Wednesday, November 14, 2007

America the Beautiful

As we approach Thanksgiving, a most "American" holiday, I have to raise a grave issue. Okay, it's really just an issue of semantics and language usage, but still. . . . Anyone who has spent too much time around me knows that I take issue with the common practice of referring to the U.S. as "America." Proponents of this practice (Kendall is one of them) argue that it is simply a short name for the "The United States of America." I think that is a ridiculous argument. Following that logic, we may refer to Anne of Green Gables as "Green Gables." Of course this doesn't make sense because Anne is a person in the geographic area of the Green Gables (a farm, I think). The same holds true for Stratford-upon-Avon, meaning street on/near a river. Likewise, the United States are located in the geographic area of America, a very large area encompassing many countries. Accordingly, we should call it the "United States," the same way we might call the literary heroin "Anne" for short.

According to Wikipedia (a repository of Truth and Scientific Fact), Amerigo Vespucci, whose first name spawned the term "America," explored South America, not North America. As a result, Uruguay, Brazil and Suriname have a stronger claim on the title of "America" than do their apple-pie-eating counterparts to the north. Oddly enough, though, I think there is a general sentiment that South America is not in America. I cringe every time someone greets my father (who often visits from Venezuela) with "Welcome to America! How do you like it here?" I want to firmly (but diplomatically) explain that my dad is from America--the Southern portion of it. And, in any event, this is not his first time in the U.S.--he spends more time in the U.S. than most "Americans" spend in even their neighboring states.

I have only one concession to make to Kendall and the critics of my theory (or as they call themselves, the "true patriots"). There is not a very good way to refer to someone who is from the U.S. other than by using the term "American." You should know, however, that in Spanish, you can say Estadounidense--meaning "Unitedstatesan." Or you could just say "gringo."

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