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America as a synonym for the U.S. 
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Post America as a synonym for the U.S.
I'm a teacher in Gunma, Japan and recently I've noticed that even my student's textbook has been promoting the use of America as a way to refer to the United States and I think it's wrong.

It doesn't acknowlede that everyone who lives in Canada, Mexico, and anywhere in the Caribbean or South America are also part of that category and is pretty blatantly promoting the idea of the U.S.'s hegemony over the rest of the world. I'm actually from the States and I find it offensive. Imagine if I was from any of the other countries included in that category.

So, recently, I've made it a point to explain to my classes that "America" is NOT English for the U.S. and that I expect them say the proper term when referring to it in the future.

Have any of you other teachers become similarly annoyed over this rampant miuse of the word? I hope I'm not the only one who's noticed and decided to mention it to my classes.

P.S. I don't really expect my students to change their katakana usage of this word when speaking Japanese, but have emphasized that they should be aware of it when speaking English. I just want them to know that "Amerika" in Japanese and "America" in English mean very different things.


Wed May 16, 2007 12:28 pm
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ahhhh :shock: can of worms!

This is a sticky topic and my general feeling is if it offends someone and there is another choice that's equally as good, let's use that. - - > the States, the U.S.A. or the United States of America.

Now, I'll attempt to defend its use in English language teaching, not society.

Argument 1: semantics
I don't know of any other country that uses America in their country's name. It's not Mexico of America nor America's Canada. So, no other country (that I know of) has claim to America as part of its name.

Also, America can be used to refer to either continent of the western hemisphere (North or South.) The key being not both and that it doesn't have one singular meaning, one or the other. Generally, we use North America or South America for the continents and to refer to both we say the Americas. But, again use has defined the continents to be labeled North America or South America. Only when we talk about past events of long ago do we refer to either continent as 'America.'
    'Columbus landed in America in 1492.'
The Americas and America are different words as defined by use. I don't believe they can be viewed as morphemes of the same word (maybe originally.)

'Where are you from?' 'I'm from America.'
Lastly, it means the United States in that context, nothing else. It can't be taken to mean some other part of the Americas.

aside: other countries have states but using 'the States' seems acceptable

Argument 2: use
It's in use in the States and in other English speaking countries.
    "God bless America."
    "America is the land of the free and the home of the brave."
    "I'm from America."

In all of those, there is no doubt as to what place the speaker is refering to. It has long been in use to mean the U.S.A. High frequency of use is a reason to teach it that way.

Argument one may be a little weak, but arguement two is solid from a didactic point of view. And again, I'm not trying to back its use, but explain why we may choose to teach it.

If you don't want to teach your students to use it, I think that's fine. And, since there are less possibly offensive alternatives, why not use them. Educating your students on the matter is also a great idea. However, not teaching them that English uses the term America as a synonym for the United States of America might be doing them a disservice.

Just my opinion. Bring on the worms!

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Last edited by mesmark on Wed May 28, 2008 1:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Wed May 16, 2007 9:17 pm
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hhmmm very well worded

Yes it is a sticky one but ....
I agree with you Mark. I am not from "America" (couldn't resist that)
so it is perphaps not such a big issue for me but as Mark says
virtually every uses /says it so I think we should teach it
(whether we agree with it or not) and yes if you have an issue with it
its good to point that out.

just my 2c worth :|


Thu May 17, 2007 8:48 am
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I wouldn't make a huge deal of it. I am living in South America and they recognize that all of the Americas are the Americas, but they call people from the USA "Americanos"

This isn't one of those PC things that is going to offend anyone that isn't already looking to be offended. I'd let it go.

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Thu May 17, 2007 11:38 pm
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Some good points were made and in light of them I think I've reevaluated slightly. As I see it, it's not gonna be something that I am going to expect my students to never say, because it's true that it is used by Americans themselves at times (albeit often overly patriotic ones). But the thing that was starting to really get me was that a lot of students weren't even recognizing the actual name when it was used unexpectedly, and that's not good. I think as far as my teaching is concerned from here on out, it has nickname status (maybe about on par with saying the States) which is not generally preferable to the proper name, but isn't going to be anything I'll get too worked up about if they use. I will, however, expect them to recognize both forms equally well and will throw it in to questions for them to be sure they can. Thanks for your insights on it, guys! :)


Fri May 18, 2007 8:36 am
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Does Japan have a nickname that japanese speakers call it? Maybe you can compare the function of the word 'America' with that nickname.

