Monday, 26 April 2010

America, the USA or something else?

When did the United States of America purloin the title of "America" for itself?

Over the years, it's begun to annoy the hell out of me.  I find myself yelling at the telly or radio journo, newsreader or presenter, "It's the USA or US or United States of America - you idiot!  The USA IS NOT America ".

And indeed, if you look at any atlas or globe, you will not find a place identified as "America" in the same way you'll find a "Europe", "Africa" and "Asia".

There is North America, Central America, and South America, often collectively referred to as "the Americas", but there is no "America" per se'.

And last time I counted, there were 22 other nations in "the Americas" (counting continental countries only).

But it's unlikely you'll ever hear natives of any of those nations refer to themselves as "Americans", although technically in  my opinion, everyone who is a citizen of any nation located in "the Americas" would be entitled to do so.  just think how often you'll hear of people referred to as Europeans, Africans or Asians.

I've asked a few Latin American (i.e. not "USian") friends and acquaintances what they think of the USA perennially being referred to, and referring to itself as "America", and the consensus seems to be that it's a nagging thorn in the side, and they wish it would stop.

This got me wondering.  How did the United States of America come to generally been known as "America", and is citizens as "Americans", when by other common measure, they are not the only ones entitled to use it?

I blame show business.  More specifically, song writers, lyricist and performers.

We have the anthems: America, the Beautiful and God Bless America.  Then there's show tunes and pop songs:  I want to be in America, Coming to America, spring to mind.  I'm sure there are heaps more, I can't be bothered looking just to plump out this post.

All these references in popular culture, being repeated time and again, across the globe, with barely a whimper, make for a meme which is almost impossible to counter.

So, on behalf of my Latin American friends and my own blood pressure, I say to the global news media and the USA:  STOP IT!  Stop referring to the United states of America as "America", and stop referring to citizens of same as being "American".  They're not.  The USA and USians are just one of many, in the Americas.

To the USA and USians I send this challenge.  What can you call yourselves if not "America" or "Americans"?  Get creative.  You've always prided your society as being innovative and forward thinking.

(And let's face it - if New Zealand - aka Aotearoa, Middle Earth, can rename, rebrand and market Chinese gooseberries to the world as "Kiwifruit" - surely you Yanks can come up with a new moniker for yourselves?)

Or maybe the new Americas bloc slated at a meeting in Cancun in February (for which spokespeople on all sides have already denied that it's an alternative grouping to the OAS), and from which the USA and Canada* will be denied membership, should take up idea as a PR exercise to get attention for their organisation, before getting into the heavy stuff? ;-)

Whaddya reckon?

*Inexplicably, IMO - Canada has always seemed to me, to have been much more sympathetic to Central and South American self governance, and less inclined to political interference than the USA, so I can only assume it's a bit of socio-political payback for simply being "first world". <shrug>