The Lebanon

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The Lebanon

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Nov 21, 2010, 6:28 pm

I have always wondered why we (Americans) refer to Syria or Egypt but frequently refer to Lebanon as the Lebanon. Is there a reason for this? Thanks

Nov 21, 2010, 6:53 pm

Which part of the USA? I've never heard of it referred to as "the" Lebanon myself.

Nov 21, 2010, 8:15 pm

I have heard it called "the Lebanon" often - but in Britain, not the US. We also refer to "the Sudan" and "the Yemen". Possibly it originated with the Arabic practice of using the definite article with the names of countries: so logically it should also be "the Iraq", etc. But I'm not sure this works for "the Gambia".

Nov 22, 2010, 1:25 am

Huh. And 'the Gambia' is the only one that sounds familiar to me - American, but Foreign Service brat who grew up with as many British friends and teachers as American. I've never heard of 'the Lebanon', 'the Syria', or 'the Yemen', but when I read 'the Gambia' it sounded right.

It might also be related to 'The Hague' - that is, that's the way they say it themselves.

Nov 22, 2010, 3:53 am

That's a interesting one, because German does something similar, we use the article for Lebanon, Sudann, Yemen, Iraq and Iran.

Editado: Nov 22, 2010, 8:52 am

The Lebanon because it is named after Mount Lebanon. The Gambia because it is named after the river.

Others because of plurality - the Netherlands, the UK, the US. Island groups also follow this - the Maldives and the Philippines.

I've never heard of anyone saying the Syria. But maybe like the Yemen and the Sudan it could be an Arabic influence.

The only ones that don't really match these rules are the Ukraine and the Argentine.

Nov 22, 2010, 4:30 am

You Germans also use it for Austria, Switzerland, Czechoslovachia and some more countries. Doesn't French also use the definite article for a number of countries? In Swedish, it's not so obvious, because we use a postpositional particle as our definite article.

By the way, don't forget the almost obsolete The Argentine! (Speaking of which, I wonder whether this use of the article isn't dying out altogether.)

Editado: Nov 22, 2010, 5:02 am

I've always assumed it's derived from the old name for the Middle East, the Levant, which I guessed would be Old French for the Land Where the Sun Rises (Mod Fr 'lever'). Medieval historians use "the Levant" when discussing pilgrimages to the Holy Land, the Crusades and trade routes. Also, the definite article may be used here because it's at root an adjective (hence "the Argentine", from its associations with silver).

Nov 22, 2010, 5:01 am

German: not Austria. Switzerland takes an article. Yes, Czecholovakia did, Slovakia still does, Czech Republic, it depends on which form of the name you use (there are three). I know those because I hear them constantly. Deutschland is without an article but both BRD and DDR had articles (the republic). Some of it relates to certain endings, some you just learn on a case by case basis.

Iran and Iraq, I wouldn't use an article in English, but would in German. Anything plural, article in both languages. Lebanon has an article in German. I think both ways sound OK in English. I asked my husband and he says, 'Not now, but Agatha Christie used 'the Lebanon.''

Nov 22, 2010, 6:53 am

"German: not Austria"

Ah, my bad. Well, it's 27.5 years since I studied German...

Nov 22, 2010, 8:13 am

Romance language usage is similar: la France, l'Italia and so on; most countries are feminine (exceptions in French include le Canada and states with le Pays, "the country", in their title, such as le Pays-Bas and le Pays de Galles). English tends not to use the definite article except for the reasons identified by other posters: (a) plural, eg the United States, the United Arab Emirates, the Low Countries/the Netherlands; (b) several countries named from geographical features, eg the Gambia, the Belgian Congo; (c) adjectival, eg the Lebanon; and maybe (d) collective nouns like the United Kingdom, though this is the only example I can immediately call to mind.

I got to thinking about Welsh usage, as Wales is where I now live, and the pattern here is inconsistant as the definite article is only used in proscribed circumstances; for countries this seems to definitely occur before vowels, eg yr Aifft, yr Alban, yr Almaen, yr Eidal, yr Iseldiroedd (Egypt, Scotland, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, respectively). Elsewhere I'm on less secure ground: y Deyrnas Unedig (the UK) but Unol Daleithiau (the US); y Ffindir (Finland) but Ffrainc (France). Perhaps a native Welsh speaker can enlighten me.

