Americans. Please help me understand

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Why do some Americans, who were born in the USA, refer to themselves as Italian or Irish or ect... Many of them not having even been to the country in question.

I ask because a new friend of my sisters refers to herself as an Italian American yet she has never been to Italy. Her Grandparents were from Italy. It just makes no sense to me.

My Grandmother was from Irland, my farther was born in England and he has never been to Irland and at no point in his life has he or his brother ever refered to themselves as English Irishmen.

I get being proud of your family history but it just seems really strange and I have nevr encountered anyone from any other country who does this.

This is not ment as an attack or a criticism I just want to know why as it is bugging the hell out of me.

It's a cultural thing. The US is the country of immigrants and it's basically our way of communicating our ancestry. Also, many of the labels come with their own stereotypes. For example, a stereotypical Italian American is a very different thing than an Irish American or even an Italian-born American.

Preservation of culture I guess.

Probably the same reason the US has Chinese, Italian, Japanese, and Greek restaurants instead of one that specializes in all the types of food in the country.

What Fappy said. We're basically a giant pool of different cultures and immigrants, so a way of keeping the culture alive is by reminding ourselves that we're _______-American.

First of all, because being "American" doesn't mean anything more than being "European". Being "American" could mean Canadian, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Brazilian, Dominican, Native American, etc. and it's always been a bit weird that people born and raised in the United States are referred to as "American", but there's no simpler way of referring to us because what, are we going to use an unwieldy phrase like "Statesian"?

Falling back on our cultural heritage gives us something to grab onto.

I think it will die out within another generation or so, my grandparents immigrated to Canada from Holland but I don't consider myself to be dutch, I consider myself to be Canadian

shrekfan246:
First of all, because being "American" doesn't mean anything more than being "European". Being "American" could mean Canadian, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Brazilian, Dominican, Native American, etc. and it's always been a bit weird that people born and raised in the United States are referred to as "American", but there's no simpler way of referring to us because what, are we going to use an unwieldy phrase like "Statesian"?

Falling back on our cultural heritage gives us something to grab onto.

You have no idea how much Latin Americans complain about this, they think it makes them clever, personally I've just given up, it's not like we can call them anything else besides Gringos and they don't like that word -_-'

I know i'm not American, but I believe I can give some insight as people ask me similar questions.

I'm from the UK, specifically England. I was born here in the south-east and have always lived here all my life so far, however I consider myself both English and Irish because of my heritage; my mother's parent's emigrated here and my father has Irish ancestors further back his family tree as well.

It's not just that though for me, I've grown up in a large Irish community and have visited Ireland and met with my hundreds of cousins many, many times over the course of my life and have become attached to the Irish culture and history because I've grown up within the culture and I feel quite proud of my heritage. I hope to one day gain and Irish passport as well.

I think a lot of American's perhaps feel this way as well, they attach themselves to their heritage and some of them even visit their families and go the countries their ancestors come from and identify themselves with it. I have cousins in America who think of themselves as partly Irish as well.

Never understood it myself and I pay no attention to it.

If they were born in the USA then that's where they are from and how i'll view them.

My mum was from Cyprus but I was born in England. I'm English not Cypriot English. It just sounds silly.

Eh. I suppose it's just sort of an interest in character we have here. In a slight way, noting someone's ancestral heritage has simply become a way of making a point of their individualism, I guess.

And when we say 'Italian' or 'Irish' we do mean 'Italian American' and 'Irish American', but for obvious reasons we don't bother with the 'American' part. A little too redundant I'd say.

Kaleion:

shrekfan246:
First of all, because being "American" doesn't mean anything more than being "European". Being "American" could mean Canadian, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Brazilian, Dominican, Native American, etc. and it's always been a bit weird that people born and raised in the United States are referred to as "American", but there's no simpler way of referring to us because what, are we going to use an unwieldy phrase like "Statesian"?

Falling back on our cultural heritage gives us something to grab onto.

You have no idea how much Latin Americans complain about this, they think it makes them clever, personally I've just given up, it's not like we can call them anything else besides Gringos and they don't like that word -_-'

We call them yanquis over here. I don't like using the word 'American' very much since it should technically mean anybody in the whole continent, but people from the US only recognize themselves as American. I get that it's semantically correct since the word 'America' is contained in the name of the country, so you can call yourself that, but if you're from Central America or South America doesn't that make you technically American as well?

