The 46 races

by Chris Bertram on December 5, 2011

I’m re-reading Samuel Scheffler’s paper “Immigration and the Significance of Culture”, Philosophy and Public Affairs 2007. From the footnotes, the list of “races” into which the US immigration authorities divided humanity in 1914:

African (black), Armenian, Bohemian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Chinese, Croatian, Cuban, Dalmatian, Dutch, East Indian, English, Finnish, Flemish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Herzogovinian, Irish, Italian (North), Italian (South), Japanese, Korean, Lithuanian, Magyar, Mexican, Montenegrin, Moravian, Pacific Islander, Polish, Portuguese, Roumanian, Russian, Ruthenian (Russniak), Scandinavian (Norwegians, Danes, and Swedes), Scotch, Servian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Spanish-American, Syrian, Turkish, Welsh, West Indian.

{ 86 comments }

1

Coulmont 12.05.11 at 12:23 pm

A sign of the times, and of immigration fluxes. There were a lot of central European races. Bohemian, Bosnian, Croatian, Dalmatian, Herzegovinian, Montenegrin, Moravian, Romanian, Ruthenian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian…

2

Leinad 12.05.11 at 12:27 pm

Amazing how diverse humanity gets South of the Alps and East of the Oder.

There must be something in the Danube…

3

Matt 12.05.11 at 12:42 pm

Advances in science since the early 20th century have helped us learn that the Welsh are not a distinct race, but rather a completely different species. Less importantly than that, the paper is from 2007, not 97, in case anyone wants to look it up. (It’s also in the recent collection of papers by Scheffler.)

Sometimes amusing but often depressing from around the same time are various court decisions about whether different groups were “white” for immigration purposes or not- a “high-cast Hindu”? Not white. A Finn (perhaps actually a Laplander)? Yes, etc.

4

Scott Martens 12.05.11 at 12:43 pm

I am *shocked* and *offended* that the Flemings get to be a race but the Waloons don’t.

5

dsquared 12.05.11 at 12:48 pm

I notice that “Canadian” is not there. It is a little known fact that the use of the term “Canada”, to refer to the expanse of land to the North of the USA is a comparatively recent affair – there are basically no references to Canada in any official or literary context dated earlier than 1958.

6

Chris Bertram 12.05.11 at 12:48 pm

Thanks Matt, fixed the date.

7

Kevin Donoghue 12.05.11 at 12:49 pm

I’m reminded of Shlomo Sand’s story of the Israeli official who encountered a newly-arrived immigrant, from Barcelona, who was adamant that he wasn’t Spanish. After some discussion he was recorded as Catalan. Then they got to religion. He was an atheist, but that was unacceptable to the official. Eventually he agreed that he could record his religion as Catalan also.

8

Matt 12.05.11 at 12:52 pm

there are basically no references to Canada in any official or literary context dated earlier than 1958.
Before that date we mostly referred to it as “yonder great moose preserve”. A largely unnoticed at the time clause in a treaty agreement required the change.

9

Scott Martens 12.05.11 at 12:52 pm

D^2, we’re not supposed to tell anyone, but now that I’m a naturalized Belgian, I can say this without fear of becoming stateless: “Canada” was just the name of Primeminister Diefenbaker’s dog. People just thought it was a cool name, so it stuck.

10

J. Otto Pohl 12.05.11 at 12:52 pm

The Waloons are part of the French race obviously. Whereas Flemings and Dutch are clearly marked here as separate races. I am not sure if the Boers in South Africa are considered Dutch or whether they just didn’t get listed due to a lack of immigrants to the US. It is interesting to note they use the term Hebrew and not Jew. Along the lines of the small and brief Canaanite movement in Israel I would say that this is more appropriate as a racial classification since Jew clearly has religious connotations.

11

Kieran Healy 12.05.11 at 12:53 pm

12

Jacob T. Levy 12.05.11 at 12:56 pm

I’m struck by the date; the American conviction that one could straightforwardly divide up the Balkans into distinct peoples would have consequences four years later.

