Hyphenated American

From Academic Kids

Hyphenated Americans are Americans who are referred to with a first word indicating an origin or ancestry in a foreign country and a second term (separated from the first with a hyphen) being "American" (e.g., African American, Japanese American).

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.



Current style guides most often recommend dropping the hyphen between the two names, such as "African American" instead of "African-American," although some still recommend hyphenating when used as an adjective, but not when used as a noun.[1] ( On the other hand, compounds with name fragments, such as Afro-American and Indo-European, are recommended to be hyphenated.

Hyphenated American Identities

Most usage experts recommend dropping the hyphen because it implies to some people dual nationalism and 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."

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, Caucasian, or Non-hispanic White, was coined in response to the increasing racial diversity of the US, as well as to this diversity moving more into the mainstream of the society in the latter half of the 20th century. The term is meant to discourage a dichotomous view of the racial landscape, in which "Whites" are conceived as separate from the rest of the racial groups, which have hyphenated terms denoting ancestry.

Opposition to Hyphenated Identities Outside the U.S.

Some Canadian newspaper writers have attempted to promote "dehyphenated Canadianism" in the 1990s. The trend of Canadian English in this aspect follows that of the American English in general.


See also: Demographics of the United States


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