Usage of the word "America"

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For people from English-speaking countries, “America” universally means the USA. For people from Spanish-speaking countries, “America” universally means North and South America. That’s all there is to it.

The fact that USA citizens refer themselves as American and USA as America doesn’t make it correct. It’s a weird, blind, ethnocentric way of speaking.

Not long time ago I read here an “American” writing “Americas”. I was happily surprised.

We do it because it was a simple way to be distinguish ourselves from the the English. The English and the Americans, dichotomy achieved. It’s also just an abbreviation from “the United States of America”.

Others do it as well, using the name of a location to represent the whole country and its people. Romans weren’t all from the city of Rome, Mexicans aren’t all from Mexico city and Taiwanese aren’t all from Taiuan, which was the name for Tainan city. It’s just in the case of the US, the location name we went with encompasses a larger area.

OK. But it’s still a very bad name to chose, specially for an international audience. You have to agree that it’s at least funny to tell Mexicans, Canadians, Latinamerican, Brazilians, etc… that YOU are the Americans and the others… well, they are not.

Anyway, we already had enough offtopic (for the moment).

I don’t think Canadians have a problem with it, like Hok said, that’s just how it is in English.

I’d also like to point out at the time when people in the U.S. began referring to themselves as Americans, it was the only independent nation on the Americas.

Even if Canadians don’t have a problem with that… how about the other Americans that do have a problem with it? They are as American as the USA citizens. Again, it’s a case of “my country is the center of the World”, with the special circumstance that some other people around the World think the same, thanks to Hollywood.

I want the recommend button back and recommend my posts in this thread.

I’ve never heard of a Canadianianian having a problem with it.
There is, however, a special way of saying it that richly imbues the term with equal measures of disdain, condescension, and boredom.

Everyone else just calls them Septics, AFAIK.

  1. The Economist, a British paper: “…the deal brokered by America, Russia, China and European powers…”

  2. The Australian: “Despite America’s varied gun laws, which differ state by state…”

  3. The Sunday Times of South Africa: “America’s department of agriculture only allows genetically modified soybeans, corn, alfalfa, papaya, canola, cotton, sugar beets and summer squash…”

  4. Globe and Mail of Canada: “Sixty-three per cent of Americans now believe same-sex relationships are morally acceptable…”

  5. The Times of India: “…fresh selling of the American currency…”

  6. Even Amandala of Belize says: “. This weekend alone, there were four murders, including a double murder of two Americans…”

What do these have in common? It is clear that in English-speaking countries, the word America points to the USA. You may not like it, you may not think it’s fair, but that’s the fact. When native English speakers say the word America or Americans, they are pointing to a country and its citizens, not a continent. (By the way, we would never say Americans because in the Anglosphere, there is no single continent called America, so we would either say North Americans or South Americans.)

When I speak Spanish, I will respect the hispanohablante viewpoint that “americano” can refer to anyone from Canada to Chile. When you speak English, you should also accept the Anglosphere worldview that “America” is a country. That is simply the cultural norm in the English-speaking world.

Again, I do know that it’s commonly used. That’s exactly my problem, that’s it’s commonly used, when it’s obviously a very bad choice. And no, I don’t have to accept a term that is flawed and comes directly from the USA egocentrism. If there’s no proper demonym in English for USA citizens, that’s so bad, but it’s not my fault. You guys better look for one. Following your logic I propose Yankee, for it’s a very extended term that everybody understands and knows.

And to me to use “American” as demonym for the USA citizens is not very different from saying that Spain is somewhere in Mexico, a believe that is not that uncommon among many English speakers.

You insist America = USA is “obviously a very bad choice.” If I insist that America = North and South America “is obviously a very bad choice,” where does that leave us? Two competing subjective opinions, with absolutely no basis in anything. Hence, useless arguments. Neither you nor I get to decide what is “good” and what is “bad.” Instead, let’s look at the facts.

Fact: Native English speakers agree that “American” typically refers to people from the USA. Fact: Native Spanish speakers agree that “americano” typically refers to someone from North or South America. That’s all there is to it, and any further argument is simply subjective and not based on solid logic.

PS, I provided lots and lots of proof that the “American” is commonly used worldwide to refer to… Americans, and you respond with you don’t believe that’s the case. Then you counter with it is “not uncommon” for English speakers to think Spain is in Mexico, based on… what exactly?


I used to have a cat that was the laziest creature this side of a ring-tailed sloth. He could hardly be bothered to move from the living room to the backyard, never mind hunting down a rodent in the garden. His attitude was, “Please. That shit is beneath me.” And at first, we thought something was wrong with him; we questioned his general malaise and lethargy. But after several trips to the vet and the gauntlet of tests, they came to a conclusion: The cat was simply lazy as shit. He wasn’t compelled to do anything, so why should he?

Being an advocacy of laziness and an animal lover in general, I was like, “Right on, kid. Do your thing.” However, my girlfriend would spend a certain amount of time every day trying to engage him in physical activity. Would he chase a rolling ball? Nuh-uh. Jump up on the counter if coaxed by a long, thin moving object? No chance. Up and down from the bed was the extent of his gymnastic aspirations. The only thing she could get him to do was this idiosyncratic, half-assed, limp, idle pawing at a ball of yarn that she would imploringly force upon him: “Come on, Chimpy! Catch the string! It’s coming to get you!” My girlfriend was cute as a button, by the way. And she meant well.

But the very best part of the whole ruse was in pestering the cat, of course, and I’ve never forgotten the look on his face, as he lay flush on his side, vaguely lifting his paw to swat at the yarn, having a second thought, and quitting in mid-paw stroke. He would look over at me and I could hear him thinking out loud, with a genuine scowl on his mug, “Can you please do something about this, dude? This chick is killing me with the ball of yarn gag.” It was the deepest and most real definition of ennui I had ever seen or felt – until now.

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That’s some good stuff super lucky is smoking. Where can I get some?

My argument is pretty easy to understand: “America” refers to North and South America, the “Americas”, which is a name that comes from Spanish language, not from English. Because of this, I find it at least pretentious and egocentric the use of “American” only for USA citizens. Of course, because USA has have (and still has) a big importance in the international politics, and because all the USA movies, the term is now wide spread. But not logical, and not correct, for there are many other people living in North or South America that are not USA citizens. Is that that difficult to understand? May be it’s my poor English… To you this might be a useless argument. I fail to see why this argument is not valid, even more than your “in English we use American for X”.

No, I used logic. There are two continents that are called North America and South America, hence to use “American” only for USA citizens is far from being accurate and fair to the other Americans who live in North America or South America.

Sorry, either I didn’t express myself correctly or you didn’t read me carefully. Where did I say that I don’t believe that that’s the most common use of “American”? I DO know that it’s commonly used for that, BUT I insist that it’s misused for USA citizens only because of the reasons explained above: egocentrism, oversimplification and movies. That’s all.

America refers mainly to people of the United States “in actual practice”. The other peoples from the Americas refer to themselves usually as Argentinian, Canadian, Mexicans, Brazilians, etc , etc.

Just like “Asian” tends to refer to East Asians and NOT to Philippinos or Malaysians or Thai people . Although it should.

I don’t usually refer myself as European, although I am and when asked so my answer is yes.

Yes and no. Because 中國 was not the name that Spanish gave to an entire continent (by them) and after that Han used only for referring the Han people.

You mean Italian? :unamused:

Alright, Amerigo Vespuci was Italian. But the name Americo, the one used for naming America, is Spanish pronunciation. Clear now?