emotion, that the only way the Feministe post would have been OK is if she wasn't "ranty"

Let me clear this up before you continue on this line of logic: nowhere did I say only posts "completely devoid of emotion" are kept while all others removed. Also, I'm not judging someone's worth or their post or their writing by calling something a rant -- I write ranty posts all the time, I just don't post them to metafilter and expect anyone to discuss and/or enjoy it.

Again, to be totally clear I'll say that I am passing no judgement on the person that runs Feministe, it's just that one post didn't make for a good post on MeFi.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:03 PM on March 28, 2010 [7 favorites]


bad enough when posts about political events outside US media hardly get any comments
What?


Oh, I know. When are we ever going get an in-depth discussion of Israel/Palestine politics around here?
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:03 PM on March 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


Just because "everybody" (35 comments, really) reacted badly doesn't mean the post doesn't have any merit. Rather, it proves the post nicely.

A post in a ready position to "prove itself" by example is almost certainly a bad idea for a front page post, though. A post likely to pick a fight with its readers: not what the front page is for. That does not mean the blog post may not have some merit, but not everything that has merit is a priori a good fit for a post. Again, this is not a new idea around here in general and I do not believe it is new to you specifically.

It was hardly even an hour after I posted; most other "ranty" posts have had some time to simmer.

I think you are badly underestimating the death rate of ranty posts around here. We routine delete stuff like this. Again: regardless of the topic.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:03 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I skimmed it. Then I half read it. Then I read it all. Pretty weak. I agree that the idea is good. That post (the post at the link) is weak. That definitely needs some additional material before its a good post, in my opinion.
posted by cashman at 7:04 PM on March 28, 2010


What I find particular incredible is how delicate and dainty Metafilter expects people to be when discussing race issues within the bi-racial framework the article talks about, and anyone going too far outside the lines would get stomped on worse as a racist and a troll. But point out that theres a world beyond that where they might and that delictaeness goes right out of the window, and it turns into a klan rally.
posted by Artw at 7:04 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd actually be curious if the majority of the citizens of the different countries in North and South America have an opinion about people in the US using American.

USian seems worse to me, it sounds like the Us vs Them that people up thread already mocked.
posted by edgeways at 7:05 PM on March 28, 2010


cortex: I'm frustrated that a post that does involve emotion but goes straight to the point is deleted as "ranty" so quickly. It seems to have hit the privilege of most of the Mefi readership (and the mods) and it seems really suspect.

chinston: These are the posts I've made about Malaysia on Mefi; most of them deal with some political issue. 25 comments is hardly anything compared to the 3 digits "hot button" issues like America or Iran (or basically anything US media thinks is important) get here.
posted by divabat at 7:05 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


bad enough when posts about political events outside US media hardly get any comments
What?

Oh, I know. When are we ever going get an in-depth discussion of Israel/Palestine politics around here?


Ha. I/P *is* American politics.
posted by Artw at 7:05 PM on March 28, 2010 [15 favorites]


As much as I might dislike some front-page posts that seem like nothing but a call to invite "lol obesity crisis" or "lol *insert object of disdain*," one post to an angry rant isn't going to invite much discussion other than "lol angry rant."

I think Pope Guilty has the right idea; put a few links together and start again.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 7:06 PM on March 28, 2010


Yes it's angry, it's emotional. That doesn't make it a bad post.

A single link to a "this is why you people suck" blog post needs to be pretty awesome to remain as a post on MeFi. Unfortunately, this blog post was not awesome. There's a lot to be said about US-centrism, awareness of racial and gender issues here vs elsewhere and just how annoying it must be to be wished a Happy Thanksgiving. This just wasn't a great essay on the subject. It was crabby, not particularly informative and seemed more intent on button pushing and snarkier-than-thou than, I don't know, explaining anything. Sharing something new. Telling us something we didn't know.

Just because these issues are important does not mean that everyone talking about them gets a free pass when "single link blog op-ed" is a textbook deletion reason here.

Add to this that ranty posts on any topic start the GRAR runnign early and it makes having difficult discussions about complicated topics, topics that implicate many of the people who are reading this website, and it wasn't a good post for MetaFilter. There are ways of making a post on this sort of topic. This wasn't it. I'm sorry.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:07 PM on March 28, 2010 [24 favorites]


I thought it was a pretty crap piece; I sympathize with its sentiments, but at least the guy who did not like Japan made a stab at actually making a case for his position. This thing was just a screedy jumble of meh that was so shallow and mediocre that it undermined its author. If someone had posted it as a comment in MeTa, it would last maybe thirty seconds before it was completely taken apart, and probably by people who agreed with it. There is definitely interesting, entertaining, and provocative things left to be said about United States of America centrism et al, but this wasn't it.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:09 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Woo, let's pick on usernames now! Ad hominem attacks instead of, say, considering whether Metafilter needs to check its US-centrism?

I think we were ironically commenting on your expectation that an outraged post to MeTa was the best way of responding to the deletion of a single link post to a sophomoric rant, especially if you are liable to feel picked on when people poke you in the ribs.

I do not live in the US, was not born in the US, and am as annoyed by reflexive US-centrism as anyone. But this was still a crappy post.

Come back with a better post about US-centrism and I'm sure you will get a better response.
posted by unSane at 7:09 PM on March 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


It seems to have hit the privilege of most of the Mefi readership (and the mods)

I wish you'd stop stating this as fact. I agree that US-centrism is bad. Many people here are saying the same thing, but we can say a single link post to a screed on the front page is also a bad way to raise the issues and have a discussion about it.

25 comments is hardly anything compared to the 3 digits "hot button" issues like America or Iran (or basically anything US media thinks is important) get here.

You keep mentioning the number of comments of things and how they are somehow related to the importance or worth of an issue and I'm starting to think you're more interested in using the MeFi front page as a soapbox instead of finding interesting things on the web to share with the community.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:09 PM on March 28, 2010 [18 favorites]


cortex: I'm frustrated that a post that does involve emotion but goes straight to the point is deleted as "ranty" so quickly. It seems to have hit the privilege of most of the Mefi readership (and the mods) and it seems really suspect.

divabat, you've been here a long time and I respect the hell out of you as a contributor to this place, but on this point I think you are really, really not up to speed on the frequency with which posts formally similar to this one, regardless of their thematic content, are removed. I understand your frustration at having a post about a topic you care about deleted, but this is about as text-book an example of a deletable-as-single-link-editorial as one could hope for. The topic really doesn't come into it.

But point out that theres a world beyond that where they might and that delictaeness goes right out of the window, and it turns into a klan rally.

Oh for god's sake.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:09 PM on March 28, 2010 [13 favorites]


I'd bet if you made a well-sourced, effortful post on the subject it wouldn't get deleted.
posted by flatluigi at 7:09 PM on March 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


These are the posts I've made about Malaysia on Mefi; most of them deal with some political issue. 25 comments is hardly anything compared to the 3 digits "hot button" issues like America or Iran (or basically anything US media thinks is important) get here.

You're angry that people here had nothing to say about your posts?
posted by special-k at 7:10 PM on March 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


deletion of a single link post

That is really not all of what just happened. Not even slightly.
posted by Artw at 7:10 PM on March 28, 2010

Ha. I/P *is* American politics
And I spring from my pre-prepared debating hole, ready to condemn your United-States-centrism, pow!
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:10 PM on March 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


The idea is worth exploring, but it's also obvious -- Americans are to cultural hegemony as pigs to slop *pauses to wallow* -- so it needs to be well-executed to be worth linking.

I have no idea how someone could read through that entire feministe thread and come away with anything but appreciation for the reasonable, professionally minded moderators here. The gleeful abuse of power on that site was really off-putting.
posted by palliser at 7:14 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm frustrated that a post that does involve emotion but goes straight to the point is deleted as "ranty" so quickly. It seems to have hit the privilege of most of the Mefi readership (and the mods) and it seems really suspect.

I work to get people to face up to their privilege and make this place hospitable to people from other countries, gender preferences, whatever. It's hard to have a lot invested in a post and have it go badly here. I know this is frustrating, but I feel that you have to possibly think about how you thought this was going to go and think about writing your posts for the MeFi you have, not the MeFi you want.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:15 PM on March 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


And I spring from my pre-prepared debating hole, ready to condemn your United-States-centrism, pow!

/Shrugs.

This is probably the way towards a huge rabbithole, but in any discussion of I/P most Americans, i.e. most of the commentors at Mefi, discuss the Israelis as if they were surrogate Americans. I'd say that's the same for pro-palestinian Americans as well as the larger pro-Israel block - critisism tends to be caried out in the same terms as anti-war critism of American troop activities.
posted by Artw at 7:15 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Seriously, chill out, make a better post on the same topic, and let's do this again.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:15 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ok, I'll try and be less of a USian and contribute.

I thought the post was poorly written and its point was poorly argued. Because it lacked nuance it called the author's intelligence and reason into question. It was a retread of the centuries-old "the US is self-centered" argument and contributed nothing new to the discussion. Everything it said has been said more convincingly and more elegantly many times over.

Just because a piece is emotional doesn't mean it's right or even worth the time it takes to read it. The emotion here was not only ranty and over-the-top, but also deployed to support a really fucking weak argument, one which ironically enough lumped together hundreds of millions of people from another culture and lambasted all of them for being close-minded and making assumptions about other cultures.
posted by sallybrown at 7:15 PM on March 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


special-k et al: Why is it that people on Mefi only have something to say when it's an issue that's heavily publicised by the US (and which usually has some level of US involvement), and hardly comment on posts from elsewhere even though they touch on similar issues such as free speech and freedom of religion? Do these posts not get interest because "oh, Stephen Colbert didn't say much about it, so why should I care"?
posted by divabat at 7:22 PM on March 28, 2010


and it turns into a klan rally

Are you saying you want to have a meetup?
posted by chinston at 7:23 PM on March 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


lumped together hundreds of millions of people from another culture and lambasted all of them for being close-minded and making assumptions about other cultures.

In all fairness, the comments section of the rant does make the point that the US is in a privileged position on the internet, and it's hardly the responsibility of PooNs (people of other nations) to make Americans feel comfortable about these discussions. That does not make the ridiculous arguments (oh no some people correct me when I spell things in the way my nation is accustomed to) any less ridiculous.
posted by TypographicalError at 7:24 PM on March 28, 2010


oh, ok, divabat, I was open to your point of view until that, Stephen Colbert, huh? Top shelf trolling, thanks for that.
posted by mlis at 7:25 PM on March 28, 2010


You link to post complaining about the narrowmindedness of Americans, which also lumps all Americans into a single stereotype on a site where the majority are American. Then when it gets deleted, you use it as proof of how narrowminded Americans are, while complaining that your pet cause/project/concerns doesn't get enough comments?

Seriously, fuck you.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:27 PM on March 28, 2010 [40 favorites]


As the years went by, those who ran the community would always get the users. The fourth month of the year would come and the community would get suckered each time. Even when they saw it coming, it was still funny. Or dizzying. Or clever enough to just really mess with your head. Finally, a few users banded together. They'd turn the tables. But they couldn't wait until the exact moment. No, they would start a few days earlier. One person couldn't do it, they'd be looked at as an annoyance, and shushed. This would take a single accomplice initially, then a growing number of users who would reveal it all at the appropriate time, slap fives, and have a huge laugh. There would be flame-outs, long-time members quitting the site, and seemingly contradictory behavior from longtime posters. It would reach critical mass at just the right time. They were sure there were no moles in the group, that was certain. Now they just had to hope some weirdo from the margins didn't figure it out.
posted by cashman at 7:27 PM on March 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


special-k et al: Why is it that people on Mefi only have something to say when it's an issue that's heavily publicised by the US (and which usually has some level of US involvement), and hardly comment on posts from elsewhere even though they touch on similar issues such as free speech and freedom of religion?

You're arguing that the People of MeFi (who are not just USians) "only have something to say" when the post involves the US and "hardly comment" if it doesn't? This seems like a huge assumption to make about a decade-old website filled with thousands of posts.
posted by sallybrown at 7:28 PM on March 28, 2010


Yes, Americans, you too have collective properties.
posted by Artw at 7:28 PM on March 28, 2010


oh just piss off.
posted by mlis at 7:29 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away and know when to run
posted by gman at 7:29 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


it's hardly the responsibility of PooNs (people of other nations) to make Americans feel comfortable about these discussions

I find that people from other nations add some much-needed flavor to conversations here on MeFi. A PooN tang, if you will.
posted by harperpitt at 7:29 PM on March 28, 2010 [60 favorites]


sallybrown and unsane: Woo, let's pick on usernames now! Ad hominem attacks instead of, say, considering whether Metafilter needs to check its US-centrism?

I think a lot of people on Metafilter agree with you and would love to talk about a good link on that topic, which I don't think that was. There are plenty of compelling ways to approach a discussion about American cultural imperialism, precisely none of which were on display in that article. It was basically a journal entry that read as if it were written by someone who never put more thought into the issue beyond her annoyance and the ways in which she was annoyed. That doesn't make for compelling or incisive writing.

Also, impassioned argument certainly isn't out of the question in terms of what's appropriate to post -- "ranty" just means, to me, that it was impassioned to the detriment of the article as a whole. Your posts in this thread seem to be suffering from the same problem -- you're conflating our disapproval of the article with disagreement with its premises, and you're conflating the validity of the basic argument of the article with quality of writing and thought. Honestly, I would love to talk about American cultural imperialism and encourage you to post a link to something that deals with it more rigorously.

Why is it that people on Mefi only have something to say when it's an issue that's heavily publicised by the US ...?

16-25 comments does not indicate to me that people have nothing to say. You're surprised that people don't feel as qualified to talk about something that they only have a few links' worth of information about? We in the US and elsewhere are inundated with information about US-related news, so it follows that we've had more time to develop opinions and that we're more comfortable with the topic and its associated facts. That's a feature of being human, not of being from the USA.
posted by invitapriore at 7:30 PM on March 28, 2010 [11 favorites]


We call Americans Americans because our country has "America" in the name. No other country that I'm aware of does. US-ians is just PC ridiculousness and I'm hardly a flag-waving "America is #1"-type. In other languages, such as Spanish, they have a word for Americans that doesn't include the word "America," which is fine. Until someone invents a non-stupid word that serves that purpose, we're Americans. Sorry if that offends the other English speaking countries that are in the Americas. All one of them, who, did not choose to put the word "America" in their country name and who have a word to describe their people that doesn't sound stupid like US-ian.
posted by ishotjr at 7:31 PM on March 28, 2010 [30 favorites]


* a non-stupid word in English that serves that purpose
posted by ishotjr at 7:32 PM on March 28, 2010


Seriously, fuck you.

Please let's not do this.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:34 PM on March 28, 2010 [17 favorites]


What I find particular incredible is how delicate and dainty Metafilter expects people to be when discussing race issues within the bi-racial framework the article talks about, and anyone going too far outside the lines would get stomped on worse as a racist and a troll. But point out that theres a world beyond that where they might and that delictaeness goes right out of the window, and it turns into a klan rally.

I wish you would put the effort in to make substantive arguments in good faith. This whole paragraph isn't true or fair.
posted by invitapriore at 7:34 PM on March 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


Why is it that people on Mefi only have something to say when it's an issue that's heavily publicised by the US (and which usually has some level of US involvement), and hardly comment on posts from elsewhere even though they touch on similar issues such as free speech and freedom of religion?

As an American, I just don't care as much about what happens in Malaysia as I do about what happens in the US. You think that's a fault; I think it's normal.
posted by amro at 7:35 PM on March 28, 2010 [8 favorites]


Let's do this (from the author's final comment after the article):
I gave you a nice shining opportunity to examine your privilege, whether you take it is up to you. Comments are closed.
posted by Balonious Assault at 7:36 PM on March 28, 2010


Why is it that people on Mefi only have something to say when...

YOU ARE A PERSON ON MEFI.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:36 PM on March 28, 2010 [15 favorites]


Stephen Colbert, huh? Top shelf trolling, thanks for that

I can understand that rankled, but let's not toss 'Troll' around. I have no doubt that divabat is being sincere here; actually, after I read the essay a second time (I totally thought I must have skipped a paragraph or missed something, and read over the crap comments of the linked blog before accepting that 'there was no "there", there', so to speak), I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. From what little I know, divabat is good people and intelligent to boot. That she linked to such a bad bit of writing told me that 1) She personally had a lot invested in the essay's position to the point that she didn't see it was facile weak sauce that didn't do a very good job of presenting and defending that position and 2) Its inevitable deletion would not be taken well and probably lead to a contentious MeTa.

Sometimes it sucks being right.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:36 PM on March 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


Why is it that people on Mefi only have something to say when it's an issue that's heavily publicised by the US (and which usually has some level of US involvement), and hardly comment on posts from elsewhere even though they touch on similar issues such as free speech and freedom of religion? Do these posts not get interest because "oh, Stephen Colbert didn't say much about it, so why should I care"?

Dude, why do you care???? People are allowed to like what they like and dislike what they don't. It's not your place to editorialise, and it's certainly _not_ your place to tell the users of Metafilter what they should or should not be thinking about and how much they should care about said thoughts. It's rude, patronising, and arrogant. Honestly.

I'm non-US, too, but geez, I don't go around investing so much of my ego in posts and then start throwing around assertions when people aren't interested. Lots of people aren't interested in the same thing as me; it doesn't make them stupid or ignorant, necessarily, and I don't view myself as some kind of discourse missionary.

Railing against it is not only discourteous, but futile. If you think this post will encourage anyone to engage further on this issue, or future posts about it, I suspect you are mistaken.
posted by smoke at 7:40 PM on March 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well it's not so much that I don't care about what is happening in Malaysia as much as I don't have any knowledge about what is happening there. Last I checked there is a mother of a load of information past and present unfolding around us all and I tend to start with the information that 1: Is most relevant to me 2: Is most relevant to the world at large 3: I find interesting. I don't think there is anything particularly American about that but YMMV. Also GYOB
posted by nola at 7:41 PM on March 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


Why is it that people on Mefi only have something to say when it's an issue that's heavily publicised by the US (and which usually has some level of US involvement)

This isn't even accurate. A quick glance at the front page shows 2 of the 3 most commented-on posts have nothing to do w/ the US--one is about British newspapers charging for website access and one is about that Russian mathematician guy.
posted by leesh at 7:43 PM on March 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


Well it's not so much that I don't care about what is happening in Malaysia as much as I don't have any knowledge about what is happening there.

The point being if I read a post about Malaysia I'm there to read, and learn. Maybe not to comment if I don't have anything to add. This doesn't mean I don't care.
posted by nola at 7:44 PM on March 28, 2010 [9 favorites]


And there are lots of awesome posts without a lot of comments--doesn't mean people aren't reading or enjoying or learning from them, just that they don't have anything in particular to say about them. Please stop taking this so personally. No one is trying to hurt your feelings.
posted by leesh at 7:44 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Since when is arguing with the mods in public about a deletion for more than a couple of exchanges a good idea? They have a job to do. Their reasoning has been fully explained. What more is there to accomplish with continuing to argue with them?
posted by hippybear at 7:47 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


If I wanted to prove Metafilter was lame, I could not just make a post entitled "IF ANYONE DELETES THIS POST THEN METAFILTER IS LAME." and then hope it gets deleted. In the same way, the deletion of the post in question does not prove much at all.
posted by mrgoldenbrown at 7:47 PM on March 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


And I, Brown, will flag your post.
posted by box at 7:49 PM on March 28, 2010


These Mefi mods, I'm telling you... what a bunch of white USian cultural imperialists they are. You're so right, divabat: the fact that they deleted your post proves the point. Especially when you consider the thoughtful, well-written and deeply insightful article you linked to.

/HAMBURGER*

*BIG, FAT, JUICY, DRIPPING-WITH-BACON-FAT SUPERSIZE-ME HAMBURGER

WITH EXTRA CHEESE

THE CHEESE WAS IMPORTED FROM AUSTRALIA

BUT DON'T TELL THAT TO THE USians

posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:50 PM on March 28, 2010


Pfft. "World" Series my ass.
posted by fleacircus at 7:50 PM on March 28, 2010 [8 favorites]


How is a word sounding stupid any justification for not using it? Whose barometer of stupid are we using?

I only linked to my particular tag because that's something I could readily access (rather than through scouring archives). I've noticed this with other posts about stuff that doesn't fit American views of "culture" too or doesn't get the same sort of press in the US. Just because it's set in Malaysia or wherever doesn't mean there's no universal topic that can be touched on - freedom of information, freedom of expression, multiculturalism: all of that can be expressed by anyone anywhere.

As an American, I just don't care as much about what happens in Malaysia as I do about what happens in the US. You think that's a fault; I think it's normal.

Yet the posts about American and American-famous issues (like Iran or Darfur) get hundreds of comments from people outside the US. Funny how the rest of the world seems to care about US issues but it doesn't work the other way.
posted by divabat at 7:52 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Besides many of us have never had the good fortune to have one of our posts deleted by mathowie. I had a post deleted by cortex once but big friggin' deal. You, you got shut down by the main man. Now that takes something special.
posted by nola at 7:54 PM on March 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


Man, it's been a while since I've seen such a grade-A-prime flameout around here.

And I'm not sure whether I should be reaching for a fire extinguisher or for gasoline.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:56 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Divabat, seriously, your POINT is more than worthy of discussion here, but the article you chose just plain sucked. Just find some better sources. That's it, honestly.
posted by tristeza at 7:57 PM on March 28, 2010 [9 favorites]


I could refer you to a blog rant about how argumentative and hostile Australians are, but I don't know... that might be inflammatory, don't you think?
posted by diocletian at 7:59 PM on March 28, 2010


Yet the posts about American and American-famous issues (like Iran or Darfur) get hundreds of comments from people outside the US. Funny how the rest of the world seems to care about US issues but it doesn't work the other way.

Because the U.S. is the single most powerful and influential country in the history of the world. It has been militarily, economically, diplomatically, etc etc dominant in a way rivaled by only a handful of other empires. And those empires weren't around when we had the internet.

What happens in the USA affects a lot of other countries directly in ways that what happens in those countries does not affect the USA. I'm not saying this is good or bad. But it's the truth.
posted by Justinian at 7:59 PM on March 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


Divabat, seriously, your POINT is more than worthy of discussion here, but the article you chose just plain sucked. Just find some better sources. That's it, honestly.

Well, no, not exactly- Metafilter is not a soapbox. It's not about finding good articles to support whatever point you're interested in making. More like, keep your eyes open for exceptional things on the web that you think we would enjoy, and post them here. Posts with a mission probably won't go well.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:00 PM on March 28, 2010 [11 favorites]

You're angry that people here had nothing to say about your posts?
Ok, seriously, that's a shitty comment. There have been a lot of shitty comments here, actually.

I read Feministe pretty regularly, so I saw the original post when it went up. And I didn't like it. I'm still not sure if I didn't like it because it's a bad post or if I didn't like it because it makes me kind of defensive. But look: it's a real issue. It's a real issue on metafilter. It's a real issue that I'm personally totally guilty of. So we can debate the deletion, but let's not pounce on either the person who wrote the post or the person who posted it.
posted by craichead at 8:00 PM on March 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sheila is a punk rocker . . .

Come on I'm trying to cheer you up man.
posted by nola at 8:00 PM on March 28, 2010


Funny how the rest of the world seems to care about US issues but it doesn't work the other way.

Which is, yes, an interesting topic. However when it's presented in a "fuck you" way it doesn't inspire thoughful discussion. Again, I'm sorry this didn't work out and I'd like to encourage you to try this again. However you may need to detach your strong feelings on this subject somewhat in order to make a post that is condusive to people here, on this site, wanting to talk about it and not just react to it.

Put another way, it's possible that the deletion of this thread, and only this deletion, is what you're so annoyed at. However it's seeming to me that you have an issue with how the site is operating already, and the post you made was already a manifestation of that dissatisfaction.

Nothing wrong with having issues about the site, how it works or how it's run. However, MeTa is really a better place to have those discussions in the first place. And, if this is going to be the place to have those discussions, it's useful if people [everyone, not talking to you directly, divabat] can keep away from the "fuck you" ism and the kkk analogies. And the flameout talk. It's distateful.

Really, if you hate the place that much, anyone, just walk away and come back later. If you don't, please engage the community about how to constructively address some of the things you view as problems and don't just tell people you disagree with to piss up a rope.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:02 PM on March 28, 2010 [15 favorites]


Woo, let's pick on usernames now! Ad hominem attacks instead of, say, considering whether Metafilter needs to check its US-centrism?

Yes, because a) no one ever makes "eponysterical" jokes on MetaFilter unless they're trying to attack the poster, and b) making an "eponysterical" joke is mutually exclusive from considering whether or not MetaFilter needs to check its US-centrism.

It seems to have hit the privilege of most of the Mefi readership (and the mods)

I would seriously like to see you back up that opinion with facts, and not just with your self-fulfilling observation.

25 comments is hardly anything compared to the 3 digits "hot button" issues like America or Iran (or basically anything US media thinks is important) get here.

You know what? That's right. The vast majority of MeFites are in the U.S., and our news sources are also (for the most part) in the U.S. (though I would be willing to wager that a disproportionate number of Americans who read MetaFilter seek out news from sources that are not mainstream American media than other Americans do).

People on MetaFilter read FPPs that look like they might be of interest to them. "Here's a link to poorly-written essay bitching about Americans on the internet" does not merit my attention as an FPP. The essay sucked, and since it was the only thing that the FPP linked to, the FPP sucked. If you honestly believe that the deletion of your post was due to American privilege and US-centrism, you need to step back, cool off, and think about what makes a good FPP. As several people have said in this thread, the topic itself is definitely worth discussing. The article you linked to was a shitty starting point for said discussion. Not to mention that your post's title, and single quote from the article, didn't make me want to read the article or join any discussion. "Hey Americans, you all (that's 320,000,000 people) suck, and you don't rule the Internet"... well, color me intrigued!
posted by tzikeh at 8:02 PM on March 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


How is a word sounding stupid any justification for not using it? Whose barometer of stupid are we using?

Maybe "stupid" is the wrong word. Clunky and awkward? In my teaching (I teach classes on topics related to the history of the United States) I work very very hard not to say "America" when I mean "the United States" and I try not to say "we" when I mean "citizens of the United States and people living in the United States." But I probably wouldn't say "USians."
posted by liketitanic at 8:02 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Funny how the rest of the world seems to care about US issues but it doesn't work the other way.

Not really. The US is a world power. What happens here can often effect more than just Americans.

Also, I agree with nola and leesh that lack of comments does not necessarily equal lack of interest.
posted by amro at 8:03 PM on March 28, 2010


I understand the point of the article. A lot of American internet users do go around like they're the center of the universe. However, the screed of the used the same sweeping generalizations and characterizations that the author was complaining about. I found myself reading the article in the voice of American curmudgeon commentator Andy Rooney (For those outside the US, here is an example of Mr. Rooney's rants...note I am sensitive that people outside the US may not be able to see hulu or cbs.com links...I hope this youtube link will work).
Not all non-white people are black. Stop referring to us as such. In fact, neither do all non-white people fit into that routine construction of ‘black/Latino/Asian’ that you so frequently employ.
I've never seen or heard this type of things happening on the internet or in real life. Perhaps if the author linked to real examples of this happening it might make more sense. I concede that many Americans are are xenophobic bigots. Many more Americans are just clueless as to how non-Americans are. I know people that have never left their home state. They're not poor and unable to travel. They just lack the intellectual curiosity to learn about other people and appreciate other cultures.

The author also seems to have a problem with the "royal we". She seems to be speaking for the rest of the world but is pretty narrowly focused.
We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving! (Though that’s pretty messed up, not sure why you do.)
Canada celebrates Thanksgiving. It is on a different day than the one in the US but it is a holiday. Or does the author think that Canadians are so close to Americans it is OK to generalize.
We don’t celebrate Independence Day either, because it is the day of USian independence and on account of our not caring!
Obviously no one but Americans celebrate American Independence Day. But a lot of countries celebrate their own Independence Day. Mexico's Independence Day is 16 September.

But perhaps the thing I hated the most was her assertion that USian=white. Let's revisit this again:
Not all non-white people are black. Stop referring to us as such. In fact, neither do all non-white people fit into that routine construction of ‘black/Latino/Asian’ that you so frequently employ.
So the "non-white people" that are also USians guilty of this? Of course not. And tens of millions of Americans are not white. But the author is content with lumping everyone into that USian bucket.

There's her silly complaint that all the websites have the US flag for English. Which is odd because most of the sites I visit that are in multiple languages use the UK flag to denote English.

The sad part for me was I really wanted to agree with her. I have friends all around the world. I visit the websites of countries everywhere. I know there's some shithead Americans that make everyone look bad. But a screed that uses some of the sweeping generalizations and narrow-mindedness Americans are being accused of is not a good start. She also fails to point to any sort of evidence of these allegations.

Having said all that, I thought the post should have stayed just because I wrote all that and the post was deleted before I got the chance to post it.

divabat, I hope you do take the commenters above up on their offer to make another post on American centrism on the web. Perhaps with links to articles and opinions that are so much of a pot calling a kettle black.
posted by birdherder at 8:03 PM on March 28, 2010 [29 favorites]


Like many here, I see the issue raised by the blog post as interesting, but found the blog post itself to be facile and, yes, ranty. So I'm on-board with the deletion, and hope that a second go-round, with better content, will happen.

Also, "US-ian" is such a nasty and ugly word. Yes, there are three continents (plus a bunch of islands) in the "Americas" -- and yet, somehow, amazingly, there isn't any great confusion about the use of the word "American." The word "US-ian" is an answer to a confusion that doesn't actually exist, and the sooner it's erased from our collective memory the happier the language center in my brain will be.

tl;dr: fine topic, poor execution, second time should be the charm.
posted by Forktine at 8:03 PM on March 28, 2010 [4 favorites]

I could refer you to a blog rant about how argumentative and hostile Australians are, but I don't know... that might be inflammatory, don't you think?
And racist. Don't forget racist. We do American racist stereotypes better than any other PooN.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:03 PM on March 28, 2010


diocletian: I don't know how I'd respond to a post like that. I'm not even Australian; my permanent residency is still pending.

craichead: THANK YOU. OK, you don't like the Feministe post, fine. But that doesn't devalue any of the points - which, as justinian nicely summed up, is that because US has so much power a lot of Mefites fall into the trap of not bothering to read the links and contribute to threads outside their immediate knowledge circle. Mefi isn't there to keep you in your comfort zone, only posting things you're aware about.
posted by divabat at 8:03 PM on March 28, 2010


I argue on the Chinese Internet as well (because the whole damn world be needing my wisdoms), which has actually overtaken the US-dominated version in terms of absolute numbers of users I believe, and you can find all manner of narrow-minded crap about foreign places, also some insightful stuff and of course a lot of good arguments about China and the things that matter to Chinese people (also a load of celeb gossip and content-free rants and bile). Although given the current state of global hegemony there is a greater interest in America and to a lesser extent the rest of the world and its ways, it really is just the case that people tend to focus most on what's closest to home.
Just straight up telling them not to won't get you very far I think, but personally I've not let it stop me posting things here I think may frame familiar issues in an unfamiliar context in the way you mention, divabat, with the caveat that I have some expectation that it will be engaging to a fair-minded reader (I've just checked and see I've made 34 posts tagged China and one of my best got a whacking three comments :D).
posted by Abiezer at 8:07 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm Canadian and flagged the shit outta that post. It was boring, pointless, obvious... I couldn't even finish reading the link it was so pedestrian. The non-USA'n-ness of it had nothing to do with it. It was just a terrible FPP.
posted by dobbs at 8:09 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Man, it's been a while since I've seen such a grade-A-prime flameout around here. And I'm not sure whether I should be reaching for a fire extinguisher or for gasoline.

Y'know, it's one thing to have some LOLs when someone with a rep for being a dickhead makes an egregious ass of themselves or a serial noisemaker starts flaring their nostrils and stamping their feet in a fit of entitled arrogance, but divabat isn't such a person, and that sort of shit isn't contextually appropriate, if it ever really is. Even less so when it's someone that generally comes over as a sock puppet or BNDTripper who's egging on the flame-out.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:10 PM on March 28, 2010 [21 favorites]


You know divabat, I made a semi-flippant post a minute ago, but what I really want to say is this:

While I don't disagree with the general premise that Americans (yeah, using derogatory nickname like "usian" to refer to a group of people might not be the best way to convince those people that you're making a principled, objective argument) may not be the most intenationally conscious people around (hell, maybe they're the least), your accusations toward the membership here is completely misplaced.

US Mefites in general have a much greater than average interest in non-US related topics -- look at the front page any day and you'll find people linking to and discussing things from all over the world. Though you claim that nobody comments on non-US related posts, I just don't see that as being based in the practical reality of this site. Combine that with the amount of constant navelgazing this site engages in about its sensitivity to people of all countries, cultures, and walks of life, and you've got just about the last group on the internet that you should be directing your vitriol toward.

In summation: maybe that bad, single link blog rant had a point, but it was badly made, and your post framed it in a "here, you US-centrist jerks could learn a thing or two!" way, that was not only bound to flame out, but also is misdirected toward the exact group of people that would most likely agree with your basic premise.
posted by diocletian at 8:10 PM on March 28, 2010


Is it something that *I* said? Because if it was--on behalf of the entire country--I apologize.
posted by ColdChef at 8:12 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Mefi isn't there to keep you in your comfort zone, only posting things you're aware about.

Metafilter isn't here to live up to your standards or vision.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:13 PM on March 28, 2010 [9 favorites]


Methinks that if any given topic has the ability to get a person as het up as divabat seems to be right now, that person ought not to make FPPs on that topic.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:13 PM on March 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yet the posts about American and American-famous issues (like Iran or Darfur) get hundreds of comments from people outside the US. Funny how the rest of the world seems to care about US issues but it doesn't work the other way.

Okay, let's do some numbers, eh? The US has a population of about 308 million. Iran's is 74 million. Sudan's is 42 million. Malaysia, which is a country you've posted about a few times, has a population of 28 million. In the US, approximately 283,000 residents were born in Iran. Only 49,460 were born in Malaysia. (Admittedly just 19,790 were born in Sudan.)

So why should it be surprising that issues surrounding the US, Iran, and Sudan garner more interest and responses than issues surrounding (for example) Malaysia? Sometimes what appears to be bias is actually just the natural product of the relative size of the entities involved.
posted by jedicus at 8:13 PM on March 28, 2010


Stay out of this ColdChef, you've already done enough. Good day sir, I said good day.
posted by nola at 8:14 PM on March 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


divabat, here's what I think the problem with the post is, in a nutshell: it blatantly indulges in the same behaviors that it is trying to criticize in Americans. The author has a problem with Americans' unwillingness to learn about other cultures or to try to see the world through the viewpoint of someone outside the U.S. Fair enough. But addressing people by a term that they themselves do not use and are often annoyed by (and I'll admit, "USian" gets under my skin more than almost anything else on Metafilter) is a pretty bad way to make a point about cultural sensitivity. I guess you could say "turnabout, fair play" (apologies for the American idiom) but it comes across as blazingly hypocritical. Writing as though all Americans behavior a certain way (even if many or most do) is a sure way to make people who would normally be on your side get defensive. And it's pretty clear now that you were posting this with an agenda, to be read as a rebuke of behaviors on Metafilter. It shouldn't be surprising that when you post a shouty rant as if to say "Listen to her, people! She'll explain what's wrong with the lot of you!" that folks aren't going to be overly interested in discussing all the wonderful points the yelly person was making.

There's bound to be a lot of calm, reasoned essays about the problems of Amero-centrism in internet communications available to post. Any one of those would have gone down much more smoothly.

I really don't know what kind of responses you wanted, unless it was a string of abject apologies from us USians who have finally been brought to knowledge of the truth by your post. I don't think that's likely.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:15 PM on March 28, 2010 [22 favorites]


So, two things:

How is a word sounding stupid any justification for not using it? Whose barometer of stupid are we using?

I don't know how it's possible to simultaneously not give a shit and yet still be incredibly irritated by something, but the term "USian" fits that for me. The argument that other people in North, Central, and South America are also "Americans" is horseshit. Go to Guatemala and call them Americans. Or Peru. Or Canada.

Why is it that people on Mefi only have something to say when it's an issue that's heavily publicised by the US (and which usually has some level of US involvement), and hardly comment on posts from elsewhere even though they touch on similar issues such as free speech and freedom of religion?


Why is it that you thought that this particular post was the way to address your concerns? I'm genuinely, snark-free curious here.
posted by rtha at 8:17 PM on March 28, 2010 [22 favorites]


But look: it's a real issue. It's a real issue on metafilter. It's a real issue that I'm personally totally guilty of. So we can debate the deletion, but let's not pounce on either the person who wrote the post or the person who posted it.

It seems to me that you're conflating the questions of whether this is a "real issue" and whether this is even an edge-case in terms of the quality of the FPP. It's a real issue, and yet the FPP was very much deserving of deletion.

And it's very frustrating that the person who posted it refuses to acknowledge the actual quality-related arguments that are being made here, and instead attributes the deletion, and any criticism of the post, entirely to US-centrism and defensiveness. That was the source of the "you're mad that no one comments on your posts?" comment, and the general irritation on display here: that the poster is attributing motivations instead of listening to what people are actually saying.
posted by palliser at 8:18 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


How is a word sounding stupid any justification for not using it?

Doesn't this question kind of answer itself? By definition, if something sounds stupid, one would prefer not to hear or say it.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:20 PM on March 28, 2010


OK, you don't like the Feministe post, fine. But that doesn't devalue any of the points

divabat, to reiterate what a few others have said: The post was not deleted because the issues raised in the Feministe post are without merit, or because ranting is inherently bad. Instead, it was deleted because the rantiness is inappropriate for a Metafilter post -- that sort of confrontational style does not do well here.
posted by danb at 8:20 PM on March 28, 2010


divabat is being incredibly tone deaf here. The mods have been very gracious in repeatedly offering rationale whilst being quite deferential, and several other commenters have expressed empathy and a desire to commiserate, if only someone could offer a post that has substantial content on the subject. Yet, instead of taking the advice of the community to promote a discussion of substance, divabat continues to only shoot off more shrill accusations, which are, indeed, very tiring.
posted by slogger at 8:25 PM on March 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


Malaysia Centric Map. Now.. Now I know what it feels like.
posted by _aa_ at 8:26 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't know how it's possible to simultaneously not give a shit and yet still be incredibly irritated by something, but the term "USian" fits that for me. The argument that other people in North, Central, and South America are also "Americans" is horseshit. Go to Guatemala and call them Americans. Or Peru. Or Canada.

this x1000. No one uses or understands "American culture" to mean ALL of the culture and tradition from Canada down to the bottom of Chile and all of the islands floating in between. Nobody ever says "my favorite American city is Buenos Aires". Nobody is baffled by the fact that Hawaiians are American citizens even though they live in the South Pacific. It's a perfectly cromulent word.
posted by moxiedoll at 8:28 PM on March 28, 2010 [10 favorites]


This has nothing to do with the thread at hand but I thought someone might enjoy watching an American get stuck inside a huge ballon.
posted by nola at 8:31 PM on March 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


is that because US has so much power a lot of Mefites fall into the trap of not bothering to read the links and contribute to threads outside their immediate knowledge circle. Mefi isn't there to keep you in your comfort zone, only posting things you're aware about.
Wow. So who are these mefites who fall into this trap and how in heavens do you know what they (we) read?
And as for not contributing to them, I thought that by keeping my damn trap shut when I was learning (like when I read a post about something or some place or some people I know crap all about) and not spewing off was a virtue.
posted by pointystick at 8:31 PM on March 28, 2010 [7 favorites]


It's not that I'm not willing to listen to a well-put-together, cogent argument on this topic. I clicked, after all. It was just that it was a really badly written, rambling, unfocused and ultimately non-worthwhile blog post. There are a lot of those on the internet. This one didn't merit being elevated to the level of MeFi discussion.
posted by Miko at 8:31 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


I just hope that the people complaining about "USians" for being a putatively awkward neologism aren't also slamming people that make the same complaint about "cisgendered"
posted by oddman at 8:33 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Please let's not do this.

I meant it and I stand by it.

I stand by it because I have a good friend who was raised in Sydney before she married an Aborigine and they moved to the states. We've discussed the lost kids and racism a lot, what it means in the States and what it means in Australia, the similarities and the differences. I have been (and she said this, not me) a sort of unofficial translator of American slang, while she's taught me about chucking a sickie and bogans. It' been a pretty cool learning experience and friendship.

So when I see divabat throwing a fit, tossing me and other fine Americans, let alone Mefites into the same ugly stew pot, you'll have to pardon me* if I feel an F-bomb is in order, because she's clearly taking part in the same narrowmindness she's complaining about, which showcasing her and seemingly reveling in her own ignorance.

* or not, that's cool
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:33 PM on March 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


I love how that balloon guy is at one point more concerned with keeping his clothes adjusted than he is to reconnect with oxygenated air. Priorities, priorities.
posted by Forktine at 8:35 PM on March 28, 2010


I meant it and I stand by it.

Well don't do it again, please. Saying "fuck you" to other MeFites does not solve problems and just generally raises the level of bad feeling around here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:36 PM on March 28, 2010 [7 favorites]

And it's very frustrating that the person who posted it refuses to acknowledge the actual quality-related arguments that are being made here, and instead attributes the deletion, and any criticism of the post, entirely to US-centrism and defensiveness. That was the source of the "you're mad that no one comments on your posts?" comment, and the general irritation on display here: that the poster is attributing motivations instead of listening to what people are actually saying.
I guess. But I suspect if the refusal to acknowledge quality-related arguments weren't related to something that makes people feel defensive, then the level of vitriol would be lower.
posted by craichead at 8:37 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just hope that the people complaining about "USians" for being a putatively awkward neologism aren't also slamming people that make the same complaint about "cisgendered"

I'm the same person! "USian" is an awkward new term that is put forth to replace an existing word that means the same thing. "Cisgendered" is a new word that didn't previously exist and it's, I think, easier and more elegant than saying "people who identify as being the same sex with which they were born".
posted by moxiedoll at 8:37 PM on March 28, 2010 [17 favorites]


This would have been a much better article if, each time the author said "Don't do this", she linked to the thing she was talking about. Or, if she hated the idea of sending people on to sites she doesn't like, she could just say what someone said or did and why she disagrees with them.

I kept thinking she had interesting points but failed to make them clear because:
  1. She put everything in negatives. Okay, so I'm not allowed to use the term "black" to refer to all non-whites, which I didn't do already. But people of color [colour] is also not okay, I guess because it's used in the racial discourse in the US. So what exactly are we expected to do? Please, tell me how I can be more considerate of non-US-based race discourse. Otherwise, if you make me feel like there's no safe way to discuss it, I'm not going to discuss it. If that's the point -- that (white?) people from the US should no be involved in global discourse -- then I suppose you've made it.
  2. She makes points, but fails to elaborate and explain why they're important. For example, she says that foreigners don't always get American cultural references. Totally understandable; I don't get cultural references from other countries and indeed I don't get the all cultural references in my own [which brings up an important point which I will get into below]. But what follows in the paragraph is not an explanation of why this is bad specifically (and even how it relates to racial discourse) or examples of situations in which assumptions have been made about cultural references, instead she gripes about how little work there remains for native writers and comments idly that she barely registers an American accent since it has become so common. Those points are hardly ones that would support the assertion that American culture is unfamiliar.
  3. Her "ranty" (I would say, advesarial) tone makes it difficult to take in the points. I get that she's upset and angry and certainly has every right to be. She can rant if she wants, I suppose, but I'm not going to learn much from a rant. It'd be far more productive for her to have written something like, "I'm really angry. Here's why ... when I hear or see xyz, I feel..." or "if you're interested in useful discussion, please keep ... in mind..."
  4. It is seriously lacking in focus. Is her issue really racial discourse? Or just a list of pet peeves regarding things that she's encountered in the past in all kinds of different and unrelated situations? Did someone call her up at 3 AM to say, "I wish you and all of your black friends a very Happy Thanksgiving"?
Also, who is this "we" she speaks of? Who exactly handed her the scepter of all-non-whites outside the USA and told her that she could speak for all of them? Look, author, there are things that upset you. How about saying, "I don't celebrate Thanksgiving", "I don't understand all of your cultural references", "I get annoyed when you use the term people of color". I mean, it seems disingenuous to write something like "You can't use your USian concepts of race on us. We are all different than you! All of us, every single one of us, are upset by you generalizing us!"

But perhaps the oddest thing is that she makes exactly the same assumptions about USians that she feels we make about "them" -- that of cultural homogeneity. Not all Americans are the same. And I'm not even going the apologist route and saying, "Hey! I'm enlightened and never do those things you say we do!" I mean, USians live in the equivalent of 7 time zones. There is something like an "American accent" but within our country the accents can be so varied that many US accents are more different from each other than they are from accents in other countries (for example, the Midwest accent sounds closer to a Canadian accent than an accent you'd hear in New York, Georgia, or Boston). We don't necessarily have shared cultural experiences. In fact, one thing that the author might not realize about the US is because of its relatively uniquely varied mixture of nationalities and cultural groups, it's probably less likely to have shared cultural references. I mean, in many countries, if you are a resident of that country, then so were your great-great grandparents and their parents before them.

Not everyone in the United States celebrates Thanksgiving or "Independence Day" (even ignoring those who don't out of protest) either.

BTW: The translator flags have a tiny US flag on them because they are being translated into American English, which is different from UK English and other wonderful kinds of English. If you live in Italy, you have your choice of learning "Lingua Inglese" or "Lingua Americana" when choosing an English course. So it makes total sense that something that's been translated into American English would have a US flag next to it, in the same way that nearly every hotel website in Europe has a little UK flag to indicate a version of the website written for people from the UK. Here's a website for a hotel in Montréal. Even though it is way, way closer to the US than the UK, it's chosen to use the Union Jack. It also uses the Flag of France for French, even though Canadian French is an official language of the region and French Canadians probably represent the majority of people clicking on that button. But really, it's not that huge of a deal. You're just going to have to learn to not take these things personally.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:38 PM on March 28, 2010 [26 favorites]


I'm a Latin American, and speaking for myself, I'm perfectly content to call myself Latin American when I am in the position of having to identify myself with my region of the world. I understand that the term American comes from the fact that the word "America" is in the name of the country. I appreciate that people are concerned about how other people from the Americas might feel about this, but in the end, Latin American is a lot more specific (and accurate) of a term for me than American would be.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 8:39 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Proud to be a USian, where at least I know I'm free...
posted by Dick Laurent is Dead at 8:41 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


But perhaps the thing I hated the most was her assertion that USian=white.

This was exactly where I had to stop reading and go look at pictures of grammatically challenged cats doing mundane yet entertaining things.
posted by elizardbits at 8:43 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


But that doesn't devalue any of the points - which, as justinian nicely summed up, is that because US has so much power a lot of Mefites fall into the trap of not bothering to read the links and contribute to threads outside their immediate knowledge circle.

divabat, there are only 24 hours in the day. I don't have time to read and comment on everything here and, frankly, this is my leisure time and I'm not really interested in turning a fun pastime into a homework assignment.

Mefi isn't there to keep you in your comfort zone, only posting things you're aware about.

That may be what it is for you, but not for me. Metafilter is what we each make of it for ourselves. Some people come here for the discussions on the political and social topics of the day, some for the obscure and interesting web sites and others just like the LOLcat-type posts and YouTube links. Each is valid.

Please don't impose your vision of what Metafilter should be on me. It's unfair for you to get all bent out of shape when I'm not using Metafilter the way you want me to, just like I'm not going to flip out on you because you didn't post a SYTL to a funny Star Wars video.
posted by MegoSteve at 8:45 PM on March 28, 2010 [8 favorites]


grammatically challenged cats

Those cats are speaking in a dialect with its own rules of syntax! Stop it with your human linguistic hegemony!
posted by Miko at 8:45 PM on March 28, 2010 [49 favorites]


re: "USans": Anyone who can't see how offensive and grar-making it is for one group of people to try to rename another... I can only shake my head in disbelief. The people who live in the United States of America are called Americans, and have been since our Revolutionary War. You think it's okay to try to re-name a group of people because you don't like what they call themselves? Yeah, that always goes over well.
posted by tzikeh at 8:48 PM on March 28, 2010 [20 favorites]


Whatever happened to "USamericans"? I thought that one was perfect.

Also, slightly off topic, feministe is just the worst. It's just so frustrating that there's nowhere on the web to get mefi-quality discussion about feminism and race. All the feminist sites are so yelly and dogmatic it's unbearable.
posted by yarly at 8:49 PM on March 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


USians = United Statisticians. Strength in Numbers!
posted by _aa_ at 8:52 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


The presuppositions in that article are astounding. Here's a quick rundown, first paragraphs only; I'm sure I've missed some:

The United States is not the world. [presupposes that Americans think it is] It’s not even the centre of the universe. [presupposes that all Americans think the world revolves around them.]

I know, I know, it’s shocking stuff. [presupposes the reader is shocked by being called out] If I were polite, I would have offered you a seat first. [presupposes the (American) reader is put out by the previous 'unmitigated strike']But I am an uncouth foreigner [this comment is struck out - off record - it mimicks something thought better of, but shared anyway. In this case it presupposes how an American might characterize the letter-writer, through that narrator's eyes.] Well that’s just too bad. [presupposes the American reader was seeking some apology or olive branch (but is obviously being denied by the writer)] Also, you have frequently whipped the seat out from under me in the past. [accusation] I shall illustrate how through the following fun fact-filled lessons. [presupposes Americans need lessons in how to behave civilly.]

Gah. I can't go on. She kinda sounds like she needs a hug. I like hugging cranky, unhappy people who need hugs. They resist and they kind of hate you for it, but somewhere in the middle of the squeeze you feel this imperceptible hug back, as if they realize that "hey, this hugging person sucks, but man, I do kind of like hugging, and who am I to resist? I'll hug back just a little; just this once."
posted by iamkimiam at 8:57 PM on March 28, 2010 [24 favorites]


It's even worse than that, iamkimiam!

If I were polite, I would have offered you a seat first.

That presupposes I was standing, and I, for one, AM ON MY ASS ALREADY.
posted by barnacles at 8:59 PM on March 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


The most favorited post of all time is about Indian cooking.

The most favorited post of the past 30 days includes a link about British chef Jamie Oilver.

The second most favorited post of the last seven days is about a Japanese photographer.
posted by Falconetti at 9:00 PM on March 28, 2010 [7 favorites]


Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!
posted by klangklangston at 9:06 PM on March 28, 2010 [34 favorites]


I'm an American. I sometimes comment on threads about countries and cultures outside of my own. But I do so with care, because when it's not a topic I know backwards and forwards it's easy to make a mistake and look like a jerk. I would hate to see a follow up like "Well actually, hydrophonic, I'm ____-ian and you got it completely wrong."
posted by hydrophonic at 9:08 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


NOT -IAN-IST!
posted by hydrophonic at 9:09 PM on March 28, 2010


Also, you have frequently whipped the seat out from under me in the past.

And you would think she would offer me a chair, in the hopes that I'd take it. And then, you know, the seat whippy trick.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:09 PM on March 28, 2010


I'm a Latin American, and speaking for myself, I'm perfectly content to call myself Latin American when I am in the position of having to identify myself with my region of the world. I understand that the term American comes from the fact that the word "America" is in the name of the country. I appreciate that people are concerned about how other people from the Americas might feel about this, but in the end, Latin American is a lot more specific (and accurate) of a term for me than American would be.

See, this is so interesting to me! People I have known/do know from Latin America all seem to identify in a much more specific fashion - that is, by what country they come from. "I'm Mexican" or "Colombian" or "Brazilian" "Dominican" and so on. But maybe you do that to, in some or all contexts.

In my experience, I've never traveled anywhere outside the borders of the United States, identified myself as an American, and been thought to be anything other than a citizen of the United States.
posted by rtha at 9:09 PM on March 28, 2010


If you don't want to call me an American because for whatever reason it isn't specific enough, you can always call me a United States of American.

You might sound like an idiot, but that's not such a bad thing.
posted by breezeway at 9:10 PM on March 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't know where you're orginially from klang, but here in norcal my family celebrates our korean harvest festival when the moon turns orange in the fall. I am offended that you think that the whole state celebrates thanksgiving right now.
posted by bam at 9:10 PM on March 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter has become noticeably more "American" lately -- I trace it to the election of Obama and the mobilization of left-wing American Patriotism.

Divabat's link was not the greatest but the reaction to it did indeed prove the point. The "most flagged thing in recent memory"? There has to be a reason for that and the intrinsic worth of the post is not, in my opinion, so bad that we don't see an element of American sensitivity to external criticism. One common reaction to commentary about the frame of discourse here from the international members is that Metafilter itself is American site. (The strong reaction against "USian" is another tiny little lens by which great truths are revealed.)

MetaFilter is American: that's a fact I suppose, but not a very welcoming one. In my perception Metafilter is becoming more parochial all the time, less interesting, and less worth hanging around.
posted by Rumple at 9:12 PM on March 28, 2010 [9 favorites]


Just because "everybody" (35 comments, really) reacted badly doesn't mean the post doesn't have any merit. Rather, it proves the post nicely. It was hardly even an hour after I posted; most other "ranty" posts have had some time to simmer.

Front Page Posts should never be be vehicles for a point you're trying to make. If you want to get up on a soapbox you should get your own blog & say it there. If you want to discuss an issue with the MetaFilter community, bring it up on MetaTalk. This is how we work. You know this.
posted by scalefree at 9:12 PM on March 28, 2010


Here's a website for a hotel in Montréal.

While you made all solid points, Deathalicious, and I agree with all of them, I regret to inform you that the Hotel Montreal is in Florence, Italy.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:13 PM on March 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


Rumple, you and divabat are both being pretty selective in which responses you choose as a barometer and which you ignore.
posted by liketitanic at 9:13 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, the first comment in that thread:

note to self: purchase popcorn futures at market open
posted by unSane at 5:53 PM on March 28 [1 favorite +] [!] No other comments.


I thought there was a new moderation rule that that sort of first comment facile thread-shitting got deleted?
posted by Rumple at 9:15 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


The strong reaction against "USian" is another tiny little lens by which great truths are revealed.

Yes, that we are all nerds who care deeply about language.
posted by Forktine at 9:15 PM on March 28, 2010 [8 favorites]


The style of argumentation at the link, and the mentality though not the specific position, reminded me of this bit of satire:
This column will make your blood boil, your liver quiver, and your hair turn white overnight. You will be outraged, perturbed, upset, freaked out. You will send outraged emails to E$PN, you will call your local affiliates and demand the immediate cancellation of ABC shows. Go for it. I don't care.

A man's gotta speak truth to power when the occasion calls for it. If we learned nothing else from the upheavals of the civil rights movement, we have learned that. So old Skip B. is drawing his Maginot Line in the sand. (Don't know what I'm talking about there? You probably went to public school. Look it up, punk.)

Here is the statement that is going to get me fired for its utter controversiality and envelope-pushing-ness: Baseball is a better game than soccer.

I know, all you crunchy types out there with your tofu shampoo and your hemp underwear and your snot-nosed rugrats running around the rectangular environs of local elementary schools will be up in arms about this. It's not exactly the "fashionable" opinion anymore, not in our modern "soccer mom" age, where secular liberals run the show and good ol' boys have to hide our pride under a bushel basket. But ol' Skip calls 'em as he sees 'em, the same way he always did, the same way he always will. If that means he needs to go looking for a new job -- well, he's been fired before, it'll happen again.
posted by ibmcginty at 9:16 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


But...the linked blogpost doesn't say anything. It just restates the thing that irritates the author over and over with really shallow hyberbolic accusations. That thing, the United States-centric bias, is a real thing, but this post doesn't offer any insight. I'm sure there are Americans dumb enough to not realize that the holiday of the Fourth Of July is not internationally important, but to say that this is a typical American thing is just bizarre.

Should we give weak and badly-argued screeds a pass simply because they represent a minority demographic? Because I think that's condescending. We can do better on this topic.
posted by desuetude at 9:16 PM on March 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter is American: that's a fact I suppose, but not a very welcoming one. In my perception Metafilter is becoming more parochial all the time, less interesting, and less worth hanging around.

Jesus Christ, you make the place sound like Poe's Dinner Bell, with the reble flag flying outside and a bunch of drunk, bitter old men inside. OMG OMG OMG. This place is the new Confederacy of Southern Hog Jowls. Motherfuck.
posted by nola at 9:17 PM on March 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


I didn't think the article was as bad as many of you feel it is - I thought it was direct, honest, and wasn't wishy-washy. But obviously I'm likely alone amongst Mefites with this, and there's no real point trying to argue this side with anyone else as it's a matter of taste and preference in writing style. I still stand by my assertion that ranty and confrontational doesn't necessary mean "bad" in any sense.

