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Your Tax Dollars At Work
May 17, 2009 5:59 AM   Subscribe

A message from baby Emily. Most popular baby names + Medicare advice + awful Elvis impersonation = EPIC FAIL. A single link video post from the Social Security Administration. You will laugh. Until you remember we (USians) paid for this. (via Andrew Sullivan)
posted by fourcheesemac (309 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
PS -- now if someone can just figure out how to run this video through SongSmith, we'll be in really high clover.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:06 AM on May 17, 2009


What the fuck is this and why does it exist.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 6:11 AM on May 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


Wow. That pseudo-3d lip animation is really, really creepy.
Somehow every time government tries to be cool they just end up failing horribly. Remember Franklin the Fair Housing Fox?
posted by dunkadunc at 6:15 AM on May 17, 2009


Wow. I actually couldn't finish watching it. I'd ask for my money back but this is the government, after all.
posted by tommasz at 6:22 AM on May 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is this something I'd have to be American to stop laughing at?
posted by onya at 6:22 AM on May 17, 2009


Futurist: "Our studies indicate that, in the [pronounced "thee"] future, all babies, male or female, will be named Emjub."
posted by pracowity at 6:26 AM on May 17, 2009


Is this something I'd have to be American to stop laughing at?

Pretty much. This wouldn't be funny to people who realize there's not gonna be any Social Security for them.
posted by gman at 6:28 AM on May 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


wow, dunkadunc -- I want to specifically point out that Franklin the Fox has his own video as well. (.wmv file at HUD.gov)

I wonder whether, once the government takes these all down in mortified embarrassment and they are featured on Olbermann and Lou Dobbs, we'll be able to score copies of them by filing FOIA requests to the agencies involved. One wonders what else we'd find that never saw the light of a public-facing server.

Shall we while away Sunday collecting goofy government videos in one, convenient location for the future edification of our descendants who will ask, one day, "what the fuck went wrong?"
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:28 AM on May 17, 2009


Has the creative team behind this campaign been screened for drugs?

I ask because they need either, a) to be fired, or; b) a hydroponic upgrade -- because whatever it it they're smoking isn't very good.

As a taxpayer, I'd like to see a better ROI. But then again, the rubber-stamp for this idiocy likely came from the Bushites and their fraternity of golden parachute jumpers, so it could just be an intentional smear of the lumpen proletariat.
posted by vhsiv at 6:33 AM on May 17, 2009


The kid looks like Roy Orbison, moves just like him too.
posted by mattoxic at 6:47 AM on May 17, 2009


Jesus Christ your country is fucked.
posted by mazola at 6:51 AM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


And remember... "In times like these, every dollar counts."

-- Emma (Most Popular Girls Name 2008)
posted by mazola at 6:54 AM on May 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Am I the only American who thinks that (a) this video is stupid but (b) who really cares? It can't have costed more than $50, considering that it seems to have taken two interns about an hour and a half to put together, judging by the quality.

Sometimes the whole 'YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK!!!' outrage thing doesn't really work for me. Can somebody prove that this thing actually cost ridiculous amounts of money? Or am I right--is it really just not a big deal?
posted by koeselitz at 6:59 AM on May 17, 2009 [9 favorites]


It can't have costed more than $50.

Oh you wish. Should have taken two interns 1.5 hours = two weeks @ $33/hour, plus casting and hiring babies and voice actors, plus the negotiations to use Elvis' likeness, plus researching the names, plus supervisor approvals.

I bet that cost ten grand, easy.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:09 AM on May 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


For me, koselitz, it's the idea that people who thought this was a public-worthy idea are in charge of the much more consequential fiscal concerns of the Social Security Administration. I mean, this is actually linked from SSA's *front page.* (Center right under the masthead.) Someone there with the power to reach millions thought this was not only a good idea, but an important official communication.

Social Security and Medicare are the two largest entitlement programs, both facing bankruptcy that will destroy the futures for many younger Americans. Don't you want to know that the people in charge have a sense of perspective? Sure, it's probably a trivial amount of money to produce such a video, in context. But it symbolizes a culture of head-up-ass thinking.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:10 AM on May 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


(On the other hand, the site admins at SSA.gov could be right about the need to reach their market with this sort of thing, which says something even scarier about Americans, in general.)
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:11 AM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


'USians' is a stupid neologism. Do you mean Americans?
posted by RussHy at 7:16 AM on May 17, 2009 [13 favorites]


I'm stupid. What is neologism?
posted by gman at 7:20 AM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


No, "Americans" come from two continents and many nations within an entire hemisphere. "USians" is conventional shorthand on MeFi, ugly but accurate and only 6 characters of real estate. Although I note that I myself slipped into "Americans" in my last comment, so mea culpa.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:20 AM on May 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also, Urban Dictionary on "USians."

Not a neologism, in other words (and I think we've debated this term on MeFi before).
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:23 AM on May 17, 2009


This made it through the focus group?
posted by seabel at 7:25 AM on May 17, 2009


From the Urban Dictionary:
USian

Derogatory term used to refer to citizens of the United States of America. Usually used by those who want to insult the USA or American citizens while loudly proclaiming they are simply trying to differentiate between citizens of the USA and citizens of other nations in the North and South American continents.
No one is being hurt when we call ourselves Americans.
posted by RussHy at 7:28 AM on May 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


But people from the United States of America are called Americans by just about everybody on earth and it is the only country in the world with the word America in its name. There is no co-opting of the name: it is the rightful name. The 'usians' is silly and it's anything but conventional.
posted by peacay at 7:29 AM on May 17, 2009 [7 favorites]


What. Just What.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:29 AM on May 17, 2009


While many in the United States of America and other countries generally refer to the country as America and US residents/citizens as Americans, many people elsewhere in the Americas resent what they perceive as misappropriation of the term in this context and, thus, this usage is frequently avoided. In Canada, their southern neighbor is seldom referred to as "America", with the United States, the U.S., or (informally) the States used instead. English dictionaries and compendiums differ regarding usage and rendition.
posted by gman at 7:33 AM on May 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I call you US people, as opposed to us EU people.

I hope that'll make it as clear to you people as it is to us people.
posted by Anything at 7:37 AM on May 17, 2009 [11 favorites]


> Until you remember we (USians) paid for this.

THIS IS AN ATROCITY AND I DEMAND ALL $0.0000028 OF MY TAX CONTRIBUTION BACK.

If I wasn't so outraged I might consider whether this might be exactly the consequence of the bottom-feeding necessary among the non-military government programs whose budgets have been cut so relentlessly for so many decades they can't afford the marketing and creative talents that make public service announcements that aren't so bad that they're counter productive. But I'd rather scream than analyze because that's what they do on TV.
posted by ardgedee at 7:40 AM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


...many people elsewhere in the Americas resent what they perceive as misappropriation of the term...

There will always be complaints about anything Americans do or say. That doesn't mean they get to determine what we call ourselves. USians is insulting.
posted by RussHy at 7:43 AM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


gman: We're talking about how to refer to residents of the nation, not the nation itself, but thanks for playing.
posted by absalom at 7:45 AM on May 17, 2009


From the same source:

Demonym : American
posted by absalom at 7:46 AM on May 17, 2009


As I've said before on MetaFilter, "USians" is the "Micro$oft" of International Relations.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:48 AM on May 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


OFFS. Ok, I apologize for saying "USians" in my FPP instead of "Citizens of the USA," ok?

The "derogatory" meaning is only one sense of "USian" listed on UD. I didn't mean it in a derogatory way; it's descriptively accurate, and the avoidance of "Americans" for "Citizens of the USA" is indeed highly conventional in the circles I run in, which are generally hemispherically conscious ones.

Frankly, I prefer "Yankee Imperialists," but whatever.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:51 AM on May 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


Sure, but 'American' also refers to people other than those who live in the USA.

"American (a native or inhabitant of a North American or Central American or South American country)"
posted by gman at 7:55 AM on May 17, 2009


Here's a bonus video for all the Americans in the house. (YouTube)

/NOT USianist
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:56 AM on May 17, 2009


Your Tax Dollars At Work.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 7:56 AM on May 17, 2009


The "derogatory" meaning is only one sense of "USian" listed on UD. I didn't mean it in a derogatory way; it's descriptively accurate, and the avoidance of "Americans" for "Citizens of the USA" is indeed highly conventional in the circles I run in, which are generally hemispherically conscious ones.

I'd guess people in your circles also appreciate that derogatory terms are derogatory no matter the intent of the speaker. Thanks for the edit.
posted by palliser at 8:01 AM on May 17, 2009


At first I had hoped that this was just some regular baby footage and someone had overlaid something. Or maybe it was pure Flash and they got a plug-in which has some primitive dope sheet abilities and it was someone's whim.

No, there's CGI in here. You can see it in the blinking. Digging around in that /pgm/ directory, it looks like they did transcripts for Jacob and Emily and Elvis. It's also where they keep a message from Patty Duke. What? And something called "Watusi," the implications of which terrify me so I am not going to look.

This nonsense probably cost tens of thousands of dollars, even if you're not counting the sheer person hours which probably went into nitpicking every critical detail of this monstrosity throughout endless committees. The end result is probably worth fifty dollars, but the cost (aside from that to an intangible pride) is much higher.
posted by adipocere at 8:06 AM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wait, why is "USian" considered insulting? I generally call myself an American - maybe I'm just not hemipsherically conscious enough - but I don't see why "USian" is derogatory.
posted by lullaby at 8:07 AM on May 17, 2009


It's not derogatory. It's accurate. Some people need to take offense to feel alive.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:13 AM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Americans" getting snitty about "USians" never fails to amuse. It's like a rich white guy getting huffy because some homeless dude called him a cracker.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 8:13 AM on May 17, 2009 [8 favorites]


I am European
You are USian
They are "Others"
posted by Sova at 8:15 AM on May 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


USians is fine by me, I call Canadians North-Western-Hemispherians. The UK I refer to as the Island of White, and everyone else I call Somethinger-other. Why call people what they are commonly known? That would be so common.
posted by nola at 8:15 AM on May 17, 2009 [12 favorites]


I like the way this conversation has turned. Oh, MeFi, ever unpredictable.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 8:21 AM on May 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think the real problem with USian is that nobody knows how to pronounce it.

I say it like 'fusion' with the F chopped off.
posted by the latin mouse at 8:24 AM on May 17, 2009


Hemispherically conscious?
posted by Bonzai at 8:24 AM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I should let it go, but I want to add two things and then I'm done:

1) I did not intend to insult citizens of the USA (USA! US! USA!) with "USian." I meant to signal my own awareness that not members of MeFi, even those in other parts of the Americas, are paying for this video crap with their tax dollars. As I said, for giving such offense, I apologize in bewilderment. I thought the video was funny, in a mildly outrageous way. That's all. No particular comment on the relative moral standing of any nation's citizenry was intended.

2) I too use (and did in an earlier comment) "American" to mean "citizen of the USA" when the context is clear. A search for "USian" on Mefi reveals it to be mentioned, at least, in 582 comments. The neutral usage is conventional, even if you aren't aware of the convention. But some people seem to think that using a "neutral" term to refer to the USA and its citizens is de facto derogatory, presumably because the whole world ought to recognize our emic demonym and bow down before our unmarked status as owners of the term.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:26 AM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Emma? I never would have guessed Emma.
posted by mediareport at 8:28 AM on May 17, 2009


Wait, why is "USian" considered insulting? I generally call myself an American - maybe I'm just not hemipsherically conscious enough - but I don't see why "USian" is derogatory.

I was couchsurfing with an otherwise quite nice French woman who kept making political jabs at me (the only American, by any sense of the term, in the group) Trying to find common ground I asked her if she had hosted any other Americans before. She replied, in this disdainful tone "No, I haven't hosted any other USians."

I wouldn't say I was offended, but it seemed like her intent was to make me feel bad, and probably to bring a political point into something that didn't need to involve politics. It can be upsetting to have someone else imply you're (a bad person/jingoistic/whatever), over something in the end totally reasonable like using a shortened form of your country's name to identify yourself, and often that's the context it's used in. So I can understand where people are coming from in being upset.

Personally, I didn't find the use objectionable in the post.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:28 AM on May 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's amusing to see comments on a social name labeling nature in order to feel nationally secure on a Social Security topic.
posted by alteredcarbon at 8:31 AM on May 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was couchsurfing with an otherwise quite nice French woman

Sounds like fun.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:34 AM on May 17, 2009


fourcheesemac, speaking on behalf of all Citizens of the United States of America everywhere, (with th exception of RussHy) you have my permission to use the term USians without fear of causing offense. I did notice your use of the word "we" in the post and am surprised that you feel the need to apologize. Don't cave into self-hating USians!
posted by ActingTheGoat at 8:41 AM on May 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've used USians (and USAians) in email, for the reasons outlined previously - it clarifies you are referring to people from the USA. I think using the term 'Americans' to refer to the aforementioned people is a little nation-centric. I never considered it to be derogatory and thought it was mildly humourous.

I'd like to take this opportunity to trot out a neologism of my own - WEESI (Western-European English Speaking Isles). I would prefer all future references to the UK and Ireland to use this term, instead of the British Isles.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 8:45 AM on May 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


it seemed like her intent was to make me feel bad, and probably to bring a political point into something that didn't need to involve politics

Honestly, I just find that kind of strange as some kind of attempt to offend you.

Maybe I've spent too much time around people who were able to inject enough contempt into the word 'American' without having to resort to using 'USian'.
posted by lullaby at 8:46 AM on May 17, 2009


Precisely, Actingthegoat: I was clarifying my not-fully-inclusive use of "we" to be polite to non-citizens-of-the-USA-who-are-nonetheless-citizens-of-Metafilter. I was, indeed, self-identifying as an USian (pronounced "US-shin" in my lexicon, making a nice resonance with "we," though I've never heard it used orally at all in my life). As those who know my posting history can attest, I'm a fairly patriotic citizen of the United States, just not a chauvinistic one.

I'm not some couch-surfing Frog chick dissing Amerikkkans while sipping wine disdainfully in my boudoir.

kidding, kidding
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:49 AM on May 17, 2009


it seemed like her intent was to make me feel bad, and probably to bring a political point into something that didn't need to involve politics

It sounds to me like maybe she had hosted Panamanians, Peruvians and Prince Edward Islanders.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 8:51 AM on May 17, 2009


"speaking on behalf of all Citizens of the United States of America everywhere, (with th exception of RussHy) you have my permission to use the term USians without fear of causing offense"

Speaking only for myself as an American, fuck you.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 8:53 AM on May 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm used to seeing "Americans" in reference to people from the United States, while "North Americans" encompasses everybody on the continent.

"USians" and "USAians"... if that works for you, go ahead. If you had meant it as a term of offense, you can do a lot better than that, so I assume it wasn't meant to offend. There are far better things to get upset about, and I don't mean laughably inept government PR material.
posted by ardgedee at 8:56 AM on May 17, 2009


Yeah that'll catch on.
posted by Zambrano at 8:57 AM on May 17, 2009


Who likes rap? Apparently, the bigwigs at Singapore's Media Development Authority do.

Who can rap? They can't.

Among other things, these people decide what to censor in films which are imported into Singapore.

(Just throwing it out there in solidarity with all you people who wish the tax money you paid your government was spent better.)
posted by WalterMitty at 8:57 AM on May 17, 2009


It takes a lot of willful blindness not to see that "USians" is more than just an economy of letters. A reasonably close analogy would be Republicans who call the Democratic Party the "Democrat Party." On the one hand, it's obviously a childish needling of another group. On the other hand, it's a pretty lame thing for anyone to get outraged about (though I rarely see outrage...it's more like frustration and annoyance). There's a general rule of polite society that we let groups define themselves, and that includes nomenclature as long as it's reasonably accurate. To constantly rebrand someone else causes confusion and is too susceptible to politicization.

