Discussion:
An American
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Lewis
2017-10-09 01:37:29 UTC
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Given the sentence, "An American walks into a room" why are some
nationalities not able to be substituted?

You could say and Englishman, but not an English. Similarly for French,
Chinese, Japanese (though I do see that use on occasion I'm certain it
is incorrect and bordering on racist). German and Mexican are fine.
Norwegian yes, but Swede? Probably.

Yes No
--- ---
American English
German French
Mexican Dutch
Italian Danish
Norwegian Brazilian (?)
Korean Spanish
Austrian Chinese
Hungarian Japanese
Egyptian Polish
Persian
Indian
Thai
Cuban


Brazilian is probably actually OK, but at least around here the word
without qualifier means a particular form of genital torture.

What's the pattern?
--
Like the moment when the brakes lock/And you slide towards the big
truck/You stretch the frozen moments with your fear
Ross
2017-10-09 03:45:25 UTC
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Post by Lewis
Given the sentence, "An American walks into a room" why are some
nationalities not able to be substituted?
You could say and Englishman, but not an English. Similarly for French,
Chinese, Japanese (though I do see that use on occasion I'm certain it
is incorrect and bordering on racist). German and Mexican are fine.
Norwegian yes, but Swede? Probably.
Yes No
--- ---
American English
German French
Mexican Dutch
Italian Danish
Norwegian Brazilian (?)
Korean Spanish
Austrian Chinese
Hungarian Japanese
Egyptian Polish
Persian
Indian
Thai
Cuban
Brazilian is probably actually OK, but at least around here the word
without qualifier means a particular form of genital torture.
What's the pattern?
I'll be very impressed if somebody finds one.
"Chinese" and "Japanese" have been used as nouns for people, but that
usage is pretty old-fashioned now.

And the alternatives for the "No" group are quite varied: awkward phrases
with "person" for some, unless you want to use the -man suffix; morphologically
different forms for others (Dane, Pole, Spaniard). Any of these is liable
to be viewed by somebody or other as old-fashioned if not offensive. No
clear pattern that I can see, except that adjective-for-person use seems
to be the default when one considers a wider range of countries (which
English speakers don't so often have occasion to refer to): Bangladeshi,
Samoan, Bolivian, Nigerian...
RH Draney
2017-10-09 07:50:20 UTC
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Post by Ross
And the alternatives for the "No" group are quite varied: awkward phrases
with "person" for some, unless you want to use the -man suffix; morphologically
different forms for others (Dane, Pole, Spaniard). Any of these is liable
to be viewed by somebody or other as old-fashioned if not offensive. No
clear pattern that I can see, except that adjective-for-person use seems
to be the default when one considers a wider range of countries (which
English speakers don't so often have occasion to refer to): Bangladeshi,
Samoan, Bolivian, Nigerian...
A Sahrawi, a Monegasque and a Burkinabe walk into a bar....r
GordonD
2017-10-09 08:54:49 UTC
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Post by RH Draney
Post by Ross
And the alternatives for the "No" group are quite varied: awkward phrases
with "person" for some, unless you want to use the -man suffix; morphologically
different forms for others (Dane, Pole, Spaniard). Any of these is liable
to be viewed by somebody or other as old-fashioned if not offensive. No
clear pattern that I can see, except that adjective-for-person use seems
to be the default when one considers a wider range of countries (which
English speakers don't so often have occasion to refer to): Bangladeshi,
Samoan, Bolivian, Nigerian...
A Sahrawi, a Monegasque and a Burkinabe walk into a bar....r
Is that the beginning of the joke where they weren't allowed in without
a Thai?
--
Gordon Davie
Edinburgh, Scotland
Whiskers
2017-10-09 18:55:57 UTC
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Post by Lewis
Given the sentence, "An American walks into a room" why are some
nationalities not able to be substituted?
You could say and Englishman, but not an English. Similarly for
French, Chinese, Japanese (though I do see that use on occasion I'm
certain it is incorrect and bordering on racist). German and Mexican
are fine. Norwegian yes, but Swede? Probably.
Yes No
--- ---
American English
German French
Mexican Dutch
Italian Danish
Norwegian Brazilian (?)
Korean Spanish
Austrian Chinese
Hungarian Japanese
Egyptian Polish
Persian
Indian
Thai
Cuban
Brazilian is probably actually OK, but at least around here the word
without qualifier means a particular form of genital torture.
What's the pattern?
I'll be very impressed if somebody finds one. "Chinese" and
"Japanese" have been used as nouns for people, but that usage is
pretty old-fashioned now.
And the alternatives for the "No" group are quite varied: awkward
phrases with "person" for some, unless you want to use the -man
suffix; morphologically different forms for others (Dane, Pole,
Spaniard). Any of these is liable to be viewed by somebody or other as
old-fashioned if not offensive. No clear pattern that I can see,
except that adjective-for-person use seems to be the default when one
considers a wider range of countries (which English speakers don't so
often have occasion to refer to): Bangladeshi, Samoan, Bolivian,
Nigerian...
It hadn't occurred to me that 'Pole' 'Dane' or 'Spaniard' might be
old-fashioned, and certainly not offensive. 'Brazilian' I am aware of
having recently gained a saucy association with a style of pubic
hair-cut, but context would usually make it clear what was meant.

