Thursday, July 06, 2006

American or 'United-Statean'?

On the occasion of the July 4 celebration, the Canadian paper online, Le Devoir had an article on the use of the word "American" to refer to US citizens (the article is available in English here via Watching America). This is a very sensitive issue in Latin America and to a lesser extent in Canada too. After all, the Canadians have always had some sort of permanent identity crisis with regard to their French-speaking people, their Native peoples and above all their powerful neighbor, the U.S.A. . A lot of Canadians often define themselves in what they are not – Americans and many Canadians consciously avoid the term "American" to describe themselves. They may occasionally say they are North American.

It is true that the noun "America" is part of the official name of the United States of America, but unlike South Africans, US citizens are often referred to as "Americans". As for the adjective "American" it always implies something associated with the US.

The Le Devoir article offers an interesting historical angle to the use of the word which it associates to some US Expansionism. It has certainly been first and primarily used to distinguish from the European monarchies and colonial powers.

In France as well, particularly in some scholarly circles, some people try to avid the word “American” and call US citizens, “Etats-Uniens” (United-Stateans?). It is even sometimes used as an adjective. It is an interesting neologism but couldn't “United Satean” also refer to people from other countries? In fact, Mexico is officially called “Estados Unidos Mexicanos” (United Mexican States).

In any case, I have chosen not to use the word “United-Statean” because, for one, it is hardly ever used (and thus would seem kind of odd) but also because its use is always politically charged. By using this neologism people often make a political statement – a statement usually too ‘anti-American’ for my taste.


At 00:17, Blogger Jason Mailley said...

So what do you suggest, really about this non-sense ? Non-sense, because by appropriating itself the identity of the WHOLE continent, and excluding the 39 other countries that are not the United States of America. Because, personally, I am insulted when someone exclude me from that word. And if US-Americans can't get over America, then it would be easier to accommodate them by naming their country America and finding a new name for the continent.


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