Annoying words, and Words You Hate

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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby Eebster the Great » Sun Aug 30, 2015 5:04 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:I'm USian.

Speaking of things that don't sound right . . .

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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby Monika » Sun Aug 30, 2015 5:06 pm UTC

I love it.
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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby Copper Bezel » Mon Aug 31, 2015 11:27 am UTC

"American" just seems really unspecific. I've seen USian used here by others and thought it seemed handy.
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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby Znirk » Mon Aug 31, 2015 11:43 am UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:I've seen USian used here by others and thought it seemed handy.

How do you pronounce it (assuming that you ever have pronounced it)?

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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby Quercus » Mon Aug 31, 2015 11:46 am UTC

In my head I have been pronouncing it as "U-S-ian" because "usian" all as one word sounds worryingly close to "usurer".

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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby Copper Bezel » Mon Aug 31, 2015 11:51 am UTC

Yeah, you-ess-ee-an.
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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Aug 31, 2015 3:12 pm UTC

That's how I think of it when I read it, though I don't think I would never actually say it out loud in normal conversation. (It's similar to gender-neutral Spanish terms like latin@ or latinx, which are great for writing but aren't pronounceable.)

I don't know if Eebster objects to the writing of USian as shorthand, or if it's just about how it sounds.
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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby Quercus » Mon Aug 31, 2015 3:41 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:I don't know if Eebster objects to the writing of USian as shorthand, or if it's just about how it sounds.

For me the two objections are pretty much one and the same - if something would sound awkward if said aloud it also feels awkward when I write it or read it, because I subvocalize strongly, and writing/reading unavoidably involves hearing the word in my head.

That said I find latin@ ("latinat") and latinx ("latinex") to be perfectly and non-awkwardly pronounceable, just not in a way most other people would understand.

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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby Eebster the Great » Mon Aug 31, 2015 4:11 pm UTC

Quercus wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:I don't know if Eebster objects to the writing of USian as shorthand, or if it's just about how it sounds.

For me the two objections are pretty much one and the same - if something would sound awkward if said aloud it also feels awkward when I write it or read it, because I subvocalize strongly, and writing/reading unavoidably involves hearing the word in my head.

Same goes here, though mostly I subvocalize words that stand out, which USian certainly does. It does to me what typing the words "nails on a chalkboard" does to some other people.

That said I find latin@ ("latinat") and latinx ("latinex") to be perfectly and non-awkwardly pronounceable, just not in a way most other people would understand.

As I understand it, Latin@ is supposed to be a gender-neutral hybrid of Latina and Latino, right? With the implication that when the word is used in English, "Latino" shouldn't absorb the feminine. Never seen "Latinx" before.

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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Aug 31, 2015 5:00 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:
That said I find latin@ ("latinat") and latinx ("latinex") to be perfectly and non-awkwardly pronounceable, just not in a way most other people would understand.

As I understand it, Latin@ is supposed to be a gender-neutral hybrid of Latina and Latino, right? With the implication that when the word is used in English, "Latino" shouldn't absorb the feminine. Never seen "Latinx" before.
I don't know what the implication in English should be, I just know that in Spanish the -@ ending is meant to be inclusive of both masculine and feminine, especially for singular (because like "he", the singular -o ending is strongly perceived to be only masculine by modern Spanish speakers, even if the plural -os ending for groups that may be mixed are unremarkable).

The -x ending, in my understanding, is meant in part as an acknowledgement that not everyone is -o or -a. I've also seen -e as a pronounceable analogue.
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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby Eebster the Great » Mon Aug 31, 2015 5:33 pm UTC

Maybe we could go back to "Latin" as a noun to describe people from Latin America.

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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Aug 31, 2015 9:05 pm UTC

Nominalization of adjectives for people tends to make them feel racist or otherwise dehumanizing ("a Japanese", "a gay", "three females"), for one thing, and for another I still don't care too much about the word in English since I brought it up only as an example of the endings Spanish-speakers are using to make words gender-neutral.
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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby Derek » Mon Aug 31, 2015 10:49 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Nominalization of adjectives for people tends to make them feel racist or otherwise dehumanizing ("a Japanese", "a gay", "three females"),

But "American" and "German". I think it's really just a case-by-case basis.

