As American As Duct Tape, Brass Knuckles and Cole Slaw
May 17, 2016 1:30 AM   Subscribe

From "American Mountains" to "American Conditions", language maven Arika Okrent (previously) looks at what some of what other countries, languages and cultures slap the label "American" onto.
posted by oneswellfoop (68 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
I can confirm cocina americana (and puño americano/ brass knuckles and ensalada americana/ coleslaw), but I've never seen duct tape in the wild so I don't know about cinta americana.

OTOH, salsa americana/ american sauce (not actually named after America in the original French) is the one you put on steamed mussels.
posted by sukeban at 1:40 AM on May 17, 2016


They missed out filet américain, the Belgian version of steak tartare which I imagine must have freaked out some American visitors over the years.
posted by Mocata at 2:03 AM on May 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


In belgium they make sandwiches with a spread called "americain prepare" which consists of a foul blend of sardines, tabasco, and raw ground beef because everything is terrible and man was born to sorrow. "filet americain" is a patty of raw ground beef served with capers and onions and sometimes a raw egg because toxoplasmosis and salmonella ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and their "american sauce" is like off-brand thousand island dressing for dipping fries in.

on preview, what Mocata said
posted by logicpunk at 2:09 AM on May 17, 2016 [9 favorites]


I'm sure there are a lot more examples; even the comments to the original article had some. In order to save you from reading the comments, spam and all, here are the highlights (accuracy not guaranteed):
"Sliced bread is still called pan amerikano in the Philippines."
"An "American Sale" in Austria is a sale that features 30% 40% 50% off. (And there's a pizzeria in the next town over that sells "Pizza Americana" topped with ketchup, mayonnaise, corn and a fried egg o_0 )"
"In continental Europe, "American pizza" usually refers to the doughy deep-dish style, regardless of toppings, as opposed to thin and crispy regular (Italian) pizza."
"In Portugal, and (I think) also in Spain and Italy, we have "café americano" (american coffe). As the word "café" always stands for an espresso, if you want it with more water and in a large cup, you should ask for an "americano". We also have a "sande americana" or "american sandwich", which has ham,cheese, lettuce, tomato, fried egg, and (of course) mayo."
"Also (in France) we have - Le quart d'heure américain (American quarter of an hour), a time in a party, where girls have to ask boys for a dance. - Le Steak américain, a variable sandwich recipe, typically : baguette bread, beef patty, tomato, lettuce, cheese, fries, flattened and heated in a press grill."
"American Applause in Spain is the slow (ironic) clap."
"Also in Spain, an "Americana" or "chaqueta Americana" is what in the U.S. might be called a "sport coat"; an informal, two-button, lapelled jacket that doesn't have matching pants"
"In Finnish, we usually use word "jenkki", derived from yankee / yank, NOT derogatory. And it's not about the North states but the whole country. "Jenkkihymy" (american smile) is a really big, white-toothed smile. "Jenkkisiili" (american crew cut, literally "yank hedgehog"), means a very short military crew haircut. "Jenkkisänky" (american bed) is the high bed where there are two sets of mattresses on top of each other. Word "jenkki" alone usually means an American car. And the most popular chewing gum brand in Finland is called, naturally, Jenkki :)"
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:22 AM on May 17, 2016 [14 favorites]


The Italians go one further: they even named the idea of an espresso watered down with hot water an Americano, after being faced, shortly after WW2, with an influx of GIs unable to handle real coffee.
posted by acb at 2:24 AM on May 17, 2016 [7 favorites]


I guess nuit américaine doesn't count.

Can't think of anything from Greek, except for an "American bar", always untranslated, originating in a classic 1960's comedy. It's used in the sense of a relaxed morals / disorganized situation, as in this place is turning into an American bar.
posted by Dr Dracator at 3:01 AM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


It wasn't in the article so I have to ask here... when I studied abroad in Sheffield, the local shop had these candies called American wine gums and I never bought them to figure out what they were. Google tells me wine gums are similar to gum drops. So what was up with the American part...? Were they just repackaged American gum drops?
posted by mostly vowels at 3:02 AM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


So what was up with the American part...?

