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The old copy of "United States Civil War"

The American Civil War was fought between the Northern states, usually known as the Union, and the Southern states, usually known as the Confederacy. The Southern states consisted of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

It began in 12 April 1861 when Confederate forces opened fire on Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. The war ended in 1865 with the surrender of Confederate forces.

Major battles include First and Second Bull Run, Shiloh, The Seven Days, Antietam, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, and Petersburg.

This seems a better title than American Civil War. Can the two pages be merged (neither is very long at the moment)?

I've never heard this war refered to as the United States Civil War. ---- I've merged my text from United States Civil War with American Civil War. I'll be updating the second one unless concensus says otherwise - Mitchell ---

Wiki tells me this hasn't been edited since July 26. So, I went ahead and moved the lengthier article "American Civil War" to this main page, put a redirect in place at "American Civil War" (though that may later have a "See" list referring to other civil wars in the Americas), and put in this subpage and the inevitable /Talk subpage.

America = USA?

This war is universally refered to as the American Civil War. See the Wikipedia Naming Conventions page for why we should use the most common name for each article. A search on other encyclopedias show that the term 'America' is the accepted term for the United States. That the term has other meanings is noted on Wikipedia's America article. But the fact that a term has different meanings doesn't imply we should refrain from using one of the term's meanings. For most people throughout the world, the word America means the United States.

- Tim

Well, if this is how you really feel about it, then you'd better get on over, quick like, to United States Declaration of Independence and, more specifically, United_States Declaration_of_Independence/Talk to set them straight. This is an argument I don't intend to fight on both fronts, so I'll just stay the hell out of adding anything of this sort to the content. Have fun!

Using the adjective "America" to refer to the United States is a habit met with exasperated patience by the people in every country outside the United States but still within North, Central, or South America. While people may know what you are talking about, they are generally also being too polite to tell you you're coming across as the stereotypically arrogant person from the United States. And from your other writings, I know that is not the case, so let me put it to you that the habit presents you as something you are not. --KQ

As a practical matter, the absence of a usable adjective form for "United States" will prevent this from ever changing. - Tim

"United States" seems a perfectly usable adjective in relation to senators; why not use it for other occupations as well? --KQ

"United States" is used to distinguish senators in Congress from state senators, not to distinguish them from senators from other countries. And I'm not sure it is an adjective, but a title. - Tim

re: Naming Conventions
How about 'The War of Northern Aggresion"? At least thats how my Grandmother always referred to it. :-)

See a discussion on K5 about the topic.

The notion that something should be called a certain name because most people refer to it that way is not as obvious as it seems. Things change, and what was accepted in the past may be wrong now.

This discussion should move, but where? --Yooden

I agree 100% that this should be located at "American Civil War" and not at "United States Civil War." Here is my main argument:

Frankly, I don't give a rat's patoot whether you think "American" shouldn't refer to the United States. The perhaps-damnable fact of the matter is that it does mean that, more often than not. Both within and outside the United States. Live with it. Wikipedia does not and should not aspire to be on the cutting edge of grammatical and spelling revolution.

Moreover, even if it were true (which it's not) that "American" more often means something other than "of the United States," it's absolutely true that the war is far more often called "the American Civil War." That's what we should call it in the encyclopedia. Frankly, I don't see what the fuss is about. --LMS

Here's a few more interesting links for you: [1] and [2] and [3] and [4]. --LMS

And since most people use "i.e." to mean "for example," we should conform to that same incorrect but common usage. --KQ

KQ, if you will consult the links I provided, you will find ample evidence that the experts generally agree that the usage you say is incorrect is actually correct. Comparing it to "i.e." is apples and oranges: people who use "i.e." to mean "for example" are just uneducated. That's manifestly not the case with people who use "American" to mean "of the U.S." --LMS

I have consulted the links, thanks. While it may seem "apples and oranges" to you, the comparison seems only slightly incongruous to me. A better example would be using "anti-Semitic" to mean "anti-Jew," when Arabs are Semitic as well. Regardless of its popularity--and it is a popular mistake--it is nonetheless inaccurate. While people using "American" to mean "from the United States" may seem properly "educated," they are in fact only indoctrinated in the style the United States status quo prefers. Education involves not only the imparting of knowledge, but also the encouragement of critical faculties. --KQ

Frankly, I don't give a rat's patoot whether you think "American" shouldn't refer to the United States.

I'm sorry to hear that. I will anyway write down my thoughts in case somebody comes along who is interested in other people's views. Furthermore, I continue to be interested in your opinion.

My numbers are totally wrong of course. It never occurred to me that Google looks only for phrases if I tell it to. Sorry for that.

However, the idea that content and structure of an encyclopedia should be based on popular belief instead of on facts is just bizarre, and I'm surprised to hear that from you, of all people.

What's more: I know that there are Americans (who are not Americans) that are seriously pissed when Americans call themselves Americans. They think that America is America, while Americans think America would be America. If they (the Americans) are wrong, and America would indeed be America, how would you call America?

Your links:

Wallraff's arguments are:

  • Alternatives sound too bureaucratic (To which I say: Bad luck; sue your Forefathers for psychological cruelty)
  • It's right because we like it (no comment)
  • It is right because others recognize and use it (as if they had a choice)


  • is ambigous in its ambiguity: The adjective is first USA, then America, the noun is vice versa.


  • is also ambigious (compare first and second paragraph)

But let's see what the Enemy has to say:

Main Entry: Amer·i·ca
Pronunciation: &-'mer-&-k&
1 either continent (N. America or S. America) of the western
2 or the Amer·i·cas /-k&z/ the lands of the western
hemisphere including N., Central, & S. America & the W.


Look, I could continue arguing with you about this, but I don't see what the point would be; I don't think anything important will be accomplished. Yooden and KQ continue to maintain, puzzlingly, that their position is fact. I think it is obviously not only opinion, but false opinion. Anyway, two points, important to Wikipedia (although not very...), remain uncontroverted: the name of the war is "American Civil War" and that "American" at least often means "of the United States." This latter is a meaning given to the term by references far more authoritative than you (and that's why I don't give a rat's patoot about what you think about what is "fact"). --LMS

That's fine, Larry; I knew your mind was made when you redirected the page; I'm just stating my objection to it. I would say that the name of the war is in fact controverted, at least by the 8,000 people with websites turning up the other title, but these people probably also do not have a first PhD in linguistics with a second one in history, so they may well not be "authoritative" enough for your taste. As a related aside, do you expect your lack of diplomacy not to affect the contributions made to wikipedia? --KQ

Well, KQ, I can certainly take some criticism. I know I'm not always very diplomatic. If you would like to give me lessons on that score, I will willingly be your student. --LMS

Uh, well actually I'm feeling a little sheepish now, rereading it, as my comments also could have been phrased better. Referring to "authoritative" sources puts one in mind of meritocracy and appeals to authority. (Even experts sometimes get the facts wrong in their own fields; Ken Burns had about 15 historians as consultants for his documentary on the Civil War, and not one of them caught that Burns 1: gave the incorrect date of Lincoln's assassination and 2: gave the incorrect age of Lincoln at the time). So please let's just in future try to consider arguments on their own merits, regardless of the credentials of the people presenting them. --KQ

I'm sorry, my comments certainly could have been phrased better too. I will try to be more diplomatic (but I ain't makin' no guarantees). I really didn't mean to imply that you might as well not write about anything on which you're not an authority (in the context of Wikipedia, that'd be silly). I personally have a view, which I definitely don't expect you to have (and please let's not argue about it), that very many disputed questions of grammar are totally arbitrary, and a "logic" can be found for nearly any existing or proposed rule. So I tend personally to look askance at claims to know what the "correct" or "incorrect" usage is, particularly when people offer arguments that some usage ought to be regarded as correct or incorrect, even though many competent speakers don't see it that way. I don't know what to do with such arguments, because I think encyclopedias shouldn't be in the business of reforming language. If, by strenuous arguments over some period of years, people manage to effect a change in the language, as has happened a lot, I think we should cheerfully follow this now-common usage--but not before. Certainly the act of giving excellent arguments for what the usage should be will not thereby, in any one instance (e.g., on Wikipedia), make the usage correct (or render an old usage incorrect). Now, given these assumptions, "arguments from authority" are totally valid, I think, and my pooh-poohing your opinions because you're not authorities on language is not because I always look to authorities for the truth, but because the correctness of language happens to be a special case. --LMS

Fair enough. --KQ

Just thought I'd point out that "United States" is also ambiguous, strictly speaking, as the country to the south is officially the "United States of Mexico"... (Frankly, I am inclined to believe that the objection to the use of "American" in reference to the United States (of America) is just anti-Americanism, er, I mean anti-UnitedStatesianism. - HWR

1 The Great Larry Sanger has spoken; 2 and were He
walks, the utterances of mortals are reduced to mere
opinions, 3 which are struck down with the Sword of
The Book of the Wiki 5:32

Whether you are right or wrong in this issue is no longer the point. You fucking decreed what shall be the Right Thing, explicitly ignoring my arguments. Please tell me why I should ever waste my time on you again. --Yooden

When was the last time you refered to United Kingdomers or Federal Republicans? They are Britons or Germans. Same for Americans. Our country is named America, the form of our government is a united states as is Mexico's. The only countries ever to be named America were the two which were fighting in this war. (And ask any Canadian if he would like to be called an American because he lives in North America. Then stand back.) --rmhermen

There are unambigious short names for things related to Great Britain and Germany, so I rarely bother to use the full form. (The six counties are a problem, most non-British there wouldn't want to be called such.) I don't call citizens of the United States of America Americans though.

America (and derivates) is ambigious. Even more important, it's an insult to hundreds of millions of people (nearly) all over America to use 'American' as a synonym for 'Citizen of the USA', because it would completely disregard these people.

If I understand you right, a resident of America would be insulted if called 'American'; you think this is normal?

As for 'It's used so it's right': There were times when Negro or Nigger (or Judensau) were completely common words for members of certain groups; this does not mean they were right words. Not for one second.

And if this is any anti-nism on my part it's an anti-we-do-what-we-like-and-don't-care-about-others-nism. I can live with that. --Yooden

If by hundreds of millions you are refering to those North Americans or South Americans, they have as much claim to be called North American or respectively South Americans as Europeans do to call themselves Europeans or an African an African. However only Americans live in America, which is the unambigious short name for the United States of America. We Americans call ourselves Americans and the Canadians call themselves Canadian. I live on the American side of the border with Canada and have yet to meet a Canadian who wouldn't give you at least a tongue-lashing for mistaking them for Americans. And the only Mexicans I have met who were not proud to call themselves Mexican were those coworkers hiding from immigration authorities. In my experience I have never met anyone trying to call themselves American based on residence only on the North or South American continents and not in America itself. I am certain there probably are some. Whether they are normal or unusual I couldn't say. --rmhermen

Do you want to disprove the ambiguity by using it? South America would be what? Texas, Florida and the like? --Yooden

South America is a continent that runs from Chile in the south to Columbia in the North. It is never used to mean anything else. The southern part of the United States of America is sometimes called the American South or just the South. It is just a matter of familiarity with the uses of the words. ---rmhermen

Human languages employ essentially arbitrary associations of sound and meaning in words and phrases. Why do we park on a driveway and drive on a parkway? Because we understand what these words mean. It's not logical, so what? It's just how language works. Every educated English-speaking person knows what "America" and "American" mean. Only anti-Americans are unhappy about it. - HWR

Only anti-Americans are unhappy about it.

How convenient that the two groups are identical. Imagine we'd have to differentiate! --Yooden

What two groups?

Is that trick question? I'll fall for it: Group 1: People who don't like the USA. Group 2: People who call the USA 'USA'. --Yooden

Wikipedia is not a debate forum. (See what Wikipedia is not.) Therefore, the only reason for the above debate is to decide whether to use "American Civil War" or "United States Civil War." That's been settled; it seems reasonable to suppose that you aren't going to change anybody's mind now, which implies that further debate is pointless. So I would ask you to turn your attention to writing and editing Wikipedia articles. Of course, I can't make you do anything, and I'm not trying to; this is a wiki, after all.

There's only one other reason that I can see for this debate, and that is that you think we should have some unambiguous policy on whether "American" can be used to refer to "of the United States." Generally speaking, we have rather few specific policies of this sort; we cheerfully encourage inconsistency for the sake of productivity. (It saves time.) --LMS

I'll let it rest; I'm still pissed at Larry's Decree ("That's been settled", my ass) and bound to mix the two issues up (probably already did). --Yooden

Minor quibble in re: the statement "Only anti-Americans are unhappy about it": one should avoid absolute statements, as they can be disproven with one single exception. Let me now present myself as an exception. I was born in Southern Alabama and have lived the last 23 years in Northern Florida, so I think I qualify as a resident of the U.S.A., furthermore I am on the whole (the current pResident and Supreme Court notwithstanding) generally pleased with the state of states, especially in contrast to, say, the People's Republic of China or Afghanistan. I am, therefore, not anti-American; I am nonetheless unhappy about the use of the word "American." But I'm not going to debate it furhter as, frankly, I think the discussion has gotten a bit too emotional to achieve much beyond recrimination and hard feelings. --KQ

There seem to be a lot of ways to refer to the Civil War - many just refer to it as the "Civil War". Google returns 1,440,000 entries for "Civil War" - and most seem to be refering to the war between the states.

The History Place - U.S. Civil War 1861-1865
The American Civil War Homepage
Welcome to the U.S. Civil War Center!
Civil War Index Page
Civil War Interactive: The Daily Newspaper of the Civil War
Civil War Map collection
War Between the States
The Civil War

Why does there have to be one name?

For the record every foreigner I've ever known has referred to the United States of America in the following order of preference:

  • America
  • US
  • United States
  • USA
  • United States of America
  • The States
  • The Great Satan :-)

If you're from Africa then you're an African, if you're from Europe you are a European, and if you are from North America then you're a North American. But if you're from The United States of America you are an American. What's all the fuss about? --MemoryHole.com