|Question: If someone from England is English, someone from Germany is German and someone from Italy is Italian, what do you call someone from the USA?
Forfeits: USAian/American/ Yankee/ c*@t!/ Absolute F^$£%@*$±!
Answer: There is no agreed proper demonym in English for people from the USA. United Statesian is awkward in English, but it exists in Spanish (estadounidense) and occasionally in German (Vereinigten Staatler). US-American is another option, and is the dominant demonym in German (US-Amerikaner). Latin Americans (who are the most affected by the USA's appropriation of American) also have yanqui (Yankee) and the euphemism norteamericano (North American, which itself conflates the USA and Canada). Yankee (little Jan) was probably first used in reference to the Dutch.
demonym or gentilic is a word that denotes the members of a people or the inhabitants of a place. Often the name of a people's language is the same as the demonym. Some places, particularly smaller cities and towns, may not have an established demonym for their residents; toponymists have a particular challenge in researching these.
The most likely source is the Dutch name Janke, meaning “little Jan” or “little John,” a nickname that dates back to the 1680s. So it actually refers to someone who's Dutch not American. Perhaps because it was used as the name of pirates, the name Yankee came to be used as a term of contempt. It was used this way in the 1750s by General James Wolfe, the British general who secured British domination of North America by defeating the French at Quebec. The name may have been applied to New Englanders as an extension of an original use referring to Dutch settlers living along the Hudson River. Whatever the reason, Yankee is first recorded in 1765 as a name for an inhabitant of New England. The first recorded use of the term by the British to refer to Americans in general appears in the 1780s, in a letter by Lord Horatio Nelson, no less. Around the same time it began to be abbreviated to Yank. During the American Revolution, American soldiers adopted this term of derision as a term of national pride. The derisive use nonetheless remained alive and even intensified in the South during the Civil War, when it referred not to all Americans but to those loyal to the Union. Now the term carries less emotion—except of course for baseball fans.
English speakers commonly use American to refer to the United States only. In the United Kingdom, the use of 'US' as an adjective is preferred where it can be comfortably used, and is prevalent in media and government house-styles.
In Spanish, americano tends to refer to any resident of the Americas and not from the United States; English spoken in Latin America often makes this distinction as well.
Chinese use meiguoren for 'American person', which can translates, somewhat ironically given their long standoffs, as 'lovely country person'.
[Also in Chinese - English people are yingguoren, which means 'hero country person'.
Frenchmen are faguoren, which means 'law country person'.
An Italian is an yidaliguoren, which translates as 'one hundred million big advantages country person'. ]
US-American is another option, and is the dominant demonym in German (US-Amerikaner). Latin Americans (who are the most affected by the USA's appropriation of American) also have the euphemism norteamericano (North American, which itself conflates the USA and Canada and possibly Mexico).
United Statesian is awkward in English, but it exists in Spanish (estadounidense) and occasionally in German (Vereinigten Staatler), and in Portuguese (both in Portugal and Brazil), where the term estadunidense is growing and it is considered more appropriate than the common term norte-americano.
The word Gringo is widely used in all of Latin America, particularly in Mexico, to make a reference to U.S. residents, not necessarily in a pejorative way. Yanqui (Yankee) is also very common in some regions.
There have been a number of attempts to coin an alternative to "American" as an adjective (a demonym) for a citizen of the United States, that would not simultaneously mean a citizen of the Americas.
With the 1994 passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the following words were used to label the United States Section of that organization: in Canadian French, étatsunien; in Spanish, estadounidense.
Attempts to create such a name have failed to gain widespread use. Proposals have included:
• Appalacian (now only considered an accurate term for the people of Appalachia)
• Columbian (hence the District of Columbia)
• Frede or Fredonian
• Uesican or Uessian • Unisan or Unisian
• United States American, United Stater, United Stateser, United Statesian, United Statesman, or United Statian
• USAian, U.S. American, Usan, USAn, Usanian, Usian (pronounced [?ju??n]), U-S-ian, or Usonian (pronounced [ju?so?ni?n])
Several of these terms have direct parallels in languages other than English. Many languages have already created their own distinct word for a citizen of the United States:
• United Statesian directly parallels the Spanish term estadounidense.
• Norteamericano (North American) is common in Latin America, but suffers from the same kind of ambiguity as American, since Canadians and Mexicans, amongst others, are also North Americans.
• In Portuguese, norte-americano is the most commonly used term. Estadunidense is gaining some popularity, specifically in Brazil, where its usage traditionally rises during times of tension with the USA.
• Amerikan is a derogatory spelling, after the Eastern European spelling made popular in the West by Franz Kafka's 1946 novel.
• Usonian, from Usonia, a term Frank Lloyd Wright used to describe his vision for American architecture, homes, and cities, and used by John Dos Passos in his U.S.A. trilogy.
• The Esperanto term for the United States of America is Usono. This is generally thought to come from "Usonia." In Esperanto, one forms the word for a citizen of a given country using the suffix "-an" which means "member of." Therefore a citizen of the United States is usonano. (Such derived words are not capitalized.) Esperanto terms for the American geographic regions and their people are Ameriko/amerikano, Norda Ameriko/nordamerikano, Meza Ameriko/mezamerikano, and Suda Ameriko/sudamerikano.
• Usanian is derived from the Ido word Usana.
• Yankee, often shortened to Yank, is used all over the world in an informal manner similar to the use of the Mexican word Gringo. Both terms may occasionally be used in an affectionate or pejorative sense. On occasion some U.S. citizens will take offense at the term Yankee, particularly Southerners (residents of the Southeastern United States), who use Yankee to refer to Northerners (residents of the Northeastern United States), sometimes in a derogatory way. (Some people from Scotland or Wales may use Yankee as a deliberate riposte to people from the US who refer to them as English, from the enduring misconception that England is coterminous with the United Kingdom.)
The colloquial term Yank for a U.S citizen, used in Britain and Australia, is a derivative of Yankee. In Australia, the Cockney rhyming slang term Sepo survives, derived from septic tank.
In French, États-Unien(ne), Étatsunien(ne), or Étasunien(ne) are gaining some popularity.
In Italian the term Statunitense (from Stati Uniti = United States) is quite widespread, especially referring to sporting events.
In German, US-Amerikaner may be used to avoid ambiguity or to be politically correct, but it may come across as pedantic if used conversationally. Amerikaner is in general usage in German, and is widely accepted to refer to the United States. Ami is a colloquialism which unambiguously refers to US citizens. The German usage of Ami is akin to the Mexican usage of Gringo, in that it can be neutral, patronizing, or perhaps even affectionate.
In Icelandic the term Bandaríkjamenn is quite widespread, Bandaríkin (United States) and menn for (people/persons)
Less Serious Alternatives
Less serious terms that have been popular on the Internet at various times include
• Left pondian - from the fact that the USA is on the left side of the Atlantic ocean (the "pond").
• Merkin - from the way some Americans pronounce the word "American." although this is also the term for a pubic wig for women.
Last edited by Frederick The Monk on Thu Mar 30, 2006 8:11 am; edited 3 times in total