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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Aug 31, 2015 11:13 pm UTC

Not really, it's just that the -an ones (and the -i ones like "Saudi") are already also nouns to begin with.
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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby Copper Bezel » Tue Sep 01, 2015 2:43 am UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:Same goes here, though mostly I subvocalize words that stand out, which USian certainly does. It does to me what typing the words "nails on a chalkboard" does to some other people.

It's consistent for me; everything gets unconsciously voiced. But since I see that you're already aware that there is no appropriate demonym for people from the United States, I guess you'll just kinda have to deal with it.

Edit: The fact that it's more than necessarily cute I do consider a point in its favor rather than against.
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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby Quercus » Tue Sep 01, 2015 5:23 am UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:It's consistent for me; everything gets unconsciously voiced.

Me too. I've always wondered how it must feel to have that not happen - to me not doing it would be like having my eyes open and still being able to see where I'm going but without forming a visual image.

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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby Eebster the Great » Tue Sep 01, 2015 6:56 am UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:
Eebster the Great wrote:Same goes here, though mostly I subvocalize words that stand out, which USian certainly does. It does to me what typing the words "nails on a chalkboard" does to some other people.

It's consistent for me; everything gets unconsciously voiced. But since I see that you're already aware that there is no appropriate demonym for people from the United States, I guess you'll just kinda have to deal with it.

I disagree that the term American is "inappropriate." It is in fact older than the United States itself. Whatever your opinion on the matter, it is in undeniably true that it is the only demonym regularly used in English (and several other languages) to describe Americans.

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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby Copper Bezel » Tue Sep 01, 2015 8:27 am UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:I disagree that the term American is "inappropriate." It is in fact older than the United States itself.

The latter statement was meant in support of the former, yes? I am not claiming to be Amerindian.
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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby Eebster the Great » Tue Sep 01, 2015 8:35 pm UTC

It was used to refer to citizens of the American colonies. It was also (and still is) used to refer to American Indians.

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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Sep 01, 2015 10:16 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:It was used to refer to citizens of the American colonies.
Yes, and not just the ones in what is now the United States, presumably?
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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby firechicago » Tue Sep 01, 2015 10:31 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Eebster the Great wrote:It was used to refer to citizens of the American colonies.
Yes, and not just the ones in what is now the United States, presumably?

Well, if it was used specifically used to refer to colonists in the British colonies (as I think it was, at least sometimes, being an English word used in a British context), then before about 1760 that would have meant the colonists in what would become the US.

Or to put it another way, for a Brit in the 1750's I believe American could be used in a way that explicitly meant a citizen of Massachusetts or Georgia, but not a native person or a European resident of Montreal or Havana.

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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Sep 01, 2015 10:54 pm UTC

So... Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Rupert's Land are all part of the modern United States? Has anyone told the people living there? Or the Canadian government? And what about the British West Indies?
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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby Derek » Tue Sep 01, 2015 11:29 pm UTC

Here's what Wikipedia has to say:

In English, American was used especially for people in the British America, and came to be applied to citizens of the United States after that country was formed in 1776...The term American, however, applied as a noun to the citizens of the newly independent colonies, was not yet in general usage. In fact, it was British officials who first called the colonists “Americans”. When the drafters of the Declaration — Thomas Jefferson from Virginia, for example, or John Adams from Massachusetts — talked about “my country”, they meant Virginia or Massachusetts, respectively. This situation was changed by the Revolution and the impulse toward nationalism.

So before the US was a country, "American" meant colonists of British America. After the revolution, it quickly became a term for citizens of the US specifically.

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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Sep 02, 2015 12:12 am UTC

I'm not sure that that makes it less dumb, actually.
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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby slinches » Wed Sep 02, 2015 12:37 am UTC

I have yet to run into a situation where someone was genuinely confused about where I am from if I say "I'm an American". It may not be very specific, but certainly not confusing. Or at least far less confusing than, say, "British".

Although I'd prefer if we used "American" far less anyway, instead we can go with the demonym for our home State (in my case, Arizonan). The US is too large and diverse to lump us all together with one word. It's like having a term to describe all people from European Union countries.