It’s a funny mix. On the one hand, the undifferentiated “African” compared with the distinctions among Asians and Europeans looks straightforwardly awful. On the other hand within Europe, the fine distinctions are drawn in the Balkans and in Britain. “French” is just “French” and “Spanish” is just “Spanish,” which suggests that fine distinctions weren’t only a sign of racial esteem– I doubt that the Balkans were held in higher esteem than France. [Insert jokes here.]

The Middle East/ North Africa looks awfully empty, with no Arabs, Egyptians, or Persians to be found.

13

Kevin Donoghue 12.05.11 at 12:59 pm

“…there are basically no references to Canada in any official or literary context dated earlier than 1958.”

However it does appear in samizdat publications such as the Statute of Westminster.

14

Chris Bertram 12.05.11 at 1:01 pm

“The Middle East/ North Africa looks awfully empty, with no Arabs, Egyptians, or Persians to be found.”

Yes, I noticed that. I’m guessing that they’re variously Turkish or Syrian. Albanians are a curious omission, I think they must count as Turkish too.

15

Jacob Christensen 12.05.11 at 1:08 pm

Fascinating to try an figure out the criteria: Scandinavians seem to be bundled because of (perceived similar) language even if they are from different states (Finns are distinct due to language but what about Fenno-Swedes then?) while Dutch and Flemings are distinct even if they speak the same language (but live in different states).

From a modern perspective, putting black/sub-Saharan Africans into one group makes absolutely no sense given the linguistic and genetic variation, but maybe the authorities of 1914 should be forgiven for not knowing the intricacies of DNA.

That the Scotch are not Scandinavian will probably come as a huge disappointment to the SNP.

16

J. Otto Pohl 12.05.11 at 1:09 pm

Turkish would have referred to all Muslims from Anatolia and the Balkans I am guessing. Syrian clearly refers to all Arabs both Christian and Muslim in what is today the Levant. That is Syria proper, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine. There really is not a distinction between Syrians and Lebanese in 1914. Most Arab immigrants to the US before 1914 were Christians from what is today Lebanon and Syria.

17

Jacob T. Levy 12.05.11 at 1:17 pm

@16 JOP: Agreed on all counts. That still leaves North Africa including Egypt, the Arabian peninsula, probably Iraq, and certainly Iran off the map. (Which is just to say that they probably didn’t face enough migrants from those regions to worry about classifying them. Still struck me as funny.)

I wonder how strong the correlation was between # of immigrants and distinction-drawing. Certainly, regions that sent more migrants to the US seem more likely to be differentiated– the British Isles, Italy, eastern Europe. But the pattern fluctuates; I doubt that there was any meaningful Korean or Japanese immigration, and yet they bothered to draw that distinction.

18

Walt 12.05.11 at 1:21 pm

The US never recovered from allowing Herzogovinians into its borders.

I met a person from Canada, who carefully and calmly corrected me when I referred to Vancouver as being in the US. She looked like someone reading from a script. I suspect the kind of conditioning Huxley documented in Brave New World was involved.

19

Scott Martens 12.05.11 at 1:22 pm

Southeast Asia is completely missing too. Malay/Filipino was definitely a legal status in the US at the time – named in Californian race codes by then – so its absence is a bit surprising. I can’t see “East Indian” covering it.

20

J. Otto Pohl 12.05.11 at 1:25 pm

There was significant Japanese and Korean immigration to Hawaii in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There was also significant Japanese although not much Korean immigration to California from 1868 to 1907. It was meaningful enough for TR to get the Japanese government to issue the Gentlemen’s Agreement. In 1924 all Asian immigration is basically banned for several decades. But, by 1914 a lot of Japanese and even a number of Korean immigrants had settled in the US.

21

dsquared 12.05.11 at 1:26 pm

I suspect that the category is based around “People who can be stationed together in holding camps without causing fights/People who can be reasonably relied on to help each other”. It matches pretty well to the list of mutual ethnic aid societies in my “Handbook of Fraternal Organisations”, except by that token, the lack of differentiation between Swedes (Vasa Order Of America), Danes (Danish Brotherhood in America) and Norwegians (Order Of The Sons Of Norway) is indeed odd.