The reality is that very few people outside the United States call themselves Americans on any regular basis. Latin America, North America, South America, Central America, and "the Americas" are all terms for geographical regions that took hold long ago. Once in a while a political unit (like the Organization of American States) will use the term in some other way. Very rarely is it used to describe peoples of these continents outside the U.S. without any qualifiers. Much more common are Latin Americans, North Americans, etc. The U.S. has a monopoly on African Americans and Native Americans, and other countries in the region seem content with their own terms (e.g. "First Peoples").

There are other examples of this in the world. The United Arab Emirates is one of three countries organized in some sort of emirate system (all three happen to be predominantly Arab, as well, but that's neither here nor there). Nevertheless, it is the only one that calls its people "Emirati." Few Omani(s?) get upset, and few Europeans insist on calling UAE residents UAians.

Of course, that example is a country who tooks its name and demonym from a political characteristic. "American" is rooted in an element of physical geography. Perhaps the best analogy here would be the Congo, though the shifting country names there might complicate matters a bit. The geographical region of "the Congo" found its name used in two current countries, though the region includes Angola as well. Angolans could get upset about not being included in "Congolese," or upset that anyone else would use that term to exclusion of Angolans, but they seem not to be bothered by it. More importantly, you don't see many Westerners getting outraged on their behalf.
posted by aswego at 9:00 AM on May 17, 2009 [17 favorites]


LOLUSians! What a wonderful way to start the day.

There will always be complaints about anything Americans do or say. That doesn't mean they get to determine what we call ourselves. USians is insulting.

There will always be complaints from USians. That doesn't mean they get to determine what we call them. Americans is insulting.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:01 AM on May 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Emma? I never would have guessed Emma.

Hey, I had no idea there were so many fans of Emma Goldman in the States! Cool!

(on preview: hey, at least I didn't say "USians")

posted by spoobnooble at 9:04 AM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


it seemed like her intent was to make me feel bad, and probably to bring a political point into something that didn't need to involve politics

It sounds to me like maybe she had hosted Panamanians, Peruvians and Prince Edward Islanders.


That would have made sense, but it wasn't the case - it wasn't used to clarify anything, which I could understand - which is why it seemed like a weird jab.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:14 AM on May 17, 2009


aswego, as a politically active, progressive, patriotic linguist, I demur concerning your charge of "willful blindness." Just because an expression is *marked* (as linguists say of alternatives to default terms that specify more limited subsets of broad semantic fields ("woman" vs. "man" is the classic example, though one that has shifted as our semantic consciousness of the political significance of positing a universal male subject has increased) doesn't mean it is "derogatory," except to those who would cling to the unmarked term because it implies a naturalized claim to embody a universal (or at least inclusive) identity. As I said, I *am* an "American," as well as a citizen of the USA and thus a "USian" in the conventional, non-derogatory sense (what, you think I go around insulting myself?).

The question, as always in semantics, cannot be decided independently of a judgment of a speaker's intention to mean something. When a GOPer (how's that!) refers to the "Democrat" party, it's with the intention of denying the exclusive claim on the adjective "democratic" to those who support candidates on the left side of the center right consensus. (It's wrongheaded, because "Democratic" is a formal, legal name of a party, when spelled with a capital letter, that no more enforces a distinctive claim on "democracy" than the "Republican" party enforces, by its name, on the idea of representing a "republic.")

Does the use of "USian" somehow undermine the sovereignty or national identity of the United States of America or its citizens by virtue of acknowledging that "Americans" is a polysemous term, not just a demonym but a descriptor used not just to identify people by nationality, but to identify hemispheric institutions and identities? (We USians have been a member of the Organization of American States for quite some time, right?)

I don't doubt it is used sneeringly by some, and the same meaning can be connoted by a sneering tone in the use of the word "American," by other slang demonyms ("Yankees"), and by orthographic conventions ("Amerikkans"). But the simple, descriptive use of "USian" is conventional in some circles -- including MeFi, in my experience. From context, you can infer intention.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:25 AM on May 17, 2009


I like the way this conversation has turned. Oh, MeFi, ever unpredictable.

I'm afraid to say that this was extremely predictable.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:33 AM on May 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


My least favorite Tax Dollars videos are still the expensive-looking, sexy "Aren't we having fun - join-the- military" ads.
posted by NorthernLite at 9:39 AM on May 17, 2009


Yurt axe: dolors at work.
posted by pracowity at 9:39 AM on May 17, 2009 [2 favorites]



Could I get into trouble for referring to religionists as religionists?
posted by notreally at 9:39 AM on May 17, 2009


I'm pretty sure Usain Bolt is Jamaican.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:45 AM on May 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


The whole USian/American debate repeats itself on a regular basis, and I'm kinda surprised you're surprised that putting it in the FPP set it off again. Whether because people percieve a snitty na-na-na quality to it or think it's a forced meme, there's hardly a consensus on it around here. Personally, my feelings on it now are, knock yourself out - use it all you like if you feel you need to. No skin off my nose.

Anyway: I don't expect technocrats to be video-savvy but eesh, that was painful.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:10 AM on May 17, 2009


I'd chip in here, but I'm a Britisher.
posted by mippy at 10:48 AM on May 17, 2009


O.K., I'm going to be the only person in the thread to defend this video: it's not meant to appeal to the hipsters at Metafilter, it's meant to appeal to as many people in the USA as possible: remember, that nation whose popular tastes you by and large find appalling. The very fact that you guys all hate it is almost certain proof that it hits its target demographic perfectly. I'll bet there are people all over the USA emailing this back and forth to each other: "Have you seen this? It's so cuuuuute!"
posted by yoink at 10:54 AM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh and re "USian"--is there any compact term for "citizen of the USA" that is not ambiguous and not taken to be offensive by some?
posted by yoink at 10:56 AM on May 17, 2009


I'd chip in here, but I'm a Britisher.

Britisher or UKian?
posted by plastic_animals at 10:59 AM on May 17, 2009


'Americans' is a stupid neologism. Do you mean Americans?

No, "Americans" come from two continents and many nations within an entire hemisphere. "Americans" is conventional shorthand on MeFi, ugly but accurate and only 6 characters of real estate. Although I note that I myself slipped into "Americans" in my last comment, so mea culpa.


Greasemonkey is my favorite Firefox add-on ever.

"Americans" getting snitty about "Americans" never fails to amuse.

I did not intend to insult citizens of the USA (USA! US! USA!) with "American."

Maybe I've spent too much time around people who were able to inject enough contempt into the word 'American' without having to resort to using 'American'.


But it's starting to make the argument in this thread a little bit confusing.
posted by oaf at 11:03 AM on May 17, 2009


fourcheesemac: you are being deceitful and purposefully obtuse. You are attempting to manufacture controversy where there is none, and you are willfully, and actively, obfuscating the truth.
posted by Ynoxas at 11:04 AM on May 17, 2009


Hey, I had no idea there were so many fans of Emma Goldman in the States! Cool!

I was thinking maybe it's part of that Jane Austen thing. Seriously, though, these things usually tie back to some popcult splurge. What's with Emma?
posted by mediareport at 11:05 AM on May 17, 2009


> it's meant to appeal to as many people in the USA as possible: remember, that nation whose popular tastes you by and large find appalling.

Hipsters and rednecks alike can recognize a trainwreck.
posted by ardgedee at 11:16 AM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


is there any compact term for "citizen of the USA" that is not ambiguous and not taken to be offensive by some?

And not taken to be offensive by some? That a pretty hard thing to find on the internet, where thousands of people will read even the most obscure little thing and many of them will take offense to it just as a matter of form.

Stick to "American" when you're around people born in the USA. When you're with people of other nationalities, there are other words you could try.
posted by pracowity at 11:24 AM on May 17, 2009


I'm a bit late to the party here, but for anyone interested in the amazing military-grade tax-funded technology on display in that video, I present to you: Reallusion CrazyTalk5. $49.95.
posted by drumcorpse at 11:26 AM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Stick to "American" when you're around people born in the USA.

Stick to "American" when you're around native speakers of English, since that's the English word for someone who lives in the United States of America. The all-encompassing terms you're looking for are "North American," "South American," or "someone from the Americas."

This is prescriptivist silliness up there along the lines of "waitperson."
posted by oaf at 11:29 AM on May 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


You know what? The U.S. has done a lot of crazy, unfriendly shit over our entire history and especially over the last eight years or so. We have done a lot of things that make a lot of people very angry both inside and outside our borders, and we still have yet to apologize for most of it in any really significant way.

We are the arrogant, teenaged brat of the Western world, and I'd have to say that we owe the more civilized areas of the globe, who have long put up with our antics with little more than a patient, if irritated, fond-in-spite-of-themselves sigh between their teeth, a little more respect and a little more understanding on this subject at least, if no other.

If folks here or anywhere want to be pissed off at the U.S., then I'm fine with that. We deserve it, and we should learn to take it humbly. Builds character. The point is that you might have something against me when you first meet me because of the fact that I am a citizen of the United States, but you won't after five minutes of talking to me. That's all that really matters. I dont mind at all that you might dislike me on the face of it. In fact, I dont blame you. What I'd have a real problem with is if you refused to acknowledge that I'm a good person anyway.

It's a wonderful thing when I meet someone from another country who snarks at me because of something my government has done, is startled to discover I agree with them, and then having the discussion that inevitably follows that shows that person that hey, maybe theyre not so bad after all. That's worth a lot. I know they're wrong about me when they sneer at my country of origin. I also know theyve got every right to be angry. I've got no problem whatsoever facing the snark because most people with that attitude are very open to talking about it and I've never once left a discussion like that on a negative note. Those encounters have all been wound up being wonderful opportunities for cross-cultural understanding.

I differentiate between people who live in the United States as much as I can when I write, but for myself I haven't ever found it a problem to handle on a personal level. The reason for that is because there's really only one response I ever have to use when someone asks me what nationality I am or where I'm from: I'm a New Yorker. Where I am at any point in time doesnt matter. And as far as I'm concerned, as a highly opinionated, egotistical, properly neurotic native New Yorker, that answer is one of the best you can give and all anyone ever really needs to hear.

I always did like the name Emma.
posted by perilous at 11:36 AM on May 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm a New Yorker.

Are you sure you don't mean NYCian?
posted by oaf at 11:41 AM on May 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


As a citizen of Canuckistan I'll use "USian" whenever I fucking well please to whomever I fucking well please, so fucking fuck right off.


This is prescriptivist silliness up there along the lines of "waitperson."


How is insisting on the use of "American" any less prescriptivist? I guess it depends on who is doing the prescribing. Newsflash: United Statians don't own the English language, oaf.
posted by Rumple at 12:00 PM on May 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


How is insisting on the use of "American" any less prescriptivist?

I'm not insisting on it. I'm just saying that it's not something that a typical speaker of English will recognize (which is true).
posted by oaf at 12:14 PM on May 17, 2009


Oh and re "USian"--is there any compact term for "citizen of the USA" that is not ambiguous and not taken to be offensive by some?

In English, "Americans." It is no more ambiguous the word "hamburger" is in English, and the only people who would take offense at its usage are so intently looking for something to be offended by that your probability of not offending them approaches zero.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:17 PM on May 17, 2009 [8 favorites]


Stick to "American" when you're around native speakers of English, since that's the English word for someone who lives in the United States of America. The all-encompassing terms you're looking for are "North American," "South American," or "someone from the Americas."

This is prescriptivist silliness up there along the lines of "waitperson."


If you use "American" to English-speaking people in Canada to refer to mean "citizens of the USA" they will very frequently correct you, and do so in such a way as to make it clear that they are somewhat offended at your casual assumption that the only "real" country in the American continents is the USofA. So no, it isn't a universally useful word in all English speaking contexts. Is there one?
posted by yoink at 12:18 PM on May 17, 2009


If we can't have a neologism for US citizens, can we coin one for people from North America instead?

I don't use USian, because I know from previous posts here that it's about as popular as the @name notation, but I do think there's utility in being able to quickly differentiate whether I'm including Canada (e.g. "American breakfast foods") or just talking about the states (e.g. "American politics").

I'd also like a quicker way to distinguish the times when I'm talking about the Republic of Ireland from the times I'm talking about the island of Ireland. </languagepony>

And clawing my way back to the subject of weird shit our taxes have paid for, the British Army are currently giving away free gifts to teenagers who express an interest in enlisting...

...handbags.
posted by the latin mouse at 12:21 PM on May 17, 2009


I call Canadians North-Western-Hemispherians.

I live next door to it and am married to one, so I can tell you that they take great offense if you use anything other than the correct term "Canuckistani." However, learning to detect merely great offense from a Canuckistani takes intense training and usually requires checking the videotape several times, so it's not too surprising that you wouldn't know that.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:21 PM on May 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


We actually don't give a shit what you call us.
posted by gman at 12:23 PM on May 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Just don't call us late for dinner.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:28 PM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you use "American" to English-speaking people in Canada to refer to mean "citizens of the USA" they will very frequently correct you

Of course, if you use "American" to Anglophone Canadians to refer to Canadians, you'll really get corrected. People who would correct you on "Americans" fall into the "prickly types hunting very hard for something to be offended by."

can we coin one for people from North America instead? ... I do think there's utility in being able to quickly differentiate whether I'm including Canada

North America also includes Mexico. Which is, funnily enough, also a United States. The term you want for "American and Canadian" is just "American and Canadian," or "Canadian and American."

the British Army are currently giving away free gifts to teenagers who express an interest in enlisting... handbags.

Well? What do teenagers get if they enlist their handbags in the Army?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:29 PM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you use "American" to English-speaking people in Canada to refer to mean "citizens of the USA" they will very frequently correct you, and do so in such a way as to make it clear that they are somewhat offended at your casual assumption that the only "real" country in the American continents is the USofA.

Unless "very frequently" means something different north of the border, this just isn't true. And there is absolutely no assumption, casual or otherwise, about "the only 'real' country in the American continents" being made by someone who says "American" to mean "a resident/citizen of the United States." Those who see an assumption where there is none are looking for an excuse to be offended.
posted by oaf at 12:30 PM on May 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


This debate is baffling to me. Why are we inventing a word (USian) when one already exists (American)? Who says Americans but means to include Canadians, Mexicans et al? I've never heard anyone do this. If you mean to make a statement about people from the US and people from Canada, you say "Canadians and Americans ..." and if you mean people from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, you can say "North Americans." It's real easy, and insisting on USian is just being a dick.
posted by desjardins at 12:45 PM on May 17, 2009 [7 favorites]


Ynoxas, I thought I was posting a funny video clip.

If this is a debate worth extending, go for it. I meant nothing derogatory with my use of "USian," and anyone seriously offended by it has bigger problems than limited reading comprehension skills.

For shit's sake, you'd think I used the N word.

Over and out.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:08 PM on May 17, 2009


it's really quite simple - when in the united states, call americans, "americans" - when out of the united states, don't call us, we'll call you
posted by pyramid termite at 1:29 PM on May 17, 2009


Just wanted to interrupt this debate to weigh in on the posted video ... it probably just represents a bureaucrat's incredibly lame attempt at being relevant and hip to the youtube, social networking generation. Almost every government site has a goofy page for kids, too.

For a few examples of web-based initiatives funded by my tax dollars that really send my outrage meter off the charts, see: FBI; Dept of Agriculture; Dept of Justice; Dept of Housing & Urban Development; Dept of Labor - it goes on and on, you get the idea. Grrrrr.
posted by madamjujujive at 1:43 PM on May 17, 2009


I suggest that we refer to United States Americans as USians when we do not wish to insult them, and assholes when we do. Honestly, you have to be a fucktard and a half to take offense at "USian." Go away.

Back to being on topic:

That video. Wow. It takes a certain skill to be that bad.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:44 PM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know, the acronym for "United States Americans" - that is, "USAs" - takes even less space than "USian", and considerably less than "asshole" or "fucktard". That is, if this whole thing really is about accuracy and word economy. Although personally, you can refer to my nationality as "European colonial genocidal imperialist Coke-swilling Big Mac-gorging Bible-thumping puritanical running dog swine" for all I care, even if the acronym for that is pretty clumsy.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:07 PM on May 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am insulted by the Lee Greenwood video. "Where at least I know I'm free?"!!!11!!!!

I think the USians, oh sorry, USAa, got that 200 years ago. Next assignment please? Worlds greatest healthcare? Best education?
posted by snsranch at 2:36 PM on May 17, 2009


If it makes you feel better, Lee Greenwood is a Californian.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:43 PM on May 17, 2009


Other acceptable terms are: Statesniks. Unibodies. Usofasians. Southofcanadiansnorthofmexicans. Redwhiteandbloviators. Thatlandistheirlandians. Bannerspanglers. Avuncularsamians. Merkins.
posted by ooga_booga at 3:10 PM on May 17, 2009 [12 favorites]


Bannerspanglers

Fucking love it. Argument solved.
posted by Rock Steady at 3:11 PM on May 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Seconding Bannerspanglers.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:16 PM on May 17, 2009


I believe it was Miss Teen South Carolina who thoughtfully referred to citizens of the United States as "US Americans." (And Juan Cole actually defended her neologism in a thoughtful blog post.)

I could live with "US Americans." Splits the difference nicely. And then we can get back to discussing goofy government videos.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:26 PM on May 17, 2009



What the fuck is this and why does it exist.


That about covers it.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:39 PM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Although I could live with "crackers" too. I wonder what would have happened if I had written "Until you remember that we (crackers) paid for it."
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:45 PM on May 17, 2009


If you use "American" to English-speaking people in Canada to refer to mean "citizens of the USA" they will very frequently correct you, and do so in such a way as to make it clear that they are somewhat offended at your casual assumption that the only "real" country in the American continents is the USofA.

It's true that it is rare for Canadians to call the country "America" and calling it "the States" is much more common up here. But I must be associating with some seriously mellow people because I have never heard anyone take offense at someone else calling an American an American. Teeth? No skin off.
posted by maudlin at 3:45 PM on May 17, 2009


I wonder what would have happened if I had written "Until you remember that we (crackers) paid for it."

You'd have been implying that only white southerners are taxpayers, so in that event you would be beyond a mere racist and somewhere into the territory of the Aryan Nations.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:24 PM on May 17, 2009


"Cracker" is also what my friends used to call an elderly person, regardless of race.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:30 PM on May 17, 2009


It's true that it is rare for Canadians to call the country "America" and calling it "the States" is much more common up here.

the two phrases i remember up in canada were "yanks" - and further east, "the boston states"
posted by pyramid termite at 4:31 PM on May 17, 2009


Ynoxas, I thought I was posting a funny video clip.

You were, until you had 13 other comments in your own thread self-moderating and trying to stir up a controversy. And a few more since then.

In fact, in the first 20 comments, 6 of them were you.

What you are doing is shameful, dishonest, and being a bad steward of your community membership.

Your preposterous "What, me? I'm just posting a silly link" act is insulting. If you are a linguist, then you know both precisely what you are doing, and what the outcome would be.

You should know better. I posit that you do know better, and your actions have been disingenuous.
posted by Ynoxas at 5:12 PM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you use "American" to English-speaking people in Canada to refer to mean "citizens of the USA" they will very frequently correct you, and do so in such a way as to make it clear that they are somewhat offended at your casual assumption that the only "real" country in the American continents is the USofA. So no, it isn't a universally useful word in all English speaking contexts. Is there one?
posted by yoink at 3:18 PM on May 17 [+] [!]


Ah, another visitor from the mirror universe!

'Cause you have that COMPLETELY backwards. Canadians don't want to be called "American" in any way, shape or form, except as the second half of "North American". Most of us do not speak Spanish, and thus do not share the Spanish tradition of referring to all people in the Americas as "American." To Anglophone Canadians (including myself), American = Citizen of the United States and No One Else, while "South American", "Central American," and "North American" are the terms for people residing in the respective regions of the New World.
posted by jb at 5:40 PM on May 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also, as pointed out up thread, Canadians will use Yank or Yankee for all Americans, including Southerners.
posted by jb at 5:51 PM on May 17, 2009


No one I know uses "Yank" any more.

Both yoink and jb are correct: If you use "American" to a Canadian, you will be corrected. And Canadians don't want to be called "American."

In Canada the term "Americans" is often accompanied by the slightest of eye-rolls, particularly when discussing American politics. The USA has some truly ridiculous habits, attributes, and ideas as evinced by its politicians.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:17 PM on May 17, 2009


Ynoxas: fourcheesemac: you are being deceitful and purposefully obtuse. You are attempting to manufacture controversy where there is none, and you are willfully, and actively, obfuscating the truth.

fourcheesemac: Ynoxas, I thought I was posting a funny video clip.

Ynoxas: You were, until you had 13 other comments in your own thread self-moderating and trying to stir up a controversy. And a few more since then. In fact, in the first 20 comments, 6 of them were you. What you are doing is shameful, dishonest, and being a bad steward of your community membership. Your preposterous "What, me? I'm just posting a silly link" act is insulting. If you are a linguist, then you know both precisely what you are doing, and what the outcome would be. You should know better. I posit that you do know better, and your actions have been disingenuous.

Dearest christ, this is tendentious stuff! Who exactly appointed you the arbiter of all that is good and holy?

You should drink some beer, read a book for a while, take a long walk, think things over, and come back here when you can participate in a discussion without being a moralistic, preachy jerk. That's what I do, and it seems to work just fine.
posted by koeselitz at 6:28 PM on May 17, 2009


As an American/USian/Bannerspangler, this whole debate makes me cringe. This is so not helping.
posted by Captain Cardanthian! at 6:50 PM on May 17, 2009


Also, as pointed out up thread, Canadians will use Yank or Yankee for all Americans, including Southerners.

Mormons will use "Gentile" for all non-Mormons, including Jews.

The USA has some truly ridiculous habits, attributes, and ideas as evinced by its politicians.

More of ours are college graduates, though.
posted by oaf at 7:10 PM on May 17, 2009


("College" should read "university" for those of you outside the U.S.)
posted by oaf at 7:10 PM on May 17, 2009


This shit is so far into "Why do they hate us?" territory it's just not funny.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 7:25 PM on May 17, 2009


and the avoidance of "Americans" for "Citizens of the USA" is indeed highly conventional in the circles I run in, which are generally hemispherically conscious ones.

This has got to be the most unintentionally hilarious thing I've ever read on Metafilter.
posted by Cyrano at 7:39 PM on May 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


No one I know uses "Yank" any more.

Yeah, it is a little old fashioned. I think I did when I was a kid, though, and I'm only 30ish.
posted by jb at 8:00 PM on May 17, 2009


wow. horrible photoshopping. horrible voice acting. and what on earth do the most popular baby names have to do with prescription assistance and social security? it made my soul hurt.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 9:20 PM on May 17, 2009


This is simultaneously the best and worst thread of the week.

1) To all the 'hemispherically conscious' out there regarding USians. "Stop trying to make 'fetch' happen."

2) Am I to understand that Canadians don't like it when Americans claim the term Americans all to themselves, but they themselves don't wish to be called Americans? Does that not seem insane to anyone else?

3) I thought the Elvis baby sounded like Mitch Hedberg at a couple of points.

4) LOVED how ethnically diverse the babies were.

5) The babies slipping in the little talking points about Medicare Part D and Social Security are what really made it work as surrealism.
posted by Bonzai at 11:21 PM on May 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Weird thread. People I meet from other continents often have pride in their collectiveness. To have someone proclaim "I'm European/African/Asian!" seems normal and they are happy to acknowledge that although there are cultural differences, they have a lot in common with other nationalities from the same geographic area. But not North Americans (or South, or Central or just American). I don't think I have ever heard anyone call themselves a North American (and certainly not an American if they weren't from the States). I wonder if the fact that citizens of the US have co-opted the continental term has diminished everyone's ability to feel that connection based on geography and has instead emphasised the "otherness" of the nationalities of the Americas.
posted by saucysault at 12:28 AM on May 18, 2009


Am I to understand that Canadians don't like it when Americans claim the term Americans all to themselves, but they themselves don't wish to be called Americans? Does that not seem insane to anyone else?

Months of winter will do that to ya.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:50 AM on May 18, 2009


I wonder if the fact that citizens of the US have co-opted the continental term has diminished everyone's ability to feel that connection based on geography and has instead emphasised the "otherness" of the nationalities of the Americas.

I wonder if it's because the US co-opted the continental term and then despoiled it. It's been an awful long time that Canadians were better off identifying as a Canadian when traveling in foreign countries than to identify as Continental American.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:53 AM on May 18, 2009


I wonder if it's because the US co-opted the continental term and then despoiled it. It's been an awful long time that Canadians were better off identifying as a Canadian when traveling in foreign countries than to identify as Continental American.

SOMEWHERE IN THE WORLD, MANY YEARS AGO:

"Hello there! I saw you sitting alone in this café, and couldn't help noticing you're not from around here, are you?"

"Ha, no, I'm not. This is my first visit to your country. I'm a Continental American."

"WHAT?! You're not from the United States, are you? Because we don't care for ... those people from the United States whose shorter name I can't recall at the moment. Well?"

"Oh! My apologies. Judging by your reaction it seems that those people from the United States have sullied, no, besmirched, no, despoiled the continental term. Which is a shame, for up until this point I have always refered to myself as a Continental American. It is a common practice to do so."

"Really?"

"Yes. We Canadians very often refer to ourselves as Continental Americans. But that I shall do no more! Because of the despoiling."

"Wrought by the Bannerspanglers."

"Yes! Wrought by the- huh?"
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:02 AM on May 18, 2009 [7 favorites]


And in fact, I am going to defend myself on this. Your implication is that I *knowingly* and disingenuously came up with a nominal posting topic so I could sneakily start a debate on "USians" and weigh in heavily in defense of my oh-so-politically correct disdain for my fellow citizens.

That, sir, (and I don't doubt you are a "sir" because no woman would be so obtusely self-righteous) is messed up thinking. I wrote "USians" in my original post *without thinking at all* that anyone would even give a shit what I called "Americans." It's fucking shorthand. It's common on MeFi and elsewhere. That I've felt the pull to post frequently in this thread reflects not my zeal for this argument, but my utter surprise and disappointment that what I thought was a hilarious video worth sharing has instead been yet another occasion for the Self Righteous Squad to take a dump all over anything that moves around here until it's covered in feces.

You think I was trolling for *this* stupid argument? If I am trolling for a fight, you'll know it.

The last thing I am used to seeing on MeFi is Ugly Americanism. But it's all over this thread, and I regret posting it. In fact, I regret continuing to engage with Metafilter at all. It's gone fully down the toilet.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:05 AM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


In fact, I regret continuing to engage with Metafilter at all. It's gone fully down the toilet.

And yet, here you are, fully engaged.
posted by RussHy at 3:03 AM on May 18, 2009


It's not even photoshopping- Effectively what they do is make a 3D model of an image and then animate it so there's some limited head rotation and the eyes and mouth can move. I saw a Japanese tech demo a while back where the face would follow the mouse pointer, there was a woman's face (moderately creepy) and a dog's face which was very creepy because the program inserted a human mouth.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:28 AM on May 18, 2009


The last thing I am used to seeing on MeFi is Ugly Americanism.

Ugly USianism.
posted by dirigibleman at 6:03 AM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


is indeed highly conventional in the circles I run in, which are generally hemispherically conscious ones.

You know who else described things as hemispheric...
posted by electroboy at 6:33 AM on May 18, 2009


It's fucking shorthand. It's common on MeFi and elsewhere.

...and if, when it was commented on, you had said nothing more than "Lighten up, Francis. It's just common shorthand," it probably would have disappeared.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:38 AM on May 18, 2009


Your head is so far up your own ass there's shit pouring out of your mouth.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:50 AM on May 18


That may be true. But that does not somehow insulate you from being a dick and being quite purposeful in what you've been doing here.

I was going to respond to your nasty mefi mail in mail, but you disabled it after you mailed me like a juvenile coward, so therefore I have no choice but to respond here.

Except I'm not going to.

You are unable to even deduce what I am complaining about.

I couldn't care less about USians vs Americans. Honestly. I would say you had an epic fail at understanding your audience if you really thought a niche term used among you and your oh-so-progressive hemispherically conscious (really? Jesus.) crowd was proper usage. You say you are a linguist, but yet you can't even address your audience properly, you can't understand criticism, you can't form cogent arguments, and you can't even have consistent usage even in your own writing.

You are using USian and American completely interchangeably. If they are completely interchangeable, then why use one over the other? And why in God's name would you promote one over the other? You are promoting that USian is the proper usage, but then you yourself continue to use American where you quite clearly mean USian.

So, you can't even decide for yourself which word to use, but yet still feel the imperative to lecture MeFi over correct usage.

And, if it matters, I don't believe you intended to stir up controversy solely over that word. I think it more a happy accident. I do think your choice was purposeful, and then you saw an opportunity in the thread to rekindle the debate, and seized it. That's why you were participating so heavily.

Regardless of your intent, you came off as pompous, condescending, and needlessly pedantic over something that by your own admission and usage is a non-issue.

That's why I say you were being disingenuous. Because you should know better, and I believe that you do, but yet you were still throwing gasoline on the fire as some sort of devil's advocate for the poor overlooked made up word USian. You weren't arguing in good faith. You were stoking the flames, as you've continued to do, despite your own admission that you shouldn't even be participating.

That's what I am criticizing you for. Not over USian vs American, you silly git.

...and if, when it was commented on, you had said nothing more than "Lighten up, Francis. It's just common shorthand," it probably would have disappeared.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:38 AM on May 18


This is true. It was your condescension and your self-appointed status as our instructor that caused my initial criticism.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:25 AM on May 18, 2009 [7 favorites]


Okay, so if Canadians "correct" you when you use the term American, what exactly is the correction?

Also, the United States of America is not the only country in the world containing the phrase "United States". It is just as semantically incorrect to insist that the USA's citizens are "United States-ian" as it is to insist that they are Americans. However, it does so happen that a vast majority of the English *and* non-English speaking world use the term "American" to refer to citizens of the USA.

Wikipedia has a pretty comprehensive article on names for Americans [how's that for an ironic title]. It seems fairly neutral but does try to argue that in Italy, for example, people "may refer to U.S. citizens respectively as états-unien and statunitense, though this is less common". I'd say it's probably laughable to make any kind of argument that this is at all common in Italy. It's probably only slightly more common than USA citizens referring to themselves as USians.

Anyway, if you all must insist on using something other than American, please use the term USAian, as USian ignores all the other "United States" countries that exist in the world.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:51 AM on May 18, 2009


Am I to understand that Canadians don't like it when Americans claim the term Americans all to themselves, but they themselves don't wish to be called Americans? Does that not seem insane to anyone else?

That would be insane, if it were true.

The true story is this: Spanish-speakers use the word "Americanos" to refer to all inhabitants of the Americas; thus they call citizens of the US "Estadounidense". Some Americans who are aware of this practice feel that it should be adopted into English out of respect for the rest of the Americas. This is obviously a bit of a contentious issue, as there are a very large number of residents of the US who are Spanish-speaking.

English Canadians, being Anglo-phones and frankly very ignorant (and ignoring) as a bunch (myself included) about the Hispanic parts of the Americas and Spanish in general (there are relatively few Spanish speakers in Canada, compared to French, Chinese and Italian), use the word "American" to refer to things related to the United States of America only. We don't really care how the Americans work out stuff with the Spanish and Portuguese speaking parts of the New World; all we know is that "American"!= (or include) Canadians.