I think anything below 1/4 of your genome should just be described as having some 'Irish blood' or whatever nationality we're talking about. Beyond those sort of fractions the number of relations would just get ridiculous.

Anyway, I'm partially Irish & German, but am foremost English because that's where I grew up. I guess it just sounds more exciting and exotic than belonging to one nationality.

I always found it baffling, myself, since I'm half-Spanish, quarter-Italian and quarter-German (as per my great-grandparents' nationalities). My own last name is half-Spanish and half-German, even. Describing myself by my European ancestry sounds terribly pretentious and confusing. I'm not even sure I don't have blood from another ethnicity, either. I heard a few family members saying we might have French, Jewish or Romani blood somewhere in our family trees.

Fappy:
It's a cultural thing. The US is the country of immigrants and it's basically our way of communicating our ancestry. Also, many of the labels come with their own stereotypes. For example, a stereotypical Italian American is a very different thing than an Irish American or even an Italian-born American.

FAPPY. YOUR AVATAR ISN'T MAO. FIX THIS.

OT: Since America's basically a mixing pot of all the other cultures instead of an original culture of its own (WHICH ISN'T A BAD THING), people just say that to preserve their family's specific culture.

Fappy:
It's a cultural thing. The US is the country of immigrants and it's basically our way of communicating our ancestry. Also, many of the labels come with their own stereotypes. For example, a stereotypical Italian American is a very different thing than an Irish American or even an Italian-born American.

Pretty much this. We tend to divide between nationality and ethnicity. I'm an American, but am ethnically a Norwegian-Hungarian-German. Outside of native americans/Indians, everyone here had parents who immigrated here at most a few hundred years ago.

Dangit2019:

Fappy:
It's a cultural thing. The US is the country of immigrants and it's basically our way of communicating our ancestry. Also, many of the labels come with their own stereotypes. For example, a stereotypical Italian American is a very different thing than an Irish American or even an Italian-born American.

FAPPY. YOUR AVATAR ISN'T MAO. FIX THIS.

OT: Since America's basically a mixing pot of all the other cultures instead of an original culture of its own (WHICH ISN'T A BAD THING), people just say that to preserve their family's specific culture.

I'm sorry....

Mao will rise again!

Because not all Americans have the same cultural experience, and some Americans identify with a specific set of cultural experiences that are different from the perceived norm. Of those people, some identify with a subset of experiences that are common among a particular immigrant group. They may be aware that this experience is different from their ancestral country, or they may not. But it really doesn't matter.

So for example, "Italian-American" indicates a common cultural experience. It does not necessarily mean that the person who identifies as such actually identifies with Italian people.

Side note: I recently sat in on an academic (but rather unscientific) presentation about the experiences of two Asian-American women. They perceived themselves to have so much in common, that they assumed some experiences they shared (like both consciously making a decision to emulate the popular kids at their all-white junior high school) were shared because of their shared ethnicity, and not because it's a freaking common experience in general. Anyway, I had the privilege of attending that presentation with some Asian-Asians (as in born and raised in an Asian country, and visiting the US for the first time as adults). The Asian women said they had trouble understanding exactly what the Asian-American women were so worked up about. But in the end, that doesn't invalidate the Asian-American women's experiences.

Gizmo1990:
Why do some Americans, who were born in the USA, refer to themselves as Italian or Irish or ect... Many of them not having even been to the country in question.

I ask because a new friend of my sisters refers to herself as an Italian American yet she has never been to Italy. Her Grandparents were from Italy. It just makes no sense to me.

My Grandmother was from Irland, my farther was born in England and he has never been to Irland and at no point in his life has he or his brother ever refered to themselves as English Irishmen.

I get being proud of your family history but it just seems really strange and I have nevr encountered anyone from any other country who does this.

