Jump to content

Hyphenated American

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Hypenated American)

Cartoon from Puck, August 9, 1899, by J. S. Pughe. Angry Uncle Sam sees hyphenated voters (including an Irish-American, a German-American, a French-American, an Italian-American, and a Polish-American) and demands, "Why should I let these freaks cast whole votes when they are only half Americans?"

In the United States, the term hyphenated American refers to the use of a hyphen (in some styles of writing) between the name of an ethnicity and the word American in compound nouns, e.g., as in Irish-American. Calling a person a "hyphenated American" was used as an insult alleging divided political or national loyalties, especially in times of war. It was used from 1890 to 1920 to disparage Americans who were of foreign birth or ancestry and who displayed an affection for their ancestral language and culture. It was most commonly used during World War I against Americans from White ethnic backgrounds who favored United States neutrality during the ongoing conflict or who opposed the idea of an American alliance with the British Empire and the creation of what is now called the Special Relationship, even for purely political reasons.[1]

In this context, the term "the hyphen" was a metonymical reference to this kind of ethnicity descriptor, and "dropping the hyphen" referred to full integration into the American identity.[2]

Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were outspoken anti-hyphenates.[3] Contemporary studies and debates refer to Hyphenated-American identities to discuss issues such as multiculturalism and immigration in the U.S. political climate; however, the term "hyphen" is rarely used per the recommendation of modern style guides.

Hyphenated Americanism, 1890–1920


The term "hyphenated American" was published by 1889,[4] and was common as a derogatory term by 1904. During World War I, the issue arose of the primary political loyalty of ethnic groups with close ties to Europe, especially German Americans. In 1915, former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt in speaking to the largely Irish Catholic Knights of Columbus at Carnegie Hall on Columbus Day, asserted that,[5]

There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all ... The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic ... There is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else.

President Woodrow Wilson regarded "hyphenated Americans" with suspicion, saying in his Pueblo speech: "Any man who carries a hyphen about with him carries a dagger that he is ready to plunge into the vitals of this Republic whenever he gets ready."[6][7][8] In the 1920s, the Wall Street Journal condemned "hyphenates" who were said to be among the supporters of the Progressive Party's Robert M. La Follette Jr..[9]

A vocal source of criticism of Roosevelt and Wilson's "anti-hyphen" ideology and particularly to their demands for "100 percent Americanism" came, quite understandably, from America's enormous number of White ethnic immigrants and their descendants. Criticism from these circles occasionally argued that "100 percent Americanism" really meant Anglophilia, as particularly demonstrated by Roosevelt, Wilson, and other leaders of the demand to only tolerate the English language in the United States.

A prime example of this criticism, which argued that there is no contradiction between preserving ancestral heritage languages and American patriotism may be seen in Bishop John Joseph Frederick Otto Zardetti's 21 September 1892 "Sermon on the Mother and the Bride", which is a defence of German-Americans desire to preserve their ancestral culture and to continue speaking the German language in the United States, against both the English only movement and accusations of being Hyphenated Americans.[10]

Furthermore, in a letter published on July 16, 1916, in the Minneapolis Journal, Edward Goldbeck, a member of Minnesota's traditionally very large German-American community, sarcastically announced that his people would, "abandon the hyphen", as soon as English-Americans did so. Meanwhile, he argued, "Let the exodus of Anglo-Americans start at once! Let all those people go who think that America is a new England!"[11]

Hyphenated American identities


Some groups recommend dropping the hyphen because it implies to some people dual nationalism and the inability to be accepted as truly American. The Japanese American Citizens League is supportive of dropping the hyphen because the non-hyphenated form uses their ancestral origin as an adjective for "American".[12]

By contrast, other groups have embraced the hyphen, arguing that the American identity is compatible with alternative identities and that the mixture of identities within the United States strengthens the nation rather than weakens it.

