Another dot in the blogosphere?

Not America, but the USA

Posted on: May 4, 2017

My blog entry two days ago about lazy writing received a large and disproportionate number of views from the USA. I wonder if this was because I insisted that “America” was not synonymous with “the USA”.

I shared some incomplete thoughts on this issue about three years ago. In that reflection I shared what I experienced as a Ph.D. student:

“America” has become synonymous with the “United States of America”, but they are not the same thing. When I was a graduate student in the US, I met a Venezuelan, Chilean, and Brazilian who pointed out that they were proud Americans too. South Americans to be precise. The same could be said about those in Central and North America.

Technically speaking, anyone from the Americas is an American. North America alone has native Americans, Canadians, US citizens, and Mexicans. Why should US citizens have exclusive rights to “American”?

If you are not convinced, then consider what happens at rallies and sporting events. The crowds chant “USA, USA, USA!” and not “America”.

When I was pursuing a Masters in the USA, one of my mentors told me a story about his wife. She was indignant about something at an airport and insisted on being treated properly because she was an “American”. My mentor corrected her and pointed out that they were US citizens.

Like most people before that, I saw no difference between “American” and “US citizen”. If I had not been in graduate school, I would have brushed off the distinction as trivial. My then Masters mentor and interaction with fellow Ph.D. students taught me to be a more critical and inclusive thinker.

I realise that not many share this perspective. You might say that I am nitpicking or that everyone else says otherwise. I say that precision is important and that the majority is not always right. Teaching this distinction is a gateway to questioning norms that are based on ignorance or indifference.

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1 Response to "Not America, but the USA"

Right on, Ashley. Lazy writing stemmed from lazy thinking..


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