Maybe a warning that the red ones taste cherry, rather than the proper berry taste? :-)
posted by effbot at 3:06 AM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Frites Americaine = French Fries
posted by blue_beetle at 3:06 AM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


mostly vowels: Were they American wine gums of American Hard Gums? The latter are a staple in British sweet shops, and wiki says they are indeed rebadged gum drops (search for hard gums in that page).
posted by biffa at 3:08 AM on May 17, 2016


I can confirm the dutch use of "Amerikaanse toestanden". That one regularly crops up during lunch at work.
posted by Pendragon at 3:18 AM on May 17, 2016


In the UK and Ireland we tend to slap the word "American" on products better labeled "super fattening" even if these products have never, ever appeared in the US or are not very American.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:19 AM on May 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


Much to their chagrin, Canadians are considered to be 'American' in most of Europe..
posted by Bartonius at 4:28 AM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


4. AMERIKANSKIE GORKI // "AMERICAN MOUNTAINS"
In Russian, roller coasters are known as amerikanskie gorki, or “American mountains.” Interestingly, in most of the Romance languages they are known as “Russian mountains.”


Yes, well, that's because...
posted by Thorzdad at 4:58 AM on May 17, 2016 [8 favorites]


In Chile, "andar a lo gringo" means to not wear underwear.
posted by signal at 5:04 AM on May 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


Italians will call the sweet potato "patata americana".
posted by peeedro at 5:09 AM on May 17, 2016


4. AMERIKANSKIE GORKI // "AMERICAN MOUNTAINS"
In Russian, roller coasters are known as amerikanskie gorki, or “American mountains.” Interestingly, in most of the Romance languages they are known as “Russian mountains.”


This one kind of reminds me how the English used to call syphillis "The French disease", while the French called it "The English disease".
posted by briank at 5:17 AM on May 17, 2016 [9 favorites]


Nice to see that American Dog made the list ...

We also call weak coffee "American," leading to locals saying, "I'm the American" when the waitress brings out the order. And yes, I always correct whomever I'm sitting with. "No, I'm the American. You're drinking piss-weak coffee."
posted by oheso at 5:18 AM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


The khao pad American served in Thailand is rarely found in American Thai restaurants. The rice is fried with ketchup or tomato sauce, and might be mixed with raisins and peas. It is served with some combination of fried chicken, bacon, hot dogs, ham, and croutons.

how is this not a trendy food truck yet? (you can hold the raisins and peas on mine, though)
posted by sallybrown at 5:20 AM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


There was a question on Ask MetaFilter about this some time back.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:25 AM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've never seen duct tape in the wild so I don't know about cinta americana.

Duct tape is probably the one thing mentioned here, aside from watered-down coffee, that is ubiquitous in America.
posted by Foosnark at 5:42 AM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


American love, like Coke in green glass bottles ... they don't make it anymore.
posted by Grangousier at 5:49 AM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


In a similar fashion:

In Japan, Super Mario Brothers 2 was a direct sequel of Super Mario Brothers with weird subversive anti-player features added. What is known as Super Mario Brothers 2 in America is reworking of the game Doki Doki Panic, a game based on a Japanese TV show. Eventually this reworked version came back to Japan as "Super Mario USA"

Likewise, the simplified RPG Final Fantasty Mystic Quest was called Final Fantasy USA in Japan, because as everyone knows American gamers just aren't as hardcore as their Japanese counterparts.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:52 AM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]




My favorite bit of weird disconnected foreign Americana is Vermont Curry. It is huge in Japan.
posted by srboisvert at 6:06 AM on May 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


In India we call sweet corn American corn to distinguish it from the starchy, less-sweet variety that was more commonly consumed twenty years ago.

We also call crispy fried noodles with vegetables/meat and sauce on top American chop suey.
posted by peacheater at 6:10 AM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


This one kind of reminds me how the English used to call syphillis "The French disease", while the French called it "The English disease".

I'd go with the French on this since St. George is the patron saint of England and also the patron saint of herpes, leprosy, skin diseases and syphilis.
posted by srboisvert at 6:10 AM on May 17, 2016


Much to their chagrin, Canadians are considered to be 'American' in most of Europe..

Well, "American" cheese (and Kraft macaroni and cheese) were both invented in Canada.
posted by Bee'sWing at 6:12 AM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


My favorite bit of weird disconnected foreign Americana is Vermont Curry. It is huge in Japan.

Is Vermont known for its apples? I thought that “Vermont curry” is katsu curry with apples as an ingredient, hence the reference to the exotic Occident.
posted by acb at 6:18 AM on May 17, 2016


~My favorite bit of weird disconnected foreign Americana is Vermont Curry. It is huge in Japan.

~Is Vermont known for its apples? I thought that “Vermont curry” is katsu curry with apples as an ingredient, hence the reference to the exotic Occident.


