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  1. #31
    Senior Member wildcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adasta View Post
    I agree with this. I find people that do this to be terribly irritating. Having onegrandparent born in a different country barely connects you at all to that place - one knows nothing of it, or of its ways. I think what is telling is when "an Italian" (from America) meets a real Italian. In most cases, the Americans don't even speak Italian. If they do, they speak an appalling "dialect" which does not follow correct rules of pronunciation - it's barely comprehensible. I don't speak Italian that well to be fair, but they seem to create their own brutalised language. I think this shows the distance that exists between these two cultures and the subsequent ludicrousness of "hanging on" to a mythologised past.
    All languages are dialects. To call any dialect a brutalised language displays bias, and it is a sign of intolerance. Appalling to you or not, a dialect is a language, and therefore it always does follow the correct rules of pronunciation of that very language.

  2. #32
    Senior Member Bamboo's Avatar
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    I grew up in Washington, DC. It is an international city, so I imagine that all this holds different meaning to me than someone from somewhere more heterogeneous. That said, I imagine that this is phenomenon that occurs everywhere.

    It is a little silly. I hardly know anything of the culture of Lithuania or any of the other poor, hairy, jewish communities that my ancestors came from. That said, I don't pretend to be "Lithuanian." I'm an American. However, it is an object of curiosity. Many of my classmates were directly from or their parents were from (in some cases diplomats for) foreign places. Sometimes it is a legitimate tie to culture. In other cases, it's just interesting. People have different colors and shapes and as someone else mentioned, the question "what are you?" isn't uncommon.

    It's a taxonomic curiosity that, in most cases, is a simple way to begin a conversation, to flirt, or to learn about family.



    FYI: I am interested in my family history in terms of what they did. Their location is part of that, but the interests and occupations that they had I do think is interesting and possibly relevant.
    Don't know how much it'll bend til it breaks.

  3. #33
    Iron Maiden fidelia's Avatar
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    I think there are some differences between Canada and the States in this regard too, as Peguy said. This is partially due to Canada being a newer country, but it also has to do with their policies encouraging pockets of people to remain distinct rather than necessarily identifying as Canadian. In some regards I think this has resulted in a fairly apathetic, unpatriotic country, and in other regards I think it is positive.

    In my part of Canada, most people's families immigrated here in the early 1900s. People were still very distinctly their ethnicity up until my generation. Even for those who have been here for a couple of generations, you still hear distinct Ukranian accents among my grandparent's generation or can tell that someone from even my generation is Mennonite German by usage of certain words. During my mum's childhood, there was still an Orangeman's Parade every year. During my growing up years we had two separate referendums to determine whether Quebec (French Canada) would remain a part of English Canada. It's only in the last few years that you see aboriginal people in my area graduating from high school, working at businesses around town, or becoming professionals. Even though most of the young people no longer speak Cree, they still have an accent. When I was growing up, there was still a lot of predjudice against Ukranian people and people of that descent from my parent's generation actually changed their last names so that they would get hired to be teachers etc. In Eastern Canada, there are still pockets of older people who speak Gaelic and Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia has an extremely strong Scottish culture that has been maintained since the Scottish people immigrated there more than 200 years ago. Newfoundland in eastern Canada is very culturally unique from the rest of Canada and still has dialects and accents and expressions that can easily be traced back to the areas of England and Ireland they came from (some came over 400 years ago!). BC has an enormous population of Japanese, Chinese and Indian immigrants - some from a long time ago and some very recent. Throughout the country there is a lot of immigration.

    Whether people can still speak their language anymore, their identity, communication style, professions, opportunities, communities and culture have been deeply influenced by their roots and I believe that is why there is such an interest in rediscovering them.

    Unlike the United States, Canada was established as a colony of Great Britain and even though it is considered a distinct country now, it still has maintained its ties to Britain. The education system was very much influenced by Britain as well as many policies and the political structure. While the US was established with many people fleeing religious persecution, I would guess that a greater percentage of the first immigrants to Canada came more for economic opportunities. Our history is different and it has shaped the national character in some regards.