Czechs are missing, I notice, but would presumably be coded as Slovaks (Czech-Slovak Protective Society of America)

22

Scott Martens 12.05.11 at 1:27 pm

@d^2: Bohemians and Moravians are on the list.

23

J. Otto Pohl 12.05.11 at 1:28 pm

Maybe because Filipinos were under official US rule in 1914 and hence were an not a race that immigrated to the US. Rather they were a race living in a colony of the US and showing up on the Mainland did not require going through immigration procedures at Ellis Island.

24

Alex 12.05.11 at 2:01 pm

I wonder if one’s Balkan or eastern European nationality was the sort of thing that might appear on one’s Austro-Hungarian identity documents?

25

ajay 12.05.11 at 2:35 pm

the American conviction that one could straightforwardly divide up the Balkans into distinct peoples would have consequences four years later.

It should be added that the peoples of the Balkans already had some suspicions along those lines themselves. (“Plucky Foreigners Have Own Ideas, Politics, Study Finds”.)

Interesting that they split Italians into North and South. Also, why split “Mexican” and “Spanish-American”? What about Brazilians and Guyanese?

26

Mrs Tilton 12.05.11 at 2:45 pm

Heh, there are Turks but no Kurds (not even their Iranian linguistic cousins for them to be hiding among). Looks like extremist Turkish ethnic nationalism was right all along.

Chris @14,

Albanians are a curious omission, I think they must count as Turkish too

Who was the US State Department backing in 1914? It might be that we are instead to count the Albanians as Serbians (or, as I suppose we should call them, Servians).

27

Antonio Conselheiro 12.05.11 at 2:49 pm

I’m struck by the date; the American conviction that one could straightforwardly divide up the Balkans into distinct peoples would have consequences four years later.

Basically, the format they used meant that there had to be some kind of definite answer. You shouldn’t leap to grand conclusions on the basis of which arbitrary definite answer was chosen. The immigration categories obviously are more important, but here’s something from 1907 (a census of mineworkers in Hibbing, MN) which lumps all the South Slavs except Montenegrins and Bulgarians into the “Austrian” category, since they immigrated from Austria. These undifferentiated Yugoslavs make up more than 40% of the total.

From 1901 to 1906 Fiorello La Guardia was American consul in Trieste and Rijecks in Italian-Slovenian Austria, so he probably processed the immigration papers of some of these men — Trieste was the main port of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. James Joyce arrived in Trieste in 1904 and stayed for more than ten years. La Guardia and Joyce were about the same age.

28

novakant 12.05.11 at 2:50 pm

They forgot two whole continents.

29

Niall McAuley 12.05.11 at 3:06 pm

The Italians were split into North and South, but the Irish were all lumped in together.

30

Matt 12.05.11 at 3:33 pm

Also, why split “Mexican” and “Spanish-American”?

In some parts of the US (mostly the N.E., in my experience) this is still a big deal, w/ much of the non-Mexican Latin-Americans being called “Spanish” (even though this would likely not happen outside the NE- certainly not in the West, and, one guesses, not in Spain, either) and Mexicans being Mexicans, that is, _not_ like the rest of the “Spanish”. It’s an odd class thing there, I think. But, given that Mexicans have sometimes had (for obvious reason) some special immigration or migration status in the US, a split of some sort makes sense.

31

ajay 12.05.11 at 3:47 pm

29: a particularly notable slip in the context of dsquared’s guess that this is a guide to “People who can be stationed together in holding camps without causing fights”.

But note that, in 1914, Ireland was unified…

32

J. Otto Pohl 12.05.11 at 3:47 pm

In parts of the Mountain West the distinction between Spanish-American and Mexican is a real one and revolves around when their family settled in what became the US in 1848. If it was before Mexico got its independence from Spain then they call themselves Spanish-American and not Mexican. Then there are the Basques who were from Spain, but ethnically different. Looking at the table above it appears the US govt. classified the large number of Basques coming to places like Nevada as Spanish.