OMG. When I was grocery shopping last Saturday, I was in the "International" aisle and noticed two different packages of Vermont Curry! I'd never heard of or seen such a thing and I really had a hard time reconciling those two words in such close proximity to each other. I didn't even try to imagine what it might taste like, for fear of my head exploding all over the udon and fish sauce.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:24 AM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


peacheater: "We also call crispy fried noodles with vegetables/meat and sauce on top American chop suey."

Don't get us started on that.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:30 AM on May 17, 2016


I've heard "la sauce Américaine" used to describe ketchup.
posted by exogenous at 6:36 AM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Don't get us started on that.

It's different from what's called American chop suey in the US though.
posted by peacheater at 6:46 AM on May 17, 2016


Much to their chagrin, Canadians are considered to be 'American' in most of Europe..

For revenge you can refer to the British as European. It pisses off both the Brits and the Continentals.
posted by srboisvert at 6:47 AM on May 17, 2016 [10 favorites]


I can confirm the dutch use of "Amerikaanse toestanden".
Yes, seconded. But I've never heard of an Amerikaanse fuif.

Interestingly, neither meaning of 'Dutch oven' is known here in the Low Lands.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:56 AM on May 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


Calling the British Europeans does not piss off Continental Europeans at all. We just think 'Yes, and... ?'
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:58 AM on May 17, 2016


The Dutch get the worst of this sort of thing with "Dutch wife". wtf?
posted by paper chromatographologist at 7:04 AM on May 17, 2016


Our Dutch uncles and Dutch wives and Dutch courage and so on are all gifts to us English speakers from the Anglo-Dutch Wars and those countries' ongoing maritime rivalry surrounding said wars. Our English forebearers, being grumpy about all the warring, slapped "Dutch" perjoratively on everything they disliked for a while.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:18 AM on May 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


The manga Bakuon!! just referred to an "American Car Wash", which you can see here. If you don't want to look, it's a cute girl in a bikini who covers herself with soap and then rubs her body all over her motorcycle.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:33 AM on May 17, 2016


"filet americain" is a patty of raw ground beef served with capers and onions and sometimes a raw egg because toxoplasmosis and salmonella

Among other things.
posted by TedW at 7:53 AM on May 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


"filet americain" is a patty of raw ground beef served with capers and onions and sometimes a raw egg because toxoplasmosis and salmonella

Hey, in Paris that's steak tartare! When I lived and worked in Paris (more than five years), I ate it regularly, with no ill effects. I guess the French/European beef, capers, onions, raw eggs, were safer then the American.
posted by Mister Bijou at 8:13 AM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


I guess the French/European beef, capers, onions, raw eggs, were safer then the American.

Except for all that Mad Cow Disease stuff, which didn't happen in the US.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:30 AM on May 17, 2016


I may make some steak tartare tonight, just to show you folks it can be done n the US too. The hard part is usually finding quail eggs. Maybe if I'm lucky I can get a Taenia saginata out of the deal like the guy in my link and lose a little weight.
posted by TedW at 9:02 AM on May 17, 2016


I'm Afraid of Americans
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:15 AM on May 17, 2016


Italians will call the sweet potato "patata americana".

wait, where do they think all other potatoes come from?
posted by poffin boffin at 9:58 AM on May 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


Canadians are considered to be 'American' in most of Europe.

Really? My discreet inquiries reveal that people actually know the difference, although they may not care as much as we'd like.
posted by sneebler at 10:00 AM on May 17, 2016


Cool American Doritos.
posted by themanwho at 10:04 AM on May 17, 2016


It always amuses me when I see the label American slapped on to something as European as apple pie, by US Americans. No one outside of the US thinks of apple pie as American; after all, it's been common in many European countries for centuries.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:02 AM on May 17, 2016


Well when we say "as American as applejack" the conversation gets super awkward.

(Apple farms were an important part of proving up your homestead site as the Northwest Territory was settled, so they get a privileged place in our national mythology. But yeah, mostly they made alcoholic cider and applejack, not apple pies or dessert apples.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:32 AM on May 17, 2016


Mister Bijou: "Hey, in Paris that's steak tartare!"

I think the difference between steak tartare and filet americaine is that the beef in the former is ground pretty much like for hamburger (like this) whereas for the latter, the beef is ground much finer, almost into a spreadable paste (more like this). Granted, it's a slight distinction, and Google seems to treat filet americaine as close enough to steak tartare to show them both on the same image search page.
posted by mhum at 11:36 AM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've heard "la sauce Américaine" used to describe ketchup.