This is not ment as an attack or a criticism I just want to know why as it is bugging the hell out of me.

well... (nearly) everyone in america is an american basically by definition, so having two people identify themselves to a group that everyone belongs to is kinda...pointless. Our ancestry is one way we can differentiate ourselves. Now, people (hopefully) consider themselves as an American before X ancestry. I mean, I am a German-American, but I very rarily think about it except that im probably one of the few pure blooded X ancestry in this country that is not a immigrant. Also, I know jack S#$% about the German culture.

but most Americans are mutts.

Being an American has nothing to do with blood, it is a lifestyle. You can come fresh off the boat and as long as you act like an american, you basically are an american. As such people use ancestry to give themselves flavor as "american" is about as distinct as "human"

Gizmo1990:
Why do some Americans, who were born in the USA, refer to themselves as Italian or Irish or ect... Many of them not having even been to the country in question.

I ask because a new friend of my sisters refers to herself as an Italian American yet she has never been to Italy. Her Grandparents were from Italy. It just makes no sense to me.

My Grandmother was from Irland, my farther was born in England and he has never been to Irland and at no point in his life has he or his brother ever refered to themselves as English Irishmen.

I get being proud of your family history but it just seems really strange and I have nevr encountered anyone from any other country who does this.

This is not ment as an attack or a criticism I just want to know why as it is bugging the hell out of me.

Please take a look at this thread I made a while back. I actually asked the exact same question from the other perspective, why don't Europeans consider Irish/Italian/German/Polish-Americans to be Irish/Italian/German/Polish.

Now then, think about it. Unless you are Native American(Cherokee, Hopi, Suix, ect.) you are not "indigenous" to the US and as such your not "native" American, your [insert ethnic background]-American or [insert racial background]-American. I mean do you really consider a person who's family is from Pakistan and lives in Ireland to be as Irish as ethnic Irish people? Never mind the fact that the person who's family comes from Pakistan is most likely not Catholic, let alone Christian, and that they probably don't know Gaelic. This isn't to say that the Pakistani immigrants in Ireland are bad people[1] just that they are Irish citizens, not not the native ethnic group and as such, there is a difference between Pakistani people living in Ireland and ethnic Irish people.

[1] because that is not what I'm saying

Johnny Novgorod:

Kaleion:

shrekfan246:
First of all, because being "American" doesn't mean anything more than being "European". Being "American" could mean Canadian, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Brazilian, Dominican, Native American, etc. and it's always been a bit weird that people born and raised in the United States are referred to as "American", but there's no simpler way of referring to us because what, are we going to use an unwieldy phrase like "Statesian"?

Falling back on our cultural heritage gives us something to grab onto.

You have no idea how much Latin Americans complain about this, they think it makes them clever, personally I've just given up, it's not like we can call them anything else besides Gringos and they don't like that word -_-'

We call them yanquis over here. I don't like using the word 'American' very much since it should technically mean anybody in the whole continent, but people from the US only recognize themselves as American. I get that it's semantically correct since the word 'America' is contained in the name of the country, so you can call yourself that, but if you're from Central America or South America doesn't that make you technically American as well?

This particular point is readily resolved. The name of the nation is the United States of America. The first two words simply indicate very roughly a political configuration (a series of states with some degree of independence, united in some form or fashion) while the last tells us the place. This is incredibly common. For example, Germany's official name is, if memory serves, Bundesrepublik Deutschland which I believe translates to the Federal Republic of Germany.

So, while it may be something of a foolish brag to name a nation that represents but a part of a continent after the continent, generally when you refer to a nationality, you make reference to the name of the nation. It would not be correct to refer to a Bolivian as an American because they are from a nation called Bolivia; to argue otherwise is to fundamentally invite confusion in what you attempt to communicate which undermines the purpose of referring to yourself by nationality anyhow.

If you want to argue about how such things were gotten away with, I'd wager it is simply because no other European colony had gained independence yet. We just called dibs on the name.

As far as the larger question goes, that has more or less been covered. Different people have different attachments to their original culture. An off the boat immigrant likely has strong attachment to their native cultures and, in many cases, settled the nation in such a way to invite a bit of their native flair. In Texas, for example, you see tremendous German influence. One of the most common wines produced in Texas is the Reisling for example. Towns throughout central Texas and the Hill Country often have German names: Flugerville (which, to be fair, is both French and German. It is also a suburb of Austin) or Fredricksburg (A notable spot for Wine Tourism). Restaurants offering German fair compete next door to those offering Spanish foods.