That said, having moved from Canada to the US and then to Europe, I found myself using the phrase "North American" a great deal, as I found that I had many things in common with other North Americans (really just anglophone Americans, actually - yes, I know Mexico is part of NorthAm, but they don't watch the same tv, eat the same food, or basically live in as similar ways as English Canada and English America), and wished to talk about these similarities to Europeans in a more efficient way than saying "Canadians and Americans" all the time. Being back in the US, I will use "North American" when talking about something that is true in both Canada and the US; most of my American neighbours and colleagues would simply say "American" when talking about the same things, because Canada does not appear on their radar at all and they are simply unaware that we have the same characteristic or issue.

Identity is really all about contrast; you need an "other" to establish the "one". There is no North American identity without a contrast with an other; Europeans have this constant contrast in their faces because the US is a metropole and they are always being confronted with American actions and culture. But Canadians are also always being confronted with America, and while we have a great many similarities, without experience in another place - such as Asia or Europe - to highlight the similarities, we are more likely to focus on our differences. America becomes our "other" - or actually, because we are so very inundated with American media and ideas, we become our own "other", and the American becomes normalized. You can hear this in our politics and cultural discussions, questions about why we don't do something the "normal [aka American] way."
posted by jb at 7:56 AM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]




People I meet from other continents often have pride in their collectiveness. To have someone proclaim "I'm European/African/Asian!" seems normal and they are happy to acknowledge that although there are cultural differences, they have a lot in common with other nationalities from the same geographic area. But not North Americans (or South, or Central or just American). I don't think I have ever heard anyone call themselves a North American (and certainly not an American if they weren't from the States). I wonder if the fact that citizens of the US have co-opted the continental term has diminished everyone's ability to feel that connection based on geography and has instead emphasised the "otherness" of the nationalities of the Americas.
posted by saucysault at 3:28 AM on May 18 [+]


I don't think that it has anything to do with American international relations. Canadians differentiated themselves strongly from Americans way back when America was the "saviour of the free world", and even further back when it was just a big, isolationist country.

I would say that position - both literal and mental - has everything to do with someone's identity. Where do you meet Europeans, Asians and Africans who have strong continental identities? I tend to meet them outside of their continent - that is, in the United States or Canada (or Asians and Africans in Europe). They are in a place where continental differences are in their faces, and thus confronted with how continental similarities can trump mere national differences. Having lived in Europe myself, I was suddenly much more aware of my similarities with other anglo-phone North Americans, Americans just as much as Canadians. Actually, as I was hanging out in the UK with students from all over the world, we also became aware of a strong similarity between what I call "settler-colony-anglophones-who-still-have-a-queen" from Canada, Australia and NZ - we had a great deal in common in our folk ways and in our politics. But there were still things we Canadians shared with Americans that we don't even with our commonwealth kin.

Identity/feelings of kinship can have many faultlines like that. Even with one person, their identity falls cultural lines like neighbourhood, region, ethnicity and/or nationality, continent - and then along ideological lines like religion, politics, candy preference. But how we divide ourselves is so contingent on what sorts of "other"* we are presented with to contrast ourselves to. If most everyone you have ever met was from Toronto, and you are from Toronto, you probably wouldn't have much, if any sense, of yourself as being a "Torontonian" - you would be from Etobicoke, or Scarborough, or (god forbid) North York. But if you leave Toronto, and then you meet someone from Toronto, you feel a sudden kinship with them even if they are from North York, a kinship you wouldn't have felt otherwise.

Location can be mental as well; you don't have to travel physically to find oneself confronted with a new other. I rarely left Canada as a child, but I was very aware of my identity as a Canadian in contrast to Americans because I was immersed in American popular culture. I remember the first time I saw Canadian money in a movie - I gasped in shock! The money was all funny looking, it was blue and red. (For the curious, it was the first X-men - Wolverine was in a Canadian bar and paid with a blue $5 bill). Europeans, Asians and Africans mentally travel to the USA all the time through popular culture, and so gain a continental sense of identity in contrast to the USA, but Canadians rarely travel mentally to Asia, Europe and Africa, and even more rarely to South America, unless they happen to study Spanish and get into Mexican or Central/South American soap operas (which I have heard are just awesome). At the same time, some differences translate to screens (and books and songs) better than others; the differences between Britain and Canada, for example, are very difficult to just get from popular culture, as they are not so much ideological as physical (size of houses, layout of cities, weather and the feeling of the air). I watched a lot of British film before living there, but I didn't really see or understand how it was British as opposed to just people with funny accents until I had lived there. Now I see a street of suburban English houses, and I'm like "that's so the UK - it couldn't be anywhere in Canada or the US." Thus I had very little feeling of "other" when watching British television (other than accent), but having now lived in Britain and in the US, I have a much better sense of what is different there, and what Canadians share with Americans (how we plan cities and suburbs, what our countryside is like, how we relate in stores, what we eat, what our kitchens look like...)

*I'm using other in a very neutral, "not me" way - nothing to do with the discourse on capital O-Otherness in contemporary cultural studies. I think it's a useful neutral concept - the other which is different, not necessarily better or inferior.
posted by jb at 8:30 AM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm still confused as to why Mexcians (citizens of the United States of Mexico or USians) would be paying for this shitty video for the pinche gringos.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:41 AM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Am I to understand that Canadians don't like it when Americans claim the term Americans all to themselves, but they themselves don't wish to be called Americans? Does that not seem insane to anyone else?

That would be insane, if it were true.


One of the great delights of Metafilter discussions is having people tell you that your own experiences never happened because it doesn't suit their argument for them to have done so. I lived in Canada for over seven years, and during those seven years I found that Canadians have very complex feelings about their great neighbour to the south--feelings so complex, indeed, that they do, in fact, end up embroiling many Canadians in contradictory positions. It is certainly true than almost no Canadian will take being called "American" without raising his or her hackles. On the other hand, Canadians are very keen on referring to themselves as "North Americans" (an expression comparatively rarely used by citizens of the US). And they do, frequently--as I can attest from my own experience--express frustration at Yankee arrogance in taking the word "American" as the sole property of citizens of the USA. But given that JB isn't going to believe my personal testimony, let him meditate upon these lyrics by a Canadian band called "Arrogant Worms":

I am not American,
Though I live in North America
Which is part of the Americas
Which should make me an American

Geographically Canadians,
Are certainly Americans
As are Venezuelans,
But not Hawaiians

They're out in the middle of the Ocean
Just like the U.S. Virgin Islands,
They really shouldn't say they are Americans,
Or even virgins

How could two whole continents,
Lose their name to one constituent?
Where were we when the U.S. went,
And took the word American away?

But to be fair to them,
Their other name options,
Like U.S.A.ers or United Statesians,
Were pretty bad

Still I want to be as American,
As the French are European,
Or those in Antarctica are Antarctican
Even if they're just penguins

That leaves us Canadians as Northern North American,
But Alaska’s Norther curse them
We're surrounded by Americans
Americans, Americans!

I just called those U.S.A.ers Americans
A name meant for two continents not just them
For if I said I was American,
People would probably think I came from Maine

Still I think I have a plan,
Let's become Antarctican,
And join up with the penguins
For just like them, we're not American!

Oh no...no Canadian has EVER accused Americans of arrogance for calling themselves Americans. They'd never DREAM of such a thing, would they, JB? Next thing you'll be telling me that no Canadian has ever used the phrase "s/he's actually a Canadian" about some stateside celebrity that you've referred to as an American.
posted by yoink at 9:10 AM on May 18, 2009


Guess what. Americans don't have a chip on their shoulder about what any country in the world calls themselves.

So this whole USians thing just seems like passive-aggressive fight pickin' to me.

yoink if anything the lyrics above seem like whimsical fun and if it's not then I would submit the the author has their own identity issues to deal with that really aren't our (USA) fault.

The point about why using USians to start a conversation seems kind of shitty is because it looks like, most of the time, like someone trying to slip a little condecention into the conversation.

Example: France is a country in EU full of foodies. Those frogs sure like their wine.

Now intention is everything, but if people of a certain bent like to us the term frog to describe a person from France every time France comes up, starts to sound like passive-aggressive axe grinding to me. I think that's what bugs people about the USian thing, it seems axe grindy.

I'm not saying fourcheesemac came in here to grind an axe but I have a hard time believing he or she wasn't aware of the terms condescending connotations and I'd be willing to guess it was an off hand attempt to ingratiate himself(?) with the clucking tut tutting crowd that loves using USians as a put down.

I'm not saying America hasn't earned the ill will, but starting a conversation off with a quarrelous word often used for the purpose, is a good way to alienate people right off the bat.
posted by nola at 9:46 AM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


You'd think all the axe grinding would make it sharper, but it just keeps getting duller and duller.
posted by electroboy at 10:27 AM on May 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think I like "Statesian" as a moniker.

I think some people are batshitinsanely sensitive about "USians." They think it's an insult. How bizarre.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:36 AM on May 18, 2009


On the other hand, Canadians are very keen on referring to themselves as "North Americans" (an expression comparatively rarely used by citizens of the US). And they do, frequently--as I can attest from my own experience--express frustration at Yankee arrogance in taking the word "American" as the sole property of citizens of the USA.

"North American", despite the space, is clearly its own word, with its own distinct meaning from "American," just like "social science" doesn't mean social + science, but a distinct group of academic disciplines which have their own methodologies related to but not dependant on the natural sciences. If you had read on to my subsequent comments, you would have noted that I use the phrase/word "North American" a great deal in situations where my American colleagues use "American," because I wish to include Canadians in the statement.

I apologise if my internet comments have been too generalizing - I have to say that I have never met a Canadian who did object to being excluded from the word "American" (as opposed to "North American"); perhaps this is changing under influence from the Spanish-speaking regions of our continent. But the original statement that I jokingly agreed would be insane was that Canadians, as a rule, objected to the USA use of American - it's certainly not true of Canadians as a rule, though it may be true of some Canadians you have met. It seems that there is not a rule/agreement about this issue among Canadians, but I am very skeptical that the majority object to the use of "American" to refer to USA inhabitants.
posted by jb at 11:13 AM on May 18, 2009


Also, as far as I learned in Canadian geography classes, the Arrogant Worms song is (unlike their "Canada is Big" or "Rocks and Trees") geographically incorrect - there is no continent called "America". There is a continent called "North America", and another called "South America" (and confusing "Central America" and the Caribbean - I think we always divided North from South at the border of Panama and Columbia, but what continent is Aruba part of?) Of course, continents as they are are really social constructions - Europe and Asia are geographically Eurasia. But up in Canada, I have never heard of anyone talk about "America the continent" - sometimes "the Americas", a plural word expressing the continent and many islands of the New World, but not "America" since some guy sailed by in 15-something or other.

(Yes, I realise that the Brits called all of their colonies on the mainland and in the Caribbean "American", but history in Canada is in French until 1783; before 1783, most influential Americans called themselves "Englishmen".)
posted by jb at 11:21 AM on May 18, 2009


USian is insulting to Mexicans.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:24 AM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just to make things more confusing:

Organization of American States (OAS) Chief Seeks Dialogue with Cuba

So, Cuba was expelled from the Organization of American States (OAS), mainly because of pressure from the organization of American States (USA), and now the other American states (Venezuela et al.) seek dialogue with them becuase they really should be a member seeing as how they are technically an American state, though they aren't actually part of either American continent.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:29 AM on May 18, 2009


I'm still confused as to why Mexcians (citizens of the United States of Mexico or USians) would be paying for this shitty video for the pinche gringos.

It was a kiss-and-make-up offer from Fox to Bush in late 07.

And the correct term is "pinche gringo puñeteros," cabrón.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:39 AM on May 18, 2009


Cuba does rest on the North American tectonic plate, though. As does half of Iceland and the eastern tip of Siberia. America is spreading!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:41 AM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Cuba does rest on the North American tectonic plate, though. As does half of Iceland and the eastern tip of Siberia. America is spreading!

Does that mean we should invite Japan to join the OAS and kick out Jamaica?
posted by Pollomacho at 12:11 PM on May 18, 2009


I think some people are batshitinsanely sensitive about "USians." They think it's an insult. How bizarre.

Silly USians.
posted by nola at 12:16 PM on May 18, 2009


Yanks.

(Yes: Fuck you, The South)
posted by Sys Rq at 12:34 PM on May 18, 2009


Amazing. I remember when MeFi was a better place.
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:44 PM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yanks.

I'll show you Yanks!

I remember when MeFi was a better place.

Yeah, back when Matt was here all by himself.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:48 PM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Amazing. I remember when MeFi was a better place.

Yeah, that all ended around March 3, 2006.
posted by electroboy at 12:50 PM on May 18, 2009


(I meant that Yanks remark as a snippy reminder that we Canadians are no innocents Re: the lumping of those who shall not be lumped.)
posted by Sys Rq at 12:56 PM on May 18, 2009


I remember when MeFi was a better place.

Oh boo hoo. You mean you remember when no one called you on your pretentious bullshit.
posted by RussHy at 12:58 PM on May 18, 2009


used among you and your oh-so-progressive hemispherically conscious (really? Jesus.)

Dear Jesus

Allow me to explain the non-ambiguous and grammatically correct expression "hemispherically conscious." On analogy: "nationally conscious," "regionally conscious," "ethnically conscious," etc. Meaning: one is conscious of one's residence in a region that takes up half the globe, frequently referred to as "the Americas." Although in this case, I was more "community conscious," since I was trying to signal awareness that not all MeFites belong to the "we" whose taxes pay for silly US government videos, and some live elsewhere in the Americas

(OK, it's sort of funny because our brains have hemispheres, and are the seat of consciousness, so there's a little pun in there if you dig deep.)

Metafilter: disambiguate at your own risk.

I so fucking regret posting this thread.

And hey, since neologisms are defacto bullshit, let's stop saying "MeFites." "Metafilter members" works fine already. Why bother with a new word? Especially one that only the cool people use?
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:00 PM on May 18, 2009


The term "MeFite" was created because there are other websites called Metafilter with a separate user base who don't appreciate being associated with us?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:07 PM on May 18, 2009


Oh boo hoo. You mean you remember when no one called you on your pretentious bullshit.

No, that's not it. I've gotten used to that. I'm an academic. We call ourselves on our own pretentious bullshit all the time for sport.

I like "pretentious," though. As an insult, it evokes a clarion note of deeply felt insecurity and a certain pride in parochialism. Rather like taking offense at "USian."
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:19 PM on May 18, 2009


You're just jealous of "Bannerspangler".
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:29 PM on May 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


I regret continuing to engage with Metafilter at all.
I remember when MeFi was a better place.
I so fucking regret posting this thread.


Then it's probably time to take a break.
posted by cribcage at 1:32 PM on May 18, 2009


Ynoxas, what koselitz said.

Your head is so far up your own ass there's shit pouring out of your mouth.


What koselitz said was,

You should drink some beer, read a book for a while, take a long walk, think things over, and come back here when you can participate in a discussion without being a moralistic, preachy jerk. That's what I do, and it seems to work just fine.

So, huh.
posted by dirigibleman at 1:44 PM on May 18, 2009


Amazing. I remember when MeFi was a better place.

Seriously way to make your real feelings clear. You really think you're better than "all this" *waves hand at the dirty USians*

I'm really not wanting to come down on you personally but you're kind of being a poster boy for the "WTF America" crowd in here. The whole thing stinks of attitude and that's what people are giving you a hard time for. I'm sure you're a good guy, I'm not wanting to pile on here.

From were I'm sitting it looks kind of simple, some Americans really don't like USians for reasons stated above. You can think it's silly or stupid or whatever. But unless a person is trolling for a fight why use the term? It would have to be used out of ignorance or malice and if malice why shouldn't people get their hackles up.

