Tuesday, October 10, 2006

United Statesians

Unbeknownst to most Americans, the rest of the Western Hemisphere is not happy with their appropriation of the term "American." After all, aren’t all residents of this half of the globe Americans?

It matters little to Americans, of course, since they’re not confused by the word. But other Western Hemispherians find this unilateral name-claiming symptomatic of the arrogance and ignorance of the U. S.

In these fractious times, it might be a good idea for the United States to amend this longstanding practise. Giving back the term "American" would be a nice gesture of reconciliation to the rest of the world. It would show that the world’s most powerful nation is at least sometimes willing to compromise and change.

The decision to forego the name "American" is the easy part. The tough part, of course, is coming up with a suitable alternative.

At one time, it was suggested that U. S. residents go by the name "United Statesian." This seemed to make sense. It follows the form of other nationalities and is the literal translation of the term used by Spanish Americans namely, "estadounidense" or resident of los Estados Unidos.

But United Statesian just doesn’t seem right. It’s clunky and awkward and doesn’t fit the one-word template used by other nationalities (except maybe for New Zealanders, South Africans and Sierra Leoneans).

Other attempts have been made in the past. For example, "USAnian" and "Usian" have both been offered up as synonyms for "American." Again, neither of these candidates really fits the bill. In addition to being difficult to pronounce, they could easily get confused with "Asian" or "Eurasian."

The on-line encyclopedia Wikpedia lists more than two dozen alternatives but none has caught on. With choices like Fredonian, Colonican, Pindosian and Appalacian, that’s hardly surprising.

Some Spanish Americans use the term "norteamericano" to refer to gringos. Although an improvement on American, it still lacks the required specificity and risks offending the continent’s other inhabitants, primarily the Mexicans and Canadians.

So what’s left? Unlike other nationalities, it seems impossible to derive something suitable from the country’s name.

The term "yankee" seems to have almost universal recognition. But for those living south of the Mason-Dixon line, it likely won’t pass muster.

The American flag is the ultimate national symbol. So how about calling its country’s residents "Oldglorians" or "Starsnstripesians?" Well, maybe not.

Some have suggested that U. S. history and current foreign policy could inspire names like "Imperials" or Unilats" or "USers." But that seems churlish and a tad unfair.

When it comes right down to it, there just doesn’t seem to be a suitable alternative. So maybe the rest of the world will just have to accept Americans as Americans and leave it at that. Either that or you’re always welcome to start calling yourself Canadians, eh?

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