Jonah Goldberg, "The Trouble with Nationalism", National Review 2/7/20
But I firmly believe that when we call the sacrifices of American patriots no different from the sacrifices of Spartans — ancient or modern — we are giving short shrift to the glory, majesty, and uniqueness of American patriotism and the American experiment. I’m reminded of Martin Diamond’s point that the concepts of “Americanism,” “Americanization,” and “un-American” have no parallel in any other country or language.
Fred Vultee sent in the link, and asked:
My immediate guess is Eskimo snow myth, but that also seems to be the sort of assertion that's addressed with specific examples. Does anything spring to mind, or do you have any suggestions on a chunk of literature that addresses discourses of nationalism?
The late Martin Diamond had this in mind when, in an American government textbook, he points out that the terms “Americanism,” “Americanization,” and “un-American” have no counterparts in any other country or language. This is not by chance, or a matter of phonetics—Swissism? Englishization?—or mere habit. (What would a Frenchman have to do or believe in order to justify being labeled un-French?) The fact is, and it was first noted by the Englishman, G.K. Chesterton, the term “Americanism” reflects a unique phenomenon; as Diamond puts it, “It expresses the conviction that American life is uniquely founded on a set of political principles.”
David Brooks, On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (and Always Have) in the Future Tense, 2004:
It is often declared that America is not only a plot of land but also an idea and a cause. As the political theorist Martin Diamond has observed, words like "Americanization," "Americanism," and "un-American" have no counterparts in any other language. Nobody says that a country or culture is being Italianized or Japanized or Chinese-ized, yet the Americanization of the world has been a topic of debate for a century. This doesn't mean just that there are McDonald's and Tom Cruise movies sweeping the landscape; it means some distinctive creed, mentality, and way of life is felt to be overrunning earlier patterns and cultures.
Joe Carter ("The Patriot's Asterisk", First Things 7/5/2010) quotes Walter Berns quoting Martin Diamond, and concludes that
Most Americans have so internalized this concept of America as both a geographic place and an abstract ideal that we sometime forget how radical it must appear to the rest of the world.
And so on.
Here's the source — Martin Diamond, The Founding of the Democratic Republic, 1981 (reprinted from The Democratic Republic: An Introduction to American National Government, 1970)
The creedal character imparted to American life by the Declaration is revealed in several uniquely American terms and usages. Consider the term Americanism: no other country has an expression quite like it. How can America be an ism?
When we examine the meaning of Americanism, we discover that Americanism is to the American not a tradition or a territory, not what France is to a Frenchman or England to an Englishman, but a doctrine — what socialism is to a socialist . . . a highly attenuated, conceptualized . . . assent to a handful of final notions — democracy, liberty, opportunity. [(myl) from Leon Samson, Towards a United Front, 1933]
The term Americanism thus reflects a unique phenomenon. Other countries have no single political doctrine, adherence to which is a kind of national obligation or heritage. Frenchmen, for example, are no less French in being clericalists, or monarchists, or republicans, or Gaullists, or communists, or fascists. But to be an American has meant somehow to accept the fundamental credo; deviation from it causes one to be regarded as un-American (another expression which has no analogue elsewhere). The term Americanism expresses the conviction that American life is uniquely founded on a set of political principles, superior to those of the rival modern ideologies. And this American ism consists in certain "final notions" regarding the relationship of "democracy, liberty, opportunity."
The term Americanization — widely used during the mass immigration period — point similarly to the creedal framework of American politics. Americanization meant more than the mere adoption by immigrants of American clothes, speech, and social habits; to become Americanized meant to acquire the political ideas peculiarly appropriate to America. Other countries that have had substantial immigration did not develop a concept or term like Americanization. The French did not Gallicize immigrant Algerians, nor do the English Anglicize their Commonwealth immigrants in the political sense of Americanization. French and English immigrants had, so to speak, to become acculturated; in America, immigrants had to be politicized.
So in Diamond's original, at least, this is quite a bit deeper than the standard "no word for X" trope, which is often transparently false as a matter of lexicography as well as a matter of culture. Diamond's idea is more like Anna Wierzbicka's argument that the concept of "fair play" and the associated senses of the words fair and unfair are recent innovations exclusive to Anglo (-American?) culture. This might be false, but it's not transparently false.
It's worth noting that this meme, currently circulating among right-wing intellectuals like Berns, Goldberg, Brooks, and Carter, started in 1933 with the socialist Leon Samson. A somewhat longer sample of the original:
When we examine the meaning of Americanism, we discover that Americanism is to the American not a tradition or a territory, not what France is to a Frenchman or England to an Englishman, but a doctrine — what socialism is to a socialist. Like socialism, Americanism is looked upon … as a highly attenuated, conceptualized, platonic, impersonal attraction toward a system of ideas, a solemn assent to a handful of final notions — democracy, liberty, opportunity, to all of which the American adheres rationalistically much as a socialist adheres to his socialism — because it does him good, because it gives him work, because, so he thinks, it guarantees him happiness. Americanism has thus served as a substitute for socialism. Every concept in socialism has its substitutive counter-concept in Americanism, and that is why the socialist argument falls so fruitlessly on the American ear. … The American does not want to listen to socialism, since he thinks he already has it.