Population numbers are a really crappy way to justify something's importance. So if it's a small country it doesn't matter? The Vatican doesn't have that many people and it still counts in world news (which increasingly has become "What the US finds important").

I didn't invent the term US-ians and it's not exclusive to Feministe.

I didn't include examples initially because this seemed like something that permeates the web for me. People arguing about their "First Amendment rights" when making a comment that gets cut down. Being asked what I'm doing at 3am in the morning, except it's not. Having issues related to my cultures or my countries being shunted into the "foreign news" category even though the websites aren't specifically about any one country. Even putting in names and addresses assume that every country follows US conventions! Just looking at, say, my Tumblr feed or my Google Reader I see more references to US pop culture than anyone else's, even Australian pop culture (and I *live* here!). I've seen comments from Americans saying that a Canadian or British person is illiterate because they spelt "colour" with a "u". Saying that you don't recognise the characters of most contemporary US TV shows "elitist" - "ooh look I'm so indie I don't watch populist pop culture like you peons ooo" - even though it's more because not all of them air here and you don't tend to watch TV anyway because you have other habits.

I'm not sure why Chally (The Feministe contributor) didn't put examples; I don't know her and I got the article off another site. But I didn't put examples because to me it would have been like linking about 75% of the Internet.

The US has major privilege and power over Internet content, and not many other countries (if at all) demand that foreign web content writers cater to their whims to be relevant. Saying "Dear US-ians who use the Internet" is a rhetorical device aimed at highlighting privilege that's often unconscious; even if you don't tend to accuse a Brit blogger of illiteracy, you can usually assume that an online form for a generic site (a.k.a. not one with a specific country focus) will speak to your culture and have forms that you understand. The rest of us don't have that privilege and have to consider how to make our 4-digit postcodes fit in zipcodes that require 5 digits, or split open phone numbers, or fit both Chinese and Christian names when your surname is smackbang in the middle.
posted by divabat at 9:18 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think this one is my favorite:

"Sometimes I’m watching TV and I’ve gotten so used to hearing USian accents all the time it doesn’t even register that I’m watching a program from the United States."

It makes me think that, if I ever get on television, I should disguise my voice or something. Like, to be politically correct and compassionate to all who might be tired of hearing the same 'ole newscaster hegemony. But what accent should I choose? Pirate? Irish Brogue? Or perhaps just a big jumble of nonpreferential weirdness? They'll think I'm so traveled!
posted by iamkimiam at 9:19 PM on March 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


I thought there was a new moderation rule that that sort of first comment facile thread-shitting got deleted?

If we're deleting the whole thread anyhow, we don't take extra care to remove early thread shitting. The rationale behind early threadshitting removal is so the rest of the thread can continue on without the doomsaying.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:19 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yet the posts about American and American-famous issues (like Iran or Darfur) get hundreds of comments from people outside the US. Funny how the rest of the world seems to care about US issues but it doesn't work the other way.

Don't make the front page your whipping boy to prove a point this pedestrian. And don't do it by posting the verbal diarrhea of some barely literate internet rage guy (or gal) that doesn't know about the difference between an inaccurately pedantic (!) use of the word "American" and the worldwide colloquial use. I am an American. In France, I would be described as americain. Etc. You can spot somebody with little life experience most easily when they raise an internet neologism as some sort of banner for all the usual armchair revolutionary arguments. Fuck "USian".
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:20 PM on March 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


What are we going to do with all of these Americans? I see only one reasonable solution to this.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:21 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


divabat:

There are two possible explanations of this whole deal.

1) The quality of your post wasn't up the scratch. The post you linked to was ranty, poorly argued, thin in substance, beligerent. Not up to MeFi standards, so out it goes.

2) The USians here are just too defensive and couldn't stand looking at themselves in a mirror. Everything they say proves what prima donnas and hypocrites they really are.

Are you as utterly committed to explanation #2 as you seem to say you are? I mean, do you admit even a sliver of possibility that the truth is closer to #1?
posted by argybarg at 9:21 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Saying "Dear US-ians who use the Internet" is a rhetorical device aimed at highlighting privilege that's often unconscious

Or the start of a love letter.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:22 PM on March 28, 2010


The most favorited post of all time is about Indian cooking.

The most favorited post of the past 30 days includes a link about British chef Jamie Oilver.

The second most favorited post of the last seven days is about a Japanese photographer.


Also see the post from 2008 about the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Note the comment and favorite count.

I think you're engaging in confirmation bias, divabat.
posted by zarq at 9:22 PM on March 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


divabat; the thing is, very little in that obviously heartfelt comment has anything at all to do with whether you made a good post. The post was bad. It doesn't matter if it contained something important or true, it was still a bad post.

And whether or not the post is bad is pretty much the only relevant metric.
posted by Justinian at 9:23 PM on March 28, 2010


"The US has major privilege and power over Internet content, and not many other countries (if at all) demand that foreign web content writers cater to their whims to be relevant."

Y'know, I realize this is snark, but: What country invented the internet?
posted by klangklangston at 9:23 PM on March 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


The rest of us don't have that privilege

I'm fed up with hearing about "privilege" from people with whom I will never interact and over whom I have not the slightest leverage. Yes, if you do something first or you do it well, you will get noticed. If you go whip up an angry fax to DARPA it may just get there before that too becomes obsolete.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:27 PM on March 28, 2010 [7 favorites]


Axe grindy posts and subsequent discussion is axe grindy. Go figure.
posted by iamabot at 9:28 PM on March 28, 2010


Fuck if this line doesn't say a lot..
it was one of the most flagged things in recent memory.
Ya, I quit reading right there, and I haven't read the rant in the original post either, but..
posted by Chuckles at 9:33 PM on March 28, 2010


I'd like to stay and read more but I have to get up early tomorrow and put on my privilege pants and drive to work in my privilege truck, put on my privilege tools and hammer privilege nails into privilege wood all day till I come home to my privilege house and cook a privilege supper and go to privilege sleep.
posted by nola at 9:35 PM on March 28, 2010 [11 favorites]


The rest of us don't have that privilege and have to consider how to make our 4-digit postcodes fit in zipcodes that require 5 digits

I can help with this. If a form requires 5 digits and your postal code is only 4, put a zero in front of it.

So that's one problem solved. We've made progress here tonight, people.
posted by _aa_ at 9:37 PM on March 28, 2010 [14 favorites]


Luxury.

Some of us have six digit postal codes.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:41 PM on March 28, 2010


argybarg: I accept #1, but feel that as craichead said the vitrol would't be as bad if there wasn't defensiveness along with it.

zarq: The Mumbai bombings got immense press in the US media. The Malaysian church attacks didn't. This is why I said "US media" and not just "US-based". If CNN/Fox/Jon Stewart doesn't comment on it it doesn't seem to matter.

klangklangston: The country that invented the Internet doesn't have the most Internet users, nor does its region come close to Asia or Europe. It doesn't even have 50% Internet penetration.
posted by divabat at 9:42 PM on March 28, 2010


MetaFilter has become noticeably more "American" lately

No, it hasn't.

I trace it to the election of Obama and the mobilization of left-wing American Patriotism.

What about from 2000-2008 when it was the left-wing Patriotic Mobilization against George Bush?
posted by Cyrano at 9:48 PM on March 28, 2010


divabat: "Population numbers are a really crappy way to justify something's importance. So if it's a small country it doesn't matter? The Vatican doesn't have that many people and it still counts in world news (which increasingly has become "What the US finds important")."

divabat, of course population numbers aren't useful as a direct metric of much in this argument, but at the same time you ought not to simple dismiss the power of numbers.

My girlfriend (an Australian) and I (an American) are in California for awhile, and we talk and debate Australian and US politics all the time. It's a nice hobby.

Every once in a while we're talking about some aspect of Australian politics – often in regard to how things go differently with regard to voters and keeping abreast of things blah blah – and I'll drop in the little nugget that "The population of California is 1.5 times the population of all of Australia; if we were talking a population equivalency, ole Rudd doesn't even rule over all of California!" And then we chuckle and snark and she usually wins the argument anyways, but I like to try.

Anyways, the point I'm raising here is that I think to a certain extent a lot of folks who haven't been to the US have a genuine misunderstanding of how big this place is, both in terms of number of people and size. I don't mean this in a US-exceptionalism way; other countries have more people, and other countries are physically larger. But in terms of English-only-speaking people on the internet, it's likely that the majority are from the US. Like with the population equivalency before, I come from a small(ish) US state that has about 80% internet usage (roughly). Population-wise, that's still about 1/5th of Australia. It's a mind-bogglingly huge number in comparison.

So, if you take the population of all the mostly-English-only-English-speaking countries and add them together in two groups, UK+AU+NZ and US+Canada, the result is about 1:4. 85M versus 340M.

I'm not saying we shouldn't make an effort to get folks from the US to act nicer on the internet and play better with strangers, but it's worth remembering that for the most part, if you encounter a person who speaks English, and only English, on the internet, there's a good chance they're coming from North America.
posted by barnacles at 9:49 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


divabat: your comment about addresses was approximately 99x better (more specific, informative, insightful and honest) than the article you linked to. Why don't you write more about it on your own blog, where perhaps it will be so good that a random stranger will link to it on MetaFilter?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:50 PM on March 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


Divabat, a lot of stuff in this comment applies to Americans, as well. Plenty of us have names that don't make sense in web forms. Surprisingly, lots of us live in places where broadcast television is spotty or non-existent (it takes towers and rural places don't have the population density to support them). Even addresses within the US can be bloody tricky to put into traditional US address formats. Not all of us are white or speak English as a first language or grew up immersed in American culture. Some of us even grew up as part of tribes that get little to no coverage even locally, much less nationally.

The American media machine is not super-duper awesome. It sucks even for lots and lots of people supposedly "privileged" by it. Lumping all those people in with a ranty blog post about how much US-ians suck for making the internet an unwelcoming place does not make the best FPP.

People are not trying to argue that the internet isn't American centric. They're trying to argue that this was not a good FPP. That's all.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:50 PM on March 28, 2010 [8 favorites]


The US has major privilege and power over Internet content, and not many other countries (if at all) demand that foreign web content writers cater to their whims to be relevant. Saying "Dear US-ians who use the Internet" is a rhetorical device aimed at highlighting privilege that's often unconscious; even if you don't tend to accuse a Brit blogger of illiteracy, you can usually assume that an online form for a generic site (a.k.a. not one with a specific country focus) will speak to your culture and have forms that you understand. The rest of us don't have that privilege and have to consider how to make our 4-digit postcodes fit in zipcodes that require 5 digits, or split open phone numbers, or fit both Chinese and Christian names when your surname is smackbang in the middle.

Okay, these are all things that 1) would probably bug me if they happened to me all the time, and 2) go beyond annoying and into actually into inconvenient. If the FPP had been about this stuff, I think people's reactions would've been different. But it was filled with stuff that was wacked out in Bizarroland (thinking everyone who's not white is black? Wishing non-Americans "Happy Thanksgiving"? I don't want to say "No one does that", because I'm sure some people do, but not enough to merit having a whole country being called out for it).

If you want to have a discussion about online forms that default toward American address conventions, or firstname-lastname conventions, or probably about a bajillion things I don't even know about, that would probably make an awesome FPP. More "Stuff I Bet You Didn't Even Realize" and less "Ways in Which Americans are Bad, Some of Which are Completely Made-Up."
posted by 23skidoo at 9:50 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can we start talking about what a fucked up place Australia is now?

Don't get me wrong, I love Oz. Had a wonderful time there, fabulous people, great beef. But those minstrel dudes on TV, you know, whoa, that shit was fucked up.

Oh, wait, sorry. That was only fucked up through a USian cultural hegemony lens. Carry on.

posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:52 PM on March 28, 2010


divabat: "klangklangston: The country that invented the Internet doesn't have the most Internet users, nor does its region come close to Asia or Europe. It doesn't even have 50% Internet penetration"

Ummmm, divabat, the exact same website also says that 74% of Americans use the internet.

http://www.internetworldstats.com/am/us.htm

So does the world bank, incidentally.
posted by barnacles at 9:53 PM on March 28, 2010


Is this the thread to comment in for favourites?
posted by Pronoiac at 9:55 PM on March 28, 2010 [16 favorites]


Pronoiac: "Is this the thread to comment in for favourites?"

For U, anything!
posted by barnacles at 9:58 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm Canadian and flagged the shit outta that post. It was boring, pointless, obvious...

OMG a Canadian thought it was boring? That is some higher-dimensional boredom. Probably involves superstrings 'n' stuff.

I actually love Canadians
posted by lukemeister at 9:58 PM on March 28, 2010


the vitrol would't be as bad if there wasn't defensiveness along with it

The vitriol was in your link, divabat. That it splashed everywhere once you uncorked it is no surprise to anyone.

It seems to have worked exactly as intended.
posted by breezeway at 10:00 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


While you made all solid points, Deathalicious, and I agree with all of them, I regret to inform you that the Hotel Montreal is in Florence, Italy.

Oh horsefeathers! That's what I get for punching something into Google and then barely scanning the page.

Looks like most hotels in Montréal simply put English | Français on their front pages.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:04 PM on March 28, 2010


"The country that invented the Internet doesn't have the most Internet users, nor does its region come close to Asia or Europe. It doesn't even have 50% Internet penetration."

Yes, and? I mean, I realize that you want to fight over this, and that it's pretty easy to argue the case of the US from the position of a smug chauvinist, but if you seriously find the position of relative power mystifying, I don't know what to tell you aside from the opinion that you're doing a piss poor job of arguing. I mean, yeah, the US doesn't have the most users—it has the second most, and the country with the most (China) also doesn't have even 50 percent penetration. China's pretty unique in a lot of ways, but won't likely factor into English-language Internet usage conversations except abstractly until a lot more folks speak both Mandarin and English.

What do you want? Other folks have already given you the "Your concerns are valid" pat on the head, but your post still sucked, America's hegemony is complex and both positive and negative, and it's still not clear what you hope to accomplish.
posted by klangklangston at 10:04 PM on March 28, 2010 [11 favorites]


I thought it was a terrible post, but I do continually run into the problem of what to call citizens of the USA if I don't want to call them Americans, which I don't, since America -- or 'the Americas' if you prefer -- is/are a much bigger place than the US. I hate 'USians' but what alternatives are there?

I had this discussion on, of all places, a forum devoted to the Black Metal band Vintersorg. The users from South America (of which there is a high percentage) felt all sorts of offended over the US people calling themselves 'Americans', and the US people were offended that the South American people were offended. Both sides had legitimate points.

Finally, the best term that came out of that was 'US American' for referring to people in the USA. It was a rational discussion, everyone listened to each other, and it was devoid of such issues as the 'Tone Argument' and the like that seem to permeate these types of discussions.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:06 PM on March 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


I accept #1, but feel that as craichead said the vitrol would't be as bad if there wasn't defensiveness along with it.

Though, again, this is people reacting to (a) a bad post, which tends to put people on less-than-careful footing in the first place for better or for worse (I generally vote "worse"), and to what was (b) essentially a fight-starter of a link at that in terms of intentionally and aggressively flipping its readers the bird. There's defensiveness apropos of nothing, and there's defensiveness when the whole point of the exercise seems to be to bait it.

The "USian" thing is like gas on the flames. On the one hand, it's right to call that silly; on the other hand, it's an old, annoying argument that people have been through on mefi alone more times than I can recall offhand. You may not have meant specifically to bait people into annoyance by using/quoting it at all, in which case I can understand if the reaction seems weirdly overdone to you, but if you weren't aware that it's basically a taunt in general usage a lot of the time I guess maybe this thread has helped sort of underscore that fact. It's as poor a footing from which to start a conversation about mutual understanding as any other kind of intentional refusal to use someone's own preferred name or terminology. It sucks when thoughtless Americans do it, and it sucks when anybody else does it.

This is all detail stuff. Again, I sympathize with your frustration about having the post yanked, but it was just not a good post for formal reasons, and a careful look at what gets deleted here on regular basis will bear that out, and as much as I can dig your annoyance I think the tack you initially took with this metatalk post and the implications you laid out about what Matt's and us mods in general's motivations were was genuinely crappy and unfair.

Like other folks have said, I think there's a good post out there to be made about US-centricism on the internet. I think it's a legitimate and interesting topic and well worth talking about. I'd guess that many, many of your fellow mefites don't particularly disagree with that, either, as much as I am positive that no two of us will agree on every little detail. That's Metafilter for you. But I think it's doable. It just needs to be done with a lot more care and building off stronger, less fight-starting sources.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:07 PM on March 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


flapjax: The Hey Hey It's Saturday thing was also deeply offensive to Aboriginal and Indigenous people, for similar reasons, but the Australian media only decided to feature a Facebook argument between two Aboriginal drag queens as the "representative for Aboriginal views" on the topic.

23skidoo: I like your idea, but to me it's still like linking to most of the Internet, and then I'd be called out for not putting this on my own blog. Incidentally, I've written about it quite a few times on my two busiest blogs, but nothing's come up on Mefi yet and I really don't want to write linkbait.
posted by divabat at 10:08 PM on March 28, 2010


unSane: I thought it was a terrible post, but I do continually run into the problem of what to call citizens of the USA if I don't want to call them Americans, which I don't, since America -- or 'the Americas' if you prefer -- is/are a much bigger place than the US. I hate 'USians' but what alternatives are there

In the line of EB White, I call them Yankees. Sometimes 'yanks,' but never 'yankers.' Or at least practically never.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:09 PM on March 28, 2010


Not seppos?
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 10:26 PM on March 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


So, it is clear divabat is engaging in the time-honored tactic of very, very selectively choosing who to reply to (or even acknowledge - and hows that for privilege?) in order to postpone the admission that this whole tantrum was completely unnecessary but I would really like to know how that post about broadband penetration rates is relevant to a website that is by and for people who speak English?
posted by Riemann at 10:30 PM on March 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


It's going on 2:00 in the morning. Let's continue this in the morning.
posted by milarepa at 10:31 PM on March 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


RE: "Tone Arguments" and the moderation on that Feministe blog. Gosh it is hateful. It allows one to ignore statements opposite to yours without trying in good faith to determine the interlocutor's point and disagree with it rationally. The idea that if someone criticizes you in a way you don't like you can sweep them under the rug based on some web of jargon brought me back so strongly to freshman year of college in 1995--where colleagues put tapestries on their ceilings and categorized my hatred of Ani DiFrancos music as "patriarchal womb envy"--that I had to go watch 30 Rock s1 on repeat until I could breathe without tasting the acrid patchouli of self-righteousness again.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:35 PM on March 28, 2010 [12 favorites]


The rest of us don't have that privilege and have to consider how to make our 4-digit postcodes fit in zipcodes that require 5 digits, or split open phone numbers, or fit both Chinese and Christian names when your surname is smackbang in the middle

These are all problems that I have (yes, really, and boy do I empathize with you about the postcode/zipcode thing, as the forms don't believe mine exists), and problems that a significant number of my neighbors have. So when you say, 'the rest of us' and exclude United Statesians (a compromise on that one--it's a translation of estadounidenses alluded to above) who do experience the issues you're talking about, it tends to make us a bit cranky. It's hard to generalize about a country this big. Being shoved into one ill-fitting box and told to stand in the corner is not a great way to get the conversation on US dominance of internet culture started.

There's definitely an argument to be made about (US) American exceptionalism and its unconscious infliction of American culture on everyone through the means of the Internet. I see it all the time when there's a note on Wikipedia about an entry needing to be reframed in a less-US centric way because it's a global concept. The first time I saw that, I did a double-take because my privilege hadn't even noted it. The next time? A nod, and an appreciation for the global examples that had clearly been added. Again, I think of the racism and sexism threads, where the point has been made many times that calling someone's actions racist or sexist makes them react as though they've been accused of being inherently racist and sexist themselves. The Feministe poster really framed things in a way guaranteed to get people to react emotionally rather than constructively. Many people have noted in this thread that they would welcome a different post that touched on the same topic, so I would absolutely urge you to consider doing a new FPP on the topic with a different article or articles.
posted by librarylis at 10:37 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


mmmm... penetration...

*drools*
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:39 PM on March 28, 2010


divabat: "I thought it was direct, honest, and wasn't wishy-washy. But obviously I'm likely alone amongst Mefites with this, and there's no real point trying to argue this side with anyone else as it's a matter of taste and preference in writing style."

Subjectivity can go only so far. Sure there's emotion, and emotion is great, but there's no argument.
posted by roll truck roll at 10:41 PM on March 28, 2010


I'm one of the people that didn't have anything useful to add to the comments.

The blog made me go GRAR for the following reasons:

1) I am an American.

2) I live in a very racially diverse community that I interact with on a daily basis. (Korean, Chinese, Black, European, Jewish, Haitian, Ethiopian, Latinos, Mexicans) and let me make a snarky comment here: They are all Americans On The Internet at some point in their day, where do you think YouTube comments come from?

3) I couldn't understand the point she was trying to make about "forcing ideas about race and racism" on non-USians (who the hell thought up that shorthand? It's a pain in the ass just to even type it). Racism works differently in other countries? Hmm that's interesting could you explain the reasoning behind that statement? "RAGE RAGE ARGH HAVE SOME RESPECT GRAR"

4) I have never ever in my life ever heard a non-black person in real life say the phrase "person of color." I've only heard black people say that, and probably only twice at that.

5)She did also write that "if it's not about you, it's not about you." At first I was like "wtf does that even mean", but then I was like "whatever I'll just take it at face value."

6) Yeah, "Chally" is touching on some very valid points about the ramifications of the the colonialisation of the compartmentalization of whatever, but she didn't go into any of that.

7) She kept jumping back and forth between "We" and "I". Who is this "we" that she keeps talking about? And why is she even saying "I"?
"Sometimes I’m watching TV and I’ve gotten so used to hearing USian accents all the time it doesn’t even register that I’m watching a program from the United States."
Who cares?! That's a personal problem! Does she know that all American TV shows use Californian accents unless the characters are depicted as from being somewhere else? But you see, right now I'm doing the exact same thing that Chally is doing. I'm going all GRAR about some regional issue that most people probably don't know about but instead of making a thoughtful piece of writing about it I'm just gonna get all vindictive about it because arggh argggh arrghgh run on sentence.

8) Cultural references? I don't even know what eponysterical means but it doesn't piss me off that thousands of people use the phrase in things that I read and they get all the favorites.

tl;dr
This doesn't apply to me and still made me go GRAR and I didn't learn anything so that's why I looked like an ignorant fool to you.
posted by bam at 10:53 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


I actually think the use of "USians" is appropriate in the context of the rant, given that I've always interpreted it to suggest the navel-gazing nature of Americans (of which I am one), US vs THEM and all that.

Or have I been overthinking it?
posted by davejay at 10:58 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's interesting that even on Feministe - which, if righteous rage at people with privilege were a source of energy, could power a medium-sized industrialized country most nights - they closed the comments because too many people were disagreeing with the author.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 11:20 PM on March 28, 2010


That particular blogpost touched on a little pet-peeve of mine, when Anglophone non-Americans presume to speak for the rest of the world against Americans. We're perfectly capable of having our own opinions.

rtha: The argument that other people in North, Central, and South America are also "Americans" is horseshit. Go to Guatemala and call them Americans.

Well, in reading South American literature I come across that every once in a while, though usually it's an appeal to cross-national, pan-continental solidarity. And, incidentally, seems only to be applied to Spanish speaking Americans, not speakers of Portuguese, Creole, English, French, Dutch, Quechua or any of the other languages of the Americas. Pan-Americanism is a fairly strong movement in Latin America.

Actually, I believe that Orson Scott Card (of all people) once wrote a story advocating Pan-Americanism.
posted by Kattullus at 11:23 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jesus, divabat. I usually like your posts, but it's nuts how off you are on this one. That article was stupid, it was poorly-written, and worse still it was calling out a non-issue that has no bearing whatsoever in the real world.

Seriously, if you can point to one single example of USians arrogantly presuming all racial politics in the world must be their own, a case where USians are more focused on themselves than other people from the rest of the world are, I'll buy you a beer.

Americans are guilty of a lot of things, and I will be the very first to call us out on them. We are uncultured, we are boorish, we are often loud (at least if we come from the eastern part of the continent), we are dull, we are boring, we are obsessed with 'lifestyle' and consuming goods. We're the biggest stooges in the history of the world, and we've tied our destinies to our massive corporations. All of these are obnoxious things.

But when I was in Pamplona for the San Fermines three years ago, I met some of the most racist, boorish, self-centered Australians you'll ever know. They thought their racial issues should be impressed upon the world. They assumed that the racist categories they'd been trained in should be acted on across the globe. Seriously, I'm not trying to say that anybody's better than anybody else - I only want to say that things are the same all over. Because they are. Wander around Europe and tell me that people don't have their own shit that they assume is universal.

Seriously, divabat. You may find this annoying on the internet, I don't know. But it's certainly not an American trait. All over the world people think their own dynamics - racial, social and otherwise - are universal.

Frankly, it's funny to me, because it seems like Aussies and Europeans have started to assume automatically that anything that annoys them in the world can just be blamed on the Americans. But here we are, arguing this out, as if it's actually a problem for anybody anywhere.
posted by koeselitz at 11:24 PM on March 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


divabat: "I didn't invent the term US-ians and it's not exclusive to Feministe.

"I didn't include examples initially because this seemed like something that permeates the web for me. People arguing about their "First Amendment rights" when making a comment that gets cut down. Being asked what I'm doing at 3am in the morning, except it's not. Having issues related to my cultures or my countries being shunted into the "foreign news" category even though the websites aren't specifically about any one country. Even putting in names and addresses assume that every country follows US conventions! Just looking at, say, my Tumblr feed or my Google Reader I see more references to US pop culture than anyone else's, even Australian pop culture (and I *live* here!). I've seen comments from Americans saying that a Canadian or British person is illiterate because they spelt "colour" with a "u". Saying that you don't recognise the characters of most contemporary US TV shows "elitist" - "ooh look I'm so indie I don't watch populist pop culture like you peons ooo" - even though it's more because not all of them air here and you don't tend to watch TV anyway because you have other habits.

"I'm not sure why Chally (The Feministe contributor) didn't put examples; I don't know her and I got the article off another site. But I didn't put examples because to me it would have been like linking about 75% of the Internet.
"

Why are you taking such personal ownership of the critiques of this blog post? It isn't your job to do a bunch of research, cite examples, and in general put together a post that most successfully espouses your personal ideology on MetaFilter. The whole idea is that you found something on the web that someone else created, and that you feel that it is high quality and worth sharing. The complaints about phrasing, hyperbole, generalizations, lack of examples — they're complaints about the quality of the blog post you linked, an indication that perhaps it's not an ideal FPP for MetaFilter. The way you've phrased this reply makes me think you feel these complaints are against you personally (and actually makes me wonder if this is some thinly-veiled self-link).

It appears this is a subject about which you have very strong feelings. That's sort of dangerous, because it means your gauge of whether a single-link blog post is a good FPP may be biased. If you found a similarly poorly cited, inflammatory, and hyperbolic blog post, but you didn't strongly agree with its central theme, would you feel that it's "best of the web" and deserves an FPP? Remember that, in general, a rant on a blog about anything is considered a pretty weak FPP.

If you really need to express your personal beliefs about anything in particular, you need to find an outlet other than MetaFilter's front page. Perhaps, you know, GYOB and post a link to it in Projects. The front page isn't a general purpose soapbox for you (or anyone) to express yourself.
posted by knave at 11:25 PM on March 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


MLIS: "Top shelf trolling, thanks for that."

No, it's not, people disagree with you without trolling. Very rude accusation.

Chocolate Pickle: "Man, it's been a while since I've seen such a grade-A-prime flameout around here."

It's not a flameout unless they actually leave. Just so you know.

Brandon Blatcher: "Seriously, fuck you."

Some comments and an article you don't like draw this response? Really?

iamkimiam: "The United States is not the world. [presupposes that Americans think it is] It’s not even the centre of the universe. [presupposes that all Americans think the world revolves around them.] "

No, it really doesn't presuppose anything. It is simply stating that the United States is not the world. If I say "it's really rainy today" that doesn't presuppose that you don't know that it's rainy.

Riemann: "So, it is clear divabat is engaging in the time-honored tactic of very, very selectively choosing who to reply to (or even acknowledge - and hows that for privilege?)"

This is an odd way to use the word "privilege".

bam: "4) I have never ever in my life ever heard a non-black person in real life say the phrase "person of color." I've only heard black people say that, and probably only twice at that."

I hear it all the time.

I think it's bizarre how a bad FPP is getting so much vitriol. I have a hard time attributing it solely to the quality of the post. The fact that it was so heavily flagged is shocking to me. Maybe that's because I read this kind of criticism a lot and it doesn't bother me when people stereotype Americans. It lists a lot of relatively common sources of frustration among non-Americans and a relatively common way of expressing that frustration.

If someone being angry or upset really makes you unable to comprehend their points, fine, but it's a poor excuse to dismiss something out of hand. It's not like someone is yelling in your face until you get too flustered to think--which would reasonably make thinking difficult.

"USian" is not a big deal, either way.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:28 PM on March 28, 2010 [7 favorites]


paisley henosis: “In the line of EB White, I call them Yankees.”

Yeah. Whenever I meet somebody from England, I tend to refer to them as "Cockneys."
posted by koeselitz at 11:28 PM on March 28, 2010 [8 favorites]


knave: "The way you've phrased this reply makes me think you feel these complaints are against you personally (and actually makes me wonder if this is some thinly-veiled self-link)."

Really? The OP didn't even link her blog in this thread when given the chance, in order to avoid self-promotion.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:29 PM on March 28, 2010


I used to like Americans, but since Obama killed the Special Relationship, you're all just USians to me.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:33 PM on March 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


internet fraud...: Really? The OP didn't even link her blog in this thread when given the chance, in order to avoid self-promotion.

You're right, and I don't mean to accuse. My main point is how strange it seems to me the level of personal ownership divabat is taking of this material, presumably written by someone she doesn't know at all.
posted by knave at 11:34 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Pan-Americanism is a fairly strong movement in Latin America

Kattullus: Pan-Americanism is a fairly strong movement in Latin America.

Soy Loco Por Ti, América

posted by hydrophonic at 11:35 PM on March 28, 2010


What country invented the internet?

Well, this bit is the World Wide Web. And what was the nationality of the man who invented the Web?

I bet Tim Berners-Lee would let us use the c-word when we felt like it.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:39 PM on March 28, 2010 [9 favorites]


Maybe Robert Caillau or Eelco van Asperen wouldn't like it it you did.

Caillau, by the by, is the best possible answer when asked to name a famous Belgian.
posted by Kattullus at 11:47 PM on March 28, 2010


I thought it was a terrible post, but I do continually run into the problem of what to call citizens of the USA if I don't want to call them Americans, which I don't, since America -- or 'the Americas' if you prefer -- is/are a much bigger place than the US. I hate 'USians' but what alternatives are there?

It is common that a country and a geographic region share a name but are not geographically the same. For example, The Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo which are both part of the Congo Basin. Malaysia is quite different from the Malay Peninsula. The Republic of India is only one of the countries that make up the Indian Subcontinent. And of course the United States of America is one the countries that make up the North American Continent.

Furthermore, just like you would call someone from the Commonwealth of Australia, an Australian, or someone from the Federal Republic of Germany, a German, you should call someone from the United States of America, an American.

In conclusion USAian is a fucking idiotic term.
posted by afu at 11:47 PM on March 28, 2010 [26 favorites]


me: Caillau, by the by, is the best possible answer when asked to name a famous Belgian.

Though you should probably spell his name right. It's Cailliau, dammit.

posted by Kattullus at 11:55 PM on March 28, 2010


Cailliau, Calais, oh frabjous day
posted by klangklangston at 12:05 AM on March 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


i was going to go to bat for.. divabat, until i read the article, which in my opinion is ridin' dirty.
posted by phaedon at 12:06 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


How about Audrey Kathleen Ruston, who many know as Audrey Hepburn?

I'm still going for Adolph Saxe, though.

posted by Wolof at 12:06 AM on March 29, 2010


Dominique-inique-inique ...
posted by Wolof at 12:10 AM on March 29, 2010


I prefer to think of it as Vespucciland. My home sweet home.
posted by trip and a half at 12:15 AM on March 29, 2010


Arrrrgggghhhh, why did the "people of color" issue have to be tied in there? Can someone link to a cogent discussion that clarifies and expounds the author's point? Preferably one that offers an alternative, so that if I'm trying to discuss, say, instances of non-white protagonists on book covers, I can use a descriptor that doesn't use white as its key term.
posted by redsparkler at 12:15 AM on March 29, 2010


Not all non-white people are black. Stop referring to us as such. In fact, neither do all non-white people fit into that routine construction of ‘black/Latino/Asian’ that you so frequently employ.

I've never seen or heard this type of things happening on the internet or in real life.


I guess you missed the KFC cricket ad on MeFi where a bunch of pig-ignorant US MeFites were trying to lecture all and sundry about how there was no difference between Jamaicans and black US citizens. Because, boy howdy, it sure seems to pop up a bunch when certain citizens of the USA seem to have difficulty understanding that a bunch of templates falling out of "the black experience in the US" may only be marginally relevant to "people who are not white elsewhere in the world."

MetaFilter has become noticeably more "American" lately -- I trace it to the election of Obama and the mobilization of left-wing American Patriotism.

This is certainly something I've noticed and commented on - Australians seem to be the favourite whipping boy of the Ugly Lefty American seeking to tell everyone else how imperfect they are, now that Americans have solved all their problems by electing a black guy.

divabat may have gone off half-cocked, but responses by nola and others mostly reinforce that ugly, bigoted assumptions of US cultural supremecy are not the purview of Pat Buchanan.
posted by rodgerd at 12:33 AM on March 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


What country invented the internet?

Which country invented computers?
posted by rodgerd at 12:34 AM on March 29, 2010


In my perception Metafilter is becoming more parochial all the time, less interesting, and less worth hanging around.

MeFi has long been my favourite site on the net, so it makes me sad to agree, but agree I do. It would be interesting to know whether the percentage of sign-ups from countries outside the US is rising or falling; I can't help suspecting the later.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:36 AM on March 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't mind a term for residents of the US that isn't "Americans".

But, I don't like "USian". Because I can't figure out how to pronounce it rationally.

It's either "ussian", which is silly, since pretty much nobody ever calls the USA "the us" [like the plural personal pronoun].

Or it's "yoo-ess-ian", which is similarly silly, since it mixes an abbreviation with a suffix. It rolls off the tongue about as well as ketchup.

In the line of EB White, I call them Yankees. Sometimes 'yanks,' but never 'yankers.' Or at least practically never.

Yeah, I'd almost go for that, but growing up in southern Missouri, "yankee" was fighting words. To me it still means somebody from above the Mason-Dixon Line.
posted by Netzapper at 12:44 AM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


People here have generally been very self-congratulatory about the sites' examination of racism and sexism among users, and the resultant efforts in long Meta threads to understand these concerns and to try & adjust their behaviour and speech accordingly.

When the concern expressed is that of US hegemony though, the ranks close, anecdotal 'evidence' rules the day, and the response loud and clear is that la la la this is wrong, this is not happening, how can you paint a whole citizenry with the brush of prejudice, etc.

Racism and sexism are issues of power imbalance, so is cultural hegemony. Why does Mefi treat racism and sexism as issues of deadly seriousness while hegemony gets jokes, flags, and abuse?

It's interesting, that.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:49 AM on March 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


Oh. My. God. Leaving the thread forever now.
posted by bam at 1:13 AM on March 29, 2010


I just came in to say that I'm a "Mexican-American" living in the UK, with a Portuguese wife, who thinks the world and the Internet are far too US-centric.

I also would have deleted the post because its a thin, ranty op-ed. The only thing I would have regretted is that it was not a better post.
posted by vacapinta at 1:19 AM on March 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


Racism and sexism are issues of power imbalance, so is cultural hegemony. Why does Mefi treat racism and sexism as issues of deadly seriousness while hegemony gets jokes, flags, and abuse?

It's interesting, that.


Why don't you tell us what you actually think, instead of being a passive aggressive little troll.
posted by afu at 1:28 AM on March 29, 2010


Too much about Americans and their views on the internet? Why not post a rant about Americans and their views? That'll fix it.
posted by Phanx at 1:53 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ugh the tone of this discussion, but I'd like to offer an observation.

"...a lot of Mefites fall into the trap of not bothering to read the links and contribute to threads outside their immediate knowledge circle."

I'd characterize it slightly differently. I read the links but they are only a synopsis of whatever issue is at hand, and my knowledge of other countries politics or culture is not as great as my knowledge of my own. I've been reading about politics here in my country for better than 3 decades so I'm comfortable offering an opinion. I don't comment in threads about other countries because a) I often don't know what the fuck I'm talking about and b) I don't want to be guilty of interpreting other countries or cultures through my particular lens. More often than not the most useful thing I can do is read.

My silence is a show of respect and evidence of my understanding that I am somewhat ignorant, it does not demonstrate a lack of interest.
posted by vapidave at 1:56 AM on March 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


The original link was a great post for Feministe. As part of the on-going dialogue on that site (and others that it shares readership with, like Pam's House Blend, Shakesville, etc.) it highlighted an ongoing issue in a way obviously intended to relieve the poster's frustration. Yes, the comments got kinda shouty but inevitably the conversation keeps going, in the comments on future posts and in posts on other sites.

For the same reason, I think it was a lousy link for Mefi. We don't have a history with the poster, we don't have links to the ongoing conversation, and we don't know where that conversation started and where it is now; all we have is this frustrated exclamation point. Hell, I have these particular blogs in my RSS reader (not Pam's any more, though, for reasons too tedious to go into) but I don't often click through, and I'm often a little bewildered by stuff that seems (to me) to have come out of the blue, originating as much stuff does in the comments of previous posts.

As part of a continuing conversation, it serves a purpose. Standing alone, it's flamebait. Which is a shame, since the web is US-centric and it does suck sometimes; I've burned my fingers getting involved in stuff that assumed a level of US-specific knowledge that I didn't have, and I've said all sorts of ugly stuff because of that. And it is frustrating that many Americans don't seem to realise how much they colonise English-language discussions and yank international conversations round to American interests, and that's definitely a topic I think Mefi could benefit by addressing. But this wasn't the FPP to spark it.

I'm British and I do try to be aware that British interests are overrepresented on the web for many reasons (rich country, English as native tongue, and so on), but I also try not to flip out when people tell me I'm fucking up, even if they seem pretty angry when they do so, because I know that it's not necessarily me, personally, who's pissed them off so much, it's just that I've unthinkingly stepped into their nest of vipers with extremely thick socks on and asked them about all those bites on their legs.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:13 AM on March 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


I read the first paragraph of that Feministe link, and it was a shrill screed adressing a very interesting topic that I would love to see discussed. The link was delete-worthy. Not the topic, the topic was great. I would love to see a non-ranty post addressing the non-universality of American racial dynamics. But the post has to have more meat and less attitude, so as to create a discussion, not a shout fest.
posted by molecicco at 2:22 AM on March 29, 2010


And (I'm having such a problem with "and another thing"-ism in my comments lately) regarding the comments about said rant being posted on a blog with a .us domain: that's another example of this same issue. Of all the feminist, anti-racism, etc. web sites on the web, the ones that get big are almost always the ones started by Americans, covering American interests, because Americans make up so much of the web audience. So they get big and start attracting guest bloggers and people from other countries because the smaller blogs and journals will link to interesting stuff posted at the big blogs (the little blogs get linked to as well, but readers don't tend to stick around and contribute as much) and so the big blogs get bigger. The international readership starts to think of these big blogs as a home on the web, a safe space to discuss feminism, racism, etc.

Inevitably this means that the web discourse on feminism etc. remains US-centric, but most international readers are okay with that since that's the implicit contract you sign when you start to participate: I will end up in contact with a lot of Americans and will have to parse their culture invisibly while explaining the smallest details of mine if I want to remain involved. But then some US people act particularly cluelessly, some international people get more riled up than perhaps they've ever done before, and a big fight ensues.

Then some arsewipe gleefully points to the .us domain and suggests that, if they want to discuss stuff related to their own countries, they shouldn't come to an American blog! Cue a collective head-desk.

I'm not calling Mefi people who pointed out the domain name arsewipes because they're not part of the feminist blog community, I assume, but people from within who do so (and they have) definitely are.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:30 AM on March 29, 2010 [11 favorites]


So, it is clear divabat is engaging in the time-honored tactic of very, very selectively choosing who to reply to

Can we just not do that shit here? Please?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:48 AM on March 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


As a non-American, I'll say that the post seemed ranty to me. It makes some very good points (e.g. I've had some very odd conversations with Americans who couldn't understand that their attitudes toward and conventions around race don't extend to the rest of the world), but makes them poorly. If nothing else, when you're putting forward a viewpoint that's likely to upset your audience, it doesn't help to do it in an angry and shouty manner.

With that said, I agree that it's an interesting contrast with a lot of racism/sexism threads I've read on metafilter and elsewhere. Men/white people often get defensive and annoyed in those discussions, because it is very difficult to read an article along the lines of "the problem with men is..." or "white people need to stop doing..." without taking it personally, as an accusation. People who see an article making blanket statements like that and speak up to say that "not all of us are like this" or, worse "I'm not like this" are told to unpack their priviliges, or that they shouldn't assume that this (blanket) statement is aimed at them.

So, if there's any overlap between people offended by this article and people who don't see why men occasionally get annoyed by the implied accusations in sexism threads or whites in racism threads (all a result of over-broad generalisations of the worst habits to the entire group), please bear in mnd how this has made you feel and that it's a perfectly valid response.
posted by metaBugs at 2:51 AM on March 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


In the interests of removing USians from the worldwide lexicon, using a more specific term than "Americans", and irritating as many neocons as possible, I shall henceforth refer to the USA as "Obamaland" and all citizens as "Obamis".

Feel free to applaud my genius at your leisure.
posted by elizardbits at 2:53 AM on March 29, 2010


Derail: the option for "black" in MeTa's own survey was "African American." That would have confused me as to how to answer if I wasn't white.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:53 AM on March 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


Thanks, ArmyOfKittens, for the context and explanations. I can really understand, now, why the article was written the way it was. Special thanks for explaining the (insidious) mechanism by which some U.S.-centric blogs have managed to accrete dominion over parts of online race and gender discourse. It's not something I ever thought about, but it makes perfect sense that things would fall out that way.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 2:54 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is the best reaction to the use of Usain. ever.
posted by tellurian at 3:04 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


MuffinMan: "Derail: the option for "black" in MeTa's own survey was "African American." That would have confused me as to how to answer if I wasn't white"

- Yes, I only hunt Blackulas.
- You only hunt African-American vampires?
- No, Sometimes I hunt British vampires. They don't have African-Americans in England.
- Oh yeah, good point.
- So I hunt Blackulas.
- I was just trying to be--
- Man, I specialize in hunting black vampires. I don't know what the PC name for that is.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:04 AM on March 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


Mefi isn't there to keep you in your comfort zone, only posting things you're aware about.

Personally, not having a magical omniscient subconscious, I usually read the things I'm not aware about, and then by the time I understand enough to comment someone else has already said something that represents my perspective, usually in a more articulate fashion than I would have. So I favorite that comment.

As for my comfort zone, I challenge myself to the limit of my time and ability. I'm a monoglot because I have some deficits in my ability to learn a foreign language despite repeat attempts, so I'm confined to BBC World, the Economist, and various English language news sources for information about world politics, history, and economic news. This means I have opinions on things like the Icelandic financial crisis, but even there, people with more domain specific knowledge said all that I wanted to on the subject before I even had time to type up a comment.

But it's odd to me that you are complaining about USian cultural hegemony and then inviting it by trying to get us to express our USian opinion on subjects outside of our experience. Isn't this essentially the problem? Don't we have enough of ignorant USians forcing our economic policies via the IMF/World Bank (not entirely a US institution, but still), our cultural policies via missionaries, and our political policies through coups and military interventionism?

Anyway, ever since the elimination of the USSRian empire, the sole superpower status of the USians, barely held in check by the PRCians, has made us, for better or worse, the single most influential country on the Earth (for now). I'm sure someday, your country will have its time in the sun, and you can look forward to spending twice as much of your GDP on military expenditures, and having a bunch of idiots in your gov't and news talk about how other countries would be better off if they were more like yours no matter how nonsensical the difference in infrastructure or culture makes the comment. Also, you can look forward to embroiling yourself in foreign interventions that can never be fully disentangled from (although Australia has a head start in this particular area considering its relative power in the world).
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:20 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Kattullus
posted by adamvasco at 3:27 AM on March 29, 2010


So, it is clear divabat is engaging in the time-honored tactic of very, very selectively choosing who to reply to

Blazecock Pileon:Can we just not do that shit here? Please?


I agree with BP, its goddamn bullshit... I mean, ending a sentence in a preposition?

Seriously though, if you haven't been at the bottom of a Metatalk dogpile before it's hard to realize how amazingly long it takes to respond to everyone. Especially without getting defensive or sticking your foot in your mouth, or both.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:28 AM on March 29, 2010


Kattullus

Wha? I don't get it. Well, maybe I get it. Here. Let me give it a shot:

adamvasco

Did I do it right?
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 3:35 AM on March 29, 2010


MuffinMan: Derail: the option for "black" in MeTa's own survey was "African American." That would have confused me as to how to answer if I wasn't white.

There you Brits go again, presuming all non-white people to be African-USian
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 3:51 AM on March 29, 2010


All the UK forms I've filled out tend to have the broad categories of

-Black (African and Carribean)
-Asian (includes the Indian subcontinent)
-White

So, whereas in the US I always filled out the Hispanic/Latino dot, over here in the UK thats not really a category and so ... I'm White.

I blame it on the lack of sun.
posted by vacapinta at 4:07 AM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Vacapinta, I hear you. Unless you spend much time in a specific bit of South London, Latinos don't feature on the radar much.

I think you need to take the cue from Kiwi rugby player Shane Howarth. Having already played for New Zealand Maori he then went on to play for Wales, supposedly qualifying on the basis of a Welsh grandparent. When it was discovered that the grandparent in question was not Welsh, his lawyer said "in his heart, Shane genuinely feels Welsh."
posted by MuffinMan at 4:15 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd like to mention that for most of the 20th century Brazil was called "Republica dos Estados Unidos do Brasil" (I'm sure you can work out the translation for that). And, in fact, most of the current federative republics had a name like that one time or the other. As such, I find the term US-ian to be offensively American-centric.

I'd also like to point out that the German term for German (Deutsch) is simply the German word for "people". That's so German-centric. There are lots of people outside of Germany who are people too. Do they consider non-Germans to be non-people? Is Soylent Green made of Germans?
posted by qvantamon at 4:39 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


You all seem quite angry about this.

Rather than saying - Nah, I don't actually agree with this, and hey - here's a bunch of evidence to prove it incorrect, the American response seems to be one of raging incandescence.

America... Join me at camera three please.

You're a big powerful country. You stand on your own. You've over 200 years of standing on your own. You've proved your big-country credentials (genocide, wars, economic success). Just take pride in that fact, and try to wrap your head around the fact that you're not the little guy being bullied any more.

The God Damned Iranians seem to have less of a chip on their shoulders than you guys. Just stop it. You may have once been bullied, but you've been down the gym and you're all beefy now. You don't need to shout as hard to be heard. You don't need to hit back as hard to stop people acting up.

Your American Show "Spiderman" has this quote: "With great power comes great responsibility." You need to have a good hard look at this quote.

So yep. Every now and again, us kids act up a bit. We're pretty angry at you and your countrymen for any number of things. But you're the guys with the big fucking stick. Just take a few minutes out of your Crystal-Meth induced rage and look down. And stop it with the small man syndrome.
posted by seanyboy at 4:47 AM on March 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


Seanyboy, this is America speaking... Oh, wait, I'm not America! I'm just one guy who lives here, not the whole fucking country.
posted by longsleeves at 4:55 AM on March 29, 2010 [14 favorites]


divabat, as I've often said here I'm an independent antiracist activist. I live in the US, I'm not white or black (To be totally precise, I am half Chinese - from Tai Shan and half Brit - combo of Welsh, Scot and English, and my Chinese Grandfather was the immigrant while it was some combination of Great Grandparents and Great Great Grandparents on my mother's side).

I totally understand getting an "Oh! That's it!" head of steam up and I totally understand wanting to share it here. The community here is big and sprawling but also pretty damned intelligent. It would be great to have a big ol' confab about racism in the U.S. on MetaFilter and really get that great discussion energy pointed toward that issue.

I do think that the article you liked to was styled as to be an angry piece of flamebait and I don't think that your reposting of it was particularly deep or patterned or wise or contextual, as it needed to be to work well on Metafilter. It was one link with very little independent, unbiased content or even contrasting viewpoints. I've seen some of your other posts and this one didn't come up to snuff.

I am completely unsurprised that it was deleted off of MetaFilter, and I think that the mods are largely correct as to why they deleted your post.

One of the reasons I'm an independent antiracist activist is that I feel that posts like these do no good. And in this I know I differ from a lot of very well-thought-of contemporary online antiracist activists.

I feel that posts like these full of culture clash and unexplained assumptions which strike the intended audience as an unthinking GRARRY rant from a militant and tend to alienate the intended audience. They also waste our time as antiracist activists. Being that confrontational will always get defensiveness up and then you will not make progress with your antiracist activism.

All that said, I totally understand both having the impulse and caving to it. I just don't understand not understanding where your path will lead you enough to get self-righteous when the inevitable (your post getting deleted) happens.

One of the things I really like about the Metafilter audience is that we tend to be sophisticated. The thing that gets you is a good chance at sophisticated discussion. The thing it doesn't get you is the ability to slip crappy posts past us and expect us to play. I'd love to see a post like yours in the blue and I'd love to read/take part in the discussion. But I'd also like to see a post like yours (with similar subject matter) be good enough to get over the bar and show willing to make it a dialog instead of just a ranty piece of flamebait.

Your post wasn't that good. That it wasn't that good is something you can fix next time, but don't expect a free ride just because it's a post about racism. And I don't agree that its deletion was racist. The mods are very good here and though they may have racism in them (as we all do) it's really not my impression that their deletion patterns reflect a racist agenda (intentional or not).
posted by kalessin at 4:58 AM on March 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


Finally, the best term that came out of that was 'US American' for referring to people in the USA.

Thanks. I quite like that. I know a lot of *cough* US Americans *cough* don't see this as a valid concern and clearly there are plenty more specific striations of 'American' (North American, South American, Latin American, Canadian, Mexican etc) to go around, but there are contexts in which 'American' is ambiguous enough that I want to clarify it, and also (as a logic nerd) it bugs me that 'North American' is a superset of 'American' while 'South American' is disjoint from 'American' in the conventional usage.

It's like 'Dark Red' encompassing all 'Red' things, while 'Light Red' doesn't contain any 'Red' things.
posted by unSane at 4:59 AM on March 29, 2010


America... Join me at camera three please.

For the nth time, we're not alike. Some of us think camera three is socialist commie plot, some of think camera is societal right, and others think we should copy Canada's camera three.

If you want to point out that America isn't the center of the world or the universe, that's fine, go for it. There are many other fascinating countries and cultures in the world and there are many Americans who'd love to hear about them.

If, on the other hand, you just want to lecture about terrible we are and how you can teach us so very, very much, well good luck on getting your point across, you dirty foreigner.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:01 AM on March 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


longsleeves: I guess the fact that everyone is an individual means we can't have a discussion about groups. Thanks. That makes things easy for *everyone*.
posted by seanyboy at 5:03 AM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Popcorn futures have now peaked. Sold them for a tidy profit though.
posted by unSane at 5:07 AM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


I guess the fact that everyone is an individual means we can't have a discussion about groups.

The problem is that there wasn't a discussion, just ranty screed, which when called on being a ranty screed, produced another ranty screed, tinged with a hint of overinflated righteousness and little thought, about how unfair and racist all Americans are.

Unsurprisingly, discussion has happened.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:08 AM on March 29, 2010


er, HASN'T happened...
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:08 AM on March 29, 2010


In fact, if you're saying anything here, you're reinforcing the notion that Americans idolize individuality and shun collective responsibility.
posted by seanyboy at 5:12 AM on March 29, 2010


In fact, if you're saying anything here, you're reinforcing the notion that Americans idolize individuality and shun collective responsibility.

Jeebus H Christ, some of you people are tiresome.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:16 AM on March 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


Derail: the option for "black" in MeTa's own survey was "African American." That would have confused me as to how to answer if I wasn't white.
I thought it was a strange question even though I am white. It assumes a lot about race that is simply not relevant in other countries. I have never needed to fill out my race on a form. The only thing that is asked here (I'm in the Netherlands) is "country of birth/country of birth of your parents". "Race" is something that the nazi's were concerned about, and it's not something that you expect to have to fill in on a random internet survey.
posted by davar at 5:19 AM on March 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


flapjax at midnite: "Jeebus H Christ, some of you people are tiresome."

This is like that time at work when I said "You guys are weird!" and one of them said, "Oh! And you're not!?"
posted by kalessin at 5:19 AM on March 29, 2010


Metafilter: a screedy jumble of meh
posted by octothorpe at 5:22 AM on March 29, 2010


"You people"???

And what exactly does *that* mean.
posted by seanyboy at 5:23 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I do hope that Divabat or someone else will put together a post which actually brings something to the table on the nature of American hegemony. And I hope such a post takes into account that the nature of this hegemony is actually changing quite rapidly as the econo have mic, linguistic and population-weighted center of gravity of the world moves eastward.

For example, a data point from my own universe, these changes have directly affected the kinds of movies you see at the box office. As DVD sales dropped off, foreign sales have become critical to getting big US American movies financed. Foreign sales of English-language films are naturally higher for largely non-verbal films, ie action pics, and lower for dramas. And so there are now studios (such as Dreamworks, for example) who simply will not touch a drama (their head of production told me that personally).

Moreover, the 'foreign' taste for movie stars is quite different from the US American taste. If you've ever wondered, for example, why Tom Cruise is still the #1 way to get a movie made, the answer is because whatever couches he may have jumped in the US, he is still fantastically popular in other markets. If you've ever wondered why Hugh Jackman, a terrific actor, doesn't get to headline more non-X-men movies, the answer is that in terms of foreign sales he just doesn't mean that much unless he's playing Wolverine or something similar.

So ebbing US American hegemony has *direct effects* on life in the US and elsewhere.

To take another example, sites such as DealExtreme and a thousand other niche counterparts such as HobbyKing, are making a killing selling Chinese products direct to global consumers. These products largely bypass both regional distributors, wholesalers and retailers but more importantly completely bypass most relevant safety and other regulations. We're back to Caveat Emptor, but fortunately a flourishing ecosystem of ratings and feedback and so on has sprung up around them, changing the consumer landscape completely.

Most of these sites are notable for not being particularly US centric. US Americans are treated as just another, significant but not entirely dominant, brand of consumer.
posted by unSane at 5:23 AM on March 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


you're reinforcing the notion that Americans idolize individuality and shun collective responsibility.

Part of the problem is here is that Non-Americans seem to want to consistently paint America in a negative light.

For instance, rather than noting that American culture places emphasis on individuality and that are positive and negative aspects of that, you simply draw a negative portrait, as you try push your own culture's values upon American values. When done in a thread created to castigate Americans for assuming their culture is the default, it seems pretty silly.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:25 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


divabat: "Mefi isn't there to keep you in your comfort zone, only posting things you're aware about."

Pretty sure this is one of the most hilarious things I've ever read. Thanks!
posted by Grither at 5:31 AM on March 29, 2010


Ok, maybe not one of the most hilarious things, but it still gave me a good chuckle. Either way, that's a good thing for a Monday morning!
posted by Grither at 5:34 AM on March 29, 2010


Part of the problem is here is that Non-Americans seem to want to consistently paint America in a negative light.


eh, you don't generalize about the 6.7 billion of us, we won't generalize about the 0.3 billion of you. How does that sound?
posted by unSane at 5:43 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


eh, you don't generalize about the 6.7 billion of us, we won't generalize about the 0.3 billion of you. How does that sound?

Yes, but who should stop generalizing first?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:50 AM on March 29, 2010


The terrible article that divabat linked to had an active comments section, until the author decided to close the thread with this:

I gave you a nice shining opportunity to examine your privilege, whether you take it is up to you. Comments are closed.

