13 Items Labeled “American” in Other Countries

ISTOCK COLLAGE / REBECCA O'CONNELL
ISTOCK COLLAGE / REBECCA O'CONNELL

In 2016, Budweiser renamed its beer “America” for the summer, an attempt to take advantage of the wave of patriotic sentiment associated with Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. The creative director responsible for the rebranding explained: "We thought nothing was more iconic than Budweiser and nothing was more iconic than America."

America is certainly iconic, and a worldwide brand of sorts, but it doesn’t carry the same connotations everywhere. Here are 13 things described with “American” in other countries.

1. CINTA AMERICANA // "AMERICAN TAPE"

In Spain, the versatile, do-anything tool we call duct tape is known as cinta americana, or “American tape.”

2. POING AMÉRICAIN // "AMERICAN FIST"

In French, a set of brass knuckles are le poing américain, or “the American fist.”

3. ALFACE AMERICANA // "AMERICAN LETTUCE"

Brazilian Portuguese has the term alface americana, or “American lettuce,” to refer to iceberg lettuce—or, as my cousin Jairo informs me, “lettuce like McDonald’s uses.”

4. AMERIKANSKIE GORKI // "AMERICAN MOUNTAINS"

In Russian, roller coasters are known as amerikanskie gorki, or “American mountains.” Interestingly, in most of the Romance languages they are known as “Russian mountains.”

5. AMERIŠKA SOLATA // "AMERICAN SALAD"

The Slovenians call cole slaw ameriška solata, or “American salad,” as do other countries in Eastern Europe.

6. KHAO PAD AMERICAN // "AMERICAN FRIED RICE"

The khao pad American served in Thailand is rarely found in American Thai restaurants. The rice is fried with ketchup or tomato sauce, and might be mixed with raisins and peas. It is served with some combination of fried chicken, bacon, hot dogs, ham, and croutons. Apparently, it was created during the Vietnam War when many Americans were stationed in Thailand, and the dish went on to become Thai comfort food. 

7. AMERIKAANSE STOCK // "AMERICAN STOCK"

In Belgium, stores that carry camping and hunting equipment, tools, boots, military surplus, and sporting goods often go by Amerikaanse Stock, or “American stock.” 

8. WOLNA AMERYKANKA // "FREE AMERICAN"

Wolna amerykanka, or “free American,” is a style of catch-as-catch-can, no-restrictions wrestling in Poland. The phrase also has the more general sense of “all bets are off” or anything goes.

9. AMERIKAANSE FUIF // "AMERICAN PARTY"

In Dutch, a casual potluck where everyone brings a dish is called an amerikaanse fuif, or "American party." Brazil also uses festa americana to describe this type of event.

10. COCINA AMERICANA // "AMERICAN KITCHEN"

In Spain, the open plan style of kitchen is called an “American kitchen,” as opposed to the traditional style of kitchen closed off by a wall.

11. AMERIKANDOGGU // "AMERICAN DOG"

In Japanese, a hot dog is a hottodoggu, but a corn dog is an amerikandoggu.

12. TOVAGLIETTE ALL’AMERICANA // "AMERICAN PLACEMATS"

In Italian, a tovaglia is a table cloth. A tovaglietta all’americana, literally "little American tablecloth," is a placemat. In Brazil, placemats are also considered American; sets of them are called jogo americano, or “American set.”

13. AMERIKAANSE TOESTANDEN // "AMERICAN CONDITIONS"

The Dutch have an easy phrase to pull out when talking about huge gaps between rich and poor, lack of healthcare or education access, school shootings, or a range of other situations, including, probably, cans of beer labeled “America.” Amerikaanse toestanden, or “American conditions,” are something to be warned against, as in, “let’s be careful with this decision and not get ourselves a bad case of American conditions.”

Why 'Run' Is The Most Complex Word in the English Language

iStock.com/VectorStory
iStock.com/VectorStory

English can be hard for other language speakers to learn. To use just one example, there are at least eight different ways of expressing events in the future, and conditional tenses are another matter entirely. For evidence of the many nuances and inconsistencies of the English tongue, look no further than this tricky poem penned in 1920. (For a sample: “Hiccough has the sound of cup. My advice is to give up!”)