"European American", as opposed to White or Caucasian, has been coined in response to the increasing racial and ethnic diversity of the United States, as well as to this diversity moving more into the mainstream of the society in the latter half of the twentieth century. The term distinguishes whites of European ancestry from those of other ancestries. In 1977, it was proposed that the term "European American" replace "white" as a racial label in the U.S. census, although this was not done. The term "European American" is not in common use in the United States among the general public or in the mass media, and the terms "white" or "white American" are commonly used instead.

Usage of the hyphen


Modern style guides, such as AP Stylebook, recommend dropping the hyphen between the two names;[13] some, including The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), recommend dropping the hyphen even for the adjective form.[14] On the other hand, The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage allows compounds with name fragments (bound morphemes), such as Italian-American and Japanese-American, but not "Jewish American" or "French Canadian".[13]

American English


The first term typically indicates a region or culture of origin paired with American. Examples:

The hyphen is occasionally but not consistently employed when the compound term is used as an adjective.[15] Academic style guides (including APA, ASA, MLA, and Chicago Manual) do not use a hyphen in these compounds even when they are used as adjectives.[16]

The linguistic construction functionally indicates ancestry, but also may connote a sense that these individuals straddle two worlds—one experience is specific to their unique ethnic identity, while the other is the broader multicultural amalgam that is Americana.

Relative to Latin America


Latin America includes most of the Western Hemisphere south of the United States, including Mexico, Central America, South America, and (in some cases) the Caribbean. United States nationals with origins in Latin America are often referred to as Hispanic or Latino Americans, or by their specific country of origin, e.g., Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Cuban Americans.

See also



  1. ^ Sarah Churchwell. America’s Original Identity Politics Archived June 4, 2020, at the Wayback Machine, The New York Review of Books, February 7, 2019
  2. ^ Mary Anne Trasciatti. Hooking the Hyphen: Woodrow Wilson '5 War Rhetoric and the Italian American Community, p. 107. In: Beasley, Vanessa B. Who Belongs in America?: Presidents, Rhetoric, and Immigration. College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 2006.
  3. ^ John Higham, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860–1925 (1955) online text p 198
  4. ^ Charles William Penrose (July 6, 1889), "Letter from 'Junius'", The Deseret Weekly, 39 (2), Deseret News Co: 53–54
  5. ^ "Roosevelt Bars the Hyphenated" (PDF). New York Times. October 13, 1915. Archived (PDF) from the original on April 4, 2021. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  6. ^ Woodrow Wilson: Final Address in Support of the League of Nations Archived July 11, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, americanrhetoric.com
  7. ^ Di Nunzio, Mario R., ed. (2006). Woodrow Wilson: Essential Writings and Speeches of the Scholar-President. NYU Press. p. 412. ISBN 0-8147-1984-8.
  8. ^ "Explains our Voting Power in the League" (PDF). New York Times. September 27, 1919. Archived (PDF) from the original on January 27, 2022. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  9. ^ "Mirrors of Washington", The Wall Street Journal, September 26, 1924.
  10. ^ Vincent A. Yzermans (1988), Frontier Bishop of Saint Cloud, Park Press, Waite Park, Minnesota. Pages 117-138.
  11. ^ Carl. H. Chrislock (1991), The Watchdog of Loyalty: The Minnesota Commission of Public Safety during World War I, Minnesota Historical Society Press. Page 21, 337.
  12. ^ See Strasheim (1975).
  13. ^ a b Merrill Perlman. AP tackles language about race in this year’s style guide Archived July 1, 2020, at the Wayback Machine, Columbia Journalism Review, April 1, 2019
  14. ^ Editorial Style Guide, California State University at Los Angeles, archived from the original on June 26, 2008, retrieved December 13, 2007
  15. ^ Erica S. Olsen (2000), Falcon Style Guide: A Comprehensive Guide for Travel and Outdoor Writers and Editors, Globe Pequot, ISBN 1-58592-005-3
  16. ^ "Hyphens, En Dashes, Em Dashes." The Chicago Manual Style Online, archived from the original on April 1, 2017, retrieved March 31, 2017

Further reading