The word everyone is looking for, by the way, is American.
posted by spaltavian at 5:54 AM on March 29, 2010


Yes, but who should stop generalizing first?


I stopped a while back.
posted by unSane at 6:00 AM on March 29, 2010


In fact, if you're saying anything here, you're reinforcing the notion that Americans idolize individuality and shun collective responsibility.

You know what pretty much never goes well on Metafilter? [Group of people sucks] posts and comments. How many discussions have we had in the grey about the suckiness of "[Christians][Mainers][etc.] are like this"?
posted by rtha at 6:00 AM on March 29, 2010


Fortunately, US Americans don't get to tell the rest of us what to call 'em.
posted by unSane at 6:00 AM on March 29, 2010


To the person who wanted to know more about US concepts of race and racism being forced down other people's throats:

(And please excuse my fuzziness, my head cold is acting up)

One thing that immediately springs to mind is this Australian KFC ad involving fried chicken. I had never, ever heard of a connection between fried chicken and racism prior to reading US-centric boards. I can't remember if it got discussed here and if people on here felt that it should have been pulled, but the fact that the ad got pulled is one example of US-centric concepts of racism rammed down other people's throats.

As for divabat's initial post...meh, not impressed but to conked out to opine on it.
posted by Omnomnom at 6:01 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm glad I don't generalize like all you other fuckos.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:04 AM on March 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


People who use "USian" are fucking obnoxious. End of story.
posted by Afroblanco at 6:07 AM on March 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


The flimsiest acquaintance with the world would tell you that "American" is far from unique among demonyms in carrying a meaning in common usage which is not entirely in accord with its etymological, historical, or geographically literal meaning. If you're going to forego the conventional courtesy of calling people what they prefer to be called and you don't want people to think you're doing it just to be a dick, you're going to have to come up with something better than that.
posted by enn at 6:10 AM on March 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


It lands a few solid punches, but I think there is something very sad about striking back at American hegemony by appropriating its own academic junk, and figuring your anti-USian manifestos around a handful of loaner words from American Studies. Advice: Stop banking on our verbal cargo-cults. Stop saying examining privilege like it's the second coming of spreading awareness. Stop saying narrative. Stop UPCASING words like you're writing a RANSOM letter. Stop sipping at all the same inkwells. Grow a voice. Don't let us dumb you down to the stumblefuck Greek Hell we've already made of ourselves.
posted by kid ichorous at 6:15 AM on March 29, 2010 [11 favorites]


In short, stop being so goddamn American.
posted by kid ichorous at 6:16 AM on March 29, 2010


Derail #2: Prior to today, I didn't realise "USian" was a term of offense. Perhaps stupidly, I just assumed it was like "Brit" or "Aussie".
posted by MuffinMan at 6:18 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


People who use "USian" are pretty much on the same level as those who refer to America as "Amerikkka" and Microsoft as "Micro$oft."
posted by Afroblanco at 6:19 AM on March 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


I can you have an axe to grind. If you would like to show it to me, I would ask that you not wave the sharp end in my direction.
posted by jefeweiss at 6:19 AM on March 29, 2010


Afroblanco: "People who use "USian" are fucking obnoxious. End of story"

Often, people who use USian are USian themselves, and started to use the word out of consideration to other people on the American continent. They may have been asked to use it, or they may have decided to of their own accord. Either way, I don't see how you can call that obnoxious.

Weird, the thread actually got quite pleasant for a little while, but now it seems to be careening back towards the cess pit.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:20 AM on March 29, 2010


People who use "USian" are pretty much on the same level as those who refer to America as "Amerikkka" and Microsoft as "Micro$oft."

I'm waiting for "U$ian."
posted by enn at 6:21 AM on March 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


...or Mikkkrosoft?
posted by Omnomnom at 6:28 AM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh no, not the "USian" debate again. We've been there before.

People who call other people obnoxious for using a conventional neologism are obnoxious.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:29 AM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


flapjax at midnite: Jeebus H Christ, some of you people are tiresome.

seanyboy: "You people"??? And what exactly does *that* mean.

It *means* some of you *people* in this *thread*. Get it? This *thread*. But, more specifically, with that particular comment, it mostly meant *you*. As in, you are tiresome.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:31 AM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


One thing that immediately springs to mind is this Australian KFC ad involving fried chicken.

Hmmm, I see that more as it being pretty hard to have media in just one country, what with the internet. Add to the fact that it's an American based company and I can easily see why they pulled the ad, why recognizing that KFC Austraila probably didn't mean anything by it. An American corporation can't risk that type of publicity.

There was a recent zombie video game, that took place in Africa and had a white protagonist shooting black zombies that caught a lot of American flack. The main company was Japanese though, and refused to change much about the game, essentially saying "hey, we hear ya, but don't see what the big deal is." Interesting difference in how that incident was handled compared to the KFC snafu.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:34 AM on March 29, 2010


Fortunately, US Americans don't get to tell the rest of us what to call 'em.

Actually, we do. Unfortunately, no one has to listen. But other than being not a word and really, really, obnoxious, "USian", is no more accurate than "American"". United States of what? Mexico? Mexico's full name can be translated as the United Mexican States or the United States of Mexico. Saying 'the United States' is the least specific or accurate way you could refer to the United States of America.

The word 'America' actually appears in 'The United States of America', but does not in the names of any other nation on the planet. 'America' may refer to the entire Western Hemisphere in the dialects of Latin America, (or elsewhere), but not in dialect of English spoken in the United States of America. You would have to say 'the Americas'.

Likewise, 'Norteamericano' may be the proper way to refer to someone from the United States of America in Latin American dialects or elsewhere, but it's cognate in English, 'North American', does not carry the same meaning. People from Canada live in North America, as do Greenlanders, and in many usages, so do citizens of Mexico. 'Norteamericano' would be incorrect, were I to erroneously force the usage rules of American English on other languages and dialects. But, I wouldn't do something so foolish.

There is no reason to force Latin American conventions of speech upon American English anymore than there is reason to force the conventions of American English upon the dialects of Latin America.
posted by spaltavian at 6:35 AM on March 29, 2010 [35 favorites]


See, this is so interesting to me! People I have known/do know from Latin America all seem to identify in a much more specific fashion - that is, by what country they come from. "I'm Mexican" or "Colombian" or "Brazilian" "Dominican" and so on. But maybe you do that to, in some or all contexts.


I do too, I call myself Puerto Rican. Like I said, I would use a more umbrella term like Latin American "when I am in a position where I have to identify with a region".
posted by DrGirlfriend at 6:36 AM on March 29, 2010


...or Mikkkrosoft?

Kkklippy: It looks like you're writing a comment for Stormfront
posted by kid ichorous at 6:38 AM on March 29, 2010 [10 favorites]


When the concern expressed is that of US hegemony though, the ranks close, anecdotal 'evidence' rules the day, and the response loud and clear is that la la la this is wrong, this is not happening, how can you paint a whole citizenry with the brush of prejudice, etc.

Did you miss the part where the majority of US commenters here said they believed this was an important issue and had a lot of truth? Pretty much the opposite of "lalala this is wrong, this is not happening."

You should also note that, far from treating cultural hegemony as unimportant relative to racism/sexism/otherisms that have been discussed as issues on MetaFilter itself, jessamyn invited divabat to come to MeTa with concerns she may have about MeFi itself exhibiting US-centrism. Basically exactly the same way that the racism/sexism/otherism issues have been resolved here.

If done as a MeTa similar to those, rather than a crappy single-link editorial blog post with little insight or information to support its points, people could have a discussion, with probably a similar dynamic, for better or for worse.
posted by palliser at 6:40 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Meh.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:43 AM on March 29, 2010


What get's me about "USians" is that it's no more specific than "American". The name of the country is the United States of America. That's a standard form of [type of government] [place name]. Nobody calls people from the People's Republic of China "PRians", and when they do initialize the name it's "the PRC", not "the PR". As it happens, just as there are other countries on the continents of North and South America, there are other countries who organize in the form of "The United States of X". In fact, one of them happens to share a border with the USA. It's the Estados Unidos Mexicanos. How, then, is "American" somehow ambiguous, but "US" is not?

USAian is equally awkward, but at least it actually addresses the issue brought up by those who object to "American" as claiming too much territory.

Personally, I happen to take the position that when a country is named [type of government] [place name], then referring to residents as being from [place name] is just fine, but I get that as a USA resident, I have bias that needs correcting for. The only exception I can think of was the USSR, and they, at least, didn't have a [place name] in their country name to begin with, so "Soviet" actually was the most descriptive term. Not that plenty of folks didn't revert to "Russian" anyway...
posted by Karmakaze at 6:48 AM on March 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


What get's me about "USians" is that it's no more specific than "American".

It would help out Sarah Palin, the next time she pays a visit to the beautiful state of Canada for free health care. And lord knows she needs all the help she can get.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:53 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Brandon Blatcher: Also Tesco Tortillas.
posted by seanyboy at 7:17 AM on March 29, 2010


Why is it that people on Mefi only have something to say when it's an issue that's heavily publicised by the US (and which usually has some level of US involvement), and hardly comment on posts from elsewhere even though they touch on similar issues such as free speech and freedom of religion?

I don't speak for anyone else, but I can speak for myself here. For me, this has nothing to do with US involvement as being "US-Centric," but rather, I've lived here pretty much my whole life (with a few exceptions, though none for any extended length of time) and I feel like if something about the US comes up in conversation, I might have something to add from my own experience.

I've never been to Malaysia. While I will happily read about Malaysian politics or Botswanan politics or whatever - and I do. Read about politics and issues outside the US. I'm not necessarily going to comment because I don't feel like I have the background to add something to the discussion because it's totally outside the realm of my own experience. That doesn't mean I'm not reading it and that doesn't mean I don't think about what I read, but that I don't feel like I am in a position where I have something to say.

It's a double-edged sword because (I feel) like if I did comment, and got it wrong, the response wouldn't be "Huh, well that's not really how it goes" but more along the lines of "You're American, so what do you know? You just don't pay attention." Nobody likes being put on the defensive, which is really how this post feels.

Also: don't get me started on "USian." No one would say to someone from Mars who self-identifies as Martian that they were wrong and needed to identify as "Extra-planetary." (I am going with the most absurd example because were I to pick a "real" example, someone would argue about how I'm wrong, which isn't the point). If you want to self-identify as "USian" more power to you, but don't put that label on me. It's a stupid word and I feel no shame in identifying as "AMERICAN" until someone starts the "Canadian States of America" or something and there's an actual legit need to make a distinction. Everybody in the world knows what you're talking about, don't pretend like it's some issue other than your own resentment about "imperalialism" or whatever. I refuse to feel shame about being an American just because someone else doesn't like the word.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:20 AM on March 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


Prior to today, I didn't realise "USian" was a term of offense. Perhaps stupidly, I just assumed it was like "Brit" or "Aussie".

Me neither. I'm USian-American and it doesn't bother me. I've mostly seen it used as humorous term term for American, at worst kind of on the level of calling French people "Frenchies." Can't foreigners even poke fun at us a little?

Maybe the term has a history I'm not familiar with, but the article divabat linked to is the first time I've seen it used in a context where it came off as offensive.

Of course "American" is the standard way to US citizens in English especially in the US, whereas "USian" is a jokey (I thought) neologism. But I haven't noticed anybody seriously arguing that we should replace "American" with "USian" as a standard term.

(And yes, of course, sometimes "American" is ambiguous, and yes there are jokey and non-jokey ways to disambiguate.)
posted by nangar at 7:27 AM on March 29, 2010


In fact, if you're saying anything here, you're reinforcing the notion that Americans idolize individuality and shun collective responsibility.

Let's pretend for a second that several of the things that were mentioned in the FPP are true. Let's say that an overwhelming majority of Americans wish non-Americans "Happy Thanksgiving." I'm being dead serious when I say I don't know anyone that does this. Even if I felt a sense of collective responsibility for the behavior of people that I don't know, what exactly am I supposed to do to change that?
posted by 23skidoo at 7:33 AM on March 29, 2010


Also Tesco Tortillas.

Mmmm, guacamole....
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:35 AM on March 29, 2010


I'm the same person! "USian" is an awkward new term that is put forth to replace an existing word that means the same thing. "Cisgendered" is a new word that didn't previously exist and it's, I think, easier and more elegant than saying "people who identify as being the same sex with which they were born".

My partner is a transsexual and he and I were just talking recently about finding "cisgendered" ugly and awkward, and how irrational that is because it's way better than "bioman/woman" or "non-transgendered" or any of the other options one might come up with--including your awkward example, which has the problem (among other things) of assuming that, for instance, he was not born male (we would say something like, "identified as male at birth" or some such.).

I think cisgendered might grow on me with use, if only because, as you say, it's better than the other options availalbe. I'm with you on USian 100%.
posted by not that girl at 7:39 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Derail #2: Prior to today, I didn't realise "USian" was a term of offense.
Me either, and I am a citizen and resident of the United States of America. It sounds like the term has a history on MetaFilter, though, which I may have missed by not reading MeTa assiduously enough.
Perhaps stupidly, I just assumed it was like "Brit" or "Aussie".
I've met a couple of British people who really dislike "Brit," fwiw.
posted by craichead at 7:41 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


In terms of the way it gets used, I think it's usually closer to "Limey" or "Crim", than "Brit" or "Aussie". Anyway, the debate about the term is not limited to MetaFilter, but it does seem to hit a lot of hot buttons here.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 7:50 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm still waiting for us to go a whole week without a pointless three-digit comment thread about a touchy subject. I think we can do it, or do you people enjoy this shit too much.
posted by jonmc at 7:52 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


"USian" is an awkward new term that is put forth to replace an existing word that means the same thing.

Not that I don't find it awkward, but it doesn't replace an existing word. It is a neologism that specifically means someone from the United States of America, and not anyone from any other country in continental America. "American" can colloquially mean the same thing, and it often does, but it can also refer to someone from the continent of North or South America. The new term clarifies.

Further, the use of "USian" is political in the same manner that using "cisgendered" is political. Because the use of either term is often awkward, their deliberate usages are political, by nature. Use of either term defines the context and purposefully guides (controls) the discussion of the topics being referenced.

"USian" is not only used to clarify, but to inform the reader that the topic specifically excludes that which is not about the United States. Likewise, with "cisgendered", the term is not only defined by its compliment adjective, but it reminds the reader of the need to be aware of transgenderism while processing the material.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:53 AM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Me either, and I am a citizen and resident of the United States of America. It sounds like the term has a history on MetaFilter, though, which I may have missed by not reading MeTa assiduously enough.

You didn't have to read Meta to pick up on it, but from my non-thorough confirmation bias, it really hasn't been tossed around as much as it used to be. I had begun to think it might have finally began settling down into the bin of yesteryear. I personally find it rather silly.
posted by Atreides at 7:57 AM on March 29, 2010


Methinks that if any given topic has the ability to get a person as het up as divabat seems to be right now, that person ought not to make FPPs on that topic.

Word. I've been there and I've found that if I start feeling defensive about my FPP, that means it was a bad topic for me to post about. You need a certain distance from a subject if you're going to post on the blue, otherwise it's just a natural emotional response to get all HOPPITAMOPPITA about it.


I just hope that the people complaining about "USians" for being a putatively awkward neologism aren't also slamming people that make the same complaint about "cisgendered"

I'm the same person! "USian" is an awkward new term that is put forth to replace an existing word that means the same thing. "Cisgendered" is a new word that didn't previously exist and it's, I think, easier and more elegant than saying "people who identify as being the same sex with which they were born".


Yes, this. "USian" doesn't solve a linguistic problem. There is a word for "Citizens of the United States of America" that exists and that identifies those people properly and that everyone in the world knows what it means, even if they don't like it because of their own issues or whatever. (Again, if you want to self-identify that way because of your own feelings about imperialism and North/South America as continents, whatever, I'm down with that - my objection is to non-US citizens applying the term broadly to people who don't identify with it - just as harmful as the sort of objectification of peoples that Americans are also guilty of.) "Cisgendered" solves a problem. There was not previously a word for that identity. Now there is.

Fortunately, US Americans don't get to tell the rest of us what to call 'em.

Why the fuck not? We have conversations all the time about how specific groups self-identify. Why in bleeding hell aren't US Americans (a term that is totally fine by me, way better than "USians" which seems demeaning and condescending) allowed to self-identify and say "Please, call us Americans." We are encouraged to use terms that non-white, transgendered, and indigenous peoples use to self-identify but when it comes to the citizens of an entire nation, the response is "Eff you guys, I call you what I wants to call you." That just doesn't make any SENSE.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:57 AM on March 29, 2010 [12 favorites]


If you read back you'll see that I said that I hated USians and though US Americans was much better.

You can say 'please call us Americans', but until you change the name of your country to America and colonize the entire continent*, I will call you US Americans, and you'll have to live with it I'm afraid.

*j/k. please don't.
posted by unSane at 8:02 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Derail: the option for "black" in MeTa's own survey was "African American." That would have confused me as to how to answer if I wasn't white

Just fyi, you can take that up with iamkimiam directly [and she talked about that issue in the thread about the survey, it was a personal oversight]. While we gave the survey a once-over we were not involved in writing it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:02 AM on March 29, 2010


I think the best argument against USian is that it's an ugly looking and sounding word. How do you pronounce it? You-Ess-Ian? Youssian? Both those options sound horrible to my ear. Aren't aesthetics are a perfectly valid objection to the introduction of a new word? After all, I assume the idea of the people who want to use USian is that we'd be using it fairly regularly and I for one hate the idea of having to read or hear that word too often. (Even divorced of any political context: I'm sitting at my desk saying You-Essian to myself and it sounds awful)
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:02 AM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe the term has a history I'm not familiar with, but the article divabat linked to is the first time I've seen it used in a context where it came off as offensive.

I hate it because it's a term used to denigrate Americans, not to create some sort of "better" word. The term came about because it's seen as "presumptuous" to use part of the NAME OF OUR COUNTRY in identifying ourselves. As mentioned, The United States of America is the only country in the world with "America" in its name in its native language, where as there are many "states." It is absolutely not, in English, a confusing term and trying to force a new word for it by saying that in other languages it's confusing is preposterous, because in other languages the term is NOT "American." It's a term coined because "American" is seen as imperialistic. Which, ok, granted, the history of our country does bear that out - but to say "I'm not going to call you guys the name which you use to self-identify because I think you're a bunch of imperalists" is more insulting than saying "Eh, the name's too long" or whatever other justification you can come up with for using a term other than "American."

(In Icelandic, for one, the word for the USA - which I can't spell off the top of my head - is translated as "The United States of North America." The term for "American" would literally be translated as "United States-ian." That's well and good, but to then apply that to the ENGLISH language is just ridiculous.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:03 AM on March 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


"American" can colloquially mean the same thing, and it often does, but it can also refer to someone from the continent of North or South America.

In modern English usage, be it US-English, British-English (or should that be English-English?), Australian-English, or any others, is there anything other than the rarest of rare uses of "American" to refer to someone from Belize or Brazil or Bolivia? And even then, the context makes things totally clear. Truly, this is not something where clarification is needed, and especially not in the form of an ugly neologism. "US-ian" is the answer to a question no one is asking.
posted by Forktine at 8:03 AM on March 29, 2010 [14 favorites]


You can say 'please call us Americans', but until you change the name of your country to America and colonize the entire continent*, I will call you US Americans, and you'll have to live with it I'm afraid.

Fine by me. I hate USian, but US American is just fine as a way of connoting a specific identification.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:05 AM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


"American" can colloquially mean the same thing, and it often does, but it can also refer to someone from the continent of North or South America.

I really don't think it does. In actual usage, I've never seen this. We use "North American" or "Central" or "South American," but we don't refer to people from Canada or Belize as "Americans." Because in ordinary usage, "American" means "from the United States of America."

I mean, the offical name of Mexico is "the United Mexican States." So we're not the only United States, either.

Words have to be useful. The argument over whether the word"american" refers to anything other than the United States of America is always driven by some ulterior agenda. The answer is "it depends on the context," and in context where it is shorthand for the name of a country, that country is always, quite clearly, the US. It's not that "USian" would be a bad word on its own,if it were simply a useful and logical solution to a problem - it's that it's not useful, it solves no linguistic problem, and it never, ever appears without its accompanying agenda.
posted by Miko at 8:05 AM on March 29, 2010 [20 favorites]


I was just going to jump in here and say that, even though I'm not from the States, I find "USian" to be a juvenile, stupid-sounding word that doesn't belong on MetaFilter.

Besides being a sort of irritating l33t-speak, the seems to denote some sort of negative aspect of being an American (I am not an American, and I do not live in the US), which is abrasive and fighty, especially on an inclusive site like MetaFilter.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:06 AM on March 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


Even Mexicans say "Americanos" to refer to people from the USA without any confusion, so I'm failing to see what the problem is here.
posted by vacapinta at 8:08 AM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've met a couple of British people who really dislike "Brit," fwiw.

Well, that would redefine touchy. I'm British and I've, obviously, met thousands of Brits. But I've never met anyone who was offended by it. It's a basic shorthand for British. Unless it's used as part of the phrase "Brit Abroad", in which case the meaning changes somewhat.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:08 AM on March 29, 2010


Words have to be useful.

I agree, which is why I respectfully disagree with you.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:09 AM on March 29, 2010


I understand your point, Divabat, but the US is having an identity crisis. Some people are saying our neighbors are Teabaggers, some people are saying they aren't, there are all these racists, Barack Obama is amazing, there are student loans to pay back, there's climate change stuff, new movies and television shows --- Americans (and I live here too) have a lot on the collective plate at the moment. There's a kind of anxiety (probably due to fear of losing jobs and being poor in a place without a decent safety net) in living in this country that makes everyone, myself included, pretty self-centered.
posted by anniecat at 8:11 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


"American" can colloquially mean the same thing, and it often does, but it can also refer to someone from the continent of North or South America.

The pronounciation is "Amurriken" in the US. Kidding! Ameereeka to my mother and father.
posted by anniecat at 8:12 AM on March 29, 2010


"American" can colloquially mean the same thing, and it often does, but it can also refer to someone from the continent of North or South America.

Has anyone here ever tried to call someone who is from Canada or Guatemala or Chile "American"? I can't imagine that someone from those or any other (non-US) countries on the American continents would be thrilled, but I might be mistaken. I'd love any anecdata that might back up BP's assertion.

And as for "US American," the only other person I've ever heard using that term is someone whose grip of geopolitical issues wasn't particularly firm.
posted by shiu mai baby at 8:12 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


"USian" doesn't solve a linguistic problem.

"USian" and "American" are not interchangeable; the usage of "USian" is purposeful and communicates more than "American" alone. People who believe the two words are equivalent in meaning are incorrect, as the existence of contentious debate over the usage of the term proves.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:14 AM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's not that it's offensive so much as it's typically seen in angry screeds like the blog post to make a point about U.S. cultural imperialism. Whether they have a point or not is irrelevant. What bugs is it's intended to annoy. When is making up a word to call a group of people (instead of what they call themselves) ever a good idea? When you want to piss them off, that's when. Don't act all surprised when it works, then carry on some bullshit argument about how confusing it is because there's other countries in the Americas. Gimme a break. That's textbook bad faith argumentation. No one is confused about who Americans are, and I'm not aware of any other nations of the region wishing to reclaim the term in the English language, so the whole thing's a non-starter. Just admit the point is to be an ass so we can move on.

And I'm pretty sure if I wrote a spittle-on-monitor rant about France and referred to them as "Frenchies," most would (understandably) find that objectionable, even if it's not a particularly offensive word. Context matters.
posted by cj_ at 8:15 AM on March 29, 2010 [11 favorites]


the usage of "USian" is purposeful and communicates more than "American" alone

Yes, but it's not that hard to write out "American (also, I am a dick)."
posted by enn at 8:16 AM on March 29, 2010 [18 favorites]


I agree, which is why I respectfully disagree with you.

But on what basis? At best, "USian" is redundant, so how is it useful? Why do we need a word that says the same thing as an existing word (and even risks confusion with other United States-es, to stretch the point to the same degree of silliness?)
posted by Miko at 8:16 AM on March 29, 2010


You know that feeling when you have a paradigm shift? I got that when I realized that metafilter was US-centric and defensive about it, after the post about Stuff White People Like got deleted, twice. The reason given was that it was heavily flagged. So, why is a mediocre link like that flagged to hell when a mediocre link to cracked.com or youtube is not?

After that, metafilter got firmly located in the 'US' part in my mental map of the internet. But you know what? I didn't really mind, and I still don't. The content for the most part is internet-centric and I can easily ignore the posts I don't care about. I still visit the site and enjoy the community behind it. It's not like I come here for local news, there are other sites for that.
posted by Memo at 8:17 AM on March 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


"American" can colloquially mean the same thing, and it often does, but it can also refer to someone from the continent of North or South America.

I have never encountered anyone in my travels outside the US who, upon learning that I am American, asked me how I like living in Toronto, or Buenos Aires, or Tegucigalpa, or anywhere else not in the United States of America. So I'm going to call bullshit on this as well. Again.
posted by rtha at 8:18 AM on March 29, 2010 [12 favorites]


I didn't realise "USian" was a term of offense.

It's about the same level as when Republicans refer to the "Democrat Party".
posted by spaltavian at 8:20 AM on March 29, 2010 [14 favorites]


I wouldn't say it's offensive - just irritating, eye-rolling. That kind of thing. Just say whatever you want to fucking say about the US and stop trying to rename it.
posted by Miko at 8:21 AM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


>I've met a couple of British people who really dislike "Brit," fwiw.

>>Well, that would redefine touchy. I'm British and I've, obviously, met thousands of Brits. But I've never met anyone who was offended by it


I've met some who self-identify as English (or Scottish), not British. So maybe they dislike "British" as well as "Brit"?

On "USian": put me down with KokuRyu as being a non-American who doesn't like it, for basically the reasons Miko gave. "American" is just fine as a term for inhabitants of the USA, which is by far its most common meaning. It's almost always going to be clear from context whether one is referring to the USA, or to the continents as a whole (e.g. Organization of American States). "USian" is solving a problem that isn't there (and, again, it seems basically rude to choose to refer to people by a term which they don't use for themselves*).

[*Though don't get me started on the "New Zealander" v "white" v "European" v "Pakeha" debates......]
posted by Infinite Jest at 8:22 AM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Even Mexicans say "Americanos" to refer to people from the USA without any confusion, so I'm failing to see what the problem is here.

Actually I have been slowly learning to say estado-unidense here in mex, and avoid americano. Besides, americano is a kind of coffee.
posted by dhruva at 8:22 AM on March 29, 2010


But on what basis? At best, "USian" is redundant, so how is it useful?

I don't choose to use the term because it is as awkward as other neologisms (one of which I already mentioned), but for argument's sake, if I want to clarify the geographical origin of the person to whom I am referring, but I also wish to communicate some opinion about the United States along with that descriptor, then I might choose "USian" over less descriptive and less powerful alternatives, as it carries more utility in that context. That's why I disagree with you.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:22 AM on March 29, 2010


Yes, but who should stop generalizing first?

On the count of three, everyone will slowly put their generalizations down and take two steps back from them. And if anyone tries to go for that unfounded generalization in their boot or unexamined assumption up their sleeve? Well, I will deeply regret what will happen.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:23 AM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


"You can say 'please call us Americans', but until you change the name of your country to America and colonize the entire continent*, I will call you US Americans, and you'll have to live with it I'm afraid."

You're UKian, right?
posted by klangklangston at 8:25 AM on March 29, 2010


I also wish to communicate some opinion about the United States along with that descriptor, then I might choose "USian" over less descriptive and less powerful alternatives

So...you're gently saying it's useful as a slur? Is that what "some opinion" means? Do I have that right?
posted by Miko at 8:25 AM on March 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


I've met a couple of British people who really dislike "Brit," fwiw.
I always associate it with arguments among the Irish diaspora (that I'm sort of part of) that stray into mope, moping and mopery, so while I'm not that bothered it does rub me up the wrong way.
posted by Abiezer at 8:28 AM on March 29, 2010


How do you pronounce USian?

you-ess-ian?
youze-ian?
uss-ian?
posted by orville sash at 8:28 AM on March 29, 2010

I always associate it with arguments among the Irish diaspora (that I'm sort of part of) that stray into mope, moping and mopery, so while I'm not that bothered it does rub me up the wrong way.
Yup, that's the argument that I've heard. The people who don't like it associate it with "Brits Out!" and similar N. I. Republican rhetoric.
posted by craichead at 8:30 AM on March 29, 2010


The rest of us don't have that privilege and have to consider how to make our 4-digit postcodes fit in zipcodes that require 5 digits

See, I HATE this stuff. I work for a membership organization, and it grates my cheese everytime I correct a thoroughly jumbled foreign address. I hate that I have to put postal codes up in the main body of the address and that states of other countries are not recorded consistantly. You know what's worse? Auto-fill that overwrites the city and state if the zip corresponds to a United States zip code.

This is a problem originating in narrow-minded software design and customer support.

It doesn't mean that Americans don't care about the mailing addresses of non-Americans.
posted by desuetude at 8:31 AM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've met some who self-identify as English (or Scottish), not British. So maybe they dislike "British" as well as "Brit"?

I'd qualify them as touchy as well. In my experience they often belong to a special class of nationalists who tend to be masking their dislike of "British" because they dislike other people who are also British - be they Scottish, Welsh or English.

On top of that, you have the people who refuse to use the word "English" because they're second generation immigrants and want to be xxxx-British, which is only marginally more useful than the BNP and English Defence League mouthbreathers who want to reclaim "British" and "English" as the sole preserve of white people who eat pies and have wives, children and dogs with faces like Winston Churchill.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:32 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


So...you're gently saying it's useful as a slur?

I agree with the premise that "USian" is often used as a slur.

I also think it is uncontroversial to assert that slurs have a powerful communicative utility: a slur is blunt and succinct, by definition. A slur's use is deliberate and is powerful to the extent that its ugliness pushes people's buttons. The utility of a slur is, therefore, self-evident, I would hope.

I assert that "American" is not uniformly used as a slur in the way that "USian" is used. As such, in common usage, "USian" and "American" do not really mean the same thing, even as the term "American" is broad in meaning, itself.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:35 AM on March 29, 2010


I actually think the use of "USians" is appropriate in the context of the rant, given that I've always interpreted it to suggest the navel-gazing nature of Americans (of which I am one), US vs THEM and all that.

Or have I been overthinking it?


No, I think that's specifically why it's "USian" and not the more correct "USAian". That or something like it.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 8:36 AM on March 29, 2010


and have wives, children and dogs with faces like Winston Churchill.

I know this isn't what you meant, but I'm picturing an entire family - and some dogs - looking like Winston Churchill and I'm very amused.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:36 AM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I hate the term USian. I'm Canadian. We share a huge border, great chunks of culture, and (let's be honest) extremely similar accents and language traits with the United States. We probably share more in common than any other two countries on the face of the earth, including sharing the American continent.

I've never, ever heard a Canadian refer to themselves as "American" in any circumstance.

In the very rare circumstances where people refer to something shared across the continent, a broad accent or something, the term would be "North American".

USian just sounds like picking a fight for the sake of picking a fight.
posted by generichuman at 8:38 AM on March 29, 2010 [11 favorites]


grapefruitmoon - No, it's exactly what I meant.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:38 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


My dog looks like Winston Churchill, actually.
posted by Mister_A at 8:39 AM on March 29, 2010


I should add also, I feel no need whatsoever to reclaim the word "American" to describe where I'm from, as there are already two perfectly good ones - Canadian for my nation, and North American for my continent.

In all seriousness, is there any offense taken in the rest of the Americas against the use of the word American to mean "from the United States of America?" Is there a movement to reclaim the word?
posted by generichuman at 8:40 AM on March 29, 2010


Y'all can go head and call me whatever you like, but I can't hear US American without thinking of this.

Now let's all get together and sing "That's Life."
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 8:41 AM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I read this rant before it ever showed up here. It's poorly written and not terribly coherent. It could have made part of a good post for MeFi but as a stand alone post, it's weak.
posted by chairface at 8:45 AM on March 29, 2010


Has anyone here ever tried to call someone who is from Canada or Guatemala or Chile "American"? I can't imagine that someone from those or any other (non-US) countries on the American continents would be thrilled, but I might be mistaken. I'd love any anecdata that might back up BP's assertion.

Happened to me when I was in England. And, I'm telling you, nothing made me want to dropkick a person more than the following exchange upon hearing me speak:

"Oh! You're American!"
"... No, I'm Canadian."
"But you're from the continent of North America! Hurr hurr!"
posted by CKmtl at 8:50 AM on March 29, 2010 [11 favorites]


Just wanted to add another voice to the list of "I think this would be a great topic to read about and discuss so I hope you (or someone else) will try again."

I don't think the link was horrible but it definitely left me wanting more. So while clearly the deletion really bothered divabat, the benefit of deleting bad or mediocre FPPs is the opportunity to have an awesome future FPP on the subject that would otherwise get deleted as a double, which I think/hope is ultimately a better way of achieving divabat's goals.

Seriously, there must be other more in-depth writing and discussion about the ways that U.S. Americans' racial dynamics and history can lead to folks from the rest of the world feeling marginalized, offended, etc. I'd love to learn more about that, because I really care about those kinds of issues and how to avoid them, and I was very much intrigued as I started to read the link, but then it all seemed to trail off. Yes I can (and probably will) do some searching and reading on my own now to try to understand the issues better now that I've become more aware of the issues-- but it would be awesome to have a FPP where someone who knows their stuff could help point me and others in that direction.

And then I think-- I hope-- that could prompt a really good discussion. Yeah, there will be some defensiveness just as a result of the topic, no matter how well the FPP is set up. But this single link was kinda set up to fan the flames of that defensiveness, based on a) tone, and b) thinness of substantive content to actually discuss. I don't think the tone alone would be a problem, but I think the point is that while either "light on content" or "ranty and likely to stir up emotions" might be okay on its own, when you put them together it's just a recipe for disaster.

So, yeah. I support this deletion because it's an important issue and I'd like to be part of a good discussion on the topic. And the deletion means there's a chance of being a more meaty, substantive post and good discussion, whereas leaving it up would've kept us limited to that one link and comments mostly full of defensiveness and GRAR.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 8:50 AM on March 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


In all seriousness, is there any offense taken in the rest of the Americas against the use of the word American to mean "from the United States of America?" Is there a movement to reclaim the word?

I actually heard this argument for the first time when I was in high school, or maybe early colllege - this would have been in the early 90's. And I heard it from an uber-left person I knew who in turn had probably heard it from uber-left leaning Latin American writings. So I'm not going to say that no one outside the US has never felt this way. But in my experience, that opinion was held by a small group of people and never truly took off in a popular way. And hey, I'm a lefty myself, but even to me the argument sounded silly. As was mentioned above, we all have our countries of origin and we are more likely to identify ourselves as our respective "-ans" (Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Venezuelans, etc). I have arely really found a driving need to identify myself as part of the collective region, and my feeling is that I am not alone in this. Actually, it's only here in the US that the whole Hispanic/Latino thing comes up.

So, really, this whole thing sounds to me like a manufactured fight. Those of us who stand to feel aggrieved by the US appropriation of American aren't really that aggrieved, it seems. And we have our own terms that we prefer and feel describe us more accurately than American would, so....in the end, I actually get my back up a little bit because I feel like this is a case of other people making assumptions about what I should be feeling or be offended by.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 8:53 AM on March 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


I assert that "American" is not uniformly used as a slur in the way that "USian" is used. As such, in common usage, "USian" and "American" do not really mean the same thing, even as the term "American" is broad in meaning, itself.

I see this point, and it does clarify for me that it's used to denigrate. You've illustrated for me that it actually does solve a problem, and the problem is: "How do I inflect my comments about Americans with a tone of derision?"

So thanks. But knowing that the term is more clearly used to insult makes me understand better that it's not offered in an effort to open up a discussion that moves anything forward, just in an effort to issue a polemic. No one is going to find it conducive to open-minded, earnest discourse that aims to make Americans act less exceptional.
posted by Miko at 8:56 AM on March 29, 2010 [16 favorites]


um, i mean "probably read it in uber-left Latin American writings".
posted by DrGirlfriend at 8:56 AM on March 29, 2010


The term 'USian' actually has a lot in common with the post in question. It's a poorly thought-out, fighty take on an issue that probably deserved better treatment. Yet, both are too insubstantial and toxic to be taken as anything but an affront.

That's a useful word, sure, if all you are doing is looking to pick a fight. But if you want to actually talk about something coming into the room swinging both fists with your eyes closed is probably not the best way.
posted by dirtdirt at 8:56 AM on March 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm not sure why Chally (The Feministe contributor) didn't put examples....

The thing is, chally did; they were just bad examples:
We, depending on context, may well have TVs and soft drinks and jeans and newspapers and it is not incredibly amazing that countries that are not the United States have those things! USians didn’t even invent all those things.
Good point! But why mention things associated with Philo Farnsworth (American!) and Levi Strauss (American!*)? Rantiness is a precursor to incoherence and is detrimental to fruitful discussion on MetaFilter. In conclusion: BAN THE LINK.


*America loves claiming immigrant innovators! It's one of our things! Greedy us, right?
posted by kittyprecious at 8:58 AM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Man, I WISH some of my crappier FPPs got deleted.

Now you got this post and that one in your history.

Please come back with an epic post on US-centrism! I will happily read it and engage in an intelligent discussion on the subject!
posted by iamkimiam at 8:58 AM on March 29, 2010


So thanks. But knowing that the term is more clearly used to insult makes me understand better that it's not offered in an effort to open up a discussion that moves anything forward, just in an effort to issue a polemic. No one is going to find it conducive to open-minded, earnest discourse that aims to make Americans act less exceptional.

I have no opinion on this. I'm sure you're right. But it sounds like you now agree with my explanation to you of why the two words are not interchangeable or "redundant".
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:01 AM on March 29, 2010


--Words have to be useful.

--I agree, which is why I respectfully disagree with you
.

Words often have more than one meaning, which, amazingly, does not detract from their usefulness. Imagine if it did. It'd be utter chaos!
posted by hydrophonic at 9:01 AM on March 29, 2010


But... it grips us by the signifier and unclasps the eagle lapel pin of our most comfortable assumptions.
posted by kid ichorous at 9:02 AM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


That was calm and well-argued, BP. Sincerely.
posted by klangklangston at 9:08 AM on March 29, 2010


That's right, Blazecock, you've illustrated that it's got a different connotation. I think there's some importance in that, because it makes clear that those using it intend a negative connotation. I agree, and in agreeing I have come to understand the user's proposition better - though that's probably not to the benefit of the user.
posted by Miko at 9:09 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree, and in agreeing I have come to understand the user's proposition better - though that's probably not to the benefit of the user.

Without focusing on the user, I would prefer to be clearer about the reasons for a term's existence and why it is used. If the word "USian" exists for any reason, it is perhaps not for the benefit of your personal derision.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:18 AM on March 29, 2010


divabat: "Yet the posts about American and American-famous issues (like Iran or Darfur) get hundreds of comments from people outside the US. Funny how the rest of the world seems to care about US issues but it doesn't work the other way."

I realize this was a long time ago, but please don't judge the quality of a post by the number of comments it gets. Comments don't indicate anything, except topic familiarity or ease-of-snark.
posted by graventy at 9:19 AM on March 29, 2010


Oh come on Divabat - you must know that the correct term is "Merkin"...
posted by twine42 at 9:20 AM on March 29, 2010


I have no opinion on this. I'm sure you're right. But it sounds like you now agree with my explanation to you of why the two words are not interchangeable or "redundant".

I think it's just that no one was assuming you were defending it on the base of it's utility as a way of being cruel. Straight-faced defenses of the term as being "useful" rarely invoke that motivation. I know lots of words that are "useful" in that strict sense that are nonetheless functionally redundant and best not voiced if my goal is civil discussion, basically.

If the USian debate wasn't something that's been gone over here a dozen time or more in the past, it might be interesting to have a fresh discussion about it, about the motivations behind it, and about the question of whether a tit-for-tat use of the same rename-for-derision'-sake technique against other nations or people would be defended in the same way, and how e.g. attitudes toward the idea of US exceptionalism and cultural hegemony influence that potential disparity. But as is, it's an old argument around here, rife with bad feelings, and was not introduced here in anything resembling a careful or thoughtful way.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:22 AM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm still waiting for us to go a whole week without a pointless three-digit comment thread about a touchy subject. I think we can do it, or do you people enjoy this shit too much.

Hey, we went a whole day without a MeTa, it's a start.

How to pronounce USian: It sounds like MeFite
posted by fixedgear at 9:33 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]



Divabat: I sense a great deal of frustration from you on how the world and MeFi works as evidenced by your complaints that your posts don't get enough replies. You have assumptions about how all of us should use Mefi: "Mefi isn't there to keep you in your comfort zone" - says who? You're angry that more people don't care about what you care about and used this blog post to make a statement. It didn't go well, it wasn't a quality FPP. I really feel, despite your unfair attack on the Mods, that they have done an above and beyond job of explaining that deletion to you. As many have said before me, the basic meat of your gripe could be FPP worthy, but it's all in the framing. If you care so much about it, take the advice many others have given and give it a well thought out FPP without all the stereotypes and GRAR.

I'm also confused that you seemed to think it was ok to post such a stereotypical link and that more people aren't upset about that. If there is ANYTHING I've gleaned from MeFi it's that it's not cool to stereotype people. That blog post stereotyped over 300,000,000 people in one fell swoop. What about that is acceptable? Yes, I'm going to go down that road: substitute the words gay, black, Hispanic, Malaysian, etc. for "American" (or whatever this USian nonsense is) and the whole post is surely unacceptable (and maybe you can see why so many people flagged it). Why should there be a pass on stereotyping Americans? Honestly and sincerely guys, I don't understand why American bashing is ok.

Finally, I don't know if the internet is American-centric, this thread is the first I'm hearing of this phenomena and I might be interested in reading a well thought out FPP showing evidence of it and why it's a bad/good thing (or even a non-issue), but I'm not going to waste my time on a "GRAR you Americans suck and here's why" post.
posted by NoraCharles at 9:41 AM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Finally, I don't know if the internet is American-centric, this thread is the first I'm hearing of this phenomena

Let me guess: you're American!
posted by Rumple at 9:50 AM on March 29, 2010


You're UKian, right?

No, I'm ethnically English, legally British, aka a citizen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but a resident of Canada. I live on a continent called America. Take from that what you will. And I already said I hate USian and prefer US American but nobody seems to be able to read past the end of their nose here.
posted by unSane at 9:51 AM on March 29, 2010


Finally, I don't know if the internet is American-centric, this thread is the first I'm hearing of this phenomena

Let me guess: you're American!


How is this helpful right now?
posted by liketitanic at 9:52 AM on March 29, 2010


But as is, it's an old argument around here, rife with bad feelings, and was not introduced here in anything resembling a careful or thoughtful way.

Just to be clear, are you implying my calm and logical disagreement about the term was somehow made in bad faith, or are you making a larger statement about this thread? I don't know how to read your comment. I hope it is not the former, as that couldn't be much more further from the truth and I'd like to state that categorically and unequivocally, before the usual pile-on occurs.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:52 AM on March 29, 2010


An English friend of mine living in Spain, where he founded a language school, writes:
It's gets everyone's goat here in Spain when you teach them that American means a person from the US. It so clearly makes so little sense to that they just laugh or stare at me as though I'd made it up or got it totally wrong.
posted by unSane at 9:53 AM on March 29, 2010


Could you (or your friend) expand on that, unSane? Why does "American = person from the US" make so little sense?
posted by shiu mai baby at 10:00 AM on March 29, 2010


I live on a continent called America.

North America. There's two!
posted by Sys Rq at 10:05 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just to be clear, are you implying my calm and logical disagreement about the term was somehow made in bad faith, or are you making a larger statement about this thread?

The latter. I understand now that you were parsing the differences for the sake of parsing and neither out of a defense of the idea that "American" was genuinely a source of major ambiguity in common use nor out of some belief that using USian as a means of derision was good rather than just possible.

I was just trying to communicate why a few people may have been (and why I certainly was) confused at your insistence on its usefulness, until it became clear that you were treating its derisiveness as an aspect of utility where I think most people see that derisiveness in the term's use as mostly a reason to treat it as a subpar choice of terminology in any sort of default state.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:06 AM on March 29, 2010


If it's good enough for him it's good enough for me.
posted by Mister_A at 10:08 AM on March 29, 2010




See this "American" vs "USian" crap is exactly why I only ever refer to places as "Here", where I am and therefore the best place in the world, and "There" which is where the rest of you fuckers live.

For instance, I am "here", and the person in the cube next to me is "there", and that's a foreign country full of strangeness. Later, I'll be in my car which will be "here" and all the other cars will exist in the lesser space that is "there".

I feel sorry for all of you, never getting to be here with me. Because it is, quite frankly, freakin' awesome.
posted by quin at 10:17 AM on March 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'd like to tell you all a story.

A story from North America

(here's The Story OF North America.)
posted by orville sash at 10:20 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]



Rumple quoting me: Finally, I don't know if the internet is American-centric, this thread is the first I'm hearing of this phenomena

Rumple: Let me guess: you're American!

Wow Rumple, that's a pretty big leap and your stereotyping shows. I don't understand how the fact that I may not have heard about something equates to me being an American. Maybe I'm just a person who doesn't know about everything in the whole wide world.

It's a shame that instead of trying to educate me in a topic I'm unfamiliar with, you mock me.
posted by NoraCharles at 10:22 AM on March 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


Dumb question - I've never heard USian prior to this, only USAnian. I thought it was meant in a cutesy fashion by people too lazy to use the longer word US American. Same thing as USian? Misconception?
posted by Omnomnom at 10:24 AM on March 29, 2010


I don't really understand this hysteria about the word "USian". Does it really hurt so much?
posted by seanyboy at 10:27 AM on March 29, 2010


As someone from Quebec, "American" seems to work fine, here, for people from the US. The same way we use "Maritimer" for anyone east of us, and "Boring" for anyone west of us.


just kidding...


not really

posted by ServSci at 10:28 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ok, fine. I'm going to start lobbying for a constitutional amendment to change the name of our country to Awesomeland, and the rest of the world can call us Awesomelanders or just Awesomes for short. That should clear up any ambiguities.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:29 AM on March 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


NoraCharles, you sit there typing "educate me!" when instead I know that you are connected to a computer that is connected to the Internet and unless you are in China, you probably have access to something called Google, where you can go and educate yourself.
posted by kalessin at 10:30 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't really understand this hysteria about the word "USian". Does it really hurt so much?

Not really. It's more of a petty annoyance. I file it under stuff like calling history from a woman's perspective "herstory". I get the point that the speaker is trying to make, but it's a really silly way of trying to communicate it.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:34 AM on March 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't really understand this hysteria about the word "USian". Does it really hurt so much?

I would like to politely ask you, if you are not trolling, to choose your words more caerfully if you are interacting here in good faith. If you are not interacting here in good faith, I would like you to please consider taking some time off from MetaTalk.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:35 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


seanyboy: “You're a big powerful country. You stand on your own. You've over 200 years of standing on your own. You've proved your big-country credentials (genocide, wars, economic success). Just take pride in that fact, and try to wrap your head around the fact that you're not the little guy being bullied any more. ¶ The God Damned Iranians seem to have less of a chip on their shoulders than you guys. Just stop it. You may have once been bullied, but you've been down the gym and you're all beefy now. You don't need to shout as hard to be heard. You don't need to hit back as hard to stop people acting up. ¶ Your American Show "Spiderman" has this quote: "With great power comes great responsibility." You need to have a good hard look at this quote. ¶ So yep. Every now and again, us kids act up a bit. We're pretty angry at you and your countrymen for any number of things. But you're the guys with the big fucking stick. Just take a few minutes out of your Crystal-Meth induced rage and look down. And stop it with the small man syndrome.”

Whatever. This isn't about America vs. The World. It's certainly not framed that way.

divabat accused Metafilter of being twisted in favor of a USian/American view of race. She made that accusation without any evidence or backup whatsoever. I'd have been willing to listen if she had tried at all to convince any of us that this is remotely true. But divabat didn't accuse USians of being a particular way; she wasn't making a grand point about international sociology. She claimed that Metafilter is this way, that Americans/USians on Metafilter impose their twisted view of race on other people, and as an American/USian on Metafilter I find that more than a little offensive. I haven't been more privileged than anybody else here – the mods may be USian/American, but they're fair, open-minded, and thoughtful. If divabat can point to an instance on Metafilter where this isn't true, I'll be well interested; but I sincerely doubt it.
posted by koeselitz at 10:41 AM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Dumb question - I've never heard USian prior to this, only USAnian. I thought it was meant in a cutesy fashion by people too lazy to use the longer word US American. Same thing as USian? Misconception?

Well, see, no one would say "US American." Well, okay, almost no one. No one would say it without being laughed out of town, anyway.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:48 AM on March 29, 2010


it became clear that you were treating its derisiveness as an aspect of utility

Thanks for the clarification. To be clear, I was responding to Miko's original comment: "[I]t's that it's not useful, it solves no linguistic problem". That was the point being addressed on both sides, not just by myself.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:54 AM on March 29, 2010


USian and US American both indicate that the user of the word either has a giant chip on their shoulder, is an annoying pedant, desperately seeking attention, or a combination of all three.
posted by rocket88 at 10:54 AM on March 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


rocket88: “USian and US American both indicate that the user of the word either has a giant chip on their shoulder, is an annoying pedant, desperately seeking attention, or a combination of all three.”

There's a word for that, actually. Someone who has a giant chip on their shoulder, is an annoying pedant, and is desperately seeking attention is called: a European.
posted by koeselitz at 11:00 AM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


USian and US American both indicate that the user of the word either has a giant chip on their shoulder, is an annoying pedant, desperately seeking attention, or a combination of all three.>

Hm, now you really are making the point for us, you know.
posted by unSane at 11:03 AM on March 29, 2010


Zing!
posted by Sys Rq at 11:03 AM on March 29, 2010


Yeah, BP, I dig that; what I'm saying is that I don't think Miko was wrong in her assertion that it's not a solution to a linguistic problem, especially as she was reacting more to the common facile argument from "USian"-boosters that there's somehow something significantly semantically ambiguous about "Americans" as a term for residents of the USA.

The problem that "USian"-as-derisive-name-for-Americans solves is not primarily a linguistic one but a political or rhetorical one. "American"-as-name-for-US-citizens is a solved problem and has been for a very long time, political motivations to make a thing out of it notwithstanding.

I think we're basically agreeing with each other in painstaking detail at this point for the most part, so I'm fine dropping it. Just wanted to be clear, again, that I think there was a source for confusion in what you were arguing because your intent in parsing it out may have not matched the expectations of the folks you were parsing it to.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:03 AM on March 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


somehow something significantly semantically

which is Savage Garden's new single, btw

posted by cortex (staff) at 11:04 AM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


"American"-as-name-for-US-citizens is a solved problem and has been for a very long time, political motivations to make a thing out of it notwithstanding.

With respect, you saying that does not make it so, Cortex. It may be solved for you. It is not for me.
posted by unSane at 11:04 AM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


What do you call someone who speaks many languages?
A polyglot.

What do you call someone who speaks two languages?
Bilingual.

What do you call someone who speaks one language?





Wait for it!







USAistanian!
posted by Mister_A at 11:06 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


With respect, you saying that does not make it so, Cortex. It may be solved for you. It is not for me.

I'm guessing you're not a Henry James fan?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:09 AM on March 29, 2010


It may be solved for you. It is not for me.

You find yourself frequently confused by the intent or meaning of US citizens referring to themselves by the name they've historically used to refer to themselves? Because that's what I'm talking about, and as much as I'm happy to acknowledge the possibility of ambiguous uses of "American" arising in certain circumstances, it's not my understanding that there's a lot of genuine confusion out there in English-speaking contexts on the subject.

Again, that's not to say there aren't rhetorical or political reasons people might want to dig in on the subject, but the basic linguistic problem for "what's the English-language term for citizens of the USA" or "to whom does 'American' generally refer in English-language contexts?" is indeed a solved one.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:11 AM on March 29, 2010 [10 favorites]


which is Savage Garden's new single, btw

Savage Garden? Did I accidentially get in a hot tub without realizing it?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:11 AM on March 29, 2010 [10 favorites]


So thanks. But knowing that the term is more clearly used to insult makes me understand better that it's not offered in an effort to open up a discussion that moves anything forward, just in an effort to issue a polemic. No one is going to find it conducive to open-minded, earnest discourse that aims to make Americans act less exceptional.

Wow. This negative interpretation seems to be very mefi-homegrown. It's a bit irritating, so it's an insult? I've not heard this outside the context of these discussions.

Prior to ever seeing the phrase on metafilter, I'd encountered it almost a decade prior on usenet. There "USian" was a cutsey little neologism used as kind of a US-centric alternative for Aussi, Kiwi, Brit or Canuck. There really isn't a short "cute" form for American ("Yank" being too specific), so "USian" it was, often used by Americans themselves.

But, it's irritating here, and I get that. I've tried to stop using it---I did so almost unconsciously before, thinking that it was merely a friendly jokey term. I even think the word itself is kind of nice, evoking the ancient word for joy.

It seems to me that a lot of this umbrage is being generated here, in this thread and in peoples' heads. If you want to manufacture an insult for your nationality, fine, but know that you're just giving the bigots a club to hit yourselves with. Personally, I think it's kind of dumb to get so worked up over it---Canadians get called a lot worse all the time (vis Fox News). You're better off just ignoring it, in my opinion. Never let a bully see you react, and all that.

Still, I vow to not use it again on metafilter, if that makes anyone feel better.
posted by bonehead at 11:11 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


She made that accusation without any evidence or backup whatsoever.

Well, I can't seem to dredge it up with search, but that aforementioned KFC thread may be worth a second look.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:12 AM on March 29, 2010


Some kind of hot tub chronolabe?
posted by Mister_A at 11:12 AM on March 29, 2010


With respect, you saying that does not make it so, Cortex. It may be solved for you. It is not for me.

What would you call someone who identifies as an American Indian? Are you going to correct them, too?
posted by rtha at 11:18 AM on March 29, 2010


Somewhere, Divabat is laughing.
posted by ambient2 at 11:21 AM on March 29, 2010


At the very least, I think there's one thing we can all agree on: movies and books that prominently feature "American" in the title need to stop. "The Ugly American" was one thing, not a bad book in itself either, and it was so long ago it doesn't really matter now. But "The Angry American," "American Movie," "American Beauty," "American Band," "The Quiet American," etc... this trend needs to stop RIGHT NOW.
posted by koeselitz at 11:24 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Somewhere, Divabat is laughing.

Not America, I'm guessing.
posted by Nothing... and like it at 11:25 AM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


With respect, you saying that does not make it so, Cortex. It may be solved for you. It is not for me.

Because you require a word to be condescending and derisive to a group of people based on generalizations? Because there is one group of people whose chosen label you will not use because you feel like they don't "deserve" it? Because that's the only problem to be solved that I see here.

Look, I get it. We're a big country that throws its weight around. Hate on the US government all you want - Lord knows I do. Hate on the US military. That's fine. Go right ahead. Hate on US politics. Hate on US-centric media. These are all valid targets. But once you go after citizens - unless there is some reason to do so, you just look like that guy in the corner who insists on using the word "tranny" even after those you are describing by the term have asked you politely to knock it off.

I take offense at "USian" because everytime it's used, I feel like I should be inherently ashamed of my country of origin. Eff that. I totally refuse. I won't be shamed into feeling bad about where I come from, nor will I tolerate anyone doing it to anyone else. In short - in the words of Margaret Cho (a subversive, queer, Korean-American): "I'm a fucking American, damnit."
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:28 AM on March 29, 2010 [10 favorites]


What would you call someone who identifies as an American Indian? Are you going to correct them, too?

I think they call themselves First Nations people. This is what I learned at the National Museum of the American Indian a few weekends ago. But wikipedia says that term is only for Aboriginal peoples in Canada who are neither Inuit nor Métis. Maybe I misunderstood but I didn't think I did.
posted by anniecat at 11:28 AM on March 29, 2010


Many folks who would call themselves American Indian now call themselves First Nations or Native American, which in contrast to "American" used to mean "United States citizen" is more accurate and less ironically United States-centric.

