thumbs UP / thumbs DOWN ~

the good and the bad, lo bueno y lo malo 

commend / condemn 

THUMBS UP:  for the late great writer-wordsmith  William Safire who finally, albeit futilely, explored the fact the United States AKA America and its inhabitants have no name…suggesting “United Statsians”.  Therefore Spaniards, out of necessity to clarify, say “yanquis”, and Mexicans identify with “gringos”. In truth we are all Americans, from Canada to Argentina (“North”, “Central”, and “South”)…read the full story below. 

and THUMBS DOWN:  to our leaders for failing to give this place its own name – our fellow North Americans are Canada and Mexico. 

Here’s mentor Bill: 

NY Times June 29, 1986 

On Language; Who Is an ‘American’? 


NOT LONG AGO (A euphemism for ”11 months ago, but time flies”), a request was made of readers to submit substitutes for the word American, meaning ”citizen of the United States.” The reason was plain: other residents of the Americas were taking umbrage at this linguistic imperialism. Our persnickety good neighbors to the south are Americans, too; if we call them ”South Americans,” should we not refer to ourselves as ”North Americans”? And if we do, would we thereby merge with Canada and Mexico by accident? 

To open up the possibilities for a new moniker all our own, the Gringo Division of the Lexicographic Irregulars was formed. More than 280 submissions were received. That was nearly a year ago. As Dr. Lloyd I.S. Zbar of Glen Ridge, N.J., writes, ”I have not read anymore in your column about the use of American. Have you reached a position?” (One position is clear: anymore, in the sense of amount used by the noodging Dr. Zbar – meaning ”anything additional” – should be written as two words. In the negative sense, meaning ”any longer,” the term is one word, anymore. Thus: I did not write any more, so Dr. Zbar won’t be reading me anymore. A positive, dialectical use is on the rise, meaning ”now, at present,” which comes naturally to Midwesterners and sounds weird to coastal dwellers: I think I’ll write about Americans anymore.) The confusion began with Martin Waldseemuller, the German mapmaker, in 1507. Do not blame Amerigo Vespucci, the explorer from Florence, who sailed to this continent four times between 1497 and 1503, and named the place Mundus Novus, Latin for ”New World.” Good name. If good enough had been let alone, we would all be Mundus Novusans today. But Waldseemuller, who apparently did not think much of Christopher Columbus’s 1492 trip, scorned Vespucci’s coinage; in his Cosmographiae Introductio, the mapmaker dubbed the new land America, and in those days, cartographers had clout. 

In a certain section of Mundusland beginning in 1578, American was used to refer to the dark-skinned natives; these natives were later miscalled ”Indians,” perpetuating a mistake by Mr. Columbus, who thought he was somewhere else. Clergyman Cotton Mather adopted the notion of calling the colonists from England Americans in 1697. 

Almost a century later, the United Colonies sounded like a good name to many revolutionists, while others preferred the United States of North America. The pamphleteer Tom Paine, it is said, suggested the broader, and less Colonially dependent, United States of America which found its way into the Declaration of Independence. However, as Stuart Berg Flexner recounts in ”I Hear America Talking,” the new Government used the United States of North America as the official title until 1778, when the Continental Congress, thinking in multicontinental terms, passed an act dropping the North. 

Now to the only extensive modern survey of suggested names for citizens of what has come to be known as the U.S.A., or more jocularly and accurately, the U.S. of A.. These letters are the initials of the name of the country and are not the trademark of a subsidiary of the Gannett Newspapers. (Since this bunch of letters was found in a deep drawer, it can be called an in-depth survey.) Usans, pronounced YOU-senz, was the preference of many. Variants of this form include Usanians and Usatians, both popular, but the pacific Usasians might prompt the slogan ”Usasia for the Usasiatics”; some entries went back to the acronym for United States of North America for Usonians, Usonans, Usofans, Usofams and Usoans. 

