Because everytime I forget and call them “Americans”, I get in trouble from my Mexican and Canadian friends. I hate being in trouble.
The Mexicans tell me I should call them “gringos” or “yanquis”, but then it turns out that they’d also call Canadians or English people or me a gringo (okay, gringa, whatever), thus limiting the usefulness of the term. I have a Texan husband who points out that yankee does not apply to the people of the southern states of the USA. (Though from my brief sojourns in the south I noted that Southerners more commonly use the term “damnyankee” to refer to USians from the northern states.)
I’d love to call them sepos, but sadly the word derives from yankee: septic tank rhymes with yank. Apparently this was first used during World War II when there were too many sepo soldiers (overpaid and over here) polluting the streets of Sydney and Brisbane, luring away “our” women with their nylon stockings and chocolate (those bastards). The straight Aussie boys were not well pleased. (I don’t really care whether this is the true derivation. I like it and will continue to quote it no matter what convincing contrary evidence the gentle readers choose to send in my direction.)
My Canadian friends use “USian”. It’s ugly, looks foul on the page, trips awkwardly from the tongue, but perversely I kind of like it.
New York City, 22 October 2003