Personally I'd prefer to use "United States citizen" in place of "American", because it's accurate. But then to be completionist, you might have to use terminology also to refer to non-citizen residents of the United states in some way as well if you wished to refer to the entire populace of folks who live within the borders of the United States.
posted by kalessin at 11:31 AM on March 29, 2010


"With respect, saying that calling members of the USian Democratic Party 'democrats' is settled does not make it so. Some may wish to use this term in discussions of American politics to refer to members of the Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro or the Social Democratic Party of Sweden, or perhaps merely to general enthusiasts of the democratic system of government. For this reason, henceforth I will exclusively use the logical and objective term 'DemonRatz' to avoid embarrassing and inevitable ambiguities" -- at least like ten people in this thread
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 11:31 AM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


I am Irish-USian!
posted by Mister_A at 11:31 AM on March 29, 2010


unSane: ""American"-as-name-for-US-citizens is a solved problem and has been for a very long time, political motivations to make a thing out of it notwithstanding.

With respect, you saying that does not make it so, Cortex. It may be solved for you. It is not for me
"

Oh, I know! Just the other day I was talking to unSane and I said: "So my American friend and his pet goose ..."
unSane: "Was he from Canada?"
"No, not a Canadian, an American."
"Is he from Mexico?"
"No, not a Mexican, an American."
"Is he from Guatemala?"
"No, he's not a Guatemalan, he's an American."
"Is he from Bolivia?"
"No, he's not a Bolivian, he's an American."
"Is he from Ecuador?"
"No, he's not Ecuadorian, he's an American."
"Is he from Peru?"
"No, he's not Peruvian, he's American."
"Is he from Brazil?"
"No, he's not a Brazilian, he's an American."
"Is he from Venezuela?"
"No, he's not a Venezuelan, he's American."
"Is he from Chile?"
"No, he's not Chilean, he's American."
"Is he from Cuba?"
"No, he's not Cuban, he's American."
"Is he from Paraguay?"
"No, he's not Paraguayan, he's American."
"Uruguay, then!"
"No, he's not Uruguayan, he's American."
"So he is from Argentina?"
"No, he's not Argentinian, he's American."
"Is he from Colombia?"
"No, not Colombian, either. He's American."
"Look, I'm sorry, barnacles, but now I'm terribly confused! I can run back through the list, if you like, but I really don't know what you're talking about."

This happens EVERY time I try to tell the story about my friend and his goose. Really, at this point I kinda wonder if unSane is being deliberately obtuse.
posted by barnacles at 11:33 AM on March 29, 2010 [11 favorites]


I think they call themselves First Nations people.

Yes, that's a Canadian thing. Most located-in-the-United-States-native-Americans either call themselves Native Americans, Indians or identify themselves by tribal affiliation. However, that gets even trickier, since some of the names we know them by -- Navajo, Cherokee, Sioux, etc -- are actually INSULTING names given to them by OTHER tribes, so then you get into the "ok, who insulted who during which century" Olympics, which makes black/person of color/African American look positively simple by comparison.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 11:34 AM on March 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


"You're a big powerful corporation, Mi¢ro$oft. You stand on your own. You've over 35 years of standing on your own. You've proved your big-software credentials (antitrust suits, pointless hardware follies, economic success). Just take pride in that fact, and try to wrap your head around the fact that you're not the little guy being bullied any more. The God Damned Mac users seem to have less of a chip on their shoulders than you guys. Just stop it. MiKKKro$$oph7 WinBlowz Internet Exploder."
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 11:36 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


This happens EVERY time I try to tell the story about my friend and his goose.

Where's the goose from?
posted by electroboy at 11:37 AM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Summary: no matter whether I call someone USian, American or US American, someone else is going to be confused, annoyed or think I have a chip in my shoulder? Awesome.
posted by Omnomnom at 11:37 AM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


electroboy: "This happens EVERY time I try to tell the story about my friend and his goose.

Where's the goose from?
"

Canada, of course. Me and unSane, we're clear on the goose. No obtuse goose, not for us.
posted by barnacles at 11:37 AM on March 29, 2010


So then the goose is American too?
posted by electroboy at 11:39 AM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Just call me a US passport holder and a citizen of the world. If you live in the USA, call me a patriot.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:41 AM on March 29, 2010


koeselitz: "The Quiet American,"

I WILL BROOK NO SMACK TALK ABOUT GRAHAM GREENE IN THIS THREAD!!!
posted by Kattullus at 11:45 AM on March 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


Most located-in-the-United-States-native-Americans either call themselves Native Americans, Indians or identify themselves by tribal affiliation.

I've dealt with aboriginals from both the Canadian and the American sides of the boarder, particularly in the the North. One particularly weird wrinkle is that "eskimo" is considered insulting in Canada (Inuit or Dene, please), while (seems to be) perfectly fine in Alaska. Though the Yupik elder I spent a couple of days with was both pleased and amused when I (automatically, mistakenly) referred to his tribe as a "first nation". The Yupik don't care to be called eskimo particularly (because they aren't), but I got the feeling that they were rather resigned to it.
posted by bonehead at 11:46 AM on March 29, 2010


Most located-in-the-United-States-native-Americans either call themselves Native Americans, Indians or identify themselves by tribal affiliation.

Yup. The friends I had in college identified as Indian, or by tribe, or as American Indian, or Native American.

And, you know, if I called someone something they didn't want to be called, and they said "Hey, I prefer [term]," then I said "Okay."

I am curious about whether unSane is going to insist that Native Americans/Indians should not call themselves that because they're not from India, and it's unclear *which* America they're from, so he's going to go ahead and call them Native USians.
posted by rtha at 11:48 AM on March 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


Man did you know that there are people who go around calling themselves South Africans? What a bunch of bullshit. How do you think citizens of Lesotho feel about that?
posted by shakespeherian at 11:49 AM on March 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


The Germans got away with calling themselves Holy Roman Empire for a milennium or so. The Catholic church gets a free pass at being THE Catholic (universal) Church.

Meanwhile, Australia shows up and is like "oh, come on Austria, nobody will confuse it."
And the Austrians are like, "dude, really?".
And Australia is like "Come on, if it bothers you you can change your name, like Oyster Reich or something."
"Oyster??? For fucks sake, we son't even have access to the sea, and you're a fucking Island!!!"
"Well you can put one of those dotty heavy metal things you guys like so much on top of the O instead of a y. That'll be unique."
"argh. Fuck. Fine, I guess. Just go away."
"By the way, have you heard of this new Band, the Blue Öyster Cult?"
"FUCK YOU GUYS!"
posted by qvantamon at 11:50 AM on March 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


I WILL BROOK NO SMACK TALK ABOUT GRAHAM GREENE IN THIS THREAD!!!

Oscar-nominated First Nations Canadian actor Graham Greene?
posted by Sys Rq at 11:51 AM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


True story, qvantamon: when I moved to Austria to do an intensive German language course, my great-grandmother asked me if I thought I'd see any kangaroos while I was there.

(To be fair, she did leave school really early on and lived in a teensy tiny town in Southern Ohio much of her life -- geography wasn't really her thing).
posted by bitter-girl.com at 11:53 AM on March 29, 2010


Native Americans/Indians should not call themselves

It's not an issue, because neither is a construction that's used much in Canada at all. this is something the media are actually pretty sensitive about. The people are "aboriginals" or "natives", they belong to bands, tribes or "first nations" if you're being formal. The word "Indian" tends to be used less and by older folks, while "Native Americans" has never been used north of the border to my knowledge.
posted by bonehead at 11:54 AM on March 29, 2010


Even more perplexing is that when I identify myself in the UK as being from "The States," they TOTALLY know what I mean! Even though there are a lot of states in the world! I think they understand me because I picked up this usage from them, but I'm not sure, because as an American, I've never paid attention to what anyone else says.
posted by desuetude at 11:54 AM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wow. This negative interpretation seems to be very mefi-homegrown.

It really isn't. I have seen "USian" used for a decade or more on many sites other than MeFi. Almost universally, it is used by people who intend it to be a slight at people who live in the USA. I have rarely met people who use it frequently who are not trying, when they use it, to take some jab (albeit small) at the US out of spite and/or anger that the world, media, internet, etc, is very US-centric.

So, in short, this is not a MeFi-only thing. USian is a crappy, derisive word. Those who claim to use it because they're trying to be "more correct" are typically just making excuses for the aforementioned giant chip on their shoulder. Nobody in their right mind is seriously confused when you say "American" to mean "Citizen of the United States of America".
posted by tocts at 11:55 AM on March 29, 2010 [11 favorites]


Really, at this point I kinda wonder if unSane is being deliberately obtuse.

I didn't say it was ambiguous in most contexts. I said it wasn't solved, in the sense that it isn't unproblematic. Hey, listen, US Americans, we get that it is unproblematic for you. That doesn't mean that everyone else sees it the same way.

There certainly are contexts where it is ambiguous. For example, from a recent conversation I had with someone, what does this phrase mean?

"We are all Americans?"

Does it mean we are all citizens of the US? That we all identify with citizens of the US? Or that we all live in North or South America? How much do you need to know about the speaker and the context before it is satisfactorily unambiguous?

Now assume that we have been having a conversation about the Americas, North and South, and the people who inhabit the continent. Let's say I then start talking about 'the American population'. What do I mean?

You might never run into this problem but I do surprisingly often.

But, obviously, America, fuck yeah!
posted by unSane at 11:56 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do they not have context where you're from?
posted by electroboy at 11:57 AM on March 29, 2010 [18 favorites]


No
posted by bonehead at 11:58 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thwo facts about Austria:
- they sell "no kangaroos in Austria" t-shirts
- mail from the US to Austria sometimes ends up in Australia, despite proper labeling

the problem is known.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:01 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am curious about whether unSane is going to insist that Native Americans/Indians should not call themselves that because they're not from India, and it's unclear *which* America they're from, so he's going to go ahead and call them Native USians.

Honestly, can you people not fucking read? My first post in this thread was saying that I dislike the word USians and wanted a better. Someone suggested US Americans, which I much prefer.

In Canada 'Indians' is rarely used except as a derogatory term. Most 'indians' so-called would self-identify as First Nations or most likely their tribal affiliation.

And talking of obtuse, comparing the use of Indian in this context to the use of American in the same context is baffling.
posted by unSane at 12:01 PM on March 29, 2010


Sys Rq: Oscar-nominated First Nations Canadian actor Graham Greene?

ANY GRAHAM GREENE IS OFF LIMITS! ALSO THE SONG BY JOHN CALE. IN FACT JOHN CALE IS ALSO OFF LIMITS! AND JOHN CAGE TOO BECAUSE SOMETIMES I SAY JOHN CAGE WHEN I MEAN JOHN CALE AND VICE VERSA. I JUST WANT TO PREEMPT THAT MISUNDERSTANDING RIGHT NOW.
posted by Kattullus at 12:01 PM on March 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


Yup. The friends I had in college identified as Indian, or by tribe, or as American Indian, or Native American.

I'm Indian. From India. South Asian. From the Subcontinent.
posted by anniecat at 12:02 PM on March 29, 2010


And you park on a driveway and drive on a parkway! Craziness!
posted by Bookhouse at 12:04 PM on March 29, 2010


you just look like that guy in the corner who insists on using the word "tranny" even after those you are describing by the term have asked you politely to knock it off.

Oh god, now we're going to have to rehash the "Transmission" vs "Gearbox" debate? That war took millions last time.
posted by quin at 12:04 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do they not have context where you're from?

This. Also: do you not speak languages - such as English - that have words for "North American," "Native American, "South American, "Latin American," "American Indian," "The Americas," and - as also mentioned as a "USian" alternative that doesn't have that condescending flavor - "US American." If you're saying that the one word has too much confusion and you can't clear it up with some context, you've got bigger problems than that one word.

Ridiculous example illustrating my point: The word "is" was unclear to President Clinton. That does not mean that the meaning of the word "is" is unclear in all situations and we need to develop new forms of the present tense of "to be."
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:04 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder how common is it, generally, for other people to call citizens of a country by what they call themselves?

In Chinese, the United States of America is mei guo (which actually is phonetic for American.) They call England ying guo (again, phonetic), and France fa guo (again, phonetic).

In return, of course, the people of Zhong guo (the zhongguoren) get to be called 'Chinese', because apparently that's what Marco Polo told everybody to call them or something.
posted by Comrade_robot at 12:05 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


- mail from the US to Austria sometimes ends up in Australia, despite proper labeling

Oooh, fun fact. I once had mail to me in Iceland mis-sent to Thailand. Make of that what you will.

The actual reason is my mom has loopy handwriting, which makes the case for BLOCK PRINTING when writing an ADDRESS. Geez, mom.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:06 PM on March 29, 2010


Just to be clear, are you implying my calm and logical disagreement about the term was somehow made in bad faith, or are you making a larger statement about this thread? I don't know how to read your comment. I hope it is not the former, as that couldn't be much more further from the truth and I'd like to state that categorically and unequivocally, before the usual pile-on occurs.

To me it seems that you are taking an extreme descriptivist view of language, which doesn't really fit the context of the thread. Yes "USian" is a term that in certain language groups has a different usage than the the term "American".

However as members of the language groups that comprise Metafilter specifically and the internet more broadly, we have a say in what terms are worth using. If a term, like USian, is found to be only useful as a slur, then as members of the language community we can say that it is inappropriate.
posted by afu at 12:07 PM on March 29, 2010


"We are all Americans?"

Good thing we live on the planet Earth, where most of the time we have some context when we are having discussions with other people. Otherwise, as I've been fond of saying lately, fish basketball panorama wooey-hooey.
posted by Miko at 12:08 PM on March 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


I've used USians for a number of years, and had not, until this very thread, known that it was considered offensive. Among other reasons, it's a lot fewer characters to type; but also, when you're talking about things involving multiple countries on the two continents with the word America in their names -- which, yes, I do talk about, and offline rather more often than I talk about the group of people who live in or have citizenship in the US -- it is ambiguous, and it is problematic to many people. If USian isn't a great solution because it has negative connotations, then fine, another solution can be found. USAians, or USAmericans, or whatever ends up being non-offensive -- people are looking for a term to use that works for more than just the group that likes American or the group that doesn't. But that means that eventually, someone's going to have to give in and accept that some other term is ok to use to replace "American", or that the problematic aspects of "American" are irrelevant.
posted by jeather at 12:08 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


"USian" looks like "Asian," thinks my tired eyes.
posted by anniecat at 12:08 PM on March 29, 2010


movies and books that prominently feature "American" in the title need to stop. ... this trend needs to stop RIGHT NOW

Careful. They might go back to one-two formula of gerund/gerundive and proper noun, sometimes spiked with a little ambiguity or wit: Finding Nemo, Finding Forrester, Good Will Hunting (clever girl!), Saving Private Ryan, Raising Arizona (punny, ambiguous), Chasing Amy, Drowning Mona, Being John Malkevich, Wrestling Earnest Hemmingway, Driving Miss Daisy...

Pornography is more imaginatively named than this.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:09 PM on March 29, 2010


Alphabet threading? I'll start!

Amy, Chasing.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:11 PM on March 29, 2010


I met a German girl in England who was going to school in France. She said we danced the Mississippi at an Alpha Kappa dance.
posted by fixedgear at 12:11 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


But that means that eventually, someone's going to have to give in and accept that some other term is ok to use to replace "American", or that the problematic aspects of "American" are irrelevant.

I want to hear some concrete examples in English where "Americans" is ambigous.
posted by afu at 12:12 PM on March 29, 2010


Use 'American' when talking about the country (USA) and 'North American' when talking about the continent. No confusion.
posted by rocket88 at 12:12 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


- mail from the US to Austria sometimes ends up in Australia, despite proper labeling.

You know what's confusing? Oakland and Auckland. Maybe we should change the name Oakland to the California City of Oakland, California in the State of California, USA.
posted by Miko at 12:12 PM on March 29, 2010


If USian isn't a great solution because it has negative connotations, then fine, another solution can be found. USAians, or USAmericans, or whatever ends up being non-offensive

My 2c: US American doesn't sound offensive at all, to me.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:14 PM on March 29, 2010


Among other reasons, it's a lot fewer characters to type

Three is not "a lot."
posted by Sys Rq at 12:14 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


when you're talking about things involving multiple countries on the two continents with the word America in their names -- which, yes, I do talk about,

Can you give an example of a construction like this that you would say in conversation?
posted by Miko at 12:14 PM on March 29, 2010


Pornography is more imaginatively named than this.

See for example: Fisting Nemo, Finding Flora's Fur, Good Will Mounting, Shaving Ryan's Privates, Raising Areolas, Chasing Camey, Drowning Moaners, Peeing on John Malkovich, Breasting Earnest Hemmingway, Driving Miss Rosebud...
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:15 PM on March 29, 2010 [10 favorites]


...I can see needing to refer to the continents if discussing something like archaeology or climate change, but then I'd just say "in North and South America, rainfall patterns are disrupted" or "the peoples of the Americas migrated via a land bridge..." Talking about politics w/r/t Asia or Europe, I could imagine saying "in the Americas, education systems tend to be locally rather than nationally run." I'm honestly having a hard time figuring out how it could be ambiguous. "The American Toad is found in habitats from Canada south to Central America."
posted by Miko at 12:17 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


One time I met this guy who was studying philosophy and I was all like hey what do you think of Derrida and he was all like I'm not a big fan of continental philosophy and then I was like WAIT DO YOU MEAN ASIA OR AFRICA OR WHAT
posted by shakespeherian at 12:17 PM on March 29, 2010 [15 favorites]


The question of whether things associated with the US can be described as "American" has an interesting and emerging analog in Europe. Sometimes discussions about the EU use the term "European" to describe things associated with it, even though that explicitly leaves out a good chunk of Europe which is not, and possibly will never be, part of the EU. I understand that this use is new, and the use of "American" in the same way is much older, but I wonder if it will ever be established to the same degree. For me, at least, hearing Russians described as "European" sounds a little odd, because even though the best part of the country is in Europe, the cultural understanding of them is as "not-EU".

I've used USian in the past, and didn't really know that people found it so offensive, even to the point of feeling demeaned by its use. I'll check my usage in the future to account for how people from the US feel, but also try to balance that with the identities of others. While I respect that a self-label is important, if it clashes with the ability of others to self-label, then it has to be resolved somehow.


I've met a couple of British people who really dislike "Brit," fwiw.

Well, that would redefine touchy. I'm British and I've, obviously, met thousands of Brits. But I've never met anyone who was offended by it. It's a basic shorthand for British. Unless it's used as part of the phrase "Brit Abroad", in which case the meaning changes somewhat.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:08 PM on March 29 [+] [!]


Wow, just no. I dislike "Brit" because I associate its use with people who are capable of dominating my culture. I very rarely hear it from other people in the UK, who seem to use "British" most often. I associate its use with media such as television and the internet from outside the UK. I've corrected numerous people that I don't want to be described as "Brit" in any way, and the dislike is unrelated to my English or European identities.
posted by Sova at 12:20 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know. I love that a group of surly metalheads, whose most pressing issue of the day is usually determining what vocal effects Andreas Hedlund uses on the most recent Borknagar release, was able to sort out this global linguistic imbroglio within 10 posts, and then go back to discussing other topics. While we are still whingeing impolitic over how to process all of this. Seriously. We had more contentious discussion and flameouts when the main musician in Vintersorg *cut his hair*.

Maybe it's because we are usually focused on discussing music. Maybe it's because it's a smaller forum, and people there tend to get to 'know' each other better there. Maybe it's because we are surly metalheads, and if someone tries to pull a trip of any kind, they get slapped down - and fast.

Or maybe it's because it's a forum where the 'US Americans' are truly the minority. It can be eyeopening at times when the discussion leads to politics, or culture, or some other subject, and it's the Eurocentric view that is assumed. Or the South American one. When us US folk speak up about something, we don't have the privilege there, because we are the minority - and when someone tries to assume that they should have the privilege because they are from the US, they get slapped down. It's sort of refreshing.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:21 PM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also confusing: Dylan McDermott and Dermot Mulroney
posted by 23skidoo at 12:22 PM on March 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


I want to believe that those are made up names, cortex.
I AM NOT GOOGLING TO FIND OUT.
posted by cavalier at 12:24 PM on March 29, 2010


Sadly, cavalier, Chasing Amy is a real movie.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:27 PM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


In return, of course, the people of Zhong guo (the zhongguoren) get to be called 'Chinese', because apparently that's what Marco Polo told everybody to call them or something.
I think the etymology of Chinese is usually thought to come from 'Qin', the dynasty that first really united something approaching the current territory the country occupies, via Persian.
There is a term Shina (支那) that although not coined by imperialist-era Japan was used by them and is hence much resented, though interestingly (well, if you're me) was also a name adopted by sections of the early Chinese anarchist movement as they, like all sensible people, despised narrow nationalism.
posted by Abiezer at 12:28 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been reading this thread with interest from the beginning, and I'm not sure when it began to feel sour to me. But I'm going to pretend it doesn't, because I think it was a good conversation to have.
OK, good to delete the original post, and I'm all DIAMO at this point. But I'm glad Divabat brought it up, and sorry about the rancor.
I was first introduced to USian like 25 years ago, I'm pretty sure, by a hard-lefty internationalist in college. I get the critique, but I also like US Americans better. I certainly try to use terms like "US literature" rather than American literature. But I do also see a point to just calling us "Americans," which is rarely unclear.
More interesting to me at this point is thinking about Metafilter as a whole. I'm a US academic; I'm a member of an international academic association that even has "international" in its name. But that word was aspirational from the beginning, as this sub-field was heavily US dominated. Nowadays its still heavily US/UK centric, but that name, and the debates it's caused at conferences etc, has had a great impact on the organization, forcing us to confront national privilege and presumption, leading to policies and practices that promote internationalization, and de-centering the whole field in ways that were very productive.
By analogy, I don't think Metafilter needs to move the servers overseas or something, or institute mandatory multi-lingual posting, or set a quota on posts by US Americans. That's not best of the web. But I do think that the value of this place is increased every time the standards of discourse get re-imagined to be more inclusive, welcoming, and nuanced. I don't think US-centric discussions are on the same level as other language issues that have been hashed through in the grey (note spelling), but I do think that the more folks here experience it as a global space, the more interesting it is.
I don't like it when we pile on, and I hate it when people flame out, but some of these long MeTa threads really feel like growth to me in spite of some hard feelings.
Metafilter: The Getting-Better of the Web.
posted by Mngo at 12:30 PM on March 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


Somehow not confusing at all: George Stephanopoulos, George Stroumboulopoulos, Aloysius Snuffleupagus
posted by Sys Rq at 12:30 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Driving Miss Rosebud

Did cortex just admit to watching sled porn?
posted by shakespeherian at 12:33 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


This thread is bringing me down.
posted by everichon at 12:34 PM on March 29, 2010


People! If we keep insisting that "US American" is a valid term, my brain is going to reflexively insert "the Iraq, everywhere like such as" after every usage. And I really, really don't want to go through that sort of mental anguish.

Seriously, though, "US American" just seems like such a silly and needlessly redundant term. It can't possibly be used for any other citizens of the other countries on the American continents, because the construction is already used for people who have either emigrated here or identify as part of a cultural group who is now living in the states. To wit:

- Canadian American
- Ecuadorian American
- Jamaican American
- Colombian American

...see? It just doesn't work.
posted by shiu mai baby at 12:35 PM on March 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


However as members of the language groups that comprise Metafilter specifically and the internet more broadly, we have a say in what terms are worth using. If a term, like USian, is found to be only useful as a slur, then as members of the language community we can say that it is inappropriate.

I don't know what you mean by "language groups" — native US English speakers? — but I am definitely uncomfortable with the bullying of people who disagree with you in general, even (or, perhaps, especially) if the moderators agree with your viewpoint. The piling-on of a few people in this thread is disturbing. If you want to talk about what is inappropriate, perhaps start by policing the less-than-savory behavior of those who are in agreement with you.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:36 PM on March 29, 2010


I actually don't find it offensive, and I want to be clear about that, even though I think there may be an intent to offend sometimes. I just find it kind of embarrassing and irritating, like when George Bush would say "nukular," and stubbornly heel-digging and provocation-seeking, as when George Bush continues to say "nukular." It's distracting from whatever the actual issue is the person wants to discuss. It's a conversational red herring. I'm challenging the idea that the term is servicing a need for clarification. But I'm not offended by it. It's too silly. I'm offended by the idea that I'm dumb enough to think it's an earnestly offered aid to understanding.
posted by Miko at 12:41 PM on March 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


I don't know what you mean by "language groups" — native US English speakers?

The language groups I was talking about were the English speakers on metafilter and English speakers on the internet.

but I am definitely uncomfortable with the bullying of people who disagree with you in general, even (or, perhaps, especially) if the moderators agree with your viewpoint. The piling-on of a few people in this thread is disturbing. If you want to talk about what is inappropriate, perhaps start by policing the less-than-savory behavior of those who are in agreement with you.

I don't really know what you are talking about. But of course I'll come down firmly against bullying.

Are you saying that certain groups are justified in their use of the term USian? If so I would argue that the term is needlessly jargony and inflammatory and that one can come up with an effective anti American Hegemony Diatribe without using it.
posted by afu at 12:45 PM on March 29, 2010


Further down the "US American" rabbit hole:

What would you call someone whose cultural heritage was Mexican, but who was a resident of the USA? Mexican US American? US Mexican American?

Because you'd have to pick at least one of those two, so you didn't confuse them with the "Mexican Americans" who were born and raised and currently living in Mexico.
posted by shiu mai baby at 12:45 PM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


what to call citizens of the USA if I don't want to call them Americans, which I don't, since America -- or 'the Americas' if you prefer -- is/are a much bigger place than the US. I hate 'USians' but what alternatives are there?

Statists.
posted by msalt at 12:53 PM on March 29, 2010


"I dislike "Brit" because I associate its use with people who are capable of dominating my culture."

Sorry, what does that actually mean? And specifically, how does the shortened version of "British" end up getting used by people who dominate your culture?
posted by MuffinMan at 12:54 PM on March 29, 2010


Parochial people are parochial. Story at 23:00.
posted by Mister_A at 12:59 PM on March 29, 2010


I actually don't find it offensive, and I want to be clear about that, even though I think there may be an intent to offend sometimes. I just find it kind of embarrassing and irritating, like when George Bush would say "nukular," and stubbornly heel-digging and provocation-seeking, as when George Bush continues to say "nukular." It's distracting from whatever the actual issue is the person wants to discuss. It's a conversational red herring. I'm challenging the idea that the term is servicing a need for clarification. But I'm not offended by it. It's too silly. I'm offended by the idea that I'm dumb enough to think it's an earnestly offered aid to understanding.

I should stress that I've never used it with the intent to offend anybody. But as you're aware, I've never used it to clarify what I mean - I know that "American" would be understood completely in most contexts.Rather language is political, and by choosing one form of language over another I've sought to place what I say in a certain political conception of the world. I would be sad if I could only express that conception in a discussion set off in time and place from other political discussions, and that's why I've wanted to incorporate it into my language. I don't feel it's a red herring, anymore than other politically chosen words are.
posted by Sova at 1:05 PM on March 29, 2010


Where's the goose from?"

Canada, of course.


When ‘Sully’ Sullenberger landed his US Airways plane safely on the Hudson River last January many media outlets referred to the cause as the engines being destroyed by a flock of 'Canada geese' [example]. I always refer to them as 'Canadian geese.' What gives?
posted by ericb at 1:08 PM on March 29, 2010


"I dislike "Brit" because I associate its use with people who are capable of dominating my culture."

Sorry, what does that actually mean? And specifically, how does the shortened version of "British" end up getting used by people who dominate your culture?


Because I've rarely heard people from the UK actually use "the shortened version"? And that I associate it with depictions of British people that have currency despite not representing reality? And that I fear other people associate the word with depictions of British people that have no basis in reality? And that by changing the terms - even in a small way - we ask people to think a little more about what they say?
posted by Sova at 1:09 PM on March 29, 2010


Wikipedia on the term 'American.'
posted by ericb at 1:12 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


...I can see needing to refer to the continents if discussing something like archaeology or climate change, but then I'd just say "in North and South America, rainfall patterns are disrupted" or

Ahem. Try again...

The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.
posted by Splunge at 1:14 PM on March 29, 2010


I actually don't find it offensive, and I want to be clear about that, even though I think there may be an intent to offend sometimes.

And the flip side of that is as much as I get annoyed by the tendency for it to be used or argued for in the service of derisiveness and obnoxiousness or to needless politicize (and potentially derail) a discussion, I totally understand that there are people who just use it because they picked it up somewhere and decided to use it as a neutral synonym for American, etc. Language acquisition is a weird and wonderful process, all else aside, and there's no reason that someone picking the word up in a neutral context would necessarily know that it gets used in a less-neutral fashion elsewhere or that it bothers people, until they find themselves in a discussion like this.

That said, when a word has an even chance of being used either neutrally or derisively, it moves into "this is probably not a great idea" territory for me as far as how I manage my personal vocabulary. The neologistic nature and uneven distribution of use of USian means these kinds of "I had no idea" discoveries—as well as disagreements about the use of the term in any given local context—are sort of bound to recur. I'll argue the point when it comes up, and man do I wish there was some way to just magically make it not come up, but as far as that goes I don't begrudge folks tripping across the debate for the first time and I try not to be too strident about it if I can help it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:14 PM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations."

--President George Washington || Farewell Address || 1796.
posted by ericb at 1:14 PM on March 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


There certainly are contexts where it is ambiguous. For example, from a recent conversation I had with someone, what does this phrase mean?

"We are all Americans?"


The context in which that phrase was popularized - in case you missed it, or forgot - was in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks that took place in the United States of America.

"On Sept. 12, 2001, the publishers of the two leading dailies in Italy and France headlined their front-page editorials with the same words: “We Are All Americans.”" (emphasis mine) cite

They didn't seem to have trouble with it being ambiguous. No one thought they meant Mexicans or Bolivians or Canadians.

And talking of obtuse, comparing the use of Indian in this context to the use of American in the same context is baffling.

I don't see it that way. You're concerned about ambiguity and the confusion that might arise by calling residents or citizens of the United States of America Americans. I think there's much more ambiguity regarding "Indian," at least in these here United States. In this country, someone who says "I'm Indian" - what does that mean? Does it mean they (or their family) is from India, or does it mean they're Native American?

ericb: Canada goose.
posted by rtha at 1:15 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


seanyboy: I don't really understand this hysteria about the word "USian". Does it really hurt so much?

Hurtful? Not really; at least, not to me. Annoying as fuck and insulting? Absolutely, because the entire purpose of the term "USians" is for people who aren't American to rename the citizens of America. If there were a trend, started by people who aren't French, to call the French "Francians," do you think the French would like that? Nearly every country on the planet has a word for "American," because that's what the citizens of the U.S. are called.

divabat: Population numbers are a really crappy way to justify something's importance.

divabat: The country that invented the Internet doesn't have the most Internet users, nor does its region come close to Asia or Europe. It doesn't even have 50% Internet penetration.

Pick one.
posted by tzikeh at 1:15 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sova: "Because I've rarely heard people from the UK actually use "the shortened version"?"

Yeah, when I hear Brit I think of, say, the way The Simpsons often caricatures the British: "The barmaids are all real Brits, fresh from the streets of Sussex!" [in walks bandy-legged, buck-toothed mutant] "Freshen yer drink, guv'ner?"

It doesn't bother me, but I can't name a British person I know who uses the shortened word.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:18 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Because I've rarely heard people from the UK actually use "the shortened version"? And that I associate it with depictions of British people that have currency despite not representing reality? And that I fear other people associate the word with depictions of British people that have no basis in reality? And that by changing the terms - even in a small way - we ask people to think a little more about what they say?

Sova, I'm really confused as to why it's important for British people to be called by what they call themselves, and not to be saddled with appellations that come with all kinds of stereotypical associations, but for Americans, it's actually important that you show them exactly what you think of them, whether they like it or not.
posted by palliser at 1:24 PM on March 29, 2010 [5 favorites]

Pick one.
I would pick "oh yeah, well we invented the internet!" to be an argument approximately on the level of "my dad is bigger than your dad!" It belongs in kindergarten, and if you're still using it in third grade you should be worried about your debating skills. Who the hell cares who invented the internet? And what bearing does it have at all on whether American-ness should be considered the default identity in online discussions?
posted by craichead at 1:25 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


And actually (god, I have to stop re-commenting) the word that instantly comes to mind when I hear Brit is Yank. They feel like they go together.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:26 PM on March 29, 2010


Hurtful? Not really; at least, not to me. Annoying as fuck and insulting? Absolutely, because the entire purpose of the term "USians" is for people who aren't American to rename the citizens of America. If there were a trend, started by people who aren't French, to call the French "Francians," do you think the French would like that? Nearly every country on the planet has a word for "American," because that's what the citizens of the U.S. are called.

But couldn't it be similarly argued that the use of the word "American" as exclusive to describing the US potentially renames those from other countries? That's a good part of the reason why I've used "USian" in the past, because I don't want to use a word in a way that prevents its use by others.

Sova, I'm really confused as to why it's important for British people to be called by what they call themselves, and not to be saddled with appellations that come with all kinds of stereotypical associations, but for Americans, it's actually important that you show them exactly what you think of them, whether they like it or not.

See above. And it's not about British people being called what they call themselves - I call myself English above all - it's about the use of words and their potential meanings. To say "Brit" is to use a word in a way that associates a person with a number of ideas, and to say "American" in reference to the US alone is to give it a meaning that prevents an equally valid meaning.
posted by Sova at 1:31 PM on March 29, 2010


One thing that I have learned from this thread is that apparently Australians hate it that people from the United States call themselves Americans. I'm not sure why this matters so much to Australians.

Maybe it's misplaced guilt because they are also named for a continent that includes New Zealand and some other miscellaneous islands. But you don't even really have to feel bad, because geographically speaking New Zealand isn't part of your continent! It's part of a mostly submerged continent called Zealandia! Although, depending on how you look at it, you might still have to apologize to New Guinea.
posted by jefeweiss at 1:32 PM on March 29, 2010


In this country, someone who says "I'm Indian" - what does that mean? Does it mean they (or their family) is from India, or does it mean they're Native American?

It's somewhat obvious to me when I look at myself that I look Indian, but then this nice non-English speaking Hispanic couple wanted very badly for me to know how to speak Spanish and help them with directions down at Dupont Circle. So they approached me and spoke to me in Spanish and I shook my head and said, "I'm sorry, I'm Indian." They looked disappointed and looked at me really closely to see if I was lying. I felt guilty, and told myself that because I might look Hispanic to a couple who desperately needed help getting around, I should just quit with the helplessness and learn Spanish. Though I'm fairly certain I'd never blend in in Mexico. I'd move there, speak Spanish, and maybe they'd just have to look at me and something about the way I look would seem off to them.

Though this all reminds me, wasn't there a Saddam Hussein lookalike who was of Mexican origin?
posted by anniecat at 1:38 PM on March 29, 2010


but then this nice non-English speaking Hispanic couple wanted very badly for me to know how to speak Spanish

Heh, one of my coworkers gets that all the time. It doesn't help that she's from the south and has a Portugese surname.
posted by electroboy at 1:40 PM on March 29, 2010


But couldn't it be similarly argued that the use of the word "American" as exclusive to describing the US potentially renames those from other countries?

No. No, it can't. The United States of America is the only country that has the word "America" in its name. The word "American" can be used in conjunction with other words to give context to North American, South American, Latin American, Asian American, Martian American, etc. But in and of itself, no. Calling Americans AMERICANS is not renaming anyone from any country being as there aren't any other countries whose citizens can be described in English simply as "American" without qualification or great confusion.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:41 PM on March 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


No. No, it can't. The United States of America is the only country that has the word "America" in its name. The word "American" can be used in conjunction with other words to give context to North American, South American, Latin American, Asian American, Martian American, etc. But in and of itself, no. Calling Americans AMERICANS is not renaming anyone from any country being as there aren't any other countries whose citizens can be described in English simply as "American" without qualification or great confusion.

But they are from continents with "America" in the name, aren't they? This goes back to the point I made earlier about the EU and Europe, and how the use of "European" to describe EU things was potentially excluding other Europeans.
posted by Sova at 1:44 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Calling Americans AMERICANS is not renaming anyone from any country being as there aren't any other countries whose citizens can be described in English

Are we talking about the language or what Sova calls herself?
posted by electroboy at 1:45 PM on March 29, 2010


I can see why there could be some confusion about what "American" means on a forum where most people aren't native speakers of English and a lot of people are native speakers of Spanish where americano usually refers to the New World or Latin America. And I can see that saying "US American" to clarify that you mean American-as-in-United-States-of-America would make sense as a reasonable compromise to avoid endless squabbling over correct usage. That doesn't mean that we have to adopt this usage here, or that it should be adopted as a new standard everywhere English is spoken.

I think spinifex23's point was that on a forum where this issue was causing actual confusion they were able work out a compromise with a minimum of grief.

The problem is that there's no real confusion about the meaning of the word "American" on MetaFilter and we're still arguing about it. What are we arguing about, exactly?
posted by nangar at 1:47 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


But they are from continents with "America" in the name, aren't they?

AH. But then you have to specify "North" or "South" American ANYWAY unless someone make an incorrect assumption. If you're talking about clarity here, if you say "American" meaning someone from one of the American continents, you're just swimming in confusion. Which one is it? Or do you mean Central American? Latin American?

It just doesn't hold up. The term is not confusing in the English language unless you're trying to be deliberately obtuse.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:48 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Many folks who would call themselves American Indian now call themselves First Nations or Native American, which in contrast to "American" used to mean "United States citizen" is more accurate and less ironically United States-centric.

Ironically, the word "American" in English was first applied to the indigenous people found in the Americas.

anniecat, a good friend of mine is of Mexican descent, but everyone thinks he's Indian.
posted by hydrophonic at 1:48 PM on March 29, 2010


But they are from continents with "America" in the name, aren't they?

But have you ever, once, been confused by this?
posted by shakespeherian at 1:49 PM on March 29, 2010


What are we arguing about, exactly?

FREEDOMS, THEY HATE US FOR OUR FREEDOMS. Actually, I have no idea. Anyone got cookies? Biscuits? Circular sweet confectionary products baked to crispness?
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:50 PM on March 29, 2010


What a bunch of ninnies. Go drown in a vat of puréed leper cock.
posted by Schmoopy at 1:54 PM on March 29, 2010


anniecat, a good friend of mine is of Mexican descent, but everyone thinks he's Indian.

I'm Hawaiian (and Czech and Chinese and English) and I live in a Latino neighborhood, and yeah, I need to stop being so lazy and learn more Spanish than I know. I had a co-worker at an old job who insisted that I must be Latina, and just ashamed of admitting it, when I "refused" to tell her if I was from El Salvador or Guatemala or what. That crossed the line from irritating to offensive.
posted by rtha at 1:56 PM on March 29, 2010


It just doesn't hold up. The term is not confusing in the English language unless you're trying to be deliberately obtuse.

But have you ever, once, been confused by this?


No. I've made it clear that the meaning of "American" is understood completely in most contexts in English. That wasn't my point. My point is that the way we use it potentially excludes other meanings and prevents self-labeling by those who might want to describe themselves or things associated with them as "American". I know I probably won't convince anybody, and it's really not my intention with commenting here. I just want to lay out the reasons why I've used "USian" in the past (which I now know can be offensive), and why I'll continue to try and draw distinctions in my language. I feel it's reasonable to look at the way I describe the world with my words, and make changes accordingly.

That's all.
posted by Sova at 1:59 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Amerigo Vespucci FTW!
posted by fixedgear at 2:01 PM on March 29, 2010


I LIKE MY COOKIES CHEWY DAMMIT.
posted by entropicamericana at 2:13 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


What are we arguing about, exactly?

Beans.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:14 PM on March 29, 2010


Well, no, not exactly- Metafilter is not a soapbox. It's not about finding good articles to support whatever point you're interested in making. More like, keep your eyes open for exceptional things on the web that you think we would enjoy, and post them here. Posts with a mission probably won't go well.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero


I agree with this in principle, but people do it all the damn time, every single day. It does go well. If the link is good enough, it stays up. It all goes back to the link, regardless the reason for posting.

This one just happened to suck.
posted by Dennis Murphy at 2:20 PM on March 29, 2010


Oh, I know! Just the other day I was talking to unSane and I said: "So my American friend and his pet goose ..."

This is one of those stories where you think you've finally guessed what nationality the goose is and then he takes a long look and says, "Oh! The cat's eaten it!", isn't it?
posted by Copronymus at 2:25 PM on March 29, 2010


USian is ugly, but why on earth do people find it insulting? What exactly is the implied insult?

One (to me, good) reason for using 'US American' is that it makes the point that the USA shares the continent with a whole bunch of other countries, and the world with a whole lot more. A fact which is, as the original very poor post indicated, sometimes forgotten by some US Americans on the internet (very often when talking about 'our troops' or 'our president').
posted by unSane at 2:47 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]




USian is ugly, but why on earth do people find it insulting? What exactly is the implied insult?



It's not insulting like a racial slur or something, it's just rude and dickish to call someone something they don't want to be called.

It's like when Republicans refer to the "Democrat" party instead of the Democratic party.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:49 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


The term is not confusing in the English language unless you're trying to be deliberately obtuse.

FWIW when I lived in Australia for a sort time many years ago a number of Aussies who couldn't be bothered to differentiate between those native to the various countries that are inside North America referred to anyone from Canada, the US or Mexico (although I don't think I ever met a Mexican in Australia) as "Americans" as in "North Americans".

I'm not saying it's common, but it was explained (patiently) to me more than once, like I was the one who was somehow confused for correcting people that I was not "American".

If only we had an umbrella term for Australians, New Zealanders and Irish people because I can't tell them apart either.
posted by GuyZero at 2:50 PM on March 29, 2010


Someone asked about my English friend who reported disbelief from his Spanish students when he told them 'American' generally meant 'US American' in English. From the Wikipedia link above, this may shed some light:
The Diccionario de la Lengua Española (Dictionary of the Spanish Language) published by the Real Academia Española (Royal Spanish Academy), defines estadounidense (United Statesian) as "someone or something from or relating to the United States", the common Spanish usage for U.S. people and things. People originating from, or who have lived in, the Western Hemisphere might be called americanos.
Moreover, the Royal Spanish Academy advises against using americanos exclusively for U.S. nationals:

(English translation)
But the use of americano to refer exclusively to inhabitants of the United States should be avoided; this abusive usage is explained by the fact that U.S. citizens often use the abbreviated name América (in English, without an accent) to refer to their country. One should not forget that América is the name of the entire continent and all who inhabit it are Americans.
posted by unSane at 2:52 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


The insult lies in the explicit needling motivation to use it rather than "American" as some point-making gesture or such. It's an unpleasant, divisive, disruptive way to approach conversation. See also any unsolicited, externally-applied nickname or intentionally malformed label. Nobody likes to be the target of that kind of thing; many people don't like even being a third party to it. That's pretty basic.

I have no love for Microsoft, but I cringe when for example I see "Micro$oft" used as some kind of unironic indictment. It's a similar feeling, of people engaging in pettiness for no reason but the sake of being petty.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:56 PM on March 29, 2010 [10 favorites]


This has been a wonderful multicultural exchange. I've learned what I am and why I suck, learning about other cultures is fun.
posted by nola at 3:01 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think there's an implied arrogance as well.
posted by fleacircus at 3:03 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's not insulting like a racial slur or something, it's just rude and dickish to call someone something they don't want to be called.

Well, this, and also I think there's a bit of inferred 'You are so arrogant to think you should be called "Americans"' that happens, too.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:05 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yep, I encountered the same thing in New Zealand as GuyZero reports.

This is hardly the first time there has been a dispute over what someone else chooses to call themselves.

I'm not saying I think it's a big problem, but many of you seem to be unable to grasp the issue whatsoever. So here's a little thought experiment: imagine that the people of South Africa referred to themselves specifically and exclusively as "Africans". All dialogue, political, social, and cultural, directed to the citizenry of this state uses the term "Africans". When they want to refer to the people of other states, they never use this term.

Wait, the people of Zimbabwe might say -- we're African, too! As are we, say the people of Nigeria. And us, say the people of Namibia. And so on. But, say the people of South Africa, it's in our name! What's the problem? You want to be called Zimbabweans, and Nigerians, and Namibians anyway, don't you? That's not the point, the response might be. It's not that we are not Zimbabweans, and Nigerians, and Namibians, but that we are ALL Africans. Even when you do not purport to speak for "Africa" and "Africans", the very words you use suggest it. (This would be an even more powerful argument if South Africa were far more dominant in the continent than it is)

Would that seem insensible? Personally, I don't think so. People are very good here at talking up "privilege" but they tend not to see their own baggage so readily, I find.

Oh, that fpp was terrible material, though. What a shallow look at an interesting topic.

On preview:

The insult lies in the explicit needling motivation to use it rather than "American" as some point-making gesture or such. It's an unpleasant, divisive, disruptive way to approach conversation.

It's a counter to the term being used. I note that the whole "cisgender" issue is mentioned above. It's a reminder. So is this. Terms can be value neutral, but they often are not. Starting out, I thought the defenders of "USian" were being a little silly, but I'm seeing a lot more irrationality on the other side of this debate, sadly.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:12 PM on March 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


Yep, what shakespearian (and unsane, and many others) have said.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:13 PM on March 29, 2010


shakespeherian, sorry!
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:13 PM on March 29, 2010


Wait, the people of Zimbabwe might say -- we're African, too!

It's a flawed analogy.

1. Of course Zimbabweans are African, too, and nothing South Africa decides to do can take their Africanness away from them. Many people have said that they do recognize and use the term "Americans" for Latin Americans, Central Americans, North Americans, American Indians. So all those people can and do say "We're Americans, too!" when what they mean is that they're part of the continent of North or South America, or the Americas. We figure it out based on the context.

2. Isn't it up to the people of Zimbabwe to talk about what they want to be called? Should they be waiting for some European in the 101st Fighting Keyboardists to decide that Zimbabwe needs a fight, hoist Zimbabwe's flag, and take it to the [South] Africans? Isn't assuming you know what other people want a little presumptuous - if not culturally imperialistic? If you are not living on an American continent, and have no stake in this conversation, shouldn't you bow out and let anyone who feels their Americanness has been stolen speak up? Otherwise, you're just grinding an axe that is not even your axe. You probably have some other point and you could just talk about that directly.

3. Even in South Africa there seems to be no agreement on what the country's official name is.
posted by Miko at 3:21 PM on March 29, 2010


I also think it's interesting that despite all the usages I've seen of "USian", I've never once seen the use of "American" that "USian" is supposed to leave clear.

I think if you're ever in a situation where you need to refer to someone from the Western Hemisphere in a specific but interchangeable way, you're most likely coming from a fucked up arrogant point of view in the first place (e.g. historical European usage). In any case, surely "People of the Americas" would work, because how often are you really going to need to use so broad and sweeping of a label to cover the population of half the world?
posted by fleacircus at 3:24 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


One of the few reasons why I dislike the term 'American' is that is a "false friend" and honestly, who doesn't hate them?

It's one of those words that I feel *should* mean something else (people from America) but that by now its meaning (people from the USA) is already fixed in place and commonplace —probably chosen to separate them from their British origins ("Screw those british people, we are in british AMERICA now *puts on sunglasses*") or something— and saying otherwise is somewhat counter-productive.
posted by Memo at 3:24 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would be sad if I could only express that conception in a discussion set off in time and place from other political discussions, and that's why I've wanted to incorporate it into my language. I don't feel it's a red herring, anymore than other politically chosen words are.

We don't want you to be sad. But here's the difficulty with this politically chosen word: we've spent the entire thread talking about a silly term. We aren't talking about ideas of American cultural supremacy being forced upon the world of the Web. The political aspect of this, if there is one, has been reduced to a semantic argument about the use of collective nouns, and whether people have any voice in deciding how they're referred to. An interesting issue, but completely separate from the ostensible topic of the OP, and from the topic that people partial to the term presumably actually want to be talking about. It might be satisfying, but it's counterproductive, unless the aim is simply to irritate.
posted by Miko at 3:25 PM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


1. It's not about "figuring it out". If that's as far as you've gotten, you really haven't understood this issue at all. Even as I note it's not a particular bugbear of mine, at least I understand it. See the Macedonia example, above. Do you really think those people are worried about confusion? That's nothing more than a straw man so it would behoove you to recognize it as such.

2. I am on "the continent". It's an analogy to help you slip out of your own privileged backpack for a moment. Apparently it didn't work, but I thought it was worth a try. Again, a nation might not purport to speak for another people, but when the language you use suggests that you are doing so, that is not a neutral thing. Is that a very difficult point to grasp?

3. Again, did I say this was the case? Apply it to the CAR if you like. Use a fictional example altogether. If you thought I was referencing a real debate (other than Macedonia, which you've conveniently ignored), you again have missed the point.

This is what I'm talking about when I say I don't have a dog in this fight but the willful ignorance/intransigence on one side of, otherwise obviously intelligent, perceptive MeFites is rather frustrating, and I start to sympathize for those on the other side of this debate.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:29 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have no love for Microsoft, but I cringe when for example I see "Micro$oft" used as some kind of unironic indictment. It's a similar feeling, of people engaging in pettiness for no reason but the sake of being petty.

Ah, c'mon, it's not the same as that at all. Micro$oft has the obvious implication that the company is all about money. US American has absolutely no implication at all. Your country's name is the United States of America, fer chrissakes, and several people have commented that they have no problem with it.

There's a whole lot of YOU MUST CALL US WHAT WE WISH TO BE CALLED going on here.

Frankly, you can call me a limey, brit, canuck, canuckistani, rosbif, whatever you like and I seriously could not give a shit because -- guess what -- it's not that important to me. But as soon as anyone suggests that the US of A doesn't linguistically lay claim to all of America, coniptions!
posted by unSane at 3:30 PM on March 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


*should* mean something else (people from America)

But where is this "America" that is something other than the nation which you think people are from?

The term, used alone, describes nothing. It refers to no place. There are no "people from America."

There's no such place as "America" if not the United States. There are two American continents, North and South America, so if you want to use the term to refer to a large body of land that is not the U.S., you have to specify. There are "people from the Americas" or "people from North and South America" but there are no "people from America" because there is no geographic America-qua-America landform.

America is in North America, it's not in some continent called America. There is no such continent. There is no terrain that is geographically just termed America on which the land America sits - that's why there's no conflict here.

America, the old colloquial name for that nation, is on the continent of North America.

Is this really news to people?
posted by Miko at 3:36 PM on March 29, 2010 [18 favorites]


Is this really news to people?

Maybe you'd know if you ever travelled outside the USA.
posted by GuyZero at 3:38 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's a whole lot of YOU MUST CALL US WHAT WE WISH TO BE CALLED going on here.

There is no must, people have a right to be rude if they want. I think if it was the reverse situation and Americans were insisting some other country isn't allowed to decide their own preferred name it would be considered a sign of the ignorant American cultural hegemony that was being railed against in the original post.


Frankly, you can call me a limey, brit, canuck, canuckistani, rosbif, whatever you like and I seriously could not give a shit because -- guess what -- it's not that important to me.


Ok, but it is to some.

But as soon as anyone suggests that the US of A doesn't linguistically lay claim to all of America, coniptions!

Nobody is claiming that.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:39 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, not the backpack! Please not the backpack!

Seriously, if you want to talk about American sense of privilege, that's one discussion. It's a good one, but it's one we are not having because we are having an absolutely ludicrous argument about a place name. It's serving only to make me think that any discussions on this topic are going to be rife with flaccid logic. Again, if refusing to recognize the legitimacy and widespread understanding of the name "America" as a reference to the USA is the hill folks want to die on - well, that's a fine choice, but we'll never get to any larger point.
posted by Miko at 3:40 PM on March 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


Is this really news to people?

Maybe you'd know if you ever travelled outside the USA.


That would be such a great slam if it were true!
posted by Miko at 3:41 PM on March 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


Ah, c'mon, it's not the same as that at all. Micro$oft has the obvious implication that the company is all about money. US American has absolutely no implication at all. Your country's name is the United States of America, fer chrissakes, and several people have commented that they have no problem with it.

It's a for-example, not a perfect analogy. The tactic of intentionally using a dispreferred alternate label out of spite is the same.

I understand that some people may use USian only as a neutral learned-by-rote synonym and I have no beef with them (but think they'd benefit from knowing that it's not necessarily going to be read neutrally despite their intentions), but the annoyance comes from the folks who are intentionally using it as some sort of gotcha or swipe. That the implications are not distilled as explicitly into the orthography is a cosmetic issue that doesn't change the fact that it's a crappy thing to do.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:42 PM on March 29, 2010


YOU MUST CALL US WHAT WE WISH TO BE CALLED

Funny, I generally do take this to be an important and respectful point when engaging people on topics related to their identity. For instance, I don't call people 'faggots' and 'lesbos,' 'darkys' or 'wops' - and why? Because over time, people have made it pretty clear that they don't want to be called those names, and have let me know that there are preferred terms that they like to be called that lack a pejorative connotation. Sometimes those terms even change over time, but it's not hard to adapt. It's a good idea to ask people how they'd like to be referred to, or to respond when they correct you. It's a simple enough thing for me to start a conversation with someone by using the term of address they prefer. It's good manners.
posted by Miko at 3:44 PM on March 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


USian is ugly, but why on earth do people find it insulting? What exactly is the implied insult?

To me the insult is by telling me, as an American, that the word I use to describe my nationality is wrong because it takes meaning away from other peoples who may or may not want to use it. USian is a loaded term, especially since there are no particular parallels to draw with other countries. If an Australian asked you to stop calling them an "Aussie," you would not defend to the teeth your right to do so.

There's a sense that we, as a nation, are wrong for calling ourselves a perfectly cromulent adjectival shortening of our country's name, because we're "over-reaching" or "taking control" of the word - which is flat out bogus. Any time I see USian, I feel that I, as an American, am being shamed and belittled. Totally honest about that - I can't help but see it as a derisive term since most of the people who use it are using it to specifically avoid using the term that Americans actually prefer to be called. ESPECIALLY since these are the sort of people (the ones using "USian") who are usually quick to correct Americans who are labeling somebody else incorrectly.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:46 PM on March 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


The term is not confusing in the English language unless you're trying to be deliberately obtuse.
I'm with Sova here and think the EU-Europe comparison is good. I usually work around it by saying "people in the EU" and "people in the US". I am baffled that so many Americans actually seem offended by USian, because I never saw it that way. I honestly always read USian as a simle shorthand for "people in the US" without any connotations whatsoever.

Like many people English is not my mother tongue and I sometimes miss subtleties of the language. Since I do not live in the US I also undoubtedly miss some context. I appreciate it if you explain it if I don't use the right words, but please do not automatically assume that I am trying to be deliberately obtuse.

After reading this thread I got the idea that I might be too sensitive, but the Wikipedia article linked upthread does mention that: The use of American as a national demonym for U.S. nationals is challenged, primarily by Latin Americans.[2] The Luxury Link travel guide[citation needed] advises U.S. nationals in Mexico to not refer to themselves as Americans, because Mexicans consider themselves Americans. The Getting Through Customs website advises business travellers not to use "in America" as a U.S. reference when conducting business in Brazil.[19]
posted by davar at 3:47 PM on March 29, 2010


Miko: "There is no such continent. There is no terrain that is geographically just termed America on which the land America sits - that's why there's no conflict here."

Ah, that's interesting because I was taught there was only one continent, America (that *can* but not that it must be sub-divided in North and South). Apparently, according to wikipedia, the exact number of continents that America depends on where you live.
posted by Memo at 3:47 PM on March 29, 2010


Ah, now that's interesting.So do you get confused when someone, say an EUian, refers to people in the US as "Americans?" Do you believe that the term is confusing, or unfairly usurping?
posted by Miko at 3:51 PM on March 29, 2010


Frankly, you can call me a limey, brit, canuck, canuckistani, rosbif, whatever you like and I seriously could not give a shit because -- guess what -- it's not that important to me. But as soon as anyone suggests that the US of A doesn't linguistically lay claim to all of America, coniptions!

See, don't give a shit about saying bad things about America. It wouldn't irritate me in the slightest (and it'd actually give me a giggle and some fond memories of reading free maoist papers in the campus center) if people want to talk about THE UNITED SNAKES OF AMERIKKKA - because then, the meaning would be clear. America, in that speaker's opinion, is a racist, snakey place, so s/he's fucking with the words to make that point. Fine! What I hate about USIAN is the endless bullshitting about how confusing "American" is and the absolute lie that English speakers elsewhere in the world hear "American" and assume it applies to two entire continents. I appreciate those who've talked about benign and/or progressive motives, and those who acknowledge that it's meant to be some kind of dig at the global oppressors - it's the weird lying that drives me up the wall.
posted by moxiedoll at 3:52 PM on March 29, 2010 [11 favorites]


And are there no terms for "North American" or "South American" even though the continent may be considered a single landmass?
posted by Miko at 3:52 PM on March 29, 2010


But as soon as anyone suggests that the US of A doesn't linguistically lay claim to all of America, coniptions!

