Amen, brother: The man who planted beats

Here’s an old Sinead O’Connor performance:

That’s O’Connor doing “I Am Stretched on Your Grave.” And that’s Gregory C. Coleman on drums.

Coleman, who died in 2006, still plays drums on dozens of tracks — from “Straight Outta Compton” to the theme from Futurama. Those songs are built around a drum break by Coleman — six seconds from the middle of a 1969 B-side by the funk-and-soul band The Winstons. That song was called “Amen Brother” — a romp built around the Gospel classic “Amen” — and so Coleman’s hugely influential four bars came to be called the “Amen Break.”

BBC Radio 1 did an hourlong documentary on the history of the Amen Break in 2011. And Nate Harrison’s 2004 video on “the world’s most important six-second drum loop” has been viewed more than 4 million times.

I’d heard this ubiquitous beat itself thousands of times, but I only just learned where it came from and what it was called thanks to a recent Killing the Buddha post by M. Sophia Newman, who works a discussion of Coleman’s beat into a reflection on Zen Buddhism, beauty and Meniere’s disease.

It’s kind of like finding out about Bo Diddley for the first time.

One difference, though, is that Bo Diddley set out to do what he did. He announced it. He proclaimed, “Hey world, check this out: Bomp ba-domp ba-domp, ba-domp-BOMP.” And he fully intended it to have a lasting impact and influence.

Coleman’s enduring legacy comes from a tossed-off, six-second break in the middle of a B-side.

I find that encouraging, somehow. “Amen Brother” came and went. The Winstons went their separate ways. A decade slipped by. And then the tiny seed that Gregory C. Coleman didn’t know he had even planted began to bear fruit.

One of my favorite books is Jean Giono’s classic fable The Man Who Planted Trees. That title conveys the entire story: A man planted trees. One hundred acorns a day. Every day. A radical rebirth and transformation of the world brought about by small steps and a long faithfulness in one direction.

I find Giono’s story inspiring, a source of hope. The man who planted trees had a plan, a very long-term plan, and he had the dedication and patience to stick with that plan and follow it through. That’s necessary and irreplaceable.

But the story of the Amen Break is also a reminder that sometimes transformation comes from little things — from brief, unplanned moments that at the time seem inconsequential. But no thing of beauty is ever inconsequential — even if it’s only six seconds from a B-side.

It reminds me of a story John Fea wrote about last month, which he called “A Lesson for All Academics.” It is a good lesson for academics — for professors and teachers especially, but also for parents, neighbors, writers, artists, pastors, youth ministers, volunteers, salespeople and, well, anyone whose life crosses paths with other lives (meaning everyone). It comes from this Jeff Haden essay on “The Power of Small Moments“:

Whatever you are today is largely due to the words and actions of other people. Most of those moments were, at the time, small and seemingly inconsequential. Only when you look back can you connect the dots.

That also means you never know when your words or actions might make an impact on someone else. A little encouragement, a little acceptance, a little praise … small actions that are insignificant to you but possibly life changing for another person.

And it also reminds me of a commencement speech by David Foster Wallace, which Richard Beck wrote about recently. Here’s Wallace urging us to pay attention:

Traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don’t make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I’m going to be pissed and miserable every time I have to food-shop, because my natural default-setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me, about my hungriness and my fatigue and my desire to just get home, and it’s going to seem, for all the world, like everybody else is just in my way, and who are all these people in my way? And look at how repulsive most of them are and how stupid and cow-like and dead-eyed and nonhuman they seem here in the checkout line, or at how annoying and rude it is that people are talking loudly on cell phones in the middle of the line, and look at how deeply unfair this is: I’ve worked really hard all day and I’m starved and tired and I can’t even get home to eat and unwind because of all these stupid g-d- people. …

Look, if I choose to think this way, fine, lots of us do — except that thinking this way tends to be so easy and automatic it doesn’t have to be a choice. Thinking this way is my natural default-setting. It’s the automatic, unconscious way that I experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when I’m operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the center of the world and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world’s priorities. …

But if you’ve really learned how to think, how to pay attention, then you will know you have other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, loud, slow, consumer-hell-type situation as not only meaningful but sacred, on fire with the same force that lit the stars — compassion, love, the sub-surface unity of all things.

Amen brother.


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  • Münchner Kindl

    One of my favorite books is Jean Giono’s classic fable The Man Who Planted Trees.
    That title conveys the entire story: A man planted trees. One hundred
    acorns a day. Every day. A radical rebirth and transformation of the
    world brought about by small steps and a long faithfulness in one
    I find Giono’s story inspiring, a source of hope. The man who planted trees had a plan, a very long-term plan, and he had the dedication and patience to stick with that plan and follow it through. That’s necessary and irreplaceable.

    There’s a huge problem with that book, and that is that it’s a fable sold as true story.
    While it may be inspiring to read this story as general fable on the topic of “small steps can add up big”, as an instruction on “how to re-forest a region” it’s completly wrong. The man in the fable has a plan that in real life would not work. If all the trees are gone, then there is no water retention. All the acorns he dropped would not grow. The few that might sprout would be eaten by his sheep (who like deer love fresh trees over dry heather).

    There are several re-forestation projects in different parts of the globe, with different climates, soil conditions, average rainfall, and each require expert knowledge and a lot more preparation than simply “making a hole and dropping an acorn”. It starts with the selection of trees suited to the soil, climate and rain. Then the trees are raised in nurseries and planted once they are grown – and if any animals like sheep are around, the young trees will be fenced in. If there are sand dunes moving along nearby, a shield of woven mats or grass or similar to protect the trees from being blown over and to hold the sand in place is needed. If it’s on a mountain slope, the trees are planted in the right pattern so next winter an avalanche or snow slide doesn’t uproot them all (and next summer the long grass is cut to make snow slides less possible – cut each summer for 10 years, until the trees are tall enough to cope on their own).

    So if impressionable people with good intentions but no knowledge read this and try to start a forest this way, they will waste hours of work for nothing that could be used much better working in a project for reforestation under guide of an expert.

  • Geds

     So if impressionable people with good intentions but no knowledge read
    this and try to start a forest this way, they will waste hours of work
    for nothing that could be used much better working in a project for
    reforestation under guide of an expert.

    Um, don’t take this the wrong way, but most people are actually far, far more capable of separating reality from fantasy than you seem to be giving them credit for.  In fact, I think that in this case you’re the one who might be taking things too far.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    That’s okay. We’re all just stupid North Americans, according to him.

  • Münchner Kindl

     Ah yes. Isn’t it interesting how I didn’t mention Americans with one iota in my post, referring to people in general (and esp. impressionable people = children who are often shown this), yet get immediatly accused of slamming the Yanks? Yeah, it’s me that’s the problem here, not the chips on your shoulders. *eyeroll*

  • Invisible Neutrino

    You’ve proven yourself to be quick with the judgementalism in a way that smacks of excessive amounts of “my shit don’t stiiiiiiiiink.”

    News flash: Your country is in the habit of originating pro-deflationary economic policies which hamstring countries that, frankly, need a dose of the “inflation monster” to get themselves out of the economic doldrums.

    Greece, for example, could have done with a year or two of quantitative easing to allow for the resulting currency devaluation to help deal with its economic situation.