'Franc' (a person from France) and 'Angle' (a person from England) seem
to have become obsolete, although 'Scot' (a person from Scotland) is
still current. 'Brit' and 'Britisher' are modern inventions for 'a
person from Britain'. 'Gael' for 'a person who speaks Gaelic' works,
but there's no equivalent for 'a person from Ireland'. 'Fleming'
probably still works for 'a person from Flanders', although Flanders is
not currently a 'country'.

'Tis curious ...
--
-- ^^^^^^^^^^
-- Whiskers
-- ~~~~~~~~~~
Ken Blake
2017-10-09 19:20:28 UTC
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Post by Whiskers
It hadn't occurred to me that 'Pole' 'Dane' or 'Spaniard' might be
old-fashioned, and certainly not offensive.
I don't find any of those three to be old-fashioned, especially not
"Spaniard," which I think is fairly common.
occam
2017-10-09 10:00:16 UTC
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Post by Lewis
Given the sentence, "An American walks into a room" why are some
nationalities not able to be substituted?
You could say and Englishman, but not an English. Similarly for French,
Chinese, Japanese (though I do see that use on occasion I'm certain it
is incorrect and bordering on racist). German and Mexican are fine.
Norwegian yes, but Swede? Probably.
Yes No
--- ---
American English
German French
Mexican Dutch
Italian Danish
Norwegian Brazilian (?)
Korean Spanish
Austrian Chinese
Hungarian Japanese
Egyptian Polish
Persian
Indian
Thai
Cuban
Brazilian is probably actually OK, but at least around here the word
without qualifier means a particular form of genital torture.
What's the pattern?
The ending 'an'? (The only exception is Thai, but that is borderline.)

Here are some others that support the 'an' theory:


