I upvoted a comment (under highly contentious "All-American" answer) in an attempt to be ironic/funny.

I actually find this answer incredibly offensive. Somebody has their act together, and has all these positive attributes - and therefore they must be American? Must be "representative or typical of the United States"? Only an extreme bigot would think this way.

In fact, the commenter purports that I'm an extreme bigot. I don't think this comment is relevant, contructive, or valid. I'm not a regular bigot, much less an extreme bigot. The commenter seems far more focused on his opinion of my bias than on the usage of an (American) English idiom. Can I retract my upvote and flag this as offensive?

  • 2
    Irony doesn't convey well on the Internet.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 16:36
  • Yeah, my original answer contained some irony, which obviously didn't carry well (10 people agreeing that I'm an extreme bigot).
    – Jack Ryan
    Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 16:44

2 Answers 2


I left that particular comment because I feel it has some validity in that it expresses Hippo's lack of understanding of the term. I purged most of the rest of the comment chain, but I left your final comment where you point out that all-American doesn't mean all Americans but rather ideal-American because this is both true and addresses Hippo's misunderstanding. You may wish to edit your answer to incorporate this clarification as well.

While Hippo's comment did state that "only an extreme bigot would think this way," the kind of thinking s/he was describing does not apply to you, therefore Hippo cannot be calling you an extreme bigot. I encourage you to not take this comment to heart, but instead, see it for what it is, which is a heated reaction to an incorrect understanding of what the phrase means.

I feel you have adequately clarified the meaning in a comment, and I hope you will update your answer as well, and there should be no more discussion about it. Please flag any further offensive commentary and I will take a look at it.

  • I've thought for some days now that the word "extreme" could have been edited from that comment, and it would convey the same meaning without being quite so contentious. I thought it was a decent answer, and I don't consider myself a bigot, much less an extreme one.
    – J.R.
    Commented Aug 25, 2013 at 19:45
  • I believe your deleting the many comments, supporting Hippo's gut reacting comment and defending Jack Ryan's answer, was a mistake. Although I appreciate the length of the diatribe was long, it was overall done in a civil manner. There were valid contributions made by users whose past records demonstrate their impartiality and ability to look at the bigger picture. I for one, found it particularly interesting from a non-native American point of view. As the comments stand now, most of the flavour and subtleties which arose from the ensuing discussion have been lost.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 5:16
  • @Mari-Lou I understand, but comments are not for discussions, regardless of whether they are insightful or full of venom. The edits and the remaining comments sum up the pertinent aspects of the original commentary.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 12:15
  • As a historical reference, I feel the thread of comments have been mutilated, and do not faithfully reflect the total sum of opinions and attitudes stated by users. The majority of comments deleted were overall civilized and not full of venom, as you perhaps suggest. By the way, I heartily agree that vulgar aggressive attacks should always be penalised and deleted as this would be only feeding the trolls. But in this case, I think we, the users, handled a potentially inflammatory situation very well.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 16:36

[I started writing this as a comment, but it is too long for that, so excuse me writing it as an 'answer'.]

I have only just come across this meta-post. I don't want to re-iterate the previous arguments, but I do have some concern about how the matter has been handled.

I note that all my comments on the question have been deleted and, while I certainly agree that a lot of them did not need to be retained, (from memory) I was the only non-American supporting hippo's comments and I would have hoped that you would have retained an indication that he was not alone in his views.

Beyond that, my main concerns are 2-fold:

  1. The arguments seemed very one-sided (from Americans) - and specifically, you - as an American - have 'adjudicated' on it, and decided which comments to delete and which to retain. I would have hoped that a non-American moderator might have been involved.

  2. You state above that the issue arose from "an incorrect understanding of what the phrase means". While I can't speak for hippo, my personal view is that that was not the issue - which is why I am concerned that the 'adjudication' appears to have been one-sided.

Comments to me (primarily from J.R.) keep insisting it was a 'language/meaning' issue, while I insisted that it was an attitude issue. I also expressly stated that I had no objection to the expression being used by Americans or by non-Americans about Americans (or possibly even non-Americans competing on behalf of US colleges, as Jack Ryan now seems to suggest). I believe I do "understand what the phrase means", and that it is intended as a positive compliment.

What I strongly objected to was the suggestion (in the original answer) of others being 'jealous' about Americans; and of the implicit applicability of the expression to any and all irrespective of nationality.

Just as you feel that hippo's understanding was incorrect, I genuinely and strongly feel that many Americans do not have an understanding of how offensive many non-Americans would find it to be described as "All-American", even with it conveying the most positive meaning intended. And I feel that that lack of understanding - or even attempt to understand - was manifest in a number of the comments.

In saying that, I do not mean to suggest in any way that I am anti-American, but American culture and values - however positively they may be regarded - are different from those of other nations. I doubt that Americans would wish to be referred to as "All-British", "All-French" or "All-Australian", etc. for similar reasons - not because the different countries have better or worse values - but because we all have different values and attitudes.

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    In my opinion, because there is no right or wrong answer here, I feel your interpretation and sensitivity to Jack Ryan's answer was and still is (judging from your carefully laid out answer) misguided. The expression, "All-American" exists, it was not created ad hoc by the user, and this is the crux of the matter. It is one, which is almost universally known in English speaking countries; "All-Australian/English/Italian/French/German etc. are not common expressions. Moreover, AA does not mean only an All-American can possess the positive qualities expressed in the OP original question.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 5:46
  • The "jealousy" quote was precisely this: "Also it leads one to think, "is that comment born out of jealousy? or mockery?" Which, I personally, did not find offensive at all. In fact, as @Jack Ryan pointed out, you could argue that "All-American" has developed sarcastic undertones.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 6:01
  • @Mari-LouA I'm trying hard not to reopen the argument, while insisting that I do not agree with the way in which the arguments were dismissed. I accept that the term exists and is widely understood. I agree that my other 'invented' terms are just that, but was trying to convey that it is not unusual for people to dislike being likened to another nationality (Hope that makes sense!), which - in my mind - is the crux of the matter. Basically, I would find it offensive to be described as All-American, even if I met all the relevant qualifications (which I don't).
    – TrevorD
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 11:11
  • @Mari-LouA You omitted the part of the "jealously" quote that I found most offensive. The full quote was "Also it leads one to think, 'is that comment born out of jealousy? or mockery?' without necessarily acknowledging that there is a correct answer." This followed his definition of All-American as "representative or typical of the United States or its ideals". Altho' it is not completely clear what he intended, the meaning that came over to me was that others should be jealous of representatives of the United States or its ideals; i.e., to put it bluntly, "America is best!"
    – TrevorD
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 11:27
  • I have to admit I had difficulty in interpreting that latter part, (without necessarily acknowledging that there is a correct answer.) but in the end I understood Jack Ryan to say he didn't know if his suggested answer was the right one or if a right answer did exist. Nevertheless I do see and appreciate your point, but it is a fact that Americans are a patriotic lot and as Europeans we tend to either feel irked, annoyed or bemused by such displays of loyalty. So, perhaps a more open awareness of our own faults is in order here.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 16:44
  • @TrevorD It was an attempt at self-deprecating humor, actually- as if to say, "you could just as easily mock as admire an 'all-American'" for the jingoistic reasons that you describe.
    – Jack Ryan
    Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 20:30

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