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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby Eebster the Great » Wed Sep 02, 2015 1:13 am UTC

The EU isn't a nation though. So it's not the same thing. Americans are no more diverse than, say, Indians or Thai or Chinese people. I think using a demonym to refer to people from a country in the EU would be like using a demonym to refer to people from a country in the African Union.

"American" isn't the only ambiguous term either. "Samoan" is ambiguous. "British" is ambiguous. "Chinese" is ambiguous. "Micronesian" is ambiguous. Ambiguity is an inevitable reality of language.

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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Sep 02, 2015 1:40 am UTC

Yet "USian" is both language and unambiguous. Is that what you're saying you dislike about it?
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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby slinches » Wed Sep 02, 2015 1:43 am UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:The EU isn't a nation though. So it's not the same thing. Americans are no more diverse than, say, Indians or Thai or Chinese people. I think using a demonym to refer to people from a country in the EU would be like using a demonym to refer to people from a country in the African Union.

If the EU isn't a nation, then is the USA? They're both a union of sovereign states. As far as relative diversity goes, I can't really speak to that. It's too complex of an issue to make a decent comparison. I would argue, however, that there's enough political and cultural diversity in the US that using more precise terms would be useful and warranted.

Eebster the Great wrote:"American" isn't the only ambiguous term either. "Samoan" is ambiguous. "British" is ambiguous. "Chinese" is ambiguous. "Micronesian" is ambiguous. Ambiguity is an inevitable reality of language.

True, but nobody seems to question the use of the rest of those.

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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Sep 02, 2015 2:11 am UTC

slinches wrote:I have yet to run into a situation where someone was genuinely confused about where I am from if I say "I'm an American".
I am asked quite regularly by Latin Americans why we think we have a monopoly on that demonym. I guess you've never run into any of them, though. There are only twice as many as there are citizens of the United States, after all.

If the EU isn't a nation, then is the USA?
Yes.

They're both a union of sovereign states.
The US states are not sovereign.
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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby Eebster the Great » Wed Sep 02, 2015 2:17 am UTC

slinches wrote:
Eebster the Great wrote:The EU isn't a nation though. So it's not the same thing. Americans are no more diverse than, say, Indians or Thai or Chinese people. I think using a demonym to refer to people from a country in the EU would be like using a demonym to refer to people from a country in the African Union.

If the EU isn't a nation, then is the USA? They're both a union of sovereign states. As far as relative diversity goes, I can't really speak to that. It's too complex of an issue to make a decent comparison. I would argue, however, that there's enough political and cultural diversity in the US that using more precise terms would be useful and warranted.

Not at all. The states in the U.S. are not sovereign. The states in the EU are. The U.S. is a federation like Mexico, Canada, or Brazil. The EU is an international union comprising several supranational institutions regarding market, monetary, and financial policy. There is really no comparison. I don't think in any other context anybody would dispute this. The EU can't declare war. You can't be a citizen of the EU. The EU cannot dictate social policies to its member states. And so on.

Eebster the Great wrote:"American" isn't the only ambiguous term either. "Samoan" is ambiguous. "British" is ambiguous. "Chinese" is ambiguous. "Micronesian" is ambiguous. Ambiguity is an inevitable reality of language.

True, but nobody seems to question the use of the rest of those.

Pretty much my point.

gmalivuk wrote:
slinches wrote:I have yet to run into a situation where someone was genuinely confused about where I am from if I say "I'm an American".
I am asked quite regularly by Latin Americans why we think we have a monopoly on that demonym. I guess you've never run into any of them, though. There are only twice as many as there are citizens of the United States, after all.

I mean, it's not surprising. I haven't run into them either because I don't live near Latin America.

Anyway, I don't think anybody claimed we have a "monopoly" on the demonym.

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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby Carlington » Wed Sep 02, 2015 2:29 am UTC

slinches' post that gmal was responding to provides a data point to the contrary. I'd say it's a fairly common response, in the English-speaking world, to hear "American" and think "citizen of the USA", which looks a bit like a monopoly on the word.
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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Sep 02, 2015 2:32 am UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
slinches wrote:I have yet to run into a situation where someone was genuinely confused about where I am from if I say "I'm an American".
I am asked quite regularly by Latin Americans why we think we have a monopoly on that demonym. I guess you've never run into any of them, though. There are only twice as many as there are citizens of the United States, after all.