Nov 22, 2010, 8:39 am

In North America, Labrador used to be called "the Labrador".

Editado: Nov 22, 2010, 8:46 am

I grew up in New England and I don't think I've ever heard anyone use "the Lebanon." There's a fairly sizable Lebanese community in the particular are where I grew up, though I don't know if that makes any difference. I've heard "the Sudan," and would use it myself, but not "the Gambia," though I can't say I've ever had a reason to discuss Gambia in conversation with anyone. All the other instances I can think of that take the definite article are ones where the country's name is a collective noun in some way - the UK, the Philippines, the UAE, etc... Now I'm curious, so when I'm closer to my desk I'll have to look to see if there's an actual rule for this.

ETA: but not Micronesia, even though it's the Federated States of. Hmm.

Nov 24, 2010, 4:25 pm

I've never heard of "the Lebanon." I asked my mom if she had, in case it's an older usage. She hadn't heard of it but said it could be influenced by biblical usage. She thinks there might be some references to "the Lebanon" there. I'm not familiar with the English bible myself. Has anyone seen this?

I've heard "the Sudan", but the only one I use myself and hear others use much (that's not a plural like "the Philipines) is the Ukraine.

Nov 24, 2010, 4:55 pm

My husband checked the official UN usage and it is 'Lebanon'. Many of the other countries we have discussed can't be checked on that list, because the official name is 'The ___ Rebublic of ___'. This list is kept up to date on what the country concerned prefers.

Nov 24, 2010, 9:22 pm

Do they list what the country located between Greece and Serbia prefers? :)

Nov 24, 2010, 9:43 pm

According to the UN list of member states (not sure if it's the same UN list as in 15), it's The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

From the UN Website: By resolution A/RES/47/225 of 8 April 1993, the General Assembly decided to admit as a Member of the United Nations the State being provisionally referred to for all purposes within the United Nations as "The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" pending settlement of the difference that had arisen over its name.

I'm guessing they still haven't sorted that one out :)

In Australia, I've heard the definate article for plurals (the United States, the Netherlands), the United Kingdom (which perhaps occurs as a result of 'the' appearing in front of 'united' in the US and the UAE. Usgage of 'the' in front of other countries tends to be limited to a few African nations - the Ivory Coast. I've previously heard 'the Sudan' here, but it's definately fallen out of favour in recent years, I now most commonly here simply 'Sudan'. I've never heard 'the Lebanon' used here. There may be differences in other Australian states though.

Nov 24, 2010, 10:26 pm

Nope, never heard of "the Lebanon" either (Midwestern AmE speaker here). Of the examples listed above, the only ones I've heard in common usages are "the Gambia" and "the Sudan". Also "the Congo."

ed.pendragon: There are many masculine countries in French, of which Lebanon is only one example. (Sudan, Congo, Chad, Mexico, Cambodia, Belize, Mozambique, Togo, Japan, to name just a few.)

Nov 25, 2010, 3:37 am

16> Macedonians say Macedonia (or actually, Makadona - not sure about the ending, though - well, it is a transcription from a Cyrillic-style alphabet). My parents are over there teaching right now. FYROM is the 'legal' name outside the country, but inside it is always Macedonia.

Nov 25, 2010, 12:31 pm

#18: To revert to the original post, "the" Lebanon is a phrase I think is used by broadcast reporters, and they may use it to refer to the area in general, as when the civil war was going on and Israel and Syria were drawn in across the borders.

#17: "The" UK is unlikely to be merely the result of copying the US and the UAE, as I think you are implying. Nowadays the UK is shorthand for "the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" (formerly the UK of GB and Ireland, before partition).

Incidentally, England and Wales were administratively joined by the Tudors in the 16th century, then Scotland was conjoined by the Act of Union early in the 18th, and together they form the political unit of Great Britain. More geeky info: GB was historically called Greater Britain in the Middle Ages, to distinguish it from Lesser Britain (which was Brittany in France). The point I really wanted to make, before I got sidetracked, was that as far as I'm aware the UK has always had a definite article before it.