    As it is, the cause and effect of the right-wing Golden Dawn movement being on the verge of possibly surging to power in Greece and instituting a Fascist government can be laid at the feet of the refusal of your government to countenance inflationary fiscal and monetary policy.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Oh ho, Münchner Kindl, you got told!

    (IN: slapping down Germany without reaching into painfully obvious history: nicely done)

  • Münchner Kindl

    All I see is that Invisible Neutrino doesn’t care what I say, he’s ready to take completly off-topic potshots in belligerent manner to show how judgmental I am, and that you agree, but can’t find a real argument against what I said on topic.

    So carry on if you feel better, I will skip.

  • Miss Michaele

    Most of us are capable of separating fantasy from reality, but there are still plenty of smart, sane people who don’t all know enough about forestry to call shenanigans on The Man Who Planted Trees.  I certainly didn’t when I first came across it, decades ago.

  • FearlessSon

    You also forgot that diversity of tree species is another important aspect.  If you plant trees with all the same kind of seed, the forest will all grow up the same species.  The problem with this is that one infection can wipe out the whole forest.  If a tree gets parasitic insects or fungus, it will quickly spread to the others nearby.  However, if you alternate different kind of trees, it will be much easier to contain something like that (different trees are vulnerable to different parasites) and the forest will be more robust as a result.

  • Münchner Kindl

    Yes, you’re right.

    When I spent one week replanting trees in the mountains, this was a big problem: we wanted different species of trees, but all leaf-trees like acorns were nibbled on by the deer (overpopulation for political reason + scarce food during winter). Even on type of needle tree was too soft and got nibbled on, so if five species were planted, next year only one type of hardy needle tree had survived. (The deer didn’t eat the whole tree, just ate the top and the young shots; but once the top was gone, the tree would never really grow tall, it kind of shut down).

  • MaryKaye

    We do wrestle here in the Pacific Northwest with the fact that people want to plant trees for Arbor Day, in the spring, but trees planted then have a much lower chance of success than ones planted in the fall.  Summer is our dry season and not good for newly establishing trees.

    I helped break ground for a dogwood grove in December, some years ago.  Cold hard work, but the trees are big and gorgeous now and have completely excluded the non-native blackberries, as we hoped when we planted them.  There is something to be said for doing feel-good work, but even more to be said for doing *successful* feel-good work, and that requires some thought and discipline.  Certainly in our climate pushing in 100 acorns a day would not be a good strategy.  Pushing in 1000 acorns a day for six weeks in the late fall would be a lot better.

  • LouisDoench

    I thought we were USians, which I don’t even know how to pronounce. 

  • esmerelda_ogg

     Isn’t IN from Canada?

  • Invisible Neutrino

    I am indeed Canadian, but there are times when I wonder if Muenchner Kindl much cares about the difference.

    I knew someone like him/her way back on another forum. They constantly drew unflattering comparisons between Canada and Europe and this person couldn’t wait till they could get a plane ticket out to marry someone over there.

    The stiff-necked judgementalism of some Europeans is only matched by the wilful ignorance of some Canadians and Americans about the world beyond the borders of this continent.

  • Münchner Kindl

    I am indeed Canadian, but there are times when I wonder if Muenchner Kindl much cares about the difference.

    Yes, I care about the difference, but no, I don’t always remember that you specifically are from Canada, since most posters here are from the US (and since I have trouble remembering who is who in many other cases, too, given the number of posters); and in many cases I am not talking to you specifically, but in general terms.

    But I don’t know whether you care about that since you already know what I’m like…

  • JustoneK


  • Invisible Neutrino

    Some Spanish-speaking people like to use the term “estadounidense”. Interestingly enough I’ve seem some people who totes insist that the literal translation of that into English shouldn’t used because *FLAIL*.

  • PepperjackCandy

    “Estadounidense” is exactly why I started using the term “USisan.”  I recall back in high school (before everyone had an Internet connection at home) saying, “this would be a nice word to use in English.” 

    “Estadounidense” is one of my favorite Spanish words; it’s useful and fun to say!

  • EAH

    In French the equivalent is “états-unien”. I agree, so useful that I wish English had a word for it!

  • EllieMurasaki


  • Invisible Neutrino

    Is there a particular reason you’re being snarky about my use of a qualifier meaning “possibly not all”? If I’d said “All” it sounds to me like you’d jump on me for that too.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I sincerely doubt there are many argentinos or costarricenses or paraguayos who think ‘americano’ is a term that describes only people from the US, or many mexicanos who think ‘norteamericano’ does.

  • OriginalExtraCrispy

     I pronounce it You-ess-ians.

    I went and listened to the Futurama theme and then “Straight Outta Compton” (and OMG how young Ice Cube looks) and could hear the similarities in the drum beats. The man had some serious talent.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Try ‘estadounidenses’. It’s pronounced exactly how it looks (though you may want to check the pronunciation of Spanish vowels). At six syllables it’s a wee bit unwieldy, though, which is probably why I’m having such trouble getting it in common use.

  • Münchner Kindl

     Like it’s written?

    What do you prefer? A lot of people from the Southern US get upset over Yanks since it refers to Northern US, and some consider Yanks derogative.
    Americans is not correct enough because it lumps Canada with the US or ignores it, which is not nice or fair to the few Canadian posters here.

    So USians seems to be most exact and neutral. What else do you suggest?

  • Hexep

    Why does there need to be a word that refers to both the citizens of the USA and the citizens of Canada, but that does not include the citizens of Mexico or the Caribbean republics?

    But if there must be one, I prefer ‘Anglamerican,’ since both nations are part of the Anglosphere.

  • Münchner Kindl

     No, the opposite: a word that refers to only people from the US, not US and Canada, since they are different.

    Including Mexicans or Canadians when talking about US foreign policy, the problem with creationists, the influence of evangelicals/ fundies allied with Right wingers on mainstream politics, climate change denialism … would paint a distorted picture, because these are problems / phenomenons mainly in the US, but marginal/ non-existant in Canada or Mexico.

    Calling them “Americans” or “North-Americans is inaccurate in these circumstances – it was the complaints of Mexicans et al. that they are Americans, but not Yanks, and then the Canadians that they are North Americans but not Yanks, that lead to the creation of a specific term in the first place.

  • Hexep

    Then just say ‘Americans,’ since we’re the United States of America.  Under what circumstances would somebody need a word to say, ‘a citizen of one of the 35 sovereign states between 30 degrees west and 140 west, and maybe also of France, the Netherlands, the UK, or Denmark?’  What’s next – a word to describe someone who could be from any part of Germany that /doesn’t/ have Sachsen in the name?

    Besides, there are two countries where people can be estadounidenses – the Estados Unidos de Norteamerica, and the Estados Unidos Mexicanos.  And that first name is just as problematic in Spanish, because isn’t Canada in Norte America also?

    In Spanish, ‘Americano’ means a person from the Americans, aka 30 W – 140 W.  In English, it means someone from the USA.  Why should I change what I call myself in my own language to match what someone else calls me in theirs?

  • Invisible Neutrino

    The problem is you have Quebec in the mix. You could always go with “Anglo-Franco-America” if you like.