I mean, it's not surprising. I haven't run into them either because I don't live near Latin America.
I don't know where you live, but as slinches apparently lives in Arizona, I find it hard to believe they've never run into anyone from Mexico or farther south.

Anyway, I don't think anybody claimed we have a "monopoly" on the demonym.
Except for everyone who claims the demonym refers unambiguously to USians.
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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby slinches » Wed Sep 02, 2015 2:44 am UTC

I've certainly met a few Mexicans and many Mexican Americans. The Mexicans tend to call people from the US "Americanos", but other than that, they all seemed to be in agreement on the meaning of the term.

Personally, I think "USian" is more about taking a jab at perceived US imperialism than anything substantive about the ambiguity of language. If you want to talk about people from a specific continent, there's North American and South American and even Central American for the region in between if you don't want to be more specific than that.

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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Sep 02, 2015 3:48 am UTC

And what about if you want to talk collectively about people from the Americas?
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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Sep 02, 2015 4:05 am UTC

slinches wrote:Personally, I think "USian" is more about taking a jab at perceived US imperialism than anything substantive about the ambiguity of language. If you want to talk about people from a specific continent, there's North American and South American and even Central American for the region in between if you don't want to be more specific than that.

Yeah, I don't think "American" leads to a lot of actual confusion in normal conversation. It's just very frustratingly a wrong word. The reason for the inaccuracy of the connotation "from the important part of the Americas" is imperialism colonialism monopoly something something, but I don't personally care very deeply about the reasons for their own sake. The fact that the connotation is inaccurate is enough to make the word very annoying on its own, and USian is cute.
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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby slinches » Wed Sep 02, 2015 4:14 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:And what about if you want to talk collectively about people from the Americas?

I generally don't. And in the rare case I do, the slightly long winded "people from the Americas" works just fine.

CB, as far as aesthetics go, I find American to be much more appealing as a word than USian. USian has a terrible flow to it and cuteness in language tends to be cloying to me.

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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby Eebster the Great » Wed Sep 02, 2015 12:02 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Eebster the Great wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
slinches wrote:I have yet to run into a situation where someone was genuinely confused about where I am from if I say "I'm an American".
I am asked quite regularly by Latin Americans why we think we have a monopoly on that demonym. I guess you've never run into any of them, though. There are only twice as many as there are citizens of the United States, after all.

I mean, it's not surprising. I haven't run into them either because I don't live near Latin America.
I don't know where you live, but as slinches apparently lives in Arizona, I find it hard to believe they've never run into anyone from Mexico or farther south.

Most Hispanics in Cleveland are Puerto Rican, so I don't really have that broad of an experience. Obviously that doesn't mean I haven't run into any people from Latin America (mostly Mexico), but I don't think the topic ever came up. If it did, I certainly don't remember them ever having a problem with it.

Anyway, I don't think anybody claimed we have a "monopoly" on the demonym.
Except for everyone who claims the demonym refers unambiguously to USians.

Nobody said it was unambiguous. People are pretty clearly saying it's ambiguous but generally unproblematic.

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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Sep 02, 2015 12:29 pm UTC

Their having a problem with it doesn't mean they'd say anything to a gringo about it. Their saying something to you doesn't mean you'd remember it.
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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby Eebster the Great » Wed Sep 02, 2015 12:42 pm UTC

I'm not trying to suggest otherwise. Except you took this condescending, offended tone when slinches said he had never run into anyone confused by the demonym. He wasn't trying to make a general statement either.

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Re: Annoying words, and Words You Hate

Postby slinches » Wed Sep 02, 2015 1:50 pm UTC

Just to be clear, I do see how it can be considered technically inaccurate. Though, in my experience, technical accuracy is rather low on the the list of forcings contributing to the evolution of words in the English language.

And, in general, I try to avoid making general statements. Generally, they end up not covering every case and people get offended when their special case is neglected since it is so obviously worthy of special consideration.


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