Nov 25, 2010, 5:53 pm

#20 - I completely agree with you about the origins of the definite article in front of the UK. I was more musing the fact that in Australia we seem to be dropping it except in the case of plurals, however, the UK seems to be immune to this change. It could also be that UK English still has a significant influence on Australian usage, although this has diminished a great deal in recent years in favour of US English.

Editado: Nov 26, 2010, 8:16 am

I've heard it, but clearly as a British 'thing' :
The Lebanon in pop music.

Nov 26, 2010, 10:06 am

22> Maybe, but wasn't "The the" a British band?

Nov 26, 2010, 12:33 pm

I am still getting used, slowly, to saying "Ukraine" rather than "the Ukraine." I imagine the definite article applied there only until it became an independent nation. But I'm getting old, and old habits die hard. I learned most of my geography originally in grade school, and half the world was comprised of colonies. I don't even pretend to know the countries of Africa!

Nov 27, 2010, 7:01 am

Interesting in this context that nobody brings up 'the USA'!

Of course 'united' usually invites such treatment. 'The UAE' is another example.

Incidentally, how many inhabitants of Great Britain's former colony realise that 'over here', 'US' is understood by a certain generation to be slang for 'useless'?

Editado: Nov 27, 2010, 8:49 am

I definitely remember the usage 'The Lebanon' as fairly common when I was a schoolboy in the 'fifties and 'sixties.

I have a vague idea of the inclusion of the definite article as referring to a geographical area and the use without as referring to a political entity (I mean in general, not exclusively for Lebanon/the Lebanon); but whether I was ever formally taught this I can't now remember.

Jan 10, 2011, 1:40 am

This has got to be one of my pet peeves partly because I grew up in Lebanon! I came across it several years ago in Sally Potter's film Yes or perhaps in print interviews when she was promoting the film.

Another irritation is hearing people say Eye-Ran for Iran. Same goes for Iraq.


Jan 10, 2011, 8:20 am

Eye-ran and Eye-raq seems to be a particularly US usage (it's almost unheard of here in the UK), and only became familiar to us from the lips of Bushes Senior and Junior.

Regarding Lebanon/the Lebanon, I think that the political state has to be Lebanon, and "the Lebanon" a modern usage for "the Levant", a term which became common in the western Europe from trade with the Ottoman Empire, denoting what also became known as the Middle East in more recent times.

Jun 13, 2011, 12:47 pm

From the Wikipedia Lebanon portal:

The name Lebanon (also "Loubnan" or "Lebnan") is derived from the Semitic root "LBN", meaning "white", a reference to snow-capped Mount Lebanon. In British English, the country has often traditionally been referred to with the definite article as the Lebanon, like the Ukraine or the Gambia, derived from the literal translation from the Hebrew "HaLevanon" (e.g. Deuteronomy 3:25)

I also vaguely remember Stephen Fry talking about this on an episode of QI.

Ago 8, 2011, 2:58 am

> 26: I know some use the geographical region / modern country distinction with (the) Sudan and (the) Ukraine. I don't consistently uphold it myself, but I think it's kinda handy.

In the case of (the) Lebanon, I'd tend to interpret the version with the article as refering to the mountains, the one without to the country. Similarly, in my usage, Gambia is the country, the Gambia is the river.

With regard to Yemen, the Arabic form Al Yaman means simply "The South", perhaps the tendency to use the article in English reflects an awareness of this.

Set 6, 2011, 10:43 pm

I have wondered about "The Lebanon" for years too. I wonder if it might have to do geography. Was there ever a region or maybe a plain called Lebanon?

I always supposed that "The Congo" was so named because it referred to the region around the Congo River.

Has anyone out there ever heard of "The Argentine"?

Set 7, 2011, 5:02 am

No, sorry! Though wasn't there a film of that name?

Set 7, 2011, 5:49 am

31 > Lebanon (the country) is named for the Lebanon (the mountain range).