  • LouisDoench

    Canadians call themselves CANADIANS. Mexicans call themselves MEXICANS. People from various South or Central American nations call themselves Brazilians or whatever.  People from the United States of America are called “Americans”. I’m sure whatever European country you come from it is considered  courteous to use the appellation that is preferred by the natives, barring language or pronunciation issues. If Germans would rather be called Deutschlanders then I’m fine with that. USians is snarky twaddle designed to insult and belittle. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    So you would rather insult and belittle the entire non-USian population of North and South America? Because, you know, they live in the fucking Americas, they have a fucking right to be called American. They’re just not from the fucking US.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Yes, this.  I have never (and I mean NEVER) met a Canadian who wanted to be called “American.”  If someone wanted to be called a yoo-ess-ee-an, I would do it, but I’ve never met anyone who asked me to do so.

  • AlexJarr

    You should try and do more research. There has to be a trend of people from North America who resent not being able to use the term “American” to refer to themselves — why else would there be a debate about the whole “USian” thing if not?

  • Lori


    There has to be a trend of people from North America who resent not
    being able to use the term “American” to refer to themselves — why else
    would there be a debate about the whole “USian” thing if not?   

    I love my chosen people, but if you really have to ask this you have not spent enough time hanging around with (a certain flavor of) lefties.

    IDK if there’s any significant number of people from other parts of the America who resent not being able to call themselves Americans. I’m just saying that no such group is actually necessary for this conversation to occur.

  • EllieMurasaki

    IDK if there’s any significant number of people from other parts of the America who resent not being able to call themselves Americans.

    Define ‘significant number’. If it’s greater than zero, I’m pointing at the author(s?) of my college Spanish text and calling it done.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Like I said, I’ll call someone whatever they want to be called (well, within reason).  But I’ve never met a Canadian who wanted to be called anything but Canadian (and given the size of my family, I feel my research is sufficient for my statement). 

    I’m not sure I understand your statement that certain people are not “able” to use the term “American.”  Who is forbidding them?

    Yoo-ess-ee-an, in my experience, is a term that crops up online sometimes, often by people who don’t care about being called it themselves, but are quite sure they know how oppressed everyone else must be.

  • vsm

    I’ve mostly seen it used by South Americans on various lefty mailing lists. In any case, I don’t think redefining ‘American’ to mean ‘anyone from the Americas’ is going to succeed since the current usage is so common and useful. Without that, I don’t really see what’s the point of trying to make ‘USian’ a thing.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Accuracy and not-hurtful-ness of words is important.

  • vsm

    I agree, but one should also pick one’s battles. Trying to change something as basic as how the people of the United States of America call themselves would be a huge effort and unlikely to succeed. There have to be more acute causes to fight.

    I’m not sure how many people are actually trying to change the general usage, though, instead of just making a political point about cultural imperialism.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Out of curiosity, would you have told Abigail Adams to stop fighting for women’s representation in government? ‘Cause nearly two hundred forty years later that fight ain’t over yet, but that doesn’t mean there was ever a point at which it wasn’t worth fighting.

  • Ruby_Tea

    You’re comparing the “fight” for yoo-ess-ee-ans to women’s rights?  Really?

  • EllieMurasaki

    I’m comparing the push against estadounidense assumed superiority to women’s rights.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Then I’m terribly sorry you got rid of the textbook that explained to the world why “American” is such an oppressive word.  I’m sure it was really something.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I’m sure there’s dozens. In fact I am willing to bet money that any Spanish I textbook explains this.

  • Ruby_Tea

    I took Spanish for five years in middle school and high school.  Not one of my textbooks told us that it was wrong and oppressive to describe ourselves as Americans.

    So, how much money was on the table?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Enough to buy a used copy of the textbook I’m thinking of, if it turns out I don’t have one anymore.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Sadly, I will most likely use the money for wine and used Christian novels.

    But thank you for playing.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Mm-hm. How about you actually produce the page of a Spanish textbook that discusses the words for inhabitants of various Latin American countries without mentioning the objectionableness of reserving ‘americano’ as a synonym for ‘estadounidense’? Because I plan to produce said page of my textbook as soon as I get home, or (if I can’t find the book) as soon as Amazon Marketplace gets it to me (probably two weeks tops).

  • Ruby_Tea

    That wasn’t actually the bet that you outlined.  You said:

    I am willing to bet money that any Spanish I textbook explains this.

    And I am telling you that I had at least five different Spanish textbooks that did not.  Producing your old Spanish textbook won’t show that “any” textbook explains it–just yours.

  • EllieMurasaki

    So show me your counterexample. Don’t tell me you’ve got it. Show me. Show me its publication date, too–surplus data, but I’m curious.

  • Ruby_Tea

    I don’t have it—I didn’t keep any of my middle school textbooks.  Largely because they were not mine to keep.

    But yeah, you got me.  I’m totally lying about my middle school textbooks because my American-Canadian privilege blinds me to the oppression in the use of the word “American.”  Deep down in my dark heart, I know that your sixth-grade Spanish textbook holds all the social justice secrets of the universe.

    *rolls eyes*

  • EllieMurasaki

    College Spanish. And old editions of textbooks are typically only four or five dollars on Amazon and that includes shipping, so I doubt finding a counterexample is going to make your bank account cry.

  • Ruby_Tea

    You’re serious about this?  You want me to go hunting up my old Spanish textbooks on Amazon, buy them, take pictures of every page, and post them online to prove to you that I’m telling the truth about said textbooks not containing lessons on the oppression of the word “American”?

    Oh, and out of curiosity, is it that you just don’t trust me, or that the idea of a Spanish textbook not also being a social justice warrior textbook is completely unbelievable?

  • EllieMurasaki

    All you need is one page of one textbook, the page that discusses such words as ‘costarricense’ and ‘mexicano’ and that does not also point out that ‘americano’ is not synonymous with ‘estadounidense’, and I’m perfectly fine with reimbursing you the cost of the book and shipping up to $10. (Only one book, though.) And I don’t see why I should believe you about the contents of your Spanish book when you don’t believe me about the contents of mine, and I am planning to scan and Photobucket the relevant page, so I’m expecting less of you than I am of me, because the price of your textbook is on me, not you.

  • Ruby_Tea

    I honestly can’t believe you are serious about any of this.  I am literally shaking my head in wonderment as I sit here.

    So no, I’m not hunting down any old textbook of mine and taking pictures of it for you.  I can think of approximately 27,452 things that would be a better use of my time and energy.  I don’t want your money, because I’m sure there are an equal number of things on which it could be better spent.

    Like Cary, I could not care less what your book says.  I don’t doubt that a textbook somewhere has a discussion of the use of the term “americano,” but then again, there are textbooks out there that say that the moon will turn blood-red as a sign of the End of Days (coming this Friday!).

    If it’s all the same to you, I’m just going to keep on calling people Canadians if they are from Canada, and so on for other countries. 

    Yoo-ess-ee-ans.  Phooey.

  • Ross

     I’m fairly sure my Spanish 1 textbook had a little sketch in it wherein the south american proudly proclaims “But We are americans too!” (Or ‘Pero somos americanos tambien!’) to the american who exists to have things explained to him. There was no sense of it being oppressive, and it’s hard to really distinguish things in my spanish 1 textbook as “cultural truths about people from south and central america” as opposed to “Politely paternalistic cultural imperialism” (Like the bits that focused on things like “Did you know: Spanish-speaking people do not all like tacos?” or “Did you know: Not all spanish-speaking countries are military dictatorships?” or “Did you know: Although they are a strange and backward people, mexicans are technically human?”)

