A detail to ponder

Hi, readers. Yes, I am actually posting something that isn’t about food.

I have a little question and I would love everyone’s opinion. In recent discussions, I have become increasingly aware that when I am talking about the country I’m from, I refer to it – without fail – as ‘the United States.’ I have ever since we got here – I remember clearly asking in my German class how to correctly decline ‘I come from the United States.’

How do you refer to my (and possibly – but not necessarily – your) home country when mentioning it in conversation? No right or wrong here – just my own curiosity.

11 thoughts on “A detail to ponder”

  1. Tammy

    I mostly call it the U.S. unless I am speaking German, and then I call it Amerika, but that’s only because I can’t remember the article for USA (die??) – it just sounds awkward when I say it in German.

    Sarah and I were talking about this the other day, and “I’m from America” just sounds like something GW would say….

  2. tqe / Adam

    I call it “The States”…

  3. steve

    Well, I’d say “the US”.

    For us, I’d say “the UK” or England – I think I prefer England these days.

    Anyhow, the reason I turned up here is that I will be in your neck of the woods in a couple of weeks and was looking for things to do for my family. Kids are 13,10 and 6.

    Any ideas? We are staying in Laaber and never visited here before.

    Cheers,
    Steve

  4. Jul

    I have developed a habit of calling it ‘New York’. As in

    “What country are you from?”

    “I’m from New York.”

    I think it’s my desire to be associated with a blue state, rather than W’s America…

  5. Sam

    Amerika or USA (Ew-Es-Ah) in German, and the states or the US in English… mostly, I do sometimes catch myself saying America in English, even though I find that wrong because America is Canada, Mexico, Brazil, etc, etc, etc.

  6. CN Heidelberg

    If I’m speaking English I call it the U.S., and in German I call it the U.S.A. (seems to be what they use).

  7. Christina G

    Same as C.N. Heidelberg.

    @steve: Hey there, I live in Laaber! If you’re here on July 26th, that’s the Laaber Bürgerfest (a big party)

  8. Sarah

    **Disclaimer: I am not qualified to analyze much of anything. I just like to nitpick.**

    Ok, so here’s why I asked: I have noticed a correlation between what Americans I’ve met over here call their country and their feelings about expatriate life. More often, people who are happy over here or don’t plan on leaving anytime soon tend to call it the U.S., the United States or U.S.A. People that don’t care for life here tend to call it America.

    Why is that? To me, the U.S. is more of a neutral term; a political body. There’s something more romantic and idealized about calling it America. I realize that, in German, it’s much easier and faster to say ‘ich komme aus Amerika,’ than ‘ich komme aus den U.S.A.,’ but in my own speech, it just feels much more objective to use U.S.A. than Amerika.

    Does anyone else attach connotations like that to the various names for my country? Or are all names equal?

  9. Christina G

    Well, Germans tend to think of Americans as either white or black, so if I say, “Ich bin Amerikanerin,” they’ll often ask me which country in the Americas do I come from. Although I still sometimes get asked where I am originally from when I say, “Ich komme aus den USA.”

    Maybe it depends on how much contact they have with Germans, because I haven’t noticed many Germans who use “America,” most say “USA” or “Vereinigten Staaten.”

  10. Hezamarie

    I kinda thought some expats are sensitive to the fact that most Europeans usually like specifics (i.e., America comprises of Canada, the USA, countries located geographically in central America and South America)

    Since I’ve lived in Germany, I’ve met a few South Americans and even some Europeans, who have traveled to south/central America, and they found it a bit offensive that U.S. Americans “take over the whole continent” by referring to themselves as American. There will always be those few that will give you geography smack.

    In my experience, everyone, even the textbooks know, that when you say, ‘Ich bin Amerikaner(in),’ you are from the USA.

    I mostly say I’m from Florida. That usually cuts out the assumption that I’m some where from central America. I rarely say, “Ich komme aus America,” for that very reason.

  11. ann

    The eternal debate – how many continents are there, what are their names. I am sick to death of it. I have no problem using “the States” or USA in German or English. It’s the official name of the country and it’s where I am from. (Try going after a Mexican some time for not using the full name of his or her country :) ). I have come to accept that people will make mistakes in foreign languages based on their native languages (false friends – “Americano” anyone? (which btw often doesn’t include Anglo-America). There are some people for whom these convictions are so ingrained that the insistance that it is not done in another language as it is done in their native toungue makes not a hint of difference. As both a geologist (with some idea where plate boundaries are) and an American (common usage) I have stopped using the A-word when not in the States because I’m done discussing this, particularly with non-American residents of the Americas. If you learned in your childhood that there are 5 continents (ironically including Europe and Asia) no one is going to be able to convince you otherwise now and any attempt to do so is going to be perceived as “American” cultural hegemony.
    The next time you say “Inuit” or “Ancestral Puebloan”, give some thought as to why we should change a centuries-old term in our own language to describe ourselves. I think respect has to be a two way street.

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