Why is the United States called America?

Written by Andrew Henderson

Reporting from: Bangkok, Thailand

To be honest, I didn’t even realize today was Columbus Day. I guess any excuse for lazy government workers to take a paid day off and celebrate – um, what exactly? – is reason enough to have yet another meaningless holiday.

Yet it’s especially apropos that Columbus Day would happen to come the day after I get into a bit of a Twitter war with an “American patriot” about an issue that has long troubled me a bit: Why is the United States called America?

In 1507, in a tiny town in Northeastern France, two cartographers set out a map of the new world. Martin Waldseemüller and Matthias Ringmann published the Universalis Cosmographia, their account of just what the world looked like.

For hundreds of years, the world had relied on Ptolemy’s ancient accounts of the world, which used an equator that moved with the longest part of the day. Of course, the Americas were entirely unknown to the rest of the world in that day, and the Universalis Cosmographia would change the course of history.

The Universalis Cosmographia was also the first time the word “America” was used on a map, or anywhere else for that matter. In a hat tip to Amerigo Vespucci, the cartographers defined the entire new continental land masses after him.

The Universalis Cosmographia: but why is the United States called America

The Universalis Cosmographia, which named western land masses “America”. So why is the United States called America?

After all, we all learned early on that it was Vespucci, not Christopher Columbus, who actually realized he had found a previously unheard of land mass. What was colloquially called the “New World” soon became known as “America”.

Of course, neither Columbus nor Vespucci landed at modern day Atlantic City or even Charleston. Columbus first landed in the modern day Dominican Republic, while Vespucci landed in other parts of the West Indies and Brazil.

Hundreds of years later, the organized government mafia in then-British colonies decided to call themselves the “United States of America”.

And over time, as American prominence in the world grew thanks to “Manifest Destiny” and the killing of Indians, people just started calling it “America”.

Just having a basic understanding of the English language should lead one to quickly realize the arrogance here. How can something BE something else if it is also “of” it? If the United States are OF America, certainly they can’t also BE America.

Perhaps, just like settlers who dropped of small pox-laden blankets at the nearest teepee, the concept of Manifest Destiny encouraged a newly arrogant nation to declare itself superior to the rest of the dozens of sovereign nations from Alaska to Argentina and commandeer the identity of two entire continents for themselves.

Think about it: would anybody go along with calling the United Arab Emirates “Arab”? Match the UAE’s name up to the same syntax used the United States and the UAE would be called the United Emirates of Arab. Why then do we not call UAE persons “Arabs” or “Arabians”? While such people certainly could be called Arabs, it is not a nationally identifying title, but rather an ethnic title.

Is it possible assuming the identity of two entire continents of nations could be just another “land grab” by a nation so hellbent on achieving superiority that it would bowl over entire races of people and cut in the proverbial line just for the United States to be called “America”?

The people who lived there before? They’re “Native Americans”; we’re the “real Americans!” (Apologies to Sean Hannity)

If some global body had a shrink to deal with national identities, it would have to conclude that the United States was molested as a child. Or has a really small penis. Why else would it need such acclaim?

I suppose when your military spending accounts for forty percent of the world total despite having one-tenth that share of the population, you can call yourself whatever you want.

Unfortunately, this arrogant attitude has been long continued. We know how the United States has bullied other countries into submission on everything from offshore banking to second passports and more.

Why is the United States called America? American arrogance, even on the world map

This world map has a point.

The IRS now has offices in countries around the world, all to spy on their slaves who left the pasture. US military bases dot over 100 sovereign countries; conservatives moan that their government provides “free defense” to other countries, but never think they should reduce their presence around the world.

After all, these weak-willed countries being protected by the United States didn’t have the gall to assume the name of a land mass comprising almost one-third of the earth’s land surface. Who are they to take care of themselves?

Perhaps they the United States is called America because encouraging people to do so was one of the earliest forms of government propaganda in the modern world. Put it right next to the idea that our place of birth, not our self-identified heritage, should define whether we’re “American” or “British” or “Australian”, as if our entire identities should revolve around which mafia’s patch of dirt we were born on.

Personally, I believe character traits die hard. When I was in Hong Kong this summer, I talked with a few women from New York who, despite there being no line of potential suitors lined up as there would be in The Land of the Free, were still rather snobby and actually dismissed my non-sexual approach as “just another guy trying to sleep [with us]”. You just don’t turn these things on and off like a lightbulb.