33

OCS 12.05.11 at 4:42 pm

I met a person from Canada, who carefully and calmly corrected me when I referred to Vancouver as being in the US.

And years ago, while still young, single, and living in the US, I met an appealing Canadian woman at a conference. We were hitting it off quite well until I asked her, ‘Is Alberta a nice city?’ ‘Alberta is a province,’ she responded icily. I ate dinner alone that night.

Now I live in Canada (I managed to marry a different appealing Canadian woman), and have learned that clueless Americans are a national obsession. New US ambassadors are routinely subjected to Canadian general knowledge quizzes by the media, and a popular TV comedian used to have a segment called “Talking to Americans.” (“Do you think Canada should preserve the National Igloo?” was one question I recall).

As for Canadian racial divisions, I think the two primary groups are “Torontonians” and “Real Canadians.” (I’m the former).

34

Antonio Conselheiro 12.05.11 at 4:49 pm

Vancouver is in the state of Washington, USA. There’s supposed to be another one up north somewhere by the Tlingits and Kwakiutl and so on.

35

Jacob Christensen 12.05.11 at 4:49 pm

@21 dsquared: I completely forgot – there was … wait for it … a monetary union between Denmark, Sweden and Norway at the time. Silly me.

36

krippendorf 12.05.11 at 5:01 pm

I have always pitied the residents of Vancouver, Washington, who must contend with multiple geographic attribution errors: they are either Canadian, residents of the nation’s capital, or a suburb of a city in Maine. Talk about a recipe for a collective identity crisis.

37

marcel 12.05.11 at 5:21 pm

Interesting factoid (about which I am pretty confidant – i.e., probably should take this with a grain of salt until someone else who is reliable confirms it): at Ellis Island &/or Castle Garden, most Jews from the Pale of Settlement were listed as Russians. Not sure about those from the parts of Poland that ended up ruled by Prussia or Austria.

38

Antonio Conselheiro 12.05.11 at 6:39 pm

Vancouver is famous for being the home of Wesley Allan Dodd. They’re probably happy with being misidentified.

39

nick s 12.05.11 at 6:52 pm

Whereas Flemings and Dutch are clearly marked here as separate races.

We all know about the infamous ‘fritessaus test’ carried out on Ellis Island to separate the two.

40

gfw 12.05.11 at 7:56 pm

Krippendorf – any of those three alternatives would be preferable to the reality of Vancouver, WA.

41

Tom Hurka 12.05.11 at 7:59 pm

@33

Clueless Americans are an obsession for only one race of Canadians (the Torontonians — of which I’m also one) but not for the other (the real Canadians). Inhabitants of the city of Alberta, for example, couldn’t care less — they’re too busy buying winter places in Arizona.

42

Jacob T. Levy 12.05.11 at 8:48 pm

For Quebecois, clueless Torontonians are a much greater obsession.

43

Britta 12.05.11 at 8:53 pm

Also interesting that we get undifferentiated “German.” I’d expect at least a distinction between Prussian and Bavarian (or perhaps, a la Italy, a more generalized Northern and Southern), unless by 1914 maybe they were all ‘the Hun’?

44

J. Otto Pohl 12.05.11 at 8:57 pm

Well the Germans claimed “Wir sind ein Volk.” While the northern Italians still claim that Naples is part of Africa. Not that anybody in Africa wants Naples and Sicily. My impression is that Italian cities have a lot higher crime rate than what exists in Ghana.

45

johne 12.05.11 at 9:05 pm

“Interesting that they split Italians into North and South.”
I have read that the distinction was made after heavy lobbying by immigrants from northern Italy.

46

Barry 12.05.11 at 9:06 pm

Tom Hurka 12.05.11 at 7:59 pm

” Clueless Americans are an obsession for only one race of Canadians (the Torontonians—of which I’m also one) but not for the other (the real Canadians). Inhabitants of the city of Alberta, for example, couldn’t care less—they’re too busy buying winter places in Arizona.”