Asian
Tibetan
Australian
Armenian
Porto Rican
Hawaian
Guatemalan
etc
Lewis
2017-10-09 16:45:28 UTC
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Post by occam
Post by Lewis
Given the sentence, "An American walks into a room" why are some
nationalities not able to be substituted?
You could say and Englishman, but not an English. Similarly for French,
Chinese, Japanese (though I do see that use on occasion I'm certain it
is incorrect and bordering on racist). German and Mexican are fine.
Norwegian yes, but Swede? Probably.
Yes No
--- ---
American English
German French
Mexican Dutch
Italian Danish
Norwegian Brazilian (?)
Korean Spanish
Austrian Chinese
Hungarian Japanese
Egyptian Polish
Persian
Indian
Thai
Cuban
Brazilian is probably actually OK, but at least around here the word
without qualifier means a particular form of genital torture.
What's the pattern?
The ending 'an'? (The only exception is Thai, but that is borderline.)
Filipino
Bangladeshi
Sikh
Post by occam
Asian
Tibetan
Australian
Armenian
Porto Rican
Hawaian
Guatemalan
etc
It seems than -an might always be acceptable without a qualifier like
--
Personal isn't the same as important
occam
2017-10-10 08:05:27 UTC
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Post by Lewis
Post by occam
Post by Lewis
Given the sentence, "An American walks into a room" why are some
nationalities not able to be substituted?
You could say and Englishman, but not an English. Similarly for French,
Chinese, Japanese (though I do see that use on occasion I'm certain it
is incorrect and bordering on racist). German and Mexican are fine.
Norwegian yes, but Swede? Probably.
Yes No
--- ---
American English
German French
Mexican Dutch
Italian Danish
Norwegian Brazilian (?)
Korean Spanish
Austrian Chinese
Hungarian Japanese
Egyptian Polish
Persian
Indian
Thai
Cuban
Brazilian is probably actually OK, but at least around here the word
without qualifier means a particular form of genital torture.
What's the pattern?
The ending 'an'? (The only exception is Thai, but that is borderline.)
Filipino
Bangladeshi
Sikh
Sikh is not a country, it is a religious group. Like Hindu, Muslim,
Bahai. Religions seem to be exceptions. Filipino, Bangladeshi, Pakistani
are more difficult to explain.
Don Phillipson
2017-10-09 15:23:27 UTC
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Post by Lewis
Given the sentence, "An American walks into a room" why are some
nationalities not able to be substituted?
You could say and Englishman, but not an English. Similarly for French,
Chinese, Japanese (though I do see that use on occasion I'm certain it
is incorrect and bordering on racist). German and Mexican are fine.
Norwegian yes, but Swede? Probably.
It would be naive to expect either (1) logical uniformity or
(2) a perfect match between the old rules of the language and the
newer protocols of polite speech. Notoriously the noun Chinaman
is nowadays unuseable because racist, while the similar noun
Frenchman is unobjectionable (except among people who talk
about fisherpersons, police officers and firepeople.)
--
Don Phillipson
Carlsbad Springs
(Ottawa, Canada)
Athel Cornish-Bowden
2017-10-09 16:30:59 UTC
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Post by Don Phillipson
Post by Lewis
Given the sentence, "An American walks into a room" why are some
nationalities not able to be substituted?
You could say and Englishman, but not an English. Similarly for French,
Chinese, Japanese (though I do see that use on occasion I'm certain it
is incorrect and bordering on racist). German and Mexican are fine.
Norwegian yes, but Swede? Probably.
It would be naive to expect either (1) logical uniformity or
(2) a perfect match between the old rules of the language and the
newer protocols of polite speech. Notoriously the noun Chinaman
is nowadays unuseable because racist,
That's true, but I've no idea why.
Post by Don Phillipson
while the similar noun
Frenchman is unobjectionable
Frenchman, Englishman, Welshman, Irishman, Dutchman, Frenchwoman,
Englishwoman, Welshwoman, Irishwoman, Dutchwoman all seem OK (though
I'm not sure I've ever actually heard "Dutchwoman"). The reason why the
Dutch but not the Germans enter this select company is probably that
"German" already ends in "man".

I've sometimes wondered what Icelanders, Luxemburgers, New Zealanders
and Newfoundlanders have in common that causes them to make their
personal nouns in the same way. Maybe Liechtensteiners as well, but I
don't often have occasion to refer to them. (In the past one had
Hollanders as well, but not now, I think.)
Post by Don Phillipson
(except among people who talk
about fisherpersons, police officers and firepeople.)
--
athel
J. J. Lodder
2017-10-09 20:14:23 UTC
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Post by Athel Cornish-Bowden
Post by Don Phillipson
Post by Lewis
Given the sentence, "An American walks into a room" why are some
nationalities not able to be substituted?
You could say and Englishman, but not an English. Similarly for French,
Chinese, Japanese (though I do see that use on occasion I'm certain it
is incorrect and bordering on racist). German and Mexican are fine.
Norwegian yes, but Swede? Probably.
It would be naive to expect either (1) logical uniformity or
(2) a perfect match between the old rules of the language and the
newer protocols of polite speech. Notoriously the noun Chinaman
is nowadays unuseable because racist,
That's true, but I've no idea why.
Post by Don Phillipson
while the similar noun
Frenchman is unobjectionable
Frenchman, Englishman, Welshman, Irishman, Dutchman, Frenchwoman,
Englishwoman, Welshwoman, Irishwoman, Dutchwoman all seem OK (though
I'm not sure I've ever actually heard "Dutchwoman"). The reason why the
Dutch but not the Germans enter this select company is probably that
"German" already ends in "man".
I've sometimes wondered what Icelanders, Luxemburgers, New Zealanders
and Newfoundlanders have in common that causes them to make their
personal nouns in the same way. Maybe Liechtensteiners as well, but I
don't often have occasion to refer to them. (In the past one had
Hollanders as well, but not now, I think.)
What's changed?

