Americans: Always the last to know : LUSENET : Joel on Software : One Thread

Quoth Joel: "For example, did you know that in France large numbers are written with spaces as the thousands separator? For example 1 000 000 is a million. And 3,14 is pi. And 4/1 is January fourth."

Um, yes, I did know. All very basic internationalization features. (Wait till you see how the French write ordinals and currency figures!)

I always grin mischievously when Americans discover the rest of the world. Foreingers are so *foreign*!

-- Anonymous, April 24, 2001


Correction: You grin mischievously when a U.S Citizen discovers the rest of the world. "Americans" implies anyone in the Americas not the United States. Very basic internationalization as not to offend anyone in North American or South America.

-- Anonymous, April 25, 2001

I've always prefered spaces instead of commas in numbers (1 000 000 instead of 1,000,000) because I think it makes them easy to read. But it still throws me everytime I see a decimal point written with a comma!

-- Anonymous, April 25, 2001

Given that Joel has spent some time in Israel, I think we can safely assume Joel know that the world is not the United States. I think he's trying to illustrate a point for (some) of his audience.

If I ever meet the person that decided HTML wouldn't be specced to understand "colour" as well as "color", I'm going to kick them.

-- Anonymous, April 25, 2001

Er, that would quite possibly be Tim Berners-Lee. Who is definitely not American.

I spent a year working as European project manager for a global manufacturing company based in the USA, on a project that was trying to build a unified European customer database using a data model designed in the States, with a development team based there. It was a constant frustrating struggle trying to get people to grasp things like:

- we had data with 14 or 15 different address formats in at least as many different languages.

- "State" is not part of the address in most countries

- some countries don't have zip codes either

- de-duplication algorithms need to cope with things like the fact that in parts of Belgium, the same address could be equally valid in either Flemish or Wallon (dialects of Dutch & French respectively)

- "upgrading" to an Oracle installation that has the default US- English language setting, and thus trashing all the data that is in other languages, is a really, really big faux pas that is severely embarrassing to explain to the users

- etc etc.

I *know* ignorance is not the same thing as stupidity, but some days I had to remind myself of that fact fairly forcefully before I picked up the phone.

-- Anonymous, April 26, 2001

Actually, the first cuts of HTML didn't have colour. Subsequent IETF efforts did, indeed have "color"; why no-one, include TB-L, didn't think it was useful to understand "colour" is beyond me; if you're going to have the giant CPU sucking sound that is rendering tables, you might as well have the browser undersanding two simple spelling variants.

And the State/Zip Code things bugs hell out of me whenever I hit it.

-- Anonymous, April 26, 2001

Ummm. The first response by M. Webber is incorrect. I don't think it has ever been the case that 'Americans' referred to residents in general of the Americas and not specifically to U.S. citizens. Think about it...people from Canada: Canadians, Mexico: Mexicans, Cuba: Cubans, Brazil: Brazilian etc....what do you call people from the U.S.A.: Americans! What else would you call them?

-- Anonymous, May 08, 2001

When, the United States of America was founded it was a set of independent states operating with a weak central government. So the citizens would have been likely refered to as Virginians, Georgian or what ever. Anyone know if this was true? Or was the term American in common use immediately?

-- Anonymous, May 08, 2001

This may be preaching to the choir here, POSIX locale settings are very handy and helpful for i18n of times, dates, formats, etc. Even does the translation of days of the week, etc. for you. I don't know how that works in Win32, but use setlocale(), etc. on Unix.

-- Anonymous, May 08, 2001

M. Hoyt - You call them US Citizens.

How do you refer to someone from Europe? You could either specifically reference the country they are from or you could reference the content they are from; Europeans. So someone from Canada can be North American and someone from Brazil can be South American. The key word is American. The problem here is that U.S Citizens don't have much regard for people outside of the United States borders. If you live in the United States you could refer to yourself in relation to your state, the United States, or as an American. But most people in the U.S think American is synonmous with the United States. It is not.

-- Anonymous, May 08, 2001

To M. Webber.

Ummm, US Citizens,, consider good 'ole Webster:

American \A*mer"i*can\, n. A native of America; -- originally applied to the aboriginal inhabitants, but now applied to the descendants of Europeans born in America, and ESPECIALLY TO THE CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES.

Do you really think GI Joe is representative of "Real 'North and South' American Hero"?

-- Anonymous, May 17, 2001

To M Hoyt,

Using comics as reference material is a wonderful idea.

"America" is a geographic entity referring to the 36 sovereign states that make up the entire Western Hemisphere (from Canada to Chile). The only appropriate use of the word is when its intended meaning has a pan-American scope. For instance, the membership of the Organization of American States (OAS), or of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), includes official representatives from Brazil, Nicaragua, and Canada.

Given that the American hemisphere is shared by 36 sovereign states, it is inappropriate to use "America" to refer exclusively to one of those 36 states, the United States of America. In short, "America" should not be used interchangeably with "United States", "US", or "USA".

Latin Americans consider themselves Americans. To a lesser extent, Canadians also consider themselves Americans. So the exclusive equation of "America" with the United States is interpreted as an offensive co-optation of the geographic name by one of the 36 American states. To use an European analogy, it would be as wrong and as offensive (to the rest of Europe) if, say, Poland used the term "Europe" to refer to Poland and Polish culture exclusively and ignored the "Europeanness" of, say, France and Denmark.

Over the last two centuries, the relationship between the US and most of the Latin American countries has been politically contentious. Thus, Latin Americans are particularly sensitive to signs of US imperialism and arrogance. When the word "America" is used conterminously with "United States," Latin Americans are likely to interpret it as another instance of arrogant imperialism reflected in the language.

The name "America" first appeared on maps in the sixteenth century. Ironically, those maps were of the area that today is known as South America. The name "America" resulted from the accounts of Amerigo Vespucci, the Florentine navigator who explored and surveyed the northeast coast of South America. It was not until the founding of the "United States of America" that the term "America" would also become associated with the northern part of the American hemisphere.

You are arrogant to say the least.

-- Anonymous, May 31, 2001

M Webber-- I understand that there are people other than the residents of the United States who say they are American, and, perhaps understandably, are upset that the term has been stolen by citizens of the USA. You, however, are obviously not a student of linguistics, nor do you seem to acknowledge that the word might have many meanings depending on the context. In the United States, the term 'American' almost invariably refers to a citizen of the USA. Outside those borders, the meaning may apply to someone in the entire continent. To argue otherwise is incorrect, and to say Americans are being insensitive for their appropriation of this term is also incorrect and ignores the power of the lingua franca. Note, that this kind of word appropriation has happened many times before--for example, if I use the term 'doctor' you will no doubt think of the medical professional most commonly associated with that term. There are, however, many other fields that historically were called doctor, a term that has since fallen into disuse (almost completely for lawyers, and only as a title for phds). In short, lighten up, dude!

-- Anonymous, June 06, 2001

Is it a cultural thing in the United States to appropriate everything as if in orginated in the United States and its owned by the United States?

-- Anonymous, June 06, 2001

Talking to you, bob II, is like drinking shit through a straw. It's hard to do, and the end result isn't that pleasant. Your question is fundamentally flawed: does the United States set the direction of language? You seem to indicate that there is a planned effort in the 'collective' to influence language (a la francais, sweden, etc) in part to achieve cultural dominance over other nations. This is untrue, and I challenge you to show me any proof that the US consciously appropriated the term 'American'. I further don't even think this debate has any merit. In standard American English, 'American' refers to a citizen of the United States. Elsewhere, 'American' refers to an inhabitant of north and south america. Is this a bad thing? No. Why do you seek to attach a label to it?

-- Anonymous, June 07, 2001

This web site is on the World Wide Web not the US wide web so it is accessed by people all over the world. Why are we to assume that everything is to be written in standard American English? So you live in the US and that is the center of your universe. It seems that this web site is directed at a global audience and that the term American should be used in a global context.

You use a standard American dictionary but does that mean everyone else should use your dictionary as well?

-- Anonymous, June 08, 2001

You raise a good point here, Bob II--specifically, you point out that there are publishing perils and pitfalls when you don't know who your audience is. Are we to assume that everything on the web is written in standard American English? Of course not. In fact, as we all know, there are many dialects of English currently represented on the web as well as many other languages.

Narrowing the argument back down to your central point, though: >It seems that this web site is directed at a global audience >and that the term American should be used in a global context. >You use a standard American dictionary but does that mean everyone >else should use your dictionary as well?

The problem with your argument there, Bob II, is that for this particular word ("American"), much of the world does have a standard dictionary. Read the current issue of the Economist (from England), ask an Australian what "American" means, and you will get a pretty solid understanding that other native English speakers have the same definition for "American" that US citizens have. Further, this is not even limited to English--the French word for US citizen is "americain", in German it's "Amerikaner", etc.

-- Anonymous, June 19, 2001

To M. Webber...

The dictionary was a reference, the comic one example of many..

Yes this is beating a dead horse, but Bob is strict definition a Canadian, Mexican, Brazilian etc...are all residents of the Americas...therefore Americans. But your ignorance shows, living in Canada my entire life, I can assure you that the the implicit meaning to the term "American" applies to US citizens - indeed the term has been "expropriated" by the USA. I have never heard the term "American" used in any other context. In my experience any reference to inhabitants as a whole is specifically quantified, ie. "North American, South American, ...".

-- Anonymous, June 24, 2001

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