  • Ruby_Tea

    Well, like I say, I don’t remember any of my Spanish textbooks having any lessons about being “American” or about “American” being an oppressive term.

    As for sketches, we used to have to write our own.  And classes containing 13-year-old boys generally managed to have a sketch begin with “donde esta la biblioteca,” and end with an action sequence.

  • Ross

     I mostly remember a scene in which the New Girl in school is given the warning “Cuidado con Beto!”, as Beto was apparently quite the lothario.

  • LouisDoench

    Listen, I don’t give a flying off the top rope double inverted fuck if peoples from all over our lovely diverse hemisphere (certainly a hemisphere of contrasts) wish to describe themselves as “Americans”.  It is absolutely no skin off my nose.  What I object to is having myself described with a pretentious and condescending made up appellation (USian)  and having my objections to said construction reduced to a junior high school lecture on imperialism. If you must insist on being pedantically clear regarding whether you are referring to US citizens instead of citizens of the western hemisphere in general then type in “US Americans” It will take you a couple extra keystrokes and you (mostly referring to our Germanic friend above) won’t come off sounding like a jerk.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Assuming for a moment that you’re right that the intention of everyone using ‘USian’–actually, no, intent not magic, assuming that the effect of such–is to condescend to you: sucks to be on the pointy end of the stick, don’t it?

  • Münchner Kindl


    What I object to is having myself described with a pretentious and condescending made up appellation (USian)

    Why is the abbreviation of US American or, alternative explanation, the conversion of US(A) to an adjective, pretentious and condescending?

    If you must insist on being pedantically clear regarding whether you are
    referring to US citizens instead of citizens of the western hemisphere
    in general then type in “US Americans” It will take you a couple extra

    So because the shorter form is condescing to you, I should type the longer form. Okay, I will do my best to remember.

  • LouisDoench

    I apologize for getting all riled up over this. It shouldn’t be that big a deal but emotionally it is right now.  It has been a tough week here in the USA.  I have a 7 and a 5 year old in school right now and I’m a little freaked.  Please accept my apologies for being rude.

  • PatBannon

    I will take no part in this debate except to say that “I don’t give a flying off the top rope double inverted fuck” is one of the best phrases I’ve heard in weeks.

  • Ross

    They do both involve sub-groups who refuse to grant a distinction between “enforcer for the priviliged” and “person who doesn’t want to use my made-up words.”

  • vsm

    No, I think extending democratic rights is a fight worth picking, despite how difficult it is. I don’t think this particular cause is, at least compared to the amount of work success would involve. Considering how hard it is to consciously change language, I’m not even sure it would be possible.

  • AnonaMiss

    I’m trying to decide whether the opening drum thingy from Owner of a Lonely Heart is the Amen Break. Thoughts?

  • TheDarkArtist

    As an electronic/hip-hop music producer (albeit only recreationally) and a huge fan of those genres, the Amen is an absolutely necessary paint in the palate of tones.

    As a music lover, you may also want to give a listen to The Funky Drummer pts 1  and 2 by James Brown, another completely ubiquitous beat in the hip-hop and pop genres. That beat that plays in “Baby Lovechild” by Pizzicato Five (used in Futurama), that’s the funky drummer. Plus, the song the sample comes from also rules hard. If you can stay in your chair when that funky ass break kicks in, I just don’t know. It’s the closest thing to a religious experience I’ve ever had.

    I love sample based music. I know some people think that it’s “cheating” or whatever, but I think they underestimate the talent it takes to create something that sounds cool from samples. It’s way easier for me to play whatever I want on the guitar or keyboard than to take something that’s already made and manipulate it into something original.

  • TheDarkArtist

    Also, everyone should give a listen to at least the first five tracks from the album “What Does It All Mean?”, a retrospective album of the original mash-up artist Steinski (with Double Dee on some of the tracks, most notably the “Lessons”). It’s like a tour of every classic hip-hop song with jazz and movie samples thrown in just because Steinski rules.

    The most impressive part? He made it all with turntables, a sampler with a whopping 8-seconds of playback (!), and a multitrack tape unit back in the 1980’s.

  • caryjamesbond

    Well, given that the vast majority of the non-US population of these two continents speaks one of three other romance languages that A) includes another word for the US, and B) don’t even have the word “American” because those other languages AREN’T ENGLISH, I gotta say, I’m not sure where the offense is. 

    Also, based on traditional terms, the second way to refer to the USA would be “Columbia,” a name that we were using for ourselves wayyyy before 1886.  

  • vsm

    It’s not like romance-language speaking Americans are incapable of communicating in English. Many who do prefer to use the terms USians or USAmericans.

  • Dave

    > don’t even have the word “American” because those other languages AREN’T ENGLISH

    As it happens, “America” is also what the cluster of continents that my nation shares with nearly 20 other nations is called in Spanish. This ought not be surprising, since English was not the lingua franca of cartography when those continents were named.

    For my own part, I’m perfectly happy to call myself an American, equally willing to call myself something else if that becomes standard, and if people living in Mexico or Guatemala want to start calling themselves Americans (in the same sense that people living in Germany or France sometimes call themselves Europeans), I’m perfectly OK with that too.

  • caryjamesbond

    I lived in South and south-central Florida for almost eight years, and the only time I’ve run across that construction was on the internet. Generally, aside from “American” the terms I heard used most often to refer to Americans was “Gringo,” and “Estadounidense.” People from Cuba and Mexico in particular will refer to “el norte.”

  • caryjamesbond

    Yeah, us lefties sometimes have a tendency to find offense where no one was taking any. See also- debates about color metaphors. “Pot calling the kettle black.” and so on.

    My poking around the internet hasn’t really revealed anything about the word “Usian.” Ten pages of results, the vast majority of which are results for people named “Usain”

    And like Ruby points out- it’s not like we copyrighted the term or anything.  You just don’t usually see people referring to themselves by continent. A person from Brazil certain CAN describe themselves as “South American” but…..that would be really odd. Especially since most South American people I’ve met have been proud of where they’re from. And especially because if you just say “I’m South American” someone might think you’re from Argentina instead of Brazil and that. shit. don’t. fly.

     (*NEVER* call a Brazilian an Argentinian.  Very gauche.)

    I’ve also never heard someone from Europe describe themselves as “European.”  Or for that matter, someone from Asia describe themselves as Asian, even though they, of all ethnic groups, get lumped together the most. Everyone I’ve met just says the name of a country. Except one guy, who described himself as “From Strasbourg.” Those of you familiar with the history of Alsace-Lorraine can guess why he said that.

  • EllieMurasaki

    ‘You know of no one who is personally offended’ != ‘no one is personally offended’.

  • Ross


    Or for that matter, someone from Asia describe themselves as Asian,
    even though they, of all ethnic groups, get lumped together the most.

    For that matter, “Asian” in particular seems to carry a bit of a connotation of “You know, chinese, japanese, korean, vietnamese, they’re all the same thing” sort of dismissal.

    I’d be reluctant to refer to a person as “south american” for much the same reason — that it might be taken to imply “One of those interchangeable spanish-speaking countries I can’t be bothered to learn the difference between”

  • Ruby_Tea

    I’d be reluctant to refer to a person as “south american” for much the same reason — that it might be taken to imply “One of those interchangeable spanish-speaking countries I can’t be bothered to learn the difference between”

    Narrator: The South American group includes Brazil and Argentina.

