the united states of america love

the united states of america

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  • Oh, lordy. I love my country, but I really, really hate its name.

    Imagine a nice young couple who get married and start a family. These doting parents love their children, so they name them "Girl #1", "Girl #2", and "Boy #1".

    Wait, what?! These aren't names, they're descriptions! Those poor kids deserve more than descriptions -- they deserve names. Same goes for countries. Citizens ought to be able to hold up their heads with pride and say "I come from X", where X is a NAME of a PLACE, like "Canada" or "Hungary", or "Kyrgyzstan".

    And then there's us. You know those states? In North America? How they're all united and everything? Yeah, them. Well, we don't have a name for them, so let's just call them the "united states" of America.

    Gosh darn it. We are going to BEAT this! And in the meantime, if you're looking for us, we'll be over in the corner, commiserating with the United Arab Emirates and the Central African Republic.

    August 28, 2009

  • Oh man. I'm sorry. I can sympathize and understand this argument, but I think it also goes to the heart of how Americans see themselves.

    If we had a name like Hungary or Kyrgyzstan, it would seem to indicate some unity of ethnicity, religion, language, etc. And the citizens of the United States do not have that particular type of unity. We are really good at compartmentalizing ourselves into a billion little groups. But we're also good at thinking of ourselves as one united people: it's a unity of civic ideals: the belief in the idea of the United States, more than any particular ethnic/racial/religious/origins group, is what really makes us Americans.

    In that sense, when you think about it, the name's pretty perfect.

    Feel free to argue—I'm certainly not trying to quash any strong emotions on the topic. (These sorts of ideas are exactly the sort of thing that will launch me into a full-fledged history dork out.) I often catch myself wistfully imagining another name, but then I feel better about the name when I think about this idea of a civic religion uniting 300 million people—and inspiring countless other millions over the (couple of) centuries. I think the whole thing is pretty neat. :)

    On a more pragmatic note... I have always thought that the perfect corporate name is "The Corporation for Public Broadcasting." Thank heaven, it's a company that actually SAYS what it is they're FOR. How can you get any clearer than that? For which reason I do have a soft spot of affection for the Central African Republic.

    August 28, 2009

  • Hey, some of us live in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland... (It's a description, but at least we manage to slip Great into it.)

    August 28, 2009

  • True. True.

    Ptero, maybe we should consider something like "The Great United States of Greater North America, a.k.a. Great Americastan," or something.

    *ponders*

    August 29, 2009

  • The Untied States of America.

    August 29, 2009

  • See also my account at ს�?ქ�?რთველ�?.

    August 29, 2009

  • Seeitoldyouitwasntflatistan

    August 29, 2009

  • The United taStes of America

    August 29, 2009

  • Hi chained_bear! Thanks for bracketing history dork out -- it lead me to yeta, a truly excellent page. Yeta helped helped me realize that, no matter what They Might Be Giants say about James K. Polk, he was not a nice man. No siree bob. I hope we can incite many more history dork outs out of you!

    Now, to the arguing!

    *dons special sparkly Argument Cap*

    When I spoke of country names allowing citizens to hold up their heads with pride, it was mostly a rhetorical flourish that came upon me in the heat of my passion, like an attack of the vapours. Of course one can take pride in the phrase "United States of America" -- it is, as you say, a good expression of our national ideals.

    However, this lovely phrase is not suited to be a name, in much the same way that a lovely humuhumunukunukuapua'a is not suited to play the alpenhorn. In order to play the alpenhorn, you need to have certain attributes, such as alpenlegs, alpenarms, and a good alpenpucker. Even a very gifted humuhumunukunukuapua'a will not have these things. Far better to leave the poor little fish in the water, don't you think? And remove that tiny lederhosen, too. It's not at all fetching.

    When something needs to be referred to frequently and unambiguously, we give it a name. (For example, this is why we name hurricanes. We're not being cutesy, we just need a fast and accurate way to distinguish them from each other.) In order to be a good name, a word or phrase must have certain attributes. It should be should be fairly short, and it should be a proper noun. A descriptive phrase, even an excellent descriptive phrase like "The United States of America", will not have these things.

    If we grant that the states are, in fact, united, what are they united into? When the Constructicons united, they formed Devastator, a single unified entity. Clearly, the same is true of the United States. We've created a single big something out of many little somethings. And, this something needs to be referred to frequently and unambiguously. In short, it needs a name.

    August 29, 2009