Look you may not know that saying Bob's sister is a whore will piss him off, but trust me it'll piss Bob off.

Seriously your cool, it's all cool, but thats what's going on here. Ok?
posted by nola at 1:45 PM on May 18, 2009


I have to say that I have never met a Canadian who did object to being excluded from the word "American" (as opposed to "North American")

Well, if by "never met" you mean "never personally knew" then you may be right. But right here in this thread you've met with three Canadians (the Arrogant Worms) who were pretty explicit about it:

Still I want to be as American,
As the French are European,
Or those in Antarctica are Antarctican
Even if they're just penguins

Although, to be clear, Canadian anxiety about the word "American" as I have experienced it tended to take the form of resentment against the arrogance of Americans for having taken the word over more than it took the form of seeking Canadian "inclusion" in the word (in that way rather like homophobes attitude to the word "gay"--they resent the fact that it's meaning has changed, but they don't insist on reclaiming the word to mean simply joyful).
posted by yoink at 1:51 PM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Honestly, you have to be a fucktard and a half to take offense at "USian." Go away.

This has become a bizarre inversion of the typical "PC police" arguments.
posted by dirigibleman at 1:57 PM on May 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


The term "MeFite" was created because there are other websites called Metafilter with a separate user base who don't appreciate being associated with us?

I'm trying to parse that as a question with an answer and failing. "Me"ta-"Fi"lter-ite. Could just as easily have ended up MeFian or MeFier, I suppose. Maybe "-ite" sounded better to the cabel.fnordthereisnocabel

Wikipedia lists a lot of North American countries:
This is an alphabetical list of North American countries, including both sovereign states and dependent territories. This list considers "North America" to be the continent and associated islands north of the Panama-Colombia border, which is the most inclusive definition in common use.
Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Cayman Islands, Clipperton Island, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Greenland, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Isla Aves, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, Montserrat, Navassa Island, Netherlands Antilles, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint-Martin, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Andrés y Providencia, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, United States, United States Virgin Islands
A whole lot of these countries consider themselves "American" countries. And they don't mean "United States American" when they say that.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:07 PM on May 18, 2009


Although, to be clear, Canadian anxiety about the word "American" as I have experienced it tended to take the form of resentment against the arrogance of Americans for having taken the word over

It is very much as if the country of South Africa had co-opted the word "African."
posted by five fresh fish at 2:11 PM on May 18, 2009


I'm trying to parse that as a question with an answer and failing.

We Bannerspanglers refer to that as a "joke". I think there's a Wikipedia article on them, too.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:17 PM on May 18, 2009


right here in this thread you've met with three Canadians (the Arrogant Worms) who were pretty explicit about it

They are a comedy band. This is like taking your musical history advice from Peter Schickele.

Typical Canadian English usage (and really, typical English usage from anywhere) does not consider people from outside the U.S. to be "Americans" unless otherwise specified.
posted by oaf at 2:18 PM on May 18, 2009


A whole lot of these countries consider themselves "American" countries. And they don't mean "United States American" when they say that.

Whoa we should by them a Metafilter account.
posted by nola at 2:29 PM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Allow me to explain the non-ambiguous and grammatically correct expression "hemispherically conscious."

Are you referring to the distinction between the Western Hemisphere—which includes (among other areas) all of Portugal, Iceland, Ireland, Morocco, Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Côte d'Ivoire; and parts of Russia, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali, Algeria, Spain, France, and the United Kingdom—and the Eastern Hemisphere, which includes part of the United States of America?

Good to see that's an unambiguous term, then.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:39 PM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


When I lived in England I commonly found English people who used the word "America" to mean "English-speaking North America", that is, Canada+USA. As in, "I'd like to go to America because I hear New York and Montreal are great cities". Simultaneously, they would use "American" to mean "USian". I don't know any Canadians who don't commonly use "American" to mean "USian". I think the issue here is much more with 'America' than it is with "American".

Look you may not know that saying Bob's sister is a whore will piss him off, but trust me it'll piss Bob off.

Actually, it is nothing like that at all. USian is an ostensibly neutral neologism. "Whore" is an ancient and cross-cultural insult.

It is more like calling Bob's sister a womyn versus a woman - if it pisses Bob off, it casts more light on Bob and his motivations for the linguistic status quo than it does on me, or on his sister. Do you really read "USian" and hear the equivalent of "whore"? Because if you do, maybe you want to be thinking about that some.
posted by Rumple at 3:12 PM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sure boss, what ever you say.
posted by nola at 3:23 PM on May 18, 2009


if it pisses Bob off, it casts more light on Bob and his motivations for the linguistic status quo than it does on me

Maybe. But you're losing sight of the fact that what's at issue in that particular analogy isn't the fact that "whore" or "womyn" pisses off Bob, or why, but rather that you knew it would piss him off and chose to say it anyway.
posted by cribcage at 3:32 PM on May 18, 2009


Other than it being a neologism, why, exactly, do people object to "USian"? Seriously.
posted by Rumple at 3:55 PM on May 18, 2009


I'm going to show how smart I am, by being less clear and harder to understand.
posted by nola at 3:59 PM on May 18, 2009


Other than it being a neologism, why, exactly, do people object to "USian"?

You mean in addition to all the reasons that have already been mentioned in this thread? OK, if those aren't enough, here's another one: Because applying an adjectival ending to an initialism is just ugly. Which sounds better: "a United Nations taskforce" or "a UNian taskforce?"
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:06 PM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


You mean in addition to all the reasons that have already been mentioned in this thread?

You know, I've been keeping up with the thread and I just scanned it again and I still have not seen any argument against it other than of the neologism variety (and I include your "initialism" and nola's "less clear" objections in that category -- neologisms are always less clear and may even be perceived as ugly, at first). Yet, there seem to be emotional arguments for and against this term. I can get the arguments for using it, but I am curious why it touches a nerve in the "against" school of thought. Isn't it completely harmless? If there is a non-neologistic reason upthread then could you point it out. (unless you are playing DevilsAdvocate, of course).
posted by Rumple at 4:14 PM on May 18, 2009


I hate "USian" because it's not a real word and I can't parse how to pronounce it. And really, it's a distinction that (in English) doesn't need to be made. We know who you mean. No one is going to be confused about who you're muttering about when you say "Americans."

But if we really, REALLY need a different word for clarity's sake, I'm all for "Bannerspangler."

If we need a different word because somebody's panties are in a bunch about Bannerspanglery imperialism, well, eff y'all. We may be a bunch of dicks, but we've got nothing on the British, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and Roman Empires in terms of "world conquering" and while we're despoiling the Middle East, we've yet to launch a formal crusade. I think you can probably come up with a better way to express your frustration with the ridonkulous choices our government has made than by creating bullshit words.

(Or maybe not.)

Also: You think YOU'RE pissed off about some of the crap our government has done? Try living here! This whole thing has gone to hell in an oversized Costco handbasket!

Don't mind me, I'll just be over here, spanglering my banner.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:25 PM on May 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


Quiz time:

In the popular (and might I add, hilarious) Canadian television show Talking to Americans, which country was visited?

a) Canada

b) the United States

c) Mexico

d) Ghostbusters 2
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:26 PM on May 18, 2009 [7 favorites]


But you're losing sight of the fact that what's at issue in that particular analogy isn't the fact that "whore" or "womyn" pisses off Bob, or why, but rather that you knew it would piss him off and chose to say it anyway.

It is never time to get over it already. Lord forbid that the reference be stripped of its offense. Why, that just might make it gay!

There's more than one way to successfully claim language. You could try embracing the term for a new national identity, for instance. "Being American" could refer to the Bad Old Days of Bush's term of once again throwing the nation's military weight around like a bull in a china shop. "Being USian" could refer to the New Beginning, where US citizens throw their weight behind the idea of making the country a shining beacon city etcetera.

There are people saying they use the term without a sense of put-down or judgement. Maybe you're missing an opportunity to reclaim the word.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:36 PM on May 18, 2009


and I include your "initialism" and nola's "less clear" objections in that category -- neologisms are always less clear and may even be perceived as ugly, at first

I think your logic is flawed there:

1. "USian" is perceived as uglier and less clear than "American"
2. Neologisms are often perceived as uglier and less clear than the words they replace
3. [Invalid conclusion] Therefore, an objection to a specific neologism as being "ugly" and "less clear" is necessarily due to its being a neologism.

By your logic, no neologism could ever be opposed as "ugly" or "less clear" on its own, independent of being a neologism. If I proposed to replace the word "rumple" with "lauihkljabfiuhyrwejhlfkuhjklanhflasdkjfhfiuvguigderfiuhasdkljhriufshkljhasdfkh" and you objected the latter was uglier and less clear than the former, it should not be an effective counterargument on my part to say that neologisms are always less clear and may even be perceived as ugly, at first.

But to your main question, for one argument already presented in this thread not related to its being a neologism, note above where USian is sometimes intended derogatorily and sometimes perceived derogatorily. (I have no desire to re-hash that debate, as it seems to me all the relevant arguments on both sides have already been stated upthread, but of course you're free to take that up with others if you wish. I only point out that the argument, valid or not, exists; has already appeared in this thread; and appears to be independent of the term being a neologism.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:36 PM on May 18, 2009


"Being American" could refer to the Bad Old Days of Bush's term of once again throwing the nation's military weight around like a bull in a china shop.

Or it could refer to people from the United States, which it does. Seriously, why do you hate Bannerspangler so much? Who died and made you Arbiter of Nationality?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:40 PM on May 18, 2009


Now that I think about it, USian is actually more precise than "American" and therefore it has the potential to be "more clear".

I guess I was looking for where someone said "I am using USian because I want to point out the imperialist or other negative tendencies of the United States" and all I am finding are people projecting that motivation or sentiment onto the USian-users. (Yes there is interest in pople distinguishing Type US Americans from Type Non-US Americans but is it stated to be about a negative impression of the former and not a desire to be unambiguously identified as the latter?). In this respect, it appears to me to be a case of US American sensitivity or even defenisveness vs. actual malicious intent.



-- Todd lauihkljabfiuhyrwejhlfkuhjklanhflasdkjfhfiuvguigderfiuhasdkljhriufshkljhasdfkh
posted by Rumple at 4:52 PM on May 18, 2009


while we're despoiling the Middle East, we've yet to launch a formal crusade

Not so fast.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:54 PM on May 18, 2009


Who died and made you Arbiter of Nationality?

He did on his little fucking Canuck cross made from hockey sticks and on the third day he rose from the dead to eat a shit load of french fries and gravy.

See that's how you start a fight fff, none of this passive-aggressive shit. But you wouldn't understand that being Canadian, would you?

Not really Canadianitst/
posted by nola at 4:55 PM on May 18, 2009


Hey, is this a prescriptivist versus descriptivist linguistics issue? Are we gonna see some costumes pretty soon? Lucha libre?
posted by five fresh fish at 4:57 PM on May 18, 2009


Now that I think about it, USian is actually more precise than "American" and therefore it has the potential to be "more clear".

Hurray! Someone call the President!

Of the USiansers
posted by nola at 4:57 PM on May 18, 2009


Don't you mean the Spangler-in-Chief?
posted by ooga_booga at 5:00 PM on May 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Now that I think about it, USian is actually more precise than "American" and therefore it has the potential to be "more clear".

It would, if "American" wasn't already a practically universally accepted term in the English speaking world for someone from the United States. Try using "USian" in spoken conversation some time and see how "more clear" you've made yourself.

"So this USian guy I know-"

"This what? Houston?"

"No, USian. Yoo-zhun. You know, yoo-ess-ian? As in someone from the US?"

"You mean an American?"

I don't presume to understand the motivations behind "USian". It has a sort of nose-thumbing quality to it, and comes off like a forced meme, but other than that I don't really see the harm in it except for the fact that it's one dumbass clumsy word providing a service that's not really needed. And before you accuse me of being a hypocrite on the forced meme thing because of my repeated use today of "bannerspangler", let me just say - guilty as charged. Bannerspangler wins. Deal.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:02 PM on May 18, 2009


I heard the Spangler-in-Chief wasn't even born in the USA and isn't even a USian.
posted by Rumple at 5:02 PM on May 18, 2009


That's only because he's hemispherically challenged. Don't make fun of him, please.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:06 PM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Those were just rumors spread by his opponent in the last USian election for the Spangler-in-Chief.
posted by nola at 5:08 PM on May 18, 2009


It would, if "American" wasn't already a practically universally accepted term in the English speaking world for someone from the United States.

Your "practically universal" is like "almost unique" - it begs for clarification of the residual, which is what USian provides.

It has a sort of nose-thumbing quality to it

This is exactly what I am hoping to have explicated for me. Why is it heard this way?

Also, it probably has more applicability in print than in oral expression, although the closest analogy I can think of is Xmas, which provoked a "don't take the Christ out of the Mas" reaction similar to you can't take the country out of the continent. Xmas is also ugly and hard to immediately parse how to pronounce, and yet the distinction (to distinguish secular from religious observance of that holiday) serves a purpose that goes beyond semantic, I think.
posted by Rumple at 5:11 PM on May 18, 2009


Google result for "hemispherically conscious".

I'll save you the click. 2 results. One is this thread, the other is a sequential, but not grammatical, match.

So congratulations are in order, you've actually coined a new phrase to show how exceedingly common this all is.

You're hilarious. I've decided you're not a dick, but a brilliant performance artist.

I mean, your rebuttal to being pretentious and condescending is to teach us what hemisphere means?

Brilliant. Bloody brilliant.

Like Weird Al, you're a genius in France.
posted by Ynoxas at 5:13 PM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is exactly what I am hoping to have explicated for me. Why is it heard this way?

Because it suggests that the word "American" (and by extension the people named by it) is insensitive, arrogant and imperialistic. You can argue that those things are true, or that the connotation was not intended, but that's how it is perceived by some.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:19 PM on May 18, 2009


Hmm. Google link broke somehow. Must be the punctuation.

I tried to paste again and it broke again.

Anyway, try it yourself, it's pretty easy. Just Google "hemispherically conscious" with the quotation marks.

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q="hemispherically+conscious"&btnG=Google+Search&aq=f&oq=
posted by Ynoxas at 5:19 PM on May 18, 2009


Your "practically universal" is like "almost unique" - it begs for clarification of the residual, which is what USian provides.

Yeah, I'm not sure about that. Apart from not being able to use it really in spoken communication, people clearly do still wonder why someone would invent a whole new word for something when a word already exists for it. So then you have to talk about that. It seems like a lot of unnecessary work for a word that's trying to provide a service where none is needed, except to those who are offended by the term "American". It doesn't lend itself to clarification as much as confusion.

And I understand the reasoning of "Look, seeing as how there are many different nationalities living in both North and South America, out of respect for them, how about we create a new term for people from the United States?" That's fine. Like I said, use it all you like. I won't correct you although I might tease you. If people really feel they have to use this word, well, that's English. It's flexible. It changes all the time.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:27 PM on May 18, 2009


Because it suggests that the word "American" (and by extension the people named by it) is insensitive, arrogant and imperialistic. You can argue that those things are true, or that the connotation was not intended, but that's how it is perceived by some.

But in and of itself, it doesn't suggest that, does it? It may be heard that way, or percieved that way, and that is what I am interested in -- the mechanism of the perception not the truth value of the perception. Does USian really imply that "American" is imperialistic? If it does, I stand corrected and will have learnt (learned?) something -- because I always took it as a reasonably attempt to make a distinction that some people (mainly, non-USians, true) felt needed to be made.

If we appealed to some kind of principle of least harm, do the desires of people not to be subsumed under "American" defer or trump the distaste of some "Americans" not to be called "USians"?
posted by Rumple at 5:28 PM on May 18, 2009


When I lived in England I commonly found English people who used the word "America" to mean "English-speaking North America", that is, Canada+USA.