Do they think that Arizonian Tebaggers care about the difference between one set of Evul Furrinurz (from the south) and another set (from the north)?

47

Barry 12.05.11 at 9:10 pm

Sorry, forgot to add the ‘:)’

48

OCS 12.05.11 at 9:44 pm

#46
Do they think that Arizonian Tebaggers care about the difference between one set of Evul Furrinurz (from the south) and another set (from the north)?

My experience is that Americans think of Canadians as not-quite foreigners. For Teabaggers I imagine we (I’m naturalized) sit somewhere on the “otherness” spectrum between Liberals and the English. Strange and probably offensive, but not foreign foreign.

49

Lord Blotto 12.05.11 at 10:40 pm

“It is interesting to note they use the term Hebrew and not Jew. Along the lines of the small and brief Canaanite movement in Israel I would say that this is more appropriate as a racial classification since Jew clearly has religious connotations.”

Especially considering that recent genetic evidence points toward the “Palestinians” being Hebrews who converted to Islam at the point of an Arab sword.

50

Jay C 12.05.11 at 11:44 pm

marcel @ #37:

You are quite right: Jews emigrating to the US from, say, Poland were usually designated as “citizens” of whoever ruled their part of Poland at the time: my wife’s family are descended from “Austrian” Jews; though (IIRC) there was a big cultural gap there as one grandfather was “Austrian” from Vienna, and his wife was, I think, “Austrian” from some grubby shtetl out in the boondocks. Not that anyone at Ellis Island would care: “Hebrew” covers a lot of ground…

51

Tom M 12.05.11 at 11:49 pm

The wir Sind ein Volk came later. The German Army in 1914 was divided along geographic lines and commanded that way. The armies were numbered but comprised of distinctly identifiable troops. Third Army, Saxons, Sixth Army Bavarians etc IIRC.
After losses like at Verdun, this distinction became unsustainable.

52

snuh 12.06.11 at 12:27 am

re #19, historically “the east indies” was a much wider term than what it now is thought to mean. it used to refer to all of the subcontinent, plus all of what is now called south east asia, and some archipelagos (the phillipines and indonesia). from this usage is derived e.g. the terms “dutch east indies” (for indonesia), “spanish east indies” (for the phillipines), and of course “british east india” (the subcontinent).

i expect “east india” is used in the list in this sense. notably none of those many many ethnic groups this term could cover at the time are listed separately. which is even more amazing than “african” in my opinion.

53

Antti Nannimus 12.06.11 at 12:53 am

Hi,

You cannot imagine how pleased and proud I am to know that formerly the almighty American government recognized my Finnish ancestors, and now me by implication, to be an exclusive race unto our own selves. We’ll see if we can find something useful for the rest of you to do. In the meantime, since by our own measures and considerations, we are so superior, all the rest of you 45 other races can go screw yourselves.

And have a nice day while doing it!
Antti

54

Antti Nannimus 12.06.11 at 1:05 am

Hi,

Sorry about that last, but against my better nature and instincts, I cannot help but resort to extreme sarcasm in the face of such abject stupidity, however well-aged it might be.

Antti

55

Alan 12.06.11 at 3:21 am

This thread makes me proud to be, like Otis Sistrunk, a Martian.

56

Antti Nannimus 12.06.11 at 3:37 am

Hi Alan,

Are you, and others of your Martian species, willing to work long hours under miserable conditions, doing hard, menial, often dangerous, labor for low pay while living with your families in poverty for generations?

If not, get the hell off our planet! We don’t need you here. In fact, show us your immigration papers now!

Have a nice day,
Antti

57

Glen Tomkins 12.06.11 at 4:37 am

I, for one, have utter sympathy for the harried officials who felt a need to impose some sort of order on the chaos that was US immigration.