As author Simon Winchester wrote for The New York Times, there’s one English word in particular that’s deceptively simple: run. As a verb, it boasts a record-setting 645 definitions. Peter Gilliver, a lexicographer and associate editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, spent nine months sussing out its many shades of meaning.

“You might think this word simply means ‘to go with quick steps on alternate feet, never having both or (in the case of many animals) all feet on the ground at the same time,’” Winchester writes. “But no such luck: that is merely sense I.1a, and there are miles to go before the reader of this particular entry may sleep.”

This wasn’t always the case, though. When the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary was published in 1928, the word with the most definitions was set. However, the word put later outpaced it, and run eventually overtook them both as the English language's most complex word. Winchester thinks this evolution is partly due to advancements in technology (for instance, “a train runs on tracks” and “an iPad runs apps”).

He believes the widespread use of run—and its intricate web of meanings—is also a reflection of our times. “It is a feature of our more sort of energetic and frantic times that set and put seem, in a peculiar way, sort of rather stodgy, rather conservative,” Gilliver told NPR in an interview.

So the next time you tell your boss you "want to run an idea" by them, know that you’re unconsciously expressing your enthusiasm—as well as all the other subtleties wrapped up in run that previous words like set failed to capture.

[h/t The New York Times]

11 Little-Known Words for Specific Family Members

iStock.com/kali9
iStock.com/kali9

The words we use for family members in English are specific about some things, and vague about others. Our vocabulary marks a distinction between our mother and her sisters (some languages use one word for mother and maternal aunts), but doesn't say whether siblings are older or younger (some languages have different words for brother and sister depending on their age relative to you). We lack words that pick out particular family members (we have cousin, but what about child-of-my-father's-brother?) as well as certain general terms (we have siblings for brothers-and-sisters, but what about nieces-and-nephews?)

If you look hard enough, you can find some words to help fill in the gaps. Here are 11 unusual English kinship words for family members.

1. Patruel

This one means "child of your paternal uncle." Also, a child of your own brother. It hasn't gotten a lot of use in the past few centuries, but it was once convenient to have a term for this relationship because it factored into royal succession considerations. The first citation for it in the OED, from 1538, reads, "Efter his patruell deid withoutin contradictioun he wes king."

2. Avuncle

Your mother's brother. Latin distinguished between patruus, father's brother, and avunculus, mother's brother. (There was also amita, father's sister, and matertera, mother's sister.) It's the root of the word avuncular, meaning "having to do with uncles" or "uncle-like" (i.e., kind and friendly, like an uncle). You won't find the word avuncle in the dictionary, but it has been used in anthropology texts and in papers concerning royal matters.

3. Niblings

Your nieces and nephews. You won't find this in the dictionary either, but use of this term seems to be growing among favorite aunts and uncles who want an easy way to refer to their little bundles of sibling-provided joy in a collective or gender-neutral way.

4. Fadu

Your father's sister. Latin amita covers this relationship, but we don't have to reach that far back to find an English equivalent. Old English made a distinction between aunts and uncles depending on whether they were maternal or paternal. We lost all that when we borrowed the more general aunt and uncle from French.

5. Modrige

"Your mother's sister," from Old English.

6. Fœdra

"Your father's brother," from Old English.

7. Eam

Your mother's brother. It survived in some dialects as eme, with a more general meaning of uncle or friend, into the 19th century.

8. Brother-uterine

Your half-brother from the same mother. This is a term used in old legal documents or other discussions of inheritance and succession. Half-siblings of the same mother are uterine and of the same father are consanguine.

9. Brother-german

Full brother, sharing both parents. Nothing to do with Germany. The german here is related to germane, which originally meant "of the same parents" and later came to mean just related or relevant.

10. Double cousin

Full first cousin, sharing all four grandparents. This comes about when a pair of sisters marries a pair of brothers, among other circumstances.

11. Machetonim

The parents of your child's spouse. Your child's in-laws. Ok, this is a Yiddish word, but one that, like a lot of Yiddish words, has poked its way into English because it fills a gap. When it comes to marriage, this can be a very important relationship, so it’s good to have a word for it. If your parents get along with their machetonim, the family—the whole mishpocheh—will be happier.

This story was republished in 2019.

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