Remind me to hang round the Cotswolds saying how pretty the Scottish landscape there is.

Damn, that wouldn't even work; the English don't care if they get called Scots. It only works the other way round. Just like Americans and Canadians.

Anyways, no one in England tried that around me, because they valued not having their ears blistered off by my response.
posted by jb at 5:34 PM on May 18, 2009


It is more like calling Bob's sister a womyn versus a woman - if it pisses Bob off, it casts more light on Bob and his motivations for the linguistic status quo than it does on me, or on his sister.

It would be more accurate to say that if you call Bob's sister a womyn, and someone nearby audibly sighs and says that "womyn" is a bit silly, and you then assert that, no, woman is an incorrect, thoughtless term to use and that the correct term is womyn, that that reflects more about you than it does anyone else.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:42 PM on May 18, 2009


But in and of itself, it doesn't suggest that, does it? It may be heard that way, or percieved that way, and that is what I am interested in -- the mechanism of the perception not the truth value of the perception. Does USian really imply that "American" is imperialistic? ... If we appealed to some kind of principle of least harm, do the desires of people not to be subsumed under "American" defer or trump the distaste of some "Americans" not to be called "USians"?

It can be argued that the invention "USian" itself doesn't suggest that "American" is insensitive, arrogant and imperialistic, but then why the need to appeal to principles in arguing for its use? What principles are being violated by using "American" instead of "USian"?

When someone invents a whole new word for something that already has a word, people naturally are going to ask why it needs replacing. "Accuracy" seems disingenuous, as there really isn't widespread confusion over what is meant by "American". I think there are very clearly principles in play behind the invention, whether it's out of a sense of respect for other people on the American continents or out of the distinction fff talked about upthread (American = Bushite, USian = cool new dude from the US). And it's those principles people are going to quibble over in deciding whether or not to adopt the invention.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:49 PM on May 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Other than it being a neologism, why, exactly, do people object to "USian"? Seriously.

In general, it's at least a little rude to refer to a nation of people, to some of that nation of people, in their native language, by a term other than the one that they (generally) use for themselves.

USian in that sense, as opposed to being just a handy short form, is sort of like, when speaking French to French people, asserting that the name of their nation of people is not "Les Francais" (or whatever the actual term is) but rather "Les Grenouilles." Or, the earlier example of "the Democrat Party." Or, imagine somebody insisting that the right, correct word for Canadians is actually "Canuck" and that "Canadian" is wrong.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:52 PM on May 18, 2009


Now that I think about it, USian is actually more precise than "American"

As noted earlier, the United States of America is not the only "United States" in the world right now, and there have been additional United Stateses in the past.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:57 PM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, what ROU_Xenophobe (one helluva bannerspangler) said.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:01 PM on May 18, 2009


In general, it's at least a little rude to refer to a nation of people, to some of that nation of people, in their native language, by a term other than the one that they (generally) use for themselves.


And yet, there is dissent over the use of "American"" by native English speakers, some of whom are, as you suggest, themselves US American.

Your French example again misses the point. If the French referred to themselves, in French, as 'Les Europeeans" (or whatever) and resisted efforts to call them (in French) "Les Francais" but wanted to be known as "Les Europeans" and they insisted other nations should be known as Allemands, Anglais, etc. then yes, it would be justified to resist that in French. (and grenouilles fails because that is a long standing slur so not at all comparable).

Maybe this discussion is more like the gender thing, where American=USian by default and Human=Male, by default, and what's the problem with that anyway?
posted by Rumple at 6:13 PM on May 18, 2009


And yet, there is dissent over the use of "American"" by native English speakers, some of whom are, as you suggest, themselves US American.

Only in the narrow, technical sense that there is "dissent" about natural selection.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:16 PM on May 18, 2009


Rumple, here are the pieces of evidence for believing USian to have mildly derogatory implications:

-- the source linked by fourcheesemac himself for its definition says it's derogatory;

-- the reasoning behind its invention -- that Americans have arrogated to themselves a term that "should" refer to more people -- coincides with frequently repeated stereotypes of the US and Americans. You know. Piggy.

So. Where's your evidence for the neutrality of the term? That it's not actually "uglyamerican"? I mean, plenty of terms that are understood to be derogatory don't have an insult on their face.
posted by palliser at 6:44 PM on May 18, 2009


Previously
posted by stinkycheese at 9:18 PM on May 18, 2009


Why use "USian" when there's a perfectly unambiguous, commonly used term:
    Gringo
posted by signal at 9:42 PM on May 18, 2009


I use Yank. At least in my experience, it's pretty common in Australia. Another commonly understood reference is to call them Seppos. (Not nearly as commonly used, however).
posted by jacalata at 11:21 PM on May 18, 2009


Maybe this discussion is more like the gender thing, where American=USian by default and Human=Male, by default, and what's the problem with that anyway?

I think the point you're missing here is with changes in nomenclature, the classy thing to do is not tell other people what they're supposed to call themselves, or what the new term for them is. In this case of "man=humanity," no one was telling men that they can't call themselves men anymore, and that the new term for them is "human", but rather, that the term "man" when meaning "humanity" is too narrow and should be broadened to include those who are also human, although not men, by using the already existing word, "humanity". The POV that the USian invention is taking is, "American" is too broad a term when refering to people from the United States, and so we should invent this whole new word when refering to those people, regardless of what they prefer to be called.

I would add that as a northerner, I have no problem being called a Yank, or really anything else. I just appreciate a little honesty in people's motivations behind this whole thing, and "USian" is not about clarity.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:49 AM on May 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


It seems to me that we should be able to do something with "New World" as a generic for citizens of the North and South American continent.

Of course, those citizens of the so-called Old World may find this to be ageist.

/not-ageist.

Or, we could just realize that, while there is no good generic term for the collective citizenry of the North and South American continents, attempting to shoehorn "American" into being this term is wrongheaded - a realization that would obviate the need for made-up terms like "USian" or "hemispherically conscious" (the latter of which doesn't even parse consistent with its intended usage).
posted by namewithoutwords at 5:24 AM on May 19, 2009


In general, it's at least a little rude to refer to a nation of people, to some of that nation of people, in their native language, by a term other than the one that they (generally) use for themselves.

No, it is not at all rude. It is perfectly normal and acceptable not to use their native language. We speak different languages around the world and those languages contain different names for different things, including geographical regions and the people that inhabit them.

Do we call the people that live around Beijing "Chinese" or "Jong Guo Ren?" Do those same people call the people that live around New York "Americans," "USians," or "Mei Guo Ren?"

How about languages closer to English, the prevailant language of this website? Do we call the people around Berlin "German" or "Deutch?" Do we call those folks in Paris "French" or "Francais?" We don't call Mexicans "Mexicanos." We don't call Hungarians "Magyars." We don't call Palestinians "Filisti." We just don't call people by the names that they call themselves as a matter of practice and we don't expect them to call us by the names we call ourselves.

Some places have several names at once. London is in England, on the island of Great Britain, in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. So we could refer to folks there as English, British, wankers, Limeys, UKians, or whatever else you can think of. Likewise people who live in the United States of America are refered to in English as Americans, US citizens, Gringos, those people, USians, Obamaniacs, or simply through the universal sign of greeting for them, the extension of the middle finger.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:30 AM on May 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can't believe people are still arguing about this.

JUST LET IT GO
posted by dunkadunc at 6:11 AM on May 19, 2009


Pollomacho, I think the commenter you're quoting meant something different -- that, when referring to a people in their own native language, you should refer to them the way they refer to themselves. When referring to them in another language, obviously there will be a different term.
posted by palliser at 6:34 AM on May 19, 2009


I can't believe people are still arguing about this.

Really, you're not that new to MetaFilter?

Metafilter: I can't believe people are still arguing about this.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:35 AM on May 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's not an argument, it's a discussion, sheesh.

Thanks Palliser, I am not sure whether to take the urban dictionary seriously or not.

MStPT - the point is, I don't think anyone is asking USians to refer to themselves as USians, unless they want to (natch). As for "what the new term for them is", well, maybe there are non-USian dialects. But you know, if there really is a consensus USian view that they don't want to be called USians, then it surely is incumbent on them to explain why a neutral term derived form the name of their country is somehow inappropriate.

and WTF, I thought you were one of metafilter's own Icelandic cabal
posted by Rumple at 9:07 AM on May 19, 2009


Did you ask African Americans why they didn't want to be referred to as Negroes?
posted by RussHy at 9:14 AM on May 19, 2009


palliser: Rumple, here are the pieces of evidence for believing USian to have mildly derogatory implications…the reasoning behind its invention -- that Americans have arrogated to themselves a term that "should" refer to more people -- coincides with frequently repeated stereotypes of the US and Americans. You know. Piggy.

I'm not trying to stir things up—I'm genuinely interested, so I don't mind continuing: palliser, what should we do with the fact that, historically, it is true that “Americans have arrogated the themselves a term that should refer to more people?” I'm not referring to the last century, which people are free to argue about if they want—I won't even mention my own opinions about this time, as they're irrelevant to my point. What I'm saying is: it is clearly documented that, during the nineteenth century, the sentiment that this entire continent was divinely predetermined to be territory of the USA was wildly popular and inspired some of the greatest uproars this nation has even known. I'm not one of those who will simply and broadly reject the advances this brought—I like this country, and I like where it ended up—but I know enough to be certain that if you went back in time to, say, around 1847 or 1848, you would not have had trouble finding people who claimed that the whole continent belonged to the USA and that the Mexican, the English and the French had absolutely no claim on any of that territory owing to their national and racial inferiority.

Given that the word 'American' has its roots in this history, what is to be done? I'm sorry, but I believe in confronting my history; and while I know 'USians' is a handy dodge that allows us to avoid that confrontation, I've used it myself before because I'm troubled by the implications that I know “American” carries—at least if you think about the history of the term.
posted by koeselitz at 9:22 AM on May 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Another commonly understood reference is to call them Seppos.

I can't imagine why anyone might find that offensive.
posted by electroboy at 9:46 AM on May 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Pollomacho, I think the commenter you're quoting meant something different

I am apparently very stupid. Sorry for the pedantic rant.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:55 AM on May 19, 2009


Let me get this straight. [The] Ukraine can unilaterally declare a change to the grammar of a foreign language, but Americans are wrong about their own native language?
posted by oaf at 10:15 AM on May 19, 2009


if there really is a consensus USian view that they don't want to be called USians, then it surely is incumbent on them to explain why a neutral term derived form the name of their country is somehow inappropriate.

I don't really see that as so. I think "we prefer to be called X" should suffice for most polite parties involved, and won't require any further explanation. Insisting the person explain why they don't want to be called some new term that other people came up for them is a bit rude. "I prefer to be called X" - "Ah, alright, that's cool." as opposed to "I prefer to be called X" - "I think it is incumbent on you to explain why" which is a little dicky.

But yeah. I realize people are going to do it anyway. Knock yourself out.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:50 AM on May 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


palliser, what should we do with the fact that, historically, it is true that “Americans have arrogated the themselves a term that should refer to more people?”

Hey, man, you forgot my scare quotes around "should"! They were important! That's basically all I got here, that what words "should" refer to is an unending, nonsensical game. I don't think the history of a term defines its present implications. Now, today, the use of "American" is in fact neutral, and the use of "USian" isn't. I think "derogatory" is a bit strong, but "ax-grindy" is about right.

I appreciated your historical explanation, and again, I don't think it would change my opinion, and possibly I'm about to get spanked by people who know a lot more about this than me, but isn't the term "American" as applied to US citizens older than manifest destiny? My impression is that this meaning of "American" was in place by the founding of the republic, in the 18th century, but that manifest destiny was a popular concept of the mid-19th century.

(Go ahead, spank me.)
posted by palliser at 12:42 PM on May 19, 2009


palliser: I appreciated your historical explanation, and again, I don't think it would change my opinion, and possibly I'm about to get spanked by people who know a lot more about this than me, but isn't the term "American" as applied to US citizens older than manifest destiny? My impression is that this meaning of "American" was in place by the founding of the republic, in the 18th century, but that manifest destiny was a popular concept of the mid-19th century.

(Go ahead, spank me.)


No spanking needed or even possible; I don't actually know, and I confess that I wondered as I was posting that. I know that there's an interesting thread in the engrossing history 1846: Year Of Decision wherein the author, Bernard DeVoto, discusses the fact that the successful return of Lewis and Clark marked the exact moment when Thomas Jefferson (and later everyone else) began using “The United States of America” as a singular instead of a plural; but that says nothing about whether the word "American" was in use then. My historical sense leans toward saying that people self-identified according to state rather than nation, but my historical sense is notoriously bad.

Hmm. I'll have to check it out tonight.
posted by koeselitz at 3:15 PM on May 19, 2009


I don't really see that as so. I think "we prefer to be called X" should suffice for most polite parties involved, and won't require any further explanation. Insisting the person explain why they don't want to be called some new term that other people came up for them is a bit rude. "I prefer to be called X" - "Ah, alright, that's cool." as opposed to "I prefer to be called X" - "I think it is incumbent on you to explain why" which is a little dicky.

The problem here, though, is that the citizens of the USA are not a monolithic force with one opinion on this matter. Which one of us gets to choose what terminology we use? I personally prefer not to use "American" to describe myself or things from my country. I didn't always feel this way. It wasn't until I traveled through more of "America" (Central & South America) that I realized there were many people who identified as "American" who were not citizens of the USA. Just as citizens of France can identify as French and in a different way also identify as Europeans, people from Peru can identify as Peruvian and also as American. And the kicker is: some people from Peru speak English, sometimes quite fluently. Some of these English speaking people from Peru who identify as both Peruvian and American might be Metafilter users! I personally know Mefites from "The Americas" who come from a country that is not the USA for whom English is not a first language. But you'd never know that from print unless they told you.

If I were in the USA, speaking only with people from the USA, I would probably use the term "American". It is clear, it is what many of us use to describe ourselves. No problem there. But what happens when you expand that group and are now speaking with people from all over the world? Should I continue to use this term which is by definition (if not by intention) exclusionary to people I am speaking with? No, probably not. I would not wish to push my friends outside of the conversation with my choice of language.

Which is all a long way of saying: I prefer not to use "American" to mean "from the USA" in international contexts. This is an international context. My preference is for another term. I like "from the USA", "USian", "Bannerspangler". I am very proud of my country, very patriotic, identify strongly with my nationality. I am not ashamed of my country. I have never lied about being Canadian (come on, really? who does that?). I do not avoid using "American" to be mocking or derisive. Far from it. I avoid it because I wish to not be exclusionary. I wish to be more inclusive. I have never heard of someone using the term "USian" in a derisive manner. I had no idea people would take offense to it until this thread. Now that I know so many people take such offense to it (inexplicably to me, but I'm not going to go questioning your offense), I will try to avoid it now and revert to the longhand "from the USA".

Does that mean I think you have to avoid it? No, knock your socks off. Shine on you crazy American. I'm not about to tell you what to do. Does it mean I'll try to avoid it? Yes, and please don't tell me what I should do, either.
posted by mosessis at 3:58 PM on May 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


There is a continent called "North America", and another called "South America"

Interesting note: this totally depends on where you learned geography. Different regions teach that there are anywhere from four to seven continents.

I really enjoyed the book The Myth of the Continents (review, review), which examines the contemporary North American views on geography.
Much less annoying and pomo than you would expect.
posted by mosessis at 4:13 PM on May 19, 2009


Does that mean I think you have to avoid it? No, knock your socks off. Shine on you crazy American. I'm not about to tell you what to do. Does it mean I'll try to avoid it? Yes, and please don't tell me what I should do, either.