    Mike: And a few other countries not worth mentioning.

    – MST3K, Santa Claus

  • caryjamesbond

    I’m not sure how many people are actually trying to change the general usage, though, instead of just making a political point about cultural imperialism.

    I don’t care if you want to say USian, call yourself USian, or even try to change the general usage to USian. I don’t like USian myself, because I think it sounds and looks terrible.

    However, I object to having the use of the term “American” framed as somehow exclusionary or imperialist.  There are no other nations on either continent that even use the word “America” or “American.” If there were a “Republic of South America” I could see that. But no one is being excluded by that use of the term. And certainly no one is being oppressed by that term. 

    That’s what makes a slur a slur- the word is used to exclude and degrade. See the word “Negro” for an example. It wasn’t until during the Civil Rights movement that the word gained a negative meaning, because an exclusionary and degrading meaning was transferred onto it. The N-word, on the other hand, pretty much always had that meaning attached to it. If people were using the word “American” to exclude and degrade others who wanted to use that term and/or were described by that term, it would be wrong. But I’ve never seen it used that way. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    I would very much like to take my Spanish text and clock you upside the head with it; sadly, I do not have it with me, you are out of reach, and possibly I sold it. Because that text was very clear on the point that there are a great many Spanish-speaking people in the Americas who feel they have as much right to be called an American as an Italian has to be called a European (even if they may prefer to identify themselves as costarricenses or whatever, just as the Italian may prefer to identify zirself as Italian), and who resent the fact that we estadounidenses have staked a claim on the word.

  • AlexJarr

     Not being able to use it because if they do, no one will figure out what it means. I personally haven’t encountered this either but that’s hardly proof because I haven’t really been looking into it at all — it’s not something I’ve even heard of until today.

  • AlexJarr

     I think that she just meant that the whole, “You shouldn’t do it because it will be time-consuming and difficult” isn’t much of an argument against anything, not that trying to create a new word is the same as enfranchising women.

  • EllieMurasaki

    That too.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    This Canadian does not want to be called “American” either, because that would imply that this Canadian is a US citizen, which this Canadian is not.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Exactly.  I think if someone had called my grandfather an American or yoo-ess-ee-an or anything other than Canadian wrt his nationality, he would have assumed they were spoiling for a fight.

  • AlexJarr

    From the general course of this argument so far and the focus on Spanish textbooks, I get the impression that this is largely an issue in Mexico and central/South America, not in Canada. 

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Canadians occupy a different space in the USA cultural-imperialism volume than Latin Americans do. We’re generally white, for one thing, and can mostly speak a flawless reproduction of the variant of English generally used by newscasters.

    (insert long-story-short here*)

    As a result, our experience of the USA cultural hegemony has resulted, rather than trying to re-appropriate the term “American”, in adopting the identity of “Canadian” (or “Quebecois/e”, depending). That said, some people in Canada are conscious of the inherent cultural imperialism in appropriating the name of two continents as the demonym for residents of one country and prefer to apply “USian” to “American”.

    I was always given to understand that “americano”, etc, were various types of slang terms in Spanish and that “estadounidense” would be the proper Spanish form of the demonym.

    * The long story can fill Canadian Studies textbooks. The five-cent tour of such texts is: since we are not linguistically “othered” by the dominant culture in the USA so much as “erased”, we react differently to that.

  • caryjamesbond

    Err, sorry Ellie, but the burden of proof is on you for this one.

    You want people to change their language. You want this not because you think USian is more aesthetic, or more accurate, or less likely to cause confusion. You want people to change because you claim the use of the word “American” “insults and belittles” the entire non-American population of the entire hemisphere.

    Essentially, you’re saying that using the word “American” to refer to the population of the United States is the equivalent of a racial slur.  In other words, something that is not just inaccurate or poorly phrased, but something that is actively morally wrong.

    And you’re gonna have to prove that one.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I am at work for eight more hours. My textbook, if I still have it, is at home. If it is not at home, acquiring it will be two weeks or so. Take a fucking patience pill. And you’re the one who thinks I’m equating ‘American’ to a racial slur, not me. Heard of ‘microaggressions’?

  • AnonymousSam

    The term “USian” irritates me for the same reason the term “Jap” irritates me. In the best case scenario, creating a nickname/abbreviation for someone without their consent, particularly one which assumes a certain level of familiarity, is always going to be rude. Add to that the context that the term is almost always used in a pejorative sense and you have a recipe for a fight.

  • Münchner Kindl

     Any proof that it’s almost always used perjorative? I know that Jap is a slur in AE, but I never encountered USian used in a similar way. (Given that Yank is seen by some US Americans as slur, by some as friendly nick and by some as proud identifier, you would need some good sources that USian is always perjorative).

    Also, I have trouble with the comparision between a slur used during a problematic time like WWII against a minority/ enemy  and an abbreviation for one of the most powerful countries.

  • AnonymousSam

    Personal experience, you being an asshat, and that enough other people have thought so as well to add it to the Urban Dictionary page.

  • AnonymousSam

    Similar arguments could also be made for calling you a Germ (short for German, of course, and if other people sometimes use it in the pejorative to draw an unfavorable comparison between Germans and microbial life, I would be shocked, shocked I tell you).

    Doesn’t mean it’s not rude to do so without your explicit consent, and while I may be confrontational, obtuse, snide, arrogant and a number of other terms, I do try not to be rude to an entire country while insulting an individual.

  • caryjamesbond

    I’m not really in any hurry. Honestly, I could really care less what your Spanish textbook said. But I looked up microagression.  In the list of Gender microagressions, these were the first three things listed:

    Sexual Objectification
    Second-Class Citizenship
    Sexist Language”

    So, since you’re insinuating, at least, that the use of the word American to refer exclusively to people from the US is a “microagression” it seems to me that it needs to be able to hold its own in terms of psychological damage done.

     So would you say that an Ecuadorian encountering someone using the word “American” to describe only themselves experiences as much psychological damage as a woman confronted with sexist language? In other words- yes, I directly said that you consider this particular use of the word “American” a racial slur. You have not directly stated that.

    However, you have described in terms of and in comparison to, racial and gendered slurs.  So yes, whether you want to say so or not, you are acting as though this use of “American” is morally comparable to racial or gendered slurs. Either admit it or tone down the rhetoric you’re using to a level commensurate with the actual level of offense.

  • EllieMurasaki

    ‘Missy’ is not a slur by anyone’s definition but it is still insulting and belittling to people described by it. (Unless it’s their name.)

  • caryjamesbond

    And can I add- anyone who has a term already in use for their nationality, and are significantly hurt or upset or offended because of the use of American to refer solely to people from the US makes it marginally more difficult for them to refer to themselves by their continent of origin…..

    I don;’t care about their offense. Not all offense is equal. Some people are offended by suffering and poverty and hate, and some people are offended by the words that other people use to describe themselves. 
    The first people have a reason. The second person is hunting for reasons to be offended.

  • Hexep

    Definite, absolute agreement.

    In any Spanish-speaking venue, I would as a matter of course defer to how they have named things.  But we’re speaking English, and referring to ourselves in our own languages.  This is not the Iberosphere’s problem.Trying to control how other people use their own language is one of the hallmarks of cultural imperialism, and I’m glad that we’re resisting it.  The Spanish-speaking and Portuguese-speaking peoples of the world are a mature and vibrant set of cultures that are well-represented in the world arena and control their own respective destinies as individual peoples and as confederations; they are not a downtrodden race of victims that require us to patronizingly defer to their linguistic whims.

