November 27, 2006 Leave a comment
Stephen Carson points me to this shirt and asks,
individualism for the masses
November 27, 2006 3 Comments
I’m proud to be an American.
I won’t try to defend that pride: it’s based mostly on things I had no responsibility for and no control over, which puts the pride in the same camp as many other collectivist emotions, but I can’t pretend I don’t feel it just because I think it’s irrational.
One of the things I’m proud about is that “American” is a contested word — contested by another entire continent (not to mention 2 other nation-states on my own continent). There’s something very fitting to me about the label being so over- and underdefined.
No one calls me a United Statesian, even though that would be a more accurate description of my official statist citizenship.
Another thing I’m proud of about the American label is that it comes from the phenomenal PR genius Amerigo Vespucci — not because he discovered anything, but because his maps and stories promoted curiosity and fantasy about this New World back in the Old World. (And I’m proud to descend from the cultural and economic history of that Old World.)
We United Statesians somehow managed to get primary claim to the term “American” even though Amerigo’s maps were of SOUTH America. The nerve of us.
Meanwhile, the people of the extended gene pool of those the Pilgrims feasted with are called Indians (unless you’re politically correct enough to call them “Native Americans,” which would make you a sequacious numskull, since the term literally means anyone born in America — wherever that is (as you know, my own favorite term is Amerindividual, but that’s not very helpful, since I’m a native-born Amerindividual myself)). They’re called Indians because Columbus thought he found them in India. To distinguish them from the real Indians in real India, they came to be called American Indians, which still begs the where-is-America question.
Lest we let the Europeans get too smug about this absurd tangle of longstanding misnomers, let me point out that France and England are both named for German tribes (which isn’t so much a misnomer as it is a little confusing), Scotland literally means “The Land of the Irish,” (and Ireland does not mean the Land of Ire — though it sure sounds like it does), and finally, the name “Spain” comes from the Phoenician word I-Shaphan, meaning “The Island of Hyraxes.” Is Spain an island? No. What’s a Hyrax, you might ask? Wikipedia tells us that they are any of 4 species of small, thickset, herbivorous mammals living in Africa or the Middle East — but not in Spain. That’s like naming my part of the world “the satellite of penguins.”
I’d love to hear more examples of misnomerian nationalities.