a rickety bridge of impossible crossing

an american adjective

A couple related facts I've become acutely aware of, as a citizen of the nominal United States: the first is that there's no good adjective meaning "of the United States of America". It's totally normal to use "American" this way, but "American" can refer to two entire continents, and using a name encompassing an entire hemisphere to refer to one country in one half of that hemisphere is, well, it's right in line with typical US egotism

The bad news is that we don't have a lot of other options, because our colony dads, in their infinite wisdom, forgot to give the country they were founding a real name. "United States of America" isn't a name, it's a description. It would be like if the UK was named "The British Isles"1; yes, the UK is composed of many British isles, but what about all the other British isles? Sorry, Isle of Man, the Queen says you're out of the club. Have you considered becoming a peninsula? Just build a little land bridge. They're all the rage

Mexico is also a "united states of America"; in fact, its official name is Estados Unidos Mexicanos, the United Mexican States. They have 31 of them. So even the most official name we have is a big middle finger to the world, because we showed up and said "yeah, we own all this shit. Surely no one else on this half of the planet will deign to unite their own states"

I don't have a problem at all with people using "yank" or "yankee" as an adjective/demonym for the US. I don't even feel like it's an epithet; it's sort of the only good option if you don't want to indulge the US's continental egotism. But I feel weird saying it myself, because when you grow up in the US, it feels like a twee anachronism. When someone here says "yankee", it just sounds like they're talking about the 18th century

Also, I feel like someone from the US saying "yankee" would come across as trying too hard to disassociate themselves, like "I'm an american, but don't worry, I'm not like those americans." My gut feeling is that it's an affectation at which people in other countries would roll their eyes. I dunno, if you're not from the US and you want to share an opinion about this let me know

Are there any alternatives? Well, I've seen people use USian, and gosh I hate it. It looks fine in text, but try saying it aloud. yuu-ES-ee-'n?2 Bleagh. But maybe we don't deserve a good demonym. Maybe this is what we get for our hubris

Speaking of hubris, the second fact I've noticed is that there is far more US media with self-referential titles than media from any other country: American Beauty, American Idol, This American Life, American Gangster, American Graffiti, American Horror Story, American Monster, American Movie, American Pie, American Psycho, and I'm not going to continue because I can't even scratch the surface. Here's a yahoo with 100 of them, and that's just movies. American Beauty alone is the name of two novels, three movies, three albums and an EP (not counting soundtracks to the aforementioned movies), a rose, and a chess game (?!)

It's not just media; you can also fly American Airlines. Delta and Southwest? Not American enough. You can also get clothes at American Apparel, and if their apparel isn't American enough for you, you can shop at American Eagle. Where are their clothes manufactured? Never you mind. Just take this little flag and shut the hell up if you know what's good for you3

Why are yanks so enamored with naming things after the place they're from? Do other countries do this? I'm trying to think of examples and literally the only one I can come up with is the increpare game English Country Tune. The film Canadian Bacon mostly involved people from the US, except John Candy. It's hard to imagine most of the titles following this format sounding normal when imported to another country. Would Japan produce a show called "Japanese Horror Story"? Wouldn't that just seem weird and redundant?4 If American Psycho never existed, would you expect Australia to make a movie called Australian Psycho? It just sounds like a joke about an Australian remake of the Hitchcock movie

Oh wait! I can't forget Italian Spiderman (youtube link, content warning for smoking, snakes, spiderman, and extremely badass fictional violence), the excellent classic Italian film from the country of Italy 🦝


  1. I'm sure there are truckloads of pallets of cans of worms I could be opening right now re: overlaps and conflicts of UK/British/English geo-political nomenclature, so for my joke I'm sticking with a simple yankee hypothetical and hopefully not showing too much of my ass. Sorry if I accidentally offended any Manxfolk. Not sorry if I offended the queen↩

  2. hours after writing this, I was saying it out loud again, and the perfect solution hit me like a bolt of lightning: USAiyan. US saiyan. We are a country of Gokus↩

  3. come to think of it, why isn't it literally fraud for them to continue calling themselves "American Apparel" now that their clothes are no longer made in the US? No one cares, nothing means anything↩

  4. I did a little searching and maybe it's not that weird? There's a 1979 movie called Nihon no Fixer (Japanese Fixer), but maybe the fact that the title includes an English word is a tip-off that "fixer" is an inherently foreign concept in Japan, and it makes sense to specify that it's a Japanese one of those. It'd be like a movie called American Ninja† and that's totally fine. Most ninjas aren't American. But even if there are logical examples here and there, I think the pure volume of them in the US is a uniquely yankee phenomenon

    †. which of course is the title of a 1985 movie released by Cannon films, best known for action schlock like Rambo 2 and the Death Wish franchise, as well as introducing the phrase electric boogaloo to our national consciousness↩

#currents