Dear Peter F.
You must recall the devastatingly wonderful feature film "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" (1964) directed by Stanley Kubrick. (From the novel by Peter George.)
See: <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057012/> for details.
Yup, folks! The 'Merkin President.
So this term has been around for more than four decades in popular culture as a mild dig at the grand old US of A.
Also, I'm afraid that when the word Merkin is pronounced by an Aussie such as myself, it tends to sound the way that many US Americans actually pronounce "American".
I found that, even when I enunciate "American" with particular care, many US Americans (particularly those from the Southern side of the Mason Dixon line) are more accepting of my asking if they are 'Merkins than if I ask them whether they are Americans. It just works better phonetically.
In addition, I avoid using the term "American" for US citizens in any case, as they only occupy the central to southern parts of the North American continent, yet many whom I have met present themselves as if they inhabit, own and control all of North and South America. Surely Canadians have a right to call themselves Americans also, as do South Americans but, sadly, must refrain from doing so because of the often unwanted association that this implies with their central North American neighbours, who have essentially (if perhaps not deliberately) usurped the term for themselves.
Sure, I am aware that a Merkin was a portable and removable pubic hair replacement wig (the "Merkin Muffley" reference attests to this ) used during the Middle Ages by those female prostitutes who shaved their private parts , so that they would be infestation-free but could look presentable "down there" for their clients. Something readily discovered in a dictionary without having to go to the Wikipedia (usually a marvellous resource) which I shall look at in a moment.
That I use "Merkin" in a lighthearted vein is well known among my many central and southern North American friends and colleagues.
The first time I use the term is to help them understand me through my Australian accent. Subsequent times, where appropriate, as a bit of a running joke, just as they call me a "Skippy" and the like. More often than not it all just becomes part of the friendly banter between work colleagues that helps to cement workplace friendships.
Much like, depending on the inflection, Aussies use "bastard" as a term of endearment, which can take some getting used to for our North American friends who are conditioned to this being quite an insult.
That said, I take this opportunity to humbly apologize to any of our North American / Alaskan and Hawaiian / US colleagues who might have been offended in any way by my tongue in cheek discourse on US/Aus English.
Plus, as I started its use in this forum, it is more than a tad unfair to give Brian C a serve for its use, when only following up on the same topic.
If you are going to blame someone for 'Merkinizing this discussion, then please blame the perpetrator - yours truly, not those who follow.
Do relax, Peter. I was just 'Merkin around.
Regarding the use of the ugly and derogatory sobriquet "Merkin" for citizens of the USA, if the lady had read the Wikipedia entry on "Merkin" <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merkin>, she might be further incensed.
Peter Fagan IntraDoc Pty Ltd
Michael E. Granat Qualified Good Tech Writer Dude Fellowship Of The Ring Of Tech Writers, Yeah Baby! T/as Write Ideas E-mail: mailto:writeideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx Web: <http://home.pacific.net.au/~megranat/> Without Prejudice. E&OE.
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