In most cases, if one is not of a fashionable lineage, there is little reason to cite it, especially given that after a few generations your connection to the "Old Country" is virtually eliminated. My family emigrated from Germany but, considering it was in the 1880s (My great, great, great grandfather), there is little reason to refer to myself as a German-American. I'd have a better claim to being Cherokee because my great great grandmother was of that tribe but again there is no reason to claim this. My family has been here long enough that my lineage is from lots of places and there is no particular reason to hitch my horse to any particular cultural wagon.

shrekfan246:
First of all, because being "American" doesn't mean anything more than being "European". Being "American" could mean Canadian, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Brazilian, Dominican, Native American, etc. and it's always been a bit weird that people born and raised in the United States are referred to as "American", but there's no simpler way of referring to us because what, are we going to use an unwieldy phrase like "Statesian"?

Being American almost always refers to the US. The fact that Canada and Central/South America exist doesn't change that. Its like when people in the US say a person is Asian, while it could technically include Jews/Israelis, it is almost never done. The vast majority of the time the person is referring to another individual from East or South East Asia.

Kaleion:

You have no idea how much Latin Americans complain about this, they think it makes them clever, personally I've just given up, it's not like we can call them anything else besides Gringos and they don't like that word -_-'

Probably because Gringo sounds racist like "Guera" or "Negrita"[1].

[1] if the person is Black-American.

Cultural pride. Often times if they are first or second generation of their family to be born in USA, they grew up with their culture's heritage and traditions.
Sure, many of them have never seen their "homeland". But then again, many Asian Americans have never been to Asia (or one of the other eastern countries), and many African Americans have never been to Africa. When it comes to being able to declare yourself a certain race, it often comes down to your family's history, rather than just your own.
They are part of that ethnicity, and they want to celebrate it. More power to them.

Sure, you do get some people who use their ethnicity as a way to declare themselves unique, rather than out of any cultural pride. You know, people who insistently remind you of their ethnicity, like people who insist that they're hipster or Gothic or whatever. But I think they're in the minority in comparison to culturally proud Americans.

EDIT: It can also be a factor that "American" isn't really an ethnicity (other than Native American of course). While there definitely is American culture, you have to look at your family's history for ethnicity. So you're of [insert] ethnicity, living in American culture. So, people declare themselves [Ethnicity] Americans.

Gizmo1990:
Why do some Americans, who were born in the USA, refer to themselves as Italian or Irish or ect... Many of them not having even been to the country in question.

I ask because a new friend of my sisters refers to herself as an Italian American yet she has never been to Italy. Her Grandparents were from Italy. It just makes no sense to me.

My Grandmother was from Irland, my farther was born in England and he has never been to Irland and at no point in his life has he or his brother ever refered to themselves as English Irishmen.

I get being proud of your family history but it just seems really strange and I have nevr encountered anyone from any other country who does this.

This is not ment as an attack or a criticism I just want to know why as it is bugging the hell out of me.

In America, when you say you're Italian or Irish or ect. it means you are descended from that place. Ex: "I am Dutch, German, English, and Irish." If you want to say you are from somewhere, you would say something like "I am from Italy." or "I lived in Italy". Something like that. don't know why, it's just how we say things.

I notice it more in families that are relatively recent immigrants, or those that live in a community where everyone is originally from a specific country, and they marry from within that community. So for example, if someone's parents were from Italy, or maybe even their grandparents, they might refer to themselves as Italian or Italian American. Alternatively, their family could have been here for several generations, but they live in a community that is heavily Italian or Italian-descended immigrants, and therefore identify themselves as Italian or Italian American.

Personally, I'm an American. No prefixes or modifiers, partly because the paternal line on both sides has been here since before the revolution, and also because I'm a mutt and it would take too long to list them all in normal conversation. Unless it's normal to introduce yourself as a mostly Welsh, German, Mexican, French American, with a dash of Irish and Spanish, and I somehow just don't know it.