Nobody is claiming that.


*cough*
posted by unSane at 3:53 PM on March 29, 2010


Very soon after making these posts I had a terrible fallout (not related to Mefi) that has resulted in a deep personal loss. It's the day after and I'm still feeling like absolute crap, and don't have the mental space to make a better post for this topic as some of you have requested.

If anyone wants to take on the challenge of writing a more solid post about US-centrism on the Internet, or how conversations with emotion sometimes get dismissed compared to those that are purely logical, or even on whether it's USAian or American or whatever, go for it. Good luck.
posted by divabat at 3:53 PM on March 29, 2010



America is in North America, it's not in some continent called America. There is no such continent.

According to Wikipedia, that depends on how you look at it. I remember learning America as one continent in elementary school (it was easy to remember, all continent names start with an A, except Europe).
posted by davar at 3:53 PM on March 29, 2010


Those of you who can't seem to grasp this aren't forgetting the bloody history of American military domination of the Americas, are they? Manifest Destiny? How control has been exercised over your "backyard"? It's funny that so many MeFites I recognize from other debates as arguing that history, and a history of dominance, doesn't lend itself well to equality equaling equity, and yet here we are. As if Venezuelans suddenly referring to themselves as "Americans" would be exactly the same thing.

And still no response to the Macedonia example? I thought people wanted a non-fictional example? There you go.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:54 PM on March 29, 2010


There's a whole lot of YOU MUST CALL US WHAT WE WISH TO BE CALLED going on here.

YES, YES THERE IS. That's the whole point. This is fine when it comes to any members of the GLBT communities, f'rinstance (as Miko points out) and if this were any other nation being discussed, its citizens' right to self-apply an adjectival identity would be defended to the teeth in MetaTalk.

We, as a group, have the g-ddamn RIGHT to have a preferred name for our identity.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:55 PM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


unSane, you misread.
posted by Miko at 3:55 PM on March 29, 2010


I'm sorry to hear it, divabat. I hope things get better.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:55 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's a good idea to ask people how they'd like to be referred to, or to respond when they correct you.

Yes, but if I asked to be addressed as "His high holiness lord and master of the universe emperor king of all kings Unsane" you might demur.

Of course I would then have you thrown in the fiery pit, but still.
posted by unSane at 3:57 PM on March 29, 2010


Those of you who can't seem to grasp this aren't forgetting the bloody history of American military domination of the Americas, are they? Manifest Destiny? How control has been exercised over your "backyard"?

Not forgetting it at all, and if someone wants to use USian for that reason - I want them to just own up to it because this "American is confusing" bullshit is just that. Bullshit.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:58 PM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Those of you who can't seem to grasp this aren't forgetting the bloody history of American military domination of the Americas, are they?

What does that have to do with USian?

I cannot find the "Macedonia example." It seems important to you, but I've been reading this whole thread and just searched with "find in page," and I can't find it. What's the Macedonia example? Can you just link, or spell out?
posted by Miko at 3:58 PM on March 29, 2010


So we must refer to North Korea as the Democratic Republic of Korea, then? Since that's what they like?
posted by unSane at 3:58 PM on March 29, 2010


Yes, but if I asked to be addressed as "His high holiness lord and master of the universe emperor king of all kings Unsane" you might demur.

It is at this point when I shrug, give up arguing, and go eat some chicken.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:58 PM on March 29, 2010

I'm with Sova here and think the EU-Europe comparison is good.
Hmmm. I don't think the EU is functionally equivalent to the USA, because at this point the EU isn't really very many people's primary national identity. I don't think there are very many people who, when asked their citizenship, would say European, because they're citizens of the EU. Most people would say "I'm French" or "I'm Greek," so saying not to use European for "EU," probably doesn't feel like you're denying their identity. That was true of the U.S. in the very early days of our history: many people considered themselves citizens of Virginia or Massachusetts before the United States. But now I think it would be hard to replace "American" with something else, because being American is a pretty central part of the identity of people from the U.S., and we think of that identity as "American" rather than USian.

Now, I know there are a lot of people who don't care, which is fine. But it seems not-entirely-correct to compare US identity to EU identity.
posted by craichead at 3:59 PM on March 29, 2010



Yes, but if I asked to be addressed as "His high holiness lord and master of the universe emperor king of all kings Unsane" you might demur.


Because it has too many words. If you want to be called by a nickname that is fine though, unSane.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:59 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, but if I asked to be addressed as "His high holiness lord and master of the universe emperor king of all kings Unsane" you might demur.

However, if 300 million if you gathered together and said that was one common way that you like to refer to your nation, who am I to argue? One outlier is a nutjob, but centuries of history and reams of common parlance give a lot of weight.
posted by Miko at 3:59 PM on March 29, 2010


Sorry to hear it, divabat. I'll have to take off in a few as well, though merely dinnertime. Will check back with interest to see if any of this has sunk in whatsoever.

Not forgetting it at all, and if someone wants to use USian for that reason - I want them to just own up to it because this "American is confusing" bullshit is just that. Bullshit.

You mean what I referred to a straw man of the thread?

Maybe I've misread people on the "USian" side, but I thought it was all about dominance, and the "confusion" nonsense was coming from people on the other side of the debate (lately, but not necessarily exclusively Miko). I'm not confused by it. Is anyone "confused" by it?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:00 PM on March 29, 2010


Durn is referring to this comment. Which seems to me to be a pickle. My first instinct is to say that if the Macedonians want to call themselves the Macedonians, more power to them, but I lack any close awareness of the local details and history of that dispute so I'm not going to try and hold forth on the subject.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:00 PM on March 29, 2010


That would be such a great slam if it were true!

OK, so aside from me being a jerk about it, this is indeed news to some small number of un/mis-informed people. And native Spanish speakers apparently. Not that they get to decide what to call people from the US, but just being perfectly literal here.
posted by GuyZero at 4:00 PM on March 29, 2010


Please don't accuse me of lying. There have been genuine ambiguities that have forced me to explain myself, and required a word for 'US American' that wasn't 'American'. I gave one example earlier... 'We are all American', which was completely ambiguous in the context -- it was not at all clear if I was using it in the 9/11 sense or in the geographic sense. This is what got me thinking about it in the first place, because I reached for a word and it wasn't there.
posted by unSane at 4:01 PM on March 29, 2010


I gotta be honest, this thread is making me feel a lot better about being a professional manufacturer of American cultural hegemony.
posted by Bookhouse at 4:01 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I cannot find the "Macedonia example." It seems important to you, but I've been reading this whole thread and just searched with "find in page," and I can't find it. What's the Macedonia example? Can you just link, or spell out?

That's funny. You replied (in numbered form, as if dispensing with my points) to the comment in which I linked it so I'd have thought you'd have consulted it, even for a moment if you were at all interested in the other side of the debate.

Since the main thrust of the anti-USian crowd in here seems to be "How can anyone have a problem with what people call themselves", I thought it might be instructive.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:03 PM on March 29, 2010


So we must refer to North Korea as the Democratic Republic of Korea, then? Since that's what they like?

Sure, and I see that a lot of people and organizations do, because that is their official name, much like "The United States of America" is the USA's official name. But colloquially, they are also known as North Korea - so much so that a search on "North Korea" turns up that nation's central government website - much as the United States of America has a colloquial name recognized worldwide, viz., America.

I can hold both in my mind!
posted by Miko at 4:04 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


fter reading this thread I got the idea that I might be too sensitive, but the Wikipedia article linked upthread does mention that: The use of American as a national demonym for U.S. nationals is challenged, primarily by Latin Americans.[2] The Luxury Link travel guide[citation needed] advises U.S. nationals in Mexico to not refer to themselves as Americans, because Mexicans consider themselves Americans. The Getting Through Customs website advises business travellers not to use "in America" as a U.S. reference when conducting business in Brazil.[19]

The citations for that are pretty weak.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:05 PM on March 29, 2010


Thanks, cortex. Didn't see you on preview. It's a different situation for sure, but again might help people get out of the cultural baggage of their own backyard and see why others "might have a problem with" what someone chooses to call themself. "Just a name", absent history is, sure, just a name.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:05 PM on March 29, 2010


Anyway, must be off but will rejoin later.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:06 PM on March 29, 2010


Ah, that's interesting because I was taught there was only one continent, America (that *can* but not that it must be sub-divided in North and South). Apparently, according to wikipedia, the exact number of continents that America depends on where you live.

That is interesting. Apparently, Europe and Asia are considered as separate by some; by others, they are Eurasia, and by still others Afro-Eurasia.

I'm not certain which I learned in school - I was in elementary school in the U.S., England, and France, and what I learned in which place has sort of smooshed together, and smooshed together with things I learned later.
posted by rtha at 4:07 PM on March 29, 2010


Wow, did I bork that. Here's the link to lots of uses of North Korea's official name in some contexts.

Durn Bronzefist, your comment stood alone as a statement, which I responded to. So in what way do you think the Macedonia dispute sheds light on the debate over "USian?"
posted by Miko at 4:07 PM on March 29, 2010


Oh, fuck me. Third time's a charm. This discussion is actually numbing my brain.

see why others "might have a problem with" what someone chooses to call themself. "Just a name", absent history is, sure, just a name.

I don't dispute that others might have a problem over rights to claim a name. This does not seem directly relevant to this debate, though. We are not at the level of international arbitration, we are at the level of intellectual masturbation.

This American's out for the evening.
posted by Miko at 4:13 PM on March 29, 2010


Yep, what shakespearian (and unsane, and many others) have said.

For the record, I was pointing out why 'USian' can be perceived as insulting, because it can easily be read as 'I think you are arrogant if you use the term "American"' even though 'American' is, for better or for worse, the standard term used for citizens of the USA. I was not agreeing with unSane et al.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:15 PM on March 29, 2010


I guess I'm the odd Canuck out. My American spouse explained to me once that I was American too, using the "the continent is 'America'" argument. I explained right back that geographically speaking I refer to myself as Canadian or North American. And since the popular usage of "American" means citizens of the US, he risked getting gutted if he kept on telling me I was "American," as if he was my own personal Manifest Destiny steamroller.

I may have used "USian" here in the past because it's shorter to type and I didn't realize about the negative connotations, but not now. In general I'll call people what they prefer. I suppose I consider "American = only US citizens" reasonably neutral.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 4:15 PM on March 29, 2010


So do you get confused when someone, say an EUian, refers to people in the US as "Americans?" Do you believe that the term is confusing, or unfairly usurping?
I used to think it was confusing. Not that when I read an article about Americans I did not understand what it meant, but I did find the term too ambiguous to use myself when I meant "people from the US" because for me "American" sounded like "people from the American continent".

Hmmm. I don't think the EU is functionally equivalent to the USA
No, I did not meant to imply that. But people do throw around the term "Europeans" when they actually mean "people who live in the EU" and I try to seperate the two because I think the difference is important.
posted by davar at 4:16 PM on March 29, 2010


I am from the US but sometimes people ask me if I'm British and once an Australian guy thought I was Australian. I don't know why. It's awkward :(
posted by little e at 4:16 PM on March 29, 2010


StinkyCheese: In fact, if you're saying anything here, you're reinforcing the notion that Americans idolize individuality and shun collective responsibility.

There's a good quote along those lines that, amusingly, even had the foresight to use a Mefite meme to make it's point:

No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.


- Stanisław Jerzy Lec



Hang in there divabat.

That is all.

posted by Skygazer at 4:18 PM on March 29, 2010


I am from the US but sometimes people ask me if I'm British
Just smile broadly and the minute they see your teeth they'll know you're not one of us.
posted by Abiezer at 4:19 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


My name is George, apparently other people use this name as well, how confusing.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:27 PM on March 29, 2010


The citations for that are pretty weak.
If you follow some links, you'll end up at Merriam Webster which says: from 1791 to present people have questioned the propriety or accuracy of using America to mean the United States and American to mean an inhabitant or citizen of the United States. It mentions a few other proposed names that never caught on, among which Usian. So, it's not just a word invented by some internet people who try to be obnoxious.
posted by davar at 4:29 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Me: Pick one.

craichead: I would pick "oh yeah, well we invented the internet!" to be an argument approximately on the level of "my dad is bigger than your dad!"

That's great, except I was referring to divabat's conflicting comments. First she said, "Population numbers are a really crappy way to justify something's importance." Later, she said, "The country that invented the Internet doesn't have the most Internet users, nor does its region come close to Asia or Europe. It doesn't even have 50% Internet penetration," in order to justify one of her comments.

Hope that clarifies what I was talking about.
posted by tzikeh at 4:29 PM on March 29, 2010


MetaFilter: Love it or leave it take it to Meta!
posted by Mick at 4:49 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


From the Merriam Webster link op. cit.
It is becoming presumptuous and inaccurate to refer to North Americans [sic] as "Americans", especially in the context of defending or upsetting Central Americans, South Americans and Latin Americans
--William Safire, 1967
H. L. Mencken in 1947 suggested Columbian, Columbard, Fredonian, Frede, Unisian, United Statesian, Colonican [!], Applacian, Usian, Washingtonian, Usonian, Uessian, U-S-ian, Uesican.

Fowler's Usage in 1926 contained this: "The use America for the United States and American for (citizen) of the U.S. ... will continue to be protested against by purists and patriots & will doubtless survive the protests."

It also notes that 'American' was used as a replacement for 'Provincials', which no doubt explains some of its popularity among US Americans.

So this debate is longstanding and by no means the invention of internet ranters or political extremists. Nor, despite all the pearl-clutching, is it settled.
posted by unSane at 4:49 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Colonican" it is then.
posted by GuyZero at 4:51 PM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


I am from the US but sometimes people ask me if I'm British
Just smile broadly and the minute they see your teeth they'll know you're not one of us.


PERFECT! If I ever want to convince someone I'm British, I'll smile broadly and show them the genetic lineage from the Mayflower and they'll hand me some crumpets!

Yep. My teeth are damned weird.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:54 PM on March 29, 2010


I live on a continent called America.

North America. There's two! *


Totally depends on where you're from and where you went to grade school. There is no worldwide standard definition of what a continent is or what the specific continents are.
posted by mosessis at 5:15 PM on March 29, 2010


"Colonican" it is then.

High Colonican, please.
posted by Nothing... and like it at 5:17 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I followed the links, they are weak. A couple mentions of complaints from people like Mencken who I think would have fit in quite nicely as a modern day blogger. There is no widespread confusion, anywhere on the planet.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:17 PM on March 29, 2010

"Colonican" it is then.
May the Florida jokes commence!
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:20 PM on March 29, 2010


UnSane, you're citing HL Menken to prove that you're not being a dick?
Ahh, I kid. I don't understand why people from Europe and Australia feel compelled to strip us Americans of the term - but maybe I will someday? I look forward to the New and Improved FPP!
posted by moxiedoll at 5:51 PM on March 29, 2010


When this is all hashed out can someone let me know what I should call non-white people, where I am from, and exactly what my level of privilege is?
posted by cjorgensen at 5:54 PM on March 29, 2010


"USian" is kind of like "Moslem".
posted by planet at 5:55 PM on March 29, 2010


If you think I'm a dick for calling you "US American" when you come from the US of A, so be it.

I quoted Mencken to show that USian (WHICH I HATE -- READ THE FUCKING THREAD) is not a recent neologism. Try to keep up.
posted by unSane at 5:57 PM on March 29, 2010


For the record, I find USian a gently humorous way to make a point, and I am honestly surprised by the outrage. I hear it in the same spirit as we New Zealanders use when referring to Australia as the West Island, or that Aussies might use referring to the Shaky Isles or whatever.

When I first understood how Americans use the word Americans among themselves, I must have been a little boy, and I remember at the time having a big argument with a schoolmate about how illogical this was. I imagine most posters here are at least a couple of decades past primary school* and yet here you are. Sticks and stones indeed.

*"elementary school", for North Americans**
**Canadians call it elementary school too***, don't they?
***Isn't Mexico technically in North American?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:59 PM on March 29, 2010


Americans use the term "primary" school as well, I don't know what Canadians call it, and yes, Mexico is in North America.
posted by spaltavian at 6:05 PM on March 29, 2010


USian (WHICH I HATE -- READ THE FUCKING THREAD)

Read my fucking comment, Brit. "USian" doesn't even appear. You aren't ok with saying "American". By itself. Without the prefix that's unnecessary to communicate nationality but which rather serves some political purpose that's still unclear (to me) but which I am in good faith assuming exists. Good day, sir!
posted by moxiedoll at 6:07 PM on March 29, 2010


mosessis: I live on a continent called America.

North America. There's two! *

Totally depends on where you're from and where you went to grade school.


Plate tectonics disagrees.
posted by spaltavian at 6:07 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you think I'm a dick for calling you "US American" when you come from the US of A, so be it.

I wouldn't think you were a dick; I'd think you were an idiot. But, then, I'm from Canada.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:08 PM on March 29, 2010


Brings to mind this AskMe: Songs about America.
posted by ericb at 6:10 PM on March 29, 2010

*"elementary school", for North Americans**
That would be wittier were it not for the fact that people in the U.S. use "primary school" and "elementary school" pretty much interchangeably! I don't know what Canadians say. They do say "grade ten," rather than "tenth grade," which sounds slightly strange to U.S. ears.
posted by craichead at 6:11 PM on March 29, 2010


Fucking Pangaeans.
posted by qvantamon at 6:12 PM on March 29, 2010


fixedgear: “Amerigo Vespucci FTW!”

trip and a half: “I prefer to think of it as Vespucciland. My home sweet home.”

By the way, a fact for those of us who seem to think that we're inheritors of a crafty mapmaker's moniker: America was likely not named after Amerigo Vespucci.
posted by koeselitz at 6:16 PM on March 29, 2010


What about grammar school? Or is that only something my grandparents say because they're old and not because they're American?

You know the anguish it took to type that in this thread? PREPARE TO STONE ME, I KNOW YOU KNOW WHAT I MEANT.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:16 PM on March 29, 2010


Elementary school up here, too, yeah. Except, that is, when there are K-8s, which complicate the terminology somewhat. In the Maritimes they call Kindergarten "Grade Primary," which just bugs the hell out of me.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:16 PM on March 29, 2010


What about grammar school?

In my experience, "Grammar School" refers to a private school for rich kids in sweater-vests with crests on them.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:18 PM on March 29, 2010


That would be wittier were it not for the fact that people in the U.S. use "primary school" and "elementary school" pretty much interchangeably!

Well bugger. And I worked so hard on those footnotes too. There's some sort of lesson in that, although I'm not feeling confident enough to draw it out at this point.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 6:20 PM on March 29, 2010


What's always been odd to me is that "public school" seems to have something like the opposite connotation in the UK.
posted by koeselitz at 6:21 PM on March 29, 2010


In the U.S. I think grammar school is just an old-person term for primary school or elementary school or whatever. In other places, I think they're fancy-pants schools that you have to take an exam or pay money to get into.
posted by craichead at 6:21 PM on March 29, 2010


In my experience, "Grammar School" refers to a private school for rich kids in sweater-vests with crests on them.

Hrm. Genuinely fascinating. My grandparents (and no one else I know) use the term for any K-8 school, and in context, it's usually referred to public schools. Though I suppose you can wear a sweater vest to public school. There's no law - far as I know.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:23 PM on March 29, 2010


For the record, I find USian a gently humorous way to make a point, and I am honestly surprised by the outrage.

It's more of a low seethe, really, and it's the result not of a gently humorous point having been once made but of the pin-cushion existence of having that thin point made again and again and again by a thousand different needling wits. The cleverness of the thing is far less durable than the annoyance of it.

I quoted Mencken to show that USian...is not a recent neologism. Try to keep up.

Yes, but you quoted Mencken, a satirist, holding forth with a ridiculous list, as apparent evidence of the liveliness of the debate. This is like quoting Swift to support the notion that babies-as-nutrition is not a new or easily-dismissible idea. And Safire, god rest his soul, was the last person to look to for reliable usage advice, however engaging a columnist he was.

I'm mainly quibbling with your cites because I think they're deeply thin as some sort of rebuke to the idea that "American" is a plainly well-established convention. That "USian" is an idea older than the current exhilarating revival it seems to be enjoying on the Internet doesn't materially affect how it is often currently used or why that usage is obnoxious to the people who live here and who already have as a very, very well-established convention for how they identify themselves nationally.

I actually think a careful look at the history of debate/friction on the subject would be interesting, for what it's worth. I just don't think the stuff you pulled out represents anything like the foundation for a compelling argument that "American" has, I dunno, been barely squeaking by or something.

people in the U.S. use "primary school" and "elementary school" pretty much interchangeably!

I grew up with "elementary school" and "grade school", the latter of which can in my idiolect refer to either K-5 or K-8. Then there's "middle school" and "junior high" for 6-8, though I seem to recall debating as a kid whether "junior high" (the less likely term where I grew up) was in fact 6-9 or 7-9 as contrasted with middle school's firm 6-8.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:26 PM on March 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh, no, definitely old-person-word-for-elementary-school. But nowadays, I mean, when it's actually in the name of the actual building or whatever: Private school.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:29 PM on March 29, 2010


In England, Grammar Schools were originally charitable institutions for educating the the upper middle classes. Many of them were founded by Kings Edward VI and VII. The one I went to was founded by Edward VI in the 1500s. By the 1950s you gained entry to these schools by passing the 'eleven plus' which was basically an IQ test with some other stuff thrown in. The 5% who passed went to Grammar Schools, the rest to Secondary Moderns, which a more trade-oriented kind of thing. (AJP Taylor said "Run away to sea rather than go to a secondary modern").

The 11+ was eventually abolished and the Grammar Schools basically either folded into the new system or became independent.

They were like little private schools with a heavy emphasis on getting into a good university -- the last one I attended sent more than a hundred kids to Oxford and Cambridge every year. It was a terrific education for those who got in, but the 11+ was horribly divisive.

My entire education, Grammar school and Oxford, was entirely free. I feel incredibly lucky in retrospect, as we could not have afforded to pay a penny for any of it, and my mother had to be persuaded that going to university was even necessary.
posted by unSane at 6:31 PM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, I'll tell you one thing, Amerigo Vespucci doesn't like this USian business. Not-a one-a little-a BIT!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:35 PM on March 29, 2010


I think it's worth pointing out that "Yank" is both old hat and intended offensively, so in my head USian and Merkin and similar silly names fill that gap -- what informal terms for Americans would be received as affectionate?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 6:37 PM on March 29, 2010


So this debate is longstanding and by no means the invention of internet ranters or political extremists. Nor, despite all the pearl-clutching, is it settled.

From Merriam-Webster: "Despite the perceived difficulty with America and American in this use, the terms are fully established".

Do we get to argue about what "established" means now?
posted by oneirodynia at 6:38 PM on March 29, 2010


what informal terms for Americans would be received as affectionate?

Bunnies. No, wait, that's just at Metachat.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:38 PM on March 29, 2010


They were like little private schools with a heavy emphasis on getting into a good university -- the last one I attended sent more than a hundred kids to Oxford and Cambridge every year. It was a terrific education for those who got in, but the 11+ was horribly divisive.

My entire education, Grammar school and Oxford, was entirely free. I feel incredibly lucky in retrospect, as we could not have afforded to pay a penny for any of it, and my mother had to be persuaded that going to university was even necessary.


This is the kind of little gem that keeps me reading MeFi, past all the inanity over "USian" and similar trivialities. Again and again here, I will be getting all GRARRRRRR over a particularly stupid and infuriating set of comments, and then someone will type four or five sentences that gives me a momentary window into their life, or their thoughts, or a particular set of ideas that I would never have known about otherwise.

So just like we all simultaneously understand "America" to be the country and the continent(s), I can love and be angered by MeFi in equal proportion. Time for a great big family hug, ok?
posted by Forktine at 6:39 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Whoah. I return to "Colonican"? Didn't know about the long history of this. Fascinating.

I think it's worth pointing out that "Yank" is both old hat and intended offensively

Good to keep in mind. I've noticed foreigners (particularly Brits) using the term affectionately, or at least with benign intentions.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:41 PM on March 29, 2010


Perhaps "capable of offensive use" would be more accurate. After all, where I come from, calling you a bastard is good, while calling you "my friend" can be a danger sign.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 6:50 PM on March 29, 2010


Yankee or Yank isn't trouble because it is offensive, but because it is used to refer more to someone from New England in the US (or a baseball team). You wouldn't call someone from the south a Yankee.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:51 PM on March 29, 2010


Maritimes they call Kindergarten "Grade Primary,"
posted by Sys Rq


I'm not sure if you meant to be quite this precise, but interestingly enough it's correct. Newfoundlanders [NL is not part of the maritimes, but of Atlantic Canada, and we get offended when referred to as being in the Maritimes, so this debate has been amusing] generally go with "elementary school" for 1-6 (sometimes classifying "primary" as 1-3), "junior high" 7-9, "high school" grades 10-12. Kindergarten is just that - but I'm living in New Brunswick now and I was surprised to hear people, especially rural NS, use it. Weirdos.
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:53 PM on March 29, 2010


You wouldn't call someone from the south a Yankee.

Hilarious! That is exactly the kind of thoughtless parochialism some of us were complaining about. You wouldn't say that, because Yankee is meaningful to you. But I would, and I imagine most English speakers from outside North America would, because that is how we use the word. When my uncle spray painted "Yanks out of Vietnam" on the wall of the US Embassy so many decades ago, he was not merely referring to those born north of the Mason-Dixon line. I know that the descriptivists approving the geographically inaccurate American use of "American" will back me up here.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:10 PM on March 29, 2010


I think this is a good opportunity to break out the old chestnut:
To foreigners, a Yankee is an American.
To Americans, a Yankee is a Northerner.
To Northerners, a Yankee is an Easterner.
To Easterners, a Yankee is a New Englander.
To New Englanders, a Yankee is a Vermonter.
And in Vermont, a Yankee is somebody who eats pie for breakfast.
And thus change the subject to pie.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 7:12 PM on March 29, 2010 [21 favorites]


Do we get to argue about what "established" means now?

First, define "now"!
posted by rtha at 7:12 PM on March 29, 2010


I've noticed foreigners (particularly Brits) using the term affectionately, or at least with benign intentions.

Like any word that flirts with the boundaries between slur and affection, "yank" can be meant either way, or even both at the same time. It's like "gringo," or "seppo," say -- it's all in the tone of voice and the context. In short online comments, we don't have tone of voice, and we often lack context. I've had "yank" said to me nicely, nastily, and ambiguously -- it's not so much the word, but how it's said, and by whom.
posted by Forktine at 7:13 PM on March 29, 2010


We're all septic tanks, i_am_joe's_spleen.
posted by moxiedoll at 7:13 PM on March 29, 2010


Durn Bronzefist, isn't the problem with the Macedonian example that, when the Republic of Macedonia was to be named, there was already a region that was referred to, and identified itself, as "Macedonia," and whose people referred to themselves as "Macedonians"? It seems to me that your example proves the opposite point to the one you're trying to make. It shows that actual confusion matters -- leads to international disputes and UN involvement -- which is exactly what we anti-USians have been saying: is there any actual confusion here, and if not, why invent a solution to a problem that doesn't exist?

Yes, some other nation could have included "America" in its name, and could have been referring to themselves as "American" for hundreds of years, and that would have really become a confusing problem. But no one did! Much like no other nation on the Indian subcontinent refers to itself as "India," so there's no problem there, either. And much like no other nationality in the southern part of Africa refers to themselves as "South Africans," so again, no problem there.

But I'm sure you have no problem referring to people from India as "Indians," without any concern that they have arrogated to themselves the nomenclature of a whole subcontinent.
posted by palliser at 7:18 PM on March 29, 2010


Hilarious! That is exactly the kind of thoughtless parochialism some of us were complaining about.

You just asked about terms. Why are you being a sniffy when someone answers in good faith?
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:18 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hilarious! That is exactly the kind of thoughtless parochialism some of us were complaining about. You wouldn't say that, because Yankee is meaningful to you. But I would, and I imagine most English speakers from outside North America would, because that is how we use the word.

?

I was explaining how it is used in the US. If you want to piss off someone from the south by calling them a Yankee feel free.

Yankee or Yank isn't trouble because it is offensive, but because it is used to refer more to someone from New England in the US
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:22 PM on March 29, 2010


Yank doesn't bother me at all. USian sounds like I'm having my spelling corrected by my betters, while Yank sounds like slang for American. If you call me Yank I can call you Limey, we remain equals. USian just comes off all wrong, like you can't even be bothered use a real insult. As if you're to good to just say what you mean to a bunch of US-406s. Like we don't have a "real culture" and USian is a shorthand for "Fuck you, you bunch of Walmart pants wearing dumbfucks."
posted by nola at 7:28 PM on March 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


To foreigners, a Yankee is an American.
To Americans, a Yankee is a Northerner.
To Northerners, a Yankee is an Easterner.
To Easterners, a Yankee is a New Englander.
To New Englanders, a Yankee is a Vermonter.
And in Vermont, a Yankee is somebody who eats pie for breakfast.


The interesting thing being that Yankee actually qualifies as something that can lead to genuine confusion, unlike American. Should make the brits say USYankian.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:31 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Backing up a bit, when I said Yank could be used offensively, I meant with offensive intent on the part of the speaker.

"you wouldn't say..."

Um, yes, yes I would say.

"it isn't used..."

Yes, yes it is used.

I understand furiousxgeorge offered their reply in a spirit of helpfulness. I still find it funny and completely at cross-purposes. I see now that arch humour may not be an appropriate tone at this point.

What does "being a sniffy" mean?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:31 PM on March 29, 2010


You seem to be having some trouble with how I phrased my comment, let me be clear.

"it isn't used...IN THE US"


"you (SOMEONE IN THE US) wouldn't say..."
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:35 PM on March 29, 2010


And it's not about British people being called what they call themselves - I call myself English above all -

You said you didn't like "Brit" because, among other things, "I've rarely heard people from the UK actually use 'the shortened version.'" If it's not about that, I'm not sure why you noted it as the first problem with the term.

it's about the use of words and their potential meanings. To say "Brit" is to use a word in a way that associates a person with a number of ideas, and to say "American" in reference to the US alone is to give it a meaning that prevents an equally valid meaning.

Certainly, a word having a meaning prevents it from having all kinds of other meanings. This is not so much sad as necessary. As I noted above, calling people from India "Indians" prevents other nationalities on the Indian subcontinent from identifying themselves that way.

And saying "USian" associates the person you're talking about with a number of ideas, as well. According to you, that's a plus -- because you "would be sad if I could only express that conception in a discussion set off in time and place from other political discussions, and that's why I've wanted to incorporate it into my language." Maybe other people want to incorporate into their language whatever conception comes along with the term "Brit"* -- but that's exactly what's rude about it.

*I'm not sure what this conception is, actually, and I don't need to know; it's enough that I've heard in a few places that people don't like to be called "Brit," so I don't do it. Also because I hate cutesy nicknames in general, like "kiddos" or "veggies."
posted by palliser at 7:40 PM on March 29, 2010


This thread's old enough. It's limerick time.
...
In our postmodern globalist era,
Ethnic slurs vary bearer by bearer.
So don't take offence
When I write on my fence
"Todos los Yanquis pendejos: fuera"
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:44 PM on March 29, 2010 [14 favorites]


The phrase 'est a blis hed' first appears in the marginalia of a little-known early draft of Holinshed's Chronicles. These somewhat cryptic meta-textual interpolations are written in a cribbed hand that at first glance appears significantly different to that of the body text; however, graphological inspection has shown it to be indeed that of Ralph himself.
To add further to the puzzle, they are composed in an unusual amalgam of Norman Legal French and Early Modern English still preserving many by then archaic Middle English constructions, interspersed with the occasional Welsh or Anglo-Saxon lexical item. The scholarly debate on the interpretation of this idiosyncratic linguistic pot-pourri has been warmly contested but the broadly settled opinion on a modern rendering of our phrase is 'it's a bliss head', or as McCracken (2003) puts it in the modern vernacular, "I'm off me face here." McCracken tentatively links this frank admission to Holinshed's well-documented penchant for Mistress Miggin's Magic Mushroom Mead, a potent and popular tipple in Elizabethan Warwickshire.
posted by Abiezer at 7:45 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


...where I come from, calling you a bastard is good, while calling you "my friend" can be a danger sign.

Point taken, chief!

Also, I've known and still do know people from several Latin-American countries and none of them ever professed any sort of confusion about the term "American" as applied to citizens and nationals of the United States of America. One friend, originally from República Argentina, went so far as to deride my choice of a sandwich and a cup of coffee for lunch as "so American."
posted by Mister_A at 7:46 PM on March 29, 2010


Hilarious! That is exactly the kind of thoughtless parochialism some of us were complaining about.

You just asked about terms. Why are you being a sniffy when someone answers in good faith?


I'd venture a guess: guy feels like being an obtuse jerk today.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:08 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


So where do we stand on calling British people "roastbifs"?
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:15 PM on March 29, 2010


I'd venture a guess: guy feels like being an obtuse jerk today.

I felt that, acutely.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:17 PM on March 29, 2010


No other Americans/USians/US Americans/Awesomes/Yanks/Parochials/Colonists/Obamies call a school with classes K-8 a "grade school"?
posted by sallybrown at 8:18 PM on March 29, 2010


Oh and I've only ever been called a Yank by one eccentric and snappily dressed elderly British gent and one young and blindingly gorgeous British gent, and both of them made the term sound rather wonderful.
posted by sallybrown at 8:23 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


No other Americans/USians/US Americans/Awesomes/Yanks/Parochials/Colonists/Obamies call a school with classes K-8 a "grade school"?

No, actually - where are you from? In my Boston area childhood "elementary school" referred to your first school - so public school kids went to "elementary" (K-5), then "middle" (6-8) - while the Catholic school kids went to "elementary" (1-8). I didn't know anyone fancier than that, though I have heard the term "grammar" used in a private school context, which makes sense given UnSane's description of the UK system, and the "grammar" phase of development in Classical Education theory. But never and no how have I heard "grade school". (Or "primary" for that matter).
posted by moxiedoll at 8:24 PM on March 29, 2010


Actually, while I use elementary school, grade school is acceptable for K-5 for me.
posted by Atreides at 8:25 PM on March 29, 2010


No, actually - where are you from?

I grew up in the DC suburbs and attended a K-8th grade Catholic parochial school, which was titled St. X Elementary School; my brother attended an all-boys' private school that was "lower school" for K-8 and "upper school" for 9-12. My family and most everyone I grew up with still say grade school (i.e. "Where did you go to grade school?" or "I went to X for grade school and Y for high school"). I can't remember once actually using the term "elementary school" except if saying the actual name of my grade school.

One of my high school teachers (woman in her late 60s) used to say "grammar school" when she meant K-8.

I've also heard people say "primary school" when they mean schools that are K-2 or K-6.
posted by sallybrown at 8:36 PM on March 29, 2010


spaltavian: Plate tectonics disagrees.

Ah, that would explain why Eurasia is always known as one continent, while India and Pakistan are recognised as their own separate continent. Did you even bother to open my links before you disagreed?

Seriously, though, I like the idea of pie. People seem to be really fighty and close minded about just about everything in here and frankly it's a little surprising. What is it exactly that's set people off so much? Maybe pie would help? More limericks?
posted by mosessis at 8:40 PM on March 29, 2010


Oh, and I grew up in Virginia.
posted by Atreides at 8:40 PM on March 29, 2010


Where I grew up (northern Colorado, '70s-'80s):
K-6 = grade school, which was 100% interchangeable with elementary school
7-9 = junior high, which was 100% interchangeable with hell
10-12 = high school, aka beer time (because the drinking age was 18 back then).

Around my senior year (i.e., 12th grade, 1986-87) of high school, school districts in northern Colorado began the shift from the above breakdown to what I think is more typical K-5/6-8/9-10 breakdown.

The only time I ever went to a grade school that was K-8 was, ironically enough, when I went to school in England, at the American Community School in London.
posted by scody at 8:46 PM on March 29, 2010


When I first understood how Americans use the word Americans among themselves, I must have been a little boy, and I remember at the time having a big argument with a schoolmate about how illogical this was. I imagine most posters here are at least a couple of decades past primary school* and yet here you are.

What people who were raised outside the US might not get is that we had that moment in fifth grade too. "Huh! Funny, this word "America" means a lot of different things. " And then we got past that Piagetian stage and began to deal in more nuanced ideas.

Ah well. I realized tonight this may go down in memory as the night MeFi pedantism jumped the shark, at least for me. I've been describing the events of this thread to much mirth around the household, and I'm not sure I can ever see this site the same way again - the level-headed, anti-bullshit, sound-judgment, down-to-earth way I used to view it. It seems like a lot of people are willing to be carried away on a light froth, and that's strange and somewhat unMeFilike. But OK. Times are changing. I don't know what I'll do with all those free hours. Reread the books from my USian literature and USian studies classes, watch USian Idol, plan a trip on USian Airlines (maybe charging it on my USian Express Card and packing my USian Tourister luggage), kick back and watch a USian league ballgame, maybe donate some blood to the USian Red Cross....and if I need some international perspective, there's always BBC-US.
posted by Miko at 8:47 PM on March 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


What does "being a sniffy" mean?

I have no idea. That was an editing error, sorry. I meant "being sniffy". Sorry if I misread some humor there, but the whiplash between "tell me about this" and "how dare you tell me about this" felt kind of ridiculous.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:50 PM on March 29, 2010


What is it exactly that's set people off so much? Maybe pie would help?

HOW DARE YOU. Down with Team Pie. Team Cake forever.
posted by sallybrown at 8:50 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


(er, that should be "K-5/6-8/9-12")
posted by scody at 8:51 PM on March 29, 2010


I realized tonight this may go down in memory as the night MeFi pedantism jumped the shark

This has always been the way of mefi. It is part of the culture of the place. I suspect that a constant low thrumming of pedantry and peevery is part of the community's immune system, as ridiculous as any instance of it can be revealed to be if you make the mistake of looking too closely at it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:53 PM on March 29, 2010


I would agree to having the citizens of the United States of America being called Usians if we can refer to everyone else as Themians.
posted by nightwood at 8:53 PM on March 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


I actually had no idea that Yank was considered offensive, and I am one.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:53 PM on March 29, 2010


Hey, Miko, it's okay. You're just overheated. C'mon and wallow in our cultural hegemony a bit, you'll feel better. Nice and cool and squishy, mmmm.
posted by palliser at 8:54 PM on March 29, 2010


This has always been the way of mefi. It is part of the culture of the place.

Oh, you know I agree with that. I removed the words "for me" from that sentence, and I shouldn't have. It's not a new thing, but tonight it became laughable, for me.

C'mon and wallow in our cultural hegemony a bit,

Mmmm, marshmallows, PB, and Hershey's. Ahhhhh, that's more like it.
posted by Miko at 8:56 PM on March 29, 2010


No other Americans/USians/US Americans/Awesomes/Yanks/Parochials/Colonists/Obamies call a school with classes K-8 a "grade school"?

Yes. I would use "elementary school" either interchangeably with "grade school" or to denote K-5. "Middle school" for 6-8. Kentucky, attended said institutions in the late 80s through 90s.

I never actually say, "I'm American". I always say "I'm from (insert geographic unit of appropriate specificity for audience)". Unless someone is being obnoxious about my accent, in which case I say "Go fuck your mom".
posted by little e at 9:00 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been describing the events of this thread to much mirth around the household, and I'm not sure I can ever see this site the same way again - the level-headed, anti-bullshit, sound-judgment, down-to-earth way I used to view it.

Usually I respect your contributions, but in this thread, instead of actually dealing with the substance of comments, you have been derisive of people whose views do not align with your own. If you want a down-to-earth opinion, it would be great if you dialed it down a notch or two, frankly.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:02 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


level-headed, anti-bullshit, sound-judgment, down-to-earth

That's only ever been true on average, I think. And our collective judgement is probably sounder when its focussed on weightier matters than language use and less sensitive ones than arguing just how and how much the majority of users might or might not unconsciously suck. But yeah, this is definitely a peak, or trough, in the MeTa waveform.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:08 PM on March 29, 2010


OK - But - Blazecock Pileon YOU picked a fight with the thread in general and Miko in particular that was, I think, disingenuous. Miko was arguing that "American" suffices as the adjective form of things and people of the USA and that "USian" is an unnecessary (and fighty) alternative... and you argued that "USian" and "American" are not interchangeable; the usage of "USian" is purposeful and communicates more than "American" alone.... AND THEN - Only when very much pressed! - did you acknowledge that if I want to clarify the geographical origin of the person to whom I am referring, but I also wish to communicate some opinion about the United States along with that descriptor, then I might choose "USian". And then you took that as a victory when you both agreed all along. You both agreed that everyone knows what "American" means, and that "USian" means American + some unspecified (and unnecessary for purposes of clarity) shit.
posted by moxiedoll at 9:14 PM on March 29, 2010


Miko: " For instance, I don't call people 'faggots' and 'lesbos,' 'darkys' or 'wops' - and why? Because over time, people have made it pretty clear that they don't want to be called those names, and have let me know that there are preferred terms that they like to be called that lack a pejorative connotation."

grapefruitmoon: "YES, YES THERE IS. That's the whole point. This is fine when it comes to any members of the GLBT communities, f'rinstance (as Miko points out) and if this were any other nation being discussed, its citizens' right to self-apply an adjectival identity would be defended to the teeth in MetaTalk."

Woah there, no need to drag people with actual problems into this thread.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:20 PM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


at least the guy who did not like Japan made a stab at actually making a case for his position

So horrible rants are ok if at least there's a case for the position of the rant?
posted by juiceCake at 9:21 PM on March 29, 2010


YOU picked a fight with the thread in general and Miko in particular that was, I think, disingenuous.

What is troublesome is that Miko continues to be treated like a voice of authority about this matter when her original argument was demonstrably wrong. I was not disingenuous, but factual and logical. There are people who disagree with the "consensus" Metafilter applies to the meaning of the words in question, and there are usage cases for those words that contradict the broad assertions she and others have been making here. Further, it's a problem to use phrasing like "level-headed, anti-bullshit, sound-judgment, down-to-earth" to describe support for one side, by denigrating others who do not agree — and, further, who have a logical basis for their disagreement. It is the kind of pile-on, mob mentality that drags Metatalk even further down the gutter than it usually goes.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:24 PM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon didn't pick a fight. Disagreeing and picking a fight are different. Disagreeing and trolling are different. Etc.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:28 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wasn't Appealing to Miko's Authority - but do you see my point at all? It seems to me like you both agreed that "USian" was not a usage necessary to make clear that one is referring to that which is of or pertaining to the USA - but rather - that the usage (for you) includes "some opinion" about the U.S.A. That's all true, right?
posted by moxiedoll at 9:30 PM on March 29, 2010


juiceCake: "at least the guy who did not like Japan made a stab at actually making a case for his position

So horrible rants are ok if at least there's a case for the position of the rant?
"

Yeah, but that horrible rant was about Japan and not "USians," so no one flagged it I guess.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:30 PM on March 29, 2010


moxiedoll: "That's all true, right?"

Whether or not that's true, you accused him of being disingenuous and of picking a fight and I see no proof of that beyond the fact that he disagreed with someone.

/knight of indeterminate color
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:33 PM on March 29, 2010


It seems to me like you both agreed that "USian" was not a usage necessary to make clear that one is referring to that which is of or pertaining to the USA

I do not fully agree with your argument, no.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:34 PM on March 29, 2010


Pluto is a planet.
posted by vapidave at 9:37 PM on March 29, 2010


"you (SOMEONE IN THE US) wouldn't say..."

I'm in the US, and I call the guys at work Yanks all the time. The one from Virginia keeps trying to explain something to me, but the guy from Oregon says I should ignore him.
posted by jacalata at 9:41 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but that horrible rant was about Japan and not "USians," so no one flagged it I guess.

It was more of a personal story that got some but not a ton of flags. People were mostly like "wow that guy seems really unhappy", but it was a different sort of piece altogether.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:41 PM on March 29, 2010


I came into this thread thinking the original post was shitty and having only the vaguest of sympathies for the underlying premise of the rant that was posted. I also thought Divabat was way off mark for calling out MeFi as markedly US centric. I had, however, just encountered a couple of situations where I wanted another word for US Americans than "American".

To my amazement, I found myself called a dick and denigrated for even suggesting that such a word might be needed. So, although I still think it was a shitty post, I now realize that MeFi is a much more US centric place than I had realized. That saddens me and the lack of self-awareness among some of the members here means I feel a lot less inclined to spend time here.

This is by no means a MeTa flameout, just means I feel a lot less at home here than I did and less like hanging out.
posted by unSane at 9:41 PM on March 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


ok, BP - I just based that conclusion on how you said this:

"USian" and "American" are not interchangeable

AND THEN explained the difference by saying that:

if I want to clarify the geographical origin of the person to whom I am referring, but I also wish to communicate some opinion about the United States along with that descriptor, then I might choose "USian"

If there are other reasons for using one term over the other, you haven't delineated them in this thread. My mistake. It seemed to me that you and Miko agreed, but if I've misunderstood or misrepresented your position (which is entirely possible), please clarify.
posted by moxiedoll at 9:42 PM on March 29, 2010


Aw, UnSane: I'm not going to search the thread for "dick" - so if you're referring to how I said:

UnSane, you're citing HL Menken to prove that you're not being a dick? Ahh, I kid.

I hope that's not what you're talking about. First off: I ain't shit on Metafilter - don't worry about it. And secondly - It was meant to be a joke - not at your expense (although you seemed to be more than up for a joke) but at the expense of HL Menken - who was sort of the Christopher Hitchens of his day (which is to say that he said a lot of cool things, and a lot of things that -out of context - were deeply awful). He was a deeply and well-known contrarian, so it's funny to cite him as proof of your Run Of The Mill and Entirely Well Regarded authority figure. I don't - for one second - question the global influence / annoyance / etc. of American culture and I'd love to learn more about it - and I'm not the only one who's said so. I'm sorry if I've made you feel uncomfortable. I just really hate USian, is all.
posted by moxiedoll at 9:52 PM on March 29, 2010


I didn't want to say so earlier, because it's not necessarily helpful to those who are debating either side of the semantics but, my problem with not calling us Americans is that I love America. I love the name as a name for our land and its people and I love my fellow citizens, even when they/we are dickheads. We certainly deserve critiques from outsider dissenting voices, and I will listen to even the most incoherant attack with as open a mind as possible, but if the critique takes as given some fundamental flaw in my country I'm going to be annoyed by it, and probably not be moved to agree.

And so when someone calls me a USian my issue isn't that I want to be called something else or that it's disingenuous, tho it is. My problem is that you're insulting my nation. The same goes when someone (like that blogger) starts off by telling me how terrible we all are--I'm immediately not that interested in listening.

I'm speaking only for myself of course but I felt like it needed to be said that not everyone accepts the premise that America is badly flawed and must be shown the error of its ways. There are different ways to love your country, and some people love and deride the US at the same time, whether born here or not, and that's cool. Moi I love my country like a single mom loves her brat kids--I will listen to your advice about how to cutail the obnoxiousness, but if I think you're attacking them i'll bare my fangs and hiss and then slink off to the darkness of my den to drink the blood of my cattleslaves and watch The Marx Brothers marathon on TCM.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:52 PM on March 29, 2010 [14 favorites]


Eusch. This is typical of MFians.
posted by ~ at 9:53 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


if I've misunderstood or misrepresented your position (which is entirely possible), please clarify

I have other comments in this thread that explain my position, and it's not something I plan to debate repeatedly. Suffice it to say that not everyone is in one-hundred percent perfect agreement on the subject, and many have good reasons for their point of view, myself included. (Frankly, I wouldn't even agree with Miko's unilateral definition of the word "faggot", which is not always pejorative, in certain contexts.)

At this point, the belittling going on seems the more significant and troubling issue. I pointed to it earlier and it is repeating now in more insidious ways. It's ugly mob behavior and, if anything, as a US citizen I find myself more aligned with divabat's original sympathies than when this thread started, because of it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:56 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know what I just realized? I know I said I'd leave the thread forever but I wanted to share something with you all. I had this image in my head of wiser older MeFites that sat around a table discussing a bunch of stuff. And most of the time I'd just keep my mouth shut and listen to what the older kids are saying. Sometimes I'd interject with a stupid comment here and there, but for the most part I'd just stay quiet.

670+ comments in and I just realized that most of you are just dicks.
posted by bam at 10:02 PM on March 29, 2010 [10 favorites]


Sometimes when I'm feeling really sad I'll try to imagine what hi-jinx that lovable scamp Bret Michaels might get into next! Nothing can be that gloomy in a world where bandanna trademarks exist.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:12 PM on March 29, 2010


Let me also say what a difficult thread this is for this Canadian.

I dislike being referred to as an American as it reeks of 51st-state-ism, so I don't like "American" as anything but a specific identifier of our single-payerless continental cohabitants. Yet, I am partial to vague and ridiculous insults draped in cultural superiority directed toward our generously proportioned neighbours to the south, so I find USian somewhat appealing. That said, nothing brings me to the defence of America faster than having to listen to some vague and ridiculous insult about America draped in cultural superiority from a European.

Can't you see this whole thread is tearing me apart?

So here's the thing. "American" is good in that is rolls off the tongue nicely, and is what the lesser Canadians prefer to be referred to as. "USian" is good in that it's insulting. So, let's compromise: "Stupid Americans". Everyone is happy?
posted by ~ at 10:15 PM on March 29, 2010 [13 favorites]


Thanks for the link to Meriam-Webster davar. So one of the historical terms that never caught on was actually Freedonian. I had no idea.

Also, I've known and still do know people from several Latin-American countries and none of them ever professed any sort of confusion about the term "American" as applied to citizens and nationals of the United States of America.

Yup. Because that's normal usage in English. If you learn Spanish, you have to learn to use the words estadounidense and americano their way. Both usages are correct in their respective languages, and there are perfectly good historical and practical reasons for both. It doesn't have to be a big deal.
posted by nangar at 10:30 PM on March 29, 2010


I think spinifex23's point was that on a forum where this issue was causing actual confusion they were able work out a compromise with a minimum of grief.


I think it was 1/3 actual confusion (because the forums are in English, which for the majority of users isn't their first language), 1/3 privilege checking the people from the US for co-opting a term for us alone when it actually could include them in South America as well, and 1/3 annoyance that we were discussing this instead of Swedish Black Metal.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:33 PM on March 29, 2010


I am an American who has used USian specifically when acknowledging that my perspective is/may be limited by my cultural sphere. I've read this thread from top to bottom and I wish that there were a sentence or two I could write that might salve some irritated nerves on the part of people who seem determined to fight over and over about things they profess not to care about but will defend to the death their right to belabor their points. Oops, that last sentence relied on a paraphrase of an American interpretation of a quote from Voltaire. I've probably offended both Americans & the French.

Suffice to say, I won't use USian again, and though it doesn't irritate me I won't use US American, either. unSane, I completely understand your refusal to call citizens of the the United States of America "Americans." Many of us tone-deaf Americans took a long time to adjust to Mumbai, Myanmar, and Burkina Faso.

Some, I don't remember now who (I started reading this thread almost at the moment the FPP was deleted) use the example of what the Spanish designate as the name for citizens of the US--and have repeatedly relied on that as why it is confusing for them, purportedly, to call us Americans. Here is where that argument falls apart for me: the Spanish (who don't call themselves Spanish except in English) are using americana/o in Spanish, not in English. What do the Spanish call German in Spanish? Alemán. What do they call them in English? German, right? What do they call them if they speak German? Do they get confused by this switch of languages? If there is some still lingering resentment over the Monroe doctrine, by golly, let the Spanish continue to call us US Americans. There are probably still some folks I can find who still call them Spaniards. But for a native English speaker, insisting on US American as if it were some clarifier for the nameless confused who have not surfaced yet in what now must be over 700 posts seems disingenuous. Especially to keep arguing it.

I was embarrassed for the writer of the Feministe article--if that article was supposed to prove anything, it failed by modeling the very behavior it accused Americans as a whole of endorsing. And I will echo other's sentiments that the topic of American hegemonic behavior on the Web is well worth exploring--but that article was not it. Divacat, I know you've stepped out of this thread, but I hope you left it with a feeling that many if not most Mefites who are also American also think the topic is worth revisiting.

On preview, nangar said it in fewer words. And it doesn't have to be a big deal.
posted by beelzbubba at 11:16 PM on March 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


So horrible rants are ok if at least there's a case for the position of the rant?

If it's got some meat on its screedy bones, being a horrible rant is not inherently bad, at least not as an FPP.

Also confusing: Dylan McDermott and Dermot Mulroney

Massive Attack and Minor Threat. Even if I live to be 1000 years old, hearing the name of either group would make me pause for a moment to sort out which was the whiny punk band and which did the stoner bleep-bloop music.

level-headed, anti-bullshit, sound-judgment, down-to-earth

Confirmation bias.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:26 PM on March 29, 2010


uh oh here comes dad to lay the smax down
posted by klangklangston at 11:40 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


put your pants back on, cretin.
posted by beelzbubba at 11:51 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Many of us tone-deaf Americans took a long time to adjust to Mumbai, Myanmar, and Burkina Faso.

Hey, no offense, but "Myanmar" is thus named by the revolting military junta still in power. It's worth saying "Burma" just to give them the shits.
posted by Wolof at 12:15 AM on March 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


670+ comments in and I just realized that most of you are just dicks.

Boyzone!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:53 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


What the wha...?

Have we gotten to the hugs yet? Because I really like all of you folks, and think it would be a shame that one thread - one thread! - could wipe out so much goodwill in a community. It's like an International Twister Of GRAR went all defcon-level-five up in this place, smacking everybody around from Albania to Zambia.

Regardless of all the diversity, folks, there's only one perfect gravity/oxygen combo planet that we've all got to spend time together on, with one habitable MeFi. And since I've been busy seeing all of you as individuals, I suspect that the AskMe would be different if any of you left just because you felt that you weren't welcome out of anything anybody that was said in the past 72 hours. So why doesn't everyone just stay? Hit another thread, read something interesting?

Damn. Now I've got to go look for my "It's a small world" album from the 70s. The one with the pink cover and the multi-hued/dressed choir kids wearing their national garb all singing together in perfect harmony? (and not a one of them my shade of brown? But that's alright, Disney. I forgive you).

*goes to look for those musical classics "Kukabara sits in an old gum tree" and "Oranges and Lemons say the bells of St. Clemens"*
posted by anitanita at 1:10 AM on March 30, 2010


Yes it was somewhat ranty, but that's not my objection. The real problem (I thought) was that, while the topic has potential, the article wasn't didn't do a good job at thoroughly researching or thinking through it. Just look at the word count---943. That's not enough to convey a strong (contentious) opinion with supporting arguments.

Off the top of my head I can come up with an analyzable case--nytimes v.s. international news sources such as the BBC or Al Jazeera--that could looked at in considerable detail. The article did not do any such creative thing.

Therefore, not FPP material.
posted by polymodus at 1:26 AM on March 30, 2010


It seems like a lot of people are willing to be carried away on a light froth, and that's strange and somewhat unMeFilike.

Uh, if anyone seems carried away by the subject, it is you, Miko. It is you.

The really funny part is that, as this thread proves, the subject will just keep coming up again and again on Metafilter. Much as some people here rage, the term will continue to be used and it will presumably continue to vex some folks as well. For all the arguments here (?), it still feels like RESPECT MY AUTHORITAH is the backbone of the anti-USian position; if it helps other people, where's the problem? It's not derogatory. It clarifies the problematic, plain and simple.

Next time out, I'd suggest those so offended by USian would do better to avoid slipping into the very ridicule that they are accusing those saying "USian" of. If you doubt that's happening BTW, just do a search for "Brit" in this thread.
posted by stinkycheese at 2:34 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


And so when someone calls me a USian my issue isn't that I want to be called something else or that it's disingenuous, tho it is. My problem is that you're insulting my nation. The same goes when someone (like that blogger) starts off by telling me how terrible we all are--I'm immediately not that interested in listening.

I'm speaking only for myself of course but I felt like it needed to be said that not everyone accepts the premise that America is badly flawed and must be shown the error of its ways. There are different ways to love your country, and some people love and deride the US at the same time, whether born here or not, and that's cool. Moi I love my country like a single mom loves her brat kids--I will listen to your advice about how to cutail the obnoxiousness, but if I think you're attacking them i'll bare my fangs and hiss and then slink off to the darkness of my den to drink the blood of my cattleslaves and watch The Marx Brothers marathon on TCM.