    I’m an American.  I’m not an Estadounidense, a Meiguoren, or an Ameriki.  I don’t object when people speaking Spanish, Chinese, or Russian refer to me as such amongst themselves or when speaking with me in their respective languages.  But speaking my language = calling me by my name for myself.  For all values of ‘me,’ this is the universal rule that everyone should respect.  And if you want to create some higher category of identification to which we will both apparently belong, you don’t get to steal my name for yourself, even if you’re generously going to let me share it with you.

    Next we’ll start talking about the FYROM, I bet…

  • EllieMurasaki

    So what is the English word for ‘person from the Americas’?

  • Dave

     > So what is the English word for ‘person from the Americas’?

    If you ever find one, I’d love to learn it. My company is forevermore talking about “North and South American clients” for this reason.

  • Hexep

    There isn’t one.  One could say ‘member citizens of the OAS,’ if one were so compelled, or perhaps ‘citizens of the American republics.’  But this is not a group with a commonality of interest that justifies creating a special, one-stop name for them, or, if they are, not enough so to justify stealing a name that one constituent group already uses to define itself.

    What’s hilarious is that in a previous thread, I got chewed out for doing this exact thing you’re doing now.  I think I said something like, ‘as a person who is not a member of any BGLT or associated group, it’s not for me to choose a name to refer to them in array, but rather respect one that these groups choose for themselves.’  I remember being quite criticized for declaring that they had some kind of inherent commonality, such that outsiders should expect these groups to come up with a name for themselves as a gestalt.

    So, here’s just the same.  Why do we need a word for ‘people from the nations between 30 and 140 degrees west longitude?’  And if we do, why do we need to filch the word that one such group already uses to refer to itself?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Why do we need a word to refer to the peoples of the continent of Europe, or that of Africa or Asia or Australia? If we should not discard the words ‘European’, ‘African’, ‘Asian’, ‘Australian’, why must we preserve the absence of a word for the people of the Americas? In particular given that there actually is a word to fill that hole, it’s just got a narrower definition that’s more popular.

    And considering that the people of the parts of the Americas within US borders are the people with most of the power in this equation, I see nothing at all problematic about pointing out that we don’t get to say the narrow meaning of ‘American’ is the only one to the exclusion of the comparatively powerless people described by the broad meaning but not the narrow one. So that means we have to give up a tidge of that power. Cry me a river.

  • Ruby_Tea

    I’m pretty sure that nobody is crying here.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out what kind of real “power” you are upset about, except that you have somehow determined that describing people’s nationalities by using the name of the nation is somehow wrong and oppressive and colonialist and racist and privileged and microaggressive and we should all be ashamed. 

    I’m sure that you see yourself as the lone voice pleading for privilege-checking and equality and justice and all, but honestly, nobody here has suggested that anybody call anybody else anything they do not want to be called…except for you.

  • Hexep

    The word ‘European’ has meaning because of the ongoing process of European integration.  In the political and economic sense, there is such a thing as Europe.  It’s the same with Africa; the whole continent is joining up in customs unions, free trade agreements,  and even peacekeeping missions – the African Union sent troops to Darfur in 2007.

    The word “Asian,” though, I agree should be abolished.  “Asia” consists of 3 major blocs or councils, each of which suffers from large internal dissent, each of which is unfriendly or hostile to the others, and two of which has interests that extend onto other continents and geographic locales – and even taken together, they don’t comprise the whole of ‘Asia.’  (Whither Japan?)  The only thing more meaningless than the phrase ‘Asian’ is the phrase ‘Eurasian.’  Some day, someone will make up the world ‘Eurasica,’ and that’ll be even worse.

    Compare Europe and Africa, however, with our own equivalent, the OAS.  The OAS has no armies, it has no customs union or free-trade zone (its constituents have set up several such agencies on their own, majors being NAFTA and Mercosur), has no high court, hasn’t established a currency, and has no international cachet.  It is an entirely toothless, emaciated institution, not only for lack of interest but because it has no reason to exist – it does nothing at all that Mercosur or the Andean C don’t already do, except include two countries that have no reason to be there and a third country that completely upsets their internal trade-balance system.

    Conclusion: There is no such thing as “America,” except the United States of America; all else is meaningless and arbitrary geography.

    Homework Questions:
    1: Switzerland is geographically in Europe, but is not a member of the European Union.  Does that mean it’s cultural imperialism for the agencies such as the European High Commission, European Parliament, et al, to refer to themselves as such even though their authority does not extend over Switzerland?
    2: Doesn’t the phrase ‘USians’ or ‘estadounidenses’ conflict with the fact that Mexico is also a United States?
    3:  The name ‘Argentina’ refers to the geographical feature of the Rio de la Plata basin (plata and argenta being the Spanish and Latin words for silver, respectively).  Since neither the R. Plata or its basin are entirely in Argentina, does this name constitute an imperialist/revanchist claim on Uruguay?
    4: The name ‘Brazil’ refers to brazilwood, a type of tree that is found in Brazil and ultimately derives from the Portuguese word ‘brasa,’ meaning ’ember.’  Brazilwood trees, however, can also be found in Suriname and French Guiana.  Does the name Brazil, constitute an imperialist/revanchist claim on those two nations?
    5: The etonym ‘British’ refers to people from the UK, or more properly the UKGBNI.  However, there is one British Isle (Ireland) over which the UK does not exercise full sovereignty.  Is it imperialistic for the citizens of the UK to refer to themselves as ‘British,’ and if so, what should they call themselves?

    And the most important question of all…

    6:  At what point, to you, will the Mercosur and Andean Republics have enough power and dignity to take a seat at the table of nations as equals, rather than as victims?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Do the words ‘European’ and ‘Asian’ have any meaning in a geographic sense? Because I assure you there is no political or economic boundary defining the southeastern United States (not an official one since the Confederacy folded, anyway), but people from Louisiana to the Carolinas still call themselves Southerners.

    Nobody actually calls Mexico ‘the United States of Mexico’. Not in English at all that I’m aware of, and not in Spanish except when trying to be highly official, rather like how it’s only on official state documents that we see the phrase ‘Commonwealth of Massachusetts’. Also there are no other contenders for the words ‘Mexico’ or ‘Mexican’. So, people from Mexico can have ‘Mexican’, people from anywhere in the Americas can have ‘American’, and people from the US can have whatever term we end up agreeing on that describes people from the US provided it’s not ‘American’, which is undoubtedly going to shake out to something containing ‘United States’ in full or abbreviation.

    I don’t know nearly enough about the subjects of any of your other questions to express an opinion and I suspect you of making up at least some of them to gotcha me with. (Looks like you could make the same point by asking if it’s imperialist of the state of Mississippi to take that name when the eponymous river goes up as far as, what is it, Iowa, Minnesota? Lots of states on that river, anyway.) And no, I am not looking them up right now, because depending on how many hours end up being offered Saturday, I’m on track to work between sixteen and twenty hours of overtime this week. Previous personal record, nineteen in a pay period; pay periods are two weeks.

