Martine Rousseau and Olivier Houdart, copy editors for the French newspaper Le Monde who also co-edit the blog Langue Sauce Piquante (which I’ve linked to from the cohort page for years), address a long-standing issue: if “American” should apply to all people from North, Central, and South America, then what should we call citizens of the United States of America?
When we published a note on our language blog defending the use of États-Uniens—the word is neither pretty nor musical, but it answers a certain need—we had an outpouring of responses. They ranged from absolute opposition to the word (because of its supposed anti-Americanism, its ugliness, its snobbishness, its sarcastic tone, its usefulness only for academics—and because it sounds like space aliens) to enthusiastic approval, notably as a counter to the “imperialist” appropriation of a whole continent by one country’s ethnonym.
I, too , find “États-Uniens” to be unwieldy, ugly, and unlikely to succeed, just like “Usians” and “Usans” and “USAns,” the latter three which also have the tendency to be over-used earnestly and insistently by blowhards and know-it-alls.
Perhaps we should consider any of these from David Letterman:
Top Ten British Nicknames for Americans:
10. Star-spangled ninnies
9. K-Mart cowboys
6. Velveeta-eating hyenas
5. Regis-loving geeks
4. Mighty Morphin pinheads
3. Tea-dumping psychos
2. Jerks 90210
Or Top Ten Canadian Nicknames for Americans
10. Skinny bacon lovers
8. Continent hogs
6. Surfboard-riding goofballs
5. Individually wrapped cheese slice junkies
4. Upper Mexicans
3. Pizza-gorged convertible jockeys
2. Star-spangled sissy boys
Or Top Ten Norwegian Nicknames for Americans:
10. Star-Spangled Ninnies
6. Gap-Toothed T.V. Boy (Actually, that’s just you, David)
4. Nordic Track Sissies