Yes! This! It's like insulting your momma: you can insult your own momma until the cows come home. Someone else does it? That's when it's time to get your 2nd Ammendment mandated shotgun.

For all the arguments here (?), it still feels like RESPECT MY AUTHORITAH is the backbone of the anti-USian position; if it helps other people, where's the problem? It's not derogatory. It clarifies the problematic, plain and simple.

Except that there's no problem to be clarified, it's used disingenuously, and a lot of us really don't want to be called that. With other words, we defer to the community described by that word and see if they like it or not. With this word - those of us described by that word who have said that we do find it to be flat out insulting - we're told that we don't have the right to be called what we want.

Let's imagine that this is a debate about the Swiss and there's an internet movement where they're called "Cheeseheads" and they ask to please stop calling them "Cheeseheads" on this forum and you're telling them "Hey, I call you a cheesehead if I want! Swiss is too confusing!" I don't understand why any other group of people gets respect on MetaFilter w/r/t self-identifying, but Americans? We can piss off. That's fine, but I would prefer that people be honest about their motives. If you want to use USian specifically to be insulting or because you have some kind of imperialist beef - that's fine with me. I'll go ahead and be insulted and you can use whatever words you want. But please - this "American is confusing! There are other words in other languages!" is almost more insulting than the term itself. You think I'm stupid, in addition to also being American?

Also: I'm more down with "Yankee," honestly. If you want to be flat-out insulting, I really prefer that to this mealy-mouthed "Oh, I just needed a better term" nonsense. Also: I'm a Vermonter who has eaten pie for breakfast, so the shoe fits.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:51 AM on March 30, 2010 [10 favorites]


Next time out, I'd suggest those so offended by USian would do better to avoid slipping into the very ridicule that they are accusing those saying "USian" of. If you doubt that's happening BTW, just do a search for "Brit" in this thread.

FWIW, I hate USian with the fire of a thousand suns. I would definitely do my best to not knowingly call someone by a term they didn't like. I've never said "Brit" before when referring to a citizen of the UK and after reading this thread, I'll definitely make a conscious effort not to.

I'm not talking out of both sides of my mouth here. I don't want to use language to insult people unless I'm actually trying to insult them (in which case I'm much more likely to appeal to body odor than geographic origin).
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:54 AM on March 30, 2010


I don't want to use language to insult people unless I'm actually trying to insult them (in which case I'm much more likely to appeal to body odor than geographic origin).

Nothing wrong with a little stink.
posted by stinkycheese at 4:06 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


And saying "USian" associates the person you're talking about with a number of ideas, as well. According to you, that's a plus -- because you "would be sad if I could only express that conception in a discussion set off in time and place from other political discussions, and that's why I've wanted to incorporate it into my language." Maybe other people want to incorporate into their language whatever conception comes along with the term "Brit"* -- but that's exactly what's rude about it.

I don't think you've understood what I've said.

1) I said "Brit" isn't really used by British people, but that's not the whole point. Rather it's used by those with a flawed understanding of British people whose images sometimes dominate. This is my experience, hence my dislike of the word.

2) My intention in using "USian" was not to associate people from the US with anything. Rather, it was to allow conceptual space for other meanings of "American" that might be equally valid. Now that I know people find "USian" insulting and offensive, I'll find other ways of fitting the same conceptions into my language, because my intention is not to offend.

3) In both cases, I seek neither to simply call people what they call themselves* nor to label in a derogatory way. My intention is to change the way (however small) certain words carry dominant ideas. It was mentioned upthread about the word "cisgender" as another poorly accepted neologism, which I think falls into the same category. There's no offense intended to call a person "cisgender", rather it marks out a way of thinking about gender and gender experience.

That's all I've go to say, really. Again, I know I'm unlikely to convince anybody at this time, as responses generally in the thread have made clear, and which have saddened me in their strength of feeling and unwillingness to engage. Even though there has been some good discussion, lots of people I thought would at least consider the argument and judge it reasonably have responded offhandedly. If anybody wants a decent discussion about the word, just memail me. I've tried to state my case clearly and honestly, and I haven't yet read anything that would make me change how I feel about the use of the word "American" even though "USian" is clearly not acceptable.

*I would do this in most cases, except here one use clashes with another, and the right of one person to self-label prevents the rights of others.
posted by Sova at 4:40 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


*I would do this in most cases, except here one use clashes with another, and the right of one person to self-label prevents the rights of others.

So basically your argument against letting 320+ million people label themselves as Americans, as has been done for over two centuries, boils down to a hypothetical? As in, we shouldn't call ourselves "America"n because someone from one of the other countries on the American continents might want to use the term "American" to describe themselves?

If that's the case -- and I don't quite know how else to interpret your desire "to allow conceptual space for other meanings of 'American' that might be equally valid," but correct me if I've got you wrong -- could you point to specific examples? Are there actually peoples out there would would like to use the term "American" to describe themselves, but have found their efforts stymied because they keep getting confused with USA-Americans? I haven't heard of such a movement myself, but I'd be interested to know of such a case.

In other words, if it's a valid problem, then I absolutely welcome the discussion, but if it's purely suppositional, then that seems like a pretty shaky ground on which to ask an entire nation to rebrand themselves.
posted by shiu mai baby at 4:49 AM on March 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


I wish folks would reserve the use of the term "mob" even as a metaphor for things actually more approximating gangs of uncontrollable violent thugs applying extralegal violence for illegitimate ends instead of some nerds typing on the Internet.
posted by chinston at 4:56 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I might be wrong but I don't think anyone (except H L Mencken) has suggested that US Americans calls themselves anything but Americans, especially when talking among themselves.

However if you choose to get huffy and star-spangly-teary-eyed-shotgun-brandishing when someone who isn't a US American chooses to call you US Americans in accordance with the name of your country then in my opinion you are just being silly divas and you should get over yourselves.
posted by unSane at 5:18 AM on March 30, 2010


However if you choose to get huffy and star-spangly-teary-eyed-shotgun-brandishing when someone who isn't a US American chooses to call you US Americans in accordance with the name of your country then in my opinion you are just being silly divas and you should get over yourselves.

Doesn't that kind of become a self-fulfilling prophecy? "I'm going to do something that I know pisses you off and then call you a diva when you get pissed off - thus reinforcing my opinion of you as a diva who gets pissed off."
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:34 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


However if you choose to get huffy and star-spangly-teary-eyed-shotgun-brandishing when someone who isn't a US American chooses to call you US Americans in accordance with the name of your country then in my opinion you are just being silly divas and you should get over yourselves.

Ok, six colors.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:35 AM on March 30, 2010


Ma! Git me my star-spangly-teary-eyed-shotgun! There's one a them obtuse ferners at the front door whut's a callin' me sumthin STOOPID an' a-tellin' me tah git over myself!

Oh, pa, don'tcha git all riled up! And don'tcha go wastin' any buckshot on them fools! Jes' call 'im a silly Canuck and be done with it! Them folks call theyselves "Canadians" if'n they want to, but yew jes' call 'im a Canuck and tell 'im tah git over hisself!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:56 AM on March 30, 2010


If you doubt that's happening BTW, just do a search for "Brit" in this thread.

Please don't just "do a search," really, unless your intention is point-scoring rather than understanding. Read the comments.

For example, my comments here have used the term heavily -- the most heavily of anyone's, I think -- but I hope you're not referring to them, because I was pointing to the term as an example of one that is similar to USian, in that it is not preferred by most inhabitants of the UK and should not therefore be used. And I did not drag the term in to the discussion; the people to whom it might refer brought it up first. My problem was that a user seemed to me to be making arguments against it and yet defending USian.

I seem to have misunderstood her intention, though, and I'm glad she came back to clarify. I still disagree about the importance of a hypothetical, potential alternate usage of "American," but am glad the fact matters to her that, to many of us, USian connotes negative things about the referent. Would that this fact mattered to everyone here who's referring to fellow members of this community.

It certainly matters to me in reference to others' preferred terminology, as I made clear when I said "I never use 'Brit' -- an instance that would come up on your word-search exercise, but really doesn't contribute to your point.
posted by palliser at 6:00 AM on March 30, 2010


It seems fairly spiteful to knowingly use a term that bothers someone else just to be more correct. I mean, I might call a friend a clown in a derogatory way, but if the friend had some objection to that term specifically (maybe his/her mother was in the circus), I'd probably switch to knucklehead or meat brain or something else.

I mean, clown might be the more accurate term, and I might think that their association with the word clown is kinda silly, but at the end of the day, it's a lot better to be friendly than to be right all the time.
posted by Hiker at 6:16 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


if it helps other people, where's the problem? It's not derogatory. It clarifies the problematic, plain and simple.

Are you the sort of person who listens to Latin beats and is like, Wait this is from Central America, not 1st-century Rome? Do you ever find yourself aghast at the linguistic imperialism of Spain and Portugal when it is suggested to you that people in South America speak Spanish and Portuguese?
posted by shakespeherian at 6:21 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


palliser: I'm aware "Brit" has been used in this thread with no ill intent. It has also been using with ill intent (see moxiedoll's comment in particular).

My point really was that "USian" themed Meta threads seem to bring out angry, er, USians who want to lash out with some nasty name-calling of their own (see flapjax at midnight's comment just above your own, for example).

Aside to flapjax at midnight: Canada has a national hockey team called the Canucks, and a superhero called Captain Canuck. The epithet "Canuck" is just fine by us. If you want to get a rise out of a Canadian, may I suggest calling them an American?
posted by stinkycheese at 6:27 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


shakespeherian: No and no. The problem isn't that "American" = "citizen of the US" is confusing. The problem is that it's wrong. And arrogant.
posted by stinkycheese at 6:29 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


If that's the case -- and I don't quite know how else to interpret your desire "to allow conceptual space for other meanings of 'American' that might be equally valid," but correct me if I've got you wrong -- could you point to specific examples? Are there actually peoples out there would would like to use the term "American" to describe themselves, but have found their efforts stymied because they keep getting confused with USA-Americans? I haven't heard of such a movement myself, but I'd be interested to know of such a case.

I said I wouldn't comment again, but here I am...

Yes, I can point to specific examples, as they've already been mentioned in this thread. A particular one was the music forum, where people from other countries in the Americas objected to the use of "American". The person who brought that story up later clarified that the forum was not mainly people from the US, and this allowed the discussion to settle on clarifying terms rather than settling with the existing usage. I believe that where US people don't automatically claim the description "American" for themselves, we'll find as greater of that term use by non-US folks. If we never allow that to happen, then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as others avoid the term to avoid conflict.
posted by Sova at 6:30 AM on March 30, 2010


Right, prescriptivism, I got it. I still have yet to hear of anyone who is not a citizen of the US who could be described as 'American.'
posted by shakespeherian at 6:33 AM on March 30, 2010


This just about sums it up.
posted by adamvasco at 6:34 AM on March 30, 2010


That's spelled "midnite", there, foulsmellingdairyproduct. Midnite.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:34 AM on March 30, 2010


Right, prescriptivism, I got it. I still have yet to hear of anyone who is not a citizen of the US who could be described as 'American.'

Much word usage, especially that which falls into the sphere of the political, would be described as "prescriptive". I'm willing to allow my political conception of the world prescribe the words I use, as are most people. It's really a normal part of discourse and not anything extraordinary to this word only.
posted by Sova at 6:38 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


"American" = "citizen of the US" is... wrong. And arrogant.

Like some guy said to some other guy upthread, you saying that don't make it so.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:41 AM on March 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


But the distance between the signifier and the signified is also nothing extraordinarily unique to this word only, as has been pointed out a few times in this thread. Simply because you are able to imagine a different definition for the word 'American' does not mean that that is the definition that is by all rights ought to have, or that anyone who could feasibly imagine themselves meeting this imagined definition feels that this imagined definition should be enforced.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:42 AM on March 30, 2010


The problem is that it's wrong. And arrogant.

If it's so wrong and arrogant, then I fully expect that, in an effort to combat that, you refer to people from Canada, Mexico, Belize, Uruguay, Ecuador etc. as Americans. Because they are, right? I mean, they're from the Americas (or the America, depending on which geographic school you follow), so they're Americans.
posted by rtha at 6:42 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

1) I said "Brit" isn't really used by British people, but that's not the whole point. Rather it's used by those with a flawed understanding of British people whose images sometimes dominate. This is my experience, hence my dislike of the word.
I don't think I would argue this, but I actually think you could argue that your own understanding of yourself is what's flawed and self-serving and that Brit, like USian, is the more appropriate term. It's awfully convenient that British people, and especially members of the British left, identify as English, Scottish or Welsh, rather than British. (Someone pointed out to me that Northern Irish unionists are the only people in the UK who identify as British, so they're sort of the exception, which is funny, because they're technically UKian, not British, I guess.) After all, England, Scotland and Wales don't have a foreign policy. By not identifying as British, you separate yourself from the history and current practice of British imperialism. You can deny that those lovely grammar schools and full-rides to Oxford that someone talked about were bought by the labor of Jamaican slaves and Indian jute workers. And then you can fixate on American imperialism and pretend that your government is just obeying its American masters rather than behaving in the way it's behaved for centuries, and then magically you're innocent, or at least innocent-ish.
posted by craichead at 6:45 AM on March 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


The problem isn't that "American" = "citizen of the US" is confusing. The problem is that it's wrong. And arrogant.

That's so cute. (See? Not just arrogant, but patronizing!) Seriously, it's cracking me up that people in Canada and especially Europe are finding the time and energy to defend the potential linguistic aspirations of the presumably silenced little people of the Americas.

Because you know what? If Mexicans, Argentinians, Brazilians, Belizians, and so on want to reclaim the word "American" in English, they will. There are huge numbers of immigrants from those countries in the US already, with more arriving all the time. Writers and singers and businesspeople in the rest of the Americas have had a loud and powerful voice in their self-identity for a very long time.

Trust me, they don't need some well meaning Europeans (Europeans -- you know, the people who colonized the Americas, brought slavery, brought the inquisition, came over as Nazis fleeing the end of WWII, all that good civilized stuff, right?) instructing them, or us, about sanitized language use. It's really bizarre to read, honestly.
posted by Forktine at 6:47 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow. Long thread.

So, to sum up:

No one refers to people outside of the U.S. as being in "America"!

Actually, lots of people outside of the U.S. (particularly outside of N.A.) do.

You just made this controversy up!

See the long history of this debate.

Well, it doesn't confuse anyone!

Was anyone saying it did?

Well it doesn't bother US!

What a great response to a criticism of linguistic arrogance. Congrats.

It doesn't surprise me that some people don't get it. It does disappoint me that who does seems so (mostly) geographically split. I thought more of some individual MeFites before The Frothing of 19059, that's for sure.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:49 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


The problem isn't that "American" = "citizen of the US" is confusing. The problem is that it's wrong. And arrogant.

I really don't think it's wrong. Is there a people who self-identifies as "American", yet is not associated with the United States of America? Anywhere? There's no confusion - no one thinks that that when a person says "American" they probably mean "Dominican" or "Canadian" or "Cuban". In fact, I find it hard to imagine that a person from, say, Canada, who objected to a person from the USA calling themselves "American" would in a million years want someone to call THEM "American". Ask a thousand people to define "American" and 999 of them will define it as someone from or living in the USA. It's not wrong. It's pretty well established.

Arrogant? Well. I guess that's up for debate. But it's not like "American" is a new word. Americans aren't trying to take away someone else's identity - they are just holding on to their own.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:51 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


If it's so wrong and arrogant, then I fully expect that, in an effort to combat that, you refer to people from Canada, Mexico, Belize, Uruguay, Ecuador etc. as Americans.

Sure, we are indeed Americans (and you can call me that if you'd like), but more specifically I am Canadian. You are American, but we don't know what the fuck to call you to be more precise?
posted by gman at 6:51 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't even agree with Miko's unilateral definition of the word "faggot"

I said "I don't call people 'faggots'". Not only is what I don't do not equivalent to a "unilateral definition," in the context of me using the word as a name for people, 'faggot' is derogatory. If I were using the word in the archaic bundle-of-sticks sense, it may not be. Occasions to use it in that sense are rare indeed. But this is emblematic of the sort of willful misunderstanding that has characterized this thread.

I do agree with Blazecock Pileon that the only contribution the new appellation "USian" makes is a pejorative spin. I don't think we ever disagreed on that, either, and am glad it was clarified. "American" as a national identifier is not a term that requires disambiguation in the overwheming majority of cases, and claiming that it does is disingenuous. Intentional use of the term after others have requested that it stop injdicates an intent to irritate. Argument over the term itself obfuscates any real issues of cultural hegemony that might be discussed. Place names are culturally constructed and don't necessarily adhere to wished-for, more logical systems. I won't be using the term and from now on, when I see it, it will influence my reading of the surrounding material. These are my stances. No arguments in this thread have had sufficient strength to convince me that these stances require revision.

I'm sorry that my (perhaps uncharacteristic) willingness to view with incredulity arguments for other stances have bothered some of you. I apologize for what may seem flippancy. But I would be departing from some of my most closely held values about discussion if I said I considered the advancement of the term "USian" to refer to Americans as useful, respectful, helpful, effective, more specific, or clearer than any other existing term, despite these many attempts to convince people otherwise. I've given it a night of thought and re-read the thread, and it's just not a position that I think has much strength. Yes, it's made me laugh at times that people have been willing to go out on some very thin limbs to defend it, but I'll stop laughing. Clearly it means a lot to some. But in my view the case just lacks strength. Those willing to accept the case are probably going to continue to disagree with those not willing to accept the case, and I fall within the latter group.
posted by Miko at 6:53 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


But the distance between the signifier and the signified is also nothing extraordinarily unique to this word only, as has been pointed out a few times in this thread. Simply because you are able to imagine a different definition for the word 'American' does not mean that that is the definition that is by all rights ought to have, or that anyone who could feasibly imagine themselves meeting this imagined definition feels that this imagined definition should be enforced.

But it's not just imagined, please don't use that word as though it's legitimate to ignore other people. Other people from the Americas have objected to, and tried to claim for themselves, the word "American". Just because they are mostly prevented form doing so doesn't mean that it's then correct to continue that. Short of renaming the Americas "Vespucciland", there's no other way for space to be made except by asking (nicely!) that people from the US think about how the use the term "American".


Forktine, craichead, please stop it. Your comments aren't helpful, and only vaguely relevant. Tackle the ball, not the player.
posted by Sova at 6:54 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


stinkycheese The problem isn't that "American" = "citizen of the US" is confusing. The problem is that it's wrong.

No one is ever confused by this, any you know that. And has been demonstrated above, it's the most accurate demonym to refer to someone from the United States of America. There are more than one united states, but only one country on the planet has the word "America" in its name.

And arrogant

What's arrogant is forcing another languages conventions on unto American English for some silly political point. You don't see me smugly correcting Mexicans who refer to Americans as "norteamericanos", which in English is "wrong" but perfectly acceptable in Mexican Spanish.
posted by spaltavian at 6:54 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sure, we are indeed Americans (and you can call me that if you'd like), but more specifically I am Canadian. You are American, but we don't know what the fuck to call you to be more precise?

I sincerely doubt that the majority of our country would accept being called American; we're Canadian and a great deal of our national identity is not being American. This is a perfect example of how being accurate doesn't necessarily reflect what people actually identify with.
posted by Hiker at 6:57 AM on March 30, 2010


I'm saying it doesn't offend me and I'd love it if there was a less ambiguous term for people from the U.S. which we could agree upon.
posted by gman at 6:59 AM on March 30, 2010


* I should add, not willing in the absence of stronger evidence.
posted by Miko at 7:00 AM on March 30, 2010


I've used USian in the past, and didn't really know that people found it so offensive, even to the point of feeling demeaned by its use

To be clear, I don't find the term itself offensive. I don't think I've ever seen it used in earnest, but I will take your word for it that some people have used it this way. If I saw it used in a non-fighty way I wouldn't even blink; it's not like a racial epithet or anything.

It's just that every time I've seen it (including -- but not limited to -- the blog post in question), it is used in a fight-picky YOU GUYS ARE SUCH IMPERIALISTS YOU THINK YOU OWN THE WHOLE WORLD, OR AT LEAST THAT CONTINENT, I'M TAKING YOU DOWN A NOTCH -- TAKE *THIS* kinda way. It bugs because they are denigrating me for where I was born without caring about how I may feel about the topic they are axe-grinding about. I actually agree! A few years ago, 55% or so of my own country was telling me I should love it or leave it.

I guess it's frustrating to some people that now we have a Democrat in office, a lot of lefty-types are suddenly not hating everything about their country of birth. And maybe we should? I dunno, make your case if you believe that. I actually see a lot of us lefty types very unhappy with Obama for not being lefty enough, but, well, just come out and say what you believe without resorting to intentionally derogatory terms that apply to 350 million people if you want to make that point.

If you don't want to cut me slack because where I was born makes me de facto imperialist, that's OK. What really rankles, though, is the totally dishonest semantic arguments defending the use. Pretending the point wasn't to be a dick, but because you are totally confused about what "American" refers to. And then accusing me of being "defensive" (the warcry of passive-aggressives) when we call bullshit. That is extremely irritating, and the irritation is what makes me respond like this. Not being "offended." It would take much worse than that to offend me, but I'm allowed to think what some people are saying is horseshit and say as much, right?
posted by cj_ at 7:01 AM on March 30, 2010 [10 favorites]


I'm saying it doesn't offend me and I'd love it if there was a less ambiguous term for people from the U.S. which we could agree upon.

Do you honestly find the term "American" ambiguous in any sense other than a technicality?
posted by dirtdirt at 7:05 AM on March 30, 2010



I'm saying it doesn't offend me and I'd love it if there was a less ambiguous term for people from the U.S. which we could agree upon.


Right, but as a fellow Canadian, in your day to day life do you have a problem with people understanding who you mean when you say Americans? The ambiguity, at least in my experience, is purely hypothetical and doesn't apply when you actually converse with other Canadians.*

* Not saying this is universal, because I'm neither a linguist nor a sociologist, but speaking as fellows of a neighboring country.
posted by Hiker at 7:06 AM on March 30, 2010


If you don't want to cut me slack because where I was born makes me de facto imperialist, that's OK. What really rankles, though, is the totally dishonest semantic arguments defending the use. Pretending the point wasn't to be a dick, but because you are totally confused about what "American" refers to. And then accusing me of being "defensive" (the warcry of passive-aggressives) when we call bullshit. That is extremely irritating, and the irritation is what makes me respond like this. Not being "offended." It would take much worse than that to offend me, but I'm allowed to think what some people are saying is horseshit and say as much, right?

Hi, I'm sorry, but you've quoted me and then responded to arguments I didn't make. I don't really know how to respond except, "I agree".
posted by Sova at 7:08 AM on March 30, 2010


I do agree with Blazecock Pileon that the only contribution the new appellation "USian" makes is a pejorative spin.

That is not what I wrote. At all. This is the kind of thing I am talking about.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:16 AM on March 30, 2010


Sova: Hi, I'm sorry, but you've quoted me and then responded to arguments I didn't make. I don't really know how to respond except, "I agree".

Yeah sorry, I didn't mean to direct that at you. I kind of went off on a "you" tangent that didn't actually mean you in particular. Just, you, the people I am in disagreement with on this. I should take more care to single them out and quote them directly, so my bad.
posted by cj_ at 7:16 AM on March 30, 2010


You are American, but we don't know what the fuck to call you to be more precise?

gman, if we met at a meetup and the conversation gave me an opportunity (or asked of me) to talk about my nationality, and I said "I'm American," would you really wonder where in Canada I'm from? Or if I'm perhaps from Costa Rica, or Puerto Rico, or Panama? (I picked those places particularly because it's not unlikely that someone with an American (?!?) accent could be from there.)

I had an interesting conversation with a mefite the other day. We're both from Massachusetts, and we were talking about how - and this is probably true for lots of other places, too - if someone asks where you're from and you say "Boston," and they're from Boston (or the metro area) too, they then say "Oh yeah? Where?" and you then say "Cambridge/Arlington/Dorchester/specifictownorneighborhood."

So this obviously doesn't address stinkycheese's concern about it being wrong and arrogant for me to identify myself as an American when appropriate/necessary, but for the confusion issue, I don't see why it's so hard to say "Oh yeah? Whereabouts?" if I say "I'm American," and there's any doubt about what that means. Or if you're just curious about whether I'm from Chicago or Bellingham or what. *That* is specific.
posted by rtha at 7:18 AM on March 30, 2010


(pretty much, the only thing directed at you was the first paragraph, the rest was free-form rant that built up after reading this whole thread. Again, apologies if it read like I was aiming all that annoyance at you.)
posted by cj_ at 7:20 AM on March 30, 2010


dirtdirt: Do you honestly find the term "American" ambiguous in any sense other than a technicality?

Not on this site (due to its demographic). Shit, I've used it here from time to time, but I truly do find it arrogant.

Hiker: Right, but as a fellow Canadian, in your day to day life do you have a problem with people understanding who you mean when you say Americans?

I tend to correct myself when I do use it because many people in other countries do find it ambiguous.

rtha: gman, if we met at a meetup and the conversation gave me an opportunity (or asked of me) to talk about my nationality, and I said "I'm American," would you really wonder where in Canada I'm from?


No because it's a Metafilter related event. Well that and perhaps your accent.
posted by gman at 7:22 AM on March 30, 2010


Yeah sorry, I didn't mean to direct that at you. I kind of went off on a "you" tangent that didn't actually mean you in particular. Just, you, the people I am in disagreement with on this. I should take more care to single them out and quote them directly, so my bad.

Hey, it's cool, no worries.

posted by Sova at 7:23 AM on March 30, 2010


If someone uses the term "USian" non-ironically, I tend to assume that they are prejudiced against people of my national origin. I understand the arguments users of the term make, but they just strike me as bigots trying to justify bigotry.
posted by planet at 7:24 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Pretending the point wasn't to be a dick, but because you are totally confused about what "American" refers to. (cj)

Do you honestly find the term "American" ambiguous in any sense other than a technicality? (dirtdirt)

I can only talk about me, not for anyone else.

- I've used USian (well, USAnian) before, but only in a cutesy way and to avoid saying "American". Cutesy is irritating on its own, ok, but certainly I wasn't trying to make a political point or be a dick.
- I won't use it again, now that I know how many people are annoyed by it.
- I do not think "American" is confusing or particularly ambiguous, given enough context.
- I still hesitate to use it, because I was taught at school that this is rude towards other people on the American continent (and yes, in my country, we see it as one continent).
- This has been reinforced by people from South America who have expressed irritation that people from the USA call themselves Americans and in their parochialism, "seem to think they are the only ones on the continent" etc. etc.
- I do not wish to make people angry in the US, but neither do I wish to be insensitive to other people (granted, I do not know whether this is only a small minority of oversensitive jerks, or most of the South American population, but I err on the side of caution.)

Sys rq said that he reserves the privelege of thinking people who use the term "US Americans" are idiots. That rankles, as it is the only way I can think of to avoid being insensitive. I will accept that Sys rq will think me an idiot in future, because I really cannot get myself to call you guys Americans. I was conditioned too well.
posted by Omnomnom at 7:26 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't think we ever disagreed [that USian is perjorative], either, and am glad it was clarified.

We've been reading different threads then. I and several others have said exactly that. Prior to the threads on Metafilter, for the period of about a decade, I've only ever seen it used at worst as a mild tease, more often as a neutral descriptor. As such, it's absolutely baffling to see otherwise sensible folks go so utterly berzerk over this (and, yes a 700+ comment on-topic thread only happens when people go bezerk).

But, since people clearly do, as I said, I'll try not to use it. It may still slip out uncouciously, but it would be done with no malice or intent to criticise. I really don't get how it denies your patriotism or degrades your nationality. It's a complete mystery how badly people react to what I thought was a fairly innocuous, reasonably common phrasing.

I won't be using the term and from now on, when I see it, it will influence my reading of the surrounding material.

And this is one of the (many) unfortunate take-aways in this thread. You've decided unilaterally that a phrase used by many non-Americans will negatively colour your judgement of them personally, because of their use of what they thought was a cutsey neutral construction. A construction that Google tells me is used, if not daily, then very frequently on this very site. You're going to be doing a lot of disapproving.
posted by bonehead at 7:27 AM on March 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


Just don't call me late for dinner
posted by Mick at 7:27 AM on March 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sure, we are indeed Americans (and you can call me that if you'd like), but more specifically I am Canadian. You are American, but we don't know what the fuck to call you to be more precise?

You see, I'd argue that Canadians aren't Americans. They're North Americans. The name of the continent is North America. The two large landmasses in the containing hemisphere, when referred to collectively, are not "America", they are "the Americas".

When was the last time you met someone from the United Kingdom who called themselves "Eurasian"? (Not to mention that "Eurasian" apparently carries the connotation of mixed parentage, rather than just not specifying where on the large landmass one hails from.)

I tend to take USian as more eye-roll inducing than offensive really. Because, if "America" is ambiguous, then "United States" should also be, as there are other nations in the world made up of states that have united (not that either is generally unclear, in casual conversation). So it's an awkward neologism that only works in print, and doesn't even manage to solve the issue it claims to address. If you're going to indulge in that sort of linguistic manipulation, then at least go whole hog.
posted by Karmakaze at 7:39 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I won't use it again, now that I know how many people are annoyed by it

I think if you don't use it in the context of "fuck americans, amirite?" they will not be as irritated. That is the context we are discussing here, if you go back and read the deleted blog post.

thinking people who use the term "US Americans" are idiots

This has everything to do with a Ms. America speech that has become infamous and you probably shouldn't take it that seriously. It's a bit of pop culture that isn't really that important. You can find it on youtube if you care to see why this phrase is associated with idiocy.

people from South America who have expressed irritation that people from the USA call themselves Americans

I am interested to hear more about that, because it's honestly news to me. I am not closed to the idea, just the whole using-it-as-insult-in-shitty-blog-post thing. What country in South America is it that they do not approve of U.S. citizens calling themselves Americans?
posted by cj_ at 7:39 AM on March 30, 2010


- PLUCKY Brit Dan Hardy has vowed to become a UFC world champion. Daily Record, March 30th.
- Blatchford finished in 2:03.43 while fellow Brit Jodie Stimpson was sixth. BBC Sport, March 28th.
- 41-year-old Friends star pops the question to 24-year-old Brit Zoe Buchmann. Daily Telegraph, March 15th.
- [Sprint specialist Fran Halsall] The Brit said: "It is so important to me to make it after not making it last time. Daily Mirror, March 30th.
- Pothole 'killed' Brit soldier. The Sun, March 29th.
- Brit wins £39m lottery jackpot.Daily Star, March 29th.
- Brits pipped by Australia. Sky Sports, March 26th.
- Brit and a couple of other foreigners are taken hostage. The Guardian, March 30th.

IMHO, Brit isn't seen as an offensive term in general. It just isn't. It shows up as a colloquial abbrevation of "British" or "British man/woman". Given that some people seem to be, or seem to know people who are offended by it, I can't argue that it's universally seen as benign. But it is commonly used by British people to describe other British people and it is not - again IMHO - in the same class as "Yank" etc, which is almost exclusively used by one group to identify another.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:39 AM on March 30, 2010


I don't think you're being at all fair here, Durn Bronzefist.

No one refers to people outside of the U.S. as being in "America"!

Actually, lots of people outside of the U.S. (particularly outside of N.A.) do.


Not in English. The one real-life example was on a message board where many of the participants were native Spanish speakers who found the term confusing because they were used to something else in Spanish. It makes a lot of sense to me that, in a limited context where you have a lot of Spanish-speakers and English-speakers trying to communicate in English, you'd use a signifier that doesn't conflict so directly with Spanish-language terms that sound so alike.

But that is not to say that Spanish-speakers should expect to determine more generally what the term in English should be. When English speakers learn Spanish, of course, they should use the common signifiers in that language.

Also "USian" is a replacement for "American," not "America." If you want to use "US" instead of "America," go ahead; it's a neutral term.


You just made this controversy up!

See the long history of this debate.


I don't think anyone said the controversy was "made up," so much as that the term "USian" has been made up relatively recently.


Well, it doesn't confuse anyone!

Was anyone saying it did?


Yes.


Well it doesn't bother US!

That's not what was being argued. What was being argued was that it is not a practical problem, and it's not unusual for the name of a people to be taken from a larger geographic area than the one they inhabit.

I addressed your Macedonia argument above, by the way, and also introduced the question of whether you're bothered by Indians arrogating to themselves the name for the entire subcontinent, at the presumed expense of all the other residents.
posted by palliser at 7:44 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


You've decided unilaterally that a phrase used by many non-Americans will negatively colour your judgement of them personally... You're going to be doing a lot of disapproving.

Please note that I very intentionally did not use the word "negatively." I said it would "influence" my reading, but I won't predict in what way. It will send up my antennae, so that I'll be reading with a heightened sensitivity to both implicit and explicit statements and what underlying sentiment is being put forward.
posted by Miko at 7:49 AM on March 30, 2010


After perusing Wolof's post on Pour en finir avec le jugement de Dieu, I think maybe we could adopt Artaud's French pronunciation of 'Amerikan'. There would then be no doubt as to who we are referring to.
posted by tellurian at 7:59 AM on March 30, 2010


(and, yes a 700+ comment on-topic thread only happens when people go bezerk)

This is badly underestimating mefites' collective capacity to just talk the day away. There's been a little heat in here, but all told this thread doesn't know berzerk from Adam.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:07 AM on March 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


I guess maybe my question is: If the US educational system separates the western-hemisphere landmass into two continents (North America and South America) and the only educational systems that refer to this landmass as one continent (America) are not in the US, why exactly is it presumptuous of US people to use the term 'American' to refer to themselves?
posted by shakespeherian at 8:07 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's really sad to me that we are so fucking divided, as a world. We can do better.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 8:11 AM on March 30, 2010


palliser: Actually, lots of people outside of the U.S. (particularly outside of N.A.) do.

Not in English.


GuyZero's experience was in Australia. Mine in N.Z. I can't speak for others' experiences from Central/S.A..

I don't think anyone said the controversy was "made up," so much as that the term "USian" has been made up relatively recently.

It seems to go back as far as 1947. I guess that's relatively recently, compared to the debate itself.

whether you're bothered by Indians arrogating to themselves the name for the entire subcontinent, at the presumed expense of all the other residents

I am personally neither bothered by that example nor "Americans" as I've stated repeatedly in the thread. What bothers me is the disingenuous way some people have been treating what is obviously a concern for some. I don't agree with your take on Macedonia, and I'm surprised that you would ascribe that debate to simple confusion. And again, I don't think "confusion" is the real issue here -- I keep seeing it raised by the anti-USian posters as an easy point to dismiss rather than (most of) those on the other side of the debate. ie: a straw man, as I said earlier.

Your point re: "Indians" I don't understand at all. Yes, India is a subcontinent. It is also a country -- an incredibly diverse one, and I lay no claim to knowledge of what the various peoples of different regions cite as their primary identity. I also fail to see how that applies to this situation. The Macedonia example, OTOH, was introduced because people kept repeating "How can anyone have a problem with what people call themselves" -- which seems a straightforward enough example of that very situation, but it received (apart from you) the incredibly disingenuous treatment shown this whole subject by some in this thread.

Well it doesn't bother US!

That's not what was being argued. What was being argued was that it is not a practical problem


Actually, much of the tone of this thread is of the "This is news to me" variety (therefore it must be new, and manufactured). The continual return to whether or not it constitutes a "practical problem" again appears to me an attempt to confine the issue to one of confusion, which I think the vasy majority of people in this discussion agree is not an issue. The bottom line, I think, is that yes, Americans can call themselves whatever they want, and others can call Americans whatever they want to. Americans are free to think that's rude, and some others are free to find the original apellation rude. Nobody is forcing anything on anyone, as far as I can see.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:17 AM on March 30, 2010


No because it's a Metafilter related event. Well that and perhaps your accent.

Because Metafilter-related events are American? That's an assumption I wouldn't make.

I've known people who are not from the United States (that is, born and raised elsewhere) who still have American accents, because of their parents and/or schools they went to. And I've known and do know American citizens who do not have American accents. So, you know, never can tell!
posted by rtha at 8:29 AM on March 30, 2010


stinkycheese: The problem isn't that "American" = "citizen of the US" is confusing.

spaltavian: No one is ever confused by this, any you know that.

I was responding to someone else saying it was a falsehood to suggest "American" is confusing.

If someone from the US says "I'm American", would I, as a Canadian, be confused? Heck no, my life has been filled with such occurrences. As gman noted, the accent alone usually clarifies the situation.

It's not as though the people opting for "USian" don't understand the status quo; that seems to be a major error in this thread. The US, thanks to its media, pretty much rams its opinions, stances, and norms down the rest of the world's throat; certainly that is the case in Canada. So most of us understand "I'm American" as meaning "I'm from the US" just fine (even more so if it's following "you can't do this to me", heh heh).

The point (for me at least) is that this is an error. It's an error that's been going on a long time, sure, but it's still an error that is based ultimately in arrogance. Anyone who agrees that there is a North and South America should be able to extrapolate the rest of the argument pretty easily.

And sorry Cortex, but unless a lot of comments in this thread disappear, I think the record is pretty clear in showing that people here did indeed freak out, if not actually go berserk.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:31 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's been a little heat in here, but all told this thread doesn't know berzerk from Adam.

I'm not going to point to particular comments, but yeah, several commenters are well past grar and full-on slobbery froth, at least from where I sit.
posted by bonehead at 8:36 AM on March 30, 2010


cortex - I'm only a Viking in my dreams.
posted by adamvasco at 8:39 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Now that it's relatively settled, what's up with all the Semites in Occupied Palestine?
posted by FuManchu at 8:43 AM on March 30, 2010


I think the record is pretty clear in showing that people here did indeed freak out, if not actually go berserk.

I guess I'm with cortex on this one. It's possible my berzerk-o-meter is out of wack, but as these discussions go, this one went better than a lot of them do.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:43 AM on March 30, 2010


Well in that case, it's the height of arrogance for someone from the UK to refer to themselves as "British." How in the world am I supposed to know if they're from this Surrey or that Surrey?
posted by shiu mai baby at 8:44 AM on March 30, 2010


I guess maybe my question is: If the US educational system separates the western-hemisphere landmass into two continents (North America and South America) and the only educational systems that refer to this landmass as one continent (America) are not in the US, why exactly is it presumptuous of US people to use the term 'American' to refer to themselves?

I guess that's the question in general: is it presumptuous for people in the US to use a term that is acceptable in their country, yet less acceptable elsewhere, simply because it makes sense in the way they describe the world? My answer would be no, or at least that we should tend towards caution in its use. I suppose if people at least think about it and consider its use, then that's enough. Putting the word "USian" aside, I'm really talking about saying "US literature" instead of "American literature" or "I'm from the US" instead of "I'm from America". I don't know how they sound to you, or whether you might consider trying them out.

It's up to you though, I think we've all put our side forward and further argument probably won't get us anywhere. There are enough points "why" and "why not" that have already been made, so I'm not keen on flogging the discussion. I hope you understand, as it's obviously causing bad blood and that's not positive.
posted by Sova at 8:46 AM on March 30, 2010


Well in that case, it's the height of arrogance for someone from the UK to refer to themselves as "British." How in the world am I supposed to know if they're from this Surrey or that Surrey?

I don't understand, I'm really sorry.
posted by Sova at 8:49 AM on March 30, 2010


rtha: According to you, the conversation we were having at a hypothetical meet-up involved you telling me you were American (possibly with some sort of U.S. accent). You then asked if I'd wonder where in Canada you were from. Having only ever been to North American meet-ups, I repeat: if you and I were at a Metafilter related event and you told me you were American, no, I would not think you were Canadian.
posted by gman at 8:50 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


How in the world am I supposed to know if they're from this Surrey or that Surrey?

One of 'em's got the fringe on top.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:50 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


That is not what I wrote. At all. This is the kind of thing I am talking about.

I don't have any skin in this game, but I have to say that I read through this thread in one sitting and I thought Miko's understanding of your position was accurate. I wish you wrote more clearly or, at least, deigned to clarify your comments.
posted by Falconetti at 8:53 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's an error that's been going on a long time, sure, but it's still an error that is based ultimately in arrogance.

This is pretending language, and specifically vocabulary, exists as some sort of formal system that can be evaluated from first principles for correctness. Claiming that two hundred years of conventional usage is "an error" is meaningless in any kind of reasonable linguistic context.

You can reasonably object to that convention for political or rhetorical reasons, and while I'm not convinced that there's a strong case here for the idea that "American" is problematic enough in practice to justify some sort of collective move away from it I do find the objections interesting and am, again, interested in learning more about the history of such disputes. But "it is an error" in a linguistic sense is not a coherent argument.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:53 AM on March 30, 2010 [10 favorites]


Actually, much of the tone of this thread is of the "This is news to me" variety (therefore it must be new, and manufactured).

Well, it is news to me. If someone from one of the other nations in the Americas wishes to state they are offended (or even mildly irritated) by our use of "American" as an identifier I am open to the idea.

People that aren't from one of these places and don't actually give a damn but just want to start a fight, not so much.

Seeing nothing but the latter so far, honestly.
posted by cj_ at 8:56 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sova: I'm being sarcastic about the Surreys, of course, but my larger point is this: if the argument is that residents of the USA are arrogant for asking to be called "Americans," because it might limit the self-identification possibilities of other people who live on the American continents, how then can citizens of the United Kingdom justify calling themselves "British"?

There's an entire Canadian province of nearly 4.5 million people who have a much stronger argument (historically, culturally, and, um, nomenclature-ally [not a word, don't know a better one]) for calling themselves "British" as well, and yet no one seems to have issue with "British = citizen of the UK".
posted by shiu mai baby at 9:00 AM on March 30, 2010


Well, it is news to me. If someone from one of the other nations in the Americas wishes to state they are offended (or even mildly irritated) by our use of "American" as an identifier I am open to the idea.

People that aren't from one of these places and don't actually give a damn but just want to start a fight, not so much.

Seeing nothing but the latter so far, honestly.


Several people from Canada have commented to that effect, I'm sure. And it's unfair to characterize everybody else as not giving a damn and wanting to start a fight.
posted by Sova at 9:00 AM on March 30, 2010


I'm from Canada, for one. What are you basing your comment on, cj_?
posted by stinkycheese at 9:03 AM on March 30, 2010


I think the record is pretty clear in showing that people here did indeed freak out, if not actually go berserk.

I dunno, there's barely any "'Fuck you- ' 'Nonono, fuck you'"s, I don't think anyone's hit The Button, and if anyone's comments have gotten the hook, they haven't been aggrieved enough to register their displeasure. There has been a lot of contention, and lot of talking around one another, and a lot people getting their respective backs up, but in terms of MetaTalk Freak Outs/Berserker Rampages, this wouldn't rate more than 5 GRARs out of 10.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:06 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not in English. The one real-life example was on a message board where many of the participants were native Spanish speakers who found the term confusing because they were used to something else in Spanish. It makes a lot of sense to me that, in a limited context where you have a lot of Spanish-speakers and English-speakers trying to communicate in English, you'd use a signifier that doesn't conflict so directly with Spanish-language terms that sound so alike.

See, this mostly makes sense to me. In the year-ish that I lived in France, conversations that were in French might talk about Les États-Unis....and people would ask me if I was américaine. In France, at least, there was no ambiguity.
posted by rtha at 9:06 AM on March 30, 2010


Well, it is news to me.

That's cool. I was just responding to the vibe of the sort "If I haven't noticed it, it can't be a problem". Which, you know, is where it comes full circle to MeFi's apparent favourite pastime: identifying privilege and its myriad issues, invisible to those who have it. Except instead of "hmm, that's interesting" here it's back-up GRAR. Which is also interesting.

What's news to me is that it is a long, longstanding debate. So pretense that this is just some anti-U.S. internet needling circa 2010 is way off base. It does make me wonder, if Usians, US Americans, etc, etc, were debated at one time or another, why the insistence then on "American"? And it makes me suspect that the nation's history and foreign policy most definitely played a role. Just a suspicion, mind. In any case I think it would be foolish to examine the issue without considering that perspective. You don't make public statements about how it is your destiny to rule the continent, take the continent's name as your own, and call it a coincidence. Or maybe you do, I don't know.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:08 AM on March 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm from Canada, for one. What are you basing your comment on, cj_?
posted by stinkycheese


You want to be called American? Well, that makes one of us.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:08 AM on March 30, 2010


I too am from Canada. Look, there are a lot of people in this world who perceive the fact that many people from the U.S. refer to themselves as 'Americans' as arrogant. There are also many people from the U.S. who take offence to the word 'USian'. So as not to offend people from the U.S. who feel 'USian' has a negative connotation, this Canadian will not refer to you as such.
posted by gman at 9:09 AM on March 30, 2010


You don't make public statements about how it is your destiny to rule the continent, take the continent's name as your own, and call it a coincidence.

This.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:09 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


If I could just see my invisible knapsack, I am sure it would be red, white, and blue!
posted by adipocere at 9:10 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Your point re: "Indians" I don't understand at all. Yes, India is a subcontinent. It is also a country

ARROGANCE.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:10 AM on March 30, 2010


in terms of MetaTalk Freak Outs/Berserker Rampages, this wouldn't rate more than 5 GRARs out of 10.

That still seems considerable considering the subject matter.

Though I would like to see a Berserker Rampage, at least once in my lifetime.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:10 AM on March 30, 2010


The point (for me at least) is that this is an error. It's an error that's been going on a long time, sure, but it's still an error that is based ultimately in arrogance. Anyone who agrees that there is a North and South America should be able to extrapolate the rest of the argument pretty easily.

I'm still curious about if you're going to help correct this error by calling people from Canada and countries in Central and South America Americans. If calling people from the United States USians will help dispel the notion that they/we do not have an exclusive hold on the term American to denote nationality, then I'd think that starting to call Colombians and Ecuadorians and Canadians will help the cause along as well.
posted by rtha at 9:11 AM on March 30, 2010


ARROGANCE.

A conspiracy of cartographers?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:11 AM on March 30, 2010


From here on out, I'm calling citizens of the Dominion of Canada USian Jrs., since technically a Canadian would be an inhabitant of an Iroquois village 500 years ago, and it's sort of arrogant and perpetuating centuries of colonial ignorance and entitlement to keep using it for a nationality.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:12 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


The country being named America predates a widespread concept of manifest destiny.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:13 AM on March 30, 2010


Sys Rq: You want to be called American? Well, that makes one of us.

Are you serious? You said:

If someone from one of the other nations in the Americas wishes to state they are offended (or even mildly irritated) by our use of "American" as an identifier I am open to the idea... seeing nothing but the latter so far, honestly.

I was letting you know that, as a Canadian, someone from one of those other nations, I am annoyed by the use of "American" as meaning US citizens exclusively.

Nothing about my wanting to be called American. Don't be confused, please.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:13 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is badly underestimating mefites' collective capacity to just talk the day away.

Oh totally. Mefi discussions are my substitute for the cigarettes I used to smoke at work.
posted by Miko at 9:15 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sova: I'm being sarcastic about the Surreys, of course, but my larger point is this: if the argument is that residents of the USA are arrogant for asking to be called "Americans," because it might limit the self-identification possibilities of other people who live on the American continents, how then can citizens of the United Kingdom justify calling themselves "British"?

There's an entire Canadian province of nearly 4.5 million people who have a much stronger argument (historically, culturally, and, um, nomenclature-ally [not a word, don't know a better one]) for calling themselves "British" as well, and yet no one seems to have issue with "British = citizen of the UK".


I've never called people from the US arrogant in labeling themselves "American", indeed I think it's mostly done out of lack of knowledge or understanding than anything else. I think the example of British Columbia is not entirely equivalent, at least because "American" is a larger category that includes all people from the Americas, yet is claimed exclusively by a subset. "British" used to be the same in that it could be used as a larger category to describe all people of UK descent (and possibly still could), but that use suggests or represents some actual connection to the UK. For a non-US person to use the label "American" for themselves, it doesn't necessarily mean they're connected to the US. Of course, if the claim to use "British" is simply about the name of the province, then surely the demonym would be "British Columbian"? (Which has problems of its own, but still.)
posted by Sova at 9:15 AM on March 30, 2010


Mostly people I know would say "I'm from BC", but yes, British Columbian is the normal term.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:16 AM on March 30, 2010


Mostly = Most
posted by stinkycheese at 9:17 AM on March 30, 2010


Is this where I note that when I pop over the border to Gatineau (Quebec) for lunch, I'm sometimes asked if I've come over "from Canada"?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:20 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


If someone from one of the other nations in the Americas wishes to state they are offended (or even mildly irritated) by our use of "American" as an identifier I am open to the idea.

This is the fundamental disconnect, I think.

To an American, "America" really is the name of your country. It's the most common formulation heard on the news and from politicians mouths, it's the one used in your songs (it's not "The US The beautiful"). USA is a close second, but ask a citizen of the US where they are from and you get the answer: "America" most often.

In many other parts of the world, it's a loaded word. America brings up associations of manifest destiny, of paternalism, of jingoism, and yes, of envy. Calling someone an American has the air of a political statement; it brings with it all of that complex baggage, good and bad. Saying "We are all American" on September 12 was a Big Deal in many other countries, putting aside all of that to support you.

In Canada at least, the word "America" is almost never used in common speech. You talk about the States, the US, or, more formally, the USA. So then, there's the challenge: what does one call a resident of such a place? If you want to be neutral, a US citizen. American does get used---no, there's never ambiguity in Canadian English---but frequently writers want to make a more neutral choice, one less loaded with the freight of history and Fox News histrionics.

I think seeking for constructions based on US arise out of that, at least outside of the US boarders. We're not nearly as comfortable as US citizens saying "American", and thus the search for other, less-loaded terms.
posted by bonehead at 9:23 AM on March 30, 2010 [10 favorites]


We're not nearly as comfortable as US citizens saying "American", and thus the search for other, less-loaded terms.

This is interesting, and seems to be in direct opposition to what most pro-USians in this thread have been saying (i.e. We are changing your name for you to reflect the fact that you are jerks).
posted by shakespeherian at 9:28 AM on March 30, 2010


It's funny to me that so many people have reacted to this specific blog post and conversation by pledging to eliminate "USian" from their vocabularies. Just as everyone with half a brain is able to parse "American" in context, I'm pretty well able to tell when someone's using "USian" in a neutral manner and when they're doing it to be a dick., like the article was. Can we all concede that?
posted by klangklangston at 9:29 AM on March 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


I've never called people from the US arrogant in labeling themselves "American", indeed I think it's mostly done out of lack of knowledge or understanding than anything else

So your position is that the usage originates from ignorance rather than arrogance? Forgive me if I'm not terribly flattered, or persuaded.

because "American" is a larger category that includes all people from the Americas

And I still maintain that, hegemony and geographic literalism aside, the vast majority of non-US residents of the American continents would think you're bonkers for calling them "American." I feel like we're going in circles at this point, so I'm happy to agree to disagree at this point.

If nothing else, I genuinely appreciate your exposing me to the word "demonym." I knew there was a term to describe what I was thinking of, but had no clue what it would be. So, thank you for that!
posted by shiu mai baby at 9:31 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Related: This was a particularly fascinating bit of the wiki on demonyms, in light of the discussion at hand.
posted by shiu mai baby at 9:35 AM on March 30, 2010


Also, no, Canucks, you would not necessarily be able to tell by my accent. I'm from Michigan—we can drive south to Canada. I can spot Grapes by his blazers and you betcha I go oot and aboot. I've gotten change in tire money and still crave timbits. Yet I'm American, like the Rochester Americans.
posted by klangklangston at 9:37 AM on March 30, 2010


bonehead: "We're not nearly as comfortable as US citizens saying "American", and thus the search for other, less-loaded terms."

That is perfectly fine. I try not to use "American" when online or dealing with people from outside the US (I don't think I've been perfect, though). Another key to the problem is that there are two basic arguments for USian.

1. "American" is ambiguous and/or loaded for people outside the US. We want to use something else. (As a side note, look at the phrase "people outside the US". I had to pause and think of how to word that without using "American" or "USian". There is something of a minor issue here if you're trying to be considerate.)

2. Yeah, USian. You gonna cry about it you arrogant, overweight imperialists?

As correct as #1 may be in their arguments, #2 is probably keeping them from getting anywhere on this site. Its a damn shame, because not using "American" is the more considerate thing to do no matter how justified you feel. (See previous arguments about "Cunt".)
posted by charred husk at 9:40 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is interesting, and seems to be in direct opposition to what most pro-USians in this thread have been saying (i.e. We are changing your name for you to reflect the fact that you are jerks).

Nobody said that, did they? Please don't misrepresent people's arguments.


So your position is that the usage originates from ignorance rather than arrogance? Forgive me if I'm not terribly flattered, or persuaded.

So people saying in this very thread "it's news to me" (or words to that effect) reflects what, exactly? I can't make up a reason for why US people continue to call themselves "American", I can only go with what I see. And besides, it's not that important, you said "arrogant" was part of my argument, and it's not. Causes aren't that important, really.

And I still maintain that, hegemony and geographic literalism aside, the vast majority of non-US residents of the American continents would think you're bonkers for calling them "American." I feel like we're going in circles at this point, so I'm happy to agree to disagree at this point.

You're right, we're going round in circles, because this point has already been answered. Bringing it up again doesn't help.
posted by Sova at 9:43 AM on March 30, 2010


I think it's mostly done out of lack of knowledge or understanding than anything else

No, it's done out of convention, habit, long usage, and its pleasant connotations. It doesn't necessarily reflect a lack of knowledge or understanding - one can know and understand and still be comfortable using the term "Americans." As I noted above, it's not that anyone's never considered that the familiar name "America" overlaps with an element of the continent's name. It's something I mentioned realizing when I was a kid. It's just that at a certain point most people notice it and then let it go, because it's the commonest referent.
posted by Miko at 9:44 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Are you serious? You said:

No I didn't.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:47 AM on March 30, 2010


Every time we have leftover pie for breakfast my kids excitedly ask, "Are we Yankees now?"
posted by GuyZero at 9:54 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


In Canada at least, the word "America" is almost never used in common speech. You talk about the States, the US, or, more formally, the USA. So then, there's the challenge: what does one call a resident of such a place? ... We're not nearly as comfortable as US citizens saying "American", and thus the search for other, less-loaded terms.

This absolutely hits the nail on the head, and I had never realized it before. USA is always referred to as 'the States' round here and if you talk about someone's nationality you'll generally say 'from the States' or 'from Minneapolis' or 'over the border' something like that. It's not a slight on the US, it's just how people talk, and it definitely does stem from a vague feeling of unease with the term 'American' as applying solely to the US.

So perhaps that explains why being told that the only correct term for US Americans is 'American' annoys me so much, because it's not how we talk up here.
posted by unSane at 9:55 AM on March 30, 2010


No, it's done out of convention, habit, long usage, and its pleasant connotations. It doesn't necessarily reflect a lack of knowledge or understanding - one can know and understand and still be comfortable using the term "Americans." As I noted above, it's not that anyone's never considered that the familiar name "America" overlaps with an element of the continent's name. It's something I mentioned realizing when I was a kid. It's just that at a certain point most people notice it and then let it go, because it's the commonest referent.

Perhaps I should have been clearer. "Lack of knowledge and understanding" refers to the way that non-US people feel about the usage, not that it overlaps with other uses of "America". Many people in this thread have claimed that nobody is upset about the use of the word "American" despite it being shown several times that they are. If you want to recognize that you know and understand this fact, but still refuse to engage with how the term is a problem, that's your call.
posted by Sova at 9:57 AM on March 30, 2010


This is interesting, and seems to be in direct opposition to what most pro-USians in this thread have been saying (i.e. We are changing your name for you to reflect the fact that you are jerks).

Nobody said that, did they? Please don't misrepresent people's arguments.


except that they kind of did:

In many other parts of the world, it's a loaded word. America brings up associations of manifest destiny, of paternalism, of jingoism, and yes, of envy. Calling someone an American has the air of a political statement; it brings with it all of that complex baggage, good and bad.
posted by Jpfed at 9:58 AM on March 30, 2010


Try doing a MetaFilter site search for "USian". The results may shock you.
I'd like to retract most of #2 from my comment above.
posted by charred husk at 9:59 AM on March 30, 2010


Sorry Sys Rq, it was cj_ I was initially replying to.