They tell a story in my native New Orleans of the Irish cop from the same time as that list of races, who finds a dead mule at the corner of Tchoupitoulas and Melpomene. Of course he gets right to filling out a police report, because civilization would end if mules could just up and die on the public streets without the benefit of the matter being duly recorded in an official police report. Unfortunately, at that time civilization had not yet advanced to the stage of having street signs on street corners. So the cop struggles manfully for quite some time to sort out from his inner resources how to spell “Tchoupitoulas”, which has to be spelled correctly on an official police report. He finally decides to tackle “Melpomene” first, with the idea that perhaps “Tchoupitoulas” will come to him in the interim. But after struggling over that for a good length of time, he just gives up, drags the dead mule diagonally across a vacant lot, and triumphantly writes, “Dead mule, 1ea, at corner of 4th and Vine.”

A list that long is just too much for folks in the US to keep straight, much less spell or pronounce correctly. Whatever tolerance of diversity we’ve developed is about nine tenths that we just find it easier to just drag everybody over to 4th and Vine.

58

js. 12.06.11 at 5:00 am

Does anyone know if Alex’s suggestion @24 is right? Because it would make a whole lot of sense, and it would help explain the bizarre proliferation of Eastern European categories, most of which would have been part of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

Ajay @25: The Guyanese were presumably West Indian? For instance, if I’m not wrong, Guyanese still play on the West Indies cricket team. (Curious myself about Brazilians though.)

59

garymar 12.06.11 at 6:01 am

“high-cast Hindu”?

Is this a cricket reference?

60

foo 12.06.11 at 7:15 am

Weird how all of India is “East Indian”. At the very least, there are 4 large races, Aryan (600 million or so), Dravidian (400 million or so), Aboriginal (Adivasi, about 100 million) and Oriental (about 100 million).

61

ajay 12.06.11 at 10:49 am

52: everyone from the Oxus to the Torres Strait was “East Indian”? That’s quite a category. Especially since they felt the need to distinguish between “Bosnian” and “Herzegovinan” which is something that not even the Bosnians now do. (Note that “East India” wasn’t really used to describe the subcontinent except in the context of the Company, which didn’t exist by 1914. India was India, or the Raj.)

58: it’s certainly plausible: by 1914 the Empire had extensive laws covering the rights and legal protections of the minority nationalities within its borders.

62

Chris Bertram 12.06.11 at 10:57 am

_they felt the need to distinguish between “Bosnian” and “Herzegovinan”_

and between Dalmatians and Croatians.

Incidentally, I _think_ the reference to “West Indians” is to the native inhabitants of the New World and not (as we would us the term now) to the predominantly slave-descended populations of the Caribbean.

63

Phil 12.06.11 at 12:15 pm

I read somewhere that the major linguistic divides in Serbia, Bosnia & Croatia actually run east to west – coastal, inland, mountain – rather than north-south. So Dalmatian/Bosnian/Herzegovinian might actually be a thing. No sign of the Istrians, though.

As for Italy, the idea that southerners are different is an old one, and not only in Italy. Under the White Australia policy it was commonplace (or so I’m told) for southern Italians seeking entry to be asked to drop their pants – is it just the sun or is he that colour all over…?

When I’m in mixed US/Canadian company (generally virtual company), I sometimes point out that it’s entirely inappropriate to refer to the USA as “America” – it’s not as if it’s the only nation on the continent. Canadians are Americans too!

64

dsquared 12.06.11 at 12:34 pm

When I’m in mixed US/Canadian company (generally virtual company), I sometimes point out that it’s entirely inappropriate to refer to the USA as “America” – it’s not as if it’s the only nation on the continent

When I’m in Ecuador I tell the locals much the same thing.

65

Ebenezer Scrooge 12.06.11 at 12:51 pm

What, no “Arab” race?
(Whenever asked for my race, I always reply “Semitic.” Oh, the horrors of being deemed “white.”)

66

Vanya 12.06.11 at 1:40 pm

As for Canadian racial divisions, I think the two primary groups are “Torontonians” and “Real Canadians.” (I’m the former).

