Hyphenated American

Hyphenated American


The term hyphenated American is an epithet common 1890-1920 used to disparage Americans who were of foreign birth or origin, and who displayed an allegiance to a foreign country. It was most commonly used to disparage German-Americans or Irish-Americans who called for U.S. neutrality in World War I. Former president Theodore Roosevelt was a leader in usage in 1914-1918; and President Woodrow Wilson went along. [ John Higham, "Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925 " (1955) [http://books.google.com/books?id=UzVhOx7WuMMC&pg=PA198&dq=%22hyphenated+american%22+woodrow+OR+roosevelt&lr=&num=100&as_brr=3&sig=ACfU3U2lONAqRC_6z3xwprD89lyM9bFDDw online text p 198] ] The term "hyphenated" was in slang use by 1893, and was common as a derogatory term by 1904. During World War I the issue arose of the primary political loyalty of ethnic groups with close ties to Europe, especially German Americans and also Irish Americans. Former President Theodore Roosevelt in speaking to the largely irish Catholic Knights of Columbus at Carnegie Hall on Columbus day 1915, asserted that, [ [http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9901E0DD1239E333A25750C1A9669D946496D6CF 'Roosevelt Bars the Hyphenated,' NY Times, October 13, 1915] ] :"There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all. ... The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic. ... There is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else."

President Woodrow Wilson regarded "hyphenated Americans" with suspicion, saying, "Any man who carries a hyphen about with him carries a dagger that he is ready to plunge into the vitals of this Republic whenever he gets ready." [ [http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/wilsonleagueofnations.htm "Woodrow Wilson: Final Address in Support of the League of Nations"] , americanrhetoric.com] [Citation
last2=Di Nunzio
first2=Mario R.
title=Woodrow Wilson
publisher=NYU Press
page= [http://books.google.com.ph/books?id=qP2eeyB3QkYC&pg=PA412&lpg=PA412&dq=%22+If+I+can+catch+any+man+with+a+hyphen+in%22&source=web&ots=Tt5RH9i76q&sig=K4uGzsgbWxiW1E5B6pmOzK27KTo&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result#PPA411,M1 412]
] [ [http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=950DE1DC123AE03ABC4F51DFBF668382609EDE "Explains our Voting Power in the League," NY Times, September 27, 1919] ]

Usage in American English

The first term typically indicates a region or culture of origin ancestry paired with "American", sometimes by a hyphen. Examples:

* Continent/Region (not race/racial group): African-American, Arab-American, Asian-American, European-American, Latino-American, Native-American.
* Country/ethnicity or nationality: Italian-American, English-American, Irish-American, German-American, Polish-American, Greek-American, Spanish-American, Filipino-American, Japanese-American, Chinese-American, Indian-American, Jewish-American, etc.

The hyphen is traditionally seen as grammatically correct only when the compound term is used as an adjective. [cite book | title = Falcon Style Guide: A Comprehensive Guide for Travel and Outdoor Writers and Editors | author = Erica S. Olsen | publisher = Globe Pequot | year = 2000 | isbn = 1585920053 | url = http://books.google.com/books?id=UP1oopO3mcUC&pg=PA132&dq=hyphen+adjective+mexican-american&lr=&as_brr=3&ei=ZyOcR8bvPJa6tgP9ieisCg&sig=mz9p7w2TjFiiQo6xUWt_W95zTcU ] Hence, correct forms include "an African American" and "an African-American man".

The linguistic construction functionally indicates ancestry, but also may connote a sense that these individuals straddle two worlds—one experience is specific to their unique ethnic identity, while the other is the broader multicultural amalgam that is Americana.


The hyphenated or compound term is most often used with pride or used respectfully; xenophobic and/or ethnocentric usages tend to drop everything after the hyphen or space. Modern style guides most often recommend dropping the hyphen between the two names except when the compound is used as an adjective; some recommend dropping the hyphen even for the adjective form. [Citation
title=Editorial Style Guide
publisher=California State University at Los Angeles
] On the other hand, compounds with name fragments, such as "Afro-American" and "Indo-European", are recommended to be hyphenated.