Gizmo1990:

My Grandmother was from Irland, my farther was born in England and he has never been to Irland and at no point in his life has he or his brother ever refered to themselves as English Irishmen.

I get being proud of your family history but it just seems really strange and I have nevr encountered anyone from any other country who does this.

I'm English born and never lived anywhere outside of my town, but my grandmother (on my dad's side) is from the ukraine or thereabouts and i sometimes like to say i'm not 100% english, mostly because i am not proud of where i live (barnsley, search on uncyclopedia and you'll see why) so it helps to have heritage from other places.

My ancestry comes from Germany, Ireland, and Portugal but I just call myself an American. I think it comes down to whether the culture is still strong within you and your family, not whether you've physically been to said country. I've actually been to Ireland and Germany, but I still wouldn't call myself an Irish or German American because the culture still feels foreign to me. I think most Americans are in my boat, I doubt too many of them would normally call themselves X-American in common speech unless it's to differentiate themselves.

sextus the crazy:
We tend to divide between nationality and ethnicity.

This, a million times this.

Pretty much everyone else got to say what I could, but this is the most succinct summation possible.

Personally I call myself native american since I was born in New York so I'm native to America. I don't care for my family's ancestry, doesn't affect me at all.

Well, my dad was born in Vietnam and is Vietnamese. Does living in America somehow invalidate the fact that I am half Asian?

Kaleion:

shrekfan246:
First of all, because being "American" doesn't mean anything more than being "European". Being "American" could mean Canadian, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Brazilian, Dominican, Native American, etc. and it's always been a bit weird that people born and raised in the United States are referred to as "American", but there's no simpler way of referring to us because what, are we going to use an unwieldy phrase like "Statesian"?

Falling back on our cultural heritage gives us something to grab onto.

You have no idea how much Latin Americans complain about this, they think it makes them clever, personally I've just given up, it's not like we can call them anything else besides Gringos and they don't like that word -_-'

I like it :D
It makes me giggle :D

I guess its some kind of desperate attempt to latch on to a specific culture that they don't belong to. Or a reason to separate themselves from other people that aren't "like" them.

They're stupid but they don't hurt anybody so fuck it.

Cultural pride mostly. It is especially common with minority groups. Since so many people have English or German or French blood, it is rare to refer to yourself by these groups unless asked, meanwhile more culturally distinct groups, usually those who kept large chunks of their culture when they immigrated (Irish, Italian, Middle Eastern, some Far East Asian groups, ect) are more likely to refer to themselves by the label of ___-American. For my part, I would consider myself a Norse-American or a Scottish-American or a Dutch-American if asked but overall it barely matters. Trace our ancestry back and everyone in America is a immigrant, even the "natives". They were just the first immigrants. Same with anywhere that isn't East Africa.

It isn't that important, it is just a modifier to the noun "American". It could just as easily be "proud", "humble", "poor", "rich", "homosexual", "gun-toting", or "crazy". The important thing is they identify as American, and that's nice isn't it, feeling like you belong?

(Spoken as a non-american, who sees a similar thing happening in Australia, though generally we are a younger country.)

One of the greatest things about America (while some of us for some stupid as shit reason think that its a plague) is that we are a nation of immigrants and that has changed our culture. Since the only people who are natively from the Americas are Native Americans who are a very small minority now (yes, that was our bad, we admit it) most people can't say there heritage is native to the Americas so when people ask 'What are you' we usually say the heritage of our ancestors.

Technically saying you're "American" only implies that you live in US, because there's a 99.9% chance you, your family or ancestors weren't from there lol. Unless you're one of the Red Indians.

It's like saying I'm a New Zealander (or Kiwi), it only means I'm living here and explains nothing about my true background/heritage.

shrekfan246:
First of all, because being "American" doesn't mean anything more than being "European". Being "American" could mean Canadian, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Brazilian, Dominican, Native American, etc. and it's always been a bit weird that people born and raised in the United States are referred to as "American", but there's no simpler way of referring to us because what, are we going to use an unwieldy phrase like "Statesian"?

Too true.

Anyway, a few friends and I had a conversation similar to this the other day. I think that it's because the individual is either: proud of the heritage, ashamed of their country, just trying to look cool, or some combination of the three.

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