Colombian, Costa Rican, Mexican, United Statesian...

Liberia Travel Blog

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I met my first Travbuddy friend last weekend! It was fun to meet someone new and be a hostess in my current hometown. I also had a few worldly, intelligent conversations (although there will surely be more in the future, Bren!), which got the wheels turning in my head once again about all sorts of things revolving around war, peace and cultural understanding.

In somewhat related news, I walked home from class with a student the other day, and after I grudgingly and awkwardly had to explain to him what "getting laid" means (he heard a girl from the US say it at a New Years party...), he confessed to me that he loved meeting new people and talking to foreigners in English (especially people from the United States, and especially girls who talk about getting laid, I assume), but one of the things he hates most is the answers he gets when he asks people where they're from or what nationality they are.

I immediately knew what he was referring to, as I have heard others from Latin American countries lament about the erroneous use of the term "American." In Chile, a waiter asked a girl I was with where she was from and when she responded, "America," he looked at her blankly and said, "Duh, I am too," which was absolutely accurate. The term American, as we may need to be reminded, refers to people from any place between the Beaufort Sea and the southern tip of Patagonia, and perhaps elsewhere. It's somewhat of a grey area. We "Americans" (and by that I clearly mean people from the US) need to be more conscious of our fellow Americans whether they hail from Chile, Canada, Peru, Costa Rica or anywhere in between.

In Spanish, there is an appropriate adjective, "estadounidense" that means "a person from the United States." Therefore, when I'm asked what my nationality is in Spanish, I have no problem saying "Soy estadounidense." After getting used to saying it that way, however, I'm more aware of how culturally insensitive it seems to call myself American in English, when Ticos, Nicas, Argentinos and Canadians are American as well. There's no reason that I'm aware of that the word United Statesian should not exist in English. This imperfection of language only adds to the perception of Americans as ethnocentric.

For this reason, I propose to add the word "United Statesian" to the English language. Not only is it more politically correct, but it just makes sense. The country is called The United States of America, after all, and I'm pretty sure there is no other country in the world called the United States of Africa or the United States of Antarctica. Incorporating this word into the English language would avoid a lot of cultural misunderstandings, so if anyone who works for Merriam-Webster or Cambridge is reading this, please do take it into consideration. In the meantime, I'm going to incorporate it into my vocabulary and hope that is catches on.
vila says:
This was interesting to read, Lindsay. The term 'Americans' always kinda pinched in my ears. I have a BA in English and do translations, and that makes me look deeper into the meaning of words, kind of an occupational hazard :) Your word-construction nails it, I just had a little trouble pronouncing it, came out rustling :)
Great thing you're doing there! I was thinking myself of doing some volunteering in CR, am still researching, hope it'll work out.
Cheers from Croatia!
Posted on: Jan 15, 2010
lindsaypo says:
Yes, but that refers to Canadians too! That's why United Statesian should be a word.
Posted on: Jan 13, 2010
mpoll4 says:
What about Gringa or Gringo. Or is that derogatory?
Posted on: Jan 13, 2010
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