Amerigo Vespucci – What’s in a Name?

Portrait_of_Amerigo_Vespucci

By Officially unknown (poss. Cristofano dell’Altissimo) – Uffizi, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18157134

We owe Italy quite a lot really, don’t we?

Pizza, pasta, risotto, fine wine, passion, flair, fashion style, not to mention the Romans (and yes, what did they ever do for us?) to name but a few. These are things our lives would be far less rich without.

Well, some say it was around this day in history, May 10 or 11, when someone else Italian set sail on a voyage to what we now term ‘the New World’, namely Amerigo Vespucci.

Born in Florence in 1454, Vespucci is famous for debunking Columbus’ notion that the West Indies and Brazil were in fact the other side of the world, actually the easternmost parts of Asia.

In other words, he envisioned the new discoveries as a completely new, separate landmass from Asia. Originally termed the New World, what the new continent lacked was a proper name. Step up Amerigo Vespucci once again, whose latinised Christian name reads as ‘Americus’.

It was only a small step from there to someone suggesting that this huge piece of earth should be called after him, but with a feminine ending – America – and why not? Are we still grateful to him and Italy?

PS. Of course, we know now that the Vikings founded what they termed ‘Vinland’ in what is now the north eastern seaboard of North America centuries before Columbus, but that’s another story…

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