respond to my explanation, probably because she had no comeback for it.) I just typed it up to explain to someone why USian is NO, and I'm going to post it here so I can pull it out easily whenever I need to.Why 'USian' is WRONG WRONG WRONG When Referring to People from the United States of America
The short answer is: English doesn't work that way. People trying to use it are actually making a very, very
fundamental mistake between English and other languages that do
use the equivalent of "USian," one that is rooted in not how native English speakers see the USA
but how they see the world itself
To break this down:
Mexico is actually "The United Mexican States." China is "The People's Republic of China." America is "The United States of America." As a result, when shortened, the form of government in the country name is dropped: Mexico, China, America.
America gets away with "The United States" for the same reason as the Philippines (the Philippine Islands) do, because the "of America" can be considered "of the (North) American continent." This is because when the US was formed, North and South America were still "America." But our concept of the world changed, and "America" along with it. And if you're getting confused, let me explain. ^^;;
In the non-English speaking countries where the equivalent of "USian" is used for American, it's because they don't divide North and South America into two separate continents
--they are all simply "America." Which means that the word we use for both continents combined, "the Americas" is simply "America." (a source: Real Academia Española: Diccionario panhispánico de dudas (DRAE pág. 274). Madrid: Santillana, 2005. En inglés,
America significa ‘Estados Unidos’, y
Americas significa ‘América’
. And to pull out wiki, here's the section on 'the number of continents
, which shows the breakdown in how the number of continents is taught in different parts of the world. Native English speaking countries and Latin American countries are not taught the same thing.')
Therefore, in languages where the six-continent/North-and-South-America="A
merica," it makes logical sense to refer to someone from the Americas
as "American" and someone from the US as "USian," because America is not the word for a country, but the combined North and South American landmass
In countries where English is the native language, however, the continents are considered separate and "America" doesn't mean "the combined North and South American continent" but the "United States of America" (see the above rule about shortening country names.) There is a linguistic difference. A native English speaker trying to say someone is from North or South America has to use either "from the Americas" or the old-fashioned "from the New World" and it's awkward because we don't have
a single word for someone from what we consider to be two continents, precisely because we do
consider them to be separate. We would say they were North American or South American because that's how we conceive of it (anectdata, I've said plenty of times that I'm North America, but would be flummoxed if I had to say I was from the Americas and would have no idea why I would be saying that because to me it makes no sense--two big continents, there, so why conflate them?). But languages where the continents are combined, such as in Spanish, just say "American" for this because that's how they see it (see above Spanish bit. I know y'all are smart and can parse it; it ain't hard).
If you're speaking Spanish, then yes
, you should be using the Spanish word for "USian" (Estadounidense) and not "American" (Americano/a) because it is the correct and appropriate term in that language and not doing so is incorrect and will cause misunderstandings. That's how the language works and you roll with it.
'USian' is not, however, the correct and appropriate term in English for someone from the USA because
of that very fundamental difference in the way landmasses are counted and taught. As a result, when I see a non-native speaker saying "USian," I consider them to be making an English mistake because of a failing in learning English--they weren't taught about that North & South America continents
vs the continent
of the Americas and so are fundamentally using the wrong term, and when I see a native English speaker making that mistake, likewise, I consider them to have not realized just why, linguistically, the word that we use is the standard in English (because we have seven continents) is not the same as it is in languages where USian is used (because they have six).
So just as it would be inappropriate to use "American" in Spanish to refer to someone from the US, it is in many way inappropriate to use "USian" in English. Doing so is trying to shoehorn in an equivalency of "America" and "the Americas" that isn't there
in English just because of a fundamental difference in word use in a completely different language.
So in other words: English doesn't work that way so quit mucking it up
I've had this internet argument before (heh, including once on a snark comm; the person arguing up a blue streak for "USian" oddly enough