Heh, around the office we say 'murica sauce to mean ranch dressing.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:41 AM on May 17, 2016


I've always liked to refer to ranch dressing as "Wisconsin salsa"
posted by Hlewagast at 12:15 PM on May 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


In Rome, an "americana" (full name cazzuola americana) is a rectangular ("square") trowel used by builders.
posted by progosk at 2:41 PM on May 17, 2016


Oh, and the masculine "americano" is a typical Milanese (and IBA-sanctioned) cocktail, of course; I've heard the name used in France, too (with an accent on the final "o").
posted by progosk at 3:37 PM on May 17, 2016


Also: in cinematography, here, a "piano americano" is a medium shot, from the knees up.
posted by progosk at 3:44 PM on May 17, 2016


(They're coming to me slowly...)

Still in cinematography: an "americana" is a kind of scaffolding trellis to hang stage lights from.
posted by progosk at 3:58 PM on May 17, 2016


wait, where do they think all other potatoes come from?

From Europe, just like the potatoes in America.

(well, sweet potatoes aren't actually potatoes, so they're probably american in the same sense as "american cheese", but that's just a detail)
posted by effbot at 5:52 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Dutch get the worst of this sort of thing with "Dutch wife". wtf?

But then you get the best of it with Dutch Baby! Who doesn't love delicious fancy-pants-pancakes?
posted by FatherDagon at 6:44 PM on May 17, 2016


From Europe, just like the potatoes in America.

while you're reading wikipedia u could check out the potato article i guess
posted by poffin boffin at 9:42 PM on May 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


while you're reading wikipedia u could check out the potato article i guess

Did you try that yourself?
posted by effbot at 2:22 AM on May 18, 2016


So half of these "American" foods sound totally disgusting.

American fried rice: fried with ketchup or tomato sauce. May contain hotdogs. Bleh.
Raw beef? Gross

In belgium they make sandwiches with a spread called "americain prepare" which consists of a foul blend of sardines, tabasco, and raw ground beef Eewww.

Or maybe I'm just being very American by being picky.
posted by LizBoBiz at 1:10 PM on May 18, 2016


effbot: "Did you try that yourself?"

Yes. "The potato was first domesticated in the region of modern-day southern Peru and extreme northwestern Bolivia[7] between 8000 and 5000 BC.[8]"

So not quite "America" but "the Americas". Certainly not Europe, unless Peru is nomadic.

acb: "I thought that “Vermont curry” is katsu curry with apples as an ingredient, hence the reference to the exotic Occident."

Not katsu curry, just regular Japanese curry.

Thorzdad: "I didn't even try to imagine what it might taste like, for fear of my head exploding all over the udon and fish sauce."

Tastes like straightforward Japanese curry, just milder than most other brands. While it may have apples, it certainly doesn't have enough that you can actually taste them.
posted by Bugbread at 9:41 PM on June 1, 2016


Well, this thread is about the USA, not the americas, right? (there's a US flag in the fine article). In the US, proper cultivation began with Scottish and Irish immigrants, who brought their favourite food with them (which they had gotten from England, who got them from Spain, who'd picked them up in south america). The first major US cultivar, the Russet Burbank, is based on an Irish potato.

Of course, if you follow the links back to the origin you'll end up in Peru sooner or later, but humanity has always named food (and many other things) based on where they got them from, not where they were first discovered or invented.
posted by effbot at 5:14 AM on June 2, 2016


Except the question was "where do they think all the other potatoes come from". So you're saying that Europeans consider all potato cultivars other than the sweet potato to have come from Europe? That seems...unlikely. Possible, of course, but unlikely.
posted by Bugbread at 6:47 AM on June 2, 2016


(Also, and I missed this when I initially responded, the question was about where Italians think the other potatoes come from, not where other potatoes are actually from. Which makes Wikipedia not so useful, unfortunately.)
posted by Bugbread at 6:49 AM on June 2, 2016


I think the issue is that, like in english, patata dulce can mean sweet potato or yam, so patata americana is the way to say definitely a sweet potato and not a yam.
posted by peeedro at 8:04 AM on June 2, 2016


It's beans, guys, not potatoes we overthink, here.
posted by progosk at 1:29 PM on June 2, 2016


if you follow the links back to the origin you'll end up in Peru sooner or later

Most potatoes consumed in the world today can be traced back to Chile.
posted by signal at 8:27 PM on June 5, 2016


« Older Are we there yet?   |   Caramel sugar Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments