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Fans of the USA, and other notes from the 'phile' files

The Monitor's language columnist looks into terms like Anglophile.

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A reader inquires: Is there a special term for fans of America and its people and culture – something analogous to Anglophile to refer to admirers of England (please pass the clotted cream) or Francophile for admirers of France?

The short answer: no, not really, just a certain amount of ad hockery. But it's sometimes interesting to note what isn't there in a language.

Some might point out that the ancient Romans didn't know the Americas, and so there isn't a Latin-derived combining form for them, on the model of "Anglo" or "Franco." But that seems like quibbling, since the two continents were named after an Italian, whose name in turn was derived from Latin.

I've got to admit that I've always gotten a kick out these combining forms, in part because they can be very concise and work well in tight headline spaces. "Sino-US ties" can be a great way to refer to relations between China and the United States, for instance.

If you're going to form one of these compounds to refer to fans of Team USA, the question becomes how much of "America" you snip off before attaching the "phile." Amer is a nice concise combining form (Amerindian, Amerasian), but the "phile" ending fits better after a vowel. Some people would go with Americaphile, but that strikes me as too literal. My vote would be for something called Ameriphile.

Yankophile actually seems to have a little more traction out there in the blogosphere than these other terms, even though, except as a reference to the baseball team, Yanks sounds rooted in the first half of the 20th century. "Yanks" was the title of a 1979 movie starring, among others, Vanessa Redgrave and Richard Gere, about World War II romance between Yanks and Brits.


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