In any case, no, I don't want to be called American. I never said I did.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:59 AM on March 30, 2010


being told that the only correct term for US Americans is 'American' annoys

I'd never argue it's "the only correct term," just that it's not an incorrect term, and that it's well and widely understood. Like you, I also use "the States," "the U.S.," and "people in the U.S." or "from the U.S." I understand it's more considerate. But I find it silly to be being not to use "American" for the reason that people don't understand what I mean. They do understand what I mean, though they might not like it. Not liking it is a different thing than not understanding. And "USian" is a strained resort, and one I have never spoken, even though I often refer to this nation without calling it "America."
posted by Miko at 10:01 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


silly to be asked not to use
posted by Miko at 10:02 AM on March 30, 2010


We're not nearly as comfortable as US citizens saying "American", and thus the search for other, less-loaded terms.

I'm sorry, but that's bullshit. The fact that we say "the States" rather than "America" has nothing to with our discomfort with the latter. "The states has been short for 'the United States of America' since 1777."
posted by Sys Rq at 10:02 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hard to say not having paid attention to that particular distinction, but my recollection is that "American" does get used in Canadian media, but typically when there is some negative connotation attached. "America's War on Drugs" (or Terror), etc.. That outfits like FOX use the word almost as intrinsic approbation just helps solidify this.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:03 AM on March 30, 2010


You're right, we're going round in circles, because this point has already been answered. Bringing it up again doesn't help.

Which is why I said "vast majority" rather than "a Swedish metal discussion board" or "the students in some guy's Spanish class."
posted by shiu mai baby at 10:04 AM on March 30, 2010


Sorry, that should've been "vast majority of non-US residents of the American continents."
posted by shiu mai baby at 10:06 AM on March 30, 2010


Charred Husk makes a good point above. There's a lot of 'hurf durf do Canadians really want to be called American' upthread, but the negative of this is definitely slightly problematic to a Canadian ear anyway.

'He doesn't live in America. He lives in Canada.'

'Canada is not in America'

and so on
posted by unSane at 10:07 AM on March 30, 2010


This is interesting, and seems to be in direct opposition to what most pro-USians in this thread have been saying (i.e. We are changing your name for you to reflect the fact that you are jerks).

Nobody said that, did they? Please don't misrepresent people's arguments.

except that they kind of did:

In many other parts of the world, it's a loaded word. America brings up associations of manifest destiny, of paternalism, of jingoism, and yes, of envy. Calling someone an American has the air of a political statement; it brings with it all of that complex baggage, good and bad.


Hmm, maybe I read it the wrong way round. It sounded like she was characterizing the other arguments, and not the one that she was directly responding to (which you quoted). If so, I apologize, it was a genuine mistake.
posted by Sova at 10:08 AM on March 30, 2010


Which is why I said "vast majority" rather than "a Swedish metal discussion board" or "the students in some guy's Spanish class."

I wasn't referring to that, but nevermind.
posted by Sova at 10:10 AM on March 30, 2010


I've always like Usonian (a port-manteau of United States of North America). It has the advantage of being easy to say and is rather euonymous. I'm not the only one, either.
posted by bonehead at 10:11 AM on March 30, 2010


The point (for me at least) is that this is an error. It's an error that's been going on a long time, sure, but it's still an error that is based ultimately in arrogance.

That's not how language works. If most native speakers of English would agree (as they would) that "American" refers first and foremost to the country and not the continent, that is what it means in English. It's not even ambiguous, except in the most carefully constructed sentences (à la "the horses run through the field are tired").

"American" is normal and accepted English usage; "USian" is variant.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:11 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you look at the map of British America

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_America

it contained large parts of Canada. So it's reasonable to assume that some of those people at least considered themselves American (as opposed to 'provinicials'). This may explain why 'The States' became common instead of 'American', since 'American' didn't actually contain the distinction required. It might also explain the lingering unease which I've described. If any of this is true, and I'm only guessing, you would expect it to be much stronger in Southern Ontario and Quebec and not nearly as big a deal out west. That sort of reflects my sense of it, but I could be totally wrong.

Remember Donne?

O, my America, my Newfoundland...
posted by unSane at 10:13 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Try doing a MetaFilter site search for "USian". The results may shock you.

No kidding.

So, really, USian is pejorative. Really?
posted by unSane at 10:15 AM on March 30, 2010


If someone here has argued that "American" can only be used when referring to a citizen of the United States of America, and can not be used when referring to someone from elsewhere on the North or South American continents, I missed it.

So, then, if "American" is an appellation for those who live on the North or South American continents, then I would prefer that people call me that and not USian, since I am from and do live in North America.

The thing is, I rarely use the phrase "I'm an American" or "I'm from America"; for me, it's usually "from the States" or "from the U.S."
posted by rtha at 10:19 AM on March 30, 2010


Also: if you want to be super-pedantic, "USian" includes Mexicans and Toni Collette.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:19 AM on March 30, 2010


If someone here has argued that "American" can only be used when referring to a citizen of the United States of America, and can not be used when referring to someone from elsewhere on the North or South American continents, I missed it.

No, they've argued that there's no possible ambiguity, but the negative 'Canada is not in America' is clearly ambiguous.
posted by unSane at 10:22 AM on March 30, 2010


'Canada is not in America' is clearly ambiguous.

No, it isn't. If you wanted to say, for some fucking reason, that Canada isn't in the continents of North or South America, you would say it isn't in the Americas or in North or South America.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:24 AM on March 30, 2010


Well, the possibility of ambiguity - in English, at least - is really tiny, in my experience.

All the same, since people in the USA also reside in North America, then calling them Americans should be just fine. If a more granular definition is needed for whatever reason, then it should be easy for the American in question to clarify ("I'm from Mexico/El Salvador/Bolivia/the U.S.")

Solved.
posted by rtha at 10:26 AM on March 30, 2010


It does make me wonder, if Usians, US Americans, etc, etc, were debated at one time or another, why the insistence then on "American"? And it makes me suspect that the nation's history and foreign policy most definitely played a role. Just a suspicion, mind. In any case I think it would be foolish to examine the issue without considering that perspective.

It could be because we came within a hairs breadth of speaking Deutsch as our national language because of the feelings we had for our oppressors. So, after we figured out that it would cost too damn much to translate all of the handbills we were cranking out into the more fluent, lovely sounds of platt-deutsch (the area my peeps are from) we kept the English language (not so much that you'd notice, anymore) and also kept the simmering feeling that we didn't like the British or their remnant colonies--the losers of that land grab war--telling us what to do, or what to call ourselves, although apparently, the British and their associated imperial properties are the ones in this thread who are mostly telling us we should be ever so polite about calling ourselves Americans.

I'm no great student of history, but it seems to me that the feelings of Manifest Destiny weren't limited to the country that you can send postcards to at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (whatever it is you want to call it--USA, America, The States, macht's nichts zu mir). Lessee--again, imperfect recall of American History--the French, the British, and the Spanish were all staking out huge tracts in (what 1600 Pennsylvania Avenueians call) North America. In (what we 'round these parts call by convention, no matter how impaired we may be geographically, because lord knows, there have NEVER been any scientific/geologic/georgraphic misnomers in the past 2000 years). The results evolved over nearly 175 years of the United States of America, culminating with making parts of two other former nations or parts of nations into states from territories. The French (over-simplifying here folks, don't get your pants in a twist) cut bait when they lost Haiti and saw no use for the wasteland Out West. Got a couple million bucks to fuel their own hegemonic expansion. Became pretty damn good allies against our then common foe, the British, who were, most assuredly, still coming. (sidebar--I think some of us don't like it when British call us Yanks because although we are thick-necked and stupid, we still remember that Yankee Doodle was essentially calling us queer, and of course, America, My America, has always been at the vanguard of protecting Gay Rights).

I note that klang and others are able to parse when USian is used in a value-neutral way, b/c as I said up thread, I used to use it so as not to presume that when I was commenting on something in the US press/media, that it was not representative of ALL of The Americas. I had been called out for using that term (elsewhere I think, not necessarily in MeFi, but who the fuck knows, I'm forgetting more things lately).

I think I'll just see what else rolls downhill from here (like klang said, from here, if it's rolling south it'll hit Canadian-America). Last sidebar, from a conference I was at in Chicago a couple of years ago. At a Puerto Rican neighborhood center. One of the speakers was talking about Puerto Rican identity, and noted that, in his experience, Puerto Ricans living away from the island on the mainland (so many of us Americans willfully forget that Puerto Ricans are US citizens, also) are the only ethnic group he could think of that wasn't hyphenated into German-American, Italian-American, African-American, but retained their native identification, even when 2nd, 3rd, 4th generation born-on-the-mainland. Of course, that is sometimes a problem when they visit Puerto Rico, where despite their color, their accents, their cultural attachments, they are called, simply, Americans.

(yeah, yeah, I know, tl;dr. My life's curse)
posted by beelzbubba at 10:29 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm actually not sure why "the States" isn't much more ambiguous, since there are plenty of countries that see themselves as a conglomeration of states and even that have the word "states" in their official names.

Having said that, the metafilter search that people have linked to confirms my impression that "USian", at least when used by people from the U.S., is more often cutesy than pejorative.
posted by craichead at 10:30 AM on March 30, 2010


No, it isn't. If you wanted to say, for some fucking reason, that Canada isn't in the continents of North or South America, you would say it isn't in the Americas or in North or South America.

In other words it is ambiguous. If it wasn't ambiguous you wouldn't need to rephrase it.
posted by unSane at 10:36 AM on March 30, 2010


This is utterly bizarre. I honestly don't see how Americans referring to themselves as such is arrogant or erroneous (I'm British by the way).

Surely 'American' is just a shortened version of 'United States of American' and therefore totally valid, not at all confusing and only arrogant if you begin from the axiom 'all Americans are arrogant' (which would say more about you than the average American I suspect).

I guess people can use USian is they want, but it looks weird written down and is a bit of a mouthful too. So why bother?
posted by jonnyploy at 10:36 AM on March 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


I think French President Sarkozy just insulted Canada: "When we look at the American debate on reforming health care, it's difficult to believe." and "The world needs an open America, a generous America, an America that shows the way, an America that listens"
posted by nightwood at 10:37 AM on March 30, 2010


it's unfair that the american flag is on the moon
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:38 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


if you want to be super-pedantic, "USian" includes Mexicans and Toni Collette.

I'm going to start referring to Mexican-Americans as USian-USians.

Maybe tonight I'll get dinner at that new Tex-USian fusion joint.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:40 AM on March 30, 2010


it's unfair that the american flag is on the moon

But it fell over. Someone tell the Constitutionalists that the US flag is being desecrated IN SPACE.
posted by GuyZero at 10:40 AM on March 30, 2010 [4 favorites]




No, it isn't. If you wanted to say, for some fucking reason, that Canada isn't in the continents of North or South America, you would say it isn't in the Americas or in North or South America.

In other words it is ambiguous. If it wasn't ambiguous you wouldn't need to rephrase it.


You are simply talking nonsense at this point. No one would be confused because Canada IS a part of the North American continent.

Even when you accept America to refer to both continents there is no plausible reason to ever have to say Canada is not in America and not be referring to the country, unless you are lying to someone.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:47 AM on March 30, 2010


Does "EUians" refer to people living in the European Union or residents of los Estados Unidos Mexicanos? Coming up: a 900-comment MetaTalk thread where this is very important for some reason
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:51 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you start using "EUians" people will assume you're dumb but I doubt very many people will bother to correct you on it. In fact, I would expect no one would bother to tell you to stop.
posted by GuyZero at 10:53 AM on March 30, 2010


In other words it is ambiguous. If it wasn't ambiguous you wouldn't need to rephrase it.

I don't think this follows. 'Ambiguous' is different from 'unclear,' and it's also different from 'doesn't make sense,' both of which can be cause for rephrasing, which I believe is what was being said.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:56 AM on March 30, 2010


Does "EUians" refer to people living in the European Union or residents of los Estados Unidos Mexicanos? Coming up: a 900-comment MetaTalk thread where this is very important for some reason

That actually did mess me up at one point when I was traveling. I'd been following signs for "Etats-Unis" and then ran across some for "EU". It didn't do more than make me read the sign twice, but there was a moment of disorientation.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:56 AM on March 30, 2010


You know what this thread needs? Some foodstamps.
posted by GuyZero at 11:07 AM on March 30, 2010


Does "EUians" refer to people living in the European Union or residents of los Estados Unidos Mexicanos? Coming up: a 900-comment MetaTalk thread where this is very important for some reason

No, but I raised the possibility that "European" was becoming to describe solely those from the EU while excluding other Europeans. I made the point about, say, 400 comments ago. It didn't seem interesting to anybody, despite being the best analogy I can think of to this.
posted by Sova at 11:11 AM on March 30, 2010


shakespeherian: No and no. The problem isn't that "American" = "citizen of the US" is confusing. The problem is that it's wrong. And arrogant.

Thank you for being honest about it. But what's even more arrogant is to correct someone on the conventionally accepted name for their nationality that they personally prefer.

I'd love it if there was a less ambiguous term for people from the U.S. which we could agree upon.

WHY?! Why do we need a new name? The first one is plenty cromulent and in no way (as demonstrated over and over again) ambiguous. The only reason that we "need" a new name is that some people - as seen above - feel that it's "arrogant." I have this sneaking hunch that if POTUS got up on stage tomorrow and greeted the crowd with "My Fellow USians," there would immediately be a huge backlash against that term and a move to reclaim "American" or some other word instead. No matter what we call ourselves, there's this feeling that we're too powerful or too full of ourselves or something and the people who have issue with "American" are going to have issue with whatever that is, too.

Look, go after the US all you want. We've earned it. But be honest about why you need a new term to do so. If you think it's "wrong" and "arrogant," good for you. I think you're a blowhard and I'm glad we've got it out in the open.

You don't make public statements about how it is your destiny to rule the continent, take the continent's name as your own, and call it a coincidence. Or maybe you do, I don't know.

It was in the name of the country long before Manifest Destiny or the Lousiana Purchase, chief. Oh, but we were arrogant enough to settle here anyway, you say? Well, gee, where did we come from? Oh, that's right! We're a bunch of imperialist bastards who descended from a lot of other imperialist bastards! But everyone else has such a great and perfect history that they can choose their own demonyms with impunity! Just not us! Because we are the only country in the world that is imperfect! Yay!*

Look, I know about my country's history. You don't need to bring it up every single time my nationality is discussed. I don't need to be shamed for where I'm from, thanks.

So perhaps that explains why being told that the only correct term for US Americans is 'American' annoys me so much,

I'm fine with US American, as I've said many times. I am only objecting to "USian."

Data point: When abroad and someone asks me where I'm from, I will alternately say "I'm American" or "I'm from The States." I flip a coin. I refer to my nationality as "American," but I never refer to the place as "America," but always "The States" or "The US."

*see also: what beelzbubba said.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:12 AM on March 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


Also, where do we get off calling those two major wars of the 20th century 'World Wars'? There were large chunks of the world not involved. And, labeling that time as the '20th Century' is also problematic...
posted by nightwood at 11:16 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


So perhaps that explains why being told that the only correct term for US Americans is 'American' annoys me so much,

I don't think anyone has said that it would be incorrect to call us "citizens of the United States of America," if you favor accuracy over brevity.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:17 AM on March 30, 2010


I don't think anyone has said that it would be incorrect to call us "citizens of the United States of America," if you favor accuracy over brevity.

El Americanos if you're not into that whole brevity thing...

Sorry. I'll see myself out.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:25 AM on March 30, 2010


Oh, but we were arrogant enough to settle here anyway, you say?

I didn't, actually. Words in mouth serve the GRAR, but not much else.

Look, I know about my country's history. You don't need to bring it up every single time my nationality is discussed.

I do? Health care? Taxes? The death penalty? Obama? United Fruit Co? Ok, ok, yeah maybe that last one.

I'm fine with US American, as I've said many times. I am only objecting to "USian."

"US American" makes sense to me as well, but others have objected to it just as vociferously.

I have this sneaking hunch that if POTUS got up on stage tomorrow and greeted the crowd with "My Fellow USians,"

Holy straw man. Please find a single person in the thread who doesn't see "America/n" as an established convention, at least within the U.S.. As I said, you can call yourselves whatever you please, we (everyone else) can call you what we please, and everyone involved is free to take offence. Is that free enough for you?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:26 AM on March 30, 2010


A few thoughts that have been percolating overnight.

We're The Americans. Yet we still call Latin America, Latin America. Like it's some sort of subset or offshoot of the Real America. We're THE Americans. They're Latin Americans. You don't find it uncomfortable to reinforce that idea every time you identify your nationality? I do. There are also a whole subset of "Americans" who live in the US who get hyphenated (not always a bad thing, but it still bothers me). I didn't make this world, I was just born into it, and raised to use "American", and I'm not mad at myself for using it. At the same time, now that I know more about the world, and about my and my country's place in it, I'm not going to fight with anyone who dislikes it, accuse them of bigotry, or act like they are in any position to harm me in any way by avoiding calling me "American".

I tend to consciously avoid saying "Americans", instead I use grammatical constructions like "people from the US", unless I'm commenting on something negative or making a broad negative generalization about the more obnoxious qualities we possess. If I'm being rational and fair, I don't use "American". If I'm talking about how popular children's stories reflects the just world bias, I use "people from the United States". If I'm irritated and venting, I'll start saying things like "Americans think poor people are just lazy."

So in fact, my using the word "American" is a good indicator that I'm about to stereotype and insult a wide range of, well, Americans. Maybe that sucks on my part. Then again...the people who cling tightly to the term and idea of "America", "the American way", "proud to be an American" are these people:

Toby Keith ("We'll put a boot in your ass/It's the American way")
Joe the Plumber, Sarah Palin, etc.
The "American Dream"
Xenophobic anti-immigration groups like the "American Border Patrol"
American and Proud
People who claim to be pro-immigration but think that our national identity is being "diluted" [warning, music]
Propagandists looking for a racist or xenophobic dogwhistle
I could go on and on but everyone here can use google. It took me ten minutes to find all of those examples.

Why the insistence that people call us Americans lest they insult our national pride? It seems very patriotic, and I mean that in the most negative way. "American" patriotism kills. It also rapes, maims, starves, and disenfranchises. The more someone's terminology distances me from a patriotic American, the better.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:26 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


That right there is all kinds of insane.
posted by proj at 11:32 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hell, why stop at American? Surely if that's objectionable then United States of America is objectionable as well. And surely United States, or USian, or US American is also objectionable because we're not the only country with United States in the name, let alone the only country made of up a group of united states.

And if we're going to change what we call ourselves and our country then someone will have to go back and edit the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers, the Constitution, Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, the Pledge of Allegiance, and every patriotic song I grew up learning. Someone should have told Walt Whitman he heard wrong when he heard America singing. (Toby Keith, in other words, isn't the only one who uses "America," and works featuring that word aren't uniformly pieces of faux-patriotic war mongering shit.)

God Bless America [Insert name approved by non-Americans [Insert name approved by non-Americans [Insert name approved by non-Americans]]], fuck yeah.
posted by sallybrown at 11:32 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Someone should have told Walt Whitman he heard wrong when he heard America singing.
Not to mention Langston Hughes when he said "I, too, sing America."
posted by craichead at 11:36 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ok, so... shorter summary:

Some non-USians/Americans: appropriating the words "America" and "American" to use solely for your own country and people is rude.

USians/Americans: You're rude.

Ok, then.

Kinda makes me wish this is the biggest thing other countries have to worry about from the U.S..
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:37 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Does anyone read the posts down here?





I don't think anyone does. But they're still posting.
posted by charred husk at 11:37 AM on March 30, 2010


Miko: "No, it's done out of convention, habit, long usage, and its pleasant connotations."

Pleasant connotations? What connotations? And do you think they're accurate?

I find myself really shocked by this assertion although I know that it's a common feeling...maybe this is because I am a fake American?*


*I live in NYC AND I'm kinda Mexican! DOUBLY FAKE. I am considering changing my middle name to Hussein so I can be even more fake
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:39 AM on March 30, 2010


grapefruitmoon: "Thank you for being honest about it. "

There is no reason for stomping around this thread continually accusing people of dishonesty. It is not cool. People can disagree with you without being liars.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:44 AM on March 30, 2010


Why the insistence that people call us Americans lest they insult our national pride? It seems very patriotic, and I mean that in the most negative way. "American" patriotism kills. It also rapes, maims, starves, and disenfranchises. The more someone's terminology distances me from a patriotic American, the better.

American patriotism also created one of the world's most ethnically and religiously diverse and multicultural nations, as well as its largest economy. It codified the many fundamental freedoms, including Bill of Rights and the concepts of human equality and freedom from oppression. American patriotism split the atom, harnessed electricity (we're the number one producer of both electric and nuclear energy,) went to the moon and invented the internet, iPod, telephone, phonograph, radio and movie camera.

We are more than just the sum of our positives and negatives.
posted by zarq at 11:47 AM on March 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


Yet we still call Latin America, Latin America. Like it's some sort of subset or offshoot of the Real America.

Latin America is a shorthand term for 20 different countries, each of which has its own name. If you were traveling with your Chilean friend in Quebec and you stopped to chat with a Quebecer, each of the three of you could say "I'm American." You and the Quebecer could each say "I'm from North America." Your Chilean friend could say "I'm from South America." Your Chilean friend could also say "I'm from Latin America," and then you and the Quebecer could say "We're from North America" or "Anglo-America" or just "America," although from Wikipedia it looks like the Quebecer might say "I'm from Latin America too!"

Or maybe you would say "I'm American," and your Chilean friend would say "I'm Chilean," because that's the name of his country.
posted by sallybrown at 11:47 AM on March 30, 2010


Well, since I recently moved to the "heartland" I may now be "real" and therefore wrong about stuff, but I guess I think that your contention is just factually inaccurate, internet fraud detective squad. I don't think that reactionary people in the U.S. are more likely to use "America" or "American" than non-reactionary people. I think that, since it's the standard thing that most people call the country, you could find lots of instances of both reactionary and non-reactionary people using the word.
posted by craichead at 11:48 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


IFDS, I hate that those jingoist jackwads you listed think they are the sole arbiters of what is and isn't American. Frankly, I'd rather see more people who don't hold their narrow and xenophobic beliefs reclaim the word from the Toby Keiths/Sarah Palin/Tea Baggers of this country. Why in the world should we throw up our hands and let those assholes define "American"?
posted by shiu mai baby at 11:48 AM on March 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


What the fuck, people? Didn't you watch Treehouse of Horror II? Our country was founded in 1942 by some guy and it's called Bonerland now.
posted by Skot at 11:48 AM on March 30, 2010


Then again...the people who cling tightly to the term and idea of "America", "the American way", "proud to be an American" are these people:

John F Kennedy (And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country)

I'm just saying. You are painting with a pretty broad brush with your examples. There are plenty of people who are "Proud to be an American" without jingoistic chest thumping.
posted by quin at 11:49 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


No, but I raised the possibility that "European" was becoming to describe solely those from the EU while excluding other Europeans. I made the point about, say, 400 comments ago. It didn't seem interesting to anybody, despite being the best analogy I can think of to this.

For what it's worth, I think it's interesting but as analogy it seems better fit to the situation in the late 18th century than to the current situation, as far as emergent ambiguity in the face of changing national/international organization goes. The US didn't recently form, and its citizens and non-citizens didn't just recently start using "American" as a demonym.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:51 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Our country was founded in 1942 by some guy and it's called Bonerland now.

Bonerland über balles!

posted by cortex (staff) at 11:54 AM on March 30, 2010


The definitive Canadian perspective on the matter:

USian woman, stay away from me
USian woman, mamma let me be
Don't come hanging round my door
I don't wanna hear your spite and GRAR
I got more important things to do
Than spend my time nomenclaturing with you.
etc.
posted by Lemurrhea at 11:54 AM on March 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Then again...the people who cling tightly to the term and idea of "America", "the American way", "proud to be an American" are these people:

At my Passover Seder last night, where 3/4 of us were immigrants to America, everyone who was eligible to vote voted for Obama, and supported hcr, and we all claim and feel passionately about multiple identities, including other national identities, we talked about patriotism and tearing up on the 4th of July and the meaning and strength of a shared American identity in entirely positive terms.

I don't cede these things to the people you mention although I understand how you could associate it so strongly with them.

But changing up terms doesn't free any of us (yes, us, including me and all the others around the table who arrived in this country over the last 25 years) from problematic aspects of our past and present or any responsibility regarding them. And America and American patriotism is far from being the only nationally/ethnically connected source of suffering in the world. Should we have two terms for every identity, one for when people associated with it are behaving well and one for when they're not, or one for good '-ians -icans -s -ese, etc' and one for bad ones?

It seems like you would use "American" as an insult and some others on this thread would use "USian" as an insult.

I'm against using internalized identities as an insult, whether in 'fun', like my gentile friend who warned me that his friend might chide him for bring cheap by telling him not to be such a Jew but he didn't mean anything mean by it, or in seriousness, no matter how many atrocities the government or religious institution primarily associated with your identity might have committed no matter how recently.
posted by Salamandrous at 11:55 AM on March 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


*I live in NYC AND I'm kinda Mexican! DOUBLY FAKE. I am considering changing my middle name to Hussein so I can be even more fake

Perhaps I missed a reference because this thread is so long, but I don't understand this argument.

On one side of my family, I'm 7th generation American. On the other, I'm 4th gen. My kids are therefore 8th gen and third gen (thru my wife,) respectively. They (and I) are just as American as any other (naturalized or by birth) citizen, no matter what their name is.
posted by zarq at 11:59 AM on March 30, 2010


On a tangent, I dropped into a friend's house a couple of days ago and he was playing GTA: San Andreas (something I've been meaning to check out -- yeah, I'm that behind). He's at a burger joint and says "check this out" and walks up to the big sign outside. The rendering is slightly clunky but you can see "Freedom Fries" on the menu, and he said this is an anachronism (because the term hails from GW's period, the "00's", and the game is supposed to take place in the 90's). But I distinctly remember hearing that the term was used prior to GW. Can someone confirm/deny?

on preview:

USian woman, stay away from me
USian woman, mamma let me be


Whoah, sudden epiphany:

Blossom fails to bloom... (cause it's cold!)
A storm that blew so pure... (like a polar bear in a snowstorm)
and... a fricking snowman?

Bowie was talking about Canada. And you say not ambiguous. pfft.

Though I'm not sure why a little piece of you will die. It's probably mole removal. Everything's covered up here, yo.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:01 PM on March 30, 2010


I just want to to give my two cents on the topic, because I feel it might help resolve the underlying issue.
posted by Brak at 12:09 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


There is no reason for stomping around this thread continually accusing people of dishonesty. It is not cool. People can disagree with you without being liars.

I WAS BEING SERIOUS. I said "Thank you for being honest about it" because I was THANKING THE PERSON FOR BEING HONEST ABOUT IT.

There's no use in stomping around and turning people's words around into the exact inverse of what they meant.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:15 PM on March 30, 2010


But I distinctly remember hearing that the term was used prior to GW. Can someone confirm/deny?

Can't confirm, don't have enough of a toolset to even approach an approximate denial. A quick search against Google Books yields a number of references to the 2003 cafeterial stunt, some of them obviously misdated, and I did find one ambiguous citation to a travel guidebook that mentions "freedom fries" being served at some restaurant, that one cited to 1994 but then I distrust the dating enough to not want to even rely on that without some external verification.

I might check the couple newspaper archives I have as well, but it seems like if anything someone would have to check Lexis-Nexus or something to make a better pass at it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:19 PM on March 30, 2010


Brak, thanks so much! I think you've cleared up the whole thing. And from now on, I will identify myself as "Earthican," which I think is what Brak was driving at.
posted by Mister_A at 12:20 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have this sneaking hunch that if POTUS got up on stage tomorrow and greeted the crowd with "My Fellow USians,"

Holy straw man. Please find a single person in the thread who doesn't see "America/n" as an established convention, at least within the U.S.. As I said, you can call yourselves whatever you please, we (everyone else) can call you what we please, and everyone involved is free to take offence. Is that free enough for you?


Alright, my point, while ill-made was this: the people who object to calling citizens of the US "Americans" sometimes do so because they find the name to be arrogant. (Some have even explicitly stated so here in this thread.) If we, as a group, were to self-apply any other name, that would not change anything about us. We would still be however arrogant we currently are. So, it's my suspicion that if we started calling ourselves "USians" or "Turdhumpers" or whatever, that wouldn't actually satsify anyone as if we are indeed arrogant, we'd still be arrogant, we'd just be arrogant Turdhumpers instead of arrogant Americans.

That's just my hunch though, based on the underlying motives that some people have for using "USian" instead of "American." Sure, it's partly about the word, but it's also an attack on the nation itself and how it's seen through the lens of the person describing it. If you think we're a bunch of arrogant imperialists, you're gonna think that even if we change our name.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:21 PM on March 30, 2010


So you're one of the epidermal creatures who lives atop the crust of planet Earth? Or are you one of the subterranean dwellers who lives in and subsists on the nutrient rich "earth" that comprises the mass below that surface?
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:23 PM on March 30, 2010


This thread reminds me of a conversation I had in Switzerland:

io: Sono italiani?
loro: No, no: siamo veneziani.
io: Ho capito! Sono un californiano!

If anything, I take umberage at our continued use of "United".
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:25 PM on March 30, 2010


sallybrown: "And if we're going to change what we call ourselves and our country then someone will have to go back and edit the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers, the Constitution, Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, the Pledge of Allegiance, and every patriotic song I grew up learning. Someone should have told Walt Whitman he heard wrong when he heard America singing. (Toby Keith, in other words, isn't the only one who uses "America," and works featuring that word aren't uniformly pieces of faux-patriotic war mongering shit.)"

Please find other, better examples.

MLK Jr. said it better than me:
When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."
Yet his speech--highly critical of the false promises made by our Founding Fathers--always stuck right with the Declaration of Independence like they're part of the same tradition of American Awesome Freedom For All. Please.

Moving right along. The Pledge of Allegiance violates the religious freedom of schoolchildren. The constitution had to be amended to abolish slavery and allow women to vote. It promises false protection from our deeply racist criminal justice system. The Federalist Papers, meh. Every patriotic song you grew up learning--well--you already know how I feel about patriotism.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:26 PM on March 30, 2010


Haha! cortex, of course I dwell upon the very living crust of the Earth! Those worms you speak of are not worthy of the term "Earthican!" We Earthicans call them Subbies!! And we're quite pushy about it, and make clear that it's not meant as a compliment. Not at all! Hahahaha!
posted by Mister_A at 12:28 PM on March 30, 2010


But those are flawed instruments that we have collectively tried to (and often succeeded in) make better through the years. They are not perfect. The efforts to make them better as our society changes and becomes more diverse than it was 230 years ago continue and will have forward and backward movement. What's your point?
posted by shiu mai baby at 12:30 PM on March 30, 2010


Yet his speech--highly critical of the false promises made by our Founding Fathers--always stuck right with the Declaration of Independence like they're part of the same tradition of American Awesome Freedom For All. Please.

Wow here comes an awesome derail.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:34 PM on March 30, 2010


Yet his speech--highly critical of the false promises made by our Founding Fathers--always stuck right with the Declaration of Independence like they're part of the same tradition of American Awesome Freedom For All. Please.

What? (And I don't mean that in a "what" way, but in a genuine "I do not understand what your point is" way.)
posted by rtha at 12:34 PM on March 30, 2010


You don't make public statements about how it is your destiny to rule the continent, take the continent's name as your own, and call it a coincidence.

I once claimed it was my destiny to rule everything to the orbit of Pluto, but I was 8, playing Risk, and I was speaking for myself, not America.
posted by spaltavian at 12:35 PM on March 30, 2010


For what it's worth, I think it's interesting but as analogy it seems better fit to the situation in the late 18th century than to the current situation, as far as emergent ambiguity in the face of changing national/international organization goes. The US didn't recently form, and its citizens and non-citizens didn't just recently start using "American" as a demonym.

That's exactly the reason why I brought it up. It shows how labels shift around, and illustrates that people can be excluded from a name by others changing its meaning. Just because it happened with regards to the US and America much earlier doesn't make it different, only established. It's easier to be angry that Russians are being squeezed out of the "European" label because it's happening now, but hopefully people will apply that retrospectively to see how their usage also might affect people.
posted by Sova at 12:36 PM on March 30, 2010


Pluto is a far sight from Kamchatka, friend.
posted by Mister_A at 12:36 PM on March 30, 2010


I think the point is that there's nothing good about America, ever, and enumerating things that you think are good is wrong because those things are really bad, and also slavery.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:37 PM on March 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


Moving right along. The Pledge of Allegiance violates the religious freedom of schoolchildren. The constitution had to be amended to abolish slavery and allow women to vote. It promises false protection from our deeply racist criminal justice system. The Federalist Papers, meh.

Lawyers refer to The Constitution as a "living document," which means that it is modifiable to fit our society's changing values and morés. However, it is hard to modify so that a society's ephemeral whims and trends don't make it utterly unusable. The Constitution has been modified over time in what I think is a positive social direction. Our criminal justice system has as well. Feel free to disagree. But please remember that we don't allow slaves any more, and women can both vote and own property. Where we end up as a culture is perhaps more important than where we have been.

Every patriotic song you grew up learning--well--you already know how I feel about patriotism.

As far as I'm concerned, nationalism is not the problem here. It only becomes a problem when it is taken to divisive extremes, or is used to excuse uncivilized behavior.
posted by zarq at 12:39 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mister_A, I invite you to check out some modifications to Risk 2100 I've been working on.
posted by spaltavian at 12:39 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


You sank my battleship?
posted by Brak at 12:39 PM on March 30, 2010


Brak, you're a genius.
posted by spaltavian at 12:41 PM on March 30, 2010


Pluto is a far sight from Kamchatka, friend.

Not if your dice are hot.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:43 PM on March 30, 2010


So, it's my suspicion that if we started calling ourselves "USians" or "Turdhumpers" or whatever, that wouldn't actually satsify anyone as if we are indeed arrogant, we'd still be arrogant, we'd just be arrogant Turdhumpers instead of arrogant Americans.

Eh, well maybe. But you know those people who come up to you and stick their finger in your face when they're making a point? *makes pointy-pointy gestures* They'd probably be just as arrogant without, as I think the finger-in-face behaviour is an effect, not a cause, but that doesn't mean conversation wouldn't be more polite without it.

I once claimed it was my destiny to rule everything to the orbit of Pluto, but I was 8, playing Risk, and I was speaking for myself, not America.

If you aspired to Pluto and this were Risk, you were probably speaking for Australia.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:43 PM on March 30, 2010


spaltavian: Is it going to be very difficult to occupy Uranus?
posted by Mister_A at 12:45 PM on March 30, 2010


zarq: "[quoting me]*I live in NYC AND I'm kinda Mexican! DOUBLY FAKE. I am considering changing my middle name to Hussein so I can be even more fake"

Perhaps I missed a reference because this thread is so long, but I don't understand this argument.

On one side of my family, I'm 7th generation American. On the other, I'm 4th gen. My kids are therefore 8th gen and third gen (thru my wife,) respectively. They (and I) are just as American as any other (naturalized or by birth) citizen, no matter what their name is.


I'm glad you think so. I'm making tongue-in-cheek reference to anti-immigrant (mostly anti-Mexican) bigotry for the Mexicans aren't real Americans thing, and the '08 presidential campaign for both the "NYC does not equal real America" thing and the constant Barack HUSSEIN Obama xenophobic dog-whistle and/or birther controversy.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:45 PM on March 30, 2010


> I still have yet to hear of anyone who is not a citizen of the US who could be described as 'American.'

Benjamin Franklin, prior to 1781.
posted by jfuller at 12:50 PM on March 30, 2010


I'm glad you think so. I'm making tongue-in-cheek reference to anti-immigrant (mostly anti-Mexican) bigotry for the Mexicans aren't real Americans thing, and the '08 presidential campaign for both the "NYC does not equal real America" thing and the constant Barack HUSSEIN Obama xenophobic dog-whistle and/or birther controversy.

OK.

Do you understand that by painting all Americans who are generally proud of their country's accomplishments with the same brush as fearmongering extremist Republicans and their gullible followers that you are engaging in the same ridiculous and offensive reductionist arguments that they do?
posted by zarq at 12:59 PM on March 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


The Pledge of Allegiance violates the religious freedom of schoolchildren.

Not when it was written it didn't.

There are all sorts of ways to make the US SUCKS or US RULES argument. Starting a fight about a few of them seems like a really weird thing to do 870-ish comments in. Everyone's got a position on this and it takes more than a few facts tossed together to make yours any more "right" than any other.

I mean the same could go to most people's positions here. Clearly this is something more complicated than any one twitchy internet nerd's explanation of how it is.

And I'm one of the people who didn't even know USian was problematic until reading about it on MeFi.

So not to be all "can't we all just get along" about this, but maybe if you've got a fighty point, you should make sure there's someone actually here that you're fighting with.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:00 PM on March 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


and the Quebecer could say "We're from North America" or "Anglo-America"

I'd like to see you get any Québécois to say that they were Anglo American. I'm sure there have been lots of delightful changes since I was last up there in MY favorite city of all North America, Montréal, but when I was, hoo-boy there were such lovely exchanges between the French speaking and English speaking Quebecers. This was 1994/1995, and the BQ & the PQ looked almost certain to achieve separation from the federation.

My customers, as most businesses I encountered, were a mix of Anglophone & allophone and seemed quite concerned that Anglophone signage was going to disappear.

Like I say, maybe erry l'il thang is OK now, but hoooooey--you think we USians are touchy...
posted by beelzbubba at 1:02 PM on March 30, 2010


I'm making tongue-in-cheek reference to anti-immigrant (mostly anti-Mexican) bigotry for the Mexicans aren't real Americans thing, and the '08 presidential campaign for both the "NYC does not equal real America" thing and the constant Barack HUSSEIN Obama xenophobic dog-whistle and/or birther controversy.

That usage of "American" is obviously problematic. It was a political dogwhistle, and the only people who responded were those who already thought stupid shit like that.

But your proposed solution (I think?) that we just cede the use of "American" to those assholes is unworkable and kind of insulting to people who aren't assholes but still identify as Americans. Why allow those idiots to silence you?

(And I know that this is apparently not part of your argument, but then what of the poor folks who inhabit other countries in North and South America, and who may wish to identify as Americans? If they do so, will you sneer at them as nativist/nationalist jerkwads like Palin et al.?)
posted by rtha at 1:05 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Was there seriously 700 comments debating the merit of a word?
posted by divabat at 1:06 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Welcome to MetaTalk, divabat!
posted by Mister_A at 1:07 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


From a comment in the recent Shatner FPP:

Shatner personifies America

shoot me now
posted by unSane at 1:08 PM on March 30, 2010


Give us this day our daily beans.
posted by Mister_A at 1:08 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Because he's Canadian or because he's Shatner?
posted by Mister_A at 1:08 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Please find other, better examples.
Yet his speech--highly critical of the false promises made by our Founding Fathers--always stuck right with the Declaration of Independence like they're part of the same tradition of American Awesome Freedom For All.


I've always read King's speech not as being critical of the promises made by our Founding Fathers in the founding documents, but rather as being critical of our country's failure to live up to these promises. This is why King analogizes to a "promissory note"--When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. Because the "magnificent words" of these documents give us certain rights, we as citizens--as holders of these promissory notes--can demand those things we have been promised and yet have not been given.

We refer to the Constitution when fighting for our rights--whether we want to go to school or get married or exercise freedom over our own bodies. Sometimes the people in charge of interpreting the Constitution don't come through, absolutely, but that doesn't mean we say the Constitution is a failed document; instead as we move forward we blame those who interpreted it wrongly in the past.

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution ARE part of "the same tradition of American Awesome Freedom for All." That you would lump them with Toby Keith's bullshit is baffling to me. I'm an atheist extreme-liberal pacifist feminist who finds the death penalty shameful and jingoism destructive and Americentrism embarrassing, and the Constitution gives me (and you) the chance to challenge all the things I think are wrong with my country. You don't like that the Pledge of Allegiance references God (though you don't note it has only done so since 1954)? Neither do I. The Constitution is what you'll want to use to change that. It's too bad you need other, better examples.
posted by sallybrown at 1:10 PM on March 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


Was there seriously 700 comments debating the merit of a word?

and... scene.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:11 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Because he's Canadian or because he's Shatner?

Choose your own adventure.
posted by unSane at 1:12 PM on March 30, 2010


I cashed out of my popcorn futures WAAAAAAAY too early.

Note to self: ride your winners and sell your losers.
posted by unSane at 1:13 PM on March 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


shiu mai baby: "IFDS, I hate that those jingoist jackwads you listed think they are the sole arbiters of what is and isn't American. Frankly, I'd rather see more people who don't hold their narrow and xenophobic beliefs reclaim the word from the Toby Keiths/Sarah Palin/Tea Baggers of this country. Why in the world should we throw up our hands and let those assholes define "American"?"

This is an excellent point, but reclaiming it is different from what is going on in this thread. Here we're calling anyone who chooses to use another term a bigot, arrogant, or any number of other negative terms. Why are we doing that? The people who use USian often do so for a reason. Why close ranks and get defensive and start to insist that no one criticize my country because they're not from here? There is no reason to defend the US against implied criticism just because it's coming from outside the country. There is an analogy used in some parts of this thread: that we're like a family and it's okay for us to criticize each other but not okay for anyone else to criticize us. I reject that. We wield an incredible amount of influence and power. I fully expect and welcome criticism of our nation and our government from anyone who is affected by what we do and how we do it. That includes criticism of what we call ourselves.

Some in this thread have said or implied that such criticism punishes us for being born American, unfairly lumps us all together, etc. We're not so American that you can imply any criticism of us based on our nationality, but we are American enough to insist that calling us anything other than American is a personal insult.

I hope I am correctly conveying the contradiction that is inherent in insisting that we be lumped together when it's a matter of national pride and individually judged when it's a matter of national shame.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:14 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I dunno, there's something uniquely American about declaring that a Canadian is uniquely American. Also personifying America:

Neil Young
Zsa Zsa Gabor
Pablo Picasso
Alanis Morissette
Jesus Christ
Leonardo da Vinci
The Beatles
Tintin
Hagar the Horrible
The Netherlands
posted by shakespeherian at 1:17 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Normally I think of myself as a moderate linguistic prescriptivist, but skimming this thread has convinced me I'm definitely a descriptivist on demonyms. Learning the word demonym made the skim worthwhile. Thank you to whoever introduced it.
posted by immlass at 1:19 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Was there seriously 700 comments debating the merit of a word?

That's why choose their words with care.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:21 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


This thread is at the exhausting end of confusing.

cj, I have read comments from people on message boards who found the use of "Americans" to describe people from the US a bad thing. I remember one of them was from Bolivia and the other from...Chile? Can't remember. I am not saying this to prove that it *is* a bad thing. Just to explain that reading this reinforced for me what I was taught at school: That using the term "Americans" is sloppy and potentially rude to other people from this continent. I also did not inquire further because a) for me it merely reinforced what I thought was the case and b) it was more of a side thought because the topic never cropped up this way before. This may, of course, all just be a misconception on my part.

(Aside: I also just realised that, though this is my position when speaking English, I am also informed by its usage in German. In German, "USian" doesn't exist, but "Amerikaner" comes across as a potentially sloppy word, often with negative connotations. It is commonly used, yes, also in the news. But if you want to seem very precise you will say "US Amerikaner". So news casters will sometimes say things like "...two thirds of the US-Americans..."
So I guess that's why I've always assumed US-American is the correct term.)

So you say that using USians in a non-fighty context is ok by most people? Do other people in this thread agree? Because I'm getting the feeling that for every possible position on this spectrum, there is someone here to dispute it, to the point where I'm getting very confused.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:21 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Waitwaitwait....

Did the thread just reboot?
posted by Brak at 1:23 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Um duh, shakespherian, The Netherlands is American.

And please, Hagar the Horrible? I know you're just mad that y'all are stuck with this.
posted by sallybrown at 1:24 PM on March 30, 2010


You gave us Cathy, we gave you Celine Dionne. you gave us Boyz II Men, we retaliated with Tom Greene. When does the cycle end?
posted by bonehead at 1:30 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Pledge of Allegiance violates the religious freedom of schoolchildren...

Let's take a look at history. Shall we?
“The Pledge of Allegiance was written in August 1892 by the socialist minister Francis Bellamy (1855-1931). It was originally published in The Youth's Companion on September 8, 1892. Bellamy had hoped that the pledge would be used by citizens in any country.

In its original form it read:
‘I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’
In 1923, the words, ‘the Flag of the United States of America’ were added. At this time it read:
‘I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’
In 1954, in response to the Communist threat of the times, President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words ‘under God,’ creating the 31-word pledge we say today. Bellamy's daughter objected to this alteration. Today it reads:
‘I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’”
posted by ericb at 1:30 PM on March 30, 2010


Salamandrous: "It seems like you would use "American" as an insult and some others on this thread would use "USian" as an insult."

I wouldn't use American as an insult.

Rather, I think it's a bit silly to vehemently defend the term "American" from mild (implied) criticism from outsiders.

The biggest threats to the ideal that is "America" come from inside of the US.

Not from the implied criticism of snotty Europeans or Canadians or whomever else.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:31 PM on March 30, 2010


Why close ranks and get defensive and start to insist that no one criticize my country because they're not from here?

No one here has done this.
posted by rtha at 1:32 PM on March 30, 2010


Interesting tidbit about the pledge...

It was written by Bellamy in honor of Columbus Day and was originally accompanied by the Bellamy Salute.
"At a signal from the Principal the pupils, in ordered ranks, hands to the side, face the Flag. Another signal is given; every pupil gives the flag the military salute -- right hand lifted, palm downward, to a line with the forehead and close to it. Standing thus, all repeat together, slowly, 'I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands; one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.' At the words, 'to my Flag,' the right hand is extended gracefully, palm upward, toward the Flag, and remains in this gesture till the end of the affirmation; whereupon all hands immediately drop to the side."
It was replaced in 1942 with the "hand-over-the-heart" gesture because of its similarity to the Nazi salute.
posted by ericb at 1:33 PM on March 30, 2010


Did the thread just reboot?

Sing it with me the next time it comes around on the geetar. With feelin'. and four-part harmony.
posted by Miko at 1:36 PM on March 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


You gave us Cathy, we gave you Celine Dionne. you gave us Boyz II Men, we retaliated with Tom Greene. When does the cycle end?

This will not end until you give us Alice Munro.
posted by sallybrown at 1:37 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I* may have just solved the problem. For $1 trillion American [for now] dollars, you too can name the people of America for one year!

I only charge a 5% brokerage fee for the deal.

*With the help of a certain author.
posted by sallybrown at 1:46 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


shiu mai baby: "But those are flawed instruments that we have collectively tried to (and often succeeded in) make better through the years. They are not perfect. The efforts to make them better as our society changes and becomes more diverse than it was 230 years ago continue and will have forward and backward movement. What's your point?"

My point is that these documents got trotted out as Why American Is an Great Word that has been used by Great People throughout History.

To point to the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution as documents that obviously justify American pride--is to ignore the complexity and complicity of those documents in favor of what we want those documents to be.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:48 PM on March 30, 2010


Omnomnom: "So you say that using USians in a non-fighty context is ok by most people? Do other people in this thread agree? Because I'm getting the feeling that for every possible position on this spectrum, there is someone here to dispute it, to the point where I'm getting very confused."

That's the big problem on MetaFilter - there is never an answer to, "Does everyone agree on this?" I and I believe several other people in this thread have mentioned that there is nothing wrong with USian in and of itself, but we were probably like that to begin with. There are probably still people who don't like USian and the next time it pops up will say, "Please don't do that."

There are thousands of people on this site. When in a thread like this, you are likely only engaging a relative handful. At the end of the day, it becomes an argument between people and the "how should we handle this for the site" issue becomes a moot point. Some minds may be changed, though, and when it pops up again this thread can be pointed to in the history of the subject. I imagine there has been some motion on the issue, its just that the change is in the unposted aggregate and will not be immediately noticed (or ever at all).
posted by charred husk at 1:50 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


rtha: "Why close ranks and get defensive and start to insist that no one criticize my country because they're not from here?

No one here has done this.
"

Yes, they have, but I'm too lazy to go find them and quote them. Ctrl+F for family, arrogant, or something like that if you want to find what I'm referencing.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:50 PM on March 30, 2010


This thread is heartbreaking.
posted by Sova at 1:52 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


This thread is heartbreaking.

These things often fall into better perspective after a brisk walk outside, a warm hearty meal, or a night out with friends.
posted by Miko at 1:54 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Or a good game of Risk® 2100! Haha! I control the Kuiper Belt!
posted by Mister_A at 1:57 PM on March 30, 2010


My point is that these documents got trotted out as Why American Is an Great Word that has been used by Great People throughout History.

I think we can all agree that there has never been anything good about America or any people in America, at all, ever. Now let's shake hands.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:59 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


These things often fall into better perspective after a brisk walk outside, a warm hearty meal, or a night out with friends.

Please, no, don't do that.
posted by Sova at 2:03 PM on March 30, 2010


Don't go out with my friends? But sometimes they buy me drinks!
posted by Miko at 2:08 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, they have, but I'm too lazy to go find them and quote them. Ctrl+F for family, arrogant, or something like that if you want to find what I'm referencing.

Sorry, but this is bullshit.

No one here has said "If you're not from here (the U.S.), you don't get to criticize it," or even implied that. I have control-effed for family and arrogant, and no one using those terms has done that. A lot of people have said that they would not like other people to tell them what they can call themselves, but that is not the same thing.

If you can't even be bothered to substantiate a pretty inflammatory accusation you yourself are making, you should really not make it.
posted by rtha at 2:08 PM on March 30, 2010


For those who feel despair from threads like these - You are not arguing with MetaFilter. You are arguing with some people on MetaFilter. Just because you can't get your point across to a few people doesn't mean you haven't reached some of the 100,000+ more on this site.
posted by charred husk at 2:08 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


sallybrown: "The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution ARE part of "the same tradition of American Awesome Freedom for All." That you would lump them with Toby Keith's bullshit is baffling to me. I'm an atheist extreme-liberal pacifist feminist who finds the death penalty shameful and jingoism destructive and Americentrism embarrassing, and the Constitution gives me (and you) the chance to challenge all the things I think are wrong with my country. You don't like that the Pledge of Allegiance references God (though you don't note it has only done so since 1954)? Neither do I. The Constitution is what you'll want to use to change that. It's too bad you need other, better examples."

I highly doubt that I will ever be able to use the constitution to change anything. The US court system is not exactly an even playing ground. But I know that every day I should give thanks to the dead rich slave-owning white guys who so thoughtfully and generously allowed me to have basic rights. God bless 'em.

Speaking of the death penalty, it's 100% A-OK according to the constitution. No one has ever effectively challenged it, nor have they effectively challenged the Pledge of Allegiance. Even though the constitution is such a great tool for freedom loving peoples everywhere. You're the one who brought up the pledge of allegiance as a great example of America, anyway. It's not. Maybe it was before 1954. Next time you should probably specify to which Pledge of Allegiance you're referring.

The Declaration of Independence as part of a tradition of freedom for all makes sense if you reduce slavery to an asterisk.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:10 PM on March 30, 2010


This thread reminds me of when Jerry Seinfeld went over to break up with his girlfriend in the middle of the day, and the break up takes many hours and vignettes, and then it's dark out and he has to walk by the park where the slasher has been killing people. So don't go for a walk now, people! We must soldier on!
posted by JenMarie at 2:13 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


People are so nasty about identity politics. Self-identify. Care, care my way, if you don't care, you are carrying a knapsack (hint: knapsack carrying is bad, even if you did not know you had one). Self-identify the way I want you to self-identify. Prove I have a knapsack. You are self-identifying wrong. You cannot blame the group. The group with which I identify is responsible for all of these good things. You did not self-identify in a timely manner. You cannot prove you do not have a knapsack. You need to put a prefix on your identity to indicate that my identity is as valid as your identity. I can see no bottom to this particular rabbit hole, but that doesn't mean we won't keep bashing against the sides on our eternal plummet.

Identity politics are bit like guns — once they show up on a scene, you have a hard time getting folks to put them down, but after some bloodshed, you kinda wish they weren't around.
posted by adipocere at 2:17 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just because you can't get your point across to a few people doesn't mean you haven't reached some of the 100,000+ more on this site

And even if you haven't reached a single person on this site, that leaves six [American] billion, nine hundred million and change people in the world still available to potentially agree with you. The world doesn't step to MetaFilter's pace, and though it can change some minds and minds can change key actions, ultimately, it's just an interesting place to talk things over, not a world court or a body with the power to make policy anywhere off this site. It's important to remember the relatively small parameters of even a large site community sometimes, because it can get upsetting around here occasionally.
posted by Miko at 2:17 PM on March 30, 2010


Jerry Seinfeld. Now there's a typical American. Self-centered, self-absorbed, shallow, and total racist!
posted by Brak at 2:19 PM on March 30, 2010


Forktine: especially Europe

Don't bring us into this intra-Anglophone spat, please. We have our own languages which are comprised of our own words.

palliser: whether you're bothered by Indians arrogating to themselves the name for the entire subcontinent

In most Indian languages the name for state known in English as the Republic of India is some variation of the Sanskrit name Bhārata Gaṇarājyam.

India is a Greek word that the English imposed on that region of the world. The reason India is the official name is that non-Hindi speakers didn't want Hindi to be the official language and English was the compromise no one wanted. I believe that Tamil is the only language native to the Republic of India that uses a variation of India, for reasons I do not know.
posted by Kattullus at 2:21 PM on March 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


The Declaration of Independence as part of a tradition of freedom for all makes sense if you reduce slavery to an asterisk.

It was by appeal to the Constitution that slavery was eventually overturned, and it was in part by citing the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence that Dr. King and other civil rights leaders were as effective as they were.

And also, I can't believe anyone has to argue this with you. Do you have similar feelings about the Magna Carta?
posted by shakespeherian at 2:22 PM on March 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


This looks like GRAR but in fact I'm yawning.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:23 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Brak: I can't click your link right now. What is it?
posted by JenMarie at 2:23 PM on March 30, 2010


Was there seriously 700 comments debating the merit of a word?
posted by divabat at 1:06 PM on March 30 [+] [!]


Did divabat actually pop back in to complain that there had been too much discussion about a nuanced concept?
posted by proj at 2:25 PM on March 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


You ever notice how every American kid has the pledge drilled into their heads, but not the Bill of Rights?!

Wake up sheeple, you're already a prisoner of them!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:25 PM on March 30, 2010


Did divabat actually pop back in to complain that there had been too much discussion about a nuanced concept?

The thread would have been better as a 900-word rant.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:26 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


But, but... I love to go a-wandering. Val-deri,Val-dera, Val-deri, Val-dera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha
posted by Abiezer at 2:26 PM on March 30, 2010


> Brak: I can't click your link right now. What is it?

It's a Seinfeld clip where Jerry tries to give Elaine a cigar store indian statue as a make-up gift, offending a Native American woman at her card game in the process. Hilarity, or SPOTLIGHT ON HEINOUS, GREATER TRUTH? You be the judge.

posted by Brak at 2:30 PM on March 30, 2010


Oh yeah, I remember that episode. I think it was kinda mocking him for being an idiot, but I'm one of those who loved the series so what can I say in my defense.
posted by JenMarie at 2:37 PM on March 30, 2010


Don't go out with my friends? But sometimes they buy me drinks!

No, don't tell me to get perspective on this thread. I already know it's not important in the grand scheme of things, and the word isn't exactly the most pressing issue. I only get really involved in a few long discussions on the internet, even on those topics which are most important to me. I usually know to stay away because they take so much time and energy, and I wish I had never engaged in this thread - my original intention. Many comments ago I said I didn't expect to convince people, just to make them consider and define my stance.

And so it's not the direction of this thread which is the heartbreak, rather it's seeing people who I've come to respect fail even to acknowledge an issue. This isn't a wider complaint, just within this small group where to me the act of discussion is itself important. I don't know how people can be so alive to everything else, and yet not this, and not accord it their normal integrity.

(I suppose I should say thank you to palliser, who despite not agreeing with me, was sincere and engaged, and lived up to expectations.)
posted by Sova at 2:40 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


We can easily get to 1,000 comments folks, just bear down.
posted by fixedgear at 2:40 PM on March 30, 2010


Miko: And even if you haven't reached a single person on this site, that leaves six [American] billion, nine hundred million and change people in the world still available to potentially agree with you.

People who can't favourite don't count.
posted by gman at 2:45 PM on March 30, 2010


I'm going to back away from this thread slowly with the caveat that if I've insulted you, the place you live, or the way that you comment I am wholeheartedly sorry and that was not my intent.