  4. #34
    Starcrossed Seafarer Aquarelle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adasta View Post
    We (the British) sometimes make jokes about this very phenomenon. It's considered a very American concern.

    In England, your "lineage" is generally considered to go back to your grandparents. So, for example, if your grandparents are Italian (like mine), people might say I'm half-Italian. However, I would always call myself English (if in Britain) and British (if elsewhere). If people make a comment about it, then I'll tell them, but it's not at all imperative..
    It's very interesting that in England you consider your lineage only back to your grandparents. I didn't know that. So do you not concern yourself at all with your earlier ancestors? (That sounds a little snarky - I don't mean it that way, I'm just curious.)


    Quote Originally Posted by Adasta View Post
    It strikes me as ridiculous and I'm at a loss to understand why Americans do it. The Italian-American community bears little resemblance at all to the original Italian community. Being loud and eating a lot does not "make you Italian", so to speak. I can only suppose they call themselves "Italian-American" as a way to create a culture in a country that has/had none; I imagine it's the same for other communities. There exists a concept of "The American Dream" yet everyone seems bent on not being American, unless someone suggests they are un-American, at which point they become super-American.
    I think one thing that seems to be a source of misunderstanding and contention in this thread is Americans using the phrase "I'm Italian" or "I'm Irish" etc. I think you're taking it too literally. When an American asks another American, "What are you?" it's understood to mean, "What is your heritage?" or "Where did your ancestors immigrate from?" And when the answer is "I'm Irish" or what not, we don't mean, or think, that we are Irish in the way that people living in Ireland are Irish. It's understood to mean that we're of Irish descent. I can understand that this sounds strange to Europeans, but you need to understand that it's not meant literally. We all know that we are Americans.

    Quote Originally Posted by Peguy View Post
    It's not really that odd when you look at American history and the basic logic behind it. America, like any country really, is a community of communities. And in America's particular case, our plurality of communities included immigrants from various countries who came here and settled in common neighborhoods and communities; and thus mixed the traditions of the old country with those of the American mainstream. You find this among many diaspora communities around the world, not just America.
    Yes, very good point.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tiltyred View Post
    It's interesting to trace your ancestry because in America, unless you're Native American, you could have come from anywhere. Your mother and father could be from two different continents. It can carry meaning in how invested you are in the country itself, too. It's different if your people came here in the 1700's than if your parents are from Europe, or you moved here as a child. There's a different degree of emotional investment, I think. I read someone's remark here, I can't remember what the whole conversation was, just someone wrote, "Anyone can be an American," and it was kind of a kick in the gut.
    I agree.

    Quote Originally Posted by EffEmDoubleyou View Post
    This. In addition, many of the immigrant communities in early America did not get along well, to put it mildly. So your identity of ancestry also determined who had your back and who you should be wary of. I'm sure that kind of thing has an effect down through the generations even if the original reason for it is rendered moot.

    I've also always thought that perhaps this is a way for Americans to have history. We're a very new country, and we don't have a lot of history. Identifying with your European roots is a way to connect with history. I'm almost 100% of Irish descent. I wouldn't say exactly that I'm proud of it, but I enjoy knowing that and exploring Irish culture and history to give my family a context. It also definitely enhanced my experience when I have visited Ireland in the past.
    Yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Adasta View Post
    I agree with this. I find people that do this to be terribly irritating. Having one grandparent born in a different country barely connects you at all to that place - one knows nothing of it, or of its ways. I think what is telling is when "an Italian" (from America) meets a real Italian. In most cases, the Americans don't even speak Italian. If they do, they speak an appalling "dialect" which does not follow correct rules of pronunciation - it's barely comprehensible. I don't speak Italian that well to be fair, but they seem to create their own brutalised language. I think this shows the distance that exists between these two cultures and the subsequent ludicrousness of "hanging on" to a mythologised past.
    Well, it might be true that someone with one Italian (or whatever) grandparent might not know anything about Italian culture, or know the language. That's even more true for people like me, who are many, many generations removed from their immigrant ancestor. But part of the reason for that is that a lot of people who immigrated to America did so to escape poverty, persecution, etc in their country of origin, and therefore had negative experiences associated with that culture and language. Also, when they arrived in America, they were often discriminated against for practicing their native culture and speaking their native language, so they often abandoned their language and traditions in order to get jobs, find housing, etc. They often had neither the time nor the inclination to keep up their old traditions and language. If they had, perhaps they would have passed them down more consistently to their children and grandchildren, and we would know more about our heritages. Also, since people of Irish (for example) ancestry are no longer discriminated against, we are now free to explore our our Irish identity. Actually this is a recognized sociological phenomenon, called “symbolic” or “optional ethnicity,” and it is a part of the continued process of assimilation.