Obviously. Real Canadians write and speak French.

67

Glen Tomkins 12.06.11 at 1:46 pm

@58
I don’t know about the specific practice of identifying ethnicity on Austro-Hungarian ID, but certainly one reason US immigration might have so many classifications for AH ethnicities is purely that the data was easy to gather because it would be there, pre-digested, right on the AH ID.

But the more practical reason for the US to discriminate so finely among AH ethnicities is that the whole project of discriminating ethnicity was driven by paranoia, and AH ethnicities at that time were heavily involved in paranoia-generating revolutionary activity. It was, after all, a Serbian nationalist movement that did in the Archduke and started WWI. Not that that particular episode had people in the US worried, but there was fear that groups like the Black Hand would foment at least crime, if not revolution, right here in the US.

There is nothing new under the sun, and the perpetual war on terror didn’t start with Dubya and AQ. It’s just that the paranoia comes in waves in the US, and things can get quiet enough between the waves that the underlying connection is lost. There’s the wave we’re in now. There was the wave during the McCarthy era. There was the wave this list is from, that culminated in the Palmer Raids. My knowledge of US histroy gets spotty earlier than that, but I know of at least the Know-Nothings and the original and grand-daddy of them all, the “crisis” of French and other Catholic immigration during the French Revolution that led to the Alien and Sedition Acts.

68

Vanya 12.06.11 at 1:57 pm

The distinction between Dalmatians and Croatians supports @24’s point – Dalmatia and Croatia were distinct provinces within the Austrian Hungarian Emprie. Also, a significant number of Dalmatians in those days were ethnically and linguistically Italian but I suppose that distinction was lost on immigration authorities.

Distinguishing North and South Italy is arguably no odder than distinguishing Spanish people from Portuguese. It is more or less a historical accident that the Kingdom of Naples got absorbed by the former Austrian and French dominated northern provinces of the peninsula.

69

Vanya 12.06.11 at 2:17 pm

When I’m in mixed US/Canadian company (generally virtual company), I sometimes point out that it’s entirely inappropriate to refer to the USA as “America” – it’s not as if it’s the only nation on the continent

I always maintain the exact opposite. The main reason being there is simply no other satisfactory adjective for people from the USA. There is also no continent called “America”. There are “North America”, “Central America” and “South America.” Anyone who thinks “Americans” are somehow appropriating the rest of the landmass has their own issues to work through. Is “American” really any more imperialistic than using “Mexican” for a country with large Mayan, Zapotec and other indigenous populations or “Canada” for land that goes well beyond the St. Lawrence?

70

OCS 12.06.11 at 2:38 pm

#63
When I’m in mixed US/Canadian company (generally virtual company), I sometimes point out that it’s entirely inappropriate to refer to the USA as “America” – it’s not as if it’s the only nation on the continent. Canadians are Americans too!

It doesn’t seem fair, and I often hear this complaint in an aggrieved “Who do those Americans think they are calling themselves Americans” tone, but I don’t entirely buy it. Let’s face it, the United States of America is a pretty unwieldy name, and although you can shorten it to the US (I do), it’s hard to figure out what to call the inhabitants. Usans? Staters? Uniteds? I always think of America and American as short forms of United States of America and United States of American.

If you want to talk about the land mass you can talk about the Americas, or North, Central, or South America, and likewise, North, South or Central American. In the rare instance when someone feels the need to assert that they reside somewhere within that entire land mass, they may have to resort to “I’m from the Americas.”

Anyway, it’s not like Americans are the only ones who call themselves that. Everyone else seems to as well (when they’re not calling them other things).

71

OCS 12.06.11 at 2:40 pm

Whoops. Vanya beat me to it in #69. Sorry about that.

72

Mrs Tilton 12.06.11 at 3:11 pm

Let’s face it, the United States of America is a pretty unwieldy name, and although you can shorten it to the US (I do), it’s hard to figure out what to call the inhabitants. Usans? Staters? Uniteds?

“Yanks” serves perfectly well.