More specifically to the original topic of the thread, I think Stuff White People Like should have an FPP.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:45 PM on March 30, 2010


Oh yeah, I remember that episode. I think it was kinda mocking him for being an idiot, but I'm one of those who loved the series so what can I say in my defense.

I'm afraid you'll have to defend your love of Seinfeld to someone else, as I too was quite fond of the show. As to the show's defense of itself, I think they get to claim the South Park defense: they pretty much made fun of everyone, indiscriminately.
posted by Brak at 2:45 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


it's seeing people who I've come to respect fail even to acknowledge an issue.

Sigh. I don't think I or anyone "failed to acknowledge" an issue. I have failed to agree with some people on the issue, but anyone in here commenting anything remotely on-topic is by definition already acknowledging that there is some issue to discuss. Not all of the people acknowledging the issue under discussion are valuing it in the same way, though. I considered many stances and happen to have rejected the suggestion that I adopt some of them. That's not failure to acknowledge.

How deeply anyone takes an online disagreement is up to them - I really don't intend to tell anyone to do anything. I meant the 'take a break' as a friendly suggestion, and it has in fact been helpful to me in the past, when threads have impacted my emotions negatively. I did it last night, for instance. It helped me re-approach the subject feeling much calmer.
posted by Miko at 2:46 PM on March 30, 2010




I highly doubt that I will ever be able to use the constitution to change anything.

You never know. Mr. Kelly was a welfare recipient. Mr. Gideon was a prisoner who wrote out his appeal to the Supreme Court by hand on lined paper. Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Garner just wanted to live their lives in peace. And Constance McMillan is a teenager who wanted to go to her prom. They were all able to use the Constitution to change things.

The Constitution is flawed. It, and the Declaration of Independence, were written by imperfect human beings at a different time in history. It doesn't even make sense to expect those documents to reflect contemporary morality. But the Constitution has proven to be pretty malleable, to the tremendous benefit of a lot of Americans. I don't get the hate on it.
posted by Mavri at 2:50 PM on March 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


shakespeherian: "It was by appeal to the Constitution that slavery was eventually overturned"

Not sure where you're getting this. The Constitution was amended after the decision to end slavery was already made.

See Dred Scott v Sandford. The Supreme Court was very clear that slaves had no constitutional rights.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:51 PM on March 30, 2010


I really not as patient as I maybe should be. So I'll just say this and get out of the way.

I'm an American, not proud of that most of the time, wish we could pull our collective head out of our ass over many many things.

I don't wave a flag, I don't own a flag, and the forth of july is the saddest holiday for me hands down, I won't go into why. But I'm an American, and you can say what you will but that is what I am. I've lost faith in just about every American institution, declaration, and noble sentiment. I don't think we are the best or brightest, nor a becon of hope. I am an American, it isn't much but it's all I've got.

Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!

I'm done talking about this subject.
posted by nola at 2:53 PM on March 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


We can easily get to 1,000 comments folks, just bear down.

If I "bear down" any harder I'll prolapse my rectum.
posted by GuyZero at 2:54 PM on March 30, 2010


Sigh. I don't think I or anyone "failed to acknowledge" an issue.

In your very first comment about terminology, you said that there was always an agenda with certain words. I don't know how you can square that with approaching this sincerely and "considering many stances". I'm sorry, I just don't believe you.
posted by Sova at 2:54 PM on March 30, 2010


Brak: “I'm afraid you'll have to defend your love of Seinfeld to someone else, as I too was quite fond of the show. As to the show's defense of itself, I think they get to claim the South Park defense: they pretty much made fun of everyone, indiscriminately.”

It's not always about who's being made fun of. I remember enjoying the show somewhat at one time, but it's astounding how annoying Jerry Seinfeld is as a human being, on reflection now. I don't think I could get through a single episode anymore if I had to listen to him talking.
posted by koeselitz at 2:55 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]




See Dred Scott v Sandford. The Supreme Court was very clear that slaves had no constitutional rights.

See "Living Document", "Progressive Movement"
posted by Think_Long at 2:57 PM on March 30, 2010


I think Stuff White People Like should have an FPP.

I feel like I remember it getting one (that lived) eventually, around the time it had cleanly moved from Funny Blog Making The Rounds territory into more of Web Phenom, Book Deal Approaching thing.

I have acknowledged a couple times that I was clearly on the unpopular side of the fence on that one, whatever my personal take on how effective the joke was. I remain a little bothered about how the Metatalk thread for it went down back then, for reasons that aren't totally dissimilar to how this thread originally got started, in either case despite seeing and acknowledging the merit of the ideas driving that in-some-ways-problematic stuff. Etc.

It's safe to say it hasn't gone unnoticed on metafilter, in any case.

posted by cortex (staff) at 2:57 PM on March 30, 2010


The Constitution was amended after the decision to end slavery was already made.

The mechanism for changing it is built right in! How awesome is that? And even when it isn't changed, the meaning as interpreted by courts can change. Again--awesome!
posted by Mavri at 2:59 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why close ranks and get defensive and start to insist that no one criticize my country because they're not from here?

Dude, criticize away. Go ahead, say whatever you will about the US as a nation. I'm critical of the place, that's for sure. Dare I say it: sometimes people who don't live here have a more nuanced perspective and aren't blinded by the lights of Fox News and really have some important things to say about the place. Sometimes not. But hey, have at it.

That is, if we're talking about actual criticisms and not just rants about our perceived "arrogance" based on our choice of self-descriptor. If you want to criticize The US's imperialist past, that's totally valid and I'm totally open to hear you out. You just might want to try approaching it in a different context rather than sounding like you've got some kind of chip on your shoulder when someone defines themselves as "American" and you go to correct them.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:00 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I said "The argument over whether the word"american" refers to anything other than the United States of America is always driven by some ulterior agenda."

I haven't seen a damn thing to convince me that it's not driven by an ulterior agenda. I've considered each argument as it's come. None has been strong enough to change this stance. Giving something consideration doesn't always result in a changed view. You, of course, have no telepathic window into my mind, so I can't somehow make you believe I've considered something. You'll have to take my word for it. You feel bad about the outcome; I get that. But I think that's not because people failed to acknowledge the issue brought up by divabat's post; it's because at least some of them failed to agree with you.
posted by Miko at 3:01 PM on March 30, 2010


Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life!

Seriously. For people who just don't get the pushback from a lot of people on USian--names and naming matter. Mispronounce someone's name and they won't like it. Refuse to call someone by their name and they won't like it. Insist that someone's name is arrogant and they won't like it. This isn't an American thing. It's pretty standard human behavior to want people to get your name right, and it's pretty standard to get offended when people try to rename you.
posted by Mavri at 3:02 PM on March 30, 2010 [17 favorites]


Your point re: "Indians" I don't understand at all. Yes, India is a subcontinent. It is also a country -- an incredibly diverse one, and I lay no claim to knowledge of what the various peoples of different regions cite as their primary identity. I also fail to see how that applies to this situation.

Sorry, should have spelled it out better. The Indian subcontinent includes India, yes, but also Pakistan and Bangladesh. Then, also, India's official name is the Republic of India -- form of government followed by geographical signifier. Much like "United States of America."

So, does it make sense to call them by the signifier for the greater geographical area ("India" and "Indian")? Or should we leave space for the other inhabitants of the subcontinent to so refer to themselves, and come up with a new word for Indians?

I mean, I think the subtext (and sometimes the text) of the arguments here is less "no one else does this arrogant thing but you!" and more "this is not arrogant unless you're doing it!"
posted by palliser at 3:03 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I remember enjoying the show somewhat at one time, but it's astounding how annoying Jerry Seinfeld is as a human being, on reflection now. I don't think I could get through a single episode anymore if I had to listen to him talking.

I really liked Seinfeld when it was on, but now I find the whole thing just incredibly, torturously painful. I like it for nostalgic value - it reminds me a great deal of a friend of mine who recently passed away - but if it were a "new" show that I hadn't seen before? Couldn't do it.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:04 PM on March 30, 2010


Shakespeherian said it better than I could, and I'll add:

Speaking of the death penalty, it's 100% A-OK according to the constitution. No one has ever effectively challenged it

This is absolutely and positively not even close to being true. Maybe you don't consider these cases important because they don't permanently overrule the death penalty in any circumstance, but each one is a small step forward, and each one used the U.S. Constitution to effectively challenge the death penalty.
posted by sallybrown at 3:05 PM on March 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Seriously. For people who just don't get the pushback from a lot of people on USian--names and naming matter. Mispronounce someone's name and they won't like it. Refuse to call someone by their name and they won't like it. Insist that someone's name is arrogant and they won't like it. This isn't an American thing. It's pretty standard human behavior to want people to get your name right, and it's pretty standard to get offended when people try to rename you.

Yes, exactly. Spot fucking on. Even quoted in bold, for added "ZOMG, YOU SAID IT!" power.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:06 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ooh, I actually realized I sort of did change part of my stance, though I didn't explicitly bring it up. That is that I can recognize that in some contexts, a disambiguator might be needed. The music-board discussion was a good example. I do a lot of work with vernacular music and people do indeed talk about "American musics" and "musics of the Americas" and "instruments found in the Americas" and stuff like that. I can see where, on an online forum, if this kind of discussion were taking place, a disambiguator might become useful.

Even so, this recognition of the contextual requirement for a disambiguator does not cause me to change my larger stance that a disambiguator is always needed. After all, why is it needed on the music forum? Because in those cases (and assuming the forum is mostly written in English) the word is being used in a way that is not the most common usage amongst English speakers. In order to make it clear that it's not the common, i.e. default, meaning that's intended, one actually does have to use some terminology that makes clear when the music of a continent or segment of a continent is being discussed as opposed to music of a nation. But that's precisely because it departs from normal, widely understood usage.

But that's the kind of edge case that I think proves the rule. In that case, the ulterior agenda is to define terms that have some likelihood of being confused in the context of the discussion. In the vast majority of other discussions, the ulterior agenda is not so clear and there is no such requirement, because the context will determine easily how the term is construed.

Just an example of one of the side points I've considered as a result of this thread.
posted by Miko at 3:12 PM on March 30, 2010


I haven't seen a damn thing to convince me that it's not driven by an ulterior agenda.

Acknowledging an issue requires that you treat a complaint as sincere and, whether worthy or not, that a person has raised something real and substantial to consider. But if you believe those people are driven by an agenda to push this issue, I don't understand how you can see the issue as real, or the people as sincere. Maintaining the opposite is bad faith.
posted by Sova at 3:16 PM on March 30, 2010


woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
posted by bam at 3:20 PM on March 30, 2010


it's seeing people who I've come to respect fail even to acknowledge an issue. This isn't a wider complaint, just within this small group where to me the act of discussion is itself important. I don't know how people can be so alive to everything else, and yet not this, and not accord it their normal integrity

When this happens (people I respect who appear to "get" almost everything suddenly seeming to lose integrity or ability to reason) I usually tell myself it must mean that there is more than one valid perspective on the issue--rather than thinking that all these people who usually seem intelligent have suddenly become deluded. The far majority of people here write in good faith.

I think the real disappointment is that no one else has made what could be an excellent FPP built around well-written and nuanced sources writing skillfully about Americentrism (whether just on the internet or everywhere).
posted by sallybrown at 3:21 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Miko: "There is no such continent. There is no terrain that is geographically just termed America on which the land America sits - that's why there's no conflict here."

Ah, that's interesting because I was taught there was only one continent, America (that *can* but not that it must be sub-divided in North and South). Apparently, according to wikipedia, the exact number of continents that America depends on where you live.


I was totally shocked by this and it may be a big part of the confusion and ill-will here. I had no idea that many people (including, according to Wikipedia, those in "Latin America, and most parts of Europe") were taught that there is a continent called "America." You can call it being U.S.-centric for us in the U.S. not to realize it, but I think we think of continents as such a basic simple thing that it's hard to imagine that it could be taught differently-- as if people in other countries were taught that 2 + 2 = 3 or something. Thus why the idea seems so nonsensical to us from the U.S. that "Americans" would make sense to use as a term to refer to people from all parts of North and South America. Whereas if you think of it as one continent, then Americans seems like it ought to refer to anyone from the continent of America, just like Europeans are anyone from the continent of Europe or Africans are anyone from the continent of Africa.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 3:28 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Seriously. For people who just don't get the pushback from a lot of people on USian--names and naming matter. Mispronounce someone's name and they won't like it. Refuse to call someone by their name and they won't like it. Insist that someone's name is arrogant and they won't like it. This isn't an American thing. It's pretty standard human behavior to want people to get your name right, and it's pretty standard to get offended when people try to rename you.
You said it, fucking amen. Even quoted in bold, italics and underlined for "ZOMG, YOU SAID IT!" power.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:29 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


...many people (including, according to Wikipedia, those in "Latin America, and most parts of Europe") were taught that there is a continent called "America."

Goddamn socialists.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:31 PM on March 30, 2010


grapefruitmoon: I really liked Seinfeld when it was on, but now I find the whole thing just incredibly, torturously painful.

Yeah, I know how this feels because that's how Dukes of Hazzard and The A-Team are for me (among others). But somehow Seinfeld stills holds up. Of course, I do notice now more than ever what a terrible actor Jerry Seinfeld is; he's millimeters away from bursting into laughter in most of his scenes, especially when Kramer is being wacky or George is shouting. Oh well, I have kind of low standards for what makes me laugh sometimes.

Sorry this isn't really on topic; for the record, on the topic of "USians" I think Miko and Cortex have pretty much articulated my views on the subject.
posted by JenMarie at 3:34 PM on March 30, 2010


So, does it make sense to call them by the signifier for the greater geographical area ("India" and "Indian")? Or should we leave space for the other inhabitants of the subcontinent to so refer to themselves, and come up with a new word for Indians?

Oh, I get you now. Interesting analogy. Well, if Bangladeshis and Pakistanis have a problem with it, then sure, I think it'd be kosher for them to raise it as a legitimate issue. I mean, it's not Kashmir, but not everything has to be to be an issue worth talking over. I, for one, never meant to imply "no one else does this arrogant thing but you!". I'm the guy trying out analogies so people on one side of the fence can try to see what the people on the other side are talking about, so the more the merrier as far as I'm concerned.

Thanks for the civility and the discussion on point, btw.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:34 PM on March 30, 2010


.uoy emaner ot yrt elpoep nehw dedneffo teg ot dradnats ytterp s'ti dna ,thgir eman ruoy teg ot elpoep tnaw ot roivaheb namuh dradnats ytterp s'tI .gniht naciremA na t'nsi sihT .ti ekil t'now yeht dna tnagorra si eman s'enoemos taht tsisnI .ti ekil t'now yeht dna eman rieht yb enoemos llac ot esufeR .ti ekil t'now yeht dna eman s'enoemos ecnuonorpsiM .rettam gniman dna seman--naiSU no elpoep fo tol a morf kcabhsup eht teg t'nod tsuj ohw elpoep roF .ylsuoireS

Quoted in bold, italics, underlined, and backward.

I simply don't like calling you by our collective name. I'd rather agree on something unoffensive to both of us which differentiates nationalities.
posted by gman at 3:42 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm an American, not proud of that most of the time, wish we could pull our collective head out of our ass over many many things.
posted by fixedgear at 3:42 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


collective head

I'd like to see that too.
posted by JenMarie at 3:46 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

The Constitution was amended after the decision to end slavery was already made.

The mechanism for changing it is built right in! How awesome is that?
Only sort of. If most of the slave states hadn't seceded, there is no way that the 15th amendment could have been ratified. There wasn't really a Constitutional mechanism for abolishing slavery before the Civil War.

But I'm a little confused about how this moved from being a discussion of whether calling ourselves "American" is arrogant to an appraisal of the general awesomeness or lack thereof of the U.S.
posted by craichead at 3:47 PM on March 30, 2010


I simply don't like calling you by our collective name.

Sry, just not buying that line of thought. You're Canadian and have a pretty good health care system. I'm an American and well...we're getting there, ok?

We both North Americans, how about that?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:52 PM on March 30, 2010


Bunch of American'ts if you ask me.
posted by gman at 3:54 PM on March 30, 2010


But I'm a little confused about how this moved from being a discussion of whether calling ourselves "American" is arrogant to an appraisal of the general awesomeness or lack thereof of the U.S.

Once upon a time, a person named divabat posted an FPP that linked to a post about the general lack of awesomeness of the U.S. Our forefathers snarked in the thread, and soon the founder of our website deleted it. Divabat then came here, and over close to a thousand comments years, the talk turned from discussion of the rantiness of the linked-to post to discussion of whether USian stunk or not. Now it seems we're back at the place our ancestors began. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
posted by sallybrown at 3:56 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I simply don't like calling you by our collective name.

The collective name is North American. That first word, "North," differentiates the continent from the republic. You do know that Canada, before it was called Canada, or even the Dominion of Canada, or even The Canadas, was called British North America, right, and that its inhabitants were British and North American, and never, ever, ever just plain American, which has always historically referred to its ENEMY in TWO HUGE WARS, right? Right?
posted by Sys Rq at 4:00 PM on March 30, 2010


our = anyone from America. Any American.
posted by gman at 4:04 PM on March 30, 2010


I simply don't like calling you by our collective name. I'd rather agree on something unoffensive to both of us which differentiates nationalities.

Earlier, you said Sure, we are indeed Americans (and you can call me that if you'd like), but more specifically I am Canadian.

Well, more specifically, I'm an American citizen. This differentiates nationalities, yes? The country of which I am a citizen is called the United States of America. One cannot be a citizen of a continent - one must be a citizen of a country. So if I say I'm an American citizen, there's no ambiguity about what country in the Americas I am from.
posted by rtha at 4:05 PM on March 30, 2010


Rename the GOAT with all the arrogance of Ernie Terrel, fifteen ugly rounds later you know what's my name.
posted by breezeway at 4:07 PM on March 30, 2010


You know, while we're at it Australia isn't the only country or landmass in the southern hemisphere.
:-)
posted by vapidave at 4:13 PM on March 30, 2010


So if I say I'm an American citizen, there's no ambiguity about what country in the Americas I am from.

"Dear American citizens: you are not the center of the Internet, especially when it comes to racial discourse."

Works for me.
posted by gman at 4:15 PM on March 30, 2010


is that a landmass in your southern hemisphere, or are you just happy to see me?

YOU'RE WELCOME
posted by Think_Long at 4:16 PM on March 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, I don't know, but you Americans and Europeans or whatever the fuck you would like me to call you can just go fuck yourselves! present company excepted
posted by Dumsnill at 4:17 PM on March 30, 2010


What shall we do about the matter of verdant Iceland and icy Greenland?
posted by sallybrown at 4:20 PM on March 30, 2010


The Declaration of Independence as part of a tradition of freedom for all makes sense if you reduce slavery to an asterisk.

What's the poli-sci equivalent of "I remember my first beer"?
posted by Bookhouse at 4:22 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Dear American citizens: you are not the center of the Internet, especially when it comes to racial discourse."

Works for me.


Well good - me too. (The statement from the original link in the original post - it all seems so long ago now! - struck me as being obvious in the extreme, but I also understood that she wasn't aiming her remarks at me personally. For what it's worth, once I waded through her ranting, I think she has the kernels of a really good piece there, and I hope she writes it up as a bigger, more nuanced, less GRAR!! essay.)
posted by rtha at 4:23 PM on March 30, 2010


Ah, that's interesting because I was taught there was only one continent, America (that *can* but not that it must be sub-divided in North and South). Apparently, according to wikipedia, the exact number of continents that America depends on where you live.

1. Holy cow. Okay, honest question time here: If you've learned that what I call "North and South America", you simply call "America", then what word do you put in this blank:

North America is a _____________.

Is there a simple answer to that? Do you have a word like "subcontinent" or something?

2. Does anyone ever say "Why does the barely-connectedness of North and South America = one continent, when Africa is just as barely-connected to Europe and Asia and it gets classified as its own continent?" Not to try and say that logic has to rule the day or whatever, but just curious.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:26 PM on March 30, 2010


So as we near a thousand (!) comments...

Can we at least agree that that Beyonce video is not the best video of all time?
Not even in, like, the top hundred?

You want to argue five hundred, we can talk
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:28 PM on March 30, 2010


What shall we do about the matter of verdant Iceland and icy Greenland?

I think collectively we're doing a pretty good job helping Greenland to have a more appropriate name.
posted by gman at 4:31 PM on March 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


About the North-South America continent thing: Yes, America was considered one continent when I was in school, in the sense of: "Name the continents: A: Europe, Asia, America etc." I think this has changed, though."
posted by Dumsnill at 4:34 PM on March 30, 2010


sallybrown: What shall we do about the matter of verdant Iceland and icy Greenland?

The law on that has already been settled

video sadly not available outside the US... believe me when I say that pains me greatly
posted by Kattullus at 4:36 PM on March 30, 2010


Is it time for the alphabet game yet?
posted by liketitanic at 4:46 PM on March 30, 2010


No.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:48 PM on March 30, 2010


Oh. Look who it is.
posted by gman at 4:50 PM on March 30, 2010


Pray tell, why not?
posted by liketitanic at 4:51 PM on March 30, 2010


Please don't kill me.
posted by Dumsnill at 4:51 PM on March 30, 2010


Quite. Thread takes to long to load.
posted by Dumsnill at 4:53 PM on March 30, 2010


23skidoo, I was raised in the "one continent called America" variety. Answering your question, 3 subcontinents: North America, Central America (subdivided into isthmic [Guatemala to Panama] and insular [Caribbean]) and South America. And my home state considered Trinidad and Tobago as Central America, whereas the state where I went to college considers it to be in South America.

on the other hand (also honest questions):

Do you mention "Central America" at all? I'm sure I've seen the term somewhere, but might be a British text. And what continent does it belong to (the isthmus is fairly obviously North-America, except for half of Panama, but the Caribbean are a whole new tectonic plate, and close-but-not-attached to both sides...
posted by qvantamon at 4:55 PM on March 30, 2010


I learned "Central America" as a subcontinental portion of the continent North America, with the remaining northern subcontinental portion being North America as well, but I don't really remember how thoroughly my grade school geography teachers endorsed that whole fuzzy concept.

Basically, everything from Mexico down that wasn't South America.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:10 PM on March 30, 2010


With the Panama/Colombia border being the endpoint, as I recall.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:11 PM on March 30, 2010


But if you believe those people are driven by an agenda to push this issue, I don't understand how you can see the issue as real, or the people as sincere.

Even real issues and sincere people have agendas. We've all got some.
posted by Miko at 5:12 PM on March 30, 2010


1000
posted by gman at 5:13 PM on March 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


I learned "Central America" as a subcontinental portion of the continent North America, with the remaining northern subcontinental portion being North America as well, but I don't really remember how thoroughly my grade school geography teachers endorsed that whole fuzzy concept.

We learned that Central America was a region of North America.

I was surprised that some people refer to [what I think are] two continents as one. It was good to be reminded that the definition of continents is somewhat debatable (I've long thought "Eurasia" made sense, as there's no strong feature to really divide Europe from Asia by). I was glad to see that "the geographic community" (from the Wikipedia link), which I assume means people in these sorts of groups, counts six continents, two of which are North and South America. What's good enough for them is good enough for me.

I like this piece by a geography professor on The Myth of Continents, containing this bit:
The bottom line: No scheme is perfect, and there is no single best way to broadly group the peoples and places of the world into geographic units. We therefore need to recognize multiple ways to group the world. Continents do make some sense as land masses, providing a visually-obvious physical ordering of land and water on earth which helps us understand processes of geomorphology and climate. Otherwise, dividing the world into continents is a meaningless and potentially distorting exercise.
posted by Miko at 5:28 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am reminded of the Big Block of Cheese episode from the West Wing.*

(A television show originating and set in the U.S., about a particular tradition involving cheese and people coming over to the White House to eat it. And cartographers, in this particular case. More here.)
posted by rtha at 5:40 PM on March 30, 2010


PASS THE CHEESE, PLZ.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:48 PM on March 30, 2010


You do know that Canada, before it was called Canada, or even the Dominion of Canada, or even The Canadas, was called British North America, right, and that its inhabitants were British and North American, and never, ever, ever just plain American, which has always historically referred to its ENEMY in TWO HUGE WARS, right? Right?

This is just plain wrong. The British provinces were called British America until 1783, when Britain recognized the US of A as a sovereign nation. Canada then became officially known as British North America, but the name was not in common usage until the Durham Report in 1839.

So during the War of Independence, British America comprised (most of) both what is now the US and what is now Canada. So its inhabitants absolutely were British American until at least 1783 and arguably much later.

'American' wasn't used by the British to refer to the rebellious colonists until well into the war of independence. Up until then all the inhabitants of British America were known as 'provincials'.

Facts are stupid things I know.
posted by unSane at 6:02 PM on March 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


My favorite story about British North America
posted by qvantamon at 6:09 PM on March 30, 2010


Facts are simple and facts are straight / Facts are lazy and facts are late / Facts all come with points of view / Facts don't do what I want them to ..
posted by fixedgear at 6:19 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


PASS THE CHEESE, PLZ.

BUT NOT THE AMERICAN KIND BECAUSE IT'S INCORRECTLY NAMED.
posted by sallybrown at 6:19 PM on March 30, 2010


There is no American kind of cheese. There's an American kind of cheese-flavored product.
posted by qvantamon at 6:21 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Miko: I was surprised that some people refer to [what I think are] two continents as one. It was good to be reminded that the definition of continents is somewhat debatable (I've long thought "Eurasia" made sense, as there's no strong feature to really divide Europe from Asia by). I was glad to see that "the geographic community" (from the Wikipedia link), which I assume means people in these sorts of groups, counts six continents, two of which are North and South America. What's good enough for them is good enough for me.

It could be worse, we could be arguing what the Seven Seas are.

The whole continent thing is hopelessly muddled. Back in the day it was a way of separating various regions that were on the Mediterranean, Europe, Asia and Africa. It all makes a lot of intuitive sense if you look at a map of the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, it scales up badly. Of course, when Europeans incorporated the knowledge of the Americas into their worldview they just added a fourth continent to their three continent model (from which we get the phrase "the four corners of the world"). Then as cartographic information increased the four-continental model increasingly fell behind and, as we see in this thread, all hell broke loose.

Dividing things up from the perspective of plate tectonics seems pretty good, but talking about the Arabian continent, and including India and Australia on the same continent is fairly counterintuitive to me, but that could change. Of course, that map is heavily simplified, as this list of tectonic plates shows. And there are societal reasons for disregarding tectonic boundaries as markers, to give one f'rinstance, a bunch of countries straddle the plates, e.g. Russia, Iceland and Japan.

Which is why we end up with the muddle we have today. That said, continents are handy names for big areas and no worse than names for nation-states or geographic features.
posted by Kattullus at 6:22 PM on March 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


I wonder what point, if any, is being proved by the fact that this (very amusing, often rancorous) discussion did not happen on the MeFi post, but on the MetaTalk thread coming out of it.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:23 PM on March 30, 2010


I am floored by the realization that Divabat started this thread because she felt American privilege was insufficiently analyzed on MetaFilter. And look at us now. Truly, today, she has earned an international jedi grandmaster norm.
posted by ~ at 6:40 PM on March 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


This is just plain wrong...Facts are stupid things I know.
posted by unSane


I keep reading my comment, and then yours, and then mine, and then yours, and I can't for the life of me find the contradiction.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:49 PM on March 30, 2010


There's an American kind of cheese-flavored product.

Apologies for interrupting, but there is a 15 year old Wisconsin cheddar out in the parking lot that would like to have a word with you.

It seems quite cross.
posted by quin at 6:51 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


You mean apart from the fact that before the US of A was called 'America', the whole place (including what is now Canada) was called 'British America' (as opposed to, one assumes, Spanish or French America).
posted by unSane at 7:06 PM on March 30, 2010


I'd like to try that cheese. But I do wonder about aging a cheese for that long wrapped in plastic, which tends to increase the acidic taste, rather than in cloth, which lets the cheese breathe. Hmmm.
posted by rtha at 7:06 PM on March 30, 2010


It seems settled, then, that the proper term for citizens of the USA is "provincials." Although personally I'm still partial to "awesomes" and "Obamies."
posted by craichead at 7:13 PM on March 30, 2010


You mean apart from the fact that before the US of A was called 'America', the whole place (including what is now Canada) was called 'British America' (as opposed to, one assumes, Spanish or French America).

Hey, that's swell. But, um, what part of my comment is that intended to refute?
posted by Sys Rq at 7:21 PM on March 30, 2010


"To point to the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution as documents that obviously justify American pride--is to ignore the complexity and complicity of those documents in favor of what we want those documents to be."

Well, no. That's like saying that Newton's discoveries shouldn't be lauded because he believed in all sorts of metaphysical nonsense. It's a more pernicious position than general ignorance, because it requires taking the massive advances of the founding documents for granted while focusing only on the shortcomings. I mean, seriously, perfect the enemy of the good much?
posted by klangklangston at 7:30 PM on March 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


~: I am floored by the realization that Divabat started this thread because she felt American privilege was insufficiently analyzed on MetaFilter. And look at us now. Truly, today, she has earned an international jedi grandmaster norm.

We haven't really at all. We've argued about the semantic meaning of USian/American/USAmerican/etc. which hasn't much to with any kind of privilege on MeFi.
posted by Kattullus at 7:33 PM on March 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


'American' wasn't used by the British to refer to the rebellious colonists until well into the war of independence. Up until then all the inhabitants of British America were known as 'provincials'.

King George III said in Feb 1775: "[...]once vigorous measures appear to be the only means left of bringing the Americans to a due submission to the mother country, the colonies will submit."
posted by nightwood at 7:54 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is just plain wrong. The British provinces were called British America until 1783, when Britain recognized the US of A as a sovereign nation. Canada then became officially known as British North America, but the name was not in common usage until the Durham Report in 1839.

Sure, OK. But in addition to others calling them Americans, after a solid 160+ years and several generations of settlement, certainly many American colonists still identified themselves as just plain British.
posted by Miko at 8:12 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Many colonists who wished to remain British migrated to British North America following independence. You still see the 'Empire Loyalist' flag flying on houses in places like Prince Edward County, Ontario. They were granted 200 acres, and were allowed to bring their slaves with them as slavery was still legal in British North America. However most black Loyalists were free, having earned their freedom by fighting against the revolutionaries for Britain.

Many Loyalist areas in Canada are still fiercely loyal to the British crown and fly the loyalist flag instead of the maple leaf.
posted by unSane at 8:25 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am a proud American. I wish I could see more of my huge continent.

For those upthread asking if their ever really IS confusion over the name of the people of a country/continent I can give you an example from my workplace.

I work in a public library and I am updating the signs on the ends of the bookshelves to reflect what is in each aisle. We are organised by Dewey which organises a lot of information geographically. I have a bookend labled "European Literature", another "African Literature" but if I label one American Literature I guarentee I will get multiple complaints from members looking for Canadian literature. This also applies to my travel and history section. What to do, what to do...
posted by saucysault at 8:26 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


What does Dewey say?
posted by unSane at 8:33 PM on March 30, 2010


Dewey is notoriously horribly Americo-centric and Christian-centric and should really not be the authority on anything.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:35 PM on March 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


Literature of the United States, Literature of the Americas, History of the United States, History of the Americas

Pedantic and awkward, like taxonomies should be.
posted by qvantamon at 8:45 PM on March 30, 2010

Many colonists who wished to remain British migrated to British North America following independence.
Most of them stayed, though. You hear a lot more about the ones who went to Canada, which I think is probably partly that they're an important part of Canadian national identity, partly that they tended to be more elite than the loyalists who stayed in the newly-independent U.S., and partly that former-loyalists and their descendants weren't inclined to highlight that aspect of their history.
posted by craichead at 8:45 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm a Pangaean loyalist. It's mostly symbolic, but every Pangaea day I go to the ocean and row a bit towards the east.
posted by qvantamon at 8:51 PM on March 30, 2010


Jessamyn, I am aware of the criticisms of Dewey but in my library, it IS the authourity. I am demonstrating to those that insist there is no problem and no confusion, there are real-life problems with appropriating the name of the continent.
810 is American Literature in English. But most of our books are obviously Canadian and the appropriation of the Continental name is confusing.
970-89 is history in America, about ten thousand books on Canada, less than a thousand on the rest of the continent.
I also have a large population of New Canadians who are new to
English and may be confused by the term American as they consume it through American media.
posted by saucysault at 8:53 PM on March 30, 2010


I am aware of the criticisms of Dewey but in my library, it IS the authourity.

Sorry, wasn't fussing with you. Just wasn't sure how much people outside the profession knew about Dewey.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:11 PM on March 30, 2010


I wouldn't say the Empire Loyalists are that important to Canadian identity. They're mostly regarded as a bit of an oddity these days, although they were on the front lines in the war of 1812 (which most certainly is important to Canadian identity -- much much more so than the war of independence -- why is the White House white etc).

It's definitely odd to stand on the shore of the lake in Kingston and look south to the US and imagine the two countries at war. Odder still because when you cross the border from the Eastern Townships into Vermont, it's as if nothing has changed... northern Vermont feels pretty much exactly like Canada, the only real difference being the rural poverty, which is quite striking. The border is so arbitrary that in places it actually passes through houses, which are connected by attics.
posted by unSane at 9:15 PM on March 30, 2010


northern Vermont feels pretty much exactly like Canada, the only real difference being the rural poverty, which is quite striking

A chunk of a state is just like a country that's almost ten million square kilometers, except the former has poor hicks? I'm sure you're a very bright penny on a whole host of subjects and I'm probably being way too literal here, but maybe you should reconsider the comfort with which you pronounce upon matters geo-political, or at least venture beyond the limits of the Eastern Time Zone.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:19 PM on March 30, 2010


Once upon a time, a person named divabat posted an FPP that linked to a post about the general lack of awesomeness of the U.S. Our forefathers snarked in the thread, and soon the founder of our website deleted it. Divabat then came here, and over close to a thousand comments years, the talk turned from discussion of the rantiness of the linked-to post to discussion of whether USian stunk or not. Now it seems we're back at the place our ancestors began. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Can all of these people share a website without driving each other crazy?
posted by zarq at 10:25 PM on March 30, 2010


Just wasn't sure how much people outside the profession knew about Dewey.

Everyone knows Dewey!
posted by ericb at 10:28 PM on March 30, 2010


Umm, Alvy, I think I understand what unSane meant. When I cross the border the immediate geography does not change but the human geography radically does. This is pretty common in many border situations when one side is "wealthier" that the other; suddenly roads are not maintained and there are abandoned houses, but the trees and the hills remain the same as the "wealthy" side. If you haven't experienced it, it is quite un-nerving.
posted by saucysault at 10:31 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Everyone knows Dewey!

That's funny. He doesn't look Dewish.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 10:36 PM on March 30, 2010


I grokked it saucysault, but it's a fairly mundane phenomenon at least where I grew up, and can be found in crapload of places within Canada - even the few parts that don't share a border with Vermont! I'm definitely being overly-literal and fighty to boot, and should probably take my cranky, snarly ass to bed.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:54 PM on March 30, 2010


Durn Bronzefist: "Can we at least agree that that Beyonce video is not the best video of all time?

Not even in, like, the top hundred?
"

I WILL FIGHT YOU

J/K, hugs
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:56 PM on March 30, 2010


What a thread.

This has been alluded to by a few posters, but I just wanted to make it explicit. I think that for many of us who are U.S. citizens, it's no problem to refer to the country as the United States, the U.S., or the USA. I would never say "I'm from America," because it feels colloquial. I think that, as used by Ginsberg or Hughes or MLK or any of our presidents or even "America the Beautiful," it's intended this way--it's an insidery reference, whether it's celebrating "America" or calling it to account.

Also, I think that "U.S." could easily replace "American" as an adjective describing our history or literature or health care policy or whatever.

But the adjective or noun "American," when referring to a U.S. citizen, is another story. Apart from saying "I'm a citizen of the U.S.," which is neutral and accurate but also quite formal, we have no other alternatives for self-identification. You-essian, in spoken English, is just not happening, even leaving aside the baggage it carries. It's an acronym-plus-suffix, turned into a practically unpronounceable word. I personally would never identify myself in such a silly way, certainly not in spoken English, and, by extension, not in writing.

"US American" was ruined forever by that Miss US America person. Blech. It will always sound ignorant and redundant to me.

In any case, "US citizens" is a perfectly good alternative for anyone who shies away from "Americans."
posted by torticat at 12:03 AM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's pronounced Boob-LAY.
posted by emeiji at 12:20 AM on March 31, 2010


Americans should simply wear enough American flag apparel that there is never any question what nationality they are, thereby circumventing the problem altogether.
posted by Pyry at 1:39 AM on March 31, 2010


Americans should simply wear enough American flag apparel that there is never any question what nationality they are, thereby circumventing the problem altogether.

FIAMO!
posted by Omnomnom at 2:25 AM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the blame lies with whoever invented the phrase "us-centric"

as for me - if i dont see a fpp on the recent closure of the kirkcaldy promenade due to inclement weather - I WILL LEAVE METAFILTER.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:52 AM on March 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


~: I am floored by the realization that Divabat started this thread because she felt American privilege was insufficiently analyzed on MetaFilter. And look at us now. Truly, today, she has earned an international jedi grandmaster norm.

Katullus: We haven't really at all. We've argued about the semantic meaning of USian/American/USAmerican/etc. which hasn't much to with any kind of privilege on MeFi.

This, exactly. The post and this MeTa was about privileging American attitudes on the Internet. "US-ian" happened to be the OP's term of choice; I can't speak for the OP on why they decided to say "US-ian". Instead of any other major issue on that article, 1000+ comments went to the least significant factor - a word. People here have chosen to ignore everything else she said, to pick on a word. Really, people.

But while we're on words: palliser et al: I'm Bangladeshi. My parents are from Bangladesh. As we're an independent country we don't call ourselves Indian, that's a misnomer. We call the subcontinent South Asia; there's a South Asian Region C[something] (SARC) association where all the countries in South Asia meet. The only people I've heard call it the "Indian Subcontinent" are Westerners, mostly assuming all brown people are Indian. Depending on where I am and what's convenient I get shunted into Indian, Malay, or Other - which is a whole other rant but more relevant to the OP than US-ian etc.
posted by divabat at 5:28 AM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry, wasn't fussing with you. Just wasn't sure how much people outside the profession knew about Dewey.


He lost to Truman in '48, right?
posted by beelzbubba at 5:36 AM on March 31, 2010


People here have chosen to ignore everything else she said, to pick on a word. Really, people.

Not to start another 1000 posts, but c'mon, divabat, this is just not so. There were copious responses about how the topic is worthy, deconstructions of her lack of a cogent argument, her patently generalizing in service of not wanting to be generalized herself, etc. Do we really have to rehash this again? Your topic centered on USA net users' privilege and entitlement on the Web is completely worthwhile--the Feministe blog post was trite shite. Not ignored.Really.
posted by beelzbubba at 5:46 AM on March 31, 2010 [7 favorites]


Dewey is notoriously horribly Americo-centric and Christian-centric and should really not be the authority on anything.

He was pretty good, for his time, on the use of bicycles for transportation.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:01 AM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


northern Vermont feels pretty much exactly like Canada, the only real difference being the rural poverty, which is quite striking

A chunk of a state is just like a country that's almost ten million square kilometers, except the former has poor hicks? I'm sure you're a very bright penny on a whole host of subjects and I'm probably being way too literal here, but maybe you should reconsider the comfort with which you pronounce upon matters geo-political, or at least venture beyond the limits of the Eastern Time Zone.


Wow, was that really necessary? Do you know anything about me? Apparently not.

Canada has plenty of rural poverty. I live right in the middle of some of it, thanks -- lots of abandoned farmhouses and collapsed barns round here. My house is in a ghost town, although one which is now being repopulated by exurbanites like me.

But when you cross the border from Quebec into Vermont (not along the interstate but on one of the mom-and-pop crossings) the contrast is very striking. The depth of rural poverty is much greater. The only place locally on the other side of the border where you will see the same kinds of shacks and dilapidation is -- and this is hardly something Canada can be proud of -- on some First Nations reserves.

I'm sure this is going to make your head explode, but it reminded me, in the most surprising way, although obviously not to the same extent, of crossing from West Germany into East Germany about twenty years ago. I'm someone whose mental image of the US is an affluent one -- I spend a lot of time in LA, after all. I wasn't ready for that feeling. Maybe it was the route we took (heading down towards the Kingdom from Magog on the back roads).

It's hardly controversial to say that the US has extremes of poverty and wealth. It doesn't matter whether you're in California or S. Carolina or Utah or New Mexico or New England or wherever, you can generally turn down a side road and encounter extreme poverty within a few miles. Take the wrong road out of Hilton Head, or Palm Springs, or St George, Utah and suddenly you're in another world. Fly into LA and miss the freeway ramp and suddenly you're in Inglewood. Cross the border into Detroit and take the wrong turn... well you get it.

That extremity, in part, characterizes the US.
posted by unSane at 6:03 AM on March 31, 2010


*I mean crossing into E. Germany about 25 yrs ago, just before the wall came down. And I only mean the comparison in terms of poverty, not in terms of politics.
posted by unSane at 6:06 AM on March 31, 2010


People here have chosen to ignore everything else she said, to pick on a word

Tons of people have impressed interested in the subject, while lamenting the awfulness of the originally linked post and downright pleading for a better constructed post to address the subject in a less GRAR GRAR manner.

So why don't we, as a group, construct such a post? I'm not sure how it would go, but maybe open it with a stats breakdown of the nationalities on the web? Then segue into how those stats have changed or are changing due to the rising Non-American populace that are coming on-line and how that's forcing a either a culture shift on the web and/or a rethinking of American dominance, hopefully with some thought links by non-American voices.

Here's a Google search on "Demographics of the Internet"

Here's a Google search on "united states dominance web"

Not sure how to do a search for non-american links/articles about American dominance on the web. Thoughts?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:18 AM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Northeast Kingdom in Vermont is a pretty weird place. Yeah, as unSane points out, there's a shit ton of poverty. It's really amazingly different from both Quebec to the north and the rest of Vermont to the south. I grew up in Southern Vermont and any trips up to the NE Kingdom were very "Uh, Toto, I don't think we're in Brattleboro anymore..." It's really a unique enclave of rural weirdness.

(This makes no larger point about anything. I'm just sayin', the place is pretty amazing in a lot of ways.) Some gorgeous scenery (Lake Wiloughby, for one), "touristy stuff" like the Barton Fair and Bread and Puppet, but mostly old farmers living in some pretty bleak conditions. If your only view of VT was the NE Kingdom, you'd be pretty shocked to see towns like Brattleboro and Bennington, which are much more affluent and a zillion times more liberal. (Other than Bread and Puppet, the NE Kingdom lacks a lot of the "hippie" vibe that people think about when they think about VT.)

Again, no larger point whatsoever.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:23 AM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


So why don't we, as a group, construct such a post?

I think that's a nice idea.

Created a blank, editable Google doc, for a project workspace. Login not required.
posted by zarq at 7:08 AM on March 31, 2010


The only people I've heard call it the "Indian Subcontinent" are Westerners, mostly assuming all brown people are Indian.

Actually, the Westerners you're talking about are probably a little more advanced than a fair number of Americans, who assume all brown people are Mexican or Hispanic, which is why I said I think for those of us who are settled here, we might as well just give up and learn Spanish. Though, when I lived in London, this drunk Eastern European guy who I assumed at the time was Russian based on his accent and my vague knowledge of Russia, called me a "fucking Paki." I can definitely see his confusion, how I might look Pakistani, but didn't get his personal hate for Pakistanis. So, I don't know. I'm embarrassed to say that this one girl in college, whose last name was Dias --- I didn't pick up that she was half Indian until she told me (then it clicked, oh, Dias!). I just assumed she had nothing to do with being South Asian. So I don't blame people for not being able to guess correctly and I'm not pissed that they assume I'm Mexican. Viva Mexico!
posted by anniecat at 7:09 AM on March 31, 2010


*not look Pakistani, we all look alike generally, but you know....he was just looking to be rude and offensive and hoped it would stick.
posted by anniecat at 7:10 AM on March 31, 2010


Brandon Blatcher: Thoughts?

MetaFilter being the textual place that it is, I'd start thinking about language. Not everyone here prizes the same kind of language, but certain forms of it are fairly verboten in the site culture. The norm here is the kind of English spoken among young, educated Americans, though that particular type of English is fairly universal in the Anglophonie, but there's an American slant due to the demographics of this community. Also, the milieu of the young, educated America makes a point of being tolerant of other cultures and certainly MetaFilter takes that tendency quite far, which is one of the many reasons I love this place.

I don't have much of the way of a point, except to say that to understand MetaFilter you have to understand text. MetaFilter, with the exception of Music, consists entirely of written language, pretty much all of it in English. There is a certain intolerance for poor spelling here, and for not having a fluent command of English as She is Wrote. This can get especially dangerous to non-Anglophones in the very loaded semantic spheres of sex, gender, race and class. Progressive thought and history is different in different cultures. To give a personal example, in Iceland, feminism is somewhat different. It has never been an issue, for instance, to be a single parent. Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was elected President in 1980 and that she is a single mother was something that never came up (an American friend of mine pointed out when I told her about this that in the US a single mother couldn't get elected to the school board and a Canadian friend reacted by saying that she felt like I was describing some sort of unreal utopia). It took me a while to grok the various aspects of American feminism which have to do with birth and motherhood because motherhood is a different issue in Iceland and America.

I'll admit that I have slightly less sympathy for non-American Anglophones because most issues of sex, gender, race and class are fairly similar and a large number of complaints I see in MetaTalk basically boil down to "I like being a dick but I don't like being called out on it." But then that's my particular privilege not to have to deal with that, not being a native English-speaker from outside the US.
posted by Kattullus at 7:11 AM on March 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


Again, no larger point whatsoever.

31 comments to make no larger point?

You might want to consider your mouth to thought ratio. It is way out of whack.
posted by Wolof at 7:15 AM on March 31, 2010


Again, no larger point whatsoever.

31 comments to make no larger point?


Yeah, no larger point on that one comment about the NE Kingdom.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:21 AM on March 31, 2010


Oh, I forgot my main point. There are lots of reasons why someone wouldn't understand the finer nuances of the young, educated American English idiolect, and sometimes one can get into a lot of trouble.

Actually, I retract my intemperate statement that I don't have as much sympathy for Anglophones outside the US. The recent "c-word" thread was on my mind and I let it color my sympathies in a rather stupid manner. I apologize.

But my larger point is that Americans can be just as excluded as non-Anglophones or Anglophones from outside the US, if they don't belong to the class of young, educated Americans. Privilege here, like everywhere else, is a complicated beast.
posted by Kattullus at 7:22 AM on March 31, 2010


I'm also amused by the "You Americans suck" line of thought, considering the changing demographics of America.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:40 AM on March 31, 2010


The only place locally on the other side of the border where you will see the same kinds of shacks and dilapidation is -- and this is hardly something Canada can be proud of -- on some First Nations reserves.

I don't disagree with the larger point about wealth/poverty split, but this idea that Canada is free of rural poverty is just untrue - I've driven across Canada a few times, especially in the midsection/Ontario, and sure there is - poverty and dilapidation. Some of it is just weatherbeaten-ness and a reflection of a rural economy that is no longer a viable industry so its infrastructure has been left to degrade, and some is just plain poverty, but it's a little specious to select a very poor region and compare it directly with a wealthier region. Sure they're co-located, but I can show you the same thing in New Jersey or Massachusetts - the boundaries of a wealthy town butted up against those of an underresourced town. It's neither here nor there that one spot on one border demonstrates a contrast. There may be a larger point about a social safety net or the relative quality of life of the poorest people in a set of nations, but one identifies that by looking at averages and lots of data across both nations, not by isolating one small area that's non-representative of the whole.
posted by Miko at 7:48 AM on March 31, 2010


I actually thought the "c-word" metatalk thread was sort of interesting, because it was a rare example of non-US people doing the thing that US people so often do. It was just really hard for non-North-American English speakers to believe that "cunt" really has the misogynistic connotations in North American English that American and Canadian posters said that it did. And therefore they refused to believe that a post containing that word really was misogynistic, because using that word wouldn't necessarily be misogynistic in their linguistic practice. When Cortex finally posted the actual deleted post, there was a fair amount of "oh, yeah, that is really misogynistic. I didn't realize the word had those connotations in America!" And we're like "um, we've been telling you that for the past 700 posts! Did you think we were lying or something?"

It was kind of instructive to me, because this really doesn't happen very often if you're from the U.S. And I think if it happened to me all the time, I'd find it really irritating and frustrating.
posted by craichead at 7:57 AM on March 31, 2010


I'd say more, but while looking for links American ethnocentrism I discovered Martin Espada. His poem, Coco-Cola and Coco Frio, seems fitting at the moment.

There's another poem of his, "Bully" which I'm looking for, which would probably fit in this discussion also.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:57 AM on March 31, 2010


And divabat: it wasn't a well written post. That's all there is to it. I'd be interested to see a discussion of the priveleging of American viewpoints and voices on the web - not saying I wouldn't evaluate it critically as well, but I'd be interested in engaging with the ideas themselves. But no matter what the topic of the post, I don't like reading bad writing and don't see much point engaging with bad writing, because arguments online tend to end up having to focus on the written word - what is being said. And this post just didn't offer much specific evidence or clear argumentation. So there's not really anywhere much to go with it. I would feel the same way if it were a post written in a similar style on abortion, environmentalism, food issues, water rights, feminism, disaster relief, or any other serious issue. Particularly where a discussion is about an issue with divergent perspectives, there needs to be a strong starting point.
posted by Miko at 7:58 AM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


GFM: The Northeast Kingdom in Vermont is a pretty weird place. ... It's really a unique enclave of rural weirdness.

Miko: There may be a larger point about a social safety net or the relative quality of life of the poorest people in a set of nations, but one identifies that by looking at averages and lots of data across both nations, not by isolating one small area that's non-representative of the whole.

I think it's important to remember (and maybe hard to keep sight of if you live here and see it every day), but the US has some of the most extreme income and wealth inequality of any major industrialized country. There are other countries with far greater inequality (eg Haiti, Brazil, South Africa, India, etc), but compared to Canada or most European countries, the inequality in the US is really shockingly apparent.

In other words, the "Northeast Kingdom" area is not weird at all, and in many ways is quite representative, in the sense of being visibly poor while located next to wealth on all sides. You can find this at every level of analysis in the US, from block-by-block differences within one town, on up through census tracts and school districts to the state level. For whatever complicated cultural and political reasons, this is something that has a long history in the US, and has been getting steadily worse since about the 1970s, while many other countries have been using cultural and political forces to moderate those extremes of inequality.

It's not that Canada and France don't have poverty -- it's that the inequality between the poor and the rich in those places is not as extreme as it is in the US. And where that poverty is divided by a line, such as a border between countries, or between two adjoining municipalities, it becomes visible in a way that it's not when it's more normally hidden.
posted by Forktine at 8:10 AM on March 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


In other words, the "Northeast Kingdom" area is not weird at all, and in many ways is quite representative, in the sense of being visibly poor while located next to wealth on all sides.

You missed my point. I wasn't talking about poverty. I was talking about an extremely unique area which is, indeed, "weird" in that is totally in all respects unlike its surrounding areas.

It's truly, truly a unique place, and I'm not talking about its income level - which no, is not remarkable in terms of a rural population.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:21 AM on March 31, 2010


Miko, I said 'locally' and pointed out that I live surrounded by rural poverty here in rural ontario. You are tilting at a straw man.
posted by unSane at 8:22 AM on March 31, 2010


(Again, I was just blathering about it and how it's kinda unique because it was brought up, not because I have any "point" to make. I certainly agree with the statements about poverty distribution in the US being pretty extreme and disproportionate in comparison with wealthier urban areas.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:22 AM on March 31, 2010


And the first words of the post were 'Canada has plenty of rural poverty'. Yeesh.
posted by unSane at 8:24 AM on March 31, 2010


Good comparative stuff on international income inequality here:

http://contexts.org/socimages/2010/01/21/income-inequality-in-international-perspective/
posted by unSane at 8:30 AM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


That extremity, in part, characterizes the US.

Actually, it characterizes most nominally first world countries, albeit and obviously to varying degrees; sadly, there simply aren't enough rural gentrifiers around to bear witness and bring the reality of it to the rest of us.

Do you know anything about me?

Oh snap!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:39 AM on March 31, 2010


I think it's important to remember (and maybe hard to keep sight of if you live here and see it every day), but the US has some of the most extreme income and wealth inequality of any major industrialized country.

I totally don't contest that.

You are tilting at a straw man.


You brought it up. Not sure why you presented the straw man, but wanted to point out that generalizing from a single example doesn't get one far.
posted by Miko at 8:58 AM on March 31, 2010


unSane: Good comparative stuff on international income inequality here:

That's interesting but I worry about sites that confuse average with median. The difference between those two can tell a different story.
posted by nightwood at 9:02 AM on March 31, 2010


That's interesting but I worry about sites that confuse average with median. The difference between those two can tell a different story.

Median is a type of average. If they had confused median with mean then that would be a different matter.
posted by jonnyploy at 9:10 AM on March 31, 2010


You brought it up.

I said Canada has lots of rural poverty, but that there was nothing locally comparable to the Kingdom except some First Nations reserves. This is true, even if you head a long way up into Northern Quebec. You then started tilting at the idea that Canada doesn't have any rural poverty, which nobody else but you has proposed.
posted by unSane at 9:12 AM on March 31, 2010


Median is a type of average. If they had confused median with mean then that would be a different matter.

I have no idea if this is something that varies in regional use (and how fraught for stats discussions if it is!) but "average" and "mean" have always been for me synonyms in any sort of formal discussion. I can understand, and with explicit qualification in context run with, the idea of "average" as generic label for "aggregate view of data" or something, but that's not how I've ever seen it used in actual discussions about figures.

In fact and specifically, the use by the stats-illiterate of "average"-as-mean to describe some sort of canonized single approach to aggregate views of disparate data is peeve-bait for a lot of people annoyed at e.g. crappy science reporting or poor arguing-by-numbers about stuff where average and median tell very different stories (or where average values obfuscate the important details of a distribution, or so on).
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:22 AM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


And I think it's really unfair that people use the word 'average' when they mean 'mean'. What about 'median' and 'mode' - who's considering their feelings in all of this?
posted by jonnyploy at 9:23 AM on March 31, 2010


Not Americans.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:32 AM on March 31, 2010


Miko, I've driven through that area and into Canada (accidentally even!) and it really is striking. That's not to say that it's not like a lot of other places, but I remember thinking about it in terms of Yankee independence, in that I saw a lot of weird little shacks that had, like, Live Free Or Die spray painted on their outside walls (despite not being in New Hampshire). And crossing was similar to going from Ohio to Michigan on a state two-lane highway, where all of the sudden, the roads suck.
posted by klangklangston at 9:39 AM on March 31, 2010


Dewey is notoriously horribly Americo-centric and Christian-centric...

Probably cis-gender-centric too, amirite?
posted by timeistight at 9:51 AM on March 31, 2010


unSane: “I said Canada has lots of rural poverty, but that there was nothing locally comparable to the Kingdom except some First Nations reserves. This is true, even if you head a long way up into Northern Quebec. You then started tilting at the idea that Canada doesn't have any rural poverty, which nobody else but you has proposed.”

You're trying to weasel out of the fact that you indeed did say something which, I believe, can be refuted. You claimed that poverty exists on an entirely different level and scale within the United States as compared to Canada; you only tried to shrug off objections preemptively by saying that poverty does indeed exist locally.

Let's look at your comment less selectively, shall we?

“Canada has plenty of rural poverty. I live right in the middle of some of it, thanks -- lots of abandoned farmhouses and collapsed barns round here. My house is in a ghost town, although one which is now being repopulated by exurbanites like me. ¶ But when you cross the border from Quebec into Vermont (not along the interstate but on one of the mom-and-pop crossings) the contrast is very striking. The depth of rural poverty is much greater. The only place locally on the other side of the border where you will see the same kinds of shacks and dilapidation is -- and this is hardly something Canada can be proud of -- on some First Nations reserves.”

So you state openly that Canada has some poverty – that's all well and good. But your point was that Canada doesn't have the same kind of poverty that the US is plagued with, or at least that that kind of poverty is very rare in Canada. Your comment was about how shocked you were to encounter this in the US.

Miko's point was that it's a lot more complex than that. She was pointing out that she's seen the same sort of poverty all over Canada that can be seen in the US, that it's no