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Fri May 18, 2007 9:58 pm
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Hello, everybody, Americans from the South and from the North, too.
I am from EU ( European Union, Portugal ). Here , in Europe, we have a similar "problem ". Everyone refers to the UK, as England, which is only a part of it. People from Scotland and Northern Ireland are usually very upset with this, but people from Wales don't care.
In Spain, too; many people don't say they are Spanish, they say they are from Galiza or from Andaluzia. The Basque country in Spain is another part of a Spain where many people say they are not Spanish.
I don't think it is a good idea to be so strict in such questions. I think it doesn't matter where people are from, because, wether you like it or not, we just have this small planet and it belongs to all of us.
But I surely understand when you raise this question of America, but the problem is not the name itself, but, somehow, the international behaviour of some last years, involving so many wars around.
It's not good to put so much attention in this, because it will only increase the problem. And we have enough of them.
Please, try to be happy in this world, because we don't know anything about the other.
Olinda

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Sat May 19, 2007 2:24 am
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From reading the posts, I think it is the way a person identifies themself to others. I'm from America (American) but I am proud to tell everyone I meet that I am from Texas (Texan) fisrt. I guess that is what the Spaniards are doing by indentifying themself with a particular part of their country. It is a question of self identity in my opinion. I have never heard of a Canadian or a Mexican taking offense to the use of "America" because they understand it to mean The USA. Interesting line of chat for this forum but it does bring up how we approach culture and the way others may view us. Thanks.


Fri May 25, 2007 9:35 am
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In response to Olinda Lima's ideas, which were interesting because I'd forgotten about how often it occurs with that area of the world as well, I disagree that trying to ignore it is a good way to deal with it. I'm not advocating strictness in regards to how we refer to various countries as much as awareness. It never hurts to give our students quick lessons on culture in the context of English lessons, and this one in particular can be immediately useful. I didn't think about the U.K. versus England thing until you mentioned it, and I'm really glad you did because now I'll be more aware of that difference in the future. Thanks for the other side of the pond perspective you gave us.


Wed May 30, 2007 2:37 pm
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Hi...Well, I am from Mexico and let me tell you the first time I heard the term America refering to The USA I was a bit annoyed. I respect everybody´s opinions, but I was thinking if you say "I went to Africa on my last vacation", does that mean South Africa??? Because Africa is the continent isn´t it??? So for me, it would be the same with America. America is the continent, and that´s the name!!! And we always refer to the USA like that, the USA. Actually, it was 2 students I had a couple of years ago who used the term America. They were living in Switzerland and moving to Portugal, their mom was from Mexico and that´s why they were here on vacation when I thaught them English....so I guess they heard that in Europe, but I told them it was the USA.

:wink:

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Mon Jun 04, 2007 2:38 am
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Refering to smy2brazil's question. The Japanese have two words that I have heard them refer to their country. Nihon and Nippon. I live in Okinawa on the island people refer to thier island as the Ryukuus. It goes back to their history and the war and their treatment by the Americans (U.S.icans) and Main land Japanese. Apples and oranges? I am happy that my kids can find America (the U.S.) on a map.


Fri Jun 15, 2007 3:12 pm
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cesar, forgive me in advance if your inclusion of the word U.S.icans was meant to be a joke rather than a snide way of trying to poke holes in my argument, but I don't think the point was quite fully absorbed if anyone thought I was trying to argue against the use of the word American(s). Clearly, Americans is the only word for people from the United States, and its usage is far less loaded than that of the word America as a replacement for saying the U.S. and its proper equivalents.

This is also meant to refer to an earlier post mentioning Brazilians' use of Americanos, which is also far removed from the argument at hand. While I can't speak for Portuguese, Spanish speakers use the word Estados Unidos in my general experience, and perhaps at times also America (with the appropriate accentation), but as in the U.S., it's more often a politically charged nickname in that case.

Please don't believe that I think the two words are equally incorrect.


Thu Jun 28, 2007 12:11 pm
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