There's a movie (about Che Guevara) called "The Argentine". I've seem to recall having heard it as a geographical designation too, but no idea what if any difference from simply "Argentina" there may be.

Set 7, 2011, 8:14 am

>32 ed.pendragon: I think ed.p is saying "No" with tongue in cheek because he was involved in the discussion above (#6-8) about The Argentine.

I've had some Americans look a little blank when I say I'm from "the UK": "Britain" or "England" is more comprehensible. Maybe they think it's odd to use the definite article for the University of Kentucky.

Set 7, 2011, 8:18 am

And then there's Ohio State alums who get prickly when you don't refer to their school as THE Ohio State University.

Set 7, 2011, 11:43 am

A little OT, but I always wondered why people say "the flu" but would not say "the influenza." Is this a regional thing? I've heard and used it in all the part of the US that I've lived, but don't know if it is common throughout the country.

Set 7, 2011, 12:52 pm

#34 Great post. I noticed that you said Britain instead of Great Britain.

What do people in Scotland use in everyday speech? I doubt that they say England. Do they use Great Britain or do they say Scotland as a matter of pride?

I am always amused at how ya'll leave the article off when you say "going to hospital" and "going on holiday".

"Two great countries divided by a single language".--Churchill LOL

DRT#35 We have the same thing down here. There are T-shirts here with "The" in all capitals as in "THE University of Mississippi". (Ole Miss)

Set 7, 2011, 2:19 pm


I don't live in Scotland but I have had a few Scots as friends. They would either say Scotland or Britain depending on context. Same as people in England will either say England or Britain, or Welsh people say Wales or Britain. Use of Scotland (or Wales) is probably a bit more prevalent for people from those countries than the use of England by the English.

People don't really say Great Britain much in normal speech, except sometimes when they are talking about the British performance at the Olympics where we field a combined team.

Set 7, 2011, 5:45 pm

"Great Britain" is usually too difficult to say conveniently, and "Britain" is not ambiguous. When asked where I am from, I say "England" when my wife (born in England but 3/4 Scottish) is not listening, and "Britain" when she is!

Set 11, 2011, 7:52 am

Of course, 'UK' is short for 'Great Britain and Northern Ireland'. But I accept that we can't expect countries like the USA to keep up with British History. I once saw a report of a survey of US Americans (Note, incidentally, that it's as erroneous to call these residents 'Americans' as it would be for the residents of Chile ... or even Canada ... to do this) in which the majority thought 'the UK' was somewhere in the Middle East.

Set 11, 2011, 11:16 am

As an Anglophile who has probably read more British history than he has, I can only say that Mr Dorset is just one more example of someone brought up on BBC anti-Americanism.

Editado: Set 11, 2011, 11:27 am

Guide to what is England and what isn't (beginners begin here)

England = Polity created over a thousand years ago; sometimes wrongly conflated with the United Kingdom and/or Great Britain; dominant culture and language in the region for many centuries now.

England+Wales = Neighbouring area mostly annexed by the Normans and their descendants and forcibly united with England under the Tudors (ironically part-Welsh themselves); own language, own culture and, finally, own law-making powers again.

Great Britain = Originally the Island of Britain, in contradistinction to Lesser Britain (Bretagne or Brittany, so-called because the Armorican peninsula was settled by Britons during the Dark Ages); formed by the union three centuries ago of England+Wales with Scotland (own language derived from Irish Gaelic settlers, distinct history and own law-making powers).

United Kingdom (also known, as CliffordDorset points out, as 'The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland' or more conveniently 'the UK' for short) = England+Wales+Scotland+Northern Ireland; the Republic of Ireland was formed when most of Eire became independent of English/English-Welsh/English-Welsh-Scottish rule a little under a century ago (actually it was the Normans and their Plantagenet successors, bloody foreigners, who started all that off).

The British Isles = Geographical term for archipelago of islands, including both Britain and Ireland (and a few others) cut adrift from the rest of Europe...

Simple, eh? Well, no, because several smartarses will post pointing out how wrong I am...
(PS Actually I've just spotted this and find I've mostly got it right. Neat visuals, too.)