Others like USAmericans, pronounced You-ess-Americans, and USAers, the ending to rhyme with naysayers. A jingoistic sense was added by Andrea Sharp of Berkeley, Calif.: ”Better than Usan is Ussin,” or Us’n (pronounced USS-in). ”All the citizens of the United States would be called Ussins and everybody else Themins. Headlines all over the world would read: ‘Ussins and Themins Meet Again in Geneva for Another Round of SALT Talks’.” (Another suggestion on these lines – Ussies, to rhyme with hussies, may be rejected as anti-feminist; User, coming from ”one who uses,” is subversive; and we can write off Usurers, sent in from some debtor nation.) An original variation of the same beginning is from Tessa Blumberg of New York: Usam, preserving the mid-19th-century image of Uncle Sam. Others trying to tie into the image wound up with Uncles, but the avuncular connotation of that was ruined by Mr. Reagan’s hope that opponents would ”say uncle.” In the same way, Samians apes too closely the word simians, and Samites would invite anti-Samitism. 

Turning to monikers taken from whole words, one entry is Uniteds: ”If citizens of the Soviet Union are called Soviets, which means ‘councils’,” writes David Halperin of Washington, ”surely we should not mind being called Uniteds.” On that line, David Kwartler of New York City turned in Units, on the analogy of Brits for the British, but that has an Orwellian connotation, like United Statistics. 

More frequently suggested was Statesider, long a name applied to residents of the continental United States by expatriates or offshore residents. United Staters is simple and direct, analogous to American, and better than the pretentious and even sexist United Statesman. 

Wild suggestions ranged from the acronym Noncom (NOrth Americans Not from Canada Or Mexico) to Namericans, slipping in the n for North, to the historic Jonathan, from the predecessor to Uncle Sam, ”Brother Jonathan,” who may have been Jonathan Trumbull, George Washington’s friend. 

Wait. ”I feel compelled to inform you,” writes David Draper from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, ”that there are some 25,000,000 North Americans who do not refer to themselves as Americans. We, sir, are Canadians.” 

Same thing with Mexicans; that’s what they call themselves. That means the only North Americans who call themselves Americans are us – or us’ns, if you will. That limits the problem to South and Central Americans. How about they call themselves whatever they like, and we continue to call ourselves Americans, with the limitation to the United States understood? 

In that regard, we may use a linguistic device by which pronunciation changes spelling: centuries ago, a napron became an apron, and kids on Brooklyn playgrounds ask each other today ”What is the fruit that begins with an n? A norange!” Intrahemispheric comity is in the ear of the beholder: when I travel in South America and I say ”I am an American,” let the hearer hear ”I am a Namerican”. The understanding listener will know I am a North American and, since I have not claimed to be Canadian or Mexican, from the United States. 

Although Ussins and Themins have their appeal, and Yankee and Gringo are useful synonyms, perhaps it is wiser to rely on the perceptiveness of our neighbors to the south and stick with Americans as the name for people from the United States, no colossusism intended. Our diplomats can point out it is short for United States of Americans, which is a mouthful. 

That enables us all to lose our fear of jingoism and embrace the name that Waldseemuller coined, saving us from being called Mundus Novitiates. Remember that on the Glorious Fourth, and on I Am a Namerican Day. 

                                                                                                                                  # # # 

THUMBS DOWN:  Dumb telephone protocol – don’t you hate time-clutter phone announcements:  “I’m either away from my desk or on the other line. Please leave your name”…  yada yada.  They could be in the bathroom, smoking a cigarette in front of the building, or even in a meeting, and I don’t care.If  I eventually talk to the person, I ask..”well, tell me which was it: were you away from your desk, or were you on the other line? I bet you were doing something else. You lie. Change your message, it’s stupid. Even worse, usually they don’t get it!  My friend and mentor has the best recorded message, simply “Leave a message”.
     One more…”In order to serve you better, please have your account number handy..” OUCH, doesn’t anybody care about grammar any more? Thant’s a flunk for subject-verb disagreement.

     Can anybody give me advice? I shouldn’t care and dumb myself down? Should I try to correct them and make a better world? Or, as some tell me, “If you don’t like it move to another country.” 