Latin-American controversy

"Latin American" refers to the Latin derived language (almost entirely Spanish and Portuguese) speaking people of America including Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. In the U.S., people of Latin American descent are thus often referred to as "Hispanic Americans", or by their specific country of origin, e.g., "Mexican Americans". In Spanish, the word "americano" means "of or relating to the Americas" and "a person from anywhere in the Americas"; for those of the U.S. specifically, the term is "estadounidense" or, more commonly if not necessarily as "linguistically correct", "yanqui".

Hyphenated-American identities

Most usage experts recommend dropping the hyphen because it implies to some people dual nationalism and inability to be accepted as truly American. The Japanese American Citizens League is supportive of dropping the hyphen because the non-hyphenated form uses their ancestral origin as an adjective for "American." [ See Lorraine A. Strasheim, "We're All Ethnics: "Hyphenated" Americans, "Professional" Ethnics, and Ethnics 'By Attraction'", "The Modern Language Journal," Vol. 59, No. 5/6 (Sep. - Oct., 1975), pp. 240-249 ]

By contrast, other groups have embraced the hyphen, arguing that the American identity is compatible with alternative identities and that the mixture of identities within the United States strengthens the nation rather than weakens it.

'European American,' as opposed to White, Caucasian, or Non-Hispanic White, has been coined in response to the increasing racial and ethnic diversity of the U.S., as well as to this diversity moving more into the mainstream of the society in the latter half of the 20th century. The term distinguishes whites of European ancestry from those peoples of Middle Eastern or North African descent. It is also meant to discourage a dichotomous view of the racial landscape, in which "Whites" are conceived as separate from the rest of the racial groups, which have hyphenated terms denoting ancestry. The term nonetheless has many detractors who criticize it for collapsing the pronounced cultural differences between Europe and the United States.

In the 1970s John Wayne spoke a poem he wrote, The Hyphen, on the radio about hyphenated Americans promoting unity as Americans. [Citation
title=The Hyphen by John Wayne
publisher=The Official website of G. Gordon Liddy

Further reading

* Martin Bronfenbrenner, "Hyphenated Americans. Economic Aspects," "Law and Contemporary Problems," Vol. 45, No. 2, U.S. Immigration Policy (Spring, 1982), pp. 9-27 [http://www.jstor.org/stable/1191401 in JSTOR] , on economic discrimination
* John Higham, "Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925 " (1955) [http://books.google.com/books?id=UzVhOx7WuMMC&pg=PA198&dq=%22hyphenated+american%22+woodrow+OR+roosevelt&lr=&num=100&as_brr=3&sig=ACfU3U2lONAqRC_6z3xwprD89lyM9bFDDw online text p 198ff]
* Edward A. Steiner. "Confessions of a Hyphenated American." (1916) [http://books.google.com/books?id=FshEAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=%22hyphenated+american%22&lr=&num=100&as_brr=3 full text] ; Herbert Adolphus Miller, review of "Confessions of a Hyphenated American." by Edward A. Steiner, "American Journal of Sociology," Vol. 22, No. 2 (Sep., 1916), pp. 269-271 [http://www.jstor.org/stable/2763826 in JSTOR]
* Lorraine A. Strasheim, "We're All Ethnics: "Hyphenated" Americans, "Professional" Ethnics, and Ethnics 'By Attraction'", "The Modern Language Journal," Vol. 59, No. 5/6 (Sep. - Oct., 1975), pp. 240-249 [http://www.jstor.org/stable/324305 in JSTOR]

ee also

*Demographics of the United States
*Diaspora studies
*Ethnic interest groups in the United States
*Ethnic origin
*Ethnic nationalism
*Political correctness


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