The same is true of countries. When you decide to jump over dozens of other countries and proclaim that you and you alone comprise “America”, it doesn’t end there. Such temerity is merely a precursor to greater arrogance, deprivation of liberties, and other fun stuff to come.

As for the Universalis Cosmographia created five hundred years ago, it was purchased by the Library of Congress awhile back for $10 million. I wonder, in the midst of the government shutdown, if the country would like that money back.

Andrew Henderson
Last updated: Dec 30, 2019 at 6:16PM

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  1. Aaron Dinkin

    “Just having a basic understanding of the English language should lead one to quickly realize the arrogance here. How can something BE something else if it is also ‘of’ it? If the United States are OF America, certainly they can’t also BE America.”

    Let’s try applying this logic to other countries.

    If the Republic of Finland is OF Finland, certainly it can’t also BE Finland.
    If the Kingdom of Sweden is OF Sweden, certainly it can’t also BE Sweden.

    What do we call people from the United States of Mexico?

    • Julio Costa Zambelli

      The actual translation for the “Estados Unidos Mexicanos” is “United Mexican States”.

      The “americans” are called that way in english, but in spanish (which is spoken in most of the rest of America) they are called “Estadounidenses” and their country is normally contracted to “Estados Unidos” from “Estados Unidos de América”.

  2. Jason

    +1 At Aaron. Is there some rule that a country can’t name itself after a continent? I guess somebody better go inform the Australians about this rule so they can change their names. The land of making up the United States is named after the continent, this is why Americans naturally call themselves Americans.

    Mexicans call themselves Mexicanos, Cubans call themsleves Cubanos, Guatemalans call themselves Guatemaltecos, etc. because it’s natural for people to associate themselves more with their country of origin rather than the continent they live on. It just so happens that for Americans the country shares the same name as the continent.

    This really isn’t hard for people to understand and this non-sense didn’t come about until anti-Americanism became so widespread. It’s obvious from the language used by the author he just hates Americans and this is his way of lashing out like a weak minded 8 year old child. Let Americans get under your skin much? Stop acting like a little child and find something more constructive to do with your life. There are actual problems out there you could deal with if you didn’t focus all your energy on hate.

  3. Jason

    Also, if you don’t like the United States of AMERICA then stay away from our country. You are arguing over the demonym we use, which is about as petty and silly as you can be. And you claim to be in business? Don’t think I could trust the business sense of somebody that childish. All this leads me to believe you wouldn’t be wanted here in the first place, let alone be a productive citizen.

    Americans could care less what people like you think about them or their demonym . So cry me a river, build a bridge, and get over it. Don’t like America, stay away from America. Else, learn to deal with it, we won’t change because some foreigner had his feelings hurt.

    • Andrew Henderson

      OK, Jason. The whole point of the site is to get people to “stay away from America”. As to being a foreigner, not sure where you got that idea, because it’s not true. Nice, though, how you take aim at the business credentials of anyone who has an opinion outside of business. Perhaps you have a knee-jerk reaction to criticism. We provide plenty of information on how to do business overseas, how to expatriate, how to do a lot of things… and occasionally we discuss “petty and silly” issues like this. Heaven forbid anyone challenge your (I won’t say “our”) beloved country. You’re right; it’s perfect and nothing should be changed.

  4. Gary

    Spoken like a true Commie! How’s all that “White Guilt” working for you, pal? If Europeans had never gotten here, the native tribes would either all have been taken over by the warlike Aztecs and/or Mayans (with most of them sacrificed or made into slaves) or they would have all killed each other off or died off with continual famines, blizzards, droughts and, eventually, diseases like the Cliff Dwellers and other extinct tribes. There was no evidence of any of them trying to form a United group of tribes with a Democracy and one set of laws, language and customs. Probably even more likely, another group of people from the Middle East or Asia would have eventually settled here and taken everything over with their imperialistic attitudes and then you’d have them to blame rather than the Europeans. Either way, I suspect that most descendants of native people would say that they are now better off than they would have been otherwise. Of course, if all the native tribes HAD gotten together and formed their own Country or series of Countries and had come up with similar technologies in weapons, transportation, industry, etc., they would have been able to have built a strong defense to protect their sovereignty and NO ONE would have ever taken their land. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t and now they’re reaping the benefits of a modern civilization.