Monday, October 5, 2009


On my 7 a.m. bottle drops (see I Can't Stop Chasing Men) I was recently asked if I was from Canada.  When I replied, "No, I am from the United States," the bottle collector took a brief pause and then asked hesitantly "Are you a Yank?"  I had to chuckle, and said "Yes, I am a Yank."  My "friend" looked a bit confused and he then told me that he met another woman from the United States who got mad at him for calling her a Yank, and wanted to know why.  After all, when he was in the war the Americans all called themselves Yanks, and they even sang Yankee Doodle.  I was then treated to an Australian rendition of this American themed song.
I couldn't really answer his question.  I have heard many people from the US call themselves Yanks, but also know of many who are offended by the term.
I myself take the expression with tongue-in-cheek.  I don't really find it insulting, but instead look at it as a part of the Australian culture of  Ozspeak.  
Perhaps this an easy cultural border for me to cross; after all it is very common for New Mexicans to refer to people with nicknames--Cissy, Pancho, Chuy, Lupe, or Lalo.  There are also those names used to refer to people behind their back--La Falsy, Patito, Cry Baby, Big Boy, and SLT (Sabe Lo Todo).  The use of these names could be seen as derogatory in nature by some, but for many New Mexicans it is a cultural norm. 
I also know that Mark has no problem referring to himself as a Yank.  Even though he is not originally from New Mexico he is also familiar with the use of nicknames for humorous effect, and he went to college with Mango, Muscle Head, Crisco, and Uncle Animal.  
On the other hand, I know that I took offense to being called a Janqui in Spain.  I had no problem when called a guiri, though I identified myself as a New Mexican.  Maybe this was because I wanted to distance myself from the local US Air-force base--many of the service men, women and their families did not integrate into the local community.  Or perhaps it was my need to show my New Mexican-ness and the fact even though I  learned Spanish as an adult, I have historical ancestral ties to the language.  
As far as the present is concerned, I doubt that you will find me walking down the street singing Yankee Doodle, but I will not take offense at being called Yank.  However, I am insulted by Sepo--another term used for people from the United States.  It comes from an Australian tradition of playing with words.  Since tank rhymes with Yank, they take the term Septic Tank and reduce it to Sepo which comes to stand for Yank.  I do find this term to be a bit beyond tongue-in-check, and can not find any endearing qualities in it. 

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