A note on language

Who’s American anyway? And when should we use the label?

As a North American who spent a year living in South America, I’m constantly doing a linguistic tap dance around the word “American,” trying not to use it to refer to something strictly from the U.S.

North of Mexico, many casually employ “American” as a noun or an adjective that refers solely to a person or item of the United States of America.

To others, though, particularly those in Latin America, “American” is a more encompassing label that describes any person, thing or idea with roots in the Americas — from Canada all the way to Argentina. The idea that United Statesians can claim “American” as ”ours” is a bit, well, self-important.

The problem is this:  Without the word “American,” English speakers lack a one-word noun that describes a citizen of the U.S., and we lack a simple adjective that describe items from the U.S.

If I don’t use the word “American” in this blog, I’ll be doing syntactic tangos all over the place.  (The AP stylebook has yet to sanction the use of “United Statesian”). So bear with me in my occasional and reluctant employment of the word “American” as a noun for “U.S. citizen” and as an adjective to describe something that is “of the U.S.” (American society, American culture, etc.).

Have a suggestion for how to approach this issue? Leave your comments.


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What is this blog?

The "Unstatic Blog" documents the changes going on around you and me. It will ask and answer — and then ask again — how is your world changing? Read and participate in the conversation.


/ˈstætɪk/ –adjective 1. pertaining to or characterized by a fixed or stationary condition. 2. showing little or no change: a static concept; a static relationship. 3. lacking movement, development, or vitality

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