THUMBS DOWN:   Joe the Plumber, the new “merican metaphore”.   I suffered through the presidential debates last night (Oct 15, 08)  perhaps morbid curiosity kept me watching…my god, McCain is a creepy geezer. He slumps, and his mouth twists into that nya-nya condescending immaturity-revealing smartass smirk (hey, a quick Google of “McCain” and “smirk” yields some 416,000 entries). He fakes sincerity uttering apple pie brainwashing sound bites with eye-blinking insecurity — liar, liar, pants on fire!  But the worst insult to my intelligence was that “Joe the Plumber” crap.  Smart Keith Olbermann (MSNBC) agrees, saying (subsequently, on Oct. 23), “One more mention of JoeThePlumber, Senator McCain, and you’ll have us all hugging the commode”….Put a snake down it. All this candidate vetting should include IQ and emotional stability tests.  Our chronically forgetful geriatric, childishly smirkey Republican looser will go back to Arizona where they don’t mind his arms and neck being too short — haven’t you noticed?
           Today in Manhattan, I saw a plumber’s truck painted with additional words “Joe the …”   All this J.T.P. nonsense probably reduces esteem toward professional plumbers; and now they’ll be asked to show their licenses. 


          Do other countries traditionally declare that God blesses them? Don’t think so. I prefer the patriotic exclamations Viva México, and Viva España. Fyi, valid statistics indicate USA is the most religious country in the world. Also, incidentally, USA is ranked with the world’s highest obesity rate, despite the fact that gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins. And, as William Safire wrote a while ago in the New York Times, we live in a country without a name, populated by…err…”Unitedstatsians?” 

          What’s going ta happen?  I do wish Obama would say “to” instead of “ta”, and he should have sat up with better posture last night during the “debate”. And both candidates do that dumb-downspeak gunna, and gotta. Alas, even the venerated moderator Bob Schieffer needs to brush up his grammar — “Each of you are….”  Each is singular, not plural. Bob, it should be “Each of you is” when you address the candidates. 

          Oh well. I’ll tune in to Spain’s and Mexico’s newscasts in the morning to find out what is really happening in the world, articulately.   

         Well, it will be “over” come November 4. As they always say, “God bless America”. I suppose that refers to “USA”  because the word “America” is really the name of the entire continent: (North America, shared with Mexico and Canada), as well as the entire Western Hemisphere (“The Americas”). This usurped “America” moniker for a nameless country confuses the Spaniards and other Europeans, and disconcerts the Mexican whose country (officially Estados Unidos Mexicanos) is also located in North American.  Both default to yankis or gringos, respectivly, simply for clarity; they both use estadounidenses (Unitedstatesians, suggested in lieu of “Americans” by William Safire in his New York Times past article concerning this country’s namelessness and proposing nomenclatural options.)                   

           Do other countries traditionally declare that God blesses them? Don’t think so. I prefer the patriotic exclamations Viva México, and Viva España. 

           Perhaps the “God bless” tradition is due to the fact that, according to statistics, USA is the most religious country in the world. USA leads with the world’s highest obesity rate as well, despite the fact that gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins. 

            (Yikes…why did my spellchecker attempt to change Obama to Osama ? Evil lurks…) 




THUMBS DOWN  –evil construction — that wall along the boarder between “America” — USA that is — and its neighbor Mexico (which “shares” the North Amercan Continent, and they were here first).   It’s about politics. It’s stupid, even ugly.  A waste of money, and it won’t work.  People aren’t cattle. It’s flawed, and does not extend the entire border. Furthermore the pendejo gringo builders erected some of the wall sections a few meters into Mexican territory….duh…then had to dismantle and rebuild (“legally”) on the Meriken side of the border line.  In the past 14 years, 5,000 Mexicans including women and children have met violent death at the border, and thousands more assaulted, raped, beaten. Click the following link for the wise words of a Mexican about el muro de la vergüenza (wall of shame).  the US MEXICO Border Wall of Death. It won’t work   Remember Regan’s words to Mr. Gorbachev: “Tear down this wall!”.  Even more shame on you, Mr Bush…and adios to you at last. 