  • Ross


    2: Doesn’t the phrase ‘USians’ or ‘estadounidenses’ conflict with the fact that Mexico is also a United States?

    Or maybe not…

    (My spanish book, the same one that had the south american girl proudly tell the token american “But we’re americans too!” also “explained” that in spanish-speaking countries, you actually refer to the USA as “The United States of the United States”, because “United States” on its own could refer to mexico.)

  • Dave

    If people from Canada or Peru or wherever start referring to themselves as “Americans” on the grounds that this that’s the continental cluster on which they reside, they aren’t stealing a thing.

    And, while I’m here:
    – If someone were to insist on calling Canadians and Peruvians and so forth “Americans” on those grounds when they preferred to be called something else, I would consider that inappropriate.
    – If someone were to insist that everyone living in North/Central/South America come up with some other single term that it’s OK to call us all when we prefer to be called various different things, I would consider that inappropriate.
    – If someone wants to stop using “American” to describe people from the U.S.A, on the grounds that they’d prefer to make it easier for someone from Canada or Peru to use that label, I’m fine with that.
    – If someone insists that if I lived in Canada or Peru, I could call myself an American, but since I live in Massachusetts, I can’t call myself an American, I disagree with them.
    – If someone insists that nobody gets to call themselves an American, on the grounds that this is all just too silly, I deeply sympathize but ultimately disagree with them as well.

  • EllieMurasaki

    So what is the English word for ‘person from the Americas’?

  • EllieMurasaki

    You know what this sounds like to me? People insisting that only [male] hunters and fishers are sportsmen, despite [male] players of baseball and soccer and lacrosse pointing out that these are also sports and therefore they are also sportsmen.

  • Hexep

    People who play baseball and soccer are athletes.  There’s a subtle difference between ‘sport’ and ‘sports,’ and other than the accidental co-location of terminology, the two groups have nothing in common, and have no commonality of interest.

    The term ‘sport,’ to refer to hunting and fishing, originates from the distinction between hunting and fishing for fun – for ‘sport,’ as in doing something for entertainment – and hunting and fishing because you need to eat that stuff or you’ll go hungry.  Since then, sport-xing referred to doing something that other people do because they need to, but you do it just for fun, and then expanded to just doing anything for fun and recreation.

    Of course, then later came professional, competitive sports, like soccer and baseball, and is it really sport if you get paid to do it?  But these were all physically intensive phenomena, so they were called athletics – which is also what you call track-and-field types, of course.

    So, I can understand how you can see the similarities, because in both cases, the side you seem to be on is verifiably wrong.

  • caryjamesbond

     I’d be reluctant to refer to a person as “south american” for much the same reason –

    Which touches on another reason this issue makes no sense- even supposing a Columbian wanted to describe themselves by using “American” they’d refer to themselves as “SOUTH Americans.”  Which- again- no problem. Describe yourself like that all you want.  Heck, I’m pretty sure if a Canadian, for reasons unfathomable, referred to themselves as American it would be as “North American.” 

    Its amazing that Ellie’s spanish textbook didn’t think of this *already necessary* distinction. Even if this was the United States of Washington and we were all Washingtonians, people from Columbia who wanted to use their continent of origin would still have to say “South America” because the America’s are pretty freakin’ large. 

    So. Yeah. Problem solved. 

  • caryjamesbond

    People insisting that only [male] hunters and fishers are sportsmen, despite [male] players of baseball and soccer and lacrosse pointing out that these are also sports and therefore they are also sportsmen.

    Is this actually a thing that happens? Personally, I don’t care if someone from  Ecuador or Peru or Brazil wants to refer to themselves as “American.”  The only problem anyone has is with you characterizing our use of the word to  mean people from the US as an attempt to “insult and belittle” the entire non-US population of two continents, or as a ‘microagression’ or whatever other academic-sounding buzzwords you’ve dug up to mean “Using that word is bad and mean.”

  • EllieMurasaki

    Something that emphatically does happen: people objecting to the term ‘cisgender’. Not because it’s inaccurate, oh no, the objectors are male-assigned-at-birth men or female-assigned-at-birth women; the objection is that it’s not a proper word for members of those groups, because the correct word for such people is ‘normal’.

    We who do not identify with our assigned-at-birth gender take exception to that.

    This is a group of people with power saying that a word that ought to encompass members of multiple mutually exclusive groups is and should be reserved to members of that one group alone.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Bullshit.  This is a group of people saying that calling people American if they are from the United States of America is not, in fact, racist or imperialist or colonialist or whatever your elementary Spanish/social justice textbook says it is.

    As I’ve said from the beginning, I’ll call people whatever they want to be called (within reason).  So if I’m happy with that, and the person being called American or Canadian or Brazilian or whatever is happy with that, then the only person who is unhappy with that is you.  So you’re going to have to explain to us why we should use different words, and not just by declaring (wihtout evidence) that we are being just like colonial misogynists or…anti-sportspeople.

  • caryjamesbond

    Has anyone said that?  No. What multipe people have said is that THEY. DON’T. CARE. if everyone from Quebec to Tierra del Fuego calls themselves American.

    So this is more like people going “Yeah, sure, call me cisgendered, call yourself cisgendered, I don’t really care.”

    Also, way to try and attach your pointless cause that no one cares about to the struggle of people to have their very gender and sexuality recognized as legitimate.

    Aren’t you one of the ones that gets all upset over cultural appropriation?  You know all sorts of pointless buzzwords- is there one for trying to appropriate the acquired legitimacy of someone else’s hard fought cause for your own?  Because I think you just created the need for such a word.

    Hey, you know what else this is like?  It’s like if Americans were enslaving Columbians. Because Americans are forcing something the Columbians to perform actions they don’t want to. Yep. the US referring to its citizens as “Americans” is just like slavery.

  • EllieMurasaki

    You know, I never once said that this is a problem as great in degree as any of the problems you or I have compared it to. What I have said is that it is similar in kind to the ones I have compared it to. It’s just another manifestation of the problems that many non-US commenters around here have with US people behaving as though the US is the entirety of the world, and I don’t recall hearing either of you ever criticize any of them for being mistaken on that point.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Using the “America” part of “United States of America” to describe
    USians as Americans (by residents of that country) could be seen as
    appropriative when the word describes two continents.

    For that to spiral out to… well, what I’m seeing here… boggles my mind. I’m not sure just how it got this way, and if I’ve helped initiate that in any way, I apologize to all.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Looks to me like a classic pattern of people with privilege reacting badly to having their privileged behavior pointed out to them, and you’re not one of the ones reacting badly (or indeed possessed of this particular privilege), so you are in no way at fault.

  • Hexep

    Do you categorically reject the possibility that you might be at fault on this one, or do you take it on a case-by-case basis?  And if it’s the latter, on what basis have you deduced that you’re on the right side of this one?  What would a position on the wrong side look like, in that same bearing?

    A wise woman once said that when all you’ve got is a match, everything in the world seems so very flammable…

  • Ruby_Tea

    Of course.  If people disagree with you, it must be because they need to Check Their Privilege (TM), because you are the righteous voice of the oppressed and could not possibly be even slightly off in your interpretation of the argument.

    Check your privilege?  Sure.  Right after you check your ego, Social Justice Warrior.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I just popped into this thread to see what was going on and having noticed such, shall stick my tongue in my cheek and note two things:

    1. US Americans tend to pronounce “Aussie” as “arsey” which we don’t really like, but
    2. It’s a good thing that rhyming slang isn’t well-known in the US ;)

    Now, back to Captain Correction and the gun nuts!

