Talk:Ugly American (pejorative)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Comparison with Greene[edit]

Is there any relation here with Greene's The Quiet American? I've added a link for now. Deepak 18:51, 25 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Interpreting the term "Ugly American"[edit]

I strongly disagree with the interpretation of the term "ugly American" presented in the article:

The term is actually, in the context of the novel, a positive one. The Ugly American in the novel is one of the only good characters contained therein. He is an engineer who helps the native people with irrigation systems. The authors chose to make a good character "ugly" to create a contrast with the pretty American ambassadors who in fact were not helping the situation at all.

In contrast to the chapters that describe helpful, generouus, modest, friendly Americans, the book also describes many Americans who were, greedy, short-sighted, bombastic and over-bearing. The book tries to pretend that they are atypical. I believe that almost all foreign readers, and most American readers, see the Americans with the ugly character flaws as the ugly Americans, not the engineer who was the subject of the ironically titled chapter.

Unfortunately, I think other foreign readers will find that Americans who are like the ugly characters the book presents as atypical are more common than the angelic fantasy characters the book presents as typical.

The current article describes the book as fact-based, as if there were no other possible interpretations. It seems to me that Lederer and Burdick are little different than snake-oil salesmen, who made a fortune by peddling the flattery their public wanted to believe.

The one-sided-ness of the current article presents a quandary. How to present alternate points of view without violently gutting the current article? Geo Swan 05:04, 31 Dec 2004 (UTC)

In my reading of the book, I believe their use of the title was meant to be more ambiguous than the current article lets on -- it referred both to the engineer (who was physically ugly but morally good) and to the others (who were physically good looking but morally ugly). They were all "ugly Americans" in a certain sense -- I'm not sure it is really correct to say that the term was "positive" in the book as it was clearly meant to be ironic. I don't know what you mean by snake-oil (Lederer and Burdick were clearly criticizing American foreign policy), but anyway I agree that this paragraph should be rewritten. --Fastfission 21:51, 3 Jun 2005 (UTC)
For me the clever title has a double meaning which deals with qualities of physical and moral beauty in a cross cultural context. While the book is about Americans in other cultures, the basic plot and archetypal characters are not unique in the context of world history or even current events. I think there are two kinds of foreigners in the world, those who know it and those who don't :) At this point in my life, I am sort of convinced that the vast majority of both types of foreigners are always going to be morally ugly in a cultural context, despite any enlightenment. Lederer and Burdick are definately guilty of taking something old and repackaging it for a market that made it a best seller. I still like many of the parables in the book. But that is me and I am aware that the story might offend others. --Rcollman 12:57, 29 August 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Book vs Phrase[edit]

Perhaps the current conflict could be resolved by separating interpretation of the original source (the book) from the current colloquial meaning of the phrase- actual readings of the book could be in an article for that book. "Ugly American" definitely has a negative meaning, and I would argue the average user of the phrase has no idea what the original source is. brain 06:29, 17 December 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I have endeavoured to re-write the article to highlight the phrase, using the book as background information later in the article. This should resolve the issues being discussed here. Regards, Spy007au (talk) 05:26, 13 May 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Canadian plane in article?[edit]

Sorry folks. Can anyone tell me why, in a paragraph about the US not having adopted the metric system, there's a story about a mistake made by a Canadian airport ground crew?

Bakarocket (talk) 02:20, 17 August 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I graduated high school back in 1980 and remember the attempt at education geared toward eventual adoption of the metric system. It was a complete and utter failure due to popular resistance in change and learning a "new" system. After over 27 years of military service and utilizing the metric system for distance, mass in foreign nations and volume of fuel and water, I still occasionally have to "recalibrate" myself from metric to imperial units in some matters. Of interest though is the UK, where BOTH are in contemporary utilization. SOMEDAY, the US will join the world in one system of measurement, it's too costly to do otherwise.Wzrd1 (talk) 02:34, 14 January 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"2006 Winter Olympics in Torino"[edit]

Weren't they held in Turin? That is, sure, the city might be called Torino in Italian, but as far as I know it has -- like Rome (Roma), Florence (Firenze), Venice (Venezia), Naples (Napoli), and many others -- a separate name in English. --CRConrad (talk) 08:38, 31 October 2008 (UTC) "The Regina Monologues" episode of the Simpsons also uses the "Ugly American" stereotype.Reply[reply]

Easy fixed. Spy007au (talk) 11:25, 31 October 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Stay WP:CIVIL people!

