This word doesn’t technically exist in the English language, as it does in Spanish: estadounidense. When asked in English, I say I’m from “The States”. I just prefer to avoid using the word American, as I realize it irritates some folk. When people refer to me (and any person pale of skin from a foreign land) as gringa, I don’t love it either. They may not understand why, as they say they use it con cariño. I recognize this, so I choose not to get pissed off. Still, when you know something bothers someone, why not avoid it if there are other options? A student asked me the other day if people from the US refer to themselves as American out of egotism. Egotism? What does this mean? Well, we are all Americans – from Chile to Canada. This is very true, but there is a catch – a trick of the language, or rather, a hole in the language. I posit that egotism it is not, but the simple availability of terms. I asked him, do you call yourself Chilean, while you are also American? Yes. Are you South American? I can accept that term, too. What about Latin American or Latino? Both work just fine. That’s a lot of options.

A pointed out a linguistic conundrum. The nation usually referred to as Mexico is officially titled The United States of Mexico (although there has been talk of late to simplifying that to only “Mexico”). Could Mexicans get offended by the use of the term Unitedstatesian? They could if they wanted to. It is part of their country title after all. But what about The United States of America, it can’t shorten it’s name to America without angering people? The difficulty is America is the name for three continents as well. One can be Asian, and more specifically Korean or Thai. One can be American, but more specifically South or Latin American, and even more to the point Chilean, Argentinian, Colombian etc. Whilst my choice is to be an American from North America, unlike a Mexican or Canadian from North America.

Within South, Central and North America, we are all Americans. Some of us get other fun place names, whereas some of ours are redundant. It’s not egotism, it’s what’s on offer.


One response »

  1. You hit the nail on the head here, I think! Always have this problem when I am traveling in South America! Always difficult to know how to label myself, because you’re right, there is a hole in the language.

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