From Hobson's Choice
Name used by this site to refer to persons or things from the United States. Choice of the term is value-neutral.
Why Not "American"?
|Some notable Usonians|
Click for larger image
|bell hooks (Gloria Jean Watkins)|
Author & philosopher
Economist & activist
|Some non-Usonians who are Americans|
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|Leonard Cohen (Canada)|
Among the finest songwriters of history
|Sebastião Salgado (Brazil)|
One of the greatest photographers of all time
Exhibit of work
"America" is the name of two continents with 35 nations and a total population of about 903 million (2007 estimate). Only 300 million of these live in the United States of America. In the 230 years since the Revolution, the USA has evolved a distinct national identity and sense of internal cohesion.
At the time of the Revolution, it was commonly supposed that the new political order would transform the New World. The territories remaining under European control were regarded by many of the US revolutionaries to be irredenta ("unredeemed"), lands that justly belonged to the new order. Today, that conception is obsolete. The national boundaries of the USA are fixed and universally accepted.
For this reason, it seems reasonable to suggest a term to refer to things of, or pertaining to, the United States specifically. "American" does not meet that description.
"Usonian" as an alternative
To the best of my knowledge, "Usonian" was coined by Frank Lloyd Wright; A possible inspiration for Wright may have been Church Music in America (Nathaniel Duren Gould, 1853), since his father was a Unitarian minister and organist; however, "usonian" would be a musical term, closely related to Gregorian Chant. Since Wright began using the term, it has been used almost exclusively in the context of a particular style of low-cost house he designed in the 1930's. Usonian houses were intended to exemplify Wright's design philosophy.
Usanian (sometimes spelled "USAnian") is problematic because it has an explicit political message. It is used mainly by non-US nationals who wish to advertise their resentment of the United States. Nearly all instances of it in a protracted Google search include negative characterizations of US culture, US national character, and so on. It is actually more obscure than "Usonian" (judging by Google hits), even if one has the search exclude "Frank Lloyd Wright", "house," and so on. Finally, "Usonian" has an explicitly favorable association thanks to the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. "Usanian" has negative feedback for the users; it tends to communicate a disparaging, or sour, attitude, even if the purpose is to be neutral. "Usonian," aside from being a more euphonious word, plays to our strengths as a cultural entrepot.
- ↑ A serendipitous discovery: a bio of Usonian composer Harry Partch  also includes the use of "Usonian" as a US demonym. It also mentions the term "utonal," for "undertone", i.e., a subdivision of a tone. So "usonian" in a strictly musical sense would refer to the use of an under-voice, such as a bass monotone accompaniment to the actual singing.
- ↑ In a few cases, such as Undoing Empire: Race and Nation in the Mulatto Caribbean (José F. Buscaglia-Salgado, 2003), "Usonian" is used without any reference whatever to Wright.
- "Usonian and Eurovian," Reshaping Narrow Law & Art
James R MacLean (17:10, 4 October 2007 (PDT))