73

Phil 12.06.11 at 3:17 pm

I should probably have made it clearer that I was, or had been, trolling. Back when I spent more time in noisier online fora, I regularly heard prickly Canadians making comments along the lines of “American? You mean, from the United States of America?”. Occasionally I’d hear prickly Canadians – sometimes the same ones – making comments along the lines of “no, I’m not American actually, I’m Canadian“. The contrast amused me. I’m shallow like that.

74

js. 12.06.11 at 3:37 pm

GT @67:

Sure; I didn’t mean to discount the paranoia factor. I do like the bureaucratic story though—or this aspect of the story.

75

Glen Tomkins 12.06.11 at 5:11 pm

@74
Evil on a national scale needs its bureaucracies. We like to bring evil back to a personal level for the movies, so we can have our telegenic heroes and villains, but the reality is of course quite bureaucratic and impersonal.

Another way of looking at it is to say that the AH secret police and our own shared a common interest in AH ethnic identities because they shared a fear of revolution arising from those identities. Of course we didn’t have nearly the same level of bureaucratic sophistication, and therefore bureaucratic stupidity, in the way of secret police that the AH Empire had back then. But we’ve made great strides since, and I’m confident that anyone writing the definitve account of bureaucratic stupidity and therefore evil, secret police division, would be as compelled to turn in 2011 to the US, as he would have in 1911 looked to AH for the most developed example of the form.

76

Andreas Moser 12.06.11 at 6:46 pm

I’m a European.

77

J. Otto Pohl 12.06.11 at 6:51 pm

European is not one of the listed races. Please select one of the government approved racial classifications. If you leave it blank it will automatically default to non-British, non-Irish, White and nobody wants to be in that category.

78

Norwegian Guy 12.07.11 at 12:57 am

“Let’s face it, the United States of America is a pretty unwieldy name, and although you can shorten it to the US (I do), it’s hard to figure out what to call the inhabitants. Usans? Staters? Uniteds?”

While not very common, the term US-American is sometimes seen in European left-wing writing. It’s perhaps more widely used in Germany. For instance, US-Amerikaner is a category in the German-language Wikipedia.

79

iolanthe 12.07.11 at 3:02 am

“Let’s face it, the United States of America is a pretty unwieldy name, and although you can shorten it to the US (I do), it’s hard to figure out what to call the inhabitants. Usans? Staters? Uniteds?”

Seppos works quite well and they don’t seem too offended once I explain rhyming slang to them.

80

MoXmas 12.07.11 at 8:50 am

Wasn’t that list used for /coming from the immigration quotas?

81

Ted 12.07.11 at 11:43 pm

“Let’s face it, the United States of America is a pretty unwieldy name, and although you can shorten it to the US (I do), it’s hard to figure out what to call the inhabitants. Usans? Staters? Uniteds?”

This is why our last President used to introduce himself as “a Uniter.”

82

Eleanor 12.08.11 at 3:34 pm

I see Icelanders are not on the list.

83

Antti Nannimus 12.11.11 at 3:50 am

Hi,

What, is this thread is still open? Okay, if necessary, all of you aliens can just call us Mericans. We HATE to be called “Yanks”. I don’t really know why.

Having a nice day!
Antti

84

Steve Sailer 12.11.11 at 11:41 am

Isn’t anyone here familiar with the current American Census racial categories used on the Census and thus in lawsuits?

http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-02.pdf

85

Steve Sailer 12.11.11 at 12:17 pm

Further, as of the 2010 Census, the U.S. government’s official view was that there are two ethnicities: Hispanic and non-Hispanic. But of course we are so much more advanced today that that must make perfect sense.

86

kidneystones 12.11.11 at 12:33 pm

@84 Is correct.

The US Census authors’ decision to classify gene markers and ethnicity as “race” does make objections to the use of “race” in common and scientific discussions seem silly.

That doesn’t, btw, mean I agree with the decision. Any chance either political party wants to do away with this outmoded and unfortunate term? I’d say no. And that is depressing.

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