Set 11, 2011, 11:29 am

As an Anglophile who has probably read more British history than he has, I can only say that Mr Dorset is just one more example of someone brought up on BBC anti-Americanism.
I think you'll find that anti-Americanism pre-dates the BBC.

Set 11, 2011, 12:04 pm

43> Nor is it limited to the UK.

Editado: Set 11, 2011, 4:04 pm

#44 Yes, that's true. It's a shame that, for some individuals and some groups, a whole other nation made up of very different individuals and with a rich cultural heritage can be damned so easily by being labeled and/or saddled with stereotypical perceptions.

And that applies to any and all countries: because of what happened on that September 11th, those stereotypical perceptions have been reinforced for generations to come.

Editado: Set 12, 2011, 9:44 pm

40: Note, incidentally, that it's as erroneous to call these residents 'Americans' as it would be for the residents of Chile ... or even Canada ... to do this.

Speaking of not understanding history, we've been called Americans since before the thirteen colonies joined into a country. It's not erroneous just because peoples cannot accept we are taught there are two American continents ( North and South) and South Americans are taught there is only one.

We also cannot help that Spanish speakers call us Estadounidense and the Portuguese Estadunidense which literally translate into English as the ridiculous-sounding United Stateser.

Editado: Set 13, 2011, 2:08 am

#40: I'm curious; do you ever say BD Germans, because you know, there's a bunch of German peoples who don't live in Germany? You might actually have standing to complain there, since the English are traditionally a German people. Or how about Republic of India Indians, since the Republic of India is far from the only country on the Indian subcontinent.

Or may I note the arrogance of "the UK", as if the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland were the only united kingdom in the world? Hey, I think I can play this game all day.

Set 13, 2011, 5:38 am

37 by omboy>

I am always amused at how ya'll leave the article off when you say "going to hospital" ...

As an American living in the UK, this bemused me too, until I realised that it's the same distinction that Americans would make between "being in school" and "being in the school". "In hospital" means that same as "hospitalized"; "in the hospital" is just a matter of location.

Disclaimer: I'm probably wrong, but it helps me live with it.

Editado: Set 13, 2011, 6:26 am

#48 - And then there are those areas of England where they don't bother with articles at all.

Set 13, 2011, 7:32 am

48> I think it also to do with the fact that in the US, for most communities there is one hospital - THE hospital. There is little question as to which hospital someone could be going to. If there are several possible hospitals, saying 'the hospital' assumes that the person addressed whould know which one was meant.

Set 13, 2011, 7:50 am

I don't think there's any significant difference in the number of hospitals vs. size of municipality between the US and UK -- I've lived in small towns with a single hospital in both the US and UK, and in larger cities with multiple hospitals in both the US and UK. In my experience, the usage of the article correlates with the country (US/UK), and not at all with the size of community or number of local hospitals. (E.g. in a large city in the US, I would have heard and said "I'm going to the hospital" if I could assume you knew which I meant, or "I'm going to Fred Smith Memorial Hospital" if there was a possibility of ambiguity, but in no case would I have said "I'm going to hospital" -- that's very much a British form.)

Disclaimer: I haven't lived in all large or small cities in the US -- there are probably places that follow the British usage pattern, and as #49 points out there are places in Britain where they completely abandon articles.

Set 13, 2011, 11:42 am

One of the things I was aiming at earlier and which #39 Mbw partly got into was whether offense is taken if someone happens to use or fails to use a certain name for the country.

I referred to Scotland specifically because they do have an independence movement

Also, I was wondering if there is a regional aspect to this. What do the Welsh and the Irish say? I'm talking here about everyday conversation on non-political matters.

Set 13, 2011, 12:37 pm

According to various persons from Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland I've spoken to as to whether they are Scotch/Welsh/Irish first or British, I've been told it depends entirely on the indiviual and whether or not they're speaking to an Englishman at the time.

But it is serious business in a way that makes the Texas and Quebecois problems look childish by comparison.

Set 13, 2011, 4:03 pm


Scots surely, scotch is a drink. OK historically scotch was also used for nationality but that seems to have died out.