Jan
Ross
2017-10-09 20:24:17 UTC
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Post by Athel Cornish-Bowden
Post by Don Phillipson
Post by Lewis
Given the sentence, "An American walks into a room" why are some
nationalities not able to be substituted?
You could say and Englishman, but not an English. Similarly for French,
Chinese, Japanese (though I do see that use on occasion I'm certain it
is incorrect and bordering on racist). German and Mexican are fine.
Norwegian yes, but Swede? Probably.
It would be naive to expect either (1) logical uniformity or
(2) a perfect match between the old rules of the language and the
newer protocols of polite speech. Notoriously the noun Chinaman
is nowadays unuseable because racist,
That's true, but I've no idea why.
Post by Don Phillipson
while the similar noun
Frenchman is unobjectionable
Frenchman, Englishman, Welshman, Irishman, Dutchman, Frenchwoman,
Englishwoman, Welshwoman, Irishwoman, Dutchwoman all seem OK (though
I'm not sure I've ever actually heard "Dutchwoman"). The reason why the
Dutch but not the Germans enter this select company is probably that
"German" already ends in "man".
I've sometimes wondered what Icelanders, Luxemburgers, New Zealanders
and Newfoundlanders have in common that causes them to make their
personal nouns in the same way. Maybe Liechtensteiners as well, but I
don't often have occasion to refer to them. (In the past one had
Hollanders as well, but not now, I think.)
The -burgers and -steiners are presumably directly based on the German.
The others all end in -land, and the same suffix is used for various
"X Islanders" (Norfolk, Stewart, Pacific, Channel, etc.) though these are not
actual countries.
Ross
2017-10-09 20:58:59 UTC
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Post by Ross
Post by Athel Cornish-Bowden
Post by Don Phillipson
Post by Lewis
Given the sentence, "An American walks into a room" why are some
nationalities not able to be substituted?
You could say and Englishman, but not an English. Similarly for French,
Chinese, Japanese (though I do see that use on occasion I'm certain it
is incorrect and bordering on racist). German and Mexican are fine.
Norwegian yes, but Swede? Probably.
It would be naive to expect either (1) logical uniformity or
(2) a perfect match between the old rules of the language and the
newer protocols of polite speech. Notoriously the noun Chinaman
is nowadays unuseable because racist,
That's true, but I've no idea why.
Post by Don Phillipson
while the similar noun
Frenchman is unobjectionable
Frenchman, Englishman, Welshman, Irishman, Dutchman, Frenchwoman,
Englishwoman, Welshwoman, Irishwoman, Dutchwoman all seem OK (though
I'm not sure I've ever actually heard "Dutchwoman"). The reason why the
Dutch but not the Germans enter this select company is probably that
"German" already ends in "man".
I've sometimes wondered what Icelanders, Luxemburgers, New Zealanders
and Newfoundlanders have in common that causes them to make their
personal nouns in the same way. Maybe Liechtensteiners as well, but I
don't often have occasion to refer to them. (In the past one had
Hollanders as well, but not now, I think.)
The -burgers and -steiners are presumably directly based on the German.
The others all end in -land, and the same suffix is used for various
"X Islanders" (Norfolk, Stewart, Pacific, Channel, etc.) though these are not
actual countries.
"Islander" goes back to early ModEng (1500s). In its discussion of the
-er suffix, OED noted (1891):

"A special use of the suffix, common to the modern Germanic languages though scarcely to be found in their older stages, is its addition to names of
places or countries to express the sense ‘a native of’, ‘a resident in’,
e.g. Londoner, New Yorker, Icelander."
occam
2017-10-10 08:07:56 UTC
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Post by Athel Cornish-Bowden
Post by Don Phillipson
Post by Lewis
Given the sentence, "An American walks into a room" why are some
nationalities not able to be substituted?
You could say and Englishman, but not an English. Similarly for French,
Chinese, Japanese (though I do see that use on occasion I'm certain it
is incorrect and bordering on racist). German and Mexican are fine.
Norwegian yes, but Swede? Probably.
It would be naive to expect either (1) logical uniformity or
(2) a perfect match between the old rules of the language and the
newer protocols of polite speech.  Notoriously the noun Chinaman
is nowadays unuseable because racist,
That's true, but I've no idea why.
Post by Don Phillipson
 while the similar noun
Frenchman is unobjectionable
Frenchman, Englishman, Welshman, Irishman, Dutchman, Frenchwoman,
Englishwoman, Welshwoman, Irishwoman,  Dutchwoman all seem OK (though
I'm not sure I've ever actually heard "Dutchwoman"). The reason why the
Dutch but not the Germans enter this select company is probably that
"German" already ends in "man".
I've sometimes wondered what Icelanders, Luxemburgers, New Zealanders
and Newfoundlanders have in common that causes them to make their
personal nouns in the same way. Maybe Liechtensteiners as well, but I
don't often have occasion to refer to them. (In the past one had
Hollanders as well, but not now, I think.)
Where would you put people from Hong Kong? How would you even refer to
them?

Peter T. Daniels
2017-10-09 21:38:17 UTC
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Post by Don Phillipson
Post by Lewis
Given the sentence, "An American walks into a room" why are some
nationalities not able to be substituted?
You could say and Englishman, but not an English. Similarly for French,
Chinese, Japanese (though I do see that use on occasion I'm certain it
is incorrect and bordering on racist). German and Mexican are fine.
Norwegian yes, but Swede? Probably.
It would be naive to expect either (1) logical uniformity or
(2) a perfect match between the old rules of the language and the
newer protocols of polite speech. Notoriously the noun Chinaman
is nowadays unuseable because racist, while the similar noun
Frenchman is unobjectionable (except among people who talk
about fisherpersons, police officers and firepeople.)
firefighters
Joseph C. Fineman
2017-10-09 22:21:13 UTC
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Post by Don Phillipson
It would be naive to expect either (1) logical uniformity or
(2) a perfect match between the old rules of the language and the
newer protocols of polite speech. Notoriously the noun Chinaman
is nowadays unuseable because racist,
"Chinaman" seems to have been one of the earliest victims of this kind
of squeamishness. Fowler, in the original MEU (1927), distinguishes it
finely from "Chinese" (n.), the idea being that "Chinaman" is more
appropriate for individuals or small numbers. In Gowers's update
(1965), "*Chinaman* has acquired a derogatory flavour and is falling
into disuse...". In between, George Orwell observed with some
bemusement that since the original publication of his novel _Burmese
Days_ (1934), "Chinaman" had become offensive, and he was put to the
trouble of changing it to "Chinese" in the second edition.
Unfortunately, this observation was plucked by my memory from the
Complete Works, so I cannot quote or date it.
Post by Don Phillipson
while the similar noun Frenchman is unobjectionable (except among
people who talk about fisherpersons, police officers and firepeople.)
Not all that similar. Exact analogy would have produced "Chineseman".

My impression is that, even among nonfanatics, the "-woman" versions of
the "-man" nouns (Frenchwoman, Englishwoman, Scotswoman, Welshwoman,
etc.), tho available in a pinch, are avoided wherever possible. For me,
at any rate, the problem is phonological: There is no comfortable way
to unstress the penultimate syllable. (Oddly, tho, I have no trouble
with "policewoman".)
--
--- Joe Fineman ***@verizon.net

