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Misleading Language

I only began to twig that I'd misunderstood when gillo commented yesterday to the effect that "Yank" and "Yankee" mean different things. No one else had caught my conflation of the two. I certainly had no reason to think I was conflating. Until today, I presumed that Yank was slang, short for Yankee, interchangable except for level of formality, just like Brit and British.

It took a full explanation today from fjm to learn otherwise. "Yank" is, apparently, a specific term used in the UK to refer to a specific kind of American: rich, assertive, ignorant. It's an insult, not just a geographic descriptor. And now I can't think as to whether or not Americans ever use "Yank". Do we? Do we use it interchangably with Yankee, or do we not use it at all? I no longer know.

Since I'm now feeling cautious, is there a similar meaning divide between "Brit" and "British" when it comes to human beings?

Comments

( 31 comments — Leave a comment )
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cataptromancer
Apr. 25th, 2008 09:34 pm (UTC)
I've always heard/though it used as an abbreviation of Yankee.
targaff
Apr. 25th, 2008 09:36 pm (UTC)
Seconded; fjm and wotnot might make some sort of differentiation but if they do it's their speshul sekrit.
owlfish
Apr. 25th, 2008 10:36 pm (UTC)
I had vaguely wondered if its usage is age-dependent. The year before I was at the University of York, there was a "Yank" in obnoxious sense around for the year - but his nickname was "The American", not "The Yank".
agincourtgirl
Apr. 25th, 2008 09:37 pm (UTC)
"Yank" does mean an assertive, rich, arrogant and also probably culturally ignorant American - "Brit" could be a UK equivalent of the same kind, I am not sure..."British" is a patriotic term, as in M&S sandwiches proudly saying they include British cheese, British ham, etc.

I hope no one calls me a Yankee, as I'm from California!
rhube
Apr. 25th, 2008 09:40 pm (UTC)
'Yank' just means American to me, I've certainly never heard it used to mean 'rich, assertive, ignorant'. 'Yankee', on the other hand, I think of as more specific, but only geographically - it's typically someone from the North of the US, usually the North East, although it is sometimes used interchangeably with 'Yank'.
rhube
Apr. 25th, 2008 09:47 pm (UTC)
Of course, my cultural heritage is blurred, having spent two years growing up in Virginia, but I've also spent 22 years here in Britland, and if there is a distinction I've heard made here, it's the one I mention, not the other way around.

As for Brit/British... 'Brit' is just more slang. You might get posh people objecting to being called 'Brits', I guess (never heard it done, but I can imagine it) but it'd be because they'd be being snobbish about shortening words, not because it only refers to us commoners ;-p

Edited at 2008-04-25 09:47 pm (UTC)
sartorias
Apr. 25th, 2008 09:47 pm (UTC)
I didn't know that. But then it's been many decades since I saw how the rich acted overseas. I thought the terms were synonymous.
oursin
Apr. 25th, 2008 09:49 pm (UTC)
Yank hasn't always had that connotation - it was used of GIs during the Second World War (though perhaps 'overpaid, oversexed and over here' was a similar paradigm?)
chickenfeet2003
Apr. 25th, 2008 10:05 pm (UTC)
Precisely! As in "utility knickers"... one Yank and they're off.
(no subject) - fjm - Apr. 26th, 2008 07:27 am (UTC) - Expand
nisaba
Apr. 25th, 2008 10:13 pm (UTC)
I would use "Yank" as a generic term for Americans, in the same vein that I'd use "Pommy" for Brits. "Yankee", I'm vaguely aware refers to a particular place in the States, but I can never remember if it's northern ot southern.

But then, I'm a bloody foreigner of different ilk.
chickenfeet2003
Apr. 25th, 2008 10:14 pm (UTC)
I have never been aware of any difference in usage in the UK between "Yank" (common) and "Yankee" (less common). They both go back to the derisive use of the term by British troops to describe the revolting colonists and, of course, was derived from the popular song of the time "Yankee Doodle". Both terms tend to be associated with US service personnel in particular and, for a whole host of reasons, US service personnel are generally not well regarded in any of the Commonwealth countries.
lazyknight
Apr. 25th, 2008 11:44 pm (UTC)
I have to admit, I'd consider Yank and Yankee as interchangeble, and bother derogatory terms. Although I'm aware that Yankee is region specific, I don't think that really bothers the rest of the world that much...
daisho
Apr. 26th, 2008 12:07 am (UTC)
I've always felt "Yank" to be vaguely pejorative, but not excessively so.
pfy
Apr. 26th, 2008 12:44 am (UTC)
In the UK, tabloid newspapers seem to be some of the main users of 'Brit', presumably to save headline space or adopt a deliberately informal tone.

'Yank' and 'Brit' used by a non-Yank or non-Brit respectively sometimes sound mildly patronising or pejorative. This is not always the case, as they can just be intended as affectionate or informal terms. But they do frequently seem to accompany grumbling generalisations about the nationalities in question (things like "Those Yank tourists all talk too loudly" or "You Brits don't have any good pizza").

I avoid both unless I know my audience well. You are allowed to call me a Brit, though.
a_d_medievalist
Apr. 26th, 2008 04:19 am (UTC)
Well, I don't mind being called a Yank, if not used in the pejorative sense, but I'm not a Yankee (although I'd rather be called a Yankee than mistaken for a Daughter of the Confederacy ...)
sollersuk
Apr. 26th, 2008 06:09 am (UTC)
"Brit" has been more or less offensive ever since the Romans ; I use it semi-ironically of myself to stress the fact that I'm not English (though I do have English ancestors).

In the UK, "Yankee" is very rarely used; "Yank" has a slightly derogatory connotation (as in "Yanks go home", occasionally to be seen painted on walls in my childhood, and as in "over-paid, over-sexed and over here")
gillo
Apr. 26th, 2008 06:53 am (UTC)
I've quite often had people apologise or ask if I mind being called a "Brit", so my impression has always been that it is slightly derogatory.

It is of course complicated by the fact that relatively few people in these islands think of themselves as either - we're English, Welsh, Scots or Irish (or even Manx) or some combination of the above.
fjm
Apr. 26th, 2008 07:28 am (UTC)
My comment on this was one was that "Brit" could feel exclusionary to people from Wales and Scotland, but for us immigrants (Jewish in my case) it felt safer than "English".
(no subject) - pennski - Apr. 26th, 2008 05:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gillo - Apr. 28th, 2008 08:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - heleninwales - Apr. 26th, 2008 10:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gillo - Apr. 28th, 2008 08:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fjm - Apr. 28th, 2008 08:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gillo - Apr. 29th, 2008 10:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fjm - Apr. 29th, 2008 10:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
chazzbanner
Apr. 26th, 2008 03:25 pm (UTC)
Some English women on one of my mailing lists are offended at 'Brit', because of Northern Ireland: "Brits go home" "Brits out" and so on.
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( 31 comments — Leave a comment )