Maurizio – Omnologos

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The Many Fathers of “America”

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In the most incredible of coincidences, or perhaps as evidence of mankind’s incredible ability to find patterns everywhere and anywhere (or perhaps as indication of something else I shall not name here), there are at least six different explanations for the origin of the word “America” (with various degrees of credibility):

  • The classical explanation: from the first name of Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian explorer who first figured out that America is a separate continent, not the easternmost part of Asia. Amerigo by the way appears to derive from a Gothic word for “Master Workman”
  • Alternatively, America could be a modification of the Scandinavian Amteric “Land of Eric”, from the times when the Vikings were crossing the Atlantic
  • A related possibility is Ommerike, Norse for “Farthest outland”or derived from Gothic Amalric, “Kingdom of Heaven”
  • There was also a Richard Amerike or Ameryk or Ap Meryke “Son of Meryk”, a Welshman and the King’s official involved with John Cabot’s voyage
  • Remarkably, Amerrique is the name of an Amerindian tribe that lived in present-day Nicaragua, perhaps to be interpreted as “People of the Land of the wind”
  • And why not, there is a Saint Emeric (Latin: “Sanctus Americus“), the Son of the first king of Hungary

For those in search of more details, there is a very interesting essay called “The Naming of America” by Jonathan Cohen, with intriguing reflections on what it means to prefer one explanation over all the others.

FYI: my choice goes to Amerrique. with Vespucci’s name chosen for posterity in the early XVI century by people that could not figure out the actual etymology.

Still, it’s a giant set of coincidences indeed…

Written by omnologos

2007/Sep/26 at 21:54:13

Posted in America

Tagged with , ,

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