r Type the word “America” into Google Images and your screen fills up with images of the red, white and blue flag that identifies us worldwide.
Wikipedia, that all-free internet encyclopedia, reports, “The United States of America … or America, is a constitutional federal republic …. It is one of the world’s most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, and is home to the world’s largest immigrant population. …
“On July 4, 1776, during the course of the American Revolutionary War, the (13 British) colonies unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence,” Wikipedia continues. “The war ended in 1783 with recognition of the independence of the United States by Great Britain …. The current constitution was adopted in 1788 …. The first ten amendments, collectively named the Bill of Rights, were ratified in 1791 and designed to guarantee many fundamental civil liberties.”rThis is all well and good – and interesting, in light of Flag Day on June 14 and Independence Day on July 4 – but what does this history have to do with naming our homeland “America”?
It’s because we wave our flags, set out patriotic bunting on appropriate days, and sing “America the Beautiful” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” to celebrate not just our nation, but the ideals that draw people here from all over the world.
As Neil Diamond sang, “We’re Coming to America!” Our hearts leap with joy for the freedoms, liberties and life we have in this great nation named after the Italian world explorer Amerigo Vespucci.
Or was it?
A theory rose in 1930 that as a result of the Norseman Leif’s (Erik’s son aka Erikson) discovery in about the year 1000 of a western land full of “wheatfields and vines” (today thought to be Newfoundland) that the word “America” had Scandinavian roots: “Amt” meaning “district” and “Eric” to form Amteric.
Another suggestion: “(C)ontemporary advocates of the Norse connection claim that from around the beginning of the 11th century, North Atlantic sailors called this place Ommerike (oh-MEH-ric-eh), an Old Norse word meaning ‘farthest outland,’” according to an essay written by Jonathan Cohan and published by the Stony Brook University of Long Island, N.Y. He goes on to write, “(T)he Norse Ommerike derives from the Gothic Amalric, which, according to (White Supremacists) means ‘Kingdom of Heaven.’”
Are these two possibilities too big a stretch?
Author Peter MacDonald in 2011 wrote of the entrepreneurial mariner John Cabot – Giovanni Cabotto – of Genoa, Italy, who went to Bristol, England in 1495 looking for someone to sponsor a “voyage of discovery.” MacDonald wrote “Cabot & the Naming of America: A Revelation” published in 1997.
Cabot in Bristol met Richard Amerike – Richard, son of Ap Meryk of Wales – who donated heavily to the cause with but one request, that his name be attached to any new-found lands. Solidifying this theory, the U.S. flag’s stars and stripes are said to replicate Amerike’s coat of arms.
A curious coincidence: When Christopher Columbus discovered Nicaragua, he learned the coastal mountains there were called Amerrique, and that much gold could be found there, (none of which ever was.)
Back to Vespucci: The young cartographer Martin Waldseemüller wrote that Europe, Asia and Africa previously had been explored, and the new continent had been discovered by Americus Vespucci. “I do not see what right any one would have to object to calling this part after Americus, who discovered it and who is a man of intelligence …”
Drawn in 1507, Waldseemuller’s is the first-known map, printed or manuscript, to use the name America, and also the first to depict clearly a separate western hemisphere with the Pacific as a separate ocean.
“The name America spread throughout Europe and quickly established itself through sheer force of usage,” Cohen wrote. “To hear Americus in the name; to hear the Amerrique Mountains and their perpetual wind; to hear the African in the Mayan iq’ amaq’el; to hear the Scandinavian Ommerike, as well as Amteric, and the Algonquin Em-erika; to hear Saint Emeric of Hungary; to hear Amalrich, the Gothic lord of the work ethic; to hear Armorica, the ancient Gaulish name meaning place by the sea; and to hear the English official, Amerike — to hear such echoes in the name of our hemisphere is to hear ourselves.”