Editado: Set 13, 2011, 5:49 pm

'Scots' is the correct form in Scots, a distinct language closely related to and (depending on who you ask) more or less mutually intelligle with English. 'Scotch' should be the correct form in English, with its aspirated termination -- cf WelSH, EngliSH, FrenCH. Nowadays it's considered more polite to use the form the Scots would use for themselves.

Set 16, 2011, 3:52 am

The Welsh-speaking Welsh of course refer to themselves as Cymry ("fellow countrymen") rather than Welsh (Welsh means "foreigner/s"). You can hardly expect them to be happy to be called foreigners in their own land...

Set 16, 2011, 10:19 am

It's to be expected that non-English speaking peoples call themselves something different in their own language (see also the history of the word 'Dutch').

What gets interesting, as well, is when English adopts names from other languages that lead to redundant redudantcy. In America, where two-thirds of the state names are taken from Native American languages, you get gems like the Ohio River, literally 'Great River River.'

Or how about the UK's River Avon, while we're at it?

Set 16, 2011, 11:35 am


We can do better than that.

Eas Fors Waterfall (waterfall, waterfall, waterfall)
Torpenhow Hill (hill, hill, hill, hill)

Set 16, 2011, 12:47 pm

Don't know if I'm remembering right but I seem to recall reading once about a place called "Pendle Hill" meaning, ultimately, 'hill hill hill'. The Saxon, seeing a hill, asked the Briton translator 'Vot's dat?' and was told 'pen', that is, 'hill' in pre-Welsh. So the Saesnig called it Pen Hill thinking 'pen' was the name of that particular hill. In time 'pen hill' garbevolved into '"pendle" but eventually folks added 'hill' again to clarify what sort of feature 'Pendle' was...

Set 16, 2011, 1:51 pm

Eas Fors Waterfall (waterfall, waterfall, waterfall) (#7)

Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse!


Set 16, 2011, 2:52 pm

Doesn't Canada basically mean "village" ?

Set 16, 2011, 3:04 pm

The La Brea Tar Pits = The The Tar Tar Pits.

I understand people in Maritime Canada used to say "The Labrador."

Set 18, 2011, 11:02 am

#57 Phocion

Your reference to the word "Dutch" brought back a found memory.

One day years ago, I was standing on the bank of the Rhine River and a boat with Nederland written on the side pulled to shore. I greeted the boats-man and said, "I see you must be Dutch."

He replied, "No not Deutsch. Nederlander."

Seeing that the similar sounds of the two words was the problem; or so
I thought, I switched.

"Oh so you're from Holland."

"No, Nederlander."

I gave up and told him that I was glad to meet him.

Editado: Set 18, 2011, 2:20 pm

Well, he probably wasn't from Holland. Most people in the Netherlands aren't. But he must also have been unaware of how the two are conflated in most other European languages I know.

Set 18, 2011, 5:51 pm

The conflation of Holland with the Netherlands will be (just as with England and Britain/the UK) due to the political dominance of one region within a larger georaphical area. Omboy's Nederlander may have been unaware of the conflation, but I rather doubt it: he may have simply been awkward to register his dislike of that conflation in the minds of other nationals.

Set 19, 2011, 1:48 am

63> My great-grandfather was a Hollander - and, I'm told, emphatically _not_ a Nederlander (he would object, loudly, to being mentioned as being from the Netherlands). I don't know how he felt about Dutch.

Editado: Set 19, 2011, 2:16 am

Something the United States did fairly well was to make all states entering the union after the original thirteen equal to those thirteen - you were American whether you were from Delaware or Hawaii, with only the Civil War being a major challenge. You'll see discontent among older people of the most recent states, and some Southerners who protest their patriotism too much, but you don't see the general hostility that seems to come from united counties like the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

The closest here is the status of the Native Americans who are, constitutionally, their own independent nations.

Edit: and, of course, the Texas problem.

Set 19, 2011, 10:51 am

67> Although I've been told by some Civil War show I watched once (it could have been the Ken Burns one) that before the Civil War US citizens thought of themselves as citizens of their states first and US citizens second but after the war it was the other way around.