  • caryjamesbond

     I never once said that this is a problem as great in degree as any of the problems you or I have compared it to. What I have said is that it is similar in kind to the ones I have compared it to. 

    Whoopdedoo. You can say that about anything. Being forced to clean your room is like slavery, because an authority figure is making you do work you don’t want too.

    Speeding tickets are like the Rodney King incident, because its a cop doing something you don’t like. 

    Sipping a glass of wine is like a Tijuana blackout weekend, because they both involve consuming alcohol. 

    Using the “America” part of “United States of America” to describe 
    USians as Americans (by residents of that country) could be seen as 
    appropriative when the word describes two continents.

    See, I would disagree. There is no continent of “America.” There is a North America and a South America, and anyone from either of those two places would need that qualifier to have their comment make even minimal sense. There is, however, a country of America which has the appellation “American” to describe it’s citizens. 

    Currently, the conversation goes something like this:
    “Where are you two from?”
    “I’m from South America, Peru specifically.”
    “I’m an American.” 

    And I find it hilarious that the rest of us spend time explaining that, unless you’re describing things like the African Union or regional issues, you shouldn’t lump everyone together as “Asian” or “African” but realize that these are very complicated CONTINENTS filled with a wide variety of cultures that can’t really be lumped together in a useful way. 

    The only time someone has described themselves to me as “African,” “Asian,” “Hispanic,” or “white” is when filling out a survey. 

    And we have a word for “Australian” because that’s one nation. 

    Given that the people I’ve met from South America have been very proud of their nations of  origin, I think they’d feel more ‘oppressed’ by your suggestion that they erase their regional, dialectical, racial, culinary, topographically, linguistically diverse cultures to refer to themselves by the word “American.”

    It is important to call people what they want to be called. Its more important to think about your suggestions instead of going to war on privileges that don’t exist.

  • Joel

    Ellie, I’ve read much of what you wrote, and, if I understand you correctly, you believe 3 distinctive things: 1) The term “American” conveys a sense of status.2) Central and South Americans feel that they are excluded from this term because they are some how culturally/genetically inferior. 
    3) Every time we call ourselves American’s, and call them–Central and South Americans–by their local name that we are participating in some sort of linguistic domination or violence by linguistically placing ourselves in a higher social status, while, at the same time, giving them a socially inferior status.Do I understand your point? The effect is important here. Are you confident that these 3 premises are strong? Are you confident this common usage is creating the effect of subjugation or psychological pain to Central and South Americans? If you are, would you please give me compelling literary sources or reasoning to reason about. I don’t feel you have given a compelling case, yet. From what I’ve read, very few people in this thread have done more than make assertions. There’s little actual argument. Could you describe to me, in detail, how this disparity in usage creates suffering; and, could you describe to me in detail your premises that lead to  a conclusion that follows from those premises. Help me understand what you’re actually saying because it could be a subtle point. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    People who are from the Americas have a right to call themselves American, just as people who are from Asia have a right to call themselves Asian. We who are from the United States of America have an equal right to call ourselves American, seeing as we are from the Americas, but we do not have a right to say that only people from the United States of America are permitted to call themselves American. This ties in with the US insistence that US culture is superior to all others, historical and contemporary US efforts to impose US culture on all others, and general US blindness to the fact that the world is bigger than the US.

  • Joel


    Please re-read my questions, as you have not addressed them at all. I understand that you believe that it is their right to call themselves American. The rest sounds like a mindless vomit of  political, talking points. 

    I was under the impression that you were discussing a subtle point about linguistic domination, like those ideas discussed by Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault. But, this last barrage  of simple restatement of belief makes me believe you are just regurgitating hand-me-down beliefs, something like I hear when discussing topics with the highly dogmatically religious people. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    Which makes me in turn suspect that you are dismissing everything I said in order to hold on to the privilege associated with being from the country said to lead the free world while simultaneously denying that such privilege exists.

    I never claimed that the assertion that ‘American’ describes US folks and US folks only is ‘subjugation’ of people from the Americas but not the US. What it is is one of many manifestations of how US folks assert superiority over non-US Americans, and US folks, in case you haven’t noticed, have political and purchasing power that people south of the US mostly don’t. I should not have to explain how being treated as a lesser sort of person is hurtful to the people so treated.

  • Joel

    I’m not sure what has to do with what, here, Ellie.

    “Which makes me in turn suspect that you are dismissing everything I said in order to hold on to the privilege associated with being from the country said to lead the free world while simultaneously denying that such privilege exists”.

    This is a terrible response to a request for clarity and rigor. I am asking for an argument ( Your statement is insulting and, to me, seems to reveal a childish mind. I don’t think you even know what you are saying. Sound like you are simply regurgitated half understood thoughts from freshmen textbooks you barely read. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yeah, that’s about the level of coherence you’re gonna get from me heading into the tenth hour on the clock today and the thirty-ninth hour since Sunday. My sincerest apologies. Try again after the New Year.

  • Joel

    Feel free to answer me later. I’ve got time. When you feel coherent, and when and if you want to respond, please do. I’ll be waiting on your response. I would rather a well thought response over one driven by exhaustion, anyway. No need to simply respond; wait till you can gather your thoughts into an argument.  

  • caryjamesbond

    How Evangelical Christians want to eliminate other beliefs:

    EC: *Presents series of arguments that are moral, theological, personal and lead inevitably to the conclusion that Christ is lord of the universe and savior of mankind*
    Non-ECs: “Gee whiz!  I will now stop being [non-EC] and become an EC instead! Huzzah for Jesus!”

    How Atheists want to eliminate other beliefs:

    Atheist: *Presents series of arguments that are moral, scientific, logical, personal and lead inevitably to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a supernatural deity. Like, at all.*
    Non-Atheists: “Gee whiz! I will now stop being [non-Atheist] and become Atheist instead! Huzzah for science!”

    Evangelical Christian/Atheist response to  non-Evangelical Christian/Atheist rejection of arguments. 

    EC/A: “You sure, brah?”
    EC/A: “Ok, here’s my card if you change your mind.”

    How Hitler wants to eliminate other beliefs:

    Hitler: *Presents series of Zyklon-B canisters.*
    Non-Hitler: *dies*

    Hitler’s response to non-Hitler’s rejection of Hitler’s arguments:Hitler: *Blitzkrieg*So maybe if everyone could stop shouting”ELIMINATE” like a confused Dalek, we could stop talking past each other. If either New Atheists or Evangelical Christians succeed completely, THERE WILL BE THE SAME NUMBER OF PEOPLE. Given the current distribution of both Christian and atheist beliefs that takes in every possible permutation of political/social belief or taste, I’m inclined to think that the world wouldn’t be that different. The difference is that everyone would either believe or disbelieve in the same sky-daddy. And unless you think that your friend who converted to [BELIEF] after being a lifelong member of [OTHER BELIEF] has fundamentally become someone totally different, instead of being fundamentally the same with a different paint-job, I don’t really think that “conversion” is the same as “elimination.”  So maybe everyone can back up a little with the “ATHEISTS ARE A-GONNA ELIMINATE US ALL!” thingy? Mildly offensive, is what I’m sayin.