THUMBS DOWN — for NO construction — Seven years after the annihilation of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers and thousands of New Yorkers, there is still a hole, a crater…NOTHING HAS BEEN BUILT. No skyscraper, no memorial.   “Ground Zero” remains a morbid attraction for tourists.  Listen to Keith Olbermann! “This hole in the ground — Sept. 11: A special comment about 9/11 seven years after the terrorist attacks.” NBC News video 




THUMBS UP  for  BOOK TV: enriching in-depth and uncensored interviews with top nonfiction authors. The program airs every weekend continuously for 48 hours (plus federal holidays) on C-SPAN2.  Programming and profiles: 

     In addition to reading favorite authors, you can get to know themIsabel Allende 

and  Simon Winchester  (I am privileged to have studied the craft and joy of travel writing with both of them); Pete Hamill, fellow New Yorker who also lives in Mexico, deeply understands both, and has published books about Manhattan and Diego Riviera ; and two immortals, both deceased tragically early in their lives:  Peter Jennings , and his fellow journalist Tim Russert who wrote about his father who outlives him, Big Russ, and finally Wisdom of Our Fathers 

     Today, August 3, 2008, I was enlightened by Ralph Peters , then enraged by what I learned from Vincent Bugliosi telling of his book The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder which is presently number 15 (hardcover nonfiction) on the New York Times Best Seller List despite “predictably” minimal media promotion or exposure. 



THUMBS DOWN: USA’s prudish censorship banning a new television ad campaign featuring actress Eva Mendes promoting a new Calvin Klein perfume…”because the spot shows a brief glimpse of her nipple”…i.e. it’s obscene (by USA standards) 

            This news story broke in today’s (Aug 06) London Telegraph and was immediately picked up by Spain’s RTVE (Radio Televisión Española) news which also informed that the complete commercial is viewable on You Tube (Spanish media) and is receiving thousands of hits (I was one of them…(I say it’s artistic…and not  “obscene violence-and-guts” that pervade on USA tv.) 

            Guess what!   I checked the You Tube for the correct url from this morning showing the commercial and…IT’S GONE!  Same day. Disappeared…perhaps BOYCOTTED ONLY FROM USA INTERNET? .   

            Speaking of tv bad taste, I cringed at the Paris Hilton spot (she’s wearing a tacky bathing suit thing)  promoting both herself (“…I’m hot.”) and Presidential candidate John McCain (paid for, indirectly, by the MercanPeople).  Dumb-down marketing targeting the “average American” with demographics of Peoria IL.  

           And speaking of censorship, or is it simply lack of newsworthiness (?): Today, August 6, was the anniversary of the annihilation of Hiroshima and of 200,000 innocent Japanese by the “innovative atom bomb dropped on that city by the USA military in 1945 at the end of World War II.  Non-USA media indeed reported in depth the Japanese memorial-mourning ceremonies – “tens of thousands bowed their heads” —  with the participation of 55 countries, showing poignant video coverage direct from Japan this morning.  (In three days: anniversary of the USA bombing of Nagasaki (August 9).      


THUMBS DOWN:  smog in Beijing during the Olympics causes athletes lung ailments and reduces their performance.  

HOW CAN THIS BE?  With years of preparation, couldn’t they have taken effective measures?  

I say eliminate all private vehicle traffic, shut all factories – IMMEDIATELY.  Also prohibit smoking (Chinese have an inordinately high cigarette smoking rate), eliminate those celebratory and polluting fireworks….and get GIANT FANS to blow the smog away. Too late? 

Let’s see the outcome. 



THUMBS UP:  for some giggles — but what would Darwin say?  (see both pics 1 and pics 2)  The end is nearing! 


 THUMBS UP:  For availing graphic art treasures to those who appreciate: International Vintage Poster Dealers Association online summer auction ¡Víva España!  CLICK THEIR SITE:   (with participation of my neighborhood gallery: ) 






THUMBS UP:  Early this morning I watched my favorite two smart, swift, comprehensive and giggle-free newscasts: from Spain (RTVE) and Mexico (Televisa). Since they broadcast simultaneously, I clicked back and forth trying not to miss anything.. The Spaniards ridiculed the quasi-down-home usage of Joe the Plumber (Pepe el Fontanero), and the Mexicans did the same, but they call him (José el Plomero). Point is, in Spain plumber is fontanero (think fountain) and in Mexico plomero (think plumb/lead) – all evolved from Latin. Isn’t this bit of linguistics for those of us who are bi- or multi-lingual more interesting than batting around those “issues” during that pathetic debate?   Turns out Joe the Plumber, immediately investigated, appears to be an ignorant jerk and doesn’t even have a plumbing license, so he’s illegal, unethical, and certainly is more astroturf than grass roots as an example for the MerikunPeople.  







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