Set 19, 2011, 2:46 pm

It was certainly a problem at the beginning of the nation, national identity. Jefferson saw himself first and foremost as a Virginian, and was offended Washington didn't see it the same way. On the other side, Hamilton tended to see the nation as a whole as the identity (New Yorkers weren't happy he traded the capital to Virginia). As the revolutionary generation started dying off, you saw more of a continental viewpoint, but it did take the Civil War to drive it home (though that was still slave-driven, no matter how much Southerners try to tell you otherwise).

Set 20, 2011, 12:40 pm

Has anyone noticed that we are all called the same thing here?

We have names for our regions: The South, New England, The West, etc. but on a country-wide basis we all call ourselves the same thing.

Could the fact that we are such a young country and quickly became dominated by one cohesive class (white Europeans) be the cause?

Maio 9, 2012, 12:46 am

The Esperanto language has resolved this difficulty. In that language, the United States is referred to as "Usono," based on the language's acronym for United States of (North) America. The term for a US person is "usonano" and the adjective form of Usono is "usona." Thus, in the logic of Dr. L.L. Zamenhof's "International Language," Esperantists in the fifty states are not placed in the ethnocentric, distasteful and untenable position of commandeering the term "American," which of course should and does pertain to the entire hemisphere.

Maio 9, 2012, 2:44 am

#71: Esperantists in the fifty states are not placed in the ethnocentric, distasteful and untenable position of commandeering the term "American," which of course should and does pertain to the entire hemisphere.

Yeah, because the Irish are so American. For all the pompous complaints I've read about it, I have never in my life needed a word to refer to the inhabitant of one of two different continents. And excluding the Belizeans and Canadians, most of the other inhabitants of the two continents have free reign to call me what they will in their languages, and can stop telling me how to use mine.

Maio 9, 2012, 3:31 am

There's no such thing as "should be" in languages, there's only "is". Don't try to use logic.

Maio 10, 2012, 11:24 am

>72 prosfilaes:

I think that here we have uncovered one of the main reasons that the USA is so incredibly popular in the real world, and is not in the slightest respect thought of as self-centred and arrogant. Well done, prosfilaes, for enshrining this misconception in a truly amusing post!

And, incidentally, I believe the words you were hunting for were 'free rein' and not 'free reign'.

Maio 10, 2012, 4:13 pm

#74: It's self-centered and arrogant to get annoyed when people start telling us what we can call ourselves in our language?

In any case, it wasn't the US who persistently informed our nearest neighbor that they were misinformed about what the name of their country was, and that they were in fact the "Republic of Ireland".

Editado: Maio 10, 2012, 6:02 pm

Mensagem removida pelo autor.

Maio 15, 2012, 7:55 pm

> 40, 46, 70

I used to get bent out of shape about the use of "American" to refer solely to the United States. Then I read some old letters from the colonial government of Spanish West Florida, noticing with surprise that Spanish officials used the word americano exclusively to refer to those pushy Anglos from the USA.

So the availability of American / americano for U.S.-only use may have had a lot to do with the usages of the Spanish Empire. Spanish subjects were described in cultural or genetic terms as españoles or indios, criollos (born in the New World) or peninsulares (born in Iberia), but seldom if ever as americanos. Not until after the South American republics gained their independence, beginning in the 1810s, did americano become a point of contention.

Anyway, logic choppers could just as easily take issue with the ethnonym estadounidense / United-Statesian or any similar variant. Everyone knows that estadounidense refers to the USA, but it could just as well refer to Mexico — known officially as los Estados Unidos Mexicanos, the United Mexican States.

Maio 17, 2012, 7:36 am

In the UK one sometimes hears citizens of the United States referred to as 'wooden planks', following the rhyming slang 'wooden plank = Yank'. 'Yank' itself, however etymologically correct (or acceptable) it might be, is common world-wide.

Maio 17, 2012, 9:46 am

I have come across the term "Merkin" used for the USAnians. I does have another meaning, though...

Maio 20, 2012, 6:27 pm

>79 MyopicBookworm:

You mean as in my favourite Dubya usage, used annually at the opening of his 'State of the Union' addresses: 'Maflow Merkins'.

Isn't that just ossum?