I'd like you to notice that I've repeatedly said in this thread that I'm not insisting on one usage or another either way. Questions were asked, I attempted to answer them. Whatever terminology people feel they need to use, for whatever reason, is fine - it's when people insist on using some invented term when addressing people who have told them, "I would prefer to be called X" that it strikes me as disrespectful at least. I don't think that's a very contentious position to take.

The only other (albeit extremely minor) complaint that I'd add is the neologism be at least something which can be written and spoken. Bannerspangler fits that bill nicely. Just my humble two-hundredths of a dollar.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:54 PM on May 19, 2009


MStPT - Hey, sorry about the "you" implications in the last paragraph of my comment. I absolutely did not intend to address that bit to you, MStPT, but more the general "you" as in "other mefites". I realize now that by leading off with a quote from your comment, it sounds like I'm addressing that last paragraph specifically to you, which was not my intention. I apologize for that. FWIW, your comments have seemed like the most level headed, middle of the road, not strong opinion on the matter yet relevant comments in the thread. I've been glad for that perspective.

I'm still curious about this position, however, which I meant to address in my previous comment (which is why I quoted yours in the first place):

it's when people insist on using some invented term when addressing people who have told them, "I would prefer to be called X" that it strikes me as disrespectful at least.

Who gets to decide what is the proper and respectful thing is? One person from the US says "I would prefer to be called American." One person from the US says "I would prefer to not be called American." One person from Venezuela says "I would prefer that the term 'American' be able to refer to all people from the Americas, because I identify with my continent and as an American, although I am not from the USA." One person from Venezuela doesn't care at all and just wants readily available fresh arepas. So which person's preference do we go with? How can we avoid being disrespectful in this situation? I ask this question honestly and sincerely (and I'm rather hoping you have an answer for it, because this topic has touched off a lot more vitriol than I ever would have expected, and I'm still trying to work through the issues in my head).

As far as pronouncibility, I've always said and heard "you-ess-ian". Although around these parts I'm a-going with Bannerspangler from now on. Much less contentious, apparently.
posted by mosessis at 5:42 PM on May 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


There is a continent called "North America", and another called "South America"

Interesting note: this totally depends on where you learned geography. Different regions teach that there are anywhere from four to seven continents.


Yeah, continents are cultural constructs, but I think that one of the reasons Canadian schools tend to teach the 7 continent model is a) Eurocentrism (only reason to split Europe and Asia), and b) (back on topic) little feeling of commonalty between South and North Americas from a Canadian perspective. We're the only large country in Americas not to have a large Spanish or Portuguese speaking minority or majority, and we never had much colonial/economic interest there. Our primary cultural and economic ties in the New World are with the USA and the Caribbean.
posted by jb at 5:43 PM on May 19, 2009


It's all good, mosessis. Maybe I'm ossicilating between laughing and being off-handed about this non-issue because I have relations in Canada (in Québec, mind you, the Angry Canada).

Who gets to decide what is the proper and respectful thing is?

The way I see it is, if you invent a new term for someone, call them that, and they say "I would rather be called X", the best way to respond is shrug and say "Alright then". Plenty of Americans in this thread feel strongly about USian. I guess in this situation, it's a matter of weighing the pros and cons of insisting on the neologism for whatever reason knowing fully that others are going to be bothered by being called this term. I'm in no place to say one way or the other what the right thing to do there is, but I think it important to have in mind.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:15 PM on May 19, 2009


, it's a matter of weighing the pros and cons of insisting on the neologism for whatever reason knowing fully that others are going to be bothered by being called this term.

Thus far, no one is bothered by Bannerspangler. Much better term.

Or is part of the appeal of USian that it does bother people? I think this is part of it, really. It's like a linguistic wedgie.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:28 PM on May 19, 2009


You know what's so right about Bannerspangler? It's exuberant. And exuberance is a little laughable, yes, and a whole lotta lovable.
posted by palliser at 7:14 PM on May 19, 2009


What mosesis said. That's the truth of it, from outside the bubble.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:40 PM on May 19, 2009


Metafilter: It's like a linguistic wedgie.
posted by Rumple at 7:59 PM on May 19, 2009


Metafilter: It's like a descriptive linguistic wedgie.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:05 PM on May 19, 2009


Or is part of the appeal of USian that it does bother people?

I have used USian in print and in conversation, and never seen or heard a hostile reaction (except for here, obviously). I have heard others use it in conversation and never heard any complaints from people bothered by it. Usually it goes by without any reaction, or if there is a reaction, it's a "USian?" followed by a "from the USA", then an "oh, that makes sense". Conversation continues. Sometimes that person subsequently adopts the term.

I think that's why the overwhelmingly negative reaction here is so baffling to me and a few others. It's been in my circles' lingo for so long with no negative reactions that it's really surprising to see such an uproar over it, especially when I and I believe most of my friends would never mean any disrespect by it.
posted by mosessis at 8:08 PM on May 19, 2009


Self-selecting reaction, you mean. Sample bias.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:41 PM on May 19, 2009


I think that's why the overwhelmingly negative reaction here is so baffling to me and a few others. It's been in my circles' lingo for so long with no negative reactions that it's really surprising to see such an uproar over it, especially when I and I believe most of my friends would never mean any disrespect by it.

And that's the beauty of human individuality. If you click on the "Previously" link stinkycheese posted upthread, you'll see that there was no uniform reaction to the term in 2007, just as there's no uniform reaction to it today. I believe wholeheartedly you don't mean the slightest disrespect in using the term. But now that you've encountered a whole other reaction than you're accustomed, I'd hope that, as a reasonable person, you'd maybe refrain from its use towards those who've said they'd rather not be called such, and instead go by the term they prefer. It's just basic courtesy, and you seem the sort who's aiming for harmony and respect.

For the record, you can put me down in the "Doesn't matter" column.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:14 PM on May 19, 2009


I think Divine_Wino put it best.
posted by nola at 9:32 PM on May 19, 2009


Also I was reading through this old MeTa thread about this very subject (cause I just can't get enough) and read this from five fresh fish which is just to funny to miss.


What do you have against the word Eskimo? Yes, I know it's become stigmatized for spurious reasons up in Canada

Here's what I have against the word "Eskimo": the Inuit don't like it, so instead of being a consummate asshole in their eyes, I choose to use the term they prefer.

It does not surprise me that Americans continue to use the word "Eskimo."


posted by five fresh fish


cognitive dissonance much?
posted by nola at 9:56 PM on May 19, 2009


And the cognitive dissonance would be because "Americans" are an indigenous people? A distinct culture with a long history of quasi-nationhood? What a ridiculous comparison.

I'd hope that, as a reasonable person, you'd maybe refrain from its use towards those who've said they'd rather not be called such, and instead go by the term they prefer. It's just basic courtesy, and you seem the sort who's aiming for harmony and respect.

I'd think a reasonable person, having seen that citizens of nations of the Americas have been known to call themselves Americans, and having seen that no one is meaning ill intent in using "Bannerspangler" or "USian", would Get Over It Already.

I'm not saying don't call yourself American. Go right ahead. But for the sake of your own pride, quit self-trolling. People are obviously not using "USian" to piss on you. Quit treating it like they are.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:25 PM on May 19, 2009


And the cognitive dissonance would be because "Americans" are an indigenous people? A distinct culture with a long history of quasi-nationhood? What a ridiculous comparison.

fff, please. You know damn well what the cognitive dissonance is in that statement. You correctly defend the Inuit's right to insist on being called Inuit because that's what they call themselves and wish to be called. Why you choose not to apply the same logic to Americans has nothing to do with Americans being an indigenous people or not.

I'd think a reasonable person, having seen that citizens of nations of the Americas have been known to call themselves Americans, and having seen that no one is meaning ill intent in using "Bannerspangler" or "USian", would Get Over It Already.

In other words, you're going to insist on being a dick, and foist a term upon people who've been pretty polite in asking that you not use it to refer to them. Got it.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:40 PM on May 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hm. Let's see if I can put that in a less shouty fashion.

To say "I would not like to be called Y, and prefer to be called X" is not an unreasonable request by any means. Telling those who make this request "No, I'm going to insist on calling you Y" is sort unnecessarily obstinate, especially when compounded with such additional observations as they are "batshitinsanely sensitive", that they are "fucktards" who need to "go away" and that they need to "get over it". It kind of reflects poorly on you and seems entirely unnecessary.

But the choice is yours how you behave towards other people. Just a suggestion.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:24 AM on May 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ugh. Word arguments—not the fun kind, the excruciating kind, where people get snippy and stay snippy over mere vernacular, kinda like this one—get so tiresome after a while.

Okay, I've linked this video at least four times in mefi before, but it's useful every time we start arguing about words; it really brings things back to reality:
There's a different group to get pissed off at you in this country for everything you're not supposed to say. Can't say fruit, can't say faggot, can't say queer, can't say nancy boy, can't say pansy. Can't say nigger, boogie, jig, jigaboo, skinhead, jungle bunny, moolie, moolinyon, or schvatzit. Can't say yid, heeb, zeed, kike, mackey, dago, guinea, wop, ginzo, greaser, greaseball, spic, beaner, oye, tiger, P.R., mick, donkey, turkey, limey, frog, squarehead, kraut, jerry, hun, chink, jap, nip, slope, slopehead, zip, zipperhead, gook... There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of those words in and of themselves. They're only words. It's the context that counts. It's the user. It's the intention behind the words that makes them good or bad. The words are completely neutral. The words are innocent. I get tired of people talking about bad words and bad language. Bullshit! It's the context that makes them good or bad -- the context that makes them good or bad. For instance, you take the word "nigger." There is absolutely nothing wrong with the word "nigger" in and of itself. It's the racist asshole who's using it that you ought to be concerned about. We don't care when Richard Pryer or Eddie Murphy say it. Why? Because we know they're not racist -- they're niggers! Context! Context—we don't mind their context because we know they're black. Hey, I know I'm whitey, the blue-eyed devil, paddy-o, fay gray boy, honkey, mother-fucker myself. Don't bother my ass. Their only words. You can't be afraid of words that speak the truth, even if it's an unpleasant truth, like the fact that there's a bigot and a racist in every living room and on every street corner in this country. -George Carlin
posted by koeselitz at 12:26 AM on May 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


I understand and for the most part agree with Carlin there, but for me, it's not so much about the word itself; it's about how a person responds to the perfectly reaonable request, "Hey, don't call me X". That's really it. One response is "Oh, alright." Another response is being told you're the one with the problem.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:15 AM on May 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


What's funnier about fff's comment in the earlier thread is that the reason Americans continue to use "Eskimo" is that the native Alaskans are not all Inuit and would not want to be called, as a group, "Inuit." They prefer "Eskimo."

Call everyone consummate assholes first; ask questions later.
posted by palliser at 5:57 AM on May 20, 2009


Oh and re "USian"--is there any compact term for "citizen of the USA" that is not ambiguous and not taken to be offensive by some?

"US citizen." And if your first instinctual response is to complain that that's too long, I would note that it has no more characters than "Australian," "Ecuadorian," Guatemalan," "Lithuanian," "Nicaraguan," "Panamanian," or "Venezuelan," and fewer characters than "Azerbaijani," "New Zealander," or "South African."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:56 AM on May 20, 2009


Oh and re "USian"--is there any compact term for "citizen of the USA" that is not ambiguous and not taken to be offensive by some?

"US citizen."


What about people that live here but aren't citizens?
posted by Pollomacho at 7:03 AM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


People are obviously not using "USian" to piss on you. Quit treating it like they are.

Except that you are. There have been several Americans saying "Hey, this is a stupid term, I'd really rather you didn't use it." and your response has been "EFF YOU! I'm not calling you 'Americans' you stupid USians!"

Feels like pee to me.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:17 AM on May 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


What about people that live here but aren't citizens?

Anti-Dobbsians?
posted by oaf at 7:18 AM on May 20, 2009


"US resident." OR "US resident non-citizen" if you mean only the latter. (And I'll note that other demonyms are often ambiguous about whether they refer to citizens or residents, so those seeking to avoid ambiguity ought to prefer "US citizen" or "US resident," as appropriate, over "USian.")
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:20 AM on May 20, 2009


Don't USisan and American imply the collective rather than specify only US Citizens?
posted by Pollomacho at 7:48 AM on May 20, 2009


Except that you are. There have been several Americans saying "Hey, this is a stupid term, I'd really rather you didn't use it." and your response has been "EFF YOU! I'm not calling you 'Americans' you stupid USians!"

Agreed. Every time this word is mentioned, member from the group it refers to ask people to stop using it. Every time. So it's not like y'all have been fucking missing it. Stop using the word. It's derogatory, it pisses people off you all know it, and you're doing it intentionally. Stop it.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:51 AM on May 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


You know damn well what the cognitive dissonance is in that statement. You correctly defend the Inuit's right to insist on being called Inuit because that's what they call themselves and wish to be called. Why you choose not to apply the same logic to Americans has nothing to do with Americans being an indigenous people or not.

I do want to apply the same logic to Americans. A number of nations use the term "American." Only one nation wants exclusive use of that term.

In fact, it's not even one nation, just a few shouty people who have such a bug up their ass that every time the term "USian" happens to get dropped on MeFi, they go completely off the deep end. Way off the deep end even after the poster clarified that it was not intended to be insulting.

You have harassed fourcheesemac into disabling his account. Are you dumbfucks proud of that? Is "USian" so loaded with meaning for you that are going to continue to savage people into leaving MeFi?

What's funnier about fff's comment in the earlier thread is that the reason Americans continue to use "Eskimo" is that the native Alaskans are not all Inuit and would not want to be called, as a group, "Inuit." They prefer "Eskimo."

I don't for a moment believe that Americans use "Eskimo" out of politeness. Your average mainlander US American knows nothing about Alaska's natives, and certainly nothing about the people's preferred name.

It might come as a surprise to you, but up here in Canada we heard an awful lot about what the Inuit want to be called, and not a thing about what the Alaskan Yupik peoples had to say about it.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:06 AM on May 20, 2009


Way off the deep end even after the poster clarified that it was not intended to be insulting.

If it's not meant to be insulting, then stop using it when someone asks you not to use it. Duh. After that, it is insulting.

You have harassed fourcheesemac into disabling his account. Are you dumbfucks proud of that? Is "USian" so loaded with meaning for you that are going to continue to savage people into leaving MeFi?

I'm not savaging anyone into anything. If the word is so loaded with meaning, why don't you just STOP USING IT? That would stop the argument entirely. Anyone can leave MetaFilter for any reason at any time. I feel no personal responsibility for "chasing someone away." People have certainly left for dumber reasons in the past and if this is such a big deal, perhaps you could prevent the argument entirely by dropping your insistence on using a term that the people describe by said term have time and time again objected to.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:12 AM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


You have harassed fourcheesemac into disabling his account. Are you dumbfucks proud of that? Is "USian" so loaded with meaning for you that are going to continue to savage people into leaving MeFi?

It's just his MeMail, he appears unsavaged otherwise. And if a user had left because of your insistence on USian over American, would you accuse yourself of savagery? Internet savagery!
posted by gladly at 8:13 AM on May 20, 2009


A number of nations use the term "American." Only one nation wants exclusive use of that term.

In typical English usage, the demonym "American" refers to inhabitants of what country?
posted by oaf at 8:41 AM on May 20, 2009


Only one nation wants exclusive use of that term.