    Quote Originally Posted by LEGERdeMAIN View Post
    Why is it strange to want to know the history of your family? People do this in every country of the world and have done it for thousands of years......You seem to be poking fun at the "pride" people have in their ancestory. I think that's a bit odd to me, if they know little about their ancestors, but simply being able to answer a question about the origins of your family is basic, even in the "melting pots" of the world.
    I don't know if you're referring to me, but if so, I shoudl clarify that I am totally not poking fun - I'm just curious about others' opinions. I'm very much in favor of Americans exploring their heritage.

    Quote Originally Posted by Athenian200 View Post
    It's because a lot of people research it and then try to put on a superficial veneer of belonging to their ancestral culture, when in reality they don't fit it that well, and have ancestry from other cultures as well. There's also the feeling that a lot of white people just do it because they're jealous of how other races have a strong sense of their traditional culture, and this makes them look silly, being members of the dominant/primary culture anyway.

    Basically, the sense is that people who are interested in it, are trying to appear more cultured and traditional than they really are.
    I would respond to this, but Qlip alread said exactly what I would say:

    Quote Originally Posted by Qlippoth View Post
    Well, I honestly don't know anyone who uses their ancestry to look more cultured. It's more about feeling connected and curiousity.
    Quote Originally Posted by Red Herring View Post
    What was said about language was referring to people who identify primarily with a culture whose language they don't understand which is not the same thing as being interested in your heritage or saying "I have Russian ancestry". Nobody said they were stupid or inferior for not speaking Italian, only that it seems strange to call yourself (primarily) Italian when you know very little about Italy and its culture.
    Again, what I think is misunderstood here is that when an American says, "I'm Italian," that doesn't mean that they are claiming to be primarily Italian, or that they identify praimarily with Italian culture. We mean, "I have Italian ancestry," like you said above.

    Quote Originally Posted by Marmie Dearest View Post
    Why is it strange? Europeans get to be so certain of their history and lineage. Americans tend to have to trace our history and lineage because to even have a sense of the past...well, we must. Plus, often where your immigrant ancestors were from largely does affect your family for generations, whether you realize it or not. It affects accents, food eaten, religion followed, in some cases even socio-economic status.

    It also conveniently answers the question, "Why was your grandfather so dark?" and "why does your sister look hispanic?" It's like, well, because we're Native American. And I can also tell you it makes a difference in genetic health problems, and sometimes even in some cultural tendencies...I think the Southern tendency to run around barefoot is rooted in Native American cultures. People from other parts of the country think it's positively freakish that I walk around barefoot outside so much.

    I just love other cultures, anyway, and I would suspect that people who are deeply into it just like studying world cultures as I do.
    Well said!
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  5. #35
    Away with the fairies Southern Kross's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fidelia View Post
    I think there are some differences between Canada and the States in this regard too, as Peguy said. This is partially due to Canada being a newer country, but it also has to do with their policies encouraging pockets of people to remain distinct rather than necessarily identifying as Canadian. In some regards I think this has resulted in a fairly apathetic, unpatriotic country, and in other regards I think it is positive.
    Wow, really? Every Canadian I have met is extremely patriotic. They have all practically had the flag tattooed on their arms.
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  6. #36
    Iron Maiden fidelia's Avatar
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    When I went to Newfoundland, back to my g-g-g-grandmother's little town, it was very strange. There were some pronounciations, expressions or ways of speaking that I recognized from my own grandmother, but had no idea where they had come from. It was like finding a little piece of me and I liked that.

    Just recently, my friend found out that she has a considerable amount of Aboriginal ancestry that had been covered up by her mother's parents because they were ashamed of it and it wasn't advantageous socially or economically. This has greatly impacted what scholarships she is elegible for, as well as helping her to discover a significant amount of clues that put her grandfather into a much more complete context. It has affected the trajectory of her career, as she ended up deciding to go into aboriginal business admin and she works on policy regarding aboriginal affairs with the federal government.

    When I taught up north, most of the people there had Scottish names, largely because of a large influx of poor Scottish workers who came to pursue the opportunities in Canada that Hudson's Bay Company had to offer. I looked up many of these people's names on the internet as well as their community and there was all kinds of history dating 200 years with stories about their ancestors from Scotland and what they were dealing with back home. These events back in Scotland two centuries ago greatly impacted the community that I was teaching in, to this day! (Not to mention that Scottish genes for red hair and blue eyes cropped up in unusual places within certain families - all the other kids might look very traditionally Cree, with one kid who had Cree features, but corkscrew red curls! Just out of curiosity about things like this, I think some people want to know where they came from.

    Our appearance does affect our opportunities, even yet, as well as people's perceptions of us. In one family I know that has mixed Caucasian and Aboriginal histories, the siblings ended up turning out looking Greek, generically white, Aboriginal and Indian. These siblings may have all had exactly the same cultural background and genetics, but people responded to them in different ways.

    I think these are all examples of some reasons why people want to know where they came from. Maybe it is a little bit similar to an adopted child exploring their identity by wanting to know a little bit about their birth parents, including medical information, seeing pictures, knowing about their personality or interests etc. I think that for me, knowing about my countries of origin is sort of like an extension of this in some ways.

  7. #37
    Starcrossed Seafarer Aquarelle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fidelia View Post
    I think these are all examples of some reasons why people want to know where they came from. Maybe it is a little bit similar to an adopted child exploring their identity by wanting to know a little bit about their birth parents, including medical information, seeing pictures, knowing about their personality or interests etc. I think that for me, knowing about my countries of origin is sort of like an extension of this in some ways.
    That's a really good analogy - thank you! And I liked the examples you gave, too. I think in settler nations like the US and Canada, people just want to understand where they came from and how that effects who they are. Maybe it has a significant effect, maybe it doesn't have much of one, but I think it's still important.
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  8. #38
    Senior Member Nicodemus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fidelia View Post
    In some regards I think this has resulted in a fairly apathetic, unpatriotic country, and in other regards I think it is positive.
    Patriotism is good?

  9. #39
    Iron Maiden fidelia's Avatar
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    Gratitude for the opportunity to live in a country that has a decent standard of living, opportunities, natural resources, economic and politic stability, and freedom to live in the manner you choose is a sentiment that I think more Canadians should indulge in.

    Many of the people my age don't even know the lyrics to our anthem, nor how to act during it, which is a symbolic way of saying that they appreciate their country and recognize that they have been given tremendous opportunities that many other people don't enjoy or have access to. They do not exercise the right to vote, nor inform themselves, even though they wish to enjoy the benefits of living here. There is not enough focus on how we manage our resources, and how we develop an industrious younger generation so that those opportunities are still there in the future. We have enjoyed enough prosperity that I think many people no longer recognize what they have or take advantage of it.

    Patriotism for patriotism's sake, not so much. That can become either war-inducing or obnoxiously patronizing. The opportunity to live in a pleasant place does not mean that the occupants of it are necessarily deserving of it simply by their existance in that place.

  10. #40
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    For awhile the Irish, with their strong ethnic pride, were seen as the archetypical patriotic Americans. Take the American Civil War:

    [youtube="yavz9rzaOSY"]Irish Volunteer song[/youtube]

    [youtube="EQL_EQi3M3o"]Irish Volunteer song II[/youtube]

    [youtube="aWB7_o6x6DA"]Confederate Irish[/youtube]

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