||: The Creator, like a ten-year-old boy, is fond of collisions :||
||: and explosions. :||
b***@aol.com
2017-10-09 17:30:39 UTC
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Post by Lewis
Given the sentence, "An American walks into a room" why are some
nationalities not able to be substituted?
You could say and Englishman, but not an English. Similarly for French,
Chinese, Japanese (though I do see that use on occasion I'm certain it
is incorrect and bordering on racist). German and Mexican are fine.
Norwegian yes, but Swede? Probably.
Yes No
--- ---
American English
German French
Mexican Dutch
Italian Danish
Norwegian Brazilian (?)
Korean Spanish
Austrian Chinese
Hungarian Japanese
Egyptian Polish
Persian
Indian
Thai
Cuban
Brazilian is probably actually OK, but at least around here the word
without qualifier means a particular form of genital torture.
What's the pattern?
Offhand, the suffixes -an (your examples), -i (Iraqi), -ot (Chypriot),
-ois (Beninois), -ine (Argentine), -asque (Monegasque) can be used
for both adjectives and nouns. There may very well be others.
Post by Lewis
--
Like the moment when the brakes lock/And you slide towards the big
truck/You stretch the frozen moments with your fear
Garrett Wollman
2017-10-09 17:41:07 UTC
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Post by Lewis
Yes No
--- ---
American English
German French
Mexican Dutch
Italian Danish
Norwegian Brazilian (?)
Korean Spanish
Austrian Chinese
Hungarian Japanese
Egyptian Polish
Persian
Indian
Thai
Cuban
This list conflates adjective and noun demonyms. "English", "French",
"Dutch", "Danish", "Spanish", and "Polish" are adjectves, not nouns,
when used as demonyms -- historically, the noun forms are
"English(wo)man", "French(wo)man", "Dutch(wo)man", "Spaniard", and
"Pole", but the first three have the obvious problem that they are
gendered, and the only gender-neutral alternative is "{ADJ} person".

"Brazilian" is unobjectionable[1], and I think (not too deeply) that
all South American nationalities form demonyms in "-an" which serve
double duty as nouns and adjectives.

A taboo has developed around the use of East Asian noun demonyms,
regardless of form, as count nouns -- today it is nearly as
unacceptable to write "a Chinese" as it is to write "a Chinaman" --
whereas as mass nouns ("the Chinese") they are broadly acceptable, but
*only* when referring to the nationality, or metonymously as a
reference to the government of that country. ("The Japanese are
divided over amending the country's pacifist constitution" is
perfectly acceptable, whereas "The Japanese have been living in San
Francisco for more than a century" has more than a whiff of the
problematic.)

This brings up a related point: demonyms vary in scope. There are
demonyms for ethnic groups (Roma, Azeri, Javanese, Magyar, Basque,
Sami, Kurd, Bengali, Amazigh), and then there are demonyms for
nationalities (Azerbaijani, Hungarian, Norwegian, Kurdistani,
Bangladeshi). Often these don't entirely overlap, as with the Jewish
and Chinese disaporas, but most modern states are also substantially
multi-ethnic. There are also linguistic demonyms; in English we
usually form these using the suffix "-phone" (anglophone, francophone,
lusophone, russophone, but interestingly there's no such word for
"Spanish-speaking") so there's less chance for confusion.

"Persian" is another interesting case. Historically, it refers to an
ethnic group, an empire, and a language, but there is substantial
disagreement over whether any uses are appropriate today. Most people
I know say "Iranian" for the ethnicity and nationality (for count
noun, mass noun, and adjective) and "Farsi" for the language, but
within "Iranian" it's possible to disaggregate ethnic groups of which
modern-day "Persian" is only one. (Iranian Kurds are one of several
sizeable minority groups.)

-GAWollman

[1] I live in a region with a sizable population of Brazilian people,
attracted here in part by the presence of an earlier lusophone
population from mainland Portugal whose ancestors came here to work in
the fishing and whaling industries.
--
Garrett A. Wollman | "Act to avoid constraining the future; if you can,
***@bimajority.org| act to remove constraint from the future. This is
Opinions not shared by| a thing you can do, are able to do, to do together."
my employers. | - Graydon Saunders, _A Succession of Bad Days_ (2015)
Athel Cornish-Bowden
2017-10-10 06:28:54 UTC
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( ... )
"Brazilian" is unobjectionable[1], and I think (not too deeply) that
all South American nationalities form demonyms in "-an" which serve
double duty as nouns and adjectives.
Most, certainly, but

Surinam -> Surinamese
Guyane -> French
--
athel
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