NO, WE DON'T. Not one person in this thread, nor in any American/USian debate thread that I can recall on MetaFilter, has suggested that "American" cannot also be used to refer to inhabitants of North and South America generally, in addition to referring to citizens and/or residents of the United States of America, with the usage in any particular instance being determined by context. (Just like, oh, nearly every other word in the English language has multiple possible meanings that, in particular instances, must be determined by context.) No one here has demanded that anyone stop using "American" in the sense of definitions (1) or (2) at m-w.com, only that definition (3) is also a legitimate usage of the term.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:59 AM on May 20, 2009


Not one person in this thread, nor in any American/USian debate thread that I can recall on MetaFilter, has suggested that "American" cannot also be used to refer to inhabitants of North and South America generally

Oh, hello. My name is Canada. Stop ignoring me. Kthx.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:25 AM on May 20, 2009


ok - this is what you do

walk into just about any bar in the american midwest and insist that the patrons should not be calling themselves americans

case closed

i'm an american

usian is one of those squirrely words people make up when they're trying to be clever - i don't consider it offensive, nor do i consider it important enough to get in a pissing match about

neither is "omg, people from country x are americans, too" - especially when many people from "country x" are doing all they can to come here and be "americans"

one great thing about americans? most of us have lives
posted by pyramid termite at 9:52 AM on May 20, 2009


It might come as a surprise to you, but up here in Canada we heard an awful lot about what the Inuit want to be called, and not a thing about what the Alaskan Yupik peoples had to say about it.

Exactly! You were in utter ignorance about Alaskan natives, yet took it upon yourself to call Americans "consummate assholes" for referring to them as Eskimos. Hint: the correct follow-up here is some form of "whoops" and contains no mention of "fucktards."
posted by palliser at 11:04 AM on May 20, 2009


Spannerbanglin' Ameritards?
posted by Rumple at 12:05 PM on May 20, 2009


Hey, the first spoonerism of the thread! Sweet.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:07 PM on May 20, 2009


Oh, hello. My name is Canada. Stop ignoring me. Kthx.

Did you guys hear something? It sounded like blackflies or maybe a distant loon call. No? I must be hearing things again.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:33 PM on May 20, 2009


These are all comments MSTPT has made in this thread:

I'd like you to notice that I've repeatedly said in this thread that I'm not insisting on one usage or another either way.

Whatever terminology people feel they need to use, for whatever reason, is fine.

I'm in no place to say one way or the other what the right thing to do (is)

For the record, you can put me down in the "Doesn't matter" column.


Hilarious. If it really doesn't matter to you, maybe you should stop posting in this thread? You're at almost two dozen comments as it stands.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:00 PM on May 20, 2009


ok - this is what you do

walk into just about any bar in the american midwest and insist that the patrons should not be calling themselves americans


I'll go one better, walk into any bar in Canada and ask them where you are. Walk into any bar in Mexico or any bar in South America and ask them where you are.

If anyone in any of those bars looks up at you and says America, I'll buy you a fat goose.


Stop acting like this is an issue that weighs on the hearts and minds of the people of Canada, or the people of U.S.A. or the people of Mexico or Venezuela or anywhere else.

This is your private war which you and maybe a handful of people in the world care about.
No one wants your help fixing this non-problem. It's one of the handful of times I'd lay money that damn near everyone in Canada, America, and Mexico would agree on something. We're not stealing the word "America" from Mexico any more than Canada is stealing oxygen from us.

You quixotic worry-worts.
posted by nola at 1:10 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


You seem to be confused, so let me give you a condensed version, stinkycheese:

Being called USian doesn't matter to me. What does matter to me is the principle of "if People X say they want to be called X and not Y, calling them X is probably the way to go, instead of insisting on calling them Y." People kindly asked questions, I tried to kindly answer them. Hope that pulls things into focus for you, if you were genuinely confused and not just disingenuously cherry-picking.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:13 PM on May 20, 2009


I'd say you seem to be confused. Way more confused than anyone else in this thread by quite a considerable distance.

And nola, the beauty of this is that it's glaringly simple: just look at a map. No need to ask anyone at any bars anywhere.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:15 PM on May 20, 2009


MStPT has not just asserted their lack of caring for its own sake, but has used that as a platform to comment on the objective merits of the term "USian" which I, for one, appreciate.

Would "Unitards" be an acceptable compromise?
posted by Rumple at 1:16 PM on May 20, 2009


People kindly asked questions, I tried to kindly answer them.

*rolls eyes*

You threw a slow-motion hissy fit here, and then tried to have it both ways by swearing up and down 'oh, but I don't really care, doesn't matter to me'. I'd have a lot more respect for your position if you just said flat-out, "it drives me crazy to see usian used as a word and I want it to stop right now". That would've been honest at least.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:17 PM on May 20, 2009


I'd say you seem to be confused. Way more confused than anyone else in this thread by quite a considerable distance.

And why's that, exactly? Because I think it's common courtesy that if someone tells you, "Hey, don't call me X" that a person should respond "Alright" instead of "No, I will call you Y, and you are a batshitinsanely sensitive fucktard who needs to get over it already for insisting otherwise"?

I think it's a pretty simple dynamic here. Call me whatever you like. But if someone tells you "don't call me that", insisting on calling them that anyway is at least rude.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:18 PM on May 20, 2009


And why's that, exactly?

Because you're talking out of both sides of your mouth, to put it politely.

Let's make a deal - if I ever meet you personally, I won't call you, the individual who has expressed this desire not to be referred to as a "usian", a usian. OK? Otherwise, you're being prescriptive despite your innumerable claims to the contrary.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:25 PM on May 20, 2009


swearing up and down 'oh, but I don't really care, doesn't matter to me'

Do read those comments again. Whether you call me USian, American, or anything else under the sun doesn't matter to me, personally. At all. That isn't my issue. What does matter to me is how people treat each other, and that's what I've been talking about in here. And I think you probably know this already.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:25 PM on May 20, 2009


What does matter to me is how people treat each other, and that's what I've been talking about in here.

And yet, and yet...
posted by stinkycheese at 1:26 PM on May 20, 2009


The thing is this discussion has evolved into "won't anyone think of the other 'Americans' that are upset that the USA calls themselves America. We should come up with a name for that place. I know lets call it USian"
Because it's about all those people that would call themselves Americans if only they could, but those ding dand USians just helped thmeselves to it without even asking.

But you're right you could look at a map to find out, and you may notice that "America" the country, isn't taken by anyone but the United States of *drumroll* America!

But lets go on pretending this is about being accurate and fair.
posted by nola at 1:26 PM on May 20, 2009


Let's make a deal - if I ever meet you personally, I won't call you, the individual who has expressed this desire not to be referred to as a "usian", a usian. OK?

Can you show me where in this thread I've said I don't want to be called USian? You seem to be doing a lot of projecting. Or you having trouble understanding a really simple concept. Let me make it simpler:

What does not matter to me: What you call me.

What does matter to me: That there are people insisting on calling others Y, when those people have said they want to be called X.

Hope that clears it up for you.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:29 PM on May 20, 2009


I'd have a lot more respect for your position if you just said flat-out, "it drives me crazy to see usian used as a word and I want it to stop right now" "I have some kind of axe to grind with Americans and this will do." That would've been honest at least.
posted by nola at 1:30 PM on May 20, 2009


It's talking out of both sides of your mouth again, but like you said, I think you know that.

I'm going to go walk in the sunshine now.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:31 PM on May 20, 2009


Enjoy the walk fellow American.
posted by nola at 1:33 PM on May 20, 2009


It's talking out of both sides of your mouth again

It's a shame you insist on being disingenuous, saying I said things I demonstrably did not say. And that you can't seem to grasp the very simple concept of courtesy I've been talking about here. Ah well. Enjoy your sunshine.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:36 PM on May 20, 2009


Enjoy the walk fellow American.

Oooo, that is low.
posted by palliser at 1:50 PM on May 20, 2009


There is no population in the geographic regions of North America, Central America, or South America that refer to themselves, in English or in their native tongue, as "Americans".

Even our enemies, such as the Germans and Japanese in WWII, as well as the Koreans, the Vietnamese, the Russians, and the current various and sundry terrorist cells, referred to us as either "The United States" or "America".

Now, as has been discussed, neither of those phrases are unique, but yet they uniquely describe one nation on earth to 99.9% of everyone's satisfaction except either perhaps cartographers and/or socially maladjusted linguists.

Anyone pretending this is anything but a manufactured controversy is arguing in bad faith.

That was my argument with fourcheesemac, and my argument with any remaining advocates for "USian".

I don't care about the word, in fact I'd be delighted if we were to actually become known as the Bannerspanglers. I think Stephen Colbert should start using it tonight.

What I care about is the deceit and disingenuous nature of the debate.

People here are lying. As I showed above, fourcheesemac actually seemed to have coined a new fucking phrase of "hemispherically conscious" in his attempt to try to display how common and pedestrian all this is. Do you not get the irony?

You guys are not just fools and pedants, you are liars, tricksters, and disloyal members of the community.

This controversy exists nowhere except in the minds of those promoting it. It is completely manufactured. It is not valid.
posted by Ynoxas at 1:58 PM on May 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


Teach the USian controversy, dude.
posted by oaf at 5:10 PM on May 20, 2009


You guys are not just fools and pedants, you are liars, tricksters, and disloyal members of the community.

Wow. "disloyal". McCarthyize much? I am happy to call you an "American", but leave you to imagine what, if any, associations that brings with it in my mind.
posted by Rumple at 6:22 PM on May 20, 2009


People here are lying.

Wow, Ynoxas, that's pretty strong and, in one case that I specifically know about (me), completely untrue. I've read this whole thread and I'm still not sure why you think 4cm was trolling from the get go. Like I said above:

I had no idea people would take offense to it until this thread. Now that I know so many people take such offense to it (inexplicably to me, but I'm not going to go questioning your offense), I will try to avoid it now and revert to the longhand "from the USA".

Also: You guys are not just fools and pedants, you are liars, tricksters, and disloyal members of the community.

This is a bit too far, I think.
posted by mosessis at 6:56 PM on May 20, 2009


You guys are not just fools and pedants, you are liars, tricksters, and disloyal members of the community.

The community? Of what, Metafilter? WTF? For using a word?

This controversy exists nowhere except in the minds of those promoting it. It is completely manufactured. It is not valid.

What controversy? The word was used in an FPP, the OP has since bent over backwards to assuage those who were outraged, and life goes on.

As to "usian", you may be horrified to discover it has a healthy life outside this website. If you do a Google search for usian -bolt, you get some 26,000 results. That's a lot of nowhere.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:47 PM on May 20, 2009


Well I guess the up shot of it is that we are silly for caring about what people call us, and you're silly for sticking around for 4 days to make sure we understand.

You can collect your coat in the hall, thanks for coming.
posted by nola at 8:18 PM on May 20, 2009


If you do a Google search for usian -bolt, you get some 26,000 results.

if you do one for american, you get 1,320,000,000 results
posted by pyramid termite at 8:36 PM on May 20, 2009


You can collect your coat in the hall, thanks for coming.

Just to be clear nola, you are asserting that metafilter is an American place and non-Americans are guests at metafilter who can be asked to leave?
posted by Rumple at 8:56 PM on May 20, 2009


*facepalm*

Just to be clear, no.
posted by nola at 9:21 PM on May 20, 2009


I'm a little (a little) calmer than I was when I made my previous statement, so maybe I can explain.

1. In Spanish, "americanos" has a specific meaning. In English, "Americans" has a different specific meaning. It is NOT culturally insensitive to respect the difference in meaning between the similar words in the different languages. It IS culturally insensitive to refuse to do so.

2. In almost (but admittedly not all) contexts in which I've seen the non-word "USian" pop-up, it has been used as a way to tar all citizens of the U.S. with the same brush as for the actions of the U.S. government. As this term started to boil and fester during the Bush years, it should be readily apparent that a good number of MeFites would take offense to such an implied generalization.

3. Even if #2 is entirely of my own imagining, then the term is still a too-cute-by-half way of denying people of their own term of national identity.

4. Even if #1-3 are invalid, it is clearly offensive to many people here and serves no actual purpose, so why not just stop it?

Thank you?
posted by Navelgazer at 12:42 AM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ynoxas has ... a flare for hyperbole. I wouldn't screw the outrage dial up to 11 just yet. I think most people who object to being called "USian" don't care how and where you bandy the word around otherwise, and those who like "USian" have, for the most part, said they'll refrain from using it towards those who don't like it. I think that puts us in a decent place as far as this non-issue goes. Speaking for myself, I'll go so far as to say that while I sorta shrug at whatever anyone wants to call me, I do think everyone deserves respect, and I presume it's been clear enough that what I was trying to do here was defend the respect others were asking for (surprise, not everyone works towards their own self-interests all the time).

So can we stop turning this tiresome millwheel, please? It looks like everyone on all sides of this thing would rather drop it, and I can't say I object to that. Here, have some lightning striking the Seattle Space Needle.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:02 AM on May 21, 2009


Timely graffiti from the bathroom:

"I love America more than any other country in this world, and for exactly this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually." - James Baldwin
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:46 AM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Every time I go to town,
Boys keep kickin' my dog around.
Makes no difference if he is a hound.
Gotta quit kickin' my dog around.
posted by RussHy at 11:09 AM on May 21, 2009


Just to be clear nola, you are asserting that metafilter is an American place and non-Americans are guests at metafilter who can be asked to leave?

I know nola defended himself already, but I wanted to add that I think what he was saying is that if everyone thinks this is so silly, we should all just leave the thread.

I appreciated your contributions here, Rumple, and I think everyone who read them understood that you were genuinely skeptical as to any negative connotation to "USian" and were trying to see where that viewpoint came from.

Bannerspangler Pie, anyone? It's a Karo-syrup and condensed-milk base, with chunks of Snickers bars suspended, in a graham-cracker crust. One serving is 1/4 of pie.
posted by palliser at 11:44 AM on May 21, 2009


Pffft. Everyone knows that one serving of Bannerspangler Pie is ONE PIE.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:48 AM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm sticking with traditional apple pie.
posted by RussHy at 1:21 PM on May 21, 2009


WHAT THAT DIDN'T SOUND GOOD TO YOU?
posted by palliser at 2:07 PM on May 21, 2009


Nothing is as Amerikkkan as apple pie.

j/k
posted by Rumple at 2:28 PM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Eat crow USians.
posted by stinkycheese at 6:22 PM on May 21, 2009


That'd be Brits you're thinking of, stinkycheese:
Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye.
Four and twenty blackbirds,
Baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened,
The birds began to sing;
Wasn't that a dainty dish,
To set before the king?
posted by five fresh fish at 6:33 PM on May 21, 2009


Day 6, all that remains are a few holdouts who in spite of the claim that noone really cares and it's not a big deal and just get over it, and yes you did no I didn't; continue like Olympians to return each day at the breaking of the dawn to get in one more shot.

I myself rose early this morning in preparation for todays nit flicking contest, but I damaged my wrist while jerking off and had to take a bench.

Some tried to show a brave face, trying hard to still give a shit, some broke down completely. Mostly the whole thing had just been a bust. The post which had been about an amusing PSA had turned into a full time (for some) slap fight.

I couldn't help blaming myself, I had done my share of the slapping. It had gotten ugly once with fourcheesemac claiming to have dark occult powers that he would use if things went to far.
Ynoxas pulled the head off a ckicken and was given a warning. oaf stole peanut-brittle and was sent to jail. Rumple made some headway but then was beaten back by a ladies sub-committee. stinkycheese got to much sun and had to be rushed to the hospital for treatment.

What a sticky slow and pointless climb it's been. But I think we've all come away from the experience dumber resentful suspicious and confused.
posted by nola at 9:26 AM on May 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'd like to take this opportunity to trot out a neologism of my own - WEESI (Western-European English Speaking Isles). I would prefer all future references to the UK and Ireland to use this term, instead of the British Isles.

Wait, I'm sorry, was that meant to be less or more offensive?
posted by Deathalicious at 9:40 AM on May 22, 2009


[metatalk or go for a walk, pls.]
posted by jessamyn at 11:02 AM on May 22, 2009


Seems like some recent comments (not by me) have disappeared. Or did I just get too much sun?
posted by stinkycheese at 1:25 PM on May 22, 2009


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