Fidel Castro has proposed a new name for people from the USA. Listening to Fidel’s “Reflections” read recently on the noon news , the Commandant used the term “Usamerican,” an adjective derived from “USA.”
I recognize that ever since I was little, I felt a certain cognitive dissonance for the use (incorrect, I believe) of the word “America” as a name for the federated state created in 1776. The contradiction comes from the common custom of citizens from that country referring to themselves with that term, a custom shared (when referring to those “Americans”) by non-Hispanic residents of Europe.
I had learned that use of the word since I was a child. This is why I found it shocking when I heard, for example, that Cuban national hero Jose Marti had created a magazine for the children of “America” while at the same time the “Americans” had transformed Cuba into a neo-colony. Later on I learned to distinguish which “America” was being spoken of in each case.
The country of Obama occupies only a part of the continent called America, whose name is shared by all of the residents of that continent, everyone with equal right to that title.
On the other hand, in Spanish there exist the variations norteamericano (North American) and estadounidense (US resident). Nevertheless, North America also includes Canada, Greenland and a part of Mexico. Actually, the official name of that latter country is “The United States of Mexico.”
There also exists the United States of Brazil and that of Central America, though neither of the two variations really fit. Notwithstanding, it seems that the republic created in 1776 doesn’t possess a name that it can use with full rights.
Certainly something similar happened with the country that no longer exists that called itself the Soviet Union. The fact of the matter is that the word “soviet” doesn’t refer to a nationality, but to a political organization (a “council of workers,” the organizational form that lost all its true content after the 1920s). Such organizations also existed in other countries (for example in Hungary, Germany, Slovakia and China).
In 1991, year of the last final flicker of the USSR, a cleaver news correspondent proposed calling that territory “Gorbistan,” in honor of Mikhail Gorbachev, but like the presidency of Gorbachev, the USSR itself had only days remaining.
Latin Americans sometimes refer to the citizens of the USA by the name “Yankees.” Accordingly, in Latin America the term yanquilandia (Yankeeland) is sometimes used sarcastically.
At one time I proposed the words “yankistan” as the country’s name and “yankistani” for its residents. In my humble opinion, these are excellent alternatives, because “-stan” comes from the common Indo-European root word and is also politically correct. Yet no one paid any attention to me.
I know perfectly well, though, that for many of the residents of this country that has borders with Canada and Mexico, the term “Yankee” signifies little more than a great baseball team located in New York.
By the way, the word “Usono” exists in Esperanto to refer to this republic with 50 states, and “usonano” is used for its residents. These words, of course, should not be confused in that artificial language with “Ameriko” and “amerikano,” which both refer to the continent.
I don’t know how successful the neologism now being proposed by Fidel Castro will end up being. But perhaps the word “usamericano” will turn out to be more successful than “yankistani.” I can imagine Cuban school books and reference maps in which that country to the north of Cuba winds up being called “Usamerica.” That would be interesting, don’t you think?
Or would they prefer “Obamistan?”