for some reason the olympic organizers called it torino, even in the english press. (talk) 21:25, 3 September 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Why does this page even exist?[edit]

Never in my life have I heard the term "Ugly American", and even if it existed, it seems like much too vague a phrase to warrant an entire article on Wikipedia, especially one that is so scant and far-fetched. I mean, it just seems like unnecessary Anti-Americanism- you don't see an article about European tourists being rude or bad tippers, you don't need an article for every little stereotype. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:38, 19 November 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The thing is, there is not such thing as "ugly european". Countries/continents are not equal or equaly viewed around the world, so I don't see why they should be equally treated in Wikipedia. It's no news that there is a far bigger resentment toward the USA than toward any other country in the world... Glaviot (talk) 22:15, 2 September 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Wow, I totally agree, this article seems totally unnecessary. I am in favour of its removal. (talk) 03:45, 19 March 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

To a certain extent, I agree, particularly as an American traveler who has seen plenty of people behaving with absolute boorishness in their own countries (as well as plenty of decent people). I've also never met a foreigner I was able to talk to who was aware of the term, only Americans seem to know of it. In all fairness, though, there IS an article on here with the title "Eurotrash", though it's a lot shorter. Blue Bulldog (talk) 14:06, 4 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

First, there is the literary source. Hence, worthy of entry in Wikipedia. Second, I have had personal experience with foreigners being very well aware of the term, but were too polite to voice it. It was only when *I* voiced it that they agreed. That said, you'll never find a single human in any nation on this planet who could be truthful in calling me or my wife an ugly American. Folks, don't confuse politeness with ignorance of the term. And to be brutally honest, I've personally witnessed a LOT of "Ugly American" behavior over my decades of foreign travel. What the ugly ones don't realize is, *I* get the best prices and they get the worst when purchasing anything abroad.  :)Wzrd1 (talk) 02:38, 14 January 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I've heard this term loads, it's very common in Canada and very well understood. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:58, 11 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The term exists because of the HUAC-II and its effect on Hollywood. Many US movies are highly nationalistic when made after McCarthy routed the godless commies and Jews from Hollywood. (Sam Speigel credited as S.P. Eagle. Wannamaker fled to England.) I've discussed this with well-read and educated people from all over the world, and we agree that Hollywood is to blame, not American tourists. Their worst vice is being too fat in impoverished countries. Loud-mouthed arrogant tourists are likely to be French, English, Australian, ... . — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:35, 31 July 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I find your glorifying the HUAC fascinating and further evidence of fascism living on in the US today.The HUAC was ironic in lving up to its name in practice. As for "routing Jews from Hollywood", the un-American in nature committee failed in a most spectacular fashion to do what you claimed. Indeed, one ponders said well-read, educated foreigners being too polite to mention the loud mouthed American to you. Do come back when you've been on five continents and have more experience to discuss this further. (talk) 12:32, 31 July 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

To answer the title question of this section, this page exists because it is an expression that is well attested, and has been in use in English, especially in American English, continuously for over half a century. Having said that, it might be better served by a Wiktionary entry than having its own Wikipedia page, as the article is in very poor shape and opens with an irrelevant section about usage in sports.

As far as the expression being used or known in Europe or not, first of all, it's an English idiomatic expression deriving from an American book, and not every European will have that profound and nuanced a knowledge of English. There are other terms or expressions used in American English deriving from American book titles that have entered the language that might not be known by the average bilingual European, such as "Uncle Tom", "scarlet letter", "Pollyanna", "catch-22", or "grinch", even though all five of these have entries on Wiktionary.

The HUAC comments are irrelevant and unsupported and also anachronistic since HUAC preceded the publication of the book, and the term was not in existence yet.

Finally, whether individual editors have, or have not heard of some expression or topic having an article on Wikipedia is completely irrelevant to the existence of the article. It only matters whether the topic is notable and verifiable and has reliable sources attesting it. Everything else is just personal opinion or original research and not germane to the discussion. This talk page not a poll or survey of who has heard of the expression and in what context, and who has not. Please confine the discussion here to how to improve the article, per Wikipedia guidelines.

As far as improving the article, I would delete most of it, and start out the article with some of the text currently in the #Origin section halfway down the article. I'd keep the article relatively short. The sports and popular culture sections should be deleted. There's no need to give endless examples, one or two would suffice; Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a concordance of English terms. Mathglot (talk) 20:09, 26 June 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Some of the terms you mentioned may be familiar to Europeans who do not speak English at all, but with a different connotation. The Pollyanna books in translation used to be quite popular in Greece and both my now deceased mother and a female cousin were Eleanor H. Porter fangirls from their childhood in the 1950s/1960s to their deaths in the 2010s. I have heard both them and several other readers associate "Pollyana" with kindness, sweetness, and a positive outlook in life. I had never heard of the name being associated with excessive and unreasonable optimism until I started using the Internet.

Uncle Tom's Cabin has been translated in Greece as "Η Καλύβα του Μπαρμπα-Θωμά" (Literally: "The Hut of Uncle Thomas", with the name of the title character Hellenized to the Greek version of "Thomas") and the title has become somewhat proverbial among the Greek reading public. But the connotation of being overly servile to your master or disloyal to your race is mostly unknown to the Greek readers. I am not sure why, but the book is considered here a classic of children's literature and at least until the 1990s it kept being reprinted in book collections intended for children under 12. My parents got me a copy when I was a 7-year-old, but I found the topic to be a bit too heavy for my reading tastes. Then again, at that age the works of Rudyard Kipling (with all the violence, death, and destruction) gave me nightmares, while as I grew older he became one of my favorite authors. Dimadick (talk) 11:43, 27 June 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]


It says Bush was often called an Ugly American. how much is often? (talk) 21:26, 3 September 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Every day of the week for me. But then, *I* was calling him that and worse. But then, that would be OR...Wzrd1 (talk) 02:39, 14 January 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]


The claim "In the scientific fields, the term has been widely used by the international community for the failure by the US to adopt the metric system" Is not supported by evidence.

Of the three citations only one actually says "Ugly American" All three are US publications, not the international community. None are scientific publications, nor do any explicitly mention scientific measurement. The one which does mention "Ugly American" is a single college newspaper column, hardly a wide use or even notable.

Furthermore it's just plain wrong anyway because in the "scientific fields" the US does use the metric system. (talk) 13:46, 12 September 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

My apologies for not getting back to you sooner, as I have been in Singapore and only just returned home. Consequently, I have been checking Wikipedia only randomly while away. As you will appreciate, this article gets vandalised often. During one of my quick checks, I noticed a whole section had been removed by an anon user, so I reverted the change without giving it much thought. However, I have had time to look at your change and agree with what you are saying. However, some of the information is relevant, so I suggest we change the sub-heading to "Weights and Measures" and remove any reference to the scientific fields, but relate it to the fact that the US (generally) has not adopted the metric system. I can find accepted sources to support this. Let me know what you think and I'll make the appropraite changes in due course. Cheers, Spy007au (talk) 09:14, 15 September 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
If you have evidence that there's widespread and notable use of Ugly American to describe American's everyday use of Imperial measures then go for it. A single reference in a college newspaper column is not enough. Not every difference between the USA and the rest of the world is boils down to "Ugly American" Americans eat more blueberry pie than others. That doesn't raise eating blueberry pie to "Ugly American" behavior, it just means the world is a big place. (talk) 14:26, 17 September 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I concur. This appears to be a highly specious claim, with no supporting evidence, from someone who has a private axe to grind against the United States' non-adoption of the metric system. I submit that it constitutes highly dubious original research and should be removed forthwith despite the link to supposed "evidence". Blue Bulldog (talk) 14:11, 4 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

A single reliable source that can unambiguously back up the point is ideal. This whole thing with tacking on extra sources, none of which satisfies as support for the claim being made in the article, just shows to me more evidence that the editor looking to keep it is POV pushing. I'll be removing the section outright within the next few days if nobody can come up with a decent source. (talk) 02:47, 7 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I've removed the "weights & measures" and "border patrol" subsections. The external links given weren't supporting evidence of the term's use in those contexts. (talk) 18:52, 28 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Date of Photograph[edit]

The article starts off with a Cuban photograph of an American tourist, which is said to be a "1948" photograph of a 1950s "Batista-era" American tourist. Both dates appear to have a little documentation, but obviously they can't both be right and the jŭtaposition looks silly. --Haruo (talk) 01:22, 4 December 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

NYT “source”.[edit]

In this context almost every image is loaded with moral and political resonance. There's the Ugly American tourist in a Batista-era photograph by Constantino Arias: a fleshy, middle-aged guy comically posing in a droopy bathing suit and sombrero, wielding a liquor bottle in each hand.

That does not, in the least, support contemporaneous use of the term as a title in ‘48. Nothing else